Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 4/22/07
Dedicated to Mary Elizabeth (Bettie) Cope (8/26/1924-4/8/2007)
"When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory" (I Cor. 15:54).
Those words have brought comfort and given grace to millions over the generations since Paul penned them, but they are never so poignant as when we see them come true in our lives. Our forever friend Bettie Cope suffered a fourth and final stroke on April 5th, leaving her brain unable to function. Sitting at the bedside of a dying friend would be macabre and horrible were it not for the sweet promises written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. As it was, we believed for a complete healing, this side or the other side of Jordan. Her husband Marvin prophesied that like the Lord, she would rise again on Easter, and so she did. She shed her mortal body at 5:50 A.M., Easter Sunday morning, and we knew she had gone to inhabit her immortal, glorified body. The perishable had put on the imperishable, and Jesus' words had come to pass in her life: "Old things are passed away" (II Cor. 5:17). "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). Knowing that her spiritual resurrection will become visible in glorified flesh one day, allowed us to rejoice rather than grieve at her passing. Of course, I had hoped that Jesus would heal her body, but Lenny always says that death is "the perfect healing," and so it is.
Knowing Christ beyond the written word makes the difference between the peace that passes understanding in our hearts and the grief that most of the world feels at the passing of a loved one. Watching the weeping and wailing that seems to characterize funerals in the Middle East, be it Iraq, Palestine, or Israel, always leads me to pray for them to know the risen Lord, for only then can their hearts and souls be comforted at the loss that death brings.
We live in a culture which fears but also is fascinated with death. Did you ever watch extreme sports where dare devils jump off high buildings, bridges, or cliffs, with a parachute? Or jump from a helicopter and ski straight down a high mountain that has no ski trails? Or race around an oval at over 200 miles per hour in a car with a souped up engine? Or handle poisonous snakes at a rattlesnake roundup? Or do death defying stunts for the movies? Some appear to be compelled to watch two guys beat each other's brains out, or foolish men running the bulls at Pamploma, or even footage of severe weather. There's nothing like an F4 hurricane, an F5 tornado, a tsunami, an earthquake or any other natural disaster, to boost ratings for TV networks. Americans love to watch crime dramas, and the more grizzly the murders are, the better. Live or fictional war dramas, and hostage situations command a national audience. Why? Death is the enemy, but it is nevertheless mesmerizing to everyone, it seems.
On the other side of the coin, almost daily someone comes up with a formula, a diet, a fat busting pill, a lifestyle regime, or an exercise program which is almost guaranteed to make you thinner and live longer. I heard a doctor speak about his book which allegedly shows that consuming a drastically lower amount of calories will help you live longer. How do they know? It works swell in mice, but not so well in people suffering from anorexia or bulimia. A friend of ours, who had a heart attack several years ago told me he was supposed to change his diet, give up fried foods, bacon, and bacon grease. His question was, "Why live if you can't have bacon?" We know an alcoholic who says he's not going to quit drinking because he never planned to be old, and yet he panics when he has health problems and hurries to the doctor to get help. It's this schizophrenic response that makes humans the wonderful, complex, and amazing beings we are. Some fear death, yet enjoy seeing how close they can get to it, and still survive to laugh about it. Others are so fearful of death that they won't do anything which they consider even mildly risky. Every time they get on a train, plane, boat or in a car, they fear they will be killed.
This is the dance with death which humans have been doing since Adam ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus came in flesh to change all that, to free us from the bondage that fear of death had kept us in since Adam: "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage" (Heb. 2:14-15). That fear of death stems back to the time when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden where they dwelt with God, and were forbidden to return lest they eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life and life forever in their fallen state.
Nearly every Christian understands that "By man (Adam) came death" but poor translations and the doctrines of men have robbed them of the joy which the rest of the verse brings: "By man (Christ) came also the resurrection of the dead" (I Cor. 15:21). The church world has filled their coffers, staffed their mission outreach and Sunday School programs, built huge, ornate buildings and funded TV and Radio shows by telling us that "For as in Adam all die." They left us hanging there in fear because as I've often said, "Hell is good for business." Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher compared men and women to spiders hanging by a thread over the pits of hell, prepared by an angry God. It was reported that some in his audience went home and killed themselves because they couldn't live with the terror the sermon generated. The rest of Paul's declaration makes all the difference, "SO ALSO IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE" (I Cor. 15:22). It's the same A-L-L in both the first part and second part of the verse!
