What We Are at Death Is What We Are Forever

Your time on earth is fixed, and constantly diminishing — take life and death seriously

Almost a month has passed since we accepted ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our mortality. Lent is half over. We’ve spent the past four weeks meditating on death: its meaning; our human orientation to life, being, and goodness; how human beings, especially from the perspective of revealed religion (Judaism and Christianity) came to understand an afterlife; and how that process was bound up with man’s orientation towards goodness and his desire for justice.

Death defines us in a unique way. What we are at death is what we are eternally. Why?

God designed us for life. Life is God’s irrevocable gift: He does not take it back.

As I have repeatedly noted, when God declares to Adam and Eve that if they sin they will die, the nexus between sinning and dying is not one God by chance arbitrarily imposed. It’s not that God arbitrarily connected some “punishment” to sin and, out of a range of possibilities, he chose death. No! When God speaks of death as the consequence of sin, he simply makes clear what is sin’s inevitable outcome — you cannot cut yourself off from God and still live, because you are not self-sufficient, you did not create or enliven yourself. If the lamp disconnects itself from the outlet, the power plant is not “punishing” the lamp. If the lamp is not connected to the source of its power, it cannot sustain itself. As the song “Memories” from Cats put it poetically: “The street lamp dies …”

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