Life in the Shadow of Death

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me…”

The “shadow” of death?
What’s that?
Maybe it’s like walking along the side of the road as a dump truck drives by.1,2 Would you rather be hit by the truck, or by the truck’s shadow? That’s the difference we experience as Christians; we are only hit by the shadow of death, and death itself has no power over us! Death is but a transient shadow, a momentary veil soon cast aside by the undiminished light of the Son.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”

Isn’t that crazy? That’s the sort of thing you only say if you’re barking mad… or if you know you can conquer death.

“I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

Whoa. Jesus conquered death.
He beat the grave.
The “killing curse” failed against him.
And He invites us to join Him in His victory – by first identifying with Him in His death:

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

First Christ died for us, now we die to ourselves. Because of the first death we live with just the scar to heal – of sin to overcome; because of our own death to sin we live free from the power of sin. And because of the first resurrection, we know that we will certainly be resurrected as well.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 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.”

Christians stand on the border between life and death, with one foot in this world and one foot in the world to come. We share the good news which is this divine message: You needn’t only live once:

1. This is illustration comes from Dr. Donald Barnhouse. Jason Carlson in “Jesus: Risen for a New Generation,” Apologetics For A New Generation, ed. by Sean McDowell, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2009), p. 185.

2. The Valley of the Shadow of Death is a real place in Israel. The road from Jericho to Jerusalem runs along this valley, and the bus ride is harrowing. I speak from personal experience on this; there were times during turns when the nose of the bus was over the edge of the valley, and when I could not see the road, only the bottom of the valley, when looking out my window!

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