Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent Homily: Salvation is of the Law (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; He will save us." Is. 33:22

Here we see two simple yet staunch truths, one offensive and the other startling (and perhaps even more offensive). The offensive truth is that God, far from being a mere authority, is revealed as the absolute authority (of Israel specifically and by extension all things). The titles that He is given in this verse form a pattern that shows His authority to be all-encompassing.

As the "judge," He is the one who enforces the law: He passes sentence either to vindicate or punish, to deliver or destroy. As the "lawgiver," He is the one who makes the law: He (literally in Hebrew) "engraves" the law on tablets of stone, declaring forever what is right and wrong, just and unjust. And as the "king," He is the Law: He embodies its very essence and is its very reality, for the law is not the result of His arbitrary whims but the reflection of His perfect character. In sum, He is all-in-one the application of the reflection of the will that made and maintains and runs and rules all things. He is the one who is greater than us: greater than our notions and nations, greater than all our fads and fashions, greater than all our meta-narratives or private interpretations, and greater than all our Sin.

That last phrase points to the more starting truth: "He will save us." What's startling about this is that His identity as Savior is a direct result of His identity as the Absolute Authority. To put it simply, He can save us because He is in charge, because He has the power and the right to do so. Now, we often treat salvation as a category unto itself: God does save us, maybe not in spite of Himself, but at least in isolation from Himself, as though God took a holiday from His other attributes. ("Despite His sense of justice and holiness, God saved us anyway.") Scripture shows such well-intended thinking to be false: God's role as Savior is right in line and in accord with all His attributes, viz., His role as Absolute Authority. It is all linked together in one brilliant pattern that is God.

I suspect that we do not like this. Of course, we do not like the idea of absolute authority, but how much less will we like the idea of absolute authority being the grounds for heroism? It is bad enough that we have a king, but now we find that only the king can save us. And why? Because we have broken the law. Rebellion will not save us; rebellion is what's killing us. It is the height of idiocy to say that we must rebel against God in order to be free. We have rebelled against God, and we are not free but instead are enslaved to other masters, ones armed with cruel hate: the Devil and Sin and Death. It is vain to speak of questioning authority; we have questioned it. It is vain to speak of transgressing the boundaries; we have transgressed them. We have breached the wall, we have scaled the city, we have cast down the thrones of universal law, and we have paid for it with our souls, for in Adam we all died (I Cor. 15:22a), and all our talk is the rigor mortis setting in further and further and further. This rot will be purged with wrath, and we will be consumed in the purging, for the wages of Sin is death (Rom. 6:23a).

The only one who can save us from the wrath of the law is the Law Himself, the Law-giver and Law-applier, the only one who knows how to satisfy it. And He did satisfy it. He breached the walls of our insurrection to satisfy it. He mingled with the dust so that He might rebel against our rebellion. For this He was manifested: that He might destroy the works of the Devil (I John 3:8), the scheming, lying, son of perdition, whose trick have wasted the world. The King of kings met our anarchy with a little Anarchy of his own: the anarchy of righteousness against evil, of light against darkness, of order against chaos. That is the meaning of Christmas: the Law is our Savior, the King is our Hero. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Homily: Born a King (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness...and the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness [shall be] quietness and security forever." Is. 32:1, 17

The child in the manger is a memorable and adorable emblem of Christmastide and time, but we must not lose the substance of a greater image. The Christian Faith is fundamentally monarchical in its vision, and the child in the manger is our king. He is a special king, of course. He has condescended to His people in ways that are unthinkable, submitting to every limitation we have, taking upon is trinitarian Person the burden and fragility of flesh. A unique tale indeed: the prince became a pauper so that all paupers might become "princes [ruling] in judgment" (vs. 1). Our king is no ordinary king.

Even so, He is still a king. Much more than a king, but no less than one either. You owe Him your allegiance and life, a life He bought and paid for with His own life and blood. The blood is a mystery, but the allegiance is an offense. In our highly fragmented, postmodern, democratic West, where every man and woman is a king and kingdom unto and locked up into themselves, dutiful allegiance to another (especially as authoritarian a figure as a king!) is anathema. The whole thing reeks of hegemonic oppression or discursive tyranny of panoptic meta-narratives or some other nonsense bloated on non-words. We don't like kings because we are all anarchists at heart, regicidal maniacs in our very being.

