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The DURESS OF DEATH becomes the DELIGHT OF LIFE ETERNAL
1. DEATH WITHOUT DESIGN IS
DEPTH WITHOUT SPACE
Often does the cry come: O that this body, once so fair, this mind, once so robust, this spirit, earlier a summit of consciousness and a peak of stability, should now no longer find cover in the earth, that this detached case of bones should now become the unkempt remembrance of what was once so grand an exhibit of life!
Death avaunt! in your callowness and clay! Be gone, stay no more!
Such is the lament of mind at funerals, or sudden loss of life, or the horror in the hearts of many, though they may repress the feeling or the thought, when death makes its clamour and the grave engulfs the residue that once man used, the body deceased.
While however there is certainly ground for sorrow, yet the depth of the matter in unbridled sorrow, goes too far (Philippians 1:21, I Thessalonians 4:13), ignoring that constructive masterpiece, the resurrection of the body, founded on that triumph in Christ which rocked an Empire and is set in the foundation of the Church, as the sun in the sky for heat, the stars for multitude in the heavens. On the contrary, however, for those who reject salvation and in it, the kernel and core of the resurrection, perhaps such lament does not indeed go far enough! (cf. Ezekiel 31-32). Its unspeakable horror cannot be tamed where truth has been dismissed (John 3:36).
Thus in Ezekiel is Egypt prophetically viewed, cut down like a great tree, and there in the realm of hell is its Pharaoh seen in helpless detachment from life, in a sort of mockery of former honour, devastated in death by the wickedness of misused life. Life without love, and love without power, and power without truth, it is merely a Mockery Symphony. You meet the Master of Life and serve Him, Jesus Christ, or you mock your own life (Proverbs 8:35-36). What mockery is worse! (cf. Proverbs 1:31); for that food is just, and justice without mercy, fits but ill with any sinner.
It is the spirit of man which has made him great, and not the mere mechanics, like so much super-sophisticated farm-machinery, of his body. It is the ploughman and not the plough, who is in view. Many make much from a little, while others with the greatest machinery, but spoil the soil.
It is the morality of man which distinguishes his 'kind', in the sub-category of those who know the Maker and His righteousness. As with a car, an aircraft or even a computer, there is what is designated right, what fits, is apt, is appropriate, fulfils the intention of the one who makes and buys, and there is what is a mere covering in some shed of disuse, or ruin in some wildness of misapplication, left bereft in the wilderness.
Life is a test and a display, and it is God who is the judge. It is a triumph such as the flight of birds so well illustrates, and their aerial dances at times of wonder, so aptly depict. The test does involve fortitude and grace and power and strength; but this is not enough. The powerful make a practice of losing power, or mind or sanity or becoming pivots of vanity manipulated by some egregious passion or artful fashion. In his desolatory contrivances, man becomes his own captive, willingly consenting to evil and calling it good, whether in self-sufficiency instead of spiritual valour, in vanity instead of virtue or in moral self-congratulation instead of godly delight in the dynamic of the deficit in the wonder of the Saviour.
What is enough is obedience to the call, the design and above all to the Designer who is no mere inventor as is man, but the maker of what man cannot make, though in his educational sorties he is often acting as if he could. Man in his mindless spiritual folly (Romans 1:22, Ephesians 6) would bend and amend and discipline and draft, he would indoctrinate and activate, he would mould and he would make of the child some prodigy of passion, some example of cultural ideology, some fodder for war, some flotsam for chance. This, however, by no chance is mere chance; rather is it the absence of the loving control for good of those who forsaking God, find the seduction of the sod, the clamminess of clay, or the aerial dooms of those who flying fearless in the storm, become as significant as gnats for their vanity.
There is an interval between birth and death; and it is called life.
What fills it ? In man, this is the eternal question, and the Eternal is the answer: but not some chalice of drunk philosophy is this, but Almighty God; nor some mere verbal symbol of power, but the personal God who makes persons as an author makes characters, but leaves them - as in exalted art forms may occur in fiction - to develop themselves, yet in His presence, if by any means they might seek Him with whom they have to do, like it or not.
Life, it is not unlike breathing: whatever you think of, it is there. It must be met. It is neither given in inattention nor received back witless and regardless: all is judged, and only mercy makes the light, nor does any find it, but by faith, nor does this help, except in Him who is Faithful (Revelation 19:11,13,16).
THE MIND OF MAN
The mind of man has had its interrogative and statuesque strength only for a time, since the creation, as it was allowed to participate in the creative construction of God, that mind-body synthesis to which man became heir after that creation. Unmindful of the purpose of mind, he is forever questioning and question and suggesting and declaring and declaiming and naming this and that verbal folly which never works, and putting on pompous faces to match sonorous sounds called words, while he rebels like a snake cornered, and pouts at the result. Idealism wants back its soul, but without God, materialism seeks the body, without the life, and rationalism wants the ground without the God who made it, so that in the swirl of suggestions man in madness wars and glories for a time, before he buries the asininities of his not-God creations, and many of his own race with them (cf. SMR pp. 422E).
THE SPIRIT OF MAN
All this the more attests that spirit of man which in its fancies can act as if a god, and in its calamities, like a sod of earth, mere inanimate illusion. The one surely leads to the other, like the pulses of the heart, the impulse and the result, the cause and the effect. Without God, it is not rest, but merely the next conceptual contrivance, philosophic folly, religious vanity, that knows no rest, and provides none. Where this is the mischief and mistake of life, there death remains, and the curse continues without the light without which within, man hides, but is not hidden; for though it excluded from a man's heart , it is all about him, and his deeds are well-known to God.
Man is often so like a
disoriented child: he has been insolent, atrociously self-willed and sought
every grabbable thing; and then comes Daddy home. WHY this disorder of no tea,
discipline ? It is atrocious! the child might exclaim.
The eminently wilful child might even, perhaps helped by the modern educational system, brood in rebellion. That is mankind in general, for if anything goes ‘wrong’ in his bill of wrongs kind of life, in ever new inventions on always old vaunting follies, then God is to blame; but if it all works, then man treats himself to a banquet as a god! The words are not too strong. ‘Science’, which is merely codified knowledge ostensibly gained by a method of happening and test and verification, launches just such attacks on God through many of its exponents, and seeks to imagine that ‘dad’ is not there. Indeed, even in SA recently we had one eminent scientist making it appear that moving from the visible to the invisible is in some way unscientific – if by invisible you mean beyond material format (cf. It Bubbles ... Ch. 9, Little Things Ch. 5, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 10, Deliverance from Disorientation Ch. 8).
Similarly, in education and to some extent political change, there is the concept that nothing is wrong but what is inconvenient; and with such ‘vision’ vice abounds! The latest is to make rejection of such vice to be deemed illegal! This seems to have been the sort of attitude in Sodom, a social connivance with unconstraint and licence which make the place apt for the judgment which has ever since been an historical example. If it wrong even to say what is right, how wrong is the unruliness that rules!
Then without truth or mercy, death is merely the summary of evils, and the forfeiture of any further liberty towards self-government. In that, you come either to God or to His absence, once and for all. He knows His own and misses not one of them (Ephesians 1:4). Bleak indeed is death in explicit and conscious detachment from the Lord’s Christ, the pinnacle of performance and the mountain of hope, yes the exhibit of resurrection and the One who makes the Grant of Redemption. It is only then that the text applies. Which one ? that which follows: Hosea 13:14 and I Corinthians 15:55.
THE DEATH OF MAN
Death ? The spirit which God gave to make this creation, mankind, more than a robot, a computerised, programmatic liaison with matter, this is not absorbed by any earth, nor did the earth ever contain it. From heaven came the design, the mind and the spirit; but the last, it was what made man himself, able to investigate even himself, with reason and reason's parameters in codified containers on the one hand, the body, and in codifying conceptualisation, on the other, in mind's matrix: while again in spiritual sallies and thoughts not after this world, by that very spirit, man was enabled to become a seeker of the divine, the sublime.
Naturally, this was an open action: for if sublimity is its Author then the sublime it touches, and in touching, it may repel. So was Eden, where the compelling motif was to be as ONE OF US, as a godlike being not merely accountable, but accounting in its own books for what he would, as he would. He would inhabit uninhibited, a world of his own inheritance, fashioned by God and grasped by man; its levers he would hold, its powers endue with his own wit, and contest would be his and concurrence or not, with the God of creation. The position has not greatly changed in the millennia; for the culture which brings in its own condign consequences, so that now whether in the UN or in many a land, it can scarcely bear its own consequences, or stomach its own food, toys with fatality yet.
