Saturday, February 25, 2017
3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever (Heb 7:3).
1. What's the relationship between Melchizedek and Jesus? Some interpreters think Melchizedek is an angelophany. Yet in Genesis he appears to be a human king.
2. Some interpreters think he's a Christophany. But there are some basic problems with that interpretation. Hebrews says Melchizedek is like Jesus, not that he is Jesus. A relation of analogy rather than identity.
That's underscored by the fact that in the typology of Hebrews, the antitype is greater than the type. We wouldn't expect the author to abruptly break that pattern.
3. By itself, the passage in Genesis might seem inadequate to sustain the inferences which the author of Hebrews draws from it. But that's combined with the bridging passage in Ps 110:4.
4. What makes Melchizedek such a significant figure? Or is he that significant? Some critics might object that Hebrews is milking the brief episode in Gen 14:17-20 for more than it's worth. Yet, on closer examination, the inferences in Hebrews are justifiable:
i) Melchizedek is significant in part because he's both a priest and king. That dovetails nicely with a Messiah who's both priestly and kingly.
ii) Melchizedek is the first priest mentioned in the Pentateuch. That would be highly significant to the original audience. A priesthood was central to the religious life of Israel. Yet here's a priest who antedates the Levitical priesthood by centuries.
iii) Moreover, this priest is contemporaneous with Abraham, who's the seminal figure in Judaism. And the Levitical priesthood descends from Abraham.
iv) What about the business of his lacking parents or genealogy? A critic might object that that's an unwarranted argument from silence.
Again, though, this is a part of the Pentateuch where, under the Mosaic cultus, you must be a Levite to be a priest. Given the Mosaic stress on the genealogical qualifications or disqualifications to be a priest, the absence of any background in the case of Melchizedek is conspicuous and telling.
v) In addition, this foreshadows the eternally preexisting Son. That's not literally true of Melchizedek, but again, the author is dealing with types and shadows, where the fulfillment exceeds the precedent.
and the seven lampstands are the seven churches (Rev 1:20).
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Rev 2:5).
Why seven churches? Why the lampstand metaphor for churches? What's the significance of removing a church's lampstand?
1. No doubt the churches in Revelation were real 1C churches. But were there only seven? Or is that sample dictated by John's numerology?
2. The septunarian numerology in Scripture has its background in creation week.
3. But beyond that general background, there may be a more specific tie-in. The seven days of creation are distinguished by alternating light and darkness. Sunlight, dawn and dusk. So the lampstands in Revelation may mirror the seven units of daylight in Genesis.
4. God is the giver of light. By threatening to remove the lampstand, God rescinds the gift of light. And, of course, that plays on the metaphorical connotations of light and darkness in Scripture.
5. In addition, Rev 2-3 may evoke some other motifs from Gen 1-3.
i) In the case of the Ephesian church, which is the inaugural example in Revelation, you have some explicit allusions to Genesis in the "tree of life" and the "paradise of "God.
Moreover, to have "fallen" or "abandoned one's first love" recapitulates the sin of Adam and Eve.
The fact that the Ephesian church is the first church in the sequence might provide a framework or textual clue for Genesis motifs in the other churches.
ii) The "book of life" (Sardis) and "crown of life" (Smyrna) may be synonymous metaphors for the "tree of life".
iii) The "morning star" (Tyatira) may recall starlight and the dawn/dusk refrain in Gen 1.
iv) The "shameful nakedness" (Laodicea) and "garments" (Sardis) may recall the Fall in Gen 3.
v) The temple/pillar imagery may recall Eden as sacred space (Philadelphia)
vi) The "white stone" (Pergamum) may be recall the gemstones of Havilah (Gen 2:11-12).
vii) And the Spirit refrain may recall Gen 1:2.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Here is a good overview:
When we watch movies (and TV dramas), it's natural to take sides. To identify with the hero. To root for the good guys and take moral satisfaction when the bad guys lose. Indeed, many movies deliberately manipulate the audience into taking sides.
When we read the Bible, the same psychology kicks in. And up to a point, there's nothing wrong with that. We're supposed to take sides. And we're supposed to side with Jesus. We're supposed to identify with God's people rather than the enemies of Jesus.
However, we need to be careful about that. For instance, when reading the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, our natural tendency is to subconsciously identify with the tax collector and cast individuals or groups we disapprove of in the role of the Pharisee.
