Theology in 3D

Ten Years in Glory, Part 2

Layton Talbert | June 2, 2018
New Testament

My last post celebrated the 10th anniversary of my mother’s passing into glory. What I didn’t mention is that 8 days and 15 minutes after her, and 260 miles away, my father passed into the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, making today (June 2) the 10th anniversary of his arrival in glory as well.

The story is a long and painful and glorious one, what Tolkien would have called a eucatastrophe–good catastrophe, a genuinely tragic calamity out of which God brings ultimate and overwhelming good. (The consummate eucatastrophe, Tolkien said, was the crucifixion of Christ.) Ours was a fairly close family of more-or-less religious unbelievers, shattered by the sins of selfishness and unfaithfulness resulting in divorce and hostility and resentment.

But human sin became the wedge that a gracious God exploited to insert himself into each of our lives at different times and in different ways, eventually drawing each of us to a saving knowledge of the God we never really knew before. Joseph explained it to his formerly hateful brothers this way, “You devised against me evil–God devised it for good . . . to bring to life many people” (Gen 50:20, my translation).

Grace does not diminish the sinfulness of sin; but it does overpower it (Rom 5:20). Grace does not undo the consequences of sin; but it can employ the unanticipated consequences of what we thought we wanted when we chose sin, what we thought would make us happy, and use them to awaken new appetites and longings deep inside. Grace cannot reverse death; but it can swallow it up and metamorphose it into something victorious beyond all expectation.

Last time I cited Part 1 of Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress. Part 2 relates the story of Christian’s wife, Christiana, and their children, who came to know the Lord after him. Near the end, as they journeyed toward the last River, Bunyan writes:

Now the day drew on that Christiana must be gone. So the road was full of people to see her take her journey. But behold all the banks beyond the River were full of horses and chariots, which were come down from above to accompany her to the City Gate. So she came forth, and entered the River with a beckon of farewell to those that followed her to the riverside. The last word she was heard to say here was, I come, Lord, to be with thee, and bless thee.

So her children and friends returned to their place, for those that waited for Christiana had carried her out of their sight. So she went and entered in at the Gate with all the ceremonies of Joy….

Death is not “good” or even “natural” in the sense that it is the result of sin and not God’s original intention. Yet it is a consequence of sin that God in grace through Christ has decisively conquered. Believers are the beneficiaries of Christ’s coup over death. For the Christian, its blow, though sharp, is light; its separation, though excruciating, is momentary; its sorrow, though real, is by a divine alchemy transmuted into an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor 4:17). That holds so long as we concentrate our attention not on the part of the story that we can see, but on the rest of the story that we cannot see (2 Cor 4:18).

That’s why Paul’s concluding note in 1 Corinthians 15:55-58 is one of unqualified conquest and confidence, and why this memorial of Dad’s death is a celebration of God’s grace.

Photo Credit: Isaac Talbert

One response to “Ten Years in Glory, Part 2”

  1. Jon says:

    Thank you for writing so beautifully and for being such an encouragement. Both installments were real blessings to me, so thank you for sharing!

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