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Dust to Dust: A Theology of Death & Dying

23 Aug

This week I decided to have a guest writer for my blog post. I took part in the making of a short film used as a school project last semester and I thought the project was not only very well made but also had a great message as well. My friend Greg wrote, directed, and edited the project and I was the “lead”, if you will. Take the time to watch the video below and then read what Greg had to say about the meaning of the movie. Greg is an excellent writer so if you don’t feel like watching the video you can come back to it later and read what he wrote now, you won’t be disappointed.

I am Greg (did you catch the allusion?). Colby asked me to make an appearance on his blog to write about a short film we made together (along with Matthew Rongey and Ashley Garcia). My role, I suppose, would be that of writer and director, but Matt and Colby are the true film nerds who made the technical stuff happen. And Ashley deserves all the credit since she drove to La Mirada all the way from Santa Barbara just to help out (and to see Colby, I guess).

The film is about death if you haven’t picked up on the theme yet. It was the final project for a capstone class at Biola University entitled “Jesus, Lord of All.” At the end of a semester-long study about death and dying, I was given an assignment in which I had the freedom to say whatever I wanted by whatever creative avenue I wanted. Throughout the semester, I read just about every stance, philosophy, and approach to the subject of death and its effects, from Hindu reincarnation to evolutionary natural selection to vague spiritual estimations. I read both emotionally charged essays by parents who lost children in horrific events and academic treatments that approached death like it was Algebra. After all this, I really only wanted to say one thing: The Bible is right in its understanding of and approach to death.

The Bible is the only source that offers a completely holistic explanation of death. In other words, it gives death’s entire story, beginning to end. It does not just speculate about what comes after death nor does it simply offer tidy solutions about getting beyond its pain. It addresses everything about death, from its origins to its universal inevitability to its defeat. It was this story that I wanted to communicate in the film. It has basically four parts, which I will try to survey very quickly below.

Part One: The Origins

Death’s story begins with life. We were created to have and enjoy life, to have relationships, and to experience wholeness. We were made to understand death as a foreign concept. We destroyed this by rebelling against God. Granted, Satan stands in front of the pointed finger as well, but it really is our own fault. We were the ones to seat death at its table in our world. As a result of our rebellion, we were subjected to death and its minions. God, the one who had every right to abandon us and leave us to death’s wishes, began his pursuit of humanity at the moment of our fall.

Part Two: The Pain

From there, the pain and fear is not ignored. The Old Testament writers were plagued with worry over death. It was the evil of all evils and was the thing from which Israel longed to be delivered. The Pslamists were constantly asking God for deliverance from death and praising him when it happened. The wicked are associated with death and those who do evil find their destination to be death. Nowhere does the Bible tone down or paint over the absolute atrocity that death really is.

Part Three: Jesus

One definite pattern in the Old Testament is that the deeper the sorrow over wickedness, the deeper the advent for redemption. In the New Testament, we are introduced to the object of that advent. Jesus is the culmination and climax of death’s story. He not only brings the solution, but is himself the solution. He does not come to make pithy statements that bring false comfort and hope, sending us only into a deeper state of confusion. Rather, he takes the burden of death and the sting of death onto himself, as he is the only one who has the power to defeat it. And defeat it he does. On the cross, Jesus goes to war with Satan, the father of death. Jesus is raised from the dead signifying his victory over death and leaving a bitter taste in Satan’s mouth.

Part Four: Kingdom Life

During his time on Earth, Jesus inaugurates, or establishes, a kingdom of which he is the King. The inaugural address was his work on the cross and subsequent resurrection that allowed him to call the shots. When a person enters by faith into the kingdom, death is diminished and its power is removed. He no longer needs to fear his own earthly death as uncertain and frightening, but comes under the kingship of Jesus where death cannot enter. He can live like Jesus did and walk out to meet his own death knowing full well that it’s not the end. The Kingdom of Jesus is an earthly reality lived out through the Holy Spirit that offers comfort, hope, restoration, and joy in the midst of any of life’s circumstances. Those who live in the kingdom are strangers on the earth, anticipating the day when the full weight and glory of Jesus’ kingdom is theirs forever.

In sum, the Bible shows us the true face of death. It explains that it was our own wrongdoing that allowed this pain to enter. It does not deny that death hurts or that death is an evil thing and tells how God promises deliverance from death for his people. Jesus comes as God in human form and defeats death through his work on the cross, taking the punishment for sin and rebellion on himself. He is raised from the death and his eternal kingdom is established as the sole refuge from death.

Hope you enjoy the film and take away something valuable!

Greg is one of my best friends who I attended college with and who will be my friend for life. Also,  I have had the great satisfaction of being his roommate for the last two years. You can follow his Twitter here or his personal blog here.

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