By Rev Robert Barthram, May 1 2014 12:00PM
During our recent Lent course, several found the fourth session difficult which had the theme Jesus - conqueror of death. It is quite understandable that something that causes such pain should be difficult to speak about. In one of the groups it was related how someone had said they had never heard a sermon on death. It can't be right never to speak about it for as we have just recalled our faith is based on a horrific death on a hill outside Jerusalem; death is a reality that none can escape from, certainly not us.
In the bible, we are told that death is both the most natural thing and the most unnatural. It is natural to return to the dust, 'the silver cord is snapped, the golden bowl is broken' (Eccl. 12:6). It is also quite unnatural, Genesis speaks of death coming through disobedience and the apostle Paul writes, 'sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all' (Rom. 5:12)
In the bible, more is meant by the term "death" than when the heart stops and the brain ceases to function. Death also refers to exclusion from God's presence, a separation as we exist in this world. Our physical death is a symbol of a more serious spiritual death.
Our attitude as Christians to death should be very different to that of others, because of what we see as the problem and answer. Sin is the problem causing us to be shut out from God's presence. The answer is in one person, whoever believes in him, 'has passed from death to life', they, 'will live even though they die' (Jn 5:24; 11:25). So in this earthly life the exclusion from God is ended and eternal life begins as we believe, meaning physical death is robbed of its fear, it no longer is a sign of a deeper death but a stepping stone to a liberated life.
How this is achieved is by Jesus dealing with the problem of our sin in his death, so through faith in him we share in that victory. One who was without sin, for our sakes bore the penalty, so that we might not know exclusion from God's presence; as the Puritan John Owen said 'the death of death in the death of Christ'.
The sign and seal of this victory is the resurrection of Jesus. Easter tells us if we believe ,we share in the victory. We may pass altogether out of the state which is death and be brought into a new state, aptly called by the New Testament, life, and in due course will pass through the gateway of physical death as did our Lord
Wishing you a joyous Easter season. Robert.