Tis not the thing, but after, gives me pause,
A shudder running through me, down my spine,
What will incorporeal eyes, be-awed,
Behold when, at last, I pass beyond time?
It forces upon my shoulders a freight,
A momentary fear: is it all real?
For then there is no room for such debate,
But now finality to face and feel.
For others have gone and beheld that land,
And seen and felt finality’s caress,
By Love they, loved, now wait and hold that hand
That led them, fearing, all the way to Rest.
Be-steel my spine, be-flesh my heart so I
May neither blink nor cringe but joy to rise.
Athanasius, answering the question why Jesus, having become incarnate, had to die a public death like crucifixion (instead of just dying and being raised privately):
For as it was not fitting for the Word of God, being the life, to inflict death himself on his own body, so neither was it suitable to fly from death offered by others, but rather to follow it up unto destruction, for which reason he naturally neither laid aside his body of his own accord, nor, again, fled from the Jews when they took counsel against him. But this did not show weakness on the Word’s part, but, on the contrary, showed him to be the Saviour and Life; in that he both awaited death to destroy it and hasted to accomplish the death offered him for the salvation of all. And besides, the Saviour came to accomplish not his own death, but the death of men; when he did not lay aside his body by a death of his own—for he was life and had none—but received that death which came from men, in order perfectly to do away with this when it met him in his own body.
Now, death must precede resurrection, as it would be no resurrection did not death precede; so that if the death of his body had taken place anywhere in secret, the death not being apparent nor taking place before witnesses, his resurrection too had been hidden and without evidence. Or why, while when he had risen he proclaimed the resurrection, should he cause his death to take place in secret? or why, while he drove out evil spirits in the presence of all, and made the man blind from his birth recover his sight, and changed the water into wine, that by these means he might be believed to be the Word of God, should he not manifest his mortal nature as incorruptible in the presence of all, that he might be believed himself to be the Life?
— Athanasius, On the Incarnation, para 22.
Death is sin rendered visible. What we see death do to the body, sin does to the soul. Death is the externalizing of sin. Death is no friend. Apart from Christ, the Bible sees death as the realm where God is not praised. As the bitter fruit of sin, death is the enemy; indeed, it is the “last enemy,” says 1 Corinthians 15:26. When the psalmist, then, prays for deliverance from death, he is talking about a great deal more than a physical phenomenon. Death is the “last enemy,” the physical symbol of our sinful alienation from God: “For in death there is no memory of You; in the grave, who will give You thanks?”
— Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms, 12.
When all other foes
Have bent their knees before Him,
His fiery wrath burns;
Holy hatred boils and fumes.
Saved for last, Death will now die.
It is not the dead who praise Yahweh,
nor any of those descending into the silence of death.
But we will praise Yahweh,
both now and forever.
Psalm 115:17-18 HCSB
These two verses teach so much about eternal life in such a small space, it’s mind-boggling. (Admittedly, the standard required to boggle my mind is not very high, but still. It’s a worshipful mind-boggling in any case.) Continue reading “Last Call”