Yes, this strikes me as vaguely sacrilegious... but it also strikes me as hilarious. It was found here.
Yes, this strikes me as vaguely sacrilegious… but it also strikes me as hilarious. It was found here.

The other day I had a conversation with a friend that took a rather interesting turn. During a pause in the discussion my friend turned to me and said, very randomly I might add, “So, Jesus killed death.” This led to the following exchange (reconstructed from memory, so I’m essentially paraphrasing here):

Me: Well… not exactly.

Friend: Jesus destroyed death?

Me: No, that’s not really it either.

Friend: Jesus killed his own death!

Me: I suppose you could say that, but still, it’s not quite… it.

Friend: Ok, well then what is it?

Me: Well, Jesus conquered death. He didn’t kill it, and he didn’t destroy it, death is still around. It’s kind of like… I guess you could say that Jesus made death his bitch.

Friend (laughing): Jesus made death his bitch? Only you!

While I’m certain that the colloquialism will be offensive to some readers (and I apologize to anyone who might be offended), the message contained within is correct. Now, of course, for any of this to matter one must believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is factual, and not simply a Christian myth. If it is myth, as opposed to truth, then any debate over whether Jesus conquered death or destroyed death is a moot point, rather like arguing whether Superman or the Hulk would win in a fight. However, if the resurrection is fact, and not myth (this argument has been made by many and I have provided links to some good examples below), then this semantic difference actually does matter. Jesus did not kill death, nor did he destroy death, but instead he conquered death, both nullifying the power thereof for believers, and making death his servant, instead of his master.

4smThe accounts of the resurrection themselves (if believed, see below) are ample proof that Christ was not contained or mastered by death. Of course, the crucifixion itself is prophesied in the old testament (most notably in Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and Zechariah 12), and his resurrection is also prophesied (notably in Psalms 16 and 40, also the story of Jonah is used as a type of resurrection by the new testament, and Hosea 6 is often seen as a prophecy as well, Hosea 13:14 is sometimes seen as a prophecy of the resurrection, but this does not place the verse in its proper context). However, throughout scripture the teaching is not that Christ has destroyed death, but that he has removed its vicious power. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul quotes Hosea 13 saying, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” And in Revelation 1 Christ himself tells us, “I was dead, and behold I am alive forever more, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

The verse that most notably gives pause to the argument that Christ conquered, rather than destroyed, death is 2 Timothy 1:10 which reads, “…who abolished death and brought life…”. The term ‘abolished’ here is sometimes translated as ‘destroyed’, but most often as ‘abolished’ or ‘annulled’, and the Greek word used here is καταργήσαντος (katargesantos) which comes from καταργέω (katargeo). The basic meaning of this term is to ‘bring to naught, sever, or abolish’, and its meaning here is best understood by the term ‘annulled’. Paul is saying to Timothy that Christ, through the resurrection, has made the power of death inconsequential; not that he has brought an end to death. It should be noted, in this discussion, that Revelation 21 tells us that there will be an end to death, but this is a matter of timing. In the new heavens and new earth death will no longer be, but this does not mean that death no longer is.

This is a beautiful wallpaper from Playlogic that just seemed appropriate.
This is a beautiful wallpaper from Playlogic that just seemed appropriate.

Now, the conquest of death is no small matter. Christ’s victory over death, and his rulership of death is something that every Christian can and should rejoice in daily. However, we should not confuse the issue with poor terminology. If Christ had ‘killed’ death, as my friend stated, then logically everyone, or at least every Christian, should be immortal. Obviously, this is not the case, and thus the declaration of Christ’s destruction of death is not only a logical impossibility, but implies a ridiculousness to the Christian faith that is not truly associated with it. This is one example of the importance of theology and biblical hermeneutics. We cannot say that Christ killed death and retain any semblance of credibility. However, we can say that Christ conquered death (or in my colloquialism ‘made death his bitch’ – I still really like this), and thus understand that death should have no fear for the Christian.

Christ has removed the fear of death, and the power that fear holds over us, but he has not yet removed the presence of death. We will all die and, for the Christians among us, go on to glory with Christ. I, for one, look forward to this.

***************************

A Q&A Argument for the resurrection from William Lane Craig

An excerpt from Peter Kreeft’s Apologetic work

Transcripts of a debate between William Lane Craig and Bart Ehrman

A Synopsis of Various Arguments

An Article by N.T. Wright – Also see N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God

Some Articles and Videos from Gary Habermas – Also see Habermas’s The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

5 thoughts on “Christ and Death

  1. I largely agree with you, though I disagree on a matter of semantics: Christ didn’t conquer death, as an action achieved at a point. He didn’t BECOME death’s master. Christ was ALWAYS death’s master. He subjugated Himself to death for a time, but when he stopped doing so, there was no conflict, no battle. It was simply the King putting His crown back on. In fact, I think the King is a good analogy. If a king wanted to spare a prisoner sentence, but also wanted to show justice, he could take off his crown and say, “You are guilty, but I will take your punishment. Jailor, put me in your prison.” The jailor may be shocked, but pity the jailor that disobeys the King. Of course, after a few days in prison, the King may feel that the point has been made and decide to take back his throne. He says to the jailor, “Jailor, release me.” What will the jailor do? Refuse? Not if he wants to live. Instead, the jailor says, “Certainly, your Majesty. *opens door* And I’ll sent a message ahead to your steward, so that he can prepare a feast for you. I hope this meets with your approval.” The jailor was always the servant.

    Also, proof that death isn’t dead or destroyed is twofold: the first death (death of body) still comes for us all. That one’s still around and kicking, though it may not be the death Christ and Paul were talking about. The second death (death of spirit), though, is still around as well, as Revelation makes quite clear when it talks about the return of Christ and the judgement of the dead. Some will still be given over to it.

  2. Tobias,

    A very good discussion. As to your own personal colloquialism, I agree with your friend, “Only you.”

    Colin,
    I disagree with you. While it is true that Christ was always the master,Satan is in rebellion and is unwilling to acknowledge that. The fallen Lucifer is doing his best to capture and destroy (by death)all of God’s creation, especially the pinnacle of God’s creation – Mankind. Therefore, a better analogy would be that when the king says, “Put me in your prison,” the jailor goes wild with glee. And when he says, “Let me out,” the jailor refuses. Whereupon, the king rips apart the bars with ease and puts his crown back on.

    Lynne

  3. Lynne and Colin, I think that you’re both making the same mistake the my friend made when she made the statement ‘Christ killed his own death’. If we are limit our perspective on Christ and death to Christ’s (for lack of a better term) personal relationship with death, then you are correct. God is and always has been the master of death. However, Christ’s conquest over death was far more significant that his personal relationship with death. Without Christ’s conquest God could not allow man into heaven, because God’s holiness and justice cannot be in contact with man’s sin. It was Christ’s death and resurrection, his conquest over death and the grave (as Paul put it), that satisfies God’s justice, and allows him to bring man into heaven. So, even though God was the master of death, Christ conquered the power of spiritual death to remove man from God, thus Christ did, indeed, conquer death.

    1. Lynne, I think there was some confusion. No where in the Bible do I see any indication that Satan is the master of death. Certainly the sin that Satan brought to man caused death, but everywhere I see that death is a punishment from God, a result of sin, but not directly from Satan. This is why I say that Christ was always the master of death. God is the one that first brought death into the world as punishment for sin, and God is the ultimate judge of who will receive the second death and who won’t, and it seems to me that that ‘who’ will ultimately include Satan and the demons.

      Tobias, an interesting distinction. So by Christ conquering death, you mean Christ conquering the sin that required death. But even in ‘conquering sin’, what really happened was Christ fulfilling God’s law of justice. I still don’t see any battle or moment of conquest, so much as a master player (who actually made the rules of the game) pulling a trick over an amateur player who thought he had won.

      1. Lynne, Colin is actually very right on this one, although he isn’t quite right about scripture making clear that God ‘brought death into the world’ as a punishment for sin. The tone of the Old Testament rather implies that death is the natural, unavoidable result of sin. This could be interpreted as punishment from God, and certainly there is an aspect of that, but there is a clearer aspect of natural consequence as opposed to intentional punishment.
        Colin, conquest can have a number of shades of meaning. For instance, Cortez conquered the Aztecs (warfare), an addict may conquer his addiction (struggle), a student may conquer his homework (completion). In this case Christ conquered death in that, by paying the punishment for sin, he nullified the power of death for the believers. Yes this was an act of completion, not necessarily an act of warfare, but it was still a conquest and a victory, in the same way that you may be victorious over a difficult project, or I may be victorious over my next novel.

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