Death: Not A Passing Away

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way Though I don’t want to become a word nazi, I believe the term “passing away” is neither a good nor helpful way to speak of death.  Because of its use in Eastern mystical religions and because of its checkered religious  history in Western culture, I try to avoid the term and simply say “death” or “died” instead.  Here’s how Michael Horton explains it.

“…Death is not ‘passing away,’ and it is certainly not an illusion.  For believers, it is ‘the last enemy’ that must be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26).  We share in Christ’s death and therefore also in his life (Rom. 6:1-12; Phil. 3:10).  Therefore, by looking to our head, we already know the outcome of this struggle, and so there is no reason for believers to fear death’s ultimate triumph (Ps. 23:4, Heb. 2:15, Rom. 8:38-39, etc.).  For unbelievers, this death is merely the harbinger of ‘the second death’: everlasting judgment (Rev. 20:14).

“Part of the curse is the separation of soul from body (Gen. 2:17, 3:19, 22; Rom. 5:12, 8:10, 1 Cor. 15:21).  Death is an enemy, not a friend (1 Cor. 15:26) and a terror (Heb. 2:15), so horrible that even the one who would triumph over it was overcome with grief, fear, and anger at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (Jn. 11:33-36).  Jesus did not see death as a benign deliverer, the sunset that is as beautiful as the sunrise, or as a portal to ‘a better life.’  Looking death in the eye, he saw it for what it was, and his disciples followed his example.  After the deacon’s martyrdom, we read, ‘Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him’ (Acts 8:2).”

“The reason that believers do not mourn as those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13) is not that they know that death is good, but that they know that God’s love and life are far more powerful than the jaws of death.  Although believers, too, feel its bite, Christ has removed the sting of death (Jn 14:2-4, Phil. 1:21, 1 Cor. 15:54-57, etc.).  That is because ‘the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to god, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 15:56-57).  Downplaying the seriousness of the foe only trivializes the debt that was paid and the conquest that was achieved at the cross and empty tomb” (p. 911).

This quote was taken from Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

shane lems

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