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Saturday, 10 September 2011

"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

On Thursday evening, my wife and I spent some time with a couple who have been friends for some 25 years.  It was, as we had expected, a very enjoyable evening with good food, and good conversation.  However, the lasting memory for me will be when, just as we were about to leave, my friend Jim told us about his Sat-nav.  Apparently, he had used it to direct him to a particular crematorium.  As he drove through the entrance, the voice of the Sat-nav informed him: "You have arrived at your final destination"!!!!

As you might imagine, we laughed - and laughed.  But, of course, it was really a serious comment.  So many, it seems, in our modern culture actually believe that the crematorium, or the cemetery is their "final destination".

Not so the disciple of Jesus!

In John's account of the Gospel, he records these words of the Lord to His disciples: "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also." (14:1-3; RSV).

Those early disciples, steeped in their Jewish culture, would have immediately recognised the allusion.  This was a reference to the marriage custom of their day (see also Matt.25:1-13).  After both families had agreed to the marriage, the bridegroom returned to his parental home and prepared a home for his bride!   To use Jesus' words, he prepared a place.

There are a number of places in the New Testament writings in which the church (i.e. the true Body of Christ) is described a His Bride.   And Jesus has promised that, when one of His disciples dies, physically, He will take him/her to be with Him.  I've posted before about that fine barrier between time and eternity.   It's a wonderful, exciting, thought that my last glimpse of mortal life, as I slip through that curtain, will be my first glimpse of Him!

Of course, as that parable in Matt 25 makes clear, I don't know exactly when the Bridegroom will return for me - or if I will go to Him first.  That's why I need always to be ready.  I spent a major part of my youth and young adulthood in the Boys' Brigade.  But I always liked the motto of the Boy Scouts: "Be prepared".  It's one that, I believe we should all take to heart with regard to that event that we call death.

Tomorrow, many people will be recalling that dreadful atrocity that took place in New York (not forgetting the parallel incidents at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania) when aeroplanes were deliberately flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.  I am fairly certain that those who worked in those buildings, and those who were passengers on those 'planes, didn't get out of bed that morning thinking " I may well die today"! yet thousands of them did - along with some who were trying to help prior to the towers collapsing.

In spite of the continuing advances in medical science death, at least until the Rapture of the Church, is assured for each one of us.  The 17th century cleric and author, John Donne as he lay dying from the effects of the plague that was killing people in London by the thousand, was able to hear the church bells tolling their announcement of death after death.  He wrote in his devotional diary: "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls.  It tolls for thee!"  How true!  The writer of the New Testament Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus states that "... it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgement." (9:27; RSV).

Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth: "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
"Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is thy victory?  O death, where is thy sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor 15:54-57; RSV).  He, that is Jesus, is the only hope that we have; He alone enables us to face death with a steady eye.

May all who read this post have the assurance of that victory.  It makes a big difference when we face death!

1 comment:

Allison Ramage said...

That particular verse in John's Gospel is my favourite. Whenever I think on it I visualise how beautiful it will be. All those mansions and only peace, no worries for want of a better phrase, and I don't think there is, HEAVEN