Tag Archives: Death

“I Want to Die in Three Years”

The introvert in me burns for solitude. The Christian in me burns for the lost.

A house on a hill. A room with a window. A desk near that window. A typewriter on the desk. Piles of books about the desk.

Look down from the window and you see a garden. Then a long lawn. And a road that winds through the hills. Miles before it reaches civilization.

Morning, noon and night spent reading, writing and wandering. In the evening a novelist pops in for a pint. On the weekend a photographer and a poet crash until Sunday afternoon.

That was my idea of utopia. Bliss fit for an Emily Dickinson, J. D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon. Bliss fit for a self-absorbed intellectual snob.

Then Jesus wrecked that vision. Not all at once. But over time.

What Your Utopia Says about You

We all have our own versions of utopia. Some might be crawling with people. Others, like mine, might be devoid of people. But they all share a common theme: unfettered debauchery.

That debauchery could be mild–like endless days of reading and writing whatever I wanted. Or it could be extreme–like endless days of drinking and fornicating. But it is all damnable for one very simple reason: insertion of ourselves as the great I AM over the real I AM.

See, when it comes down to it, God doesn’t care about the brand of debauchery. He sees straight through it. He sees straight to the very root of the revolt: our rebellious hearts. Those very hearts that dream up our custom-tailored versions of utopia–the ones we carry with us into our Christian life.

The Truth Behind “Pick Up Your Cross”

It would be nice if we could cling to our utopian hopes when we become a Christian, wouldn’t it? To get Jesus plus [enter preferred pleasure]?

But do you know the verses that wreck it for us? That turns what the culture says we need [everything our heart desires] upside down to give us what God says we need [nothing but Him]?

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 

Jesus certainly didn’t save his life. He gave it all. In word, deed and even death. So he’s not asking something of us that he is unwilling to give.

In America we don’t understand what it means to lose our life for the gospel. We think “pick up our cross” and imagine a nagging mother or a failing Chevy truck. We don’t understand that to his disciples those words meant crucifixion.

They meant death.

As G. K. Chesterton said, “Jesus promised his disciples three things–that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble.”

Jesus Would Die in Three Years

Yet we live in our homes on the outskirts of a city with low-crime rates, an abundance of fine restaurants and clean theaters.

And two or three times a year we travel to a beach on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, a mountain in Northern Europe or seafood pavilions in South-east Asia–rehearsal for when we retire.

We say to ourselves, “I want to save for a tour of the Great Wall of China. I want to dog sled across Alaska. I want to write the great American novel. I want to send my children to Princeton or Harvard. I want to build my retirement portfolio so I can retire at 60 and enjoy it for 20 years. I want to live forever.”

We want a lot of things, but rarely do we ever say, “I want to die in three years.”

Jesus may never have expressed those very words, but his life did. He knew that his earthly ministry would be short. And he knew that his earthly ministry would be capped off by his death. And he knew that if it was possible to avoid his death, God would’ve granted it.

But it wasn’t so.

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

For it was God’s will that must be obeyed. Not His. Not ours. We do well to imitate John the Baptist and say, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Pity the Complacent

Not every Christian’s life will end in crucifixion. Some Christians will die by drowning. Others by stones. Still others will be beheaded, shot in the mouth or set on fire.

Of course, not every saint will die a martyr’s death. Revelation tells us there is a .

Others may only lose a limb or rot in a prison. In solitude. Or forgotten in the back country of a poor nation nursing lepers or passing out Bibles.

But one thing is for certain: we are not to pity these saints. Nor do we accuse these saints  of being complacent.

These are not Christians who . They are the ones who stood on the beam and charged through a risky routine.

It is the complacent who are to be pitied :

For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. 

Resist the Culture

The paradox of our utopian dreams is that if we indulge them they will quickly decay into hell on earth as one after another self-centered desire is gratified.

In time we manifest our worst fears.

The recluse becomes hateful, anxious and suicidal. The gregarious becomes demanding, sensual and dependant on the approval of man. And in time we taste the misery of being our own god.

The Bible never promises a utopia on earth. The only time we see a utopia is before the Fall and after the redemption of heaven and earth. Everything in between is simply corrupted by sin.

Even our utopias.

This is not to say we can’t enjoy creation now–that we should neglect our duty to subdue the earth. I love an abusive hike through the Appalachian Mountains.

But it is to say that we should surrender our wishes for a life that conforms to culture. One that seeks security in an IRA, position of power or PhD. One that seeks definition in positive affirmations and significant achievements. Or one seeks solitude at the expense of the lost.

