A Theology of Death: Part 2

I think it is important to make plain the uncomfortable parts of the Bible. Hiding the awkward parts is the mark of a false religion. Mormons and Muslims come to mind. If God is real, he is fully responsible for how he has revealed himself. I think the Scriptures show that he has revealed his involvement in our creation and expiration. Some of us were created in violence. The means of the creation is an atrocity but the creation is still good. The child is not guilty of his father's sin. ikewise, death can feel atrocious. The Bible calls death an enemy, the ultimate enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), but it is an enemy that will be defeated. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Death is the enemy even of someone who lived a long life full of love and happiness even when that death came in the victim's sleep. It's no less an enemy to the good old woman than it is for the victim of Alzheimer's disease. It's no less an enemy than it is for the father of three young children who dies in a car accident. Somehow we believe that if we live a long time then we can accept death. But that is capitulation. Genesis indicates that before Noah's deluge, people lived for hundreds of years. Every death is tragic. Every death is a consequence of sin. Our lives are doomed from conception. This blog post considers Isaiah 13. The Lord promises death to Babylon's inhabitants

Isaiah 13 (ESV)
1 The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. 2 On a bare hill raise a signal; cry aloud to them;wave the hand for them to enter the gates of the nobles. 3 I myself have commanded my consecrated ones, and have summoned my mighty men to execute my anger, my proudly exulting ones. 4 The sound of a tumult is on the mountains as of a great multitude! The sound of an uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The Lord of hosts is mustering a host for battle. 5 They come from a distant land,from the end of the heavens, the Lord and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.

6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! 7 Therefore all hands will be feeble,and every human heart will melt. 8 They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame. 9 Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. 11 I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. 12 I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. 13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. 14 And like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with none to gather them, each will turn to his own people, and each will flee to his own land. 15 Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. 16 Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished. 17 Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. 18 Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. 19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
In verse 17 God specifically notes how he will achieve such a slaughter, by the hands of the Medes who he will stir up. This is consistent with Proverbs 21:1 (see part 1). God directs the hearts of kings. The forms of atrocities are repugnant; spears, swords (which if are not immediately deadly cause massive painful infections that lead to death such as gangrene), babies thrown to the ground before their parents' eyes, pillage, and rape. This sounds similar to the actions of the Japanese army at Nanking China, see my book report.

Is this something that God does only to the enemies of his people? Are God's people exempt from atrocities? Of course not. Both the biblical data and the historical record show the contrary. In later parts of this series we will look at the cannibalism in Jerusalem during the Babylonian seige. Oppressed Christian believers around the world experience these atrocities even today, from African Muslims, Malaysian Muslims, and communists. Unfortunately, those who identified themselves with Christ have also committed these atrocities, sometimes on fellow believers, sometimes on Muslims or pagans. Such behavior seems part of our souls. My reading on genocides have demonstrated repeatedly that, the veneer of civilization is thin. God takes the credit for the impending doom of Babylon but how hard is it for him to shred the restraint of humanity? That's not a fair question since nothing is too hard for God. A better question is to ask of ourselves, How deep in my heart does a murderer lurk? History alone answers that question for us, right beneath the surface.

Our lives are on loan from God. If we have children, they belong to God and we are only stewards of their lives. According to Jesus, he assigns them angels, Matthew 18:10. Children matter to Jesus, to God. The enxtinguishing of their lives is not a contradiction of that. The method of their deaths does not contradict that. A "good" death does not exist. All deaths are a result of our contamination before a perfect God. There are worse deaths but no good deaths.


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