I was recently watching an episode of an old television programme in which a supporting character was killed. Her companions held a “celebration of life” for her afterwards (the word “funeral” was not used). I found the whole proceeding to be incredibly sad. The show being set in the future, where money and “superstition” have been eliminated, none of the characters believed in the existence of an immortal soul. For them, this dead character would simply “live on in memory”.
This is not living, however. If it is true that there is no immortal soul, no resurrection of the dead, then this world is a very sad place indeed. Each of us could die at any time through some accident, some unknown bodily weakness, or some virulent disease. If the dead are not raised, then death is the end. No one will ever see his loved ones again. There will be no final court of justice to right the wrongs that we have suffered in this life. When all written records and living memory of a person have ceased, he will be unknown to future generations. The uniqueness of an individual will be lost to the void of oblivion.
Such atheistic services can hold no real comfort. There is sadness at the thought of the loved one never living again and those attending will be sad for themselves when reflecting on the fact that they too must die. Thus, striving to defeat the evil of death ourselves, rather than relying on God, corners of the scientific community have turned to the pursuit of immortality, echoing the travails of alchemists and occultists in ages gone by. Some look to transfer our consciousness to machines, others to replacing our flesh with machine parts, still others to unlocking some secret of DNA that makes our cells age and warp.
Our ancestors generally accepted that death was not the end. They saw death frequently in the form of infant morality and in the slow death of the aged, who died in the family home, not put away in hospitals and “facilities”. In the Catholic liturgies of the pre-Reformation era, the Day of Judgment motif was ubiquitous, while the post-Reformation evangelical preaching of great men like John Wesley also appealed to this simple truth:
…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.
And so, as people take part in Halloween celebrations or in subsequent All Saints’ Day services, let them think on what death means, and let us hope that some atheists and non-believers are prompted by images of death to think about Christ’s work, to turn to Him, and be saved.
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.