I just read an interesting article by Grayson Quay entitled, “The Soft Nihilism of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine.’” Quay’s thesis is that Lennon’s, “’Imagine’ has all but replaced the Nicene Creed as the official statement of faith of the Western world. The great virtue is tolerance, defined not in the classically liberal sense of non-aggression, but as an imperative to confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that all beliefs and lifestyles are equally valid.”
The denial of absolute truth is the only absolute truth. This is “Nihilism,” an extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth. Dorothy L. Sayers notes that “is the sin that believes in nothing… hates nothing… lives for nothing, and remains alive only because there is nothing it would die for.”
“Nothing to live or die for” is totally counter to the call of the gospel. Paul noted that for him “live is Christ and death is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Jesus’ call was for those who follow Him to take up their cross (which means death) and follow Him (Mt. 10:38; 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23).
The prospect of suffering for one’s faith was not just speculation to the original recipients of Revelation (nor the original recipients of 1 Peter). The clarion call of Revelation is for perseverance in faith (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 12:11; 21:7), even if it means suffering and death (Rev. 2:10; 12:11). Faithfulness to God cost Jesus His life (Rev. 1:5; 5:6, 9, 12) and He calls those who follow Him to the same path of nonviolent faithfulness (Rev. 14:4).
From a worldly point of view, the deaths of the martyrs, seem to show that faith in God and the Lamb leads to suffering and loss (it is ludicrous to die out of loyalty to a crucified Messiah). From that perspective, the most prudent course of action would be to abandon one’s allegiance to Jesus in order to obtain a more secure place in society. The vision of the martyrs at the heavenly altar (Rev. 6:9-11) and God’s judgments (Revelation chapters 6-9, eleven, and sixteen) counter this view by insisting that the faithful who have suffered on earth find rest and reward in heaven. Meanwhile, those on the earth will be disturbed by divine judgment (Rev. 6:12–17).
“Nothing to live or die for” may be the philosophy for those outside of Christ. Having everything to live and die for is true concerning faithfulness to the Lord Jesus.