Most of us don’t remember learning about Abigail in Sunday School. But Abigail tells us a vivid picture of the gospel. Abigail is married to a wicked husband, whose name is Nabal, which in Hebrew means “fool.” The Lord strikes Nabal dead, freeing Abigail from marriage to the wicked man so that she becomes a queen.
Death is the end. It is final. Any attempt we have to downplay Death’s permanence reveals its falsity and rings hollow. And yet, the gospel is about the sad things becoming untrue, and the tragedies transformed to epics. What is it that the gospel does with death? The gospel does not change death from a final end to something softer. It doesn’t make death less permanent. The gospel does something much glorious. It takes the permanence of death and makes it good news.
There is no better place than Paul in his epistle to Romans to look that in chapter seven, where he says these words: “Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives?”
Do you hear the implication? Death turned on itself. Death, the destroyer has become the means of our salvation. Death, intended by sin to be our defeat and despair, has actually become our hope.
Though the Law promises life, it only shows our guilt when it’s applied to you and me. Yet, the law which applies to us as long as we live, loses its power over us if we die. There are numerous spy novels and movies that apply this concept in very creative ways. The faking of a death, and living off the grid, under an assumed identity. If living under a new identity happens at the end of the movie, it’s a happy ending, but if it is in place at the beginning, it’s the set up for the false identity being exposed and the life on the run storyline.
The gospel is not about a false death. The gospel is about Christ’s death. We have the incredible awesome news that Christ’s death is our death as well.
“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”
Just like a woman freed from an evil husband, we are freed from the judgment that the Law brings. We are freed by an assumed identity that cannot end in life on the run. Much like the end-of-the-movie new identity, and yet in Christ our new identity cannot be taken away. Because unlike any new passport, plastic surgery, and a new place—tropical paradise though it may be—in Christ we truly die.
Yet death in its permanence becomes our salvation. Because we died with Jesus on the cross. This concept is hard for us to fully understand, but Christ went to the cross with you and I in mind. Christ died with us in him. Theologians use the word “union” to capture the meaning of this new identity we receive bound to Jesus. There’s a finality to Christ’s words, “it is finished.” See Christ is speaking truthfully here. He brought the permanent solution for us because he loves us. Death is overcome because Death is turned on itself, by the Lord over all–whose love is stronger than death–because death is not the end of the gospel story.