Subject: Death Is Not Natural (#EmmaLives)
Isaiah 25:8 “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.”
The latest Star Wars movie, ‘The Force Awakens’, is the seventh installment in George Lucas series and is scheduled for release December 18th this year. How long has Star Wars been around? The first one, ‘A New Hope’, was released on May 25, 1977 – 38 years ago. The last one, ‘The Clone Wars’, came out on August 15, 2008 – nearly seven years ago. Star Wars fanatics can’t wait for December 18th to get here.
What’s the mass appeal to Star Wars? Opinions vary, but it has influenced multiple generations, from the baby boomers to the millennials. And one of its core messages goes directly counter to the Bible. In the fifth movie, ‘Revenge of the Sith’, master Jedi Yoda makes an astounding claim: “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.”
How does Yoda know that our physical death is a natural part of life that transforms us into the mystical dimension of the ‘force’, which is portrayed as an Unseen power that is all around us? The filmmakers aren’t sharing what they know is true. They are sharing a worldview with us. A worldview (the way one views the world) consists of one’s values that determine beliefs and result in behavior. This includes how one views who God is, the meaning of life, right versus wrong, and how one views death.
While millions of people wait anxiously to spend millions on ‘The Force Awakens’, 550 people came out in the cold this past Saturday to honor a beloved teenager, Emma Aronson, who died suddenly five months ago from a disease that is difficult to detect and caused her heart to just suddenly stop. There were no warning signs. These 550 people ran a race that raised $14,500 for the cause of preventative heart screening to detect this killer, a memorial to Emma to prevent this from happening to other teens.
Emma’s worldview wasn’t like Yoda’s. Emma’s values centered on biblical truths. She viewed the world according to how God describes it – in need of redemption from sin, the fatal moral flaw in every person. And she viewed death as God defines it – not a natural process but a just penalty imposed by God for each of our sinful natures. This goes directly against the Star Wars worldview, where sin isn’t defined as moral bankruptcy inherent in our nature but instead is based on making bad decisions, choosing the wrong path.
Theologian R.C. Sproul argues that in the Bible we find the best explanation for why we experience death – it’s our sin nature, not our wrong decisions: “if the Bible itself were completely silent about a historical fall, natural reason would have to suggest that idea based on the reality of the universal presence of sin. If sin is simply a result of bad decisions that some people make, we would assume that at least 50 percent of the people born in this world would choose the right path rather than the sinful one that is so damaging to our humanity. The fact that 100 percent of the human race falls into sin indicates that there must be an inherent moral defect in the race. The fall, a historical event, accounts for this universal fatal flaw.”
Genesis 2:17 warns us that the soul that sins will die. And since the fall of mankind into sin, the Bible says every person born into this world arrives spiritually ‘DOA’ (‘dead on arrival’), and we live out our days on earth under the burden of the death sentence that is imposed on us by our sin.
But in our verse this week, from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God promises us a future time when He will personally “swallow up” death forever. That means He will one day destroy death. Unlike Yoda’s words, how do we know God’s words are true? Because He has already acted in history to accomplish this future reality. In Christ’s death on the Cross, He took upon Himself all of our sins, past, present and future, that require the death penalty. For those of us like Emma Aronson who put their trust in Christ, physical death is no longer a curse. Its sting has been removed. Death for the Christian is merely a transition from this life to the future promised eternal life with Christ, where “the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces”.
As “#EmmaLives” testifies, when a believer in Christ dies physically, they do not cease to be alive. No one is more conscious, more aware, and more alert than when they pass through the veil from this world into the next. Far from death, a Christian is alive to glory in the very presence of the God who made them. R.C. Sproul puts it this way: “For the believer, death does not have the last word. Death has surrendered to the conquering power of the One who was resurrected as the firstborn of many brethren.”
Death is not natural – it is a curse. But Emma is very much alive – because her God has conquered death.
Subject: Death Is Not Natural (#EmmaLives)