The folly of imagining that what does not have TRUTH or divinity or deity or sublimity in itself, could nevertheless in brutal disregard of the founding reality, secure the same by disobedience and force, contrivance and deceit, bargaining and waylaying: it is this which has led to wars without and more wars within, so that modern man is a virtual scene of warfare, layer on layer, his body crippled by suffering, torture, and most proper self-doubt, his mind scurrying to endless trips to the psychiatrist, his spirit aglow with hope and stressed by doubt, but increasingly, not serviced by spiritual peace and God-reliance. They talk of 'self-belief' as if reliance on the protoplasmic construction were in some way a form of wisdom, or self-assurance were a well-grounded faith for what does not choose the day or way of its entrance into life, or of its leaving it.
Belief in God becomes an option, and even in some church-schools, it appears no more, something pushed at people in case they like the taste, but without the conviction which requires garlands of grace in the garden of God, or the rubbishing of what is misnamed chance because there is then no ground for control or direction, and man is purposing himself in what is beyond his abilities, a midget sounding like a god, but divorced from the Actual Maker of Spirit, as by a chasm of misconception and an abyss of attitudinal fancy. He rejects reliance on God in increasing numbers, either inventing little godlets to be manipulated, whether wafer or waiver be the intent, indulging in fantasies of hope or desire, or divorcing from God altogether and anything of that name, he moves like a warrior in armour, seeking whom or what to fight and a reason for the battle.
THE WARS OF MAN
It is in this mode that almost without cease, new wars for new causes now populate the earth as if they were being born instead of people!
Yet you say, In what way could the spirit of man be serviced by God-reliance ? It is like this. First you turn to the Lord, to find the schema, the plan, the personal basis, and the actual origin. The source must be consulted. What made you and how is not inconsiderable whether the result be a car or a person. an idea or an adventure! Causation and creation cannot be evacuated by mere desire (cf. Causes).
Then you find the divergence, the gap and the necessity of finding God where He is, since you have moved.
After this, you find the way shown in the one and only location ever given with verification mighty, undisturbed, epochal and constantly increasing over millenia, and yet further confirmed to this very century and the last, to a prodigious degree (cf. SMR Ch. 9)L the Bible. Then in this you find the core, the centre and the commanding figure, given as a Leader, Commander, Witness, Messiah, sacrificial lamb, atonement, Jesus Christ.
Central in the written word, He became central in history, and together with the Romanist and Islamic heresies (cf. Beauty for Ashes Ch. 4, 7 , Highway to Hell, News 138, ), here lies the religion of near to half the population of the earth. While others try out ever new, always old variants, seeking to find novelty where only beggared idolatry lies (cf. Aviary of Idolatry), here is the core which imitations like Islam and Romanism, each seeking a high place for Christ but the practical power elsewhere, rotate about. Here is the only ground and only hope of even rational relationship; and though error does not work, in electrical or theological reality, yet the effort is most notable. It centres about the power and the empirical results, which testable, lie in one place only, the Bible, in one Saviour only, the Lord Jesus Christ, and in one way to Him only, repentance and reception without alloy, by faith of His gracious gift of eternal life, instead of fractious strife and dying vitality, ebbing to a stop which ends merely the test.
All of these things, both in the lamentation at mortality, and in the battles which demonstrate mortality as these powers and ideologies seek to force what faith does not permit, and its object does not in the end allow (cf. SMR pp. 830ff., His Time is Near Ch. 10, Let God be God Ch. 4 ), attest much. First, it provides a witness negatively in error, and then positively in invitation and regeneration, of what grace provides and man needs. The lamentations which shriek into ending life and its sorrows, these provide a lamentation, without this prior perspective of power and grace, of the gauntness of man's going.
THE SITE FOR MAN
Thus mourn many for the loss of the visible place of man's spirit, and its departure before God without the provision for its way, when the body returns to the dust from which (by creative masterpiece) it came, and the spirit to God who made i. It is then, that man is found out. If he hides the emotion of his grief at death, it does not hide him, who is then open to face a reality from which myriads of men flee, at which many faint, and because of whom, many more make of themselves strangers and aliens, rather than pilgrims for God.
