The Death of a Christian

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1), therefore, the death of a Christian is different than the death of a sinner. The death of Christ changes the relationship a Christian has with death. We can begin by saying that death is a part of this fallen world. It was the promised warning given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and it has been in effect ever since they sinned.

Death is surely the enemy of all men. Death is a thief. It is not natural to God’s plan, nor is it right in any way. Death is the continuation of punishment for sin in this life for the unrepentant. Death comes in two stages: first, death is witnessed when the soul separates from the body; second, there is a death following judgment executed in hell and the lake of fire. The sinner rightly fears death.

When God regenerates a soul and brings conversion, there is a radical transformation in the life of a person who can now be called a Christian. One aspect of this transformation is the Christian’s relationship with death. Here are a few ideas on the experience in the death of a Christian:

First, death is no longer a punishment for sins committed by the Christian. Jesus Christ paid-in-full the penalty for sins on the cross; and He endured the punishing wrath of God on behalf of those for whom He came to die. Second, Christians follow Christ into death. This is done spiritually in union with the Spirit of Christ in life, and then physically at mortal death. We who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death (Rom 6:3). Third, a Christian’s death is precious in the sight of the Lord (Ps 116:15). Paul said, “Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death (Phil 1:20).” Therefore, the implication is that the death of a Christian has some positive aspects for us to consider.

Christians no longer fear death (Heb 2:15) because for them to live is Christ but to die is gain (Phil 1:21). The apostle Paul went so far as to state his desire was to depart and be with Christ (Phil 1:23). The reason is that for a Christian to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8). In fact, the death of a Christian is rest from his labors (Rev 14:13). Truly blessed are the dead in Christ. This is true because we live with Him in life and in death (1 Thess 5:10).

Christians grieve over death, but we do not mourn as those with no hope (1 Thess 4:13). David had great sorrow at the death of Saul and Jonathan. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. Great lamentation was made for the first martyr, Stephen. Our mourning is turned to worship as Job’s lament over the death of his ten children brought worship, and as David’s suffering the death of his son led him to the house of the Lord.

Death is a discipline for the Christian, and it should be viewed as a graduation from sanctification to glorification. To suffer death means we follow Christ in obedience to join with Him in His sufferings. Therefore, let us heed the charge given to the church of Smyrna to be faithful unto death (Rev 2:10) for there is a crown of life to be received.

In light of Christ’s victory over death in the resurrection, and in anticipation of this last enemy being destroyed (1 Cor 15:26), let us not love our lives, so to embrace death when God directs its visit (Rev 12:11). We must remember the days are evil and our days are numbered by the One who is leading us home by His Spirit. At home in glory, we will join in the victor’s taunt, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting (1 Cor 15:54–55).” Death…live it!

David Norczyk

Missoula, Montana

July 20, 2021

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher