“They had a good innings” is sometimes said concerning someone who dies in old age. The meaning is that the person who has had a long life on this earth has had all they could expect. On the other hand we reason that if someone dies young then they have had life snatched away from them and it is a tragedy. But all death is a tragedy. In fact all death is an outrage amidst God’s proper order of life and righteousness.
Let us trace this matter through by looking at the beginning and the end. In the beginning God created everything full of life. So at the end of God’s creative act it could be declared that “God saw all that He had made and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). As we move into Genesis 2 we see that everything provided for mankind in the Garden of Eden was full of life. The garden was beautiful and full of food (see Gen. 2:9).
However into this idyllic environment an intruder soon appeared. Adam was given a command and a warning. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam rebelled against this command “and the rest is history”. Paul sums up the disaster “therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned (Rom 5:12). God’s desire for man is life. Yet since Eden, and the occurrence of man’s rebellion, death has reigned.
So that was the beginning, but what of the end? In Rev 21: 4, as the circumstances of the new heaven and new earth are being described, we read He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. In the everlasting new heaven and new earth there is no death because as Peter says it is a realm where righteousness dwells (see 2 Pet. 3:13).
When we start to see things in this perspective we begin to see how alien death is to God’s design for mankind. Adam and Eve were placed here to enjoy life and blessing in righteousness for evermore to the glory of God. But sin came in and death followed on to ruin it all. So every death, in a sense, is an outrage. The death of a one-hundred year old man is just as much a tragedy as that of someone in their twenties from an alcohol-induced car accident. This can be said because life eternal is what man was designed for. Death which flowed from sin wrecked this. This is an outrage and so we should hate all sin and all death.
The problem we have is the tendency to be earth-based and man-centered in our thinking. So we think that our lives start at birth and, as the psalmist says, Our days may come to seventy ears or eighty, if our strength endures (Psalm 90:10). If someone gets only 15 or 25 years we think they have been short-changed. But, if we remember God’s original intention, we should see that our outrage should not be at the death of “someone so young”, but at the death of anyone at all.
Which leads us on to ask “what of the unborn?” What about their death? Or some would ask is it death at all? Common thinking in society is that until birth a baby in the womb is only something resembling a meaningless group of cells. But, this is wrong! Life begins with conception. David spoke of the start of his existence being when he was conceived (see Psalm 51:5). When the seed of the man and the seed of the woman fertilise; there is human life. It is from that point that we have the existence of a child. So we should remember that abortion, mis-carriage and still-birth are all deaths. It is the taking/losing of life. This is crucial to us properly understanding issues in the “Abortion debate”. We have no right to take away any baby’s life whether that be pre-birth or post-birth. To take away the life of the unborn is to participate in an outrage against God.
Death therefore is a terrible impostor. It should not be around, but because of sin it is very much around. However, the great news is that through Jesus Christ the tyranny of death is brought to an end. Paul said to Timothy that Jesus Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10b). And that gospel is that Jesus died for our sins was buried and is risen (see 1 Cor 15:3-4). For those who believe this message and trust in the LORD Jesus, who is the heart of the message, there is life and immortality. That takes us back to where we started. God’s intention for mankind His special beings to live with Him forever.
We, therefore can assert that, for the Christian, death ultimately has been robbed of all its power. Christians can look at death and say with Paul; thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). Eternal life is the present possession of all who believe. It became our possession at that moment in time when we were born again and had faith in Jesus as our Saviour and LORD. In the light of this, if the Christian falls asleep (the beautiful biblical term for the Christian who dies) at 15 or 95 the difference is of no consequence. This can be said because of the great fact that we will be forever with the LORD. What is eighty years in comparison to forever!
So to conclude, death is a villain which has trespassed on God’s beautiful creation. But death has been defeated in Christ and in Christ alone. Let us all make sure we are Christians so that we can know the triumph over death and life forevermore.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of April 2008)