Death is a terrible beast, a ravaging, clawing, fire-breathing dragon of terror. Death is no respecter of persons. Death has no interest in bribes and laughs at our feeble attempts to put off the inevitable. Its bony and icy fingers enclose our throats and squeeze the life out of us. We feel the vice-like grip as we get older, heavier and weaker. Our bodies cannot last; they are so feeble, so easily destroyed. Life is precious and yet as fragile as a spider’s thread hanging over a fire. A tiny undetected blood clot could end your life at the snap of a finger. A microscopic bacteria could infect and ravage your body until you pass into the snapping jaws of death. Death is a monster that roars and slashes and snarls at us.
We tremble in fear of death. We writhe in the agony of death as it separates our soul from our body. Death is seldom painless. It is agonizing and excruciating in ways that we cannot fathom for in death we are separated from life. In that we are separated from God – the giver of life, the giver of pleasure, the giver of joy. The horrors of hell, a place of darkness, of loneliness, of burning, of gnawing, of weeping and gnashing of teeth because of unbearable torment is the only description that scratches the surface of what the “agony of death” is like. It is separation from God. It is the result of sin and we are all sinners. It is the inevitable consequence for people who are not perfect in thought, in word and in deed.
Our blatant lack of perfection is seen in the onslaught of death. No one escapes. No one can avoid it. This dragon of agony rips through our lives scattering us like debris and we shake with absolute terror.
We exercise, we eat healthy, we get plastic surgery, we take anti-aging creams and vitamins. Why do we do these things? It is simple, we fear the beast – we fear the dragon of death. We can hear his roar; we can hear the screams of those whom he consumes. We hide beneath our surgeries, our exercise, and our pills in the unfounded hope that he won’t see us. Yet the hot rancid breath begins to curl around us as he snarls over our hiding place. There is a gleam in his eye, an unmitigated contempt for us. We are helpless against him. We cannot run, we cannot hide, we cannot fight him off. He will rip us apart and feast on our demise and he will enjoy it. Death is a terrible beast, a seemingly unconquerable monster and that is why we fear it so much.
Yet, let me tell you a little secret. Listen closely … death is defeated! Speaking of Jesus Peter says, “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24). Death voraciously clamped its ragged teeth upon the Lord Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. At the cross death attacked Jesus by God’s leave. Death can only have sinners and Jesus was carrying on his shoulders the sins of the world. What a feast this terrible slithering dragon thought he would enjoy! Yet as He feasted on Christ and sought to destroy him into oblivion – on the third day – death’s teeth stopped sinking into flesh and suddenly felt steel. The jagged and blackened teeth of this dragon shattered like glass as they bit into Christ. No more could they sink into his flesh, no more could they harm his body for He was no longer subject to the terror and agony of death.
Christ ripped open the mouth of this beast snapping and cracking its powerful jaws as easily as you would snap a dried-up twig. Death is moaning, whimpering and whining as Jesus Christ the Son of God wrenches its head to the ground and stands on its neck in complete triumph! “For He (Jesus) must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet” (1Cor. 15:25-27a). Now Christ has chained the beast and draws his sword to chop off its head.
Do not fear the beast, for the beast is a whipped cur. The teeth of death have been shattered and its bite is no longer agony. The dragon that once terrorized us is now a sniveling worm. “O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” (1Cor. 15:55). Truly “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1Cor. 15:54b). Jesus proclaims loudly, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.
Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Jesus, in his resurrection, has silenced the roaring dragon of death. The teeth of agony have been shattered like glass upon the steel of Jesus’ resurrected humanity. Now Jesus declares that death is no beast to fear for those whose hope is in Him for He is the life. He is the resurrection. Even if we die, we are not separated from God – which is the agony of death! The excruciating pain of being ripped away from the presence of God is destroyed and abolished in the resurrection and life of Christ. Death is defeated. In the words of the popular song, “The Power of the Cross,” death has been crushed to death.
Worship your Lord with great abandon! Sing His praises from the rooftops with joy and delight for the dragon is slain.We can come out of our hovels and drink in the air of victory, the sweet aroma of freedom from tyranny. No longer do we huddle in fear. We stand in triumph for the beast of death has been slain and Christ our King lives. Because He lives, we will live. Death cannot harm us but only carry us into the arms of Christ. The dragon is dead!
PHIL BRAY / First Baptist Church, Puxico