From Death to Life
In the famous Greek drama The Odyssey, Achilleus, who has been doomed to the Underworld, makes this stark statement:
By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man . . .
than rule down here over all the breathless dead.
I think this points to a couple of things that are really true: we're made for life (that sounds like the most obvious statement ever made, but follow me on this one). So often we conceive of Heaven as being lifeless: souls floating around in some sort of primordial ether that will be so foreign that it can't possibly be enjoyable. But the description of our glorified bodies, perfected ethics, and worship of God in community are so so human. Not fallen human, but human. We were made in the image of God, we're told, why would not our glory be expressive in ways that we really do understand? Like the prodigal son who returns home, we, as Achilleus too recognizes, life is what we're searching for - and in Christ, life we have. Continual, unending life that will not only echo in eternity, but we will fulfill all hopes in life that we share in present reality.
Our ambitions will be clear of all death as well - we won't say, "I wish I could just be invisible so that I could take whatever I want, or do dastardly things." Because if you've done them, you know even experientially in the present, they end in death, in emptiness.
In Ephesians 2:1-10, we find a kind of before and after. We were once dead, even those who believe - our condition is dire! Not only are we dead in our sins, but we in the least metaphorical way possible, do actually die. Centuries past got this far better than we do now, look at the gravestones: skulls and crossbones - you're dead, that's it. You either have life in God or you are still dead in your sins - and that means punishment, eternally separated from God.
And yet, the story for the Christian finds a different end, not because of our own worthiness (vss. 8-10), but because of Christ's righteousness: we're given life. What we aren't proclaiming here is a new way to live - do this, and you'll feel better. But rather we saying something far more dramatic but far more accurate: you're a flatliner without God. And in Adam we're flatliners, all mankind. We share this in common. But there is a way to life: and it's by the one who gave his life for us.
I had someone say to me recently, "I should go to church more, because I could learn more about what kind of morals I should have, and I want my kids to know about morals too." I assured him, you most likely won't hear something morally you don't already know. Don't cheat, don't steal, don't murder. You know that somehow. Come and receive life in his name.