The fears are mounting, the panic is spreading and even though there have still not been any deaths outside Mexico from Swine flu people around the world are starting to withdraw into their private worlds to take cover. I can understand that from non believers but why do Christians react in exactly the same way? Is it just because we get sucked in by the media hype which is giving us a blow by blow description of the spread of this disease or is it something deeper than that? Perhaps it is because we do not really believe that God will either protect us from illness or will sustain us if we get sick.
And what if this flu is as bad as some predict? How do we react in the face of death? Many of us view death, like disease as something to be conquered or at least delayed as long as possible, sometimes with little respect for the wishes of the patient or concern for the quality of life that may be suffered. When we are unable to prevent death health care professionals often feel that they have failed and sometimes even blame God for God’s lack of intervention. But is that God’s view?
From a Biblical perspective death is not failure but an entrance into a new life. Our hope is not that we will be saved from death but that we will be resurrected to new life. We should be especially aware of this during the Easter season. Christ through His death and resurrection has triumphed over death and disease but we do not as yet see the full outworking of that triumph and will not until Christ returns in glory at the end of the present age. Death should not bring fear to the person who is dying, nor should it leave medical personnel with a sense of defeat. However death will continue to bring the pain and grief of separation to those who are left behind.
The Eastern Orthodox church has a view of the supernatural that means this separation at death is not seen as being as absolute as we evangelical Christians tend to regard it. The icons in the Orthodox church represent the saints who have gone before. When the congregation comes in to worship they regard themselves as being surrounded by their forebears – that great cloud of witnesses who continue to worship with them.
Let me finished with some of the most reassuring verses that talk about death in the New Testament from 1 Corinthians 15. One day death will be swallowed up in victory.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.27For he “has put everything under his feet.”Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
29Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?30And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord….
The Resurrection Body
35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body…. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body….. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. 50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”