EASTER PRAYER, 1766, by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): Almighty and most merciful Father, before whom I now appear laden with the sins of another year, suffer me yet again to call upon Thee for pardon and peace. O God! grant me repentance, grant me reformation. Grant that I may be no longer distracted with doubts, and harassed with vain terrors. Grant that I may no longer linger in perplexity, nor waste in idleness that life which Thou hast given and preserved. Grant that I may serve thee in firm faith and diligent endeavor, and that I may discharge the duties of my calling with tranquility and constancy. Take not, O God, Thy Holy Spirit from me; but grant that I may so direct my life by thy holy laws, as that, when Thou shalt call me hence, I may pass by a holy and happy death to a life of everlasting and unchangeable joy. Amen.
374) The Easter Triumph– Now and Not Yet
From Let Me Tell You a Story, by Tony Campolo, copyright 2000
There are those who say that evil is so overpowering that our efforts to combat it are futile. There are pessimists who contend that there is no way we can drive back the forces that seem to dominate our society. I disagree! During World War II, a group of heroic men and women in France formed an underground movement that struggled against the domination of the Nazi powers. If you had been able to talk to them, you might have questioned the seeming futility of their efforts. You might have said, “How do you think you can overthrow the Nazis? Together, you are nothing but a ragtag army, poorly equipped and overwhelmingly outnumbered. You don’t stand a chance against the tyrannical forces that control your nation.”
They might have responded: “You don’t understand! While we struggle against the forces of evil that now dominate our nation, there is a huge invasion force being assembled across the English Channel. No one knows the day or the hour when the signal will be given. But one of these days, it will be given! Then, a huge armada of ships will come across the channel and invade our country. We will join with them and they will carry us to victory!” (page 197)
Oscar Cullman, a Swiss-German theologian who lived through World War II, gave us a clarifying analogy for the Second Coming. He pointed out that in every war there is a decisive battle that determines the outcome of the war. After this battle, there is no question as to what the future holds. That battle establishes defeat or victory. Gettysburg was such a battle in the Civil War. Waterloo was such a battle. And in World War II it was the battle on the beaches of Normandy.
After Normandy, there was never any question as to what the outcome of the war would be. Once the Allies had established a beachhead allowing troops and arms to pour onto the continent, the fate of the Nazi armies was sealed. Nevertheless, it should be noted that more Americans died following that victory than died in battle prior to it. That victory, which was so decisive, did not immediately end dying among the Allied forces or suffering among the European people. The decisive battle had been fought and won on D-Day. But it wasn’t until V-Day (the day of the final victory when the German army surrendered)– which was a long way off– that the end of suffering and death would come.
In his analogy Cullman makes the point that the death and the resurrection of Jesus was the decisive victory that wiped away all doubts about how history would end. After the resurrection, Christians could shout, “Christus Victor!” Christ was triumphant! The forces of darkness were defeated. Satan was overcome. But between God’s D-Day on Easter Morning and that point in history when Christ returns, which will be God’s V-Day, there will be suffering and pain and death. The struggle goes on! But even as we continue the struggle, we do so as people of hope. Knowing that the decisive battle has been won, we struggle against the forces of darkness with the full awareness that victory is inevitable. We wait for that victory! We wait for that hour! God’s D-Day assures us of God’s V-Day! (pages 198-199)
I Corinthians 15:51-52 — Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
I Corinthians 15:56-58 — The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.