Instead, we should seek a life that does not love the things of this world except for this: God’s people. That is the closest thing in this world we have to gain Christ. And the closest we will ever get to utopia.

We get the real utopia (being in the presence of Christ) when we die, which very well may be an incentive to proclaim, “I want to die in three years.”

The Dead Stage a Welcome Party for This Pagan King

This is one of the reasons I find the Bible so fascinating.

It’s also one of the reasons that thousands of people consider the Bible good literature–in spite of its claims to being redemptive history.

I’ll take redemptive history any day over good literature, but fortunately I’m not forced to decide.

The text in question at the moment is :

Sheol beneath is stirred up
to meet you when you come;
it rouses the shades to greet you,
all who were leaders of the earth;
it raises from their thrones
all who were kings of the nations.

All of them will answer
and say to you:
‘You too have become as weak as we!
You have become like us!’

Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,
the sound of your harps;
maggots are laid as a bed beneath you,
and worms are your covers.

In Hebrew thought, Sheol is the place of the dead. Sheol is the grave–and .

An underground region where disembodied souls have a dull and gloomy existence. It’s the place where the good and the bad go. The good receive reward and the bad receive punishment.

Yet Psalm 139:8 tells us that God is there. He is in the depths. And it is an open book to him where the wicked never escape his judgement and the righteous remain under his constant care. , “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”

The Ugly Carnival

The Isaiah text tells us that Sheol is also the fate of those who try to be like God, a habit earthly kings are prone to develop, the Babylon king being no exception.

He said he would ascend to heaven and raise his throne above God’s. He would sit on the highest mountain above the clouds. He would make himself like the most High.

On earth he may have approached the epitome of military might. He may have scaled to the top of political authority. He may have sat upon the highest altar of worship.

His death changed all that.

The other kings who were brought low by death waited for him. We are not sure how they knew, but they knew he was coming. And wanted to welcome him.

Each king in Sheol no doubt had been in his position. Great earthly power. Monstrous pride. Ruthless conquest. But all that bravado wilted before death. In an instant they were brought low.

They were wise to knowledge he was not: human distinctions are meaningless among the dead, and pride vanishes from a corpse.

You don’t get the sense that this will be a fun reunion. It won’t be like a hero returning from war.

More in line with the French treatment of : heads shaved, swastikas burned on their faces and barefoot as they were forced to parade through the streets.

It will be an ugly carnival for the Babylonian king.

Your Turn

Death is not the only means which God can level a man’s pride. He can devastate arrogance with mental illness as he did with Nebuchadnezzar.

More than likely you won’t experience mental illness on that scale. Death, on the other hand, is your certain fate.

Are you ready to die?

When David said, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption,” he could not know what he was predicting.

Peter took it to me the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event that forced Paul to proclaim in yet another elegant section of the Bible: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Thank God for redemptive history.

Why We Should Not Love the Things of the World–Except This


For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Those are Paul’s words to the Philippian church. It’s a simple statement with massive meaning: while we are still alive here on the earth, our single and solitary affection should be to live for Christ and Christ alone.

Our reward for such a life of devotion?

To finally experience the pleasure of being in the presence of the glory of Christ. And to experience that forever.

This hope of reward is what Paul says should give us courage to live on the earth in service to him:

We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

But how do we know we have this reward? What is God’s proof to us that what he says is true?

The answer is the Holy Spirit living inside of us. “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”

Think about it.

Before Christ, you did not love God or the things of God. But after conversion, your heart was softened and your eyes were opened and your ears made to hear.


By the Spirit who came to dwell in you.

Why We Should Desire to Remain

And if you have the Spirit dwelling in you has not God fulfilled one of his promises? Through the , “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

And is God not faithful to fulfill his other promises? Paul is convinced.

Don’t get me wrong: Paul treasures living here on this earth. “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”

But not for the things of the earth. He treasures being on the earth for the satisfying responsibility of sharing the gospel and growing believers. He treasures it because it pleases God.

But being here on the earth is not easy:

For in this tent [body] we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Yet, Paul is still indecisive about which he prefers more: laboring here on the earth or being in the presence of God. “Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.” He says, “I am hard pressed between the two.”

But then he declares the superior choice: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

Why Is Departing and Being with Christ “Far Better”?

That’s almost a stupid question.

