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, hasresponded 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.
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).
Subjection to Futility — In Hope
But even though, in the beginning, Satan incited sin, and death came through sin (Romans [5:12]), God himself was the judge who brought the sentence of death on the human race. The horror of death is God’s appointed response to the horror of sin. Death, by God’s design, is the physical mirror of the moral outrage of human rebellion against God.
Thus God tells us that in response to sin, “creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope . . .” (Romans [8:20]). Only God could do that. Neither Adam nor Satan acted with a view to the hope of the age to come. This was God’s doing. God appointed death for the human race. He did it with a view to death’s final defeat and removal. But it was he who did it.
So the Bible continues, “. . . in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption, and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans [8:21]). There is a bondage to the corruption of death for now. But the day of freedom is coming. God has appointed these times.
Until then, we die. And we live, with Christ. This death, and this life, are by God’s appointment. Satan incited sin. Adam and Eve acted sin. And God decreed the consequence of sin, namely, death.
And he is removing that consequence in stages. At the first coming of Christ, the immeasurable penalty of sin was paid (Colossians [2:14]). And at the second coming, the miserable effects of sin will be fully removed. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians [15:26]). Death will be no more.
But until then, the final disposition of death and life belong to God. He brought it in; he will take it out. And while it is here, he claims unique rights over it. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy [32:39]; see also 1 Samuel 2:6).
Therefore, Job’s reverent and grief-stricken response to the death of his ten children was profoundly and painfully right: “The Lᴏʀᴅ gave, and the Lᴏʀᴅ has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Job [1:21]).
How Then Shall We Die?
How then should we think about our rights with regard to death? Should life be in our control? Does it belong to us, to create or eliminate?
The apostle Paul did not leave us without help on this question. Whose are we? To whom do we belong? Who owns our body? He answers: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians [6:19]–20).
Written by John Piper
Read more at Desiring God