Death and triumph

Christ Enthroned : Vivarini

Christ Enthroned / Bartolomeo Vivarini (1450)

What human experience is more common than death? It happens to everyone, but nothing is more mysterious. Some of us regard it with despair, stoicism, or bewildered resignation.

Some of us have the faith to rise above all that and look past death. Wishful thinking or delusion? No. It’s the expectation of a certain triumph.

It occurs to me that there is one human experience as common as death, and that’s birth. If a child in the womb has any thoughts or feelings or expectations about birth, no one knows what they are.

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Death that makes us alive

Life from death

Germinating seed

We usually think of death as the cessation of life. Scripture tells us it’s the beginning of life. How can that be?

Paul tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11). Elsewhere he says that we were once dead in or sins, but God made us alive in Christ and forgave all our sins (Colossians 2:13).

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New life on both sides of the grave


Christians look forward to the resurrection of the dead, as promised through Jesus’ own resurrection. What about the resurrection of the living? How many of us go through life doing the same things, including making the same mistakes, over and over? Someone has observed that a rut is nothing but a coffin with the ends knocked out. Just as there is new life after physical death, so is there new life after stagnation. Lazarus died physically, but we can take his death and rising from death as a metaphor for reawakening to new life after a period of spiritual slumber.

When Lazarus became deathly ill, his sisters sent for Jesus.… Read the rest

Daniel’s vision of a blessed future

The book of Daniel contains some of the most obscure visions in Scripture. Weird looking beasts represent empires in Daniel’s future, but mostly our past. We can identify many rulers by name and understand references to what each of them did. The evil doings of Syrian King Antiochus IV appear at greater length, except there always seem to some details that don’t fit. They point to a coming Antichrist. I have recently touched on one of the visions in Thoughts on Bible prophecy: reading the future in Scripture. Daniel’s final vision relates the ultimate destruction of Antichrist and promises bodily resurrection for everyone afterward.… Read the rest

Grace: free, or unavailable

Simple Simon met a pie man. We know that rhyme. He had no money, so he got no pie. That’s how the world works. If Simple Simon were around today, he could possibly get free food at a soup kitchen, but people find that humiliating. No one wants charity. How different it is with God! He operates not on working and earning, but grace. The feast is free, or else you can’t have it.

Before the days of brand-name bottled water, or even treated water distributed by municipalities, anyone who thirsted could drink water for free. They only had to find it.… Read the rest

Dry bones and new life

In one of the best-known passages of an otherwise obscure book, Ezekiel described his vision of a valley of dry bones coming to life. Actually, it was more than a vision; he  had to prophesy to the bones before anything happened.

Ezekiel recognized that the bones represented the whole lineage of Jacob. Both kingdoms that represented that lineage had been destroyed, their people exiled and scattered. In their shattered hope, the survivors felt as dead and dried up as the bones.

At Ezekiel’s first word of prophecy, the bones formed together as complete skeletons, and then the flesh returned. Now instead of a valley of dry bones, it was a valley of corpses.… Read the rest