In July I stood in the shadow of the Great Pyramid, built about 2550 B.C. by Pharaoh Khufu. The edifice was a tomb, his attempt to achieve personal immortality. About 4,500 years later, at the moment of death, some people have their heads (surgically beheaded) immersed in liquid nitrogen (–238°F or lower). When the technology allows, their preserved neural connections, called connectomes, can be (they hope) uploaded to a computer, and they will live, perhaps (as long as the hardware works) forever. (So far, though, the only fully mapped connectome is the roundworm C. elegans, a one-and-a-half-millimeter organism). In a poem about visiting a museum, Wisława Szymborska wrote about these artifacts: “The crown has outlasted the head/The hand has lost out to the glove/The right shoe has defeated the foot.”1
Like all other living things, we die; unlike all other living things, we know it, and that knowledge haunts us. “This combination of the fact of mortality with our awareness of mortality contains,” wrote Frenchman Luc Ferry, “all the questions of philosophy.”2
He’s right. I have read multitudinous secular cogitations over the purpose of life, and the question always comes down to what death—our inevitable and eternal (in their thinking) and absolute death—does to our vaporous and contingent and fleeting life. If in 100, 1,000, or 1 billion years you are gone, and every memory of you is gone, and anyone who ever knew you is gone, and anything you or anyone ever said or did has vanished into eternal nothingness, what can your life ultimately mean, anyway?
In Norwegian Wood Japanese author Haruki Murakami wrote: “Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of it.”3 Sorry, Haruki, but (however much I loved your book) you got this wrong, dead wrong. Death is an intruder, an invader no more built into life than wreckage was built into a car.
This is why we have been promised: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death”
(1 Cor. 15:26). After all, should not the self-sacrifice of the One who created all creation (John 1:1-3: Heb. 1:2; 11:3)—from electrons to galaxy superclusters—be more than enough to give us the “eternal life” promised us in Scripture?4 Anything short of “eternal life” would be unworthy of the price paid for our redemption.
Look, each one of us came out of nothingness, and not of our own choice, either. That’s why the gospel says, basically, to each one of us: you can have, through Jesus, the eternal life that God had originally planned for you. Or you can go back to the nothingness from which you first arose.
Eternity’s coming. The question before each one of us is whether it will be with or without us. Choose.
1 Wisława Szymborska, View With a Grain of Sand (New York: Harcourt, 1993). p. 11.
2 Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought (HarperCollins), p. 13. Kindle Edition.
3 Hakuri Murakami, Norwegian Wood (Vintage International) (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group), p. 273. Kindle Edition. 4 See Matt. 19:29; 25:46; Mark 10:30; John 3:15; 6:54; 10:28; 12:25; 17:3; Acts 13:48; Rom. 6:23; Titus 1:2; 1 John 2:25; Jude 21.