This is blog #1 in the “Death Swallowed Up in Victory!” series that covers frequently asked questions about what happens at the death of a believer.
In this blog, we’ll cover why death is part of our world and what God did to free us from its bondage.
Death was not part of God’s original creation.
DEATH. Tears come to our eyes, because we grieve, we sorrow, and we miss our loved ones. Are you afraid of death? Are you certain there is life after death?
Do you wonder what happens to the soul when it leaves the body? Where does it go?
Is there a holding tank, a period of waiting, a purgatory, a time of testing to see if you are worthy to get into heaven?
Do you think that you can't know that you are going to heaven until you die?
If any of these questions concern you, I don't blame you for being afraid of death!
I hate death. I watched my parents die. I’ve grieved the deaths of my grandbabies in their mothers’ wombs who didn’t get to grow into babies whose faces I could see and love. Death hurts. As the Bible says, it stings.
How did death become part of human existence? Dear reader, it was not part of God’s original design for us. Adam and eve were created to live forever. They were given a perfect environment with total freedom and everything they needed. God gave them only one prohibition,
"Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the day you eat of it, you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17)
You know the story. Satan tempted them, they ate, and they experienced death. Immediately, they experienced spiritual death by way of separation from God. God’s life was removed from their spirits. That day, their bodies also began to die physically. The natural aging and death took 900 years to happen because they were so wonderfully made. Since then, every human is born spiritually separated from God. And, physical death has been the destiny of both humans and animals.
Death is the penalty for sin.
The Bible teaches that sin entered into the world at that time.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)
The word translated “world” in that verse is the Greek word kosmos meaning the entire world, not just mankind. All calamities and illnesses are a result of sin having affected our world. What this means is that there was no death anywhere before Adam sinned! Otherwise, Jesus’ death and resurrection to abolish death means nothing.
Death is not nature's way of ridding itself of the unfit, as evolution teaches. Death is the penalty for sin. It has no other reason to exist. Even if you believe in evolution, by the very nature and definition of evolution, there is no reason for natural death. Any process that would build life from single-celled bacteria to the magnificence of the human body would have overcome natural aging and death millions of years ago. There is only one explanation—sin. Death is the penalty for sin-–both physical and spiritual death.
In the Old Testament, God commanded an approach to Him that constantly reminded His people of this truth. They had to come to worship Him with a blood sacrifice. And every time they brought that animal, there was a visible demonstration that death was the penalty for sin. Something had to die. That animal was the substitute that died in their place.
Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection freed us from the fear of death.
When Jesus began His public ministry, John the Baptist pointed to Him and said,
"Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Jesus’ blood doesn't just cover sin but takes it away. And, Jesus destroyed death by His finished work on the cross.
“This grace was given us in Christ Jesus…who destroyed death….” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)
Jesus Christ was the only sacrifice that God would accept. He hung on that cross. He took the full penalty of sin on His own person. He rose from the dead. If there were even one sin that could not be forgiven, He would still be in the grave. His sacrifice so satisfied God the judge that He could extend mercy to us who accept Jesus Christ as Savior. So, God's justice has not been violated. The penalty has been paid in full. That's why Jesus could say, "It is finished," a phrase that was stamped on a paid bill.
The writer of Hebrews gave this great news,
“by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Do you realize that fear of death is slavery? Such fear is bondage and is what Satan has held over us all these years.
When you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, God’s Spirit comes to live inside your spirit so you are no longer spiritually dead. And, God takes you out from under Satan's power, and Satan is rendered powerless toward you regarding death. That's what the word “destroy” means—to render powerless or inoperative. In the verse above, “destroy” doesn't mean to annihilate. He, the devil, is still active, still alive. But, we have been taken out of his control.
So, while we are still mortal, living under the penalty of physical death, we are no longer in bondage to death. That’s a big deal. Death for the believer should hold no terror because death for us is a doorway into glory. Death is the way that we just go home.
At death, the body decays and reunites with the earth (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Luke 8:55). The soul leaves this "earthly tent” and is immediately perfected by God so that we enter heaven without any sin at all. The soul is who we are inside—our intellect, emotions, and will. This is where sin dwells within us. What the Bible calls the “flesh” or the “sinful nature.” The sinful nature attached to this mortal life is gone. Death is part of God's grace because we are released from this bondage to sin.
At death, we go to be with the Lord.
The Bible teaches that the soul of a believer goes directly to the presence of the Lord after the body dies. That’s confirmed in many places but especially in these two verses:
“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;" (Philippians 1:23)
“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)
Immediately in the Lord’s presence. Death is like a comma between life on earth and life in heaven.
That sounds too easy, doesn't it? God makes the gospel easy for us to understand, but we stumble over its simplicity. The same thing is true about life after death. People won't accept it as being that easy to understand.
So, in the next blog, we’ll explore the question, “What happens to the soul?” Sometimes it helps to ask the opposite question. What doesn’t happen to it? We’ll look at various views and eliminate those that are not biblical.