But that's diametrically contrary to how we ought to it. When reading that parable, we should ask ourselves, "Am I like the Pharisee?" Christians need to periodically ask themselves, am I unconsciously falling into a Pharisaic outlook?
This happens when we begin to make our assurance of faith dependent on drawing an invidious contrast between ourselves with other people. Where we think orthodoxy, or what we take to be orthodoxy, is a substitute for sanctity. Where we think that being against something puts us on the path to heaven.
Ironically, recasting our theological opponents in the role of Pharisees can easily make us unwittingly reprise the role of the Pharisee. We become the villain by casting others in the villainous role. We unintentionally assume the role of the bad guy by succumbing to spiritual pride.
But Christians always need to be self-critical. Regularly practice self-examination so that we don't fall into that trap.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
So Calvinism is beyond the pale, but it's fine for "traditional" Baptists to give a platform to a man who promotes purgatory, postmortem salvation, flirts with open theism.
1. Grammatically, it's possible to render Gen 1:1, as well as the syntactical relationship between 1:1, 1:2, and 1:3, in a way that indicates preexistent matter. But is that consistent with the aim of the text?
2. There's a sense in which the original audience for Genesis weren't orthodox Jews. Rather, the Pentateuch is what made them orthodox Jews. It has a pedagogical or catechetical function in teaching them how to think properly about God and their place in the cosmos. Imagine what they believed before they had the Pentateuch. What they believed when they read it or heard it for the very first time.
I daresay their beliefs were a hodgepodge of folklore, local mythology, perhaps some oral traditions about Abraham, and their memories of the Exodus. To some degree, their default frame of reference is pagan mythology and primitive folklore.
One purpose of Genesis is to set the record straight. To teach them what really happened. To correct the heathen creation myths floating around the ancient Near East. Not necessarily by directly alluding to them, but by presenting the real history of events.
3. When theologically orthodox scholars and commentators leave the door open for preexistent matter, I think they have in mind a three-stage process:
i) In the beginning was God
God did not come into being. He always existed.
ii) Preexistent matter
At some point, he made matter. This was the raw material for creation.
Gen 1 picks up where (ii) leaves off. God organizes the preexistent matter into the universe. Preexisting matter is like the clay from which God fashions a pot.
But a basic problem with this analysis is that, from a pagan perspective, there's no presumption that God or gods preexist nature. Indeed, the presumption is that nature or the world process preexists God or gods. Nature never came into being. Gods came into being. Gods are the byproduct of the world process. So they'd understand the three-stage process this way:
i) In the beginning matter (or nature, or the world process)
ii) Then God
iii) Then God fashions preexistent matter into something more specific
If Gen 1 doesn't rule out preexistent matter, then it doesn't rule out paganism. But that would be counterproductive to the narrator's aim.
4. If possible, it gets even worse. Modern western readers think of natural elements as inanimate or impersonal. But in paganism and animism, it isn't just preexistent "matter" or stuff. Rather, darkness might be a god, the deep might be a god. Indeed, the original gods, from whom Yahweh came.
If Gen 1 doesn't rule out preexistent matter, then it doesn't rule out polytheism or cosmogony. Once again, that would be counterproductive to a major aim of the narrator. For those reasons alone, I think Gen 1 must intend to convey creation ex nihilo.
5. But here's another consideration. If the narrator wanted to convey creation ex nihilo, how could he do so with the available vocabulary and categories? One strategy would be to express the idea through negations. Indicate that before God's creative activity, there was nothing apart from God.
Look at v2. Darkness is a negation. The absence of light. And darkness is more abstract than night.
To be formless is to have no structure. And a void is synonymous emptiness. Vacuity. A blank.
Taken in combination, isn't this a way of suggesting that prior to God's creative activity, there was nothing at all? An "earth" without form and void, covered in darkness, is a paradox. A way of saying there was no earth. For the "earth" in v2 is defined by totalistic negations.
I've discussed this before, but I'd like to use a different example to illustrate the same principle. It can be helpful to have multiple illustrations of something.
According to the soul-making theodicy, certain goods or virtues are only possible in a fallen world. These virtues are worthwhile. Take courage, or self-sacrifice.
