To be like him in his death

death and dyingby J. Randal Matheny, editor

Death is at the center of the Way. Jesus Christ died on a cross, innocent of all charges. His death meant that God has provided a way for man’s salvation. Jesus died in our place, taking upon himself the punishment that was intended for us.

How all that balances out may be a bit difficult to fathom. How could the death of one man pay, potentially, for the sins of the whole human race? It’s hard to explain, but it’s the message of the gospel. So we may put the accounting of forgiveness into the same category of Psalm 71:15, “I will tell about your justice, and all day long proclaim your salvation, though I cannot fathom its full extent” (NET).

Death seems a morbid message (1 Corinthians 11:26), but the resurrection pulls it from the negative into the positive light of God’s faithfulness and fulfillment. In Acts, it’s almost as if the resurrection overshadows the message of Jesus’ atoning death. The truth of Jesus’ coming back to life, however, is the seal which stamps his death as unique and efficacious.

In Christ death loses its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-56). Christians no longer need fear death (Hebrews 2:15). The death of Christ is now the portal of reconciliation with God (Romans 5:10). It is “in the likeness of his death” that we become united with Christ (Romans 6:5). That is, “we have been joined with him by dying too” (ERV).

So death no longer separates us from life and love (Romans 8:35). In fact, in Christ’s death we find his love. Physical death then removes any bitterness or sorrow from the ancient complaint of Psalm 44:22, cited in Romans 8:36. To die for Christ becomes an honor, a faster path to reign with him. If we die for him, we do not lose, but gain (Revelation 2:10). Death no longer possesses us, but we it (1 Corinthians 3:22).

“The sentence of death” is but another means of learning to trust in the “God who raises from the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). We are “always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10). So we make it our aim, among other things, “to be like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).

Satan is destroyed, then, by his own device. Jesus took on humanity, “so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil)” (Hebrews 2:14). Thus, when Jesus died, his testament/covenant took effect (Hebrews 9:16-17), bringing forgiveness and redemption.

We may face the first death, physical, in this life, calmly and confidently. Because we know that in Christ there will be no second death, eternal, beyond the grave. In heaven death will be absent (Revelation 21:4). This truth is our faith, our hope, and our joy.

At death, pagans wail and feel despair,
The Lord’s redeemed say a grateful prayer.

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet. His microblog is randal.us.

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3 thoughts on “To be like him in his death

  1. I’ve always liked what the apostle Paul said, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you,”(Philippians 1:23-24). “Having a desire to depart.” May sound like a psychological problem to some, but to those who are being saved, it’s not so far-fetched.

  2. Thank you for speaking out with a positive light about the timely, joyous passage into eternal life. For the Christian, death has no sting. The only downside is for those who are left behind. Perfect love should cast out all fear, especially fear of death.

  3. John, not far-fetched at all, but you’re right that to some the Christian must sound like a psycho.

    Christine, your reference to 1 John is a good one. Thanks!

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