Unless we don’t believe in the reality of the promises, purpose or presence of God. If we don’t believe in the reality of the promises, purpose or presence of God–or our faith is so small as to be a nuisance to our carnal walk–then this world and what it has to offer will appeal to us and ultimately seduce us.

If that is the case, then we do not serve God. Nor do we truly love him.

John says:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

However, if we DO believe in the reality of the promises, purpose and presence of God, then we will naturally have an appetite for God, his presence and his people. His people are the only things worth loving in this world.

Paul says in :

But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

Sustaining their “progress and joy in the faith” is the labor Paul loves so much about this world. It’s the only thing that justifies his separation from Jesus Christ.

And it is the only thing worth loving in this world because it is the closest thing in this world we have to gaining Christ.

But it is not the ultimate thing. We don’t gain that until our death.

Propitiation in Plain English


Haunted. Convicted. Blessed. Condemned. These are words that often describe people’s response to Jesus’ death.

But before we can even talk about that, we first need to establish what Jesus’ death accomplished.

We need to talk about propitiation.

What DID Jesus’ Death Accomplish?

Propitiation. Big word. Probably means nothing to you. But this is the New Testament term for what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished for you.

You can find propitiation four times in the New Testament:

Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. 

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

What Does Propitiation Mean?

In a nutshell, propitiation means a gift that satisfies God’s wrath.

Unlike the pagan conception of gods–moody, volatile and violent gods and godess, prone to punishing humans with disease, drought and death at the drop of a hat–God’s anger is not irrational or unpredictable.

Neither is God inactive in this appeasement like pagan gods. God Himself stepped out on His own and provided the sacrificial offering that covers human sin and makes reconciliation possible.

That’s propitiation. God took the first step towards us.

The Overwhelming Problem of God’s Wrath

Propitiation–and the idea of God’s wrath–may offend some people. [Like .]

They have a difficult time wrapping their head around the idea of a personal, loving God being so furious at them that they needed a sacrifice to avoid the terrible consequences.

However, there are two good reasons to face this truth about propitiation:

1. The problem of sin. God is without sin. We are steeped in sin. And though God loves us, he hates sin. In fact, God is so profoundly troubled by sin that he feels both sorrow and anger over sin. Detests it. The  is so severe that He hates them. Even hides His face from them. So, by definition, a loving, holy God is required to be angry at sinners who destroy that which he loves.

2. The problem of the Bible. Eh? This is what I mean: The Bible speaks of God’s anger, wrath, and fury toward sin more than His love, grace, and mercy.  to describe God’s anger in the Old Testament. And though less frequently, these words and concepts are .

Verses 18, 24 and 26 in Romans tells us that . And the place of God’s unending active wrath is hell, which  than anyone in the Bible as an eternal place of physical torment.

 that Jesus described hell like someone getting flogged, butchered or burned.

Incomprehensible debt. Unconceivable punishment. No picture could prepare us for the biblical experience of God’s wrath.

We have to deal with it.

Propitiation Is the Supreme Answer to God’s Wrath

But, because God is loving, merciful, and kind, He has chosen to save some people. So, to both demonstrate His hatred of sin and love for sinners, Jesus averted the wrath of God by dying on the cross as a substitute for sinners.

That’s why salvation is defined as . The anger of God is diverted from us to Jesus. What this does is show how  and thus replaced it with His own work on the cross.

If you think about it, one of the most poignant pictures of propitiation is the . The angel of death “passed over” all houses that had lamb’s blood on their door posts and lintel.

In the same way, if you are a repentant believer who trusts in Jesus, your sins are covered by Jesus’ blood–that is, his death–and God passes over you in his wrath and judgment.

Why Does Propitiation Matter?

There are a number of good reasons to allow this seemingly abstract truth to penetrate your soul.

1. Believers often punish themselves when they sin, thinking they are paying God back. . Punitive fasting. What propitiation teaches is that the penalties for our past, present and future sins are taken care of. They are covered. Our response when we fall into sin is to simply ask for forgiveness. That’s it.

2. Unbelievers often punish themselves because of shame and guilt. Think  and . Suicides and alcoholics. What propitiation does is wipe that guilt and shame away. Forever.

3. When we suffer, God is not punishing us. Sometimes it might be the case that he’s disciplining us so that we might grow in holiness. But never is he using suffering to punish us for our sins. That’s not what the Bible teaches.

And with Christmas looming, this doctrine seems all the more relevant to me. Think about it: The birth of Christ is the first step of propitiation.

Without the birth of Christ, we’d have no substitute. No sacrifice. No savior.