Or take someone who betrays his best friend. He's wracked with guilt. They don't speak to each other for years. Finally, he contritely presents himself to his friend, hoping his friend will receive him back into his life. Suppose his friend forgives him. The experience of restoration is a wonderful good which he'd never experience had he not betrayed his friend, and suffered the consequent estrangement. Examples can be multiplied.
However, a critic of the soul-making theodicy will object that the appeal is circular. These goods or virtues are superfluous, since you only need them in a fallen world. So you can't use that appeal to justify the existence of evil.
But do these goods or virtues have no intrinsic value? Suppose three or four high school buddies are highly athletic. Not only do they play on the same intramural teams (e.g. football, hockey, La Crosse), but they do lots of things together on their own, like hiking, hunting, white water rafting, horseback riding, and jet skiing.
Then one of them is crippled in a traffic accident. Now he's confined to a wheelchair. At first his buddies visit him everyday in the hospital. After he's discharged, they visit him at home.
But they begin to drift apart. That's because he can no longer do most of the things they use to do together. And even though he can still do one or two of the same things, like jet skiing, it's no longer quick and effortless. Rather, it's time-consuming. Everything's an effort. Everything takes longer.
He can no longer slip out of his street clothes and slip into swimming trunks or wet suits without assistance. He can't walk down to the shore and mount the jet ski. He must be carried. If he falls off, he can't get back on without assistance. He can't shower without assistance. He needs a portable shower stool. He may even need Depends. This is more of a minor inconvenience than anything, but his buddies treat it as a major imposition.
From the viewpoint of his buddies, it's just not fun to bring him along anymore. He slows them down. He crimps their style. He's a drag factor. So they abandon him. And his girlfriend dumps him because she doesn't want to marry a "cripple".
Suppose, by contrast, a Christian classmate befriends him. The classmate isn't naturally athletic. Indeed, the disabled jock used to look down on him. But the Christian classmate makes a point of filling the vacuum. They even jet ski together, which the Christian classmate never did before.
Suppose a critic said, if it hadn't been for the accident, he wouldn't need a friend who stood by him when things got tough. True, but that misses the point. The accident exposed the fact that there was no depth of friendship to the camaraderie which his buddies enjoyed. No real commitment. No sacrificial love. They wanted to do things with each other, but they didn't want to do things for each other.
Sure, it took the accident to bring that out into the open, but it reveals a serious moral deficiency in his fair-weather friends. They failed to rise to the occasion. It's hardly adequate to say it's only a virtue to rise to the occasion if you have an occasion to rise to. The occasion isn't what makes that virtue virtuous. Rather, the occasion is the opportunity to develop or display a virtue that was meritorious all along. His buddies aren't good people without that virtue. They have poor character.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Some Christian apologists have shamefully alleged that life is meaningless in a godless universe. But that's a calumny on the noble name of atheism. You don't need God to have a meaningful life. Just ask Talkie Toaster, the artificially intelligent toaster on Red Dwarf:
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
A question that's routinely posed in the creation/evolution debate is: "If evolution is false, then why do most scientists believe in evolution? Is there a conspiracy to lie about the origins of life?"
As a matter of fact, science is becoming increasingly politicized. And you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that. To some degree, it's right out in the open. However, in my observation, there are roughly four kinds of scientists. At least, four different kinds in relation to this question:
Some scientists unquestionably believe whatever they were taught in their science courses as students. It's just not in their psychological makeup to reexamine claims for themselves.
When my father attended college in the late 30s and 40s (his attendance was interrupted by service in WWII, after which he resumed college on the GI bill), he had a physics prof. who thought the periodic table was cast in bronze.
When one day in class my father mentioned to him that scientists had discovered a new element, his physic prof. refused to acknowledge the finding. For him, the periodic table was unalterable. Like the deposit of faith, a once-and-for-all-time deliverance. It was too late to add to the periodic stable. It would forever be what the professor learned when he was taking science courses. Now, this was a science prof. at a major state university.
Some scientists are crusaders for evolution. This is their holy cause in life. For them it's a battle between progressive enlightenment and regressive superstition. They are on a mission to rid the world of religion. And Christianity in particular.
iii) Quiet dissenters
Some scientists know there's something deficient about the standard evolutionary paradigm. The proposed mechanisms are inadequate. Or they may believe that purely natural processes just can't account for the result.
