Friday, December 30, 2005

Resurrection and the Fear of Death

"I suppose that a man would have your confidence in a larger degree, and would have more weight with you, if he had come hack to life and should declare from experience that there is no evil in death."
-Seneca's Moral Epistle XXX (R.M. Gummere, trans.)

In the midst of speaking concerning the great respect he has for the opinions concerning death of an acquaintance very near death, Seneca suggests that perhaps the only more convincing person on the topic of death and the fear of death might be a person who has died and returned to life.

This is a very reasonable assertion, and one which serves the Christian witness quite well. It is true that the opinions concerning death and the fear of death that might be received from any person who has not died carry less weight than the opinions concerning the same that a person who has died should carry.

Christians find themselves in the position of receiving counsel concerning death from one who has Himself overcome death: Jesus of Nazareth. Remarkably, however, the resurrected Christ said absolutely not one word to His disciples concerning what should await them beyond death; Jesus' very presence was evidence of bodily resurrection.

Our Seneca had in mind a person dying and returning to life of the same order that is lived by those to whom he might speak and teach concerning death. Jesus Christ demonstrated a return from death as one who was irrevocably transformed by the process of death-and-resurrection into a human being of a new order.

His resurrection only confirms, then, the promises He has made to all those who follow Him through death and resurrection:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."
John 5:25-29 (ESV)
To purchase volumes of Seneca's works, follow the following link to the Loeb Classical Library homepage:

No comments: