The Bible refers to death as the last enemy of God’s people, yet it’s also clearly described as a defeated enemy in the pages of Scripture. Nevertheless, honesty demands that we are often fearful of the unexpected nature and suddenness of death. How can we find comfort in the midst of the pain and darkness of death?
Yesterday, a tornado touched down briefly in our town while I was at work. I received various text messages from friends and others who were warning me of the storm. One of our pastors later explained that his wife and children were in their vehicle in the parking lot of a business as the storm passed over with fierce winds. Soon enough, I received word that a well-known restaurant owner-operator in our community was in his vehicle when a large tree was uprooted causing it to fall upon him. In a sudden moment of violent wind—a man’s life was gone. Just as the Bible states, our life is a mist, it’s here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14).
How do we make sense of death and how do we find hope in the midst of darkness?
Death: The Result of Sin
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). The world was created good. As Adam and Eve walked in the midst of the Garden of Eden, they experienced joy in their relationship with one another and most importantly, with God himself.
During those days, peace covered the land. Adam and Eve experienced no sudden storms that created havoc resulting in death. They experienced life without disease, disaster, and death. They enjoyed peace, harmony, and good days. However, that would all end as they rebelled against God and sinned (Gen. 3:6-7). The moment they decided to disobey God, death entered the world (Rom. 5:12). Genesis begins with light and life and it concludes with death and darkness in a coffin in Egypt.
Death: The Last Enemy Defeated by Christ
We have many enemies in this life, but none are more powerful than death. The apostle Paul refers to death as the last enemy. According to Paul, Christ will put all enemies under His feet, and the last of those enemies will be death (1 Cor. 15:25–26).
Although death is powerful and often comes upon people unexpectedly, it is Christ who has defeated this last enemy already and will one day stand victorious over death upon his return. Each time we observe the Lord’s Table with our church family, we remember and proclaim the Lord’s death. However, we must not overlook those verses in 1 Corinthians 11 without reading that phrase that comes after the reference to the Lord’s death. Paul writes:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).
Notice the point Paul drives home. We celebrate together as a church the death of Jesus, remembering his body and blood that was offered up to God in the place of ruined sinners. However, we likewise must be living with anticipation of Jesus’ sudden victorious return. If we’re not careful, we can walk the broken roads of this world in fear of the suddenness of death rather than with the joy of expecting Jesus’ sudden return.
One day, we have hope that as Christ returns he will make all things new. Death will die and we will enjoy peace with God in a world that no longer has the effects of sin, the temptation of Satan, and the darkness of death (Rev. 21:23-24).
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1–4).