But that's something they only admit in private to trusted confidents. They don't reveal their misgivings in public due to justified fear of professional reprisal.
iv) Gifted mavericks
Some scientists or philosophers of science believe in the fact of evolution, or they believe that something like evolution must be true, but they think the current theory is flawed, and they say so in public. That's in part because they have a dominant personality. And that's in part because they rose of the top of their field through their brilliance and originality. They are independent thinkers. And they're so outstanding in their field that they can get away with bucking the status quo. The gatekeepers will attack them, but the attacks are impotent.
I recently saw a debate between Albert Mohler and Jack Collins:
1. Having read Collins present his position in a number of books, it wasn't especially informative to me. The best part was the second part where they sat down and answered questions.
I disagree with some of his exegetical moves. But he has a very thoughtful position.
2. There were strengths and weaknesses in Mohler's case. One weakness is his appeal to the consensus fidelium. But that's just a fancy word for tradition. And tradition tends to be self-reinforcing. You believe it because the guy before you believed it, and he believed it because the guy before him believed it. But that makes belief its own justification, which is viciously circular. We need something to ground belief, and not just regressive or circular appeals to belief itself. Take urban legends that get passed on uncritically. To believe something just because other people believe it is a sorry substitute for evidence.
3. Another weakness was his appeal to the "plain, natural, normal, face-value" sense of the text. Problem is, that's not directly about what's in the text, but the impression it makes on the reader. Moreover, what's "plain, natural, or normal" to a modern reader may be far removed from what's "plain, nature, and normal" to the original audience. Unless we guard against it, our modern culture supplies reference frame for what we deem to be the "plain, natural, normal" meaning of the text.
In chapter 8 of Understanding Dispensationalists, Vern Poythress has some useful things to say about the ambiguities and unreliability of appeals to the plain or literal meaning of the text:
In addition, what seems to be the natural or face-value meaning of the text in isolation may take on a different meaning when we consider the wider context. Indeed, Mohler is aware of that.
4. Mohler's strongest objection to old-earth creationism is that proponents accept cosmology and geology, but reject (evolutionary) biology. That seems to be ad hoc.
Likewise, it's not just about time, but what evolutionary biologists and paleontologists say happened during that time.
5. One has to be careful about the ad hoc allegation. Even if the special creation of Adam and Eve in OEC seems ad hoc, one could say miracles in general seem ad hoc. After all, miracles are, by definition, discontinuous with the ordinary course of nature.
6. Which is not to deny that you can have makeshift positions along the creationist/evolutionist continuum. Consider people who say Gen 2 is factual when it talks about the special creation of Adam and Eve, but everything else in Gen 1-3 (or 1-11) is false of fictitious.
7. I'm skeptical about our ability to reconstruct the distant past. Can we seriously know what happened in the first three minutes of the Big Bang, some 14 billions years ago?
A paradox of reconstructing the past is that we lack direct access to the past. The present is our only available frame of reference. Residual evidence from the past. But how do we know that's a representative sample? And when you talk about billions of years, imagine the vast gaps in the surviving evidence.
8. A related problem is the assumption of linearity. But especially where creation is concerned, there's no presumption that the past resembles the present. For all we know, the universe may be like the "instant" past of a stage set about ancient Rome or the Old West. That's where the movie begins.
And this is more than a bare possibility. Any version of creation ex nihilo requires an element of mature creature. Something comes into being which is not the result of an antecedent natural state or process. And once we make allowance for that principle, it's hard to draw a line that isn't arbitrary. The issue then becomes how much was built into creation, and how much is due to natural development.
8. The theory of evolution isn't just theologically controversial, but scientifically controversial. It's controversial within the secular scientific community in a way that cosmology and geology are not.
So it's not just a question of conservative Christians drawing the line with evolutionary biology. Although secular scientists generally believe in the "fact" of evolution, there are raging debates over the theoretical underpinnings. Indeed, Collins said biologists admit to him in private that they don't think naturalistic evolution can get the job done.
9. Another issue that Mohler raised is whether OEC is unstable. Is there a firewall between OEC and theistic evolution or naturalistic evolution?
