“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)
Jesus’ resurrection is the destruction of all that destroys. It is the demise of that which seeks the demise of everything else. It is the end of ending, the ruin of all that ruins, and the annihilation of all that kills, robs, infects, corrupts and distorts. The resurrection is the final end of all that produces final endings. Death is over.
We all know that we live in a world that is not right. It is not the way that things are supposed to be. Babies are not supposed to die. Girls shouldn’t be raped. School children are not supposed to be shot. Doctors and nurses shouldn’t die while taking care of the sick. Droughts and plagues, pandemics and natural disasters – these things are not supposed to be. I think that anyone can see that life and health and beauty and peace and love are all better than the corruption and sickness and death that we see around us all too clearly. The resurrection is God’s signal that this intuition that we all share – that evil and suffering is not the way it should be – this intuition is right. The resurrection is the defeat of all these defeaters. It is the death of death.
Some people say that the evil which we experience is punishment for sin. Our suffering is God’s wrath upon us. The people that say these things have a point. God does punish, and sometimes suffering and trials have a way of getting our attention. CS Lewis said that pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. God calls people everywhere to repent, and if difficult times lead us to turn to God, that’s good. In fact, that is exactly what God wants. He desires us to repent and turn to him in faith. It is for this very reason that evil cannot simply be understood as divine punishment. Peter tell us in 2 Peter 3:8 that God is not slow as some think, but he is patient, not wishing any to perish, but rather that they will take advantage of the window of opportunity to repent. Difficult times have a way of enabling us to see the grace of God right in front of us.
One day, Jesus and his disciples were in town and they saw a beggar. Immediately, the disciples, who had it in mind that all evil is divine punishment, asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he is born blind?” Jesus’ answer reveals that this punishment theodicy (that all evil is a direct punishment for a specific evil) is too simplistic. Jesus said, “Neither of them sinned, but this happened so that the glory of God could be displayed.” And Jesus healed him (John 9:1-3). Even evil serves the power of God.
Some people say that these difficulties are shaping our character. We all have lessons to learn, so we should count it all joy when we encounter trials of all kinds (James 1:2). This idea is undoubtedly true, and the trials of life do cause us to grow in maturity, in virtues and in faith. But some of the evils that we face are so large and massive! How can God use coronavirus to bring good things? The specific answer to that question is beyond my pay-grade, but I do know this. God uses the evils of this world, but God never approves of them. God is holy and takes no pleasure in evil (Psalm 5:4). The wickedness of evil and the suffering that it causes is an affront to the nature of God. It is not the world that he desired us to live in. The world he created was completely good and true and beautiful, a shimmering reflection of all he is. So, you may ask, if this world is not the way God wanted it to be, what is he doing about it? Why doesn’t God fix it?
Well, it turns out that he already did. That’s what Easter is. It is God’s solution to the problem of evil and suffering. Death is defeated, and evil is overturned. God’s solution, however, has a long roll-out – 2000 years and counting. Remember, God is not slow, but rather patient. If God were to remove all the evil of the world right now, that would mean the removal of all the people in the world right now. He promised Noah he wouldn’t do that. The resurrection is the death of death. He promised. It’s coming.