Paul explains why the fear of death is so prevalent today. "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" (I Cor. 15:56). Isn't that astounding when you think of it? The POWER of sin is the LAW! Why? There's nothing wrong with the Law. It is, in fact, "holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good" (Rom. 6:12). The problem is not with the law, but with us, because no one can keep it. In fact, the Apostle said "Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Rom. 7:8-9). What this means is that to the degree that a Christian is still living by Law (trying to please God by self-effort, the works of his own hands), to that degree he is afraid to die, because he has no guarantee that he can ever get it right. Some churches still teach that you won't know until Judgment Day if you are going to heaven or hell. This uncertainty and insecurity causes fear and neurosis to control ones life, not love and joy and peace which only comes from the Holy Spirit. When God opens your eyes to see that it is not about you or your works, but about God's finished work manifested in Christ, you can enter into rest. We rejoice that the price is paid; the victory won; God accomplished it all when He gave us His son.
We regularly hear from folks who struggle to see themselves a finished work in Christ, rather than a "project" they must complete. Religion has brainwashed us to believe that our eternal destination and our well being on earth depends entirely upon us, upon our choices, our works and our results. The echoes from the fall (Link at End for Lenny's writing by the same name) still linger in our subconscious minds, a psychological concept called "the collective unconscious," which was formulated by the Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung (See link at end). His theory is that all of us retain in our psyches the residue of stored cultural and familial images and imaginations. I was thinking about that when I was pondering the fear of death, and it seems to me that this fear began when God said to Adam, "In the day you eat of it, you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). He didn't die in a 24 hour day, but he did die, which was certainly a blessing considering he had been thrown out of Paradise and now had to make a living amongst the thorns and thistles.
As we sat by our dear friend Bettie's bed, it came to me that death is indeed a blessing, when there is no hope of life. We had our memorial service right there in her ICU cubicle. One of the songs we sang was "He touched me." The words were especially meaningful to me that day, "He touched me; He touched me, and oh, the joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole." Of course, being around death always causes me to look for resurrection, and Lenny is as radical about that as I am. I had hoped that Jesus would stand before the tomb of her dying flesh, and call, "Bettie, come forth" with the result that she would arise from her death bed perfectly whole physically. In fact, He did call her and she did go home with Him. Marvin stopped over to visit us and my mother and he told us that Bettie had run off with another man. Mother looked surprised and when I asked who it was, Marvin smiled and replied, "Jesus." Now, that, my friends, is the fulfillment of Paul's wonderful statement: "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (I Cor. 15:55). Marvin has the victory now because he knows who lives in him and who lives in Bettie. She has now become part of his and our "cloud of witnesses" from the balcony of glory.
The only way we can get to this victory is by grace, by God's revelation of Himself in our lives to such a degree that we know at a cellular level that He is all there is, the only One with whom we have to do. When it comes our time to leave this life, we will go with joy and confidence. We will not lie moldering in the grave until Judgment Day as many around here still believe, because when we are absent from the body, we will be present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8). We will be with Him, and when we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him (I John 3:2). God has made provision for us to live overcoming lives, free from fear, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Father we thank You that in Christ, You accomplished everything You planned to do before the foundation of the world. Open our eyes to see You in Your fulness that we may lay down our fears and cares and those things that weigh us down. May the Son of righteousness rise upon us all with healing in His wings. Make us instruments of your peace, and vessels carrying Your love to a dead and dying world. The earth and all the inhabitants therein are waiting for the Sonrise. Make it so, Father, even now. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Back to Basics: The Sovereignty of God
Back to Basics II: Sovereignty and Reconciliation
Back to Basics, III: A Practicum on Sovereignty
Back to Basics, IV: Out of the Box
Back to Basics, V: The Codependency Factor
Back to Basics, VI: The Tomb Is Still Empty
Back to Basics, VII: Where Is Hell?
Back to Basics, VIII: God Is Love
Back to Basics, IX: By Man Came Also
Back to Basics, XI: Provision
Echoes From the Fall By Lenny
Psychiatrist Carl Jung
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 04/12/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,