Man in fact, then, at death does not lie a picked skeleton, a rotting piece of flesh; but he leaves a finished instrument, a completed life in which the affairs of the spirit have first sketched their lines on his face, or under his eyes, or in his countenance, as on his heart, and then goes the envelope, torn off, its precious contents no more tarrying with the equipment to which they were married. From the physical, then, is effectual divorce, and off goes the person to the God who made him.
It is only the fractious fictionalities of dreams (as in Jeremiah 23), which lead to the sense of meaningless weakness and hopelessly stricken greatness which makes of death for many, a ghastly performance which nothing can charm or disarm from its fatality, finality and grossness.
But what is it like, inconsolable grief at death, or rebellion or resentment ?
It is rather like imagining that all the mathematics one has learned, all the precision of definition and the dalliances with devices all but innumerable, has been but nothing, a thing to pass in dotage and be remembered no more as wits decrease and analytical prowess finds its number. Yet it is not so.
Mathematics has been one kind of introduction to logic, and this to parameters of power. It has been one mode of speech in which the entire physical creation has been formed. If it is not in itself apt to find life's subtleties and its masteries, its passions and its problem-solving powers, yet it burrows and makes highways, as the case may be, into the world which was formed in the same mint as the mind of man. What then of such a discipline as mathematics ?
THE SCOPE FOR MAN
This ? it has been like issuing from a river into the ocean, in a canoe! It is not in vain, for it introduces to an aspect of life. Relationship to life is a mode for life to ignore at its peril, but more than its aspects is its ground which is God.
What then, to pursue the aspect of living found in mathematics, and the cessation for an individual, at decease ? what of this illustration and example of the life and its ground and relationships to reality ?
At best, life even then, it is not lost; but the ocean is found. When you find the Maker of the mind and the canoe and the ocean, then you have found yet more; and nothing is lost but what the alienated manage to discard, like those who accidentally throw out a million dollar note, with discarded sheets of short stories begun.
Then indeed is there an ill-savour to death; and then is there found a gravity and a disenchantment, a sobriety and a secure ruin: for then is there no hope, and what has been discarded on earth, becomes what is lost in the mind of the Maker (John 3:36). Such was not the design of God (John 3:17), and it is the contrariness of man contrary to design which makes death both undesirable in itself, and a potential throb of doom to those who make fiction their feast, and fiesta their thought.
When what is designated departs from design, there is stress; when what is the person of man, enabled to know God, departs from the Designer of his design to undesignated paths, and these come at last to the sea, what is there but the cliff, not of fate, but of folly.
What in such a case has become of man ? Man then has merely moved inside the amazing matrices of creation, being a part of it, conscious, controllable, penetrating, perceptive, but this without being receptive of what has made him, and not repentant for the reasons of his truancies, to the one who gave him reason, spirit and imagination.
THE SOLEMN SADNESS OR THE IMMORTAL JOY
Then is death a solemn sadness, a sobbing and without splendour; but this has one sobering solace, that if the person who rejected Christ on earth had been forced into heaven, then the hatreds or contempts, the indifference or the indolence towards spiritual things would have made their necessary experience both an impossible burden and a hated compulsion. Heaven is no haven for hatred of truth, truculence towards God or an unsublime indifference to sublimity where it is to be found.
It is well then to look at death with clean eyes, with solemnity contained in joy, with expectation as when a young violinist knows that after this examination, there are concerts to come in his coming professional life; for this life is a beginning, and He who is alpha and omega, and never ends, is for those who love Him, and find Him where He IS to be found (Isaiah 55, Acts 4:10ff.), and in and through Him an endless delight, and everlasting joy is upon their heads (Isaiah 51:11), from which no anointing can sever , no disappointment cut free. Freedom then is bound where it is found, not in fictitious follies of imagined goddishness, but in love for the God of creation, whose redemption restores to man reality instead of the ruin that was coming, and his place in the cast of the Divine Drama.
It is well that the dramatist does not only care for His characters, but has come to die for them as one of them, but this not by compulsion, just as His love was not compelling but impelling, but in opportunity. Lest any be lost in the mere churning of events, having foreknown all, He takes His own, and predestinate, His chosen ones are first known before all time, insulated from the perils of oddity with the regality of truth. Then are they found who were lost. It is entirely impossible for Him to lose any one of them, for love seeks with fidelity, and missing no chick nor is any lost from its wings (cf. Matthew 23:37).
What now of death, when this salvation is standing and one is living under the Shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1). Then "he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty". That shadow of profound, and what casts it is wonderful (Isaiah 9:6-7). Of His kingdom is no end, and it is this one which is not destroyed (Daniel 7:14,25-27). Needless to say, the others are, for they are regalities without regions, fictions of fancy without basis or support. Doomed before they began, their end is dire. With these, the earth is filled and over-full!
What then of the redeemed, now ?
Now is that very body which bespoke sin, as in sentence at death, inscribed with the signature of triumph and on it is now placed the seal of divine sovereignty, as the resurrection of Christ becomes but the prelude and paragon, the criterion and the account of their own, for as Isaiah 26:19 puts it, "My dead body shall they arise" - even those who were asleep in the dust, as far as bodies were concerned, though present in the Lord for their spirits from the very day of their departure (Philippians 1:19-26). Death then lacks its sting (I Corinthians 15:55ff.)
DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING ?
GRAVE, WHERE IS THY VICTORY ?
In Hosea, where is first found in these words, this triumphant thought, there is the account of the prophet who is called to marry a harlot. This was a living example for Israel to see: it is made a charade, in which Israel is the harlot and the prophet plays the part for the Lord. Despite the kindness of elevating the sinful woman (Israel the sinful nation) from degradation, in marriage, in her, there is not even the gratitude of remaining faithful to him: thus she reverts to her former follies. Hence the prophet has go go and buy her back (signifying redemption for believers, in Israel), and settle her at last. This is the parable in action of the history of Israel, and to no mean extent, that of many nations, though they do not always so precisely conform to the outline.
Often throughout Hosea, you see the loving concern of the Lord (as in that delightfully tender passage in 11:1ff., and in 7:1ff.); but “they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” (8:7) as if to be insufferably unspiritual, ungrateful and unfeeling were a species of vocation, an anti-divine calling! In the end, God acts once and for all.
He will, He says in Hosea 13:14, become personally involved to the uttermost point. Like a researcher taking the disease in order to show how it may be overcome, HE Himself will be the plague of death. Imagine being a plague to a plague! God, in other words, cancels death’s power, but not freely, on His own part. This delicious freedom is only for those who receive Him, His work and His salvation ! (Isaiah 55, Romans 3:23ff., Galatians 5). Death's sharpness lies in sin, which disrupts, disorders and declaims against God; and that is the sting of death: it is no mere event! It is sham turned into shame, culminating where God is rejected personally in Christ.
What however gives sin its power ? It is the law, the morality of God, the truth of our being and creation and need! It is defined, declaimed and declared. None can escape its impact; only in Christ, can it be borne, and that by Another; for He becomes the substitute of the saved soul (Galatians 3).
God therefore decided to be the plague of death by removing its sting, by accepting that venomous bite for Himself; and thus the power of the law is not reduced, only its point of application. Indeed, this is referred to the Lord instead of to ourselves.
Nor is this freely available as a program, but only personally: for it was personally that each and every man and woman and child has sinned. Sin is not mere volition, but vocation: it is falling short, and the human race is in that place, with only one exit, one exodus from engulfment, the evacuation point in Christ Jesus the Lord. It is He who fulfills in Himself the Exodus of Israel, like a Red Sea of blood, once shed, and making a path by its arising this time for ALL and for ANY who take it.
Hence Christ descended into hell (cf. II Peter 2:19), where, having died and risen (II Peter 2:18) he preached to the ‘spirits in prison’ from the flood in particular. Nothing is too far for the Lord of creation, and never in the Bible are people on earth referred to as ‘spirits in prison’ (cf. those of Jude 6). He received that cutting off which is not only from society, from the body, but in spirit, crying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!” as Psalm 22:1 foretold of the crucified Messiah a millenium beforehand.
