Thursday, February 13, 2014

Death: The Last Enemy To Be Conquered

My first encounter with death was when my Uncle Harry died. When my dad told me, I went into my bedroom weeping and retching. I was so traumatized there was no way I was going to his funeral. As I was only a boy, my parents were very caring and respectful, so did not force me. The closest thing I could come to explaining to dad what I was feeling was—terror.

As I grew older I was haunted by thoughts of my grandfather dying. (Monte, Sr.) However self-centered and juvenile, I frequently begged God to rapture us all to heaven before this could happen. (As an aside, I think many of the people who profess a belief in the “soon return of Jesus Christ for His Church” are actually whistling in a graveyard, hoping there won’t be a coffin in their futures.)

Death is Not Natural
During my formal studies in psychology one of the bon mots that we were taught was to “Teach people that death is natural.” What intrigued me was that I was hearing this from a professor who was a Christian.

Professor: Mr. Wilson, I can see that you disagree.
Mr. Wilson: I do. I think death is bloody well the most unnatural thing we will face in life.

Death is not natural. It showed up as a consequence of our free will choice to follow after God or to go our own way. God offers us life in and under Him, but we prefer death and going our own way.  

St Paul goes so far as to assert that death is not only unnatural, it is an enemy: “the last enemy to be destroyed.”

“But Monte, I want to die. In death I am freed from sickness and suffering, and from this evil world. I don’t fear death, I desire it.” Sounds quite spiritual, doesn’t it. The problem is that people who say such things usually have yet to first face the fact that death is an enemy. And how do you think God responds to those who speak and live as if the world and life that He gifted us with as something to escape as quickly as possible?

Tell me, when Jesus was in the garden praying in the shadow of his death on the cross, was he saying, “Whoopee, I am about to be outta here”? Or did he pray, “If there is anyway around this, Father, I’ll take it…let this cup (death) pass from me”?

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died did He let out a shout of glee? No. He wept. Death is agony. Death is not natural, not what God intended for us.

Death is a terrifying enemy. YES, it is far more than this, or, rather, can be. But until we first face the reality of death being unnatural and an enemy, all of our rejoicing and celebrating that Brother Wilson is now with Jesus, are akin to Jesus skipping the bloody agony of the cross and going straight to heaven. As Peter Kreeft wrote, “Death cannot be a friend; it can only become a friend, after first being an enemy.”

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

1 comment:

  1. The failure you mention is the common reason why funerals to often fail to bring comfort...we do not meet the enemy squarely and wrestle him to victory.

    I love the words of this anthem we use at the end of a funeral service as the coffin is being wheeled out of the sanctuary leading us to the grave sight...

    'Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb.'

    He has met this terrifying enemy and trampled him underfoot. As we each in our turn meet death, we cling with all our might to the truth that Jesus prevailed...for us.

    Thanks for the post. Love the Kreeft quote at the end. Love IS stronger than death.