The Simple, Bare-Bones Secret to Radical Faith

Simply fulfilling my promise to write about Radical all week.

A manly, near-reckless radical faith. Where does one get that? Does one want it? Great questions. The answer WILL surprise you.

Back in the early 19th century British Protestant missionary to China  said:

Too long have we been waiting for one another to begin! The time for waiting is past!…

Should such men as we fear?

Before the whole world, aye, before the sleepy, luke-warm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God,..and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts.

We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in our God than live trusting in man.

And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight.

We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and  pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works of Jesus Christ.

A manly, near-reckless faith.

Where does one get that? Great question. First, let me explain what I’m doing this week.

Here’s the deal: I want to devote the entire week to what I started yesterday as a review of David Platt’s book Radical.

That book is simply too rich to compress into one 1,000 word post. And simply too valuable to drop after just one day.

We need to expand. So let’s go.

Resisting Typical Expectations

Arguably the best chapter in Radical is the second to the last: “Living When Dying Is Gain.” That chapter can be summed up like this:

The stories we hear about believers who are hated, beat and killed in distant countries are stories about people who’ve found a desire deeper than the basic human will for self-preservation: the desire to serve Christ and be his witness.

This desire even trumps the fear of death.

In fact, death isn’t viewed as an enemy and a coffin as a rot box. They’re viewed as a reward and a launching pad. This is the essence of what Jesus taught in :

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Thus, when talented young men and women dismiss the expectations and promises of the world to live in filthy Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of Egypt…

Or in dilapidated section 8 housing in dangerous urban neighborhoods to share the gospel with the people who live there…

Only to die in obscurity a few months or years later…

Their lives are not a waste and neither are their deaths a tragedy. Rather, those lives are treasures and those deaths rewards.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

Death Is Dead to Me

The Bible teaches us that the instant we die we are ushered into the presence of Christ.

In that instant we glimpse God’s glory and unimaginable majesty. Remember, this is the great reward of the gospel: God himself.

But WAY too many Christian’s have lost that vision. A vision confiscated by the American Dream.

See, when we accept the reality that death is nothing more than a line we cross between life and God’s presence, something happens to us: We embrace a near-reckless devotion to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the way Paul puts it:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Death has been conquered. And victory secured. What do we have to fear?

Don’t Make This Mistake

Some people bristle at the notion of setting our minds on death and the afterlife because they believe it makes us worthless here on the earth.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The person who sets his mind on heaven knows that his destiny is secure and glorious. He’s free to live the most radical life of love and sacrifice here on earth.

It was a radical faith.

Listen. The hope of safety in the afterlife cures us of timidity, fear and hopelessness. It releases a radical, risk-taking love that baffles skeptics and forces them to ask for the reason for the hope that is in us.

When you invest emotional and mental equity into the hope that death is reward and the doorway to our savior, you’ll be set free to live a fearless, near-reckless life of love and sacrifice.

That’s the kind of believer the modern church should be training and churning out. What can we do to make that happen in our own churches? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Death Lessons: What You Can Learn When Someone Dies

Where I write about the lessons I learned from the death of a distant uncle.

Seventy years from now more than likely you will be dead.

Don’t worry: So will I.

Some of us will die earlier than others [before we reach fifty].

Some will live longer [well after we turn ninety].

See, as humans, we all share this in common–death.

But we also share something else: When we are dead all of the things in our head–our thoughts, dreams, ideas, feelings–will be gone from this earth…

Lost forever to this world. And the people we leave behind.

Why the Morbid Mood?

Yesterday I learned about the death of a distant uncle. A man who I hadn’t seen in twenty years, but for good reasons meant a lot to me.

During a brief time of vulnerability, he took me, my mother and sister into his fold. But during that brief time he taught me how to work hard, hunt and think.

He even gave me a beautiful rifle.

Unfortunately, after a short period of time we parted ways and I never spoke to him again.

I regret that.

And so this morning I found myself a bit tired, wistful and nostalgic. A wee bit indifferent to the world but profoundly interested in hugging my children and embracing my wife.

It’s a classic introvert defense to news heavy on the death of people close to you.

Furthermore, streaming through my thoughts this whole time is an acute sense of our mortality–and the selfishness of living in one’s own head…an introvert’s favorite place to be.

12 Lessons We Can Learn from the Death of a Loved One

So in order to combat that, here are some reflections–commands, really–on how to indulge in the little time we have left in this world–whether you are an extrovert or introvert–and make the most of the time you have with your people.

