Oh death, where is your sting?

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We were excited in our way to a meeting when a lamentable news broke up. The father of a friend just died. Although I’m hoping that we got it wrong, reality nevertheless dashes that hope. In scraping a spread for his bread, he leaned back to his chair and he was gone.

Death, I believe, is the most avoided topic. Yet it has been an indispensable topic for the existentialists philosophers. Some viewed it with anticipation. But most viewed it wish despair. Among them was the prolific writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), who in result of rejecting God, viewed life as nothing more than bubbles floating in the sea of nothingness. No purpose. No value. No meaning.

Sartre’s attitude towards life, however, was nothing new. The same outlook has been lived by an Enlightenment thinker Voltaire (1694-1778), that he even wrote the following lines,

Man is a stranger to his own research; 
He knows not whence he comes, nor whither goes. 
Tormented atoms in a bed of mud, 
Devoured by death, a mockery of fate.[1] 

Why is that so? Because if you remove God, you are left alone. Man is left alone. Even the atheist George H. Smith confessed: “If atheism is correct, man is alone. There is no God to think for him, to watch out for him, to guarantee his happiness. These are the sole responsibility of man.”[2] Entitlements or the lack thereof wouldn’t count. The impending death does not credit such value. No. Far from it. Believer or unbeliever. There’s no excuse.

But to the believer of God, to the follower of Jesus, to the one who knows the statement, “He is not here; he has risen” – it’s an entirely different story. It guarantees hope. It displays hope.

In a most-celebrated allegorical narrative by Tolkien in his The Return of the Kinga question was asked by Sam to Gandalf, in his confusion and incredible joy, when he knew that Gandalf is alive, while the Darkness is being lifted: “Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

The resurrection of Jesus says, “Yes indeed!” There will be that time. The time when God will wipe away every tears from our eyes (c.f. Rev. 21:4).

And because of the resurrection, we know that we have a good master. We can anticipate death as meeting with our Lord. Or as what the apostle Paul said, in face of death: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55, ESV).

[1] Voltaire, “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster,” in A Treatise on Toleration and Other Essays, trans. Joseph McCabe (New York: Prometheus, 1994), 1-7.

[2] George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (New York: Prometheus Books, 1991), 27.