The proof of our anarchy is in the pudding of Calvary. When the King of kings made Himself a man, we found Him amusing for a while but did not hesitate to slaughter Him when it was convenient for us. Alas, it would be our undoing, for His death led to His resurrection, which in turn legitimized His throne forever, a throne of grace and seat of mercy, pouring forth love like the sun does its shining. It was truly a beautiful defeat on our part, and if you embrace that defeat, swearing fealty to the once and future and forever King, then you shall be a partaker of His Kingdom, a Kingdom of love and joy and dance and song. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Evils of Freedom (as explained by an original orthodox rebel)

"The earth is also defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore, the curse has devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate." Is. 24:5-6

"Rules are made to be broken," or so goes the cliche. It is inaccurate, of course. For starters, no one actually believes it. What we actually believe is that the rules of others are meant to be broken, but you'd better not touch mine! We all have our private codifications that are untouchable, unquestionable, and binding for everyone. Thus, we are all hypocrites in our rebellions, for we are only rebels to others. No one is a rebel to themselves.

This hypocrisy is a particular mark of our own age. Every day and in every way we are encouraged further towards some vague notion of freedom: freedom to express ourselves, to find ourselves, to be ourselves and be true to ourselves. The result is that there is freedom of expression but no freedom of correction. You may express yourself as you please, but no one has the right to suggest that your expression (and your "self'") may be unwholesome or even destructive to you and others. Such suggestions are oppressive, mean-spirited, and the way of the bigot, or so we are told by those who are apparently free to correct us.

Unfortunately, when qualifications are made, the hypocrisy only gets worse, viz., becomes confused and confusing. "You may do as you please as long as you don't hurt anyone." If I may do as I please, then why can I not hurt anyone? Will you now plead for absolutist morality to bolster your relativism, like flying buttresses for a fortress of air? The whole thing is ridiculous because it is groundless by its own logic. If I am free (and encouraged!) to be myself, and "my self" just happens to be a violent monstrosity (or simply has a proclivity for deception and manipulation or any other less spectacular cruelty), then who are you to limit my freedom with your narrow-minded notions of social contract? Am I free or not free? Or am I free in one way but not in another? Which? Why? How? Exceptions can prove a rule, but in this case exceptions only complicate the rule into oblivion. It is no wonder that common folk (being fed their daily indoctrination of freedom through their iPods, streamed videos, and game systems) don't really think on these things: a moment's scrutiny would send the whole house of cards tumbling into the wind.

At this point, some of my readers may be annoyed with me. "Look, we don't know why we draw the line here and not there, okay? Are we not free to draw lines as we please? And is it so bad that we are more tolerant of someone's fashion sense than their murdering someone? It's just common sense." It is a fair frustration to have, and like any sane person I don't want to be a bother, except with things that are bothersome. And here is what I see as bothersome: the so-called "freedom" that is the foundation for all of this hypocrisy and confusion. We have an unhealthy love of freedom. We have poisoned our own well, and what once may have been a virtue is now most certainly a vice.

If you think this is about politics (about candidate "X" or legislation "Y"), it's not. This is a moral issue, not a political one. Politically, you may be a liberal or conservative or points in between. Morally, however, we are all libertines. We all inherently distrust rules and authority and the order they bring. We instinctively consider them to be oppressive and suffocating, and consequently the one and only desire is to be as free as possible. But it is a destructive desire, for this one, radical reason: order is the only grounds for all good things, including freedom.

That is "common sense," for those of you who are flabbergasted at the moment, so allow me to repeat myself: there is nothing good without order. There is no freedom without laws (like "the right to bear arms") to keep you safe from tyrants and robbers alike. There is no possibility of peace without the confines of civilization and all its "oppressive" accoutrements: a police force, traffic laws, court systems, and common civility and custom. There is not even the possibility of fun, for without rules (hard, binding rules) there is no game, not even Calvinball. And if you think you can disprove all of this, then you have already failed, for there is no argumentation at all without the cold bigotry of the laws of logic.