However, it's possible to turn that objection around. Many people who start out as young-earth creationists become theistic evolutionists or naturalistic evolutionists. So in that regard, one might contend that YEC is unstable. It has no give. Apostates who used to be youth-earth creationists continue to treat YEC as the standard of comparison, but they no longer believe it. They continue to believe that's the right interpretation of Gen 1-9, but they no longer believe in Scripture because they think science falsified YEC. And they had no fallback position. For them, the alternative to YEC is naturalistic evolution. So they become atheists.
In fairness to Mohler, he may mean OEC is unstable in the sense that it's a stopgap position, whereas YEC is a coherent position that presents a clear-cut alternative to theistic evolution and naturalistic evolution. It's an interesting question whether there's sociological data to answer the following questions:
i) How many Christians who start out as YEC remain YEC?
ii) How many Christians who start out as YEC become OEC?
iii) How many Christians who start out as YEC become theistic evolutionists?
iv) How many Christians who start out as YEC become naturalistic evolutionists?
v) How many Christians who start out as OEC remain OEC?
vi) How many Christians who start out as OEC become YEC?
vii) How many Christians who start out as OEC become theistic evolutionists?
viii) How many Christians who start out as OEC become naturalistic evolutionists?
Many people think the God of the OT seems to be different from the God of the NT. Mind you, I suspect many people who say that don't read the OT on a regular basis. Indeed, they may never have read the whole Bible cover to cover.
i) Atheist Christopher Hitchens thought the God of the NT was worse than the God of the OT because the NT accentuates eternal punishment, while the OT does not. Now, I think Hitchens overlooks some OT passages regarding eschatological judgment, but there's certainly much greater emphasis on eternal punishment in the NT. So one could turn the objection around. Although I don't think that's correct either way, it does present a different perspective.
ii) The OT is much longer than the NT. The OT is far more violent because Israel had to fight for her survival. You don't have the warfare narratives in the NT. But that's because the NT covers a different historical situation.
Likewise, because Israel was a nation-state, it had a penal code. That isn't pretty. What penal code is? That's a difference of genre, not theology.
By the same token, there's lots of criminality and palace intrigue in the OT. But that, again, is because the OT deals with the state of Israel. It's more political. Again, though, the difference is due to a different historical situation and focus.
In addition, there's far more coverage of pagan depravity in the OT. The difference is due to what the OT samples, and not different theology. The 1C Roman Empire had the same kinds of pagan depravity. But the NT rarely intersects with that.
iii) In the NT you have five historical narratives. Four concern the life of Christ. Those are narrowly focused on the public ministry of Christ. Plus a history of the nascent church. It's not like the patriarchal narratives, which shine a light on sinful individuals. Much less the historical books of the OT. The central character in the Gospels is a sinless individual.
There's nothing like the amount of violence you have in the OT, but that's deceptive. The 1C was tremendously violent. It's just that the historical focus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John leave out most of the warfare and criminality which raged in the Roman Empire.
You have lots of letters in the NT. These aren't historical narratives or penal codes, so the content is largely nonviolent. But that difference is due to genre, not theology.
Finally, you have Revelation, which is full of violent imagery. That's a lot like how some people stereotype of the OT.
Monday, February 20, 2017
Milo suffers from the occupational hazard of a professional provocateur. If you constantly ad lib in interviews and Q/A sessions, if you make a career of making outrageous statements, you're liable to become ensnared in your own rhetorical spiderweb. You keep spinning that web until you have no escape route. All the threads are sticky.
He gets away with lots of stuff because he's a pretty boy, because he's gay (which is chic), and he can speak the pop culture jive. If he looked like John Lennox, he wouldn't have the same following. He wouldn't have any following at all. And in 5 or 10 years he'll probably be washed up because his pretty boy looks will have faded.
I think Vallicella makes a number of good points, although I'd place less emphasis than he on the rule of law:
I think the title of this post is a useful way to frame the issue. Cambridge philosopher G. E. Moore once attempted to prove the existence of an external world by saying:
How? By holding up my two hands, and saying, as I make a certain gesture with the right hand, ‘Here is one hand’, and adding, as I make a certain gesture with the left, ‘and here is another’
Now, some people might find it preposterous to say God's existence is more certain than whether my hands are real, but that's deceptively simplistic. To begin with, we need to distinguish between certainty and certitude. By "certitude", I mean a psychological state of absolute conviction or confidence. Let's say that I have greater certitude in the reality of my hands than I have in the reality of God.
