Death and Destiny
Today, in the closing days of 2004, the population of the
world is approximately six and a half billion (6,500,000,000) persons. And
within approximately one hundred years every single one of them will be dead.
Since time began there have been trillions upon trillions of persons who have
lived upon earth, and to date all have passed off the face of the earth—without
exception. The bottom line is that death is a reality that everyone,
without exception, must face.
Yet, it is a fact that most everyone avoids the subject of
death on a personal level. This is particularly true of the young. Death is
far from their thoughts. It is as if they will live forever. Yet, millions of
the young die every year from a variety of causes—disease, accidents, crime and
starvation. Still, the young entertain no such possibilities. Oh, some may
temporarily see the reality of death in a playmate or relative, but it is as if
they are imbued with death-thought antibodies, which quickly produces amnesia of
the event. At the very least, there is no personal tie-in to it.
On the other hand, when a person becomes advanced in years,
the reality of death becomes more in focus. One realizes that even due to
natural causes, death is “right around the corner.” As the aches and pains and
other visible physical manifestations of old age evolve and progress, one
finally comes to the realization that he will soon die, no matter how much he
has avoided the thought in the past.
This will be either a curse or a blessing, depending on
one’s destiny. To those who believe that physical death is a cessation of
existence and to those who don’t, but have no assurance of the “after-life,”
death is something to be feared, or at the very least, unwanted. To those who
hold such beliefs, old age and the continuous deterioration of the human body
toward and including eventual termination is a very unpleasant prospect and
experience. At best, they can only take some comfort in past memories of youth,
energy, adventures and affections. But such memories grow dim in time as they
realize there is nothing to look forward to—no bright future of any kind.
On the other hand, to those who have come to understand
that the Bible is indeed God’s Word to man and have accessed spiritual birth and
eternal assurance through faith in the Person of its gospel message, death takes
on an entirely new outlook. Instead of darkness, it represents light. Instead
of an end, it is a beginning. Instead of despair, it brings thoughts of joy and
peace. Instead of a cessation of existence, it is a most glorious continuance
of sacred life. Such individuals, instead of fearing or dreading death’s door,
look forward to it with eager anticipation.
The Bible never portrays death as a cessation of
existence. When God created man, He made man in His likeness, in His image.
Part of the likeness and image of God, in addition to self-awareness and the
possession of a will to determine one’s own destiny, is eternal existence.
Every person will “live forever” in one way or another. With this
understanding, the Bible then speaks of two types of death.
These two types of death are physical and
spiritual. The words used to express these concepts are the Hebrew word
muwth (with variations) and the Greek word thanatos (with
variations). The meaning of each is primarily the same, that of separation
from a state of life. The concept of separation is the principal
focus in either type of death, as follows:
- Physical death—the separation of the soul &
spirit from the present physical body.
- Spiritual death—the separation of man from God,
which may culminate in the second death (the term used to expressed the
ultimate conclusion of spiritual death; although, in terms of separation from
God, they are literally the same).
In the Bible the state of physical death is often
euphemistically expressed as “sleep.” See the following scriptures:
Deuteronomy 31:16; Job 7:21; Daniel 12:2; Mark 5:39; John 11:11; Acts 13:36; 1
Corinthians 15:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
Universality of Death
Although there appears to have been rare exceptions to the
experience of physical death in the past (Enoch and Elijah), which may in fact
be the lot of these individuals in the future coming Tribulation Period of this
world, physical death is and will be the outcome for every human being (note:
even at the Rapture the soul & spirit of man will separate from his present
physical or “corrupted” body, as he takes on his new resurrected body), and
every human being experiences spiritual death as a result of inheriting the
sin nature at birth; although, depending on one’s choice in life, it may not
culminate into its final state, which is the second death. The only
Person born of woman who never inherited the sin nature was Jesus Christ. See
the following scriptures: Numbers 16:29; 2 Samuel 14:14; Job 30:23; Psalm
49:10; Ecclesiastes 8:8; Romans 5:12, 14, 17, 21; Hebrews 9:27; Isaiah 53:9; 2
Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22.
Commencement of Death
Death, both physically and spiritually, had a beginning.
Both were initiated as a direct result of man’s rebellion toward God, otherwise
known as “sin.” This occurred in the Garden of Eden when man purposely
disobeyed God’s clear instructions regarding the eating of fruit from the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil.
And the LORD God
commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but
of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day
that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
(Genesis 2:16, 17) See also verse 3:3.
Therefore, just as
through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death
spread to all men, because all sinned.
(Romans 5:12) See also verse 8:6, and James 1:15.
The sin of Adam caused both physical death and
spiritual death to be introduced to the human race. Because God is both just
and holy, he had to exact a penalty for sin. The instant Adam sinned, he
spiritually died (became separated from God) and the process of his
physical death (physical deterioration) was initiated in his body. This
duality of death passed on from Adam through the bloodline of males to everyone
born of woman and man to this day. Every person born of a human male from then
until now is infected with the viruses of physical and spiritual death. God
takes no pleasure in the deaths that were apportioned to man (Ezekiel 18:32),
but it is a penalty that man must pay as a result of his willful actions.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
For the wages of sin is death . . . .
