The Problem with Death
Death is a problem. I know this because my wife is a super sleuth. She is an avid student of criminal books, dramatic murder mysteries, and crime scene television. She knows, “who done it.” My simple mind, when I foray into our television room, has also observed something. Somebody is dead in every episode of criminal murder shows. Someone else is crying in the background. Death is never a welcome guest.
The Bible calls death our last enemy. Consider how significant that title is in light of sin and Satan, and our accumulated bad relationships throughout life. Clearly, death separates people. It is an end to love, affection, communication, and every other aspect of what we would deem relational in the human realm. Not all of our relationships are severely hindered by death, but some people die who were very close to us. Our lives were intertwined in countless ways. Death of another person seems to be part of what is killing us emotionally and psychologically. The death of others anticipates our own death. Death comes to everyone. What then? Yes, the “what then” is a problem, too.
The Bible teaches us that death is caused by sin. Adam and Eve sinned, and then they died as a consequence. Their deaths began with the death of the soul, while their biological lives continued in what became a fallen state. In other words, they were dead to God. God is a Spirit, who was in personal relationship with Adam and Eve, our first parents. From that time on, people were born spiritually dead. Obituaries and funerals are consistent reminders of death in the body, but we are a bit more unfamiliar with being dead in sin.
The sin of Adam and Eve (original sin) is passed on through their biological progeny. All people inherit the sin of the first man, Adam, when they are conceived in their mother’s womb. One might object that it is unfair for an innocent child to inherit sin from her parents, but we are born without choice. We must accept the conditions in which we were brought forth. We must never forget this is God’s story, and He is the One who knit us together in our mother’s womb. He is our Creator, our Maker. Still, sin was there, and death was pending as a result. Some children are murdered in the womb and never experience life as we do. Others are born only to die days later because of birth defects of some kind. Others are tragically killed later. Some people live to maturity over seventy or eighty years, even longer. They eventually die, too.
Adam and Eve were created with the potential to live forever in alignment with God’s very good design on creation, which included them as creatures. God made man in His own image. This imago Dei included a will. God has a will to enact and execute His own purposes. Man was endowed with such a will. Adam’s will functioned perfectly fine, but his will could be influenced and even changed. Man’s will can never influence or override the will of God, which must be done. This includes the fall of angels and men into evil.
Satan, the fallen angel leading the rebellion against God, in God’s creation story, tempted man to join him. It was a revolution of the will of the creatures, against the Creator. It was mutiny, and man succumbed to Satan’s lies about God. Adam had been previously warned that death would ensue if he ever opted to eat forbidden fruit, from the prohibited tree in the Garden of Eden. Sin, lawlessness, caused the death of his soul and eventually his body. Adam witnessed physical death, when his son, Cain killed his brother Abel. Thus, spiritual and physical death have been with us from the beginning.
By now, we should know just about everything there is to know about death. We should have discovered every cause of death, but science and medicine are often baffled by new means of death caused by virus and bacteria. There seems to be a great variety of motives for murder, and psychologists remain baffled by the human mind and emotions. We are in the dark.
There is ever a penchant in man to try and elude death. Man denies himself the fat of the earth, in favor of a diet of weeds, only to die in similar time and fashion as those who feast on everything edible. Man wars with his neighbor and others become refugees, in order to avoid being the victim of carnage. It is inherent in man to self-preserve. Even those, who live like they have a death wish, seem to only push the envelope, that is, to live on, albeit on the edge of life and death.
Suicide is for those who plunge hopelessly past the precipice of life and death. They murder themselves, and some leave clues to their motivation before they act. We remain baffled by their choosing such a fate for themselves. These people kill much of the will to live in those around them. They can even inspire others to follow them in like manner of self-demise. Generally, fear prohibits men from self-destruction, but suicide is the anomaly.
So, we investigated death in the biological realm, but what about this spiritual death business? Very few people seem to know much of this subject, and most people refrain from discussing it. It is uncomfortable. One would imagine that the death of the soul would be a topic, upon the death of a person’s body. Funerals seem to offer a venue for someone to say something of spiritual death. “Bob was a good man,” says the speaker near the casket. Everyone else in the room seems to disagree, but they do not break decorum, by saying what everyone, even the speaker, knows to be true. When was the last time you attended a funeral where it was explicitly stated, “Bob was an unrepentant sinner and now will spend an eternity of suffering in the punishment of hell fire. That being said, let’s dig into those ham sandwiches.”?