Everything did He fulfil; and He left nothing to be done (Hebrews 7:27); for He “does not need … to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Separate from sinners, He has become higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:26). Indeed, "to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:9).
What ‘victory’ then has the grave, as anteroom to hell, without hope and without consolation, to gain ? God has quenched its fires for His own, by bearing their vehemence. Grave, I will be your destruction, He foretells in Hosea, and this Paul applies to His redeemed. Moreover in Hosea God declares that He will not change His mind on this glorious advent and victory, but proceed with it to the uttermost, so that He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to life through Him (Hebrews 7:25). "Pity is hidden from My eyes" - He pitied neither Himself nor His only begotten Son who delighted to do it (Hebrews 10:5ff., Psalm 40:5-7, cf. Psalm 16, 22).
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
O Death, I will be your plagues!
O Grave, I will be your destruction!
Pity is hidden from My eyes."
He would neither turn from it, nor abort it, but sent His only begotten Son into the flesh (I John 4), and in Him was that same zeal for God is One (Isaiah 48:16, 50, Psalm 40, Luke 9:51). What God does, He completes (cf. Philippians 1:6). He never fails (Zephaniah 3:5).
This deed with that resolution, now He has done: Calvary was the Stage, the Cross the Pulpit, Christ the High Priest who offered Himself, outside the Camp. We who are His not only can, but in turn WILL by grace proceed to the uttermost; for He who did not flinch, is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25, John 1)9,27-28), and does (I Thessalonians 5:9-10), imparting the power to prevail in the life of the Lord, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty, prospering in the secret place of the Most High (Psalm 91:1).
Therefore says Paul, rejoice (I Thessalonians 5), be steadfast, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Is there darkness ? Ask for the light. Is there weakness, ask for the power (Ephesians 3:16). Is there false ambition ? ask for the washing that cleanses (I John 1). Is there injustice ? See it is not your own (Hosea 10:12-13, 12:6-7): and regard sin as vomit, saturated fat, viral disease of the soul! Love it as you delight in bankruptcy; but rather, in spirit, be at one with the Lord.
Be then as a faithful wife to the Lord, as a willing son, as a delighted servant, pure in intention, vigorous in service, loving the Lord and a vehicle for love’s expression in truth, attesting the Lord as Israel so often did not, avoiding the inconstancies of convenience and the casuistries of society, as snakes; and in honest integrity, live and speak for Christ with the realisation of the privilege it really is, so to do.
In HIS word, the Gospel, there is power (Romans 1:16) not only to show the life-saving belt, but to effect in His name the very deliverance, salvation itself: for the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. Never let it be further from you than your hand, your eye, or your mind.
We have seen one prophetically fulfilled example in which the whole dynamic of God is focussed on travailing for and prevailing in the life of the miscreant (rebellious ruiner of his created state) in Hosea, and another in I Corinthians on its fulfilment. Let us then look a little more broadly in the Bible in this field.
THE WAY ON AND THE WAY OFF FOR MAN
From the first in Genesis 3:15, to the last in Revelation 11, 21-22, it is one way to God: His OWN way which in HIMSELF He has inscribed (Isaiah 49:16, Zechariah 3:9, Colossians 1:22, II Corinthians 5:17ff., I Cor. 15:1-4), so that we who have no strength, any more than at our first birth, should be incorporated in His body which rose, and in our appointed time, be restored at the general resurrection.
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, ...
the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality,
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' "
Therefore we do not sorrow as do others, when that seemingly fateful fact of decease strikes down a noble tree, in the garden of God; for the Gardener has another season, and in its season, His flowers are preserved, and those trees planted in Him do not falter or fail (Matthew 15:13), for they are given by God. Branches in pruning, here or there, may be lopped off, but there is then no uprooting.
Thus is the enormous sense of disproportion that many to their sorrow find in death, but an introductory biological treatise to the serenity of solace, and the strength of creation, the realisation of redemption and the appreciation of the desperate depths of depravity which not knowing God has constituted. It awakes to what man has forgotten, and in awakening, provides peace for those who do not hold fast their eyelids and die in their sleep. Thus Paul sounds his alarm, "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead and Christ shall give you life" (Ephesians 5:14, Isaiah 26:19). First one arises to life, and then in it, at a later time.
