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Facing The Grim Reaper

• Greg Boyd

In our new series entitled ‘Non-Perishable’ we start by exploring why death is such a foreign concept in our culture, and why having a proper perspective on it is so important for our theology and life in the present age. Confusing the works of Satan with the works of God can have tragic consequences to our worldview and interpretations of what comes to pass in our lives, including death.

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There are many reasons people have a fear of death – the unknown, being and then not being anymore, loss, lack of meaning, etc. Even if one is regularly contemplating death’s approaching (which most people do not), it is very difficult to accept the seeming finality of it. Even though rationally we know we are all going to die (unless Jesus return), we almost actively try to forget death’s coming.

As believers in Jesus we must affirm that death falls under the power of the enemy. There is a reason why it feels so unnatural, like an alien intruder. In Hebrews 2:14-15 the author explains that the devil is the one who holds the power of death. In other areas like John 10:10 and John 8:43 one can read of Satan’s murderous intentions towards us. Just as humans can use the authority God gave us for purposes in line with the Kingdom of God or against it, so also angels are free agents with this same ability. The creation in its current form is corrupted and not as God intended it to be. When confronting an infirmity Jesus always identified it as originating with the evil one, either directly or indirectly. We see much of the corruption around us as natural because it’s the water we swim in, but it is not in the form God created. Not that Satan is individually murdering each person that dies, but rather the power that creates death ultimately results from his authority over the current creation.

If God is 100% for abundant life, then we must conclude all killing, stealing, & destroying to be at some level the work of the enemy. If someone doesn’t have an answer to these destructive forces one finds in the world, then one would end up inappropriately attributing things to God that are antithetical to Him. We can see this play out most tragically when someone experiences a tragic loss of family member, especially a child. Good intentioned people with poor theology charge in with cliché platitudes like “God writes straight with crooked lines, it must have been her time, God is still on His throne, God’s still in control, or God must have needed him in heaven.” If God would kill a child and take him away from his family with no explanation, then one has to ask the question what would evil do? Satan is the one who holds the power of death, these situations don’t come from God.

Greg offered a couple reasons why Christians confuse the actions of God and Satan:

  1. The first reason is a poor definition of power. Many people still hold to a pagan world view of a coercive God. They reason that if God is all powerful, and absolute power is defined as absolute control, then God must control everything. The New Testament rather defines power very differently as Jesus’ self-sacrificial death on the cross out of love for the very people crucifying him.
  2. Secondly some people believe that if they’re able to believe that the loss of a loved one is somehow part of a bigger plan then on the face it seems less tragic. Death seems so pointless and non-sensical unless there is a plan. People look for something to comfort them and this solution unfortunately is easy to turn to without thinking of the consequences. The hope the NT offers is not everything is okay because it’s all part of some meticulously controlled plan, but rather it’s okay now because God is with us in the midst of our tragedy and promises He will make things right and unite all things in heaven and on Earth through Christ in the end (Eph 1:9-10).

Not everything and every experience we have is part of God’s perfect will. The world is full stuff that goes directly in the face of what Christ ushered in in His Kingdom. It doesn’t show the wisdom and strength of Christ to set a pre-ordained plan in place with every detail meticulously controlled with no room for adjustment, not to mention what it would say about a God one would have to hold responsible for every tragic, evil, & malevolent act done under that so-called plan.

Death is a tragedy and should be treated as such instead of trying to be explained away. Not everything happens for a reason, but God does bring a reason to every situation in an infinitely wise way to bring good out of whatever comes to pass. As Paul says in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

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Topics: Free Will, God's Will, Heaven, Kingdom of God

Sermon Series: Non-Perishable


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Focus Scripture:

  • Hebrews 2:14-15

    Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

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