It applies to us all. Enjoy.

Talk. Nurture deep conversations with meaningful people like your spouse, children, best friends and neighbors. Do this relentlessly.

Journal. Record your thoughts, feelings and ideas. Document tough questions. Sketch out your answers. The point: Be liberal so people can learn something about you when you die.

Pray. Nurture a deep, never-ending conversation with God. Pour out your soul to Him. Ask him for help. Plead with him to teach you how to be more like Christ.

Confess. Shed secret sin by rehearsing the gospel daily, pleading with God for forgiveness and asking an exclusive set of godly men and woman to hold you accountable.

Blog. Share your thoughts, feelings and ideas with a wider audience. Or keep it private and simply share it with family you are geographically separated from.

Contemplate. Think about your past. Evaluate your present. Plan your future. And once you contemplate, share it with others–in a conversation, on a blog or in your journal.

Write. Lubricate lines of communication with a regular letter or email. For times when you can’t pick up the phone or sit down in front of someone. Do this daily.

Slow Down. Resist invitations to do more. Simplify. Enjoy life. Enjoy your spouse. Your friends. Your children. Your home. Your car. The path through the woods. The lake. The clouds. The cross of Christ.

Create. Take those thoughts and ideas and give them life. Write songs. Sculpt statues. Paint portraits. Design cartoons. Build houses.

Play. Go sledding or fishing. Rock climbing or wind surfing. Teach your son to throw a ball. Twirl with your daughter in the den. Uncork a bottle of wine with your wife and watch her trounce you in a game of Scrabble.

Obey. Do when the Holy Spirit nudges. Don’t hesitate. Call that friend. Skip work and run away with your children to the beach. Visit that dying uncle. Share the gospel with a shop clerk.

Love. Grieve with the suffering. Laugh with the jubilant. Talk with the lonely. Listen to the gregarious. Give to the earthquake-shattered. Evangelize the hostile.

As you can probably tell, when I say indulge, I’m speaking about pouring yourself out for others. Giving away EVERYTHING in you to those you love AND to those you don’t love…

To those you know–and to those you don’t know. What you want is to say at the end of your life you held nothing back.

See, it’s worth forcing ourselves outside of our shelters [skulls, homes, churches, nations] and subduing the earth in Christ and for Christ.

Not only is it a biblical mandate, but it also provides for a rich, meaningful life. One that is perilously short.

Don’t waste it.

Why Do People Sin? A Rational Defense

One intriguing aspect of Jonathan Edwards’ defense of the doctrine of original sin is his appeal to reason.

He suggests that if the Bible were silent on the matter, thinking people would still come to the conclusion that sin is a universal reality.

Here’s how he did it.

Questions for Those Who Reject the Doctrine of Original Sin

People who deny original sin often point to decadent societies as the cause of our degradation.

In other words, people are born innocent…but are corrupted by the culture they grow up in.

But if that’s the case, then shouldn’t some societies be innocent? Or at least one society in which the prevailing influence is virtue and not vice?

Furthermore, what corrupted these societies in the first place? Where did that evil creep in?

And why isn’t there at least a statistical average of, say, 50% innocent people? Forty percent? Thirty?

These are just a few questions Edwards raised. But there’s more.

The Problem with the “Nobody’s Perfect” Appeal

Optimistic and sanguine views of human nature–those that say man is basically good–will appeal to the phrase “Nobody’s perfect.”

Okay. Why?

If man at the core is good and innocent and evil is tangential, peripheral and on the outside, why doesn’t good eventually win out?

Why doesn’t the substance win over the accidental?

Strangely enough, in a culture like ours where objective, absolute values are rejected, people still appeal to “nobody’s perfect.”


That can’t be. Haven’t we denied objective perfection?

Besides, even when the ethical bar is lowered, we recognize that this “standard” isn’t even met. We reduce what’s acceptable and still fail.

Funny thing is, people will appeal to an objective standard if you cross them.

Sleep with some one’s wife and see if they don’t hunt you down. Steal their car and see if they don’t call the police. Cheat on an exam and see if the professor doesn’t flunk you.

See, the credo “everything is permissible” often is thrown out the window when what someone else wants conflicts with what you want.

“Come On You Curmudgeon–Can’t We Do Any Good?!”

John Calvin recognized that we are, though fallen, capable of doing so-called good deeds. He called this “civic righteousness.”

Augustine referred to these deeds as “splendid vices.”