Thus challenged and seeking, thus finding is man serviced, for the shock can enlighten when death reminds of reality. Then from the Lord's own word and personal life on earth, His sacrifice sufficient for all, there is provided moreover those elevating heights of wonder, into which the restoration of that knowledge of God brings man, any man, any woman, any child, at any time, through faith which is by grace alone.
Such it is, for grace has concerned itself with the condition of man, and has not forced, for faith cannot be forced, but has provided with absolute certainty, in the sublime foreknowledge of Almighty, the very presence and peace of the God of all comfort (Romans 8:29ff.). It is He who has appointed and known His own (II Timothy 2:19, Ephesians 2), not from their merits but from their reception of Himself, and even that based in and on that everlasting scrutiny which depends on nothing but God Himself.
By a foreknowledge which disdains ANY contribution from man (Romans 9:16), in love He has found His own, where sin does not dim reality, but where salvation does more than dim sin: for it brings for it the remission which made of it a harassment to man, a harrier of holiness and gave him a helplessness before God which only God could redeem.
It is detachment from this divine desire which is the cited ground of condemnation, and those who pursue it, find the end of their pursuits: it is not forced, but it does come. But what of the salvation of the lost ?
This, it is not from superiority of spirit, since in His knowledge of all in the initial realities of foreknowledge, where no works can enter and truth is blazing without interference or interruption (Ephesians 1:4, 2:1-12, Romans 9:11-16), sin being out of the way, sight is itself, and so truth obtains. He would have all (Colossians 1:19); He will take only those who receive Him, and it is He who turns the key of knowledge concerning these, cut flowers of grace, imbued wit h His beauty and desired by grace because they are His own.
To such an end, where there is no callow chance, but the sovereign will of the everlasting God of all understanding and knowledge, does man go; and who can fear the end, who sees
|from the beginning
the mercy of God in Genesis 3:15,
appointing to manhood the man to overcome the very power of death and the devil
(Hebrews 2), and
|in the very history of Christ,
from deity's own eternal and infinite realm,
the fulfilment of all that God had said.
Just as from HIS lips, in His word, so in His works, we regard the fulfilment of all that He has proclaimed both from heaven in the first, and when on earth to the last.
Fear ? where ? Fainting ? why ? Faith receives the truth. In the truth is life everlasting (I John 1:1-4). Therefore weep no more inconsolably at the departing dead in Christ (I Thessalonians 4:13-17): they merely go to new instruments; and weep no more for your 'fate', for there is no fate where faith simply receives not death, but life, in the eternal life, gift of God in Christ (Romans 6:23). Hence is the prima facie conundrum of lèse-majesté, of appalling hoax, of disastrous disproportion, of mockery and horror, turned as in mathematics itself - but not from the mere mental perception of man, but the spiritual power of God Himself - into a medley of marvels, simple in outline, immense in depth, profound in wonder and without limit in love.
Praise for such a God as this is great! It is above all, and indeed, it might be said with force and integrity for three reasons.
First it is for the fact that there is no other, no other power, no other president, no other program and no other contender, the Maker of all parameters Himself being without any, for there is none to set any; and secondly, it is for the parallel fact that He has EXHIBITED Himself once and for all (I Timothy 3:16) with the preliminaries of millenia of prophecy and further millenia to seal what He said when He came; and within even this, His word as written rules the world as smitten now, and to be delivered then, when all test concluded and all investment made, with all knowledge comprehending and all power at work, the end comes.
Thirdly, it is for this other parallel fact that when He came, He paid the price once and for all, not as if He should suffer often, but ONCE in the end of the world He put away sin by Himself for all who believe (Hebrews 7: 27, 9-10, Micah 7:19ff.) and to those who eagerly await Him, He has scheduled what is to be as always. In this case, what is it ? It is that "He will appear a second time, apart from sin, to salvation"- Hebrews 9:28.
Hence praise for the goodness of God and for the Lord of all deliverance: it is spiritually mandatory, rationally necessary and volitionally delightful. What a God of all goodness He is, and how vast is the price of all and every evil! His accounts could cover it and did, the exclusion zone coming where faith does not stretch out its hand, because it is not there.