Now, let's compare that to certainty in the sense of a logical or mathematical rigor. A mathematical proof might be rock solid. The gold standard of proof. Demonstrably true.
But even though a mathematical proof is more certain than the existence of my hands, I might have greater certitude in the existence of my hands. For one thing, some mathematical proofs are fiendishly complex, and there's the nagging doubt that it may suffer from some subtile but undetectable fallacy.
And yet, certitude in the existence of my hands can be misplaced. Moreover, this doesn't require outlandish thought-experiments. When I dream, I dream that I have a body. In the dream, I'm sure I've got a pair of hands. But my hands are imaginary in the dream.
Likewise, someone who's psychotic may be utterly convinced that his hallucinations are real. Take the famous title of a book by Oliver Sacks: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. So, if you think about it, the notion that your hands might be illusory isn't that far-fetched.
Another way to approach the issue is to ask how much hangs on the denial of each alternative. What must the world be like if your hands don't exist? What must the world be like if God doesn't exist?
In the case of illusory hands, you don't necessarily have to make any adjustments to a common sense view of the world. I just gave two examples. Dreaming and psychosis are consistent with a physical world. External objects.
There is, of course, a more radical interpretation. And that is idealism or virtual reality. Where what we take to be the external world is a computer simulation, a la The Matrix. That's a very different kind of world. A drastic departure from our common sense view of the world.
But even though most of us find that hopelessly implausible, it is coherent. It seems to be hypothetically possible.
By contrast, if God exists, then everything else depends on God. There are, moreover, Christian philosophers who formulate arguments for aspects of that claim.
In that event, God's existence is fundamentally more certain than the existence of my hands. A world could still exist even if my hands are illusory. That might or might not require some adjustments in what the world is like. But no world of any kind can exist apart from God.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Recently I was thinking about the value of Christmas or Christmas Eve services for children. Christianity has a natural appeal or connection to children that's lacking in Islam or rabbinical Judaism because God became a child. When children sing Christmas carols, they can personally relate to those carols, because God personally related to their situation by becoming a child and passing through the stages of maturation. In the Incarnation, God relates to humans at our own level, and not just in a generic sense, but from infancy through adulthood.
At the other end of the lifecycle, we can relate to Jesus in part because he shared in the experience of human mortality. Once again, Islam and rabbinical Judaism lack that vital connection.
Likewise, Easter speaks to the elderly, as well as those who lose loved ones through death. It carries the hope of restoration and reunion in the face of the grave.
There's a formidable sense in which death is a curse. It's a curse for the damned. And it's a curse for survivors who lose loved ones.
Yet there's a sense in which death can be a mercy. A fallen world is a minefield. So many things can go terribly wrong. Suppose humans were immortal in a fallen world. Suppose humans were youthful, ageless, and healthy.
But that could just be a different kind of hell on earth. If you live long enough, your luck will run out. If you live long enough, you will step on a land mine. The longer you live, the more heartache you'll experience.
At best, life in a fallen world will be tedious. Imagine the unbearable tedium of immortal life in a fallen world. It's my impression that some people stay married because they get to a point in life where it's too late to start over again. It's not because the couple is so devoted to each other. It's that they have too much to lose by divorce and remarriage. But if sinners were immortal, how many marriages would last for the duration?
Likewise, how many friendships would end in betrayal or boredom? By the same token, how long could your Christian faith hold out? Wouldn't the Bible become interminably familiar? The sameness would become deadening.
Natural immorality doesn't make you indestructible. Just that you can't die from old age or disease. But you could still be killed. Or horribly maimed or disabled. And you'd stay in that condition indefinitely.
If immortality means the body has greater regenerative resources, evil men could torture you, wait for you to recover, then renew the torture ad infinitum. Yank your teeth out with pliers every few months.
One advantage of death in a fallen world, especially for Christians, is that suffering, now matter how horrendous or depressing, will come to an end. There's only so many times the worst thing can happen to you. When you die, you put all that behind you. Nothing worse can happen to you. Nothing bad can happen to you anymore. The worst is behind you, and you only have happiness to look forward to from hereon out.
And however bad things are, life is short. Like a prisoner, you can mark off the remaining days on the calendar. (I'm referring to Christians. For the damned, it's just the opposite.)