In how many places have you heard the phrase “Ten out of ten people die”? I’m not sure what the point of saying is, except to make people feel good about their lack of accomplishments (“In the end, Bill Gates won’t be any better off than I. We will both be dead”). I hope that isn’t the reason, because I’d feel like I needed to put that on little slips of paper everywhere I go.
But, under a careful analysis (if you even notice, which you really oughtn’t) you will find that such a saying is far from true: at least 2 people in history didn’t die; I won’t say no more than two, because I don’t know. But Elijah and Enoch at least didn’t die. They were “taken.” We know that in Elijah’s case that was a very dramatic process, but I’m not as sure about Enoch: probably it was just as wonderful from his point of view.
But there remains a third category: there was one Man, of all the untold billions that have lived and died, Who both died and went directly into heaven; Ascended, not was taken, was the distinction between Him and those other two. Yes, the one, Jesus Christ.
But you don’t need to hear me tell you what you have been hearing since your ear developed; after all, there is a good chance that all of us will die the natural way, so why bother?
Just this: those two aspects of Christ life, that He died and He rose and ascended, represent the two aspects of our hope. When Christ died, the guilt, and the power, of all the sin that His people have committed, was seal in the grave. He died so that we might die, in and to everything that keeps us from “walking with God,” as Enoch did. Christ didn’t come to bear the guilt of our sin, and then to bring us to heaven and break its power once and for all. He died, that we my die to the reign of sin; its guilt, gone. Its power, gone. Our sins are us acting like slaves who have forgotten their freedom, or being afraid of the Devil when He’s got a fence as big as Eternity holding us away from Him. Our conversion goes on, but I firmly believe I was saved once for eternity.
But we not left with Christ just dying; with our just dying. He also ascended, after He had burst from the grave, showing death and sin as helpless as the hole in the ground that tried to keep in the Son of the living God. Christ broke death and brought life; Christ didn’t just bear the wrath of God by submitting to death. On the Cross, sin died, but death was beaten. Christ wasn’t beat by our enemies for us; He went and beat the enemies we couldn’t even face. And He went into Heaven to intercede for His saints. We died to sin, and now we can have life, because Christ burst forth, and stands before the Father, in the united love of the Godhead inter-working, on behalf of His own purchase.
Well like I said, I can sit tapping these keys for so long and not tell you something you haven’t heard before. Oh! how many times you’ve heard it! but I there are more people that don’t believe these things reading this site than people that do. They live in the shadow of death –believe me, I know more about that now than other times– and they belong there. They don’t have that life that Christ gives to those for whom He died. There is, my very well-loved one, but one meeting place a living God and a dead man: the Cross of Christ. Not our own crosses, those come later, though they contain no merit save through the original Cross. If you talk to me, and I’m not talking to you about this, which I probably will not be, than it is to my shame. Because whenever I think about you (I have not any one specific person in mind) it’s what’s upon my mind.
Charles Wesley was a hymn-writer like no other. In two of his hymns he says what I want to say:
Arise, My Soul arise,
Shake off your guilty fears,
The bleeding sacrifice,
On your behalf appears
Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.
Lives again our Glorious King, Hallelujah
Where oh death is now thy sting?
Dying ones He all doth save,
Where there victory oh Grave?
Love’s redeeming work is done, Hallelujah,
Fought the fight, the battle won,
Death in vain forbids Him rise,
Christ hath opened paradise.