I was reading a short article in CCM Magazine about an artist who found out that his dad had 2 to 8 weeks to live, due to cancer. In speaking with his dad, he asked him how he felt about it all. His dad's answer was short, but honest. "Cheated."
His dad was only 47 years old. With today's average life expectancy somewhere in the 70's to nearly 80 (at least here in the U.S.), 47 is a short life. Thankfully this man was able to comfort his children with words that he believed - that heaven means never having to say goodbye. They know they'll all be with each other again.
But back to the word "cheated." Not to make light of anyone's life that has been cut short by unexpected or early death, but I do actually believe that everybody - every person who has ever lived - has been "cheated." We have all been robbed of the life that God intended for us to have. And the guilty party is sin. Ever since "sin entered the world, and death through sin" (part of Rom 5:12), mankind has been robbed of what life could really be like. I'll stay on this for a minute, but of course there's good news coming...
Sin is something that has been passed down from generation to generation, from person to person, ever since Adam. It is something we could not escape if we tried. And it has cheated everyone. Sometimes it disguises itself as life and then pulls the rug out from underneath. Sometimes it's so subtle that it can hardly be seen, or not seen at all - but there is it anyway, keeping us from life as God intended for us to have. The point I'm trying to make is that sin is in the world, and Paul even said sin is "in" us. I'm not talking about all the sinful actions we do. I mean the condition of sin that exists whether or not we act upon it. It is there, and it's a cancer that we can do nothing about. And no matter how "good" a person has ever been, it has robbed them of life. "Sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men..." We have all been robbed of life, because of sin, whether we die in the womb or as a newborn, at the age of 10, at the age of 47, or as and old, old person. Again, not to make light of anyone's early or unexpected death, but just to say that because of sin, we've all been cheated out of life.
But then comes the good news! I was reading a few chapters in Matthew last night, working on an idea for an article that I may be writing soon, and three words stuck out at me that had nothing to do with my purpose for studying at the time. Matt 19:28 - So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory..."
"In the regeneration." Those words, in and of themself, are comforting words for anyone who has been cheated out of life. We may have been cheated out of life in this life, but the "regeneration" is coming. Restoration, peace, righteousness, all as we have never experienced before. Peter tells us to "look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13) and John tells us how he actually foresaw this in his revelation ("Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth had passed away" (Rev. 21:1). John goes on to say that in this future time, "the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people." "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (from Rev 21:3-4).
We may have been cheated, and we may feel the effects of it every day of our lives... but that's not the end of the story! Sin and death have had their time of dominion, but that will come to an end!