The death of death

We should always be ready for the unexpected when it happens.

We were sitting in church this morning at Firm Foundation in Centreville, Michigan waiting to ordain elders. Everything had been planned well in advance.

But just as we arrived the previous day, word came of a terrible accident in which the daughter of a couple in the church had been tragically killed. The couple showed up at church the next morning. Part way through the worship time, they came up to the front and simply fell down on their knees at the edge of the platform, casting themselves upon the grace and mercy of God.

Within seconds, many spontaneously gathered around them, filling the front of the church. Prayer and weeping coincided with the praise and worship of the congregational singing. The worship leaders switched to a hymn which reflected the victory of Christ over death.

It was a very intense but special time.

And it carried me back to the fifth chapter of Romans.

There we read that Adam is a type of Christ. A type is someone or something in the Old Testament which has a correspondence in the New Testament, usually Christ himself.

Adam in Romans 5 is a type of Christ only in one sense, as there is also a great dissimilarity between them. Both men are representative of the human race. God views all men and women as being in Adam. Adam is our great, but disastrous, corporate head. Christ is also representative of the human race, though only of those who follow him. We were in Adam, but now we are in Christ. That is why “in Christ” is one of the most common and significant phrases in the New Testament letters. It is thoroughly rooted in the Biblical concept of corporate solidarity. God looks at us as if we were in Jesus, and therefore he looks at us as he looks at Jesus.

And there in one phrase is the great miracle of our faith. Sin cannot enter the presence of a holy God, yet the opening verses of Romans 5 present a picture of believers who are “in Christ” being granted access to the very throne room of the king.

The actions of both men, Adam and Christ, had massive effects on all those who followed. The impact of Adam’s sinful action was negative, while that of Christ’s righteous action was positive. One brought death, but the other brought the death of death. The greater power of Christ’s action is clear. Adam’s one sin brought death, but Christ’s one act of obedience was so great it canceled out not only Adam’s sin but that of all men and women since, provided they trust in Christ. What is so remarkable is that the accumulated sins of all the ages would be cancelled out by the free gift of God in the one man Jesus Christ.

The next verse says that the result of Christ’s righteousness is that those who receive God’s grace will reign in life.

It is not just that life will reign instead of death, but that God in his incredible grace will take those who just moments ago were lost and hopeless and utterly undeserving, and he will raise them up to a place of kingly rule and dignity.

When Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, there to rule over the entire creation, the miracle of it all is that he raised us up together with him and seated us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). And yet we must never forget that in this life we rule as he did, through the carrying of the cross.

The death of death is what brought that brave couple this morning into God’s house in the midst of their grief to give him honour and praise.

One day each of us who have trusted Christ will pass through the death of death into the presence of life itself.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash