By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
This date appears to have a peculiar power to magnetize people—oddly playing on our fears and stirring our fascination with death.
Indeed, the theme of death in relation to this date has taken countless forms in various cultures over many centuries—leading to the holiday we now know as Halloween.[i]
And Halloween today is no small matter. Forbes.com reported, “Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open up their pocketbook—next to Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.”[ii]
Where I live in southern Wisconsin, haunted houses (often combined with corn mazes) open in early October, building to a fever pitch by the end of the month. On the big day itself, there are parties, dances, contests and—of course—trick-or-treating. Most municipalities, concerned especially for children’s safety, now set the time for the latter or even sponsor the event (apparently not fearing that they are endorsing the celebration of ancient religious practices). If you just want to be scared out of your gourd, you can stay home and watch movies that will shake your soul with gruesome images of terror and death.
According to Hebrews 2:14-15, however, the purpose of Christ’s incarnation was “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
The shattering of that bondage was audible on Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther pounded a nail into the Castle Church door at Wittenberg, Germany. The nail upheld a document called the “95 Theses” which proclaimed the gospel in a way previously unimaginable to most of Europe in the Dark Ages. Built upon the foundation of Romans 1:16-17, Luther began to preach openly that salvation was by grace alone, by faith alone, by Christ alone, by Scripture alone and for the glory of God alone.
This is the reason I now love to celebrate October 31. Like many, I still find myself strangely drawn to this day. But I could never revert to utilizing it to esteem the fear of death. It is infinitely more satisfying to employ it to exalt the promise of life.
As God framed the issue through His prophet Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death” (Jer. 21:8).
The choice between life and death is never clearer in our cultural consciousness than it is each October 31.
May this day henceforth remind you to proclaim with the prophet Habakkuk, the Apostle Paul, the writer of Hebrews—and a humble professor named Martin Luther: “The just shall live by faith.”
Copyright © 2015 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
Scripture taken from the King James Version.
[i] For a succinct history of the significance of October 31, see D. James Kennedy, Halloween and Christ (Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc., n.d.).
[ii] <http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevecooper/2013/10/22/halloween-by-the-numbers/>; Internet; accessed 17 Oct. 2015.