All of our modern ruin (from social decadence and political corruption to school shootings and abortion on demand) can be traced to a confusion of terms. We equate "order" for tyranny and then mistake anarchy for "freedom". Our slobbering lover-affair with limitlessness has taken its toll (and many lives). We have forgotten old wisdom, the wisdom of balance and moderation, of the simple notion of the "point between extremes"; for order, truly beneficent and wholesome order, is the point between extremes, the extremes of tyranny and anarchy. The extremes of law gone mad and freedom gone mad. It is a truth as old as Plato, as old as the Bible: when the good king rules, all is well; when the bad king rules, or when no man rules, the city of oppression will fall, and the city of confusion will break down. Then all joy will be darkened, and the mirth of the land will be gone (Is. 24:10-11). Peace and prosperity is found in order alone, in the beauty, the κοσμος, of a thing rightly put together, for only when every bone has found its socket can the whole man stand.

We must not be deceived: democracy is not divine. God is not a democrat, and although Christianity (and God) values every individual person as a unique creation, it cannot be called a democratic institution. If it is anything, it is monarchical, in service to the King and Lord of Heaven and Earth. It still believes in freedom, but as a means and not an end. Freedom is to be the road to a greater glory: telling the story of God and living in His righteousness, for the Christian does not live for themselves but for their Beloved Belover.

It is love that is the key, for love is the foundational principle for true beneficent order. For love of the people, the king rules rightly. For the love of existence, God made all things. For the love of our "selves," He submitted Himself to the limitations of flesh and blood and the political claptrap of men, because God is not a democrat. He is a lover. He is Love, and from His Love springs the order of all things, and without His Love there is no order. No freedom. No peace. No-thing, except the dark with its weeping and gnashing of teeth, for in the darkness outside the kingdom there is only the wasteland, where all hope is abandoned, and all joy and mirth fade forever away into puffs of smoke and ash.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In the Name of Peace and Quietness (an Advent post by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

The following is from Dorothy Sayer's essay "The Greatest Drama Ever Staged," from the book Letters to a Diminished Church:

[The Incarnation] is not just a pious commonplace; it is not commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man---limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death---[God] had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.


Possibly we might prefer not to take this tale too seriously---there are disquieting points about it. Here we had a man of divine character walking and talking among us---and what did we find to do with him? The common people, indeed, "heard him gladly," but our leading authorities in Church and State considered that he talked too much and uttered too many disconcerting truths. So we bribed one of his friends to hand him over quietly to the police, and we tried him on a rather vague charge of creating a disturbance, and had him publicly flogged and hanged on the common gallows, "thanking God we were rid of a knave." All this was not very creditable to us, even if he was (as many people thought and think) only a harmless, crazy preacher. But if the Church is right about him, it was more discreditable still, for the man we hanged was God Almighty.


If this is dull, then what, in Heaven's name, is worthy to be exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore. [O]n the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him "meek and mild," and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggests a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand.

True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites. He referred to King Herod as "that fox"; he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a "gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners"; he assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the temple; he drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; he cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people's pigs and property; he showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime, and if he was God, [then] there can be nothing dull about God either. But he had "a daily beauty in his life that made us ugly," and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Homily 44: On Faith and Common Sense (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, and depend upon horses and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are strong, but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord! [...] Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord shall stretch out His hand, both he that helped and he that is helped shall fall down, and they all shall fail together." Is. 31:1, 3

As I said before, the Israelites find themselves threatened by Assyria; but rather than look to God for help, they look to a foreign power, i.e., Egypt. It is the common story of doubt, to which God commonly responds by knocking the bottom board out from under us and revealing the futility of our actions. Such a revelation is always needed because the futility is so hard to see. Our good intentions and best-laid plans just make so much sense. That is the insidiousness of it: "Yes, yes. Faith is good and right and all that, but we must be sensible here. Just look at those Egyptians! Look at all those chariots, and how strong the horsemen are! They are something concrete and quantifiable. It's not unbelief. It's just common sense." Yet it is unbelief, because it is just common sense.

