Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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Reasons Yeshua Came to Die - #39

Death.

Perhaps no single word strikes more fear in the hearts of men than the word death. More than 50 million people die each year around the world. We know a great deal about the biological processes that lead to death on genetic, cellular, and physiological levels. We spend billions of dollars each year in the US to delay death. And yet, death is called the “great equalizer” because no one, great or small, can escape it.

There is ample reason to be afraid of death; few have a clear picture of what happens after death. Modern science offers little help: death is just a cessation of biological function. Our cells are even programmed to die at some point (a process called apoptosis). But biochemically speaking, we have no idea what happens after death except the decay of our organic tissues. Generally, I’d like to have some idea of what I’m getting myself into before I die.

There is a nice little book I’ve been reading called “50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die” by John Piper. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Piper because he is simultaneously academic and pastoral, theoretical and practical. It is a great book to write because Yeshua’s death is such a central topic in the Scriptures.

Reason #39 in the book is to “Free us from Bondage to the Fear of Death.” Piper derives this truth from Hebrews 2:14-15, ESV:

"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."

In this verse, the “he” refers to Messiah Yeshua and “the children” refers to us. The gist is that Messiah became like us (i.e., God taking on humanity) in order to experience death. But the kicker is that Yeshua was not conquered by the power of death, but rather he conquered the power death. Sin is the reason that death has power over us; and because all of sinned, we can all expect to die. One of the great truths of the Gospel is that like a bunch of cancerous cells, this sin (i.e., cancer) has been removed from us by the Great Surgeon. And it isn’t coming back.

Knowledge that Yeshua was raised from the dead also reminds us that there is something beyond death. In the Tanakh (i.e., the “Old Testament”) there are references to Sh’ol, or the place to where the dead depart. The description of Sh’ol is murky, leading some even to conclude that there is nothing beyond the grave in the Scriptures. But as our forerunner, Yeshua tells us: I’ve been there and I’ve defeated the power of death. So there is nothing to fear anymore.

Many people live in slavery because they fear death. They steal, kill and destroy just to stay alive or get ahead now because they fear oblivion afterwards. They worry about the future because we cannot turn on webcams to see what happens after death. Others, paralyzed by fear, simply ignore death for a time because to contemplate death is too overwhelming. But as believers in Yeshua, we know better because Yeshua has given us hope and showed us that something truly wonderful is waiting for those who love Him after our “cessation of biological function.” Thanks be to God that we don’t have to fear death anymore.

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