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Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that the men may bring you the wealth of nations—their kings led in triumphal procession. Isaiah 60:11

 

Background Scripture: Isaiah 60:1-22

“Life is hard, but blessedly short.” –Old Russian proverb

Christianity is a death-centered religion. This might sound strange and offensive at first, or dismissed as irreverent folly, blasphemy, or heresy. However, death is actually at the center of the entire redemptive narrative of Holy Scripture. Let’s start at the beginning. The most profound and lasting effect of the “Fall” was death. Adam and Eve were created to live forever, but the penalty of their sin was death: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). From this point onward, death prevailed, laying like a thick and terrifying pall over the human race throughout the Old Testament.

Early on, the Gospels make it clear that the primary purpose for Jesus’ birth was to break this ancient curse of death. As Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father exclaimed when anticipating Jesus’ birth: “. . .When the day shall dawn upon us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78-79).

Certainly Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher, but his real purpose was to die, and then by being raised victorious over death, to demonstrate that its power was broken forever. This has been called “the Devil’s mousetrap”—by killing Jesus, Satan thought he had broken God’s plan and perpetuated his grim reign of death and destruction. Instead, the resurrection broke the Devil’s power and left him defeated, falling into a cosmic trap from which he will never escape.

The early apostles certainly understood this. Paul in particular emphasized that the real “telos” of life (Greek for “ultimate goal,” from which we get our word telescope), was the sure hope of heaven: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). In his great discourse on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes the interesting observation that “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (v. 26). This is confirmed in Revelation 20:14, when death is the last thing destroyed in the fire. Curious words. The first curse of the “Fall” is the last to be finally eradicated.

Modern Christianity, particularly in the West, has almost totally lost this “telos,” in which the hope of heaven is the ultimate goal of human life. Advances in medical science and the preoccupation with money, materialism and technology, even among Christians, have had the effect of keeping most people from thinking very much or very deeply about death and the reality of life after death and final judgment. In earlier centuries, large infant mortality rates and short life spans made funerals much more commonplace and served to remind people of the inevitability of death.

It has been said that “You are going to die, and probably sooner than you think, so be ready. Don’t let an event as important as death take you by surprise.” Instead, live in a way that prepares you for the inevitable.

Mark C. Albrecht

– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.

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