For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. – Romans 5:17-18
Scientists believe that human beings are naturally afraid of only two things: falling and loud noises. Even infants appear to have these fears hard-wired into them. But that changes in short order as we grow older. It isn’t long before dozens, if not hundreds, of fears invade our lives: snakes, spiders, bogeymen, robbers, the dark...the list goes on and on. Topping that list, for almost every human being on this planet throughout time, is a fear of death. There is a good, Biblical reason for this. Death is our enemy - our first and final enemy. It begins its relentless attack upon us from the moment we take our first breath.
Before the Fall, human beings created in the image of God had nothing to fear. In the harmonious Garden, everything was subject to Adam and Eve. Animals lived in peace with them, the dark did not hide ominous creatures, and nothing could harm them except for their God-given power of choice. That choice left them without a home, without animals as companions, and with an enemy looming over them that simply could not be stopped. That new enemy was death (Gen. 3:19). Sadly, Adam’s poor choice led to our greatest fear. One man’s trespass led to death and condemnation for his offspring throughout all generations. Now, death is silently waiting for all of us.
I can remember many sleepless nights as a young boy laying in bed, staring into the darkness and considering the prospect of death. What is it like? What does it feel like? Would science find a solution in my lifetime? I knew it was inevitable and had even come to grips with it during the day when the sunshine ferrets those thoughts away into the recesses of the mind. But at night, those questions and fears often found their way back to the foreground, seeking answers and quickening my heart rate. I suspect this is a story common to your experience as well.
The Fall brought with it tragic consequences: ground that would not produce life on its own, but would have to be worked and cajoled into production; a helpmate that was no longer content with being a helpmate, but would fight for dominance – and would be fought back against with ruthlessness and ungodly chauvinism; a natural order that was no longer for us but against us. But let’s face it, the real kicker is still death. We can all find happiness here to some extent in spite of the setbacks of the Fall, but death really sours the pot. It is just so inevitable and unavoidable that it is truly the most damnable of curses.
The Bible tells us that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. It has had a long and ignoble reign, but it too, like all created things, must come to an end. One man brought the curse upon us, and so one man brings the curse to an end. “The first man Adam became a living being: the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). So death is not the final chapter for Christ-followers, but the opening act. Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is the great death-destroyer, the true “sin-eater.” Therefore, death no longer has mastery over us, and the fear of death is quenched. Death, like everything else, must give way to the blazing glory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His reign in our lives removes the fear of death, and his resurrection removes its sting. As the poet John Donne so eloquently said, “Death, thou shalt die!” Sunday we gather together as a community to celebrate this great reality!
Grace and peace,