He went on to say that while these may on the outside conform to the law of God, deep down they proceed from a rebellious and woefully detached heart.

The Bible teaches that our deeds must not only conform to prescriptions of God’s law–but also rise from a heart that loves God.

This is apparent from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New.

And in the final analysis, the  with all your heart lies underneath all human morality and activity.

How Many Sins Is Too Many?

At one point in Edwards’ defense he says that there is a . But he points out even one sin is too many.

Edwards goes onto echo James: Sin against one point of the law is to sin against the whole law…

And of course against the law giver himself.

Furthermore, one act of obedience doesn’t negate one act of disobedience. In God’s economy, obedience is a mere condition to being a child of God.

A Few More Examples of Our Native Sin Nature

Edwards also sees evidence for man’s depraved nature in our bent to sin the moment we are morally capable.

Anyone with children will know what Edwards is talking about.

But original sin is also evident in the fact that we continually and progressively sin. There’s no secret: Suffering dominates world history.

And never diminishes.

Thus even the most sanguine observer must confess that something is wrong with this world.

Nor is sin entirely absent from the most sanctified saints. [Indeed, sanctified saints may sin less–but they WILL grieve more.]

The Final Piece of Evidence

Edward’s closes his argument by stating that the evidence of universal sin is also found in the universality of death.

Death emerged because of sin.

That’s the biblical interpretation. And it represents a judgment on wicked mankind–a judgment even babies, who are presumably innocent, aren’t excused from.

The question one has to ask himself is this: Why do babies die? Why do we die? For that matter, why does anything die and not live forever?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Soul Sleep: Deviant Doctrine to Avoid

Most Christians agree that the soul survives death. What happens until the resurrection, however, is a matter of debate.

What happens to the human soul when a person dies?

Does it disintegrate the moment a person’s brain flat lines like materialists argue?

Or does it survive the body to live forever?

Of course most Christians agree that the soul survives.

However, not everyone agrees on what happens to that soul once a person dies.

Roman Catholics insist they trudge through purgatory.

Sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, on the other hand, believe the soul remains unconscious until resurrection day.

This is called “soul sleep.” Or “conditional immortality.”

Soul Sleep: Biblical Proofs

Sects who embrace the soul sleep concept base their beliefs off of a host of verses:

Who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see…. 

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. 

The soul that sins shall die. 

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

At first blush it seems they might have a case. But they don’t. These verses have been wrenched out of their context.

Here’s how.

Soul Sleep: Where These Sects Went Wrong

Yes, First Timothy 6:16 suggests that it is God alone who has immortality. No argument from me. But in no way can we assume that he’s the only one.

In fact, Paul argues it’s BECAUSE God is the author of immortality that he is also the giver of immortality. We live forever because God sustains us.

I’ll admit, the notion of death in Genesis 2:17 is peculiar simply because Adam and Eve don’t actually die. At least not right away.

What’s going on? Here we have the promise of [future] physical death AND [immediate] spiritual death…

But the spiritual death the author of Genesis had in mind isn’t the soul sleep kind. No.

He had in mind the deadness in our desire for God…we turn the corner from agents who can sin to to agents who are slaves to sinblind to his beauty and incorrigibly bent to reject his son Christ.

What about Ezekiel and Romans? They simply echo the notion that physical and spiritual death is the punishment of sin. Adam’s original sin.

Okay. If souls don’t sleep while they wait for resurrection, what do they do? Here’s what the Bible teaches.

Orthodox View of the Soul After Death

Traditional Christians affirm that the human soul survives death. But not in a slumber.

In  Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The Apostle  meant the “shedding of this body” and union with Christ in spirit.

Paul echoed a similar sentiment when he said, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” .

Then you have the spirits of the martyred tribulation saints in heaven who cry:  ”O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 

The clincher, of course, is Jesus who said to the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” .


As you can see, the biblical evidence for soul sleep is lacking while evidence for the souls immediate union with God is strong. In a nutshell, when a redeemed person dies his soul is united with God immediately to wait the final resurrection of his body…

And when an unregenerate person dies, he is immediately ushered out of the presence of God to await final judgment.

Now, it’s your turn. What did I miss? Got any questions?

Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Death: A Doctrine We Can’t Neglect


Death looms over us all.

It frightens some and elates other.

Drives us to noble works and dreadful deeds.

Perhaps no single force has worked so powerfully on man as his knowledge that he must surely die.

 called the knowledge of one’s own death the essential fact that distinguishes us from animals.

Yet, we spend our