Genesis 4:8-11, Romans 8:18-25   “Death”


            On Tuesday I was driving on the highway and noticed an interesting bumper sticker. It said on it “Don’t Die!” I just thought that was a great idea. Death is such a hard business, isn’t it? Why not we just not go into it at all? About the vehicle I was following, by the way, it was pick-up truck. The safety sticker was two years out of date. Two of the three brake lights were not working, too. I decided to leave a few extra car-lengths between me and the truck just to be safe–you know, I did not want to die!

            I know that death is a really hard thing to talk about. Yet, this is church. This is where and when we talk about the difficult things of life! Our sermon series has been about the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That is to say, pre-Jesus and post-Jesus or B.C. and A.D. It was in fact the birth and death of Jesus that got us all to start counting the years all over again from scratch. Death is by far the biggest difference between the old way of thinking and the new way. And, have no worries, we will talk about life on Easter Morning!


            The first death recorded in the Bible is this story of Cain and Abel. It is a sad testimony on how far humanity had already fallen away from God that the first death should be a murder of one brother upon another. The backstory on the murder that was not read is that the two sons of Adam and Eve are making separate sacrifices to God. God finds the sacrifice of Abel to be  sufficient and right, but not so of Abel’s. There is then coveting of one’s relationship to God. Cain wants the relationship to God that Abel seems to enjoy. I know that that sounds like a very odd reason to commit murder today. It is almost like saying, “If it were not for God, there would have been no murder.”

            To be sure, God was around for all of eternity before this murder of the brother. The difference now is that the brothers themselves are in some kind of religious rivalry. It is not a Godly rivalry, but rather a religious one. As I heard from someone I had never met before this last week: “It is just organized religion that is the problem.”

            Of course, with this murder of one brother by another, God becomes upset right away. God does not want us to be murdering one another, and certainly not for His sake. The call from God in heaven comes down to Cain, “What have you done.” I believe this to be more of an exclamation than a question actually. There are no question marks in the Hebrew language. God knows already what has happened. The blood in the ground is crying up to Him. God tells Cain to listen to the sound of the blood in the ground and calls for an explanation.

            Yup, there it is: all the blood that has ever been spilled for the sake of pride, greed, false righteousness, and the like, will need to be explained to the Almighty in Heaven one day. The blood in the earth cries to God.  

In the “Before Christ” version of the Bible, we see the understanding that death is absolutely the end of us. There is absolutely no talk here of the spirit of Abel rising up to heaven as an innocent victim of his brother’s hate so that he can be joined in eternal life with God. In the Jewish understanding, there was no afterlife. Even still today in the Jewish Faith there is no heaven. In the time of Christ, this is one of the things that got Jesus in trouble with the priests of the day. They all believed that this life was all there is. The way one lives on is in the memories of the lineage you leave behind–your earthly legacy.

Now, it is great to leave a legacy of some kind behind in this world. I think the person with the greatest legacy in this world, however, is Jesus. HIs legacy is that he is the first born of the New Creation of God. He is the first one to beat death, defeat it, and claim the victory of eternal life for all those who follow.

It is nice to be an author. I have published a few things. I appreciate the idea that my words will outlive me. I have preached well over a thousand sermons. These are all digitized and on-line. Maybe someone a hundred years from now might actually Google up this sermon from an archive. Maybe AI will steal my words! But Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is not just the author of our faith, He is the subject matter of the greatest story ever told. He is the Central figure in the book that has sold more copies than any other book in history. So, as a legacy he lives because He LIVES! What greater legacy could a person have!

In Romans, chapter 8, which is the heart of the Letter to Rome, Paul writes that he considers the sufferings of this world to be nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed and that Creation will be set free from its bondage of decay. He sees death as being set free to be as God intended us to be from the very start. He talks about how we all groin for the “redemption of our bodies.” The Greek word here for “redemption” is apoluo, which again literally means to be let loose from. So, death is taken the leash of this world off from your neck and being able to run freely as God intended.

The word that appears most in this passage is “hope.” You see, in the Old Testament there really was no hope. You live, you die, that is all. In the New Testament, we are all about the hope of the new life with Jesus. All we have to do is be patient and wait. Our time is coming. The glory is about to find our lives again.

Two months ago, I read an interesting article about a new theory of Quantum Time in which it is suggested that causality is not tied to the past. The theory goes that events in the future can have an effect on things in the past. Yes of course! WE know that already. We call it “prophecy.” The events of the future are causing a prophet of the past to say things that affect the past and the present and may even go to shape the future.


How does the future glory of eternal life affect our lives today? Unlike in the Old Testament world, we do not live in fear of death. Instead, we live in the freedom to hope for the glory of God to come and redeem us. Therefore a choice is given: Do you wish to live in fear of death and dying? Do you wish to live your days in the freedom and hope of eternal life with God?


In 1952, an Irish playwright by the name of Samuel Beckett wrote the famous play Waiting for Godot. In this theater of the absurd piece, two characters stand out on stage and carry on a conversation while waiting for a third character by the name of Godot to show up. What is the most absurd part of this theater is that Godot never shows up. The important thing though is that they are in the hope of his coming. The conversation of these two men reflects their struggle of waiting while still hoping.

I mention this because those two men’s lives are transformed in their anticipation and their hope. It is almost like a quantum time thing happening. The expectation of the future changes their presence. The audience is left wondering what would be the conversation if these two men were not hoping for Godot to arrive?

What would be our lives today without our faith in the glory of the Lord coming to redeem our bodies? Twice in the text from Romans we read the word “reveal” as in the revelation of the end times. The word used here in the Greek is in fact apocalypse.             Our hope in this future with God in this revelation changes our conversation today. WE are set free to hope.


My final point is this about death: When we look at the reason that Jesus came to us in the first place, we see that it is as it says in Luke 4:18 that Jesus came “to proclaim the good news, to release and set free, to proclaim the Lord’s favor.” Jesus did a lot of things while he was here on earth, but in this moment he says exactly why he came. It was not to heal the lepers, it was not to tip the tables, it was not to call the disciples, it was to “proclaim the good news and set us free.” By the way, he was reading from Isaiah the Prophet at the time as his coming had been prophesied.

The good news that sets us free is this, Jesus rose from the dead to show that death was defeated and there is hope. You are not done when you take your last earthly breath. In Jesus there is the life everlasting with God.

We are not just waiting for Godot here that never shows up. WE are waiting on God, who has shown up to us already and will lead now into the promised life.