In a previous post, I expressed my anguish over learning the health condition of a six year old girl, who’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her story reminded me of another case of a boy battling leukemia. I am very close friends his father. Again, both of these young lives have so much ahead of them. I want to see them touched in a mighty way by our Lord and Savior, the Great Physician. The parents of both children have heartfelt hopes and dreams for them. Both sets of families follow the Lord with everything that they have at their disposal. No stone is left unturned as the saying goes. Surely, their prayers for the Lord’s miraculous, healing touch will be answered speedily, without delay.
These two, real-life situations remind me that other families throughout the United States and the world are experiencing or have experienced similar circumstances with their children. I guess one could say that such a thing is worldwide in scope. Illness and death are no respecter of persons. It does not matter where one lives, or what one does…in this life, illness and death are painful realities. Something inside of all human beings informs us that our lives were meant to last. King Solomon said it best, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV).
What this scripture verse teaches me is that all human beings long for immortality. It resides in our heart, the very core of our being, according to the Spirit-inspired pen of King Solomon. Every man, woman, and child longs for a way to defeat death, to overcome it, rather than end up swallowed by it. If the Lord has placed eternity into the hearts of all human beings who have, are, and will ever live, then what is the reason for death? From a Christian worldview, the answer is quite simple and ancient. Those whom the Lord created, the first man and woman, rebelled against him and the covenant of life that he held out before them in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-7, ESV). Our ancestors joined with the enemy of our souls into plunging themselves and creation into darkness.
When the Lord handed out his punishments upon the man, the woman, and the serpent, he included a gospel promise of a coming seed who would defeat the enemy and his works (Gen. 3:15; see Hebrews 2:14-15 & 1 John 3:8b, ESV). Down through the corridors of human history, the promised seed has unfolded progressively with the line of Seth, then Noah and his son Shem, God’s call of Abram and his only son Isaac, the Lord’s sovereign choice of Jacob over Esau, and then culminating with the birth of the Messiah in a manger (Gen. 4:25-26; 5:28, 32; 6:9-10; 12:1-3; 15:4-6; 17:19; 21:1-4; 25:23-26; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Malachi 1:2-3; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:31; Romans 9:11-13, ESV). It is a marvelous plan of redemption, which the Father, Son, and the Spirit set forth as a plan before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-10, ESV).
How does all of this connect with children contracting terminal illnesses and dying before their time? When the Apostle Paul looks back to the Fall of Adam and Eve through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, he states these crucial words, which I quote in part: “…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (Rom. 5:12, ESV). If the Lord had withheld the gospel promise of a coming seed right at humanity’s darkest hour, there would be no present and future hope for human beings in overcoming death. The hope is a real one as the apostle Paul declares that those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of Christ’s righteousness will reign in life through him (Rom. 5:17, ESV).
For those who reject Christ, there is no hope of overcoming death. This is not true for those who receive him by grace through faith. Once again, the Apostle Paul helps us immeasurably here by proclaiming to the Corinthian churches that “…as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, ESV). In this passage, the apostle speaks of the bodily resurrection at the second coming of Christ (1 Cor. 15:21-23, ESV). According to the prophet Isaiah, there is a future age coming where the Lord’s people “…shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them” (Isaiah 65:23, ESV).
From my point-of-view, this verse means that children will live out their days. Their lives will not be cut short because of inoperable brain cancer, leukemia, a drunk driver, a plane crash, a tsunami, an earthquake, and I could go on and on to the break of dawn. Fathers and mothers will live to see their children fulfill their goals and dreams. When these parents pray for their children, the Lord will answer them right away: no delays and no negative answers. I will stretch this out even further by saying that miscarriages and infant deaths will be ancient history. The Spirit-inspired words of the prophet declare that “no more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days…” (Isaiah 65:20a, ESV). The age to come will be glorious and joy-filled.
When does this age occur in human history, you ask? I will be brief in my response. Bible scholars and pastors debate the interpretation of Isaiah’s sixty-fifth chapter. Some think it pictures the eternal state, the New Heavens and New Earth of Revelation chapters twenty-one and twenty-two. Another group asserts that this describes a time, still in the future, during this present age that we have yet to experience. I respectfully disagree with those two positions, which many biblically, sound theologians embrace. It is my contention that Isaiah sixty-five depicts an age after Christ’s second advent, but before the eternal state. Some describe this as the millennial reign of Christ. I prefer the Psalmist’s poetic description, who characterizes that age as one where “…the upright shall rule over them in the morning…” (Psalm 49:15b, ESV).