Spiritual death, like biological death, results from sin. If the body dies because of rebellion against God, then the soul dies, too. As noted, we are born with the burden of this spiritual death inherent in our sin nature inherited from our parents. We commit sins (acts of lawlessness) because of our sin nature (Eph 2:3). We are steeped in mutiny because we are born mutineers. We commit acts of war against God because we are born enemies of God. We destroy God’s creation in diverse ways because we hate the Creator (Rom 1:30). Our problem is that we are dead in sin (Eph 2:1). This means we do not know or understand what God has done. We certainly do not comprehend our hostility toward God, for He is our Maker.
The consequence to biological death is laying six feet under the ground or in the urn on the mantle. What is the consequence of the death of the soul? First, consider that most men remain spiritually dead through their whole lives. Second, their spiritually deadened state prevents them from understanding their ominous plight. Third, their ominous plight is the just judgment of God, after their appointment with biological death. Fourth, their guilt of sin remains unless there is a solution. Fifth, there is a solution to sin and death, but sin and Satan inhibit men and women from believing the solution (2 Cor 4:4).
We must be clear. The inherited, spiritually dead state can be changed. The same power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is the power of God, to spiritually raise men to life from spiritual death. The resurrection of the soul, in theological terms, is called, “regeneration.” Someone who is dead to God can be made alive to God (Rom 6:11; Eph 2:5; Col 2:13). God has made that way by decree from before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8; 17:8). Jesus Christ, the God-man, was sent into the world to solve the problem of sin. His solution was to pay the penalty for sin, through His own death on the Cross of Calvary.
His death and burial was proof of payment. His bodily resurrection from the dead was proof that His payment was acceptable to God, who possesses the power over life and death. People who place their trust, for the forgiveness of their sins, not in themselves, but in the substitutionary atoning death of Jesus Christ, have been recipients of the Holy Spirit of regeneration. In other words, God paid for their sins, and now they stand “not guilty” before His righteous throne of judgment. That throne has become a throne of mercy and grace for them. Death reigned in them, until Christ reigned in them.
The world is obsessed with the idea of zombies, that is, dead men walking as if alive. The truth should be obvious. We live in a world of zombies, that is, spiritually dead men who appear to be alive. In reality they are alive, biologically, but they are dead, spiritually. So what are the signs of someone who was dead spiritually, but made alive in Christ Jesus? First, they are the recipients of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the life of God now living in them (Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16).
Second, they evidence profound interest in the things of God, whereas, they used to be dead in sin, they are now dead to sin. Having been caused to be born again, spiritually (1 Pet 1:3), they want to live for Christ, who is their new life. Thus, their minds are taken up with the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), who focuses their attention on the God they used to hate (Col 3:2). They speak and serve with a worldview that includes, in fact, prefers God’s honor and glory.
Third, their new allegiance to the life giving God means they have defected from the culture of death, which now hates them. In other words, they are despised by zombies (Jn 15:18).
Fourth, they have a new commission to help their enemies to see spiritual things (Acts 1:8). Thus, they who have Christ, have life, and they are preachers of Christ and the way He secured life for them (1 Cor 2:2).
Finally, they have abundant life now and eternal life, forever (Jn 3:36; 10:10; 17:2; 1 Jn 5:12).
The antithesis of death is life. The problem of death has been dealt with by the decree of God the Father, and the sacrificial life and death of God the Son, and the regenerating presence and power of God the Holy Spirit. God has made the way to life where there was no way, and Jesus Christ is that way (Jn 14:6). Through the grace of God, which produces faith in some (Rom 12:3; Gal 3:22; Phil 1:29), a new living creature is resurrected from spiritual death. This will be complemented with the resurrection of the body from the dead, at the second coming of Jesus Christ (Jn 5:28–29). Thus, the problem of death, both physical and spiritual, has been remedied to the praise of God’s glorious grace.
My dear reader, have you been raised from the dead? Do you have the life of God living inside you? Have you experienced the conversion from interest in this world, to having a zealous interest in the kingdom of God, which is not of this world? Do you have the Spirit of God indwelling you, leading you, guiding you, teaching you, and comforting you? Do you have a love for the Bible, God’s Holy Word? Have you lost your fear of death? Do you mourn the death of others with hope instead of fear?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then rejoice in God your Savior (Tit 2:13). If you answered “no” to these questions, then you must repent of your sins (Acts 17:30), calling upon the name of Jesus Christ to deliver you (Joel 2:32; Rom 10:13), placing your trust in Him (Prv 3:5–6), who is our only hope for the problem of death.
David E. Norczyk
December 5, 2020