The Spirit of the Lord, §4.2: Death of Death
Second, Jesus Christ not only came to free us from sin and guilt; he came to liberate us from our bondage to death. The death of Christ is the death of Death: “Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). The final cry of Jesus from the cross—“it is finished” (Jn. 19:30)—assures us that “as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1 Cor. 15:22). As the death of Death, the work of Christ on the cross is not limited to an internal freedom from sin. The efficacious work of Christ reaches into the very marrow of our being. Death marks all of life; it, too, reaches into the marrow of our being, thus provoking a powerful divine response to the pandemic of death which rages throughout our world. Death pervades creation and perverts a theater of flourishing into a theater of suffering, turning Eden into Sheol and Gethsemane into Golgotha. Death is universally destructive, both on the macro level of stellar decay and on the micro level of cells devastated by invading viruses. It is in the midst of this universality of death that God comes in Jesus Christ to inaugurate a new universality of life: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Jesus did not come simply to reverse death’s destructive influence or to release us from death’s totalizing grip; Jesus Christ came to definitively defeat death. Christ came to destroy the destroyer, to kill the killer—and he did it in the most scandalous of ways, by allowing himself to be killed, by going to the depths of Sheol, and then by being “raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Any attempt to spiritualize the death of death commits the doubly great error of minimizing present human suffering and ignoring the magnitude of our liberation from the fear of death—a liberation that frees us for the full enjoyment of life. We are, here and now, freed for life.