Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Something from ... Luther: Regarding the hope of the resurrection

In his commentary about the patriarch Enoch from Genesis 5, Martin Luther encouraged us to take to heart the fact that Enoch was taken to heaven.  He not only did not suffer a bodily death, but he was also taken into heaven in his fleshly body.  Flesh and blood were taken into heaven, revealing that flesh and blood men will, indeed, enter heaven and dwell there.  This proclaims the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting from the earliest chapters of the Bible.

Since we have this hope--seen not only in Enoch, but also in Elijah and especially in our Lord Jesus Christ--we can face our death all the more confidently.  What's more, we can despise this world because of its corruption and because whatever joys it promises are momentary.  Our hope and our focus is a life that is perfect and eternal.  We shall fix our eyes on that!  We will receive that perfect, eternal life at the resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day.  For, this is what God had created us to be, and it is what our Lord became in order to redeem us entirely from death and to give us life to the full.  Just as our risen, flesh-and-blood Savior has ascended into heaven, so shall we. 

Death is done.  Heaven is open.  Christ be praised.

Now, Luther:

          "Should we not, therefore, long for the future things and hate these present ones?  It was not, as in the case of the patriarchs, Enoch or Abel who revealed to us the hope of a better life; it was Christ Himself, the Prince and Author of life.  Therefore we should courageously despise life and the world, and wholeheartedly aspire to the future glory of eternal life.
          "It is here that we realize how great is the weakness of the flesh, which burns with desire and love of the present things but feels no joy about the certainty of the future life.  For how can that be anything but certain of which we have so many witnesses: Abel, Enoch, Elijah, nay, even the very Head and First Fruits of those who rise again, Christ (1 Cor. 15:20)?  Therefore the Epicureans are most deserving of the hatred of God and of men.  Also deserving of our hatred is our own flesh, which often incites us, too, to Epicureanism, when we give ourselves up wholly to temproal cares and so smugly disregard the eternal blessings.
          "Therefore these words must be noted and carefully impressed on our hearts: that Enoch was taken away and received, not but some patriarch, not by an angel, but by God Himself.  This was the comfort which made death bearable for the holy patriarchs so that they departed this life with joy.  Even at that time, before He had been revealed, they saw that the Seed which had been promised them was waging war with Satan and had crushed his head in the instance of Enoch.  They had the same hope for themselves and for all their descendants who believed; and they despised death with the utmost unconcern, as if it were not death but a sleep from which they would awake to eternal life.  For death is not death for those who believe; it is a sleep.  When the terror, the sting, and the power of death (1 Cor. 15:55-56) are lacking, it cannot be called death.  Therefore the greater the faith is, the weaker death is; but the smaller faith is, the bitterer death is." (Luther's Works: American Edition, Volume 1, pages 348-349)

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