The Last Enemy

"For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death."  1 Corinthians 15:25-26

Just this week alone, I have done two funerals.  That's two too many for the week.  That's two too many for a lifetime as far as I am concerned.

I don't know anybody who really likes funerals (and if I did, I wouldn't know them for very long).  But funerals don't bother me that much really - they simply become part of the warp and woof of what it means to be in vocational ministry.  No, it's not the funeral that bothers me - it's the reason for the funeral.

Bottom line: I hate death.

My hate for death is not so much based on the fear of my own.  I realize, unless Jesus chooses to come first, that I am going to go the way of the earth like everyone has before me.  I can accept that.  But I still hate it.

My hate for death is a bit deeper I think.  Clearly, there are many reasons I hate death.  It underscores, sometimes, the upside down nature of this life when parents bury their children instead of vice-versa.  It is always, one hundred percent of the time, inconvenient.  Death respects nobody - it is an impartial enemy.  If death were a fish, I would flush it down the toilet.  Were it a person, I would punch it in the mouth.

Now before you think about how unChristian my remarks sound, and want to talk about how we are to love our enemies, etc., let me set a few things straight.  First, I am not of the pastoral order that wants to talk about how "natural" and "beautiful" death is.  Nope, not going to find me talking about that.  Death is an enemy, it is not a friend.  In fact, Death is the enemy that I don't have to love, and I will tell you why: Because God hates it too. 

God is life.  Jesus said He was Life, and that He came to give Life (John 14:6; John 10:10).  And I can assure you, God hates death.  Death came through sin - and that is another thing God hates (sin).  Death is simply the evidence of a world gone wrong - of tragic human rebellion and pride.  It is the horrific aftertaste of forbidden fruit.  And it undoubtedly wasn't supposed to be this way.  The world God made was good.  It was beautiful.  Glorious.  Non-tragic.  But sin brings death.  And death is an enemy - of you, of me, and of God.

That's why God inspired the writer of 1 Corinthians to plainly state that death is an enemy of God.  John the Revelator also spoke of death as an enemy to be vanquished in Revelation 20:14: "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire."

The fact that death is our enemy makes the destruction of this foe that much more satisfying.  Every time someone dies, it seems that the sting of death is felt by everyone - it's cold, it's final, and it feels like death has won.  As much as we hate to admit it, and as much as we tell ourselves of the story of victory, when death rears it's head, it's fangs are sharp and it's roar is loud.  It is an intimidating enemy.

That's why I am glad I am with Jesus.  He died.  He knows the sting.  But He didn't stay dead.  He got up and punched death in the teeth.  He knocked every bicuspid and molar straight out of death's mouth.  And because Jesus died and resurrected, there is coming a day when those of us who know Him will to.  That is when we will be able to sing this anthem of praise:

"Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."