In several heart-wrenching videos (here, here, and here), 29-year-old Brittany Maynard has talked about her intent to take her life, possibly tomorrow, by means of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, because of a fast-growing, inoperable, fatal brain tumor.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who has suffered more and longer than most of us, has responded to Brittany’s sorrowful plan with empathy and biblical conviction. All of Joni’s concerns merit serious consideration. The one I want to expand on is this: She said, “I understand Brittany may be in great pain, and her treatment options are limited and have their own devastating side effects, but I believe Brittany is missing a critical factor in her formula for death: God.” Others have written open appeals to Brittany; I write mainly for those who are considering this issue afresh in light of Brittany’s story.
Cancer Is an Enemy
I hate cancer. It is regularly an accomplice in the life-robbing work of our “final enemy,” death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death was not part of paradise, as God created it in the beginning. And death will not be part of the New Earth, as God brings it in the resurrection. In that sense, it opposes the ultimate goodness that God designed for this creation. It is an enemy.
But in the resurrection, “Death will be no more” (Revelation 21:4). Death came into human existence through the devil’s incitement to sin. But the devil himself was stripped of his condemning power when Christ died for sinners. God gets the last word. His Son “took on human nature so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).
So death remains, for now. It hisses with fearsome rage. But for those who are in Christ, its fangs have been removed.
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:54–55)
Answer: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56–57). In other words, Christ bore the curse of God’s law for us (Galatians 3:13). Therefore, it cannot condemn us for our sins (Colossians 2:14–15). They are covered. The sting — the fangs — has been removed.
Therefore, in Christ, we will die physically, but not spiritually. Our souls will go “home” (2 Corinthians 5:8); they will go to be “with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). Then at his coming to earth, our bodies will be raised and glorified (1 Thessalonians 4:15–16).
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