Because man is in a state of spiritual death as a result of
his birth into the human race, there are two possible outcomes that await him.
He may by his own free-will of choice (1) remain in the state of spiritual
death, which will eventually culminate in the second death; or (2) escape
his state of spiritual death and all its consequences forever. And this escape
is only possible because of the sacrifice (death) of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s
cross approximately 2,000 years ago.
The Deaths of Jesus Christ
The penalty for sin has always been death, both physical
and spiritual (Romans 6:23). Man has always sought to achieve the
approbation (approval) of God and thereby avoid sin’s penalty by human good
(self-effort), otherwise known as “good works.” This is the product of
“religion.” Yet God’s Word explicitly declares that all human good or merit is
as filthy rags and can have no bearing on man’s salvation (Isaiah 64:6;
Ephesians 2:8, 9). Still, the penalty-price for sin must be paid in order
for man to escape spiritual death and in turn receive eternal life.
As stated previously, a person may choose to pay the
penalty-price for sin. If this is his choice he will eventually be subject to
the second death, which comes at the end of the Great White Throne
Judgment before Jesus Christ where, because his name is not written in the Book
of Life, he will be found wanting in light of all his human good (works) and be
cast forever into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). This then
becomes his final and permanent state of being—conscious existence apart from
God throughout all eternity.
Fortunately, there is another option to every human being.
Because Jesus Christ paid the penalty-price in mankind’s place, anyone may be
delivered from spiritual death and all its consequences forever. The Bible is a
compilation of 66 separate books penned by some 40 different human authors under
the direction of the Holy Spirit over several thousands of years, which contains
but one integrated message. That message, from Genesis to Revelation,
is about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary in behalf of all
The whole purpose of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, which was foretold by the prophets of old, was to pay the sin-debt
(penalty) for man’s sin in order to relieve man from its consequences, an
eternal state of separation from God (Isaiah 25:8; 53:12; John 10:11; 12:23,
24; Romans 5:6; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews
2:9; Revelation 5:9).
Although it is impossible for man to understand the
intricacies of the cross, what and how Jesus Christ accomplished this payment
for sin in man’s place, the following can be known:
- Jesus Christ became spiritually separated from God the
Father for a 3-hour period of time (spiritual death). During this defined
period of time, He paid in full the penalty-price for all of mankind’s sin.
During this period of time, from the 6th unto the 9th
hour, the earth was shrouded in darkness (Matthew
23:44). During this period of time,
Jesus Christ cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have
You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
This is when God the Father turned away from His Son, an indescribable
separation of God from God, which in fact was the payment for the sins of
mankind. Finally, Jesus declared, “It is
finished!” (John 19:30) The Greek words translated, “it is
finished,” may also be translated, when referring to a debt, as “paid in
- Not only did Jesus Christ experience spiritual death,
the full payment for man’s sins, He also allowed Himself to die physically on
that cross. No man took His life. He alone had the power to keep or give it
up. He chose to give it up in order to enter the grave and then be
resurrected after three days. This He did to verify to the world that He was
indeed God incarnate (God in the flesh), that He alone has the power over life
and death, and that He alone has the power to deliver man from spiritual death
and insure man’s resurrection to eternal life. See the following scriptures:
Matthew 9:25; Luke 7:14, 15; John 10:17, 18; 11:43, 44; 19:30; Romans 1:4;
1 Corinthians 15:4; Revelation 1:18.
The result of Christ’s death on Calvary was the elimination
of the sin-barrier between God and man, as typified by the tearing of the veil,
from top to bottom, within the Temple (Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Now the
way was made clear for every person to come to God and have eternal life.
Man’s Best Destiny
The Bible unequivocally teaches that man is subject to one
of two possible destinies. The choice is always up to the person. He or she
may avoid God’s clear good news of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross of
Calvary and thereby eventually enter into an eternal existence separated from
God, or the following faith-decision of the will may be transacted between the
person and God, which will result in a blissful existence in God’s company never
By faith alone in Christ alone anyone may personally
escape spiritual death and all its consequences. It’s a matter of exercising
one’s God-given free-will by making a genuine decision to trust (place full
confidence) exclusively in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for one’s personal
salvation. Once a person understands that he is in a state of spiritual death
and eventually after physical death, he will face the consequence of the
second death of being separated eternally from God in the lake of fire; and
that Jesus Christ by His sacrifice on Calvary’s cross paid in full his sin-debt,
he then needs only to accept God’s gift of eternal life (salvation) by trusting
(placing full confidence in) Jesus Christ alone for his personal salvation.
This is a decision of the will to turn (biblical repentance) solely to Jesus
Christ and from any one or any deed or anything else in the matter of one’s
The instant this decision is made is the instant a person
is transformed from a state of spiritual death to one of spiritual
life—conscious existence in union with God for all eternity. The person making
this decision may then be assured that spiritual death is totally and
eternally vanquished, having been destroyed by Jesus Christ on the cross of
Calvary (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26, 54; 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation