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The death of death in the death of Christ

hospital waiting room
Unsplash/Andrik Langfield

A couple of weeks ago, my wife’s life was saved.

She’d been having some health issues and was scheduled to undergo several tests, however, the initial dates we were given for the exams were several months off. Because she’d worked and done research with a doctor she knew, we called him and he immediately booked the procedures.

Good thing.

Having lost my first wife decades ago to a rare form of thyroid cancer, I knew something was up when the procedures took much longer than expected. Our doctor friend ended up removing many premalignant lesions, which are the kind that can quickly turn into cancer.

There’s no doubt that, through his work and intervention, he saved her life.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sat alone in waiting rooms, wondering what the doctor would eventually say regarding a surgery or test being run on a loved one. In this case, as in all the others, while my prayers to God are for good news, at the same time I always thank God for His work and intervention that have ultimately saved our eternal lives.

Scared to death of death

One of the many things COVID taught us is that there are a lot of people who are scared to death of death.

God has equipped all of us with the instinct of self-preservation, which is a natural protectant and most times a very good thing. However, over the past few years, therapists have reported a marked increase in thanatophobia, which is an unhealthy anxiety about death.

As COVID demonstrated in multiple and sometimes bizarre ways, thanatophobia is crippling for those suffering from it. Their lives basically become cocoons of fear, filled with panic attacks and painful isolation.  

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Scared to death of death no more

The Bible tells us that, although we are weak and prone to fear, the good news is Jesus, “likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14-15).

Look back up at the last verse and note that Satan had (past tense) the power of death. Warren Wiersbe says, “Because Satan is the author of sin (John 8:44), and sin brings death (Rom. 6:23), in this sense Satan exercises power in the realm of death…[But] we who trust in Jesus Christ have once and for all been delivered from Satan’s authority and from the terrible fear of death.”

This means, for those in Christ, no one needs to be scared to death of death. John tells us, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) and Paul concurs that it is Jesus, “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

Because Jesus’ death put death to, well, death, we can say, “for I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).

It’s true that if Christ delays His return, we will face temporal death in this life. But that isn’t something to be feared because we, “prefer to be absent from the body and present with the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:8) knowing that one day:

“[t]his perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'

'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

It’s very much like the response of a woman who was asked how bad her current physical problems were: “Nothing that the resurrection won’t cure.” She knew we will one day echo Christ’s own words, “I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” (Rev. 1:18).

In that same vein, John Owen concludes his seminal work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by saying: “if there be any comfort, any consolation, any assurance, any rest, any peace, any joy, any refreshment, any exultation of spirit, to be obtained from here below, it is all to be had in the blood of Jesus long since shed, and his intercession still continued.”

Preach it John!

I’m beyond thankful that, several weeks ago, my wife’s life was saved by the work and intercession of our doctor. While I am overjoyed because of that, I am a thousand times more grateful that, two-thousand years ago, her eternal life was saved by the work and intercession of Jesus who, “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4).

When it comes to life and death and the sometimes harsh reality of our present situation, Dr. Robert Godfrey sums things up by saying:   

Sin is more serious.
Evil is more powerful.
Suffering is greater.
Time is shorter.
But Jesus is stronger.

That being true, join me in thanking God for Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, and the death of death in the death of Christ! 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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