Before and Beyond the Grave

 

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The other day I was thinking about how short life is, particularly compared to the incomprehensible stretch of eternity. James the half-brother of the Lord said, “…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) That seems like a fairly accurate description of how brief our time in this world can be. It doesn’t help we too often are flippant about our use of time. We bide it, kill it, and wait things out. None of that is to say we shouldn’t be still, meditative, wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14), what I’m getting at is our regard for the seconds and minutes and hours of our lives is very poor and subject to waste. They sieve through our fingers and it isn’t until we see the mound of sand adding up to months and years and even decades that we take notice. There is no moment guaranteed to us, yet we regard life in such a way as if it were, we presume so much. But our lives are not our own when we belong to Christ and we have to be careful to redeem the time we have on this earth (Ephesians 5:16).

While thinking on the subject of the brevity of life, something over which I’ve been troubled for some time, the Lord gave me a breakthrough. For a long time I rationalized how short our stay in this world is based on comparisons in the natural world. The length of time we’re in our mother’s womb versus our lifetimes or the time spent on vacation before coming home. Both seem like fitting parallels, but I always felt like I was missing something deeper about it. The starkness of death, the sudden and sweeping feeling of unease it so often evokes in us demanded looking further. The world, after all, is obsessed with death. In the stories we read, particularly cherished classics and new favorites, death is the centerpiece. Just look at the popularity of The Hunger Games series or detective dramas on television. I watched the series Psych for years before stopping to recognize it was comedy where someone almost always was killed. The drama of life and death is captivating to us. It’s extremely relatable, as we are assured, “… it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27) Christians are taught that death is a result of sin and sin entered the world at the Fall when man chose to assert himself as his god rather than serve the LORD. It’s really starting from there that the Lord helped me come to a better place of understanding about life and death.

Much like my previous apologetics post on the reasonableness of the Gospel’s foundations, this too has a kind of cyclic element to it. Not that things are in a continuous cycle as Hindu reincarnation teaches, but rather that God is bringing history and man back to a similar place of fellowship and union with Him, which existed before the Fall of man. In that vein of thought, life now on earth wasn’t formed to be a phase preceding eternity, it was to be a continual state for man. It was only after the Fall where the curse of death fell on man’s body and spirit. We often see life before physical death as distinct from thereafter, but really Christ redeems us to give us both new spiritual and physical life at the same time. In other words, eternal life begins at salvation and continues without end, save the mortal body under the curse is destroyed and replaced by a new body prepared for each believer. As in my previous post, it bears mentioning that it was by man’s act of defiance that sin entered the world and condemned him, but it was God’s work at Calvary which demands an act of obedience and submission of us now. The Lord is restoring things to the way they should have been and what we see as transitory is really a facet of our eternity. So, I suppose what I’m getting at is, the Lord helped me see life as a sentence that man’s rebellion required God to insert punctuation into. What comes after the punctuation can be what the Lord always intended to follow unbroken before the Fall or take on the character of rebellion and rejection that resulted in death in the first place.

Death is such a heavy thing to contemplate, and it is no coincidence that God left the authoritative word on what happens after it to His Son, Who after sacrificing Himself for our sins, opened the door to continuing the sentence of life when He rose from the dead. The passage from the instant of death to a new life thereafter is mysterious to us and again is without surprise in its requirement of faith. We have to trust the Lord Jesus to restore us to life eternal, just as He trusted He would be able to raise Himself to life. This isn’t to diminish the harsh reality of death, but to offer some perspective.

Most importantly, in the midst of all the tragedy of death and sin in our world, we have this sure hope: “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered…” (Revelation 5:5, ESV).
Amen.

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