The gathering gloom of nationwide anxiety over a fresh wave of the coronavirus pandemic exposes the fragility of lives without God.
Government edicts emanating from obvious panic, hesitation and confusion – somewhat understandable as further lockdown restrictions need to be balanced by economic realities – are fed chiefly by the fear of death which plagues us all.
Many are accusing the authorities of over-reaction; of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut; but they are, after all, groping around in the dark of a culture that has abandoned its Creator, who has left them with a book of instructions tragically gathering dust on the shelves of our institutions.
One section of the Book, written by the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, no less, says: “If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault…” (James 1.5)
The driving force behind reaction to this virus is the fear of death. And the reason our leaders are so blinded to all other realities is because our secular humanist society has no answer to death. They go to great lengths encouraging us to add years to our lives through healthy living and eating habits, but few warn of the coming judgment or the certainty of death – the ultimate statistic we will all experience, unless Jesus comes back first.
Yet, in the midst of lockdown, the gospel is indeed good news – for it tells us that Jesus has overcome death. And through his own death and resurrection, he frees those “who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”. (Hebrews 2.14f)
Yes, all who have not yet encountered new life in Christ are enslaved by fear of death – and will do anything to avoid facing up to its reality.
Not so with Joy Davidman, wife of legendary writer C S Lewis for the last three years of her short life. Though terminally ill, she maximised her last days on earth by basking in the love of God and also enjoying the deepest human love she had known while trusting in the certain hope of future resurrection.
The aforementioned letter to the Hebrews also speaks of “God, for whom and through whom everything exists” (Hebr 2.10). Think about that; everything in all creation relates to God and is about God, yet so many of us, in our self-sufficient arrogance, live our lives with little or no reference to him – surely the ultimate idolatry.
The pandemic has been a stark reminder that we humans are not in control; we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. And yet we are not in the hands of fate either. The universe is sustained by a loving Creator on whom we can depend, if we humble ourselves before him.
The Apostle Peter says: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5.6f)
Hebrews also speaks of how Christ shared in our humanity in order, as a faithful high priest, to make atonement for our sins (Hebr 2.17).
Through his death on a cruel cross outside the walls of Jerusalem in AD 29, he became the ultimate fulfilment of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement being marked all around the world on Monday). There is no more need for the blood of bulls and goats to be sprinkled on the temple altar of sacrifice. Jesus paid the price through his own blood spilled at Calvary and became the ‘scapegoat’ carrying our sins into the wilderness.
Hebrews repeatedly reminds readers to listen to God’s voice and to the message of his Son, who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebr 1.3), and not to harden their hearts, as their ancestors did in the desert. Jesus is the great high priest who has opened the way to eternity, destroying death and becoming “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebr 5.9).
In addressing the awesome truth of the resurrection for those who trust in Christ, St Paul told the Corinthians: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Cor 15.51f)
The mortal will be clothed with immortality, and the saying of Hosea will come true: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (See Hosea 13.14) “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15.57)
I have just this afternoon read of a man who became a Christian, aged 11, when on looking at a beehive, the words popped into his head (seemingly from nowhere) ”sin stings, but Jesus can take away the sting”!
Jews for Jesus evangelist Julia Pascoe said there was a time when this wasn’t the message she wanted to hear. “I was seeking for purpose and peace and spending lots of money going to psychics and mediums looking for answers.”
Then a friend showed her how Jesus fulfilled the Bible’s Messianic texts. But her pride wouldn’t allow her to admit her need. Then she read a book in which the Jewish author relates how he discovered Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. It set her heart pounding.
“I realised Jesus died and was raised so I could be forgiven of sin. But again my pride wouldn’t let me go further – until I reluctantly attended a Christian concert and heard a band called Delirious singing, ‘Lord you have my heart, and I will search for yours’. The words pierced my heart and I could no longer resist. I experienced God’s redemption and rescue, and left the concert rejoicing.”
Julia added: “Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) will return and will judge the whole earth, and all who believe in him will live for eternity.”
Jesus truly frees us from being enslaved by the fear of death. Make the most of this life by trusting in him, both for now and forever.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International; and King of the Jews, also available from Christian Publications International.