Death and dying have been at the forefront of our lives this past year. During the height of the pandemic, here in Victoria, we waited nervously to hear daily updates of COVID infections and deaths.
Death has also been a big topic in Victoria as we faced the recent passing of legislation for Voluntary Assisted Dying. Death is seen as an unnatural part of life that can be avoided if we do everything right or at least we are comforted if we control the time and circumstances of death.
Read Hebrews 9:27,28.
What is God’s purpose for us through death?
Among Christians, death is often seen as a punishment for sin. If only Adam and Eve had not sinned then death could have been avoided through access to the Tree of Life. (Read Genesis 3:24.)
But death is part of God’s graciousness now that sin has entered into this world and all the consequences of sin including suffering and death. God has limited the reach of suffering by limiting the life span of humanity. But Jesus reassures us that through him, even though we die we shall continue to live.
Read John 11:25–26.
Mary and Martha thought that if Jesus had come earlier, Lazarus could have avoided death, but instead, Jesus gives them a greater comfort. Even though Jesus knew that he was the ‘resurrection and the life’, we see through his tears of grief over Lazarus’ death that death still has great impact on the life of a Christian. This is despite the fact we know that eternal life is a gift of God when we die.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
Paul speaks about the grief we go through as Christians but what does he say that brings comfort?
Paul also talks about a different type of death that Christians experience when he says that we have died to sin. Paul believed that in our baptism we are born again and therefore our old life dies and a new life arises with Christ. (Read Romans 6:1–4.)
Paul was quite insistent that our new life begins immediately even though we can only see the old life.
Read Colossians 3:1–4.
Paul speaks about this new life being ‘hidden’, but says it will be revealed when Christ returns along with God’s glory that is also hidden.
Read Colossians 3:5–10.
Are there parts of your ‘old life’ that continue to affect your ‘new life in Christ’?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:20–26.
What happens to death when we are in heaven?
Read Revelation 20:11–15.
In verse 14 death seems to have a life force of its own and ironically death must now also experience death. The difference is that death will no longer exist because it is part of what Jesus calls the ‘old order of life’.
Read Revelation 21:1–5.
In this ‘new order’ Jesus specifically declares what will be removed, or rather ‘passed away’ (another term we use for death): ‘“There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
And finally, the Tree of Life which Adam and Eve lost when the angel prevented them from reaching out and eating, is returned as the Garden of Eden is restored in heaven.
Read Revelation 22:1–5.
Thank you, Heavenly Father that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and even though we die we shall live. Amen.
Pastor Peter Ghalayini serves the Ringwood Knox Lutheran Parish in Melbourne’s outer east and is Aged Care Pastor at Good Shepherd Retirement Village at Ringwood.