LIFE IN DEATH
Life in death is unique only to Christianity. Death in death is also unique to Christianity. A person recently asked me when was death discovered? It was discovered when one man’s sin brought death into the world. Death spread to all men through one man’s transgression (Rom. 5:12). Yet for those in Christ, life in death is their reward. The Jesus Christ story is the story of life conquering death. It is the Jesus Christ death that leads to life eternal.
Death in the Bible is more important than sin. It is more important because sin has been dealt with on the cross. What yet has to be resolved is death. Everything living dies. Plants die. Animals die. Humans die. All living things die and go to grave. Life in death is only for those who remain loyal to Jesus in their faith in him.
Death is physical and spiritual. Death is cessation of life or the separation from God. Both are death in death. But life in death is to those who love God and remain faithful to him.
In the Old Testament death was accepted as the natural end of life. Life in death was not in an Israelite’s purview. The goal of an Israelite was to live a long and full life. He was to produce many descendants and die in peace with the children and grandchildren gathered about. The Old Testament contains many protests of an early death (e.g., Hezekiah’s, 2 Kgs. 20:1–11). An early death might appear to be the result of God’s judgment; hence, Job saw the need to vindicate his character prior to death (Job 19:25–26). Only in Ecclesiastes 3:19–20 is outright pessimism expressed in the face of death—and that book probably shows considerable non-Hebraic influence.
Death, although a natural ending to life, was never viewed as pleasant. Death cut one off from human community as well as from the presence and service of God. This became the theological foundation for hell – separation from God forever. God may offer comfort in the face of death (Ps. 73:23–28), but he is rarely portrayed as present with the dead, and that only in later biblical literature (Ps. 139:8). For that reason, death was never viewed as the threshold to a better life.
The relationship of sin to death is seen in the death penalty in the law of Moses. Life in the Old Testament was to live, produce children, and die a death in death existence. Life in death was unheard of.
A serious offender was put to death. The punitive phrase “he shall be cut off” implied that although the nation went on living, the criminal was separated from it by death. The Israelites were warned that to disobey God’s commandments could bring premature death because of breaking fellowship with God (Deut. 30:15–20; Jer. 21:8; Ezek. 18:21–32).
The concept of resurrection and a life redeemed from death, however, set the stage for the NT revelation focusing on Christ’s resurrection and his conquest of death.
In the New Testament, death is seen more as a theological problem than as a personal event. Death goes beyond the simple ending of physical life, which the authors accept almost without difficulty. Death is seen as affecting every part of a person’s life. God alone is immortal, the source of all life in the world (Rom. 4:17; 1 Tim. 6:16). Only as human beings are properly related to God’s life can they live. This is life in death. But it has been unnatural for people to be in personal communion with the divine source of life since sin was introduced into the world (Rom. 5:12, 17–18; 1 Cor 15:22). When Adam separated himself from God, that separation brought death.
Each human being has followed in Adam’s footsteps (Rom 3:23; 5:12), bringing death for everyone as the absolutely necessary result (Rom 6:23; Heb 9:27). Death, then, is not merely something that happens to people at the end of their lives; it is also the living out of their lives apart from fellowship with God.
The extent of death’s domination is vast. It affects every aspect of culture. All of human life is lived under the shadow of the fear of death (Rom 8:15; Heb 2:15). Death reigns over all that is “of the flesh” (Rom 8:6). Anyone not living in relationship to Christ lives in a state of death (Jn 3:16–18; 1 Jn 5:12). The devil, who rules the world, is the lord of death (Heb 2:14). Death is sometimes personified as a demonic power at large in the world but finally brought to bay by Christ himself, the only one who could master it (1 Cor 15:26–27; Rv 6:8; 20:13–14).
Christ died, was buried, and rose again on the third day (Rom 4:25; 1 Cor 15:3–4; 1 Thes 4:14). Through that historic event, the power of death was broken. The NT in various ways expresses Christ’s subjection to death in payment for sin. He became obedient to death (Phil 2:8); he died as a sacrifice for the sins of all (1 Cor 5:7; 2 Cor 5:15); and he descended into hades, the place of the dead (1 Pt 3:18–19). The major point of all such passages is that he did not remain dead but defeated the devil, took the power (keys) of death, and ascended in victory (Heb 2:14–15; Rv 1:17–18). Jesus Christ worked not for his own benefit but for those who commit themselves to him (Mk. 10:45; Rom. 5:6–8; 1 Thess. 5:9–10). By accepting a death, he did not deserve, Christ has broken the power of death for his followers.
The Christian is thus delivered from “this body of death” (Rom. 7:24) by the power of Christ. Salvation comes through being baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3–4), and “dying with Christ” to the world and the law (Rom 7:6; Gal 6:14; Col 2:20). That is, the death of Christ is counted by God as the believer’s death. The rebellious world’s sin (Rom 6:6) and self-idolatry (living for oneself, 2 Corin. 5:14–15) become things of the past. The death of Jesus for his people is the means by which his life is given to them (4:10). The result is that believers are separated from the world just as they were once separated from God. From the world’s point of view, they are dead; Christ is their only life (Col 3:3).
The apostle John expressed it somewhat differently. Jesus came into the world to give life to the dead (Jn 5:24). That life-giving will not happen at the resurrection; it is already happening. All who commit themselves to Jesus pass immediately from death to life. Or, to put it another way, those who keep (obey) his words will never see death (8:51–52). The point is that all who are outside Christ are already dead, and those trusting in Christ are already enjoying life. The radical difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is a difference between life and death.
I have laid out life in death bible verse after verse and death in death verse after verse. The life in death book is the Bible and so pay attention to it by studying it like a seminary student.