God gave us common sense. It is a gift that often serves us well, but it was never meant as the end of the matter. God is always calling us beyond the safe, simple, and sensical to something more, viz., Himself. All the gifts of God, when taken for their own sake, can become rivals to God, and common sense is no exception. The Egyptians were apparently a fine choice for an ally, but by taking the place of God they became the worst choice, and that is the key. All things fail when God is left out of the equation. The paradox is incredible yet true, and we must not miss it. That God ultimately trumps our mere common sense is not a call to reckless idiocy but belief. Idiocy lies in unbelief, in the foolish trusting in men and horses of flesh over the God who made and holds together all flesh, including the flesh of your enemy. Seen in that way, the right way, there is actually nothing more common sensical than having faith in God.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Homily 43: A Firm Foundation (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." Isaiah 26:4

A common theme throughout the book of Isaiah is the sheer folly of trusting anything or anyone other than God. Specifically in Isaiah's time, the Assyrians were threatening Israel, but instead of looking to God for hope and salvation, the Israelites turn to the Egyptians (Is. 30:1-3). In return, God had some choice words for this worldly-wise pact: a "covenant with death" and an "agreement with hell" (Is. 28:15, 18). The utter futility of such foundations should be vividly apparent: to trust any strength other than God is to stake it all on death and damnation. There is no possibility of victory.

Now, the source of this futility is not in ignorance but arrogance: hubris in the highest degree, for Israel has fancied itself to be wiser and greater than God, effectively "turning things upside-down" (Is. 29:15-16). That is why the foundations are futile, why all other ground is sinking sand: they are not God. In God alone is everlasting strength (Is. 26:4). Only His purposes remain unannulled (Is. 14:27). Only He lays the sure foundation where none shall ever be confounded or ashamed (Is. 28:16), whereas all other foundations can be nothing but confounding and shameful (Is. 30:3). There is no other way about it. It is a law of existence as gravity is a law of nature: the thing is, whether you like it or not.

Whether in Israel's time or our own, one thing is constant: God is ever at war with this idiotic hubris and self-destructive pride, the hubris and pride that thinks itself to be greater than God (Is. 14:12-14). He will cut it down (Is. 10:33). He will bring it low (Is. 13:11), even unto hell itself (Is. 14:15). Death and hell, shame and confusion: these can be its only end, for in God alone is stability and sanity and sure footing. He is the only true safety, for fighting against Him is just as futile as fighting without Him (Is. 29:8). Therefore, trust in the Lord first, only, and always, and He will keep you "in perfect peace" (Is. 26:3). Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Part of the Play (musings on sweet desire by an orthodox rebel)

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desire of your heart.... [He] opens [His] hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.... He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him." Ps. 37:4; 145:16, 19

I saw a beautiful sunset last week at Shelby Farms. The sun set behind some trees on the other side of a lake. The sky became prismatic, split perfectly into the shades of the spectrum. The trees were jet black in return, and the smooth surface of the lake doppelgangered the whole image. As I stood there trying to take it all in, I attempted to assess the feelings moving inside of me. For some reason, I felt it was not good enough to simply stand and watch. I felt the need to do something, anything. Write a song or poem, do a dance or clap my hands, shout to the sky or even go for a swim. Dive right into that glassy, cold water, swim across it and then right up the trees and into the colors of the sky. Whatever it was I felt like doing, one thing was certain: being a spectator just wasn't satisfactory.

The experience reminded me of every time I go to see a play. I love plays, partially because of my education and partially because I've acted in them before. So I try to go see them whenever I can. However, I also hate plays because they make me sad in the end. Comedy or tragedy, I invariably discover that being a member of the audience is dissatisfying. I want to be in the play, to take up a role like one takes up a mantle, and be a part of that stage and in the midst of that story. Something bigger than me is happening before my eyes, something too glorious and important to just sit and watch. I want to become a part of what I see, to perform with the performance, to be one with the play. That is how I felt watching the sunset.

Some might say (not unfairly) that my analogy breaks down. I had said that one of the reasons I love plays and want to be in one is because I've been in them before. It is a desire for return, but how exactly can I "return" to the sunset? Have I ever before been one with that kaleidoscope ceiling of the soon sleeping sky? It sounds impossible, of course. However, if I feel bound to remain consistent with my analogy (and I do), then I would have to say that I have indeed been one with the sunset at some point in time. We all have. That is what Eden means. It is not just some tale about naked people in a jungle. It is about original humanity living an existence that we have long forgotten, and yet not completely forgotten. It has been imprinted onto our very souls, for our souls were made to walk with God.

