He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)
“Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Isaiah’s prophecy is that God will bring an end to Death when God establishes His Kingdom. It is a wonderful prophecy to read during Great Lent as we prepare to celebrate Pascha, Christ’s resurrection from the dead which also results in the destruction of Death.
St Ephrem the Syrian notes that while we grieve the deaths of the ones we love, in faith we realize the dead are in God’s hands just the same as we the living. While we will sorely miss those who have died, we also can take heart that they have been blessed to escape the sickness, sorrow and suffering of this world.
It is liberty that they receive at their death, those weary ones whom you have buried, the chaste whose coffin you have followed. . . . But we, whose life here on earth is blended with all kinds of ills, still pray that we may be allowed to remain here, for we do not perceive how we are being strangled. O Lord, grant that we may recognize the place where we are held prisoner. (HYMNS ON PARADISE, p 176)
Ephrem’s words are strong – it is life which is holding us enslaved as prisoners. Death allows us to escape this ‘prison’ so that we can go and be with the Lord. His words are not trying to glorify death and have us seek it out. Rather, he is just trying to help us gain some perspective about death so that we don’t grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We grieve as if death was the worst thing that could happen to someone, but Ephrem wants us to understand there are a lot of things we experience in this world which are worse than death.
Other biblical scholars remind us that Christ’s resurrection from the dead is not something He experiences alone, but rather He is resurrected from and with all the dead ones who are raised to life.
Again, therefore, in the correct translation of Romans 1:4, Paul declares that Christ ‘was declared to be the Son of God with power . . . by the resurrection of the dead ones (anastasis nekron).’ Paul does not say ‘by his resurrection from among the dead ones’ or ‘by his resurrection from death’ or, most simply, ‘by his resurrection.’ He repeats that Greek phrase ‘resurrection of the dead ones ‘ in 1 Corinthians 15:12, 13, 21, 42. Paul is describing a universal rather than an individual resurrection of Christ. (John Crossan & Sarah Crossan, RESURRECTING EASTER, pp 174-175)
Christ does not rise/resurrect alone – but rather as part of (or together with) the resurrection of the dead ones, and He is declared Son of God by the resurrection of the dead ones. Icons of the resurrection are correct in showing Christ not rising alone but rising together with Adam and Eve (who really represent all of humanity as their story is our story and our story theirs) and all the saints.
And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:13-14)