Several years ago, my wife and I were having a morning cup of coffee on our porch, discussing a future landscape project. I was standing near the edge of the porch and hardly noticed the five-year-old pushing against me with all his might. He was trying to test his strength—trying to push his old man off the porch. When I finally realized what he was attempting to do, I decided to give him the victory. I pretended to lose my balance and took the eighteen-inch step off the porch into the yard. I turned around just in time to see my son, surprised by his sudden victory, stumbling forward—first to his knees and then headfirst into the yard. I watched in horror as he extended his arms to try and catch himself. I heard a snap as his left arm bent behind him and broke just above the elbow.

As I rushed to his aid, the usual dad rhetoric—“Get up, you’re OK.”—did not come out of my mouth. Yet, the words were still spoken. As I lifted my son to his feet, through tears, he repeated the phrase, “I’m OK! I’m OK!” The bone in his arm had snapped back straight, like a stick trying to hold its shape after being broken. As I assessed the damage, there was no noticeable problem, and I began to doubt what my ears had heard and my eyes had seen. My son insisted that he was OK and did not want to go to the hospital. My wife and I laid him down for a nap. But when he awoke three hours later, we still could not touch his arm without him wincing in pain. An hour later a doctor’s x-ray confirmed what I thought I had heard and what I thought I had seen. I was stunned. I felt guilty, and I desperately wanted the moment back. I wanted to fix the wrong, but I was powerless to turn back the clock.

God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He said, “For when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). They did not listen. Eve was deceived by the devil, and Adam chose his wife over God. In that moment, Adam picked death over life. As he aged, I wonder how many times he wished he could have the moment back. I wonder if he joined the search party when his second son Abel did not return from the field. I wonder if he watched in horror as humankind grew violent, and wickedness increased on the earth before the flood. I wonder if, as he grew old and his body began to fail, he returned to the Garden of Eden and watched with regret as the cherubim, with the flaming sword, stood watch over the entrance hiding the tree of life.

Oh, how Adam must have longed for a second chance to fix the wrong—to choose life! But he was powerless to turn back the clock. So, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, and from the time of Moses to the time of Christ.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:47-49, 54-57

The first man [Adam] was of the dust of the earth; the second man [Jesus] is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man…. 

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are all descendants of the first Adam, and as such we inherit his sin and carry his curse—our bodies were formed from dust and to dust they shall return. But we have a second inheritance, one that is not from the first Adam. The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus followed Adam, as a second Adam, to displace him in the course of human history—so that sin no longer defines us and death no longer can hold us. What Adam was powerless to change, Jesus changed. What Adam was powerless to fix, Jesus fixed. The victory of death was overturned in Christ at the cross—the head of Satan crushed.

In Jesus we have an inheritance that is heavenly—eternal. Though we still experience death, though we still feel the rage of Satan, he is powerless to turn back the clock. Jesus said, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

As Jesus rose from the dead victorious, so we who believe in him will also rise victorious. The promise is true! It is written and can not be changed—passed down by those who did not doubt what their ears had heard or their eyes had seen (1 John 1:1).

Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.

Sent Home to Serve
We Have a Death Problem