Thursday, April 2, 2015

Death and Healing

Good Maundy Thursday morning,

In many Christian denominations, Maundy Thursday is a celebration of Jesus' last hours before the crucifixion began.  For orthodox Jews and for messianic Jews (Jewish Christians) Passover is about to begin (this evening).  Shabbat Shalom!

This morning I want to reflect from the Christian perspective on two difficult topics:  death and healing.  First of all, how does the Bible define these two words?

Death:  the Bible refers to death in two ways - - -  the death of the physical body and also as eternal separation from God.  Let's consider the more temporal first.  The Bible says that it is appointed unto every person that they will die once, and after that, they will be judged.  (Hebrews 9:27)  This is sometimes called "the first death".  The second way the Bible refers to death is as a forever separation from God.  Now, no living person has known this.  God's spirit is in the world, at work, and even the most hard-hearted reprobate is influenced by, benefits from, His presence, whether knowingly or not. However, Hell is a place, an everlasting place, where the presence of God is not.  That is the true torture of Hell - - - not the fire, not the extreme thirsting, not the loneliness.  The true torment of Hell is the complete absence of God.  The Bible refers to this as "the second death"; it is the more important.  ( See Revelation 20:6, 14, 15; 21:8.) 

Healing:  again, we have two aspects of healing.  The first is a physical, temporary healing of the body from its ailments.  We see Jesus in the gospel accounts performing many physical healings. The power of God is still sufficient to physically heal our bodies, in accordance with our prayers and His will.  Ultimately, we will succumb to the illnesses of our bodies.  A physical healing is a mere foreshadowing of complete, total healing, which is a healing of the soul.  This is the second aspect of healing we see in the Bible and, like the second death, is the most important.

Why do Christians get so pumped about Passion Week and particularly about the resurrection? Christians celebrate Jesus' victory over not only sin, but also over the second death.  This is the centerpiece of the Christian faith.  Truly, the apostle Paul recognized this and it prompted him to write, And if The Messiah is not risen, our preaching is worthless and your faith is also worthless.  (1 Cor. 15:14)

"Should I fear death?"  It depends....on which of the deaths is being referred to in the question and who is asking it.
People who do not believe/receive the substitutionary death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ - - - those who reject Him and His finished work on their behalf - - - should greatly fear physical death, because once physically dead, there can be no further chance for redemption.  Again, Hebrews 9:27 (see above). Those whose sins have not been forgiven, covered, washed away by the blood of Jesus are condemned to an eternity of torment, without God, without hope.  There is no more fearsome enemy of the soul than eternal death.
For the Christian, the one who has truly given him or herself wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ, and is depending on Him for deliverance, there is no fear of physical death.  Oh, I don't think it would be mentally healthy to pursue it; but, as far as being fearful of it, there is no need.  Physical death is, for the believer, merely a gate one walks through from this physical life into the next life, the life of the redeemed soul.  There is no eternal death or damnation for the disciple of Jesus Christ.  Romans 8:1 declares, "Now, therefore, there is no condemnation in them who are in Christ Jesus..." His sacrifice, His substitutionary death on our behalf has atoned for all of our sins.  His finished work has appeased the anger of our holy God, the Father.  We are forever changed, forever cleansed, forever saved from God's anger because our sins are past, present, future  - - - gone.

Christ-followers are forever "healed".  What takes place in our physical bodies remains only for a moment, a reflection of the sin curse which surrounds us in this sin-cursed world.  The curse is around us, but not in us.  Our souls have been redeemed from it, because Jesus took the punishment for all of our sins as He hung on that tree. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.  (Galatians 3:13)  Our Father had to turn His face away from Jesus in those moments because our holy God cannot even bear to look at sin.  This prompted Jesus to cry out from the cross:  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  See Matthew 27:45-54 below:  (The Message version)

45-46 From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
47-49 Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”
50 But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.
51-53 At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)
54 The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!”

Maundy Thursday:  the day God began to require the Son to pay the penalty for my sins.  It began with the betrayal by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, continued in the false accusations and faux-trials, intensified with the scourging and mocking and culminated on the cross.  And now, it is finished.  I am forever healed.  My soul has peace with God, forever and ever.

Are you healed?  You can be!  If not, don't let another day go by in soul-sickness, slogging through this earthly life, the deep mud and mire of eternal damnation dragging you under, staining your soul. Call out to Jesus today.  He is ready, waiting, longing for you to call on His Name.  Be set free from death this very moment!

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)

Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

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