I saw a bit on TV today about a new book that is out called, “Erasing Death.” The author, Dr. Sam Parnia, claims that science has advanced so far as to redefine what it means to die. He writes, “Who says death has to be the final defeat?”
Here is a longer excerpt from Dr. Parnia’s book: “Throughout history, death has loomed as the ultimate downer of a subject. The ultimate defeat. But recent scientific advances have produced a seismic shift in our understanding of death—challenging our perceptions of death as being absolutely implacable and final—and have thus rendered many of our strongest-held views regarding death as outdated and old-fashioned. In fact, where death is concerned, two major revolutions have already begun—one of accomplishment, and another of understanding…” He goes on to cite medical procedures that prolong life and rescue people from dying thereby accomplishing what would have earlier seemed impossible. All of this, according to Dr. Parnia, allows science to challenge a subject matter previously left to “theology, philosophy, or maybe even science fiction.” Death.
My first reaction to the subject of this book was, “Why would anyone want science to erase death?” What good would be living forever in a broken planet filled with broken people? In other words, what good is eternity without atonement?
I probably don’t need to remind you that the Bible has a lot to say about death. It tells us of the beginning and the end of death, and pretty much all points in between. From God’s Word we know that death began in sin and continues as sin’s “wages.” We know that death is the last “enemy” to be swallowed up in Christ’s victory. From God’s Word we are aware that, in a very real sense, it is Christ’s Cross – not medical science – that has erased death. This is a truth for all of us to meditate upon at this Easter time.
As we live in the days between Christ’s resurrection and His return, we find in the Word and encouragement to embrace death. Throughout the Gospels Jesus tells His followers to take up their cross (a very real symbol of death) and follow Him. In fact, Matthew 10:38 records Jesus saying that anyone who refuses to take up his cross “is not worthy of me.”
Later New Testament authors would put a finer point on what means this call to cross-carrying. Colossians 3:3ff says, “For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead, and your true life is a hidden one in God, through Christ. One day, Christ who is your life, will show himself openly, and you will all share in that magnificent revelation. Consider yourselves dead to [sin].” Author T. Austin-Sparks writes, “We have not to die; we are dead. What we have to do is to accept our death.” As Romans 6:11a says, “Think of yourselves as dead to sin.”
That dying could be seen as “bad news” were we not also “reckoned” alive with Christ in His resurrection. 2 Tim 2:11 says, “If we died with him we shall also live with him.” In another place the Bible says, (2 Cor 5:15,17) “We look at it like this: if one died for all men, then, in a sense, they all died, and his purpose in dying for them is that their lives should now be no longer lived for themselves but for him who died and was raised to life for them… For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether; the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.”
Everything fresh and new sounds far better to me than everything scientifically enhanced and extended. I realize that I owe much to science, but I owe even more to my Savior. He alone bore my sin on the cross. He alone cancelled the curse of death, for me, you and all of creation. He alone rose again, but He will not remain alone in that resurrection. He is but the “first-fruits” of many, many more yet to rise from death.
As we approach Easter, let us remember His death and resurrection. The cost and the benefits. The cross and the glory. May we also remember the call to each of us to die to ourselves and live in Christ.
Praying for new life this Easter,