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The Certainty of Suffering and Death?

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A few weeks ago, I realized I had a significant problem. I was running stadiums with some church brothers and started feeling numbness in my arms. A few days later, I could not walk up a small hill without experiencing chest pains. The pain didn't surprise me; since we live in a fallen world, and I have a history of heart problems. 

My parents suffered from coronary heart disease relatively young, so I inherited the problem. I seem to have gotten the worst of it in God's providence from both of them. After my episode on the hill, my wife took me to the hospital. We had grown so accustomed to heart problems that we decided to stop and have dinner before I went to the emergency room! I am glad we did because I would spend the next two weeks eating hospital food.

Considering my history, the doctors decided to scope my heart to see if I had blockages. As I lay on the table, I vaguely remember the doctor looking over and saying, "I can't help you. Everything is blocked; you need bypass surgery!" So, I was wheeled back to a recovery room and scheduled for the operation.

Suffering and death have been part of man's existence from the time of Adam and Eve. They are so ingrained into our lives that many believe they are natural, yet they are our enemies. We have a hard time imagining a life without them as our constant companions. Even with our modern technology, we cannot beat them. 

You may ask yourself, "Why do we have to suffer and die?" We find the answer in Genesis 2:16-17, where Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may surely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat from it you will surely die." (LSB). Tragically, the man did not take heed of God's warning! Instead, he listened to the deceptions of the serpent and ate from the tree! 

Adam's blatant sin resulted in expulsion from the idyllic garden and introduced suffering and death. Instead of their formerly lush surroundings, God exposed the man and woman to the harsh outside world. It didn't take long for Yahweh's promise to crop its ugly head. The suffering started immediately, and in Genesis 4, Adam and Eve's son Cain murdered Abel, his brother. Death had come, as promised, as God exposed the serpent's lie that it would not. God proved Himself to be true to His word!  

Many years later, in a seemingly unconnected text, King David committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11). She became pregnant by David, who murdered Uriah, her husband, to cover his sin. After this, the prophet Nathan rebuked David for his sins. Nathan's response that David and Bathsheba's child would surely die in 2 Samuel 12:14 echoes God's warning in Gen 2:17. Truly, David knew he deserved to die for his sin (2 Sam 12:5), yet the child died in his place. After these things, David would go on to father Solomon by Bathsheba. 

In Gen 3:15, God promised a Seed who would crush the head of the serpent. This coming Redeemer would defeat sin and death. We know from the rest of the Bible that David's (and Solomon's) future Son, Jesus, would fulfill that early prophecy. He would surely die for the sins of His people. Therefore, the death of the child in David's place echoes back to Gen 2 and 3 and forward to the New Testament revelation of the Lamb, who would die for David's sin as well as the sins of the whole world (Jn 1:29). 

This truth gives us great hope as we face suffering and death in this life. Jesus defeated both these enemies. God will return us to a place without sin, suffering, and death in the future! In the words of the Apostle John, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away" (Rev 21:4). 

In God's providence, the doctors performed successful bypass surgery, and I hope to make the best of my remaining years on this earth. A few decades ago, I would have faced the enemy of death because the technology to perform this type of surgery did not exist. Yet, I recognize that our enemy will undoubtedly win - I will die. But I also know that Jesus, the Son of David, has defeated the power of death in His death, burial, and resurrection. 

In the words of the Apostle Paul, 

"'O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Co 15:55–57).