At the origin of all things, we walked with God and all that He is. We were not spectators then: we were part of the play. How horrible is the separation Sin has wrought upon us! We have deliberately flung ourselves away from the central light of the stage to the outer dark of the audience. Worse still, we cannot even see the play anymore, for a veil is erected between us and it. Between us and Him. For now, we can only sense hints and riddles, seeing patchworks of shadows and colors, and even the small joys of spectating (which do exist) are reduced to aching guesswork. So now we sit in the dark, with our guesses, and our painful longings to return somewhere that we can't remember anymore. Of course, in Christ the veil is torn in two, but we too easily lose the wonder of it. We forget that Christ did not tear down the veil between us and moralisms or good behavior; rather, He tore down the veil between us and God, us and the Play, us and the Beauty at the back of all things.

Take your wildest dream or imagination, the one that haunts and hurts your whether waking or sleeping. I tell you that it is all true. One day, it will all be true. One day, faith shall be sight. We will return to the stage, we will cross through the woods, we will dive into the ocean, we will swim across the waters and through the trees and into the sky and then past the sky and stars and spheres to where we will come face-to-face with the King in His beauty and bright array. All the hints and hurts of glory on this world are but the screen upon which Reality is only a blur. That sensuous curtain is not a cheat, but a promise, a promise of greater things yet to be seen, yet to be done. One day it will roll away like a scroll being rolled together, and we will see and be like and be one with the One whose colors are the colors of the dawn. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lower Still (Advent music by Current Orthodox Rebels)

I consider this to be a musical postscript for this post. Though technically not a "Christmas song," it is still one of the best presentations of the Incarnation (as well as the death, burial, and resurrection) of Christ that I have ever heard.

(Note: This "video" is nothing but the song. No need to watch; just listen.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Death and Rebirth (some Advent thoughts by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

The following is an excerpt from "The Grand Miracle," a chapter in C.S. Lewis' book Miracles.

In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He created. But he goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift; he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.

Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both colored now that they have come up into the light; down below, where it lay colorless in the dark, he lost his color too.

In this descent to reascent everyone will recognize a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike. It must fall into the ground; thence the new life reascends. It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is a descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced; then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby, and finally to the adult. So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial; but from that there is a reascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth--go down to go up--it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.

The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the center. The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key. I am not now referring simply to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Rebirth; for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and reascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Homily 42: The Boast of God (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"He will swallow up death in victory...." Is. 25:8

Death has dominated the thoughts of Western man. From the ancient Greeks to post-modern existentialists, it is considered the final fate of all (including the gods). It is the one constant, the one absolute, the one hard, stubborn thing that no sophistry or private language can break or dispel. Consequently, the quest to escape death has also dominated the thoughts of Western man: from Gilgamesh searching for the immortal flower to modern science fiction theorizing over various modes of technological and evolutionary transcendence. The desire is insatiable: death must be outrun.

Such kind illusions never stick, though. The flower is lost by accident, and the technology or evolution only produces horrors rather than salvation. But the desire to escape this dread foe, our last enemy, remains burned into our souls and skulls. So we continue to lull ourselves to sleep with daydreams, only to waken once again with nightmares. If we stay awake long enough, then the best we can hope to do is face death with dignity, which is a hard ideal to reach. Death is the great darkness, and before it we are all children, all afraid of the dark.

The Bible says two radical things about death: it is the primary means that the Devil uses to torment humanity (Heb. 2:14-15), and it has been defeated by God in Christ (I Cor. 15:53-57; Heb. 2:8-15). The latter notion is of particular note for two reasons. The first is that it echoes all the desires and hopes encapsulated in the mythology of humanity; yet just like other things in Christianity (viz., the Incarnation), this myth is true. It is not just another echo; it is the voice of origin, the archetype to all the ectypes.

The second reason has to do with the scale of the defeat. In Isaiah, it is said that God will swallow up death in "victory" (some modern translations say "forever"). The Hebrew word for "victory" literally means "the goal," i.e., the furthermost point that you can reach. Inherent in this word is the idea of "going all the way" or "reaching completion". In other words, for God to swallow up death in "victory" means that God has swallowed up death completely, absolutely, and to the uttermost extent. The same sentiment (and language) is expressed in Heb. 7:25, where God is able to save "to the uttermost". It is total victory. There will not be one inch remaining that the dark can reclaim.

In short, the thing that we have desired to be done has been done and will be done, and that beyond our wildest dreams. The last enemy has not been defeated momentarily but utterly. Its impotence is paramount, for it could not hold Christ, and it will not hold those who are one with Christ. In Heaven's war room there are many trophies, chief amongst them being the very hide of death, which hangs nailed to the cross. That is the boast of God forever. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012