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The Agony of Death
In Acts 2:24, Peter use the phrase “agony of death,” to describe what God did for Jesus in His resurrection. God freed Jesus from the agony of death to a place of resurrected life.
But what does the agony of death mean? How can one feel agony in death? And what does that agony have to do with new life?
This is the word agony in the Greek: ὠδίν. It is pronounced o-deen. The word agony is directly related to the act of a woman giving birth (labor pains).
Now as we know, the purpose of labor pains is not just an arbitrary process. The purpose of labor pains (the contradictions) is to allow the womb opening to be induced to open up, so that the new life (baby) can be born.
With that in mind, let’s understand the word for death used in this verse. Again, in the Greek, this is the word: θάνατος. It is pronounced than’-at-os. This word can indicate both physical death as well as spiritual death.
From Thayer’s Greek lexicon, we read this about θάνατος:1. properly, the death of the body, i. e. that separation (whether natural or violent) of the soul from the body by which the life on earth is ended:
Jesus’ death was a separation because His death was an atonement for sin’s punishing separation.
However, according to commentator G. Bertram, “the abyss can no more hold the Redeemer than a pregnant woman can hold a child in her body.”
Taken together, what Peter is saying is that Jesus, who underwent the pain of separation- the agony of death- has now received new life, and that death (the wages of sin) could not hold him anymore than a woman in labor can stop the contractions.
And just as the pain of the contractions stop after the baby has been born, so to the the agony of death (separation) stop with Jesus’ resurrected life.
Jesus’ death and resurrection were not God’s uh-oh plan after sin entered the world. Jesus’ death and resurrection were the sin solution that had always been.
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Why did Lot offer his daughters in Genesis 19?
In Genesis 19, we are told that two angels of God encountered Lot (the nephew of Abram) outside his home town of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot welcomes the angels into his home, feeds them, and washes their feet (all aspects of middle eastern hospitality).
The Bible tells us that when everyone was getting ready for bed, that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah came to Lot’s house and demanded that Lot turn over the strangers so that they could have an illicit relationship with the strangers.
Lot is stunned by the request and pleads with the men not to do such an evil thing because these men have come under the protection of his house. Furthermore, Lot offers to the men his own daughters, in place of the strangers for the men to misuse.
To which everyone goes, WHAT???? (As we should!) How in the world could Lot be willing to offer up his own flesh and blood to be raped and most likely killed by the crazed killers of Sodom and Gomorrah?
A review of the text, some understanding of what is going on, and some commentaries may help us put a new perspective on Lot’s choice.
As mentioned in the sermon, hospitality was extremely important in the middle east. Hospitality was not only food and water, but also protection. So Lot, in protecting the strangers, was extending hospitality to them.
Now the hospitality extended to the strangers may seem to us to be over-the-top. I would personally agree. However, for Lot, this may have been a moment of righteousness much like we see in the life of his uncle Abram.
Abram wanted a son. He ultimately has Isaac, who God tells Abram to sacrifice. Without question, Abram, as the powerful patricahal figure, takes his son to the mountain (he does not consult Sari), lays him down, and is ready to plunge the knife in his chest when an angel of the Lord stops him. Isaac, we should note, is not recorded to have fought his father’s wishes. In fact, because he carries the wood for the sacrifice, he is most likely a strong young man.
Comparing the story of Abram with the story of Lot, we see the same type of scenarios. Lot, in offering his daughters to the mob to protect the angels, was “sacrificing” them for his guests. However, before the “sacrifice” can take place, the angels (in both Abram and Lot’s stories) intervene.
Therefore, the commonality between the two stories- and I believe the most important part of the story we should understand- is that God intervenes and saves the children (the lower caste of ancient society); which in a world of known human sacrifices and atrocities toward children, reveals to us the value that God places on children, faith, and obedience.
In his book, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament, Dr. David Dorsey points out that the chiastic section of this Scripture begins in Genesis 6:11 and ends at 21:7. The center of that chiasm is the covenant established (God’s intervention to save His people). The intervention/protection/salvation of God is a constant theme found throughout. So too do we find in Genesis 19. Once again, we see God can overcome even poor choices made by mankind.
The biggest difference between the two stories, of course, is that God instructed Abram what to do, but Lot chose to do this on his own. And perhaps, this is the reason that Abram and Lot’s lives take very different turns, although both men are considered righteous (Genesis 15:6 and 2 Peter 2:7-8).
As we look at the overall themes of intervention, protection, and the salvation of God for mankind, we can rejoice that God the Father, our creator and sustainer, that God the Son- Jesus, who lived, died, rose, and redeemed, and that God the Holy Spirit, who reveals the truth of Christ, still see the lives of all people as valuable. Even in a world which often does not see people in that way, the Godhead still does.