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  • Britton Carter

Death: An Oppressive Master

Death. Like a thousand-pound anvil in a violent cartoon, thoughts of its inevitability loom ominously overhead, casting a shadow over every step before tumbling down upon our heads, pinning our souls to the ground in agonizing defeat. We try to forget its nearness, numbing ourselves to its reality with news stories and media, until sporadic events remind us death is not an abstract concept reserved for the distant, but a hideous fiend lurking at the door, waiting to ruin our carefully-constructed lives. Constantly fighting for peace and tranquility, we are always a single tragic moment away from the agony of

Death. A loved one. A friend. Our own demise. Attempts to escape the inevitable are futile. Sooner or later, often sooner that we plan, our beautifully constructed world, full of life and joy, is marred by the repugnant face of the vilest of monsters. A great equalizer, it rips apart the façade of perpetuity for all, be they men, women, children, rich, poor, righteous, wicked. Instances of death or decay too close to home remind us that each passing second leads us closer to the moment the breath of God will be ruthlessly ripped from our lungs, leaving behind a pile of bones and flesh returning to the dust from which God formed Adam.

Death. An inconceivable thought in the Garden of Eden, where the Triune God, whose very nature of life and love overflowed onto the canvas of creation, sustained a perfect paradise free from sorrow and pain. Yet the creation of God was marred by the ego of man. Seeking independence from the Father—satisfaction and pleasure where the Creator informed them none exists—they rebelled in the Garden, introducing a separation between them and the One who forms and sustains all life. Death entered the world through sin—the natural outcome of the decision of man to separate himself from the only source of life, ensuring the pain and suffering that exist forever in an eternal separation from the only source of all that is good and pure and lovely.

Death. Introduced to the world through the rebellion of Adam, yet equally oppressive to all humanity, empowered through our conscious choice and natural inclination. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, born inherently rebellious, choosing to follow Adam in reprehensible rejection of the Creator in pursuit of joy from the created. None are immune to its vicious pursuit, its steps drawing closer for each of us, as we all fully embraced its vileness and gloom, choosing momentary, passing pleasure and lasting sorrow over eternal satisfaction and love. Believing we could better provide for ourselves than the perfect Provider, we live in misery anxiously awaiting the unstoppable arrival of

Death. What may seem like a distant idea is an experience with which we are all too familiar. While the inevitability of death looms over us like a raincloud waiting to release a rushing torrent of destruction, it is easy to forget we have never actually experienced life. Living in a constant state of spiritual depravity, separated from the God who gives life to dry bones, the breath in our lungs is a cheap imitation of the life permeating a unity and relationship with God. Even the life in our temporal bodies is a mere illusion, propped up by Divine intervention, each breath a result of the holy ventilator of God’s grace. Death is not a change in condition, but a tragic event permanently cementing the eternal separation that currently exists between the “living” and the Father.

Death. Ever-present. Ever-approaching. Ever-reaching, grabbing, pulling, tearing. Reminding us constantly of its nearness, yet delaying sorrow long enough for us to be shocked by its appearance each time it kicks down the door and ransacks our delicately fashioned, carefully manicured reality. Hopelessness devours our daily lives as the inescapable hand of death threatens to unravel the meticulously woven tapestry we attempt to turn into a meaningful story of the years we spent on the surface of the earth before returning to it. Like the oppressive master it is, we live each day in constant fear of the sudden arrival of that which threatens to write a premature ending to the tragic story we think we can control:

Death. God knows the pain, the sorrow, the misery we endure. He understands the eternal suffering resulting from a broken relationship with Him. God sought to provide us a way to avoid the due consequences of our rebellion; so, like a shining beacon of hope, the Creator and Sustainer of the world stepped into the darkness of a planet trapped under the tyrannical shadow of death. For 33 years He walked among a desperate populace, announcing the arrival of an eternal kingdom—a chance at a restored relationship with the Source of eternal life. Despite never choosing rebellion, always existing in a perfect relationship with the Heavenly Father, the crushing agony of death pressed down on the eternal Son of God with the fullest extent of its destructive nature, extracting every ounce of blood out of the lifeless corpse of the Spotless Lamb. As darkness enveloped the midday sun, the Son willingly succumbed to the cruel hand of

Death. If the story ended there, our subjection to death and vulnerability to its constant oppression would remain unchanged. But God was pleased with His Son. Three days after laying His life down, Christ picked it back up, emerging from the grave in a triumphant declaration of victory over sin and death forever. What once held absolute power over humanity instantaneously lost all authority over life when the Giver of Life refused to remain in the tomb. After rising from the dead, Christ authoritatively proclaimed the demise of death itself, providing through faith a life that can never be quenched by the formerly unending reign of

Death. What once pursued us with unceasing ferocity now stands as a laughingstock—a former king now deposed by an infinitely more powerful Ruler after losing its entire army in one fell swoop. The anvil hanging over our heads has dropped without harm, landing on the Son of God without consequence. Death still exists, with a powerful hold on the world, but those who put their faith in Jesus will immediately begin a life that not even death can end.

Death. What once was our master is now a servant working on our behalf. Its power gone, its sting removed, its debilitating misery has collapsed into unceasing joy. Like before, death is not a change in condition, but the vehicle by which we escape the present suffering of this world to continue our eternal life, free from all sadness and pain. Like in the Garden, the nature of the Triune God spills over into unending joy for the created, where we are free from the devastation caused by the destructive decision to rebel. What once cemented our separation from this joy now ensures our arrival to it. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, death is forever rendered powerless—an oppressive master enslaved in service to the Lord for our good.

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