We ended yesterday by saying that death, as a promise of God, is a beautiful gift. And that probably sounds weird to anyone who has ever experienced death - it is simply heart-wrenching. Even when someone dies "well," there are ripple effects of grief through his or her entire community, and nothing about it feels well.
So let's be careful about what we're saying here. We are not saying that death is good; it's not. It's not the way that we were intended to experience our lives, and we were not supposed to know what death feels like - either as the living or as the deceased. However, death is grace. It is grace because it is God's promise that we don't have to live like this forever.
We don't have to live under the curse forever. We don't have to live in these broken bodies forever. We don't have to live in this broken world forever. All the stuff that we hate about here, it's coming to an end. God, who could never simply remove sin from the world, is going to remove us from it in an act of tremendous love, as He continued working His plan toward the redemption of all things when sin is not simply removed, but defeated. When death is no longer needed as grace.
But right now, we need it. If you've ever loved someone who has fought a hard battle, you know this. You watch them succumb to the decay of this life that is no longer connected to God in the way it was originally intended, and it's just hard to watch. It's hard to watch the body fail - the organs get weaker, the muscles get softer, the fat melting away until nothing is left but skin and bones lying in a bed. It's hard to watch the mind fail - that resolve to win this battle that was once so strong, it isn't even an echo any more. There is simply no fight left. It's hard to watch the spirit fail, someone who doesn't even want to win any more but just wants the pain, the struggle, the heartache to end. Someone who just wants it to be over.
We know this instinctively; we say it all the time when someone we love loses the battle that he or she has fought so hard. "At least he isn't hurting any more." "At least she doesn't have to do this any more." "At least she has peace." And on and on and on we go because in the moment when the hard thing is finally over, when that fight doesn't have to be fought any more, we know - death, here, is a gift. It hurts for the rest of us, but it is a gift. It is grace.
That's what it's been from the very beginning. Can you imagine if God hadn't given us death? If, at that moment that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of that tree, God said, "Well, now you've done it. Now, you get to live forever, eternally, outside of the will of God where everything is hard and nothing is fun and life itself will destroy your body, your mind, your spirit, and your very will to live. ...Good luck." That wouldn't be a good God! It might be exactly what we deserved, but it wouldn't be what God desires for us.
So He gave us death. He gave us death to save us from having to live that kind of life. He gave us death so that we don't have to spend eternity toiling in the soil. So that we don't have to spend eternity in the grips of the pains of labor. So that we don't have to spend eternity crushing the heads of serpents who strike at our heels. So that we don't have to do this forever.
But that's not all. That's not the plan. Death is the grace, but it's not the plan. It's a promise, but it's not the promise. Death seems final, but it's never had the final word. It has always only been a bridge - something to get us from here to there. Something to get us from the fall to forever. Something to take us from the curse to the Cross.
Death is God's gift. It is His grace. It is a promise, but only until He can get us to the Promise - that is, to Jesus.