Tragedy in Virginia
by Doug Apple
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And once again we look to heaven and say “Why?”
The only answer I can come up with is that God sees death differently than we do.
I’ve been studying Jesus’ words in Luke chapter 12. He said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.”
Look at how it’s written in The Message bible: “True, they can kill you, but then what can they do?”
Then what can they do? Isn’t getting killed quite enough?
How could Jesus speak so lightly about death? Honestly, He talked about death about like we might talk to our kids about name-calling.
“That kid called you a name? Big deal. You have a lot to be thankful for if that’s the worst that ever happens to you.”
But for us, death IS the worst thing that can happen to us…isn’t it?
That’s not the way Jesus presents it. He says, “So they can kill you, so what? Don’t be afraid of them.”
Jesus can say that because He has seen the entire landscape, whereas we are stuck on this side of the wall. Jesus sees the big picture, and in that big picture, death must not be what we tend to make it.
Jesus went on to say, “I will show you whom you should fear. Fear him who, after the killing of the body has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”*
He gave us a ranking of whom to fear and why. We are told not to fear people, because the worst they can do is kill our body. But we are told to fear God, because He can throw us into hell.
Not that death isn’t bad. Jesus knows it’s dreadful, which is why He brought it up. He brought it up to put it in perspective. He basically said, “Trust me. Death is no big deal when you compare it to hell.”
Jesus spent a lot of time de-emphasizing life in this body, and emphasizing what some call the “afterlife.”
“Don’t store up treasures on earth…but store up treasures in heaven…”**
“Don’t work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life…”***
Jesus often spoke about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. This Kingdom is of supreme importance in Jesus’ teachings, yet “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God…” (1st Corinthians 15:50)
This body is mortal, but we are not. We inhabit this body, and for such a short time that Paul even referred to it as a tent - a tent that soon enough will be destroyed.
Then what? Second Corinthians 5:1 says, “…if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven…”
Verse 5 goes on to make a powerful statement. “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose…”
What very purpose? God made us for what purpose? To live eternally with Him in heaven. When this body is finally destroyed, then we can inherit the Kingdom of God.
Jesus sees all of this, but our vision stops at the wall of death. We stand here, staring at the wall, wondering what’s on the other side.
The good news is that Jesus has hung a giant sign from the wall. It has one word, “Hope.”
If there is no life after death, there is no hope. Events like those in Virginia lead to despair. Without hope, God becomes trivial in all this mess.
But I have good news! There is hope! Life is much more, oh so much more than our few numbered days on this strange planet.
We have the hope of eternal life. How can we tap into it? Through Jesus Christ. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I agree that it’s mortifying to watch the news unfold of this tragedy in Virginia. And I don’t know why God allows such things. But I do believe this. God sees death differently than we do. He sees the bigger picture of our existence, and in that picture, death is not so big and not so bleak.
There is hope, and that hope comes through Jesus Christ.
* Luke 12:5
** Matthew 6:19,20
*** John 6:27
Here is another interesting example of Jesus de-emphasizing life on planet Earth, even when it came to spiritual activities here. Luke 10:17 tells of the return of 72 followers of Christ who reported, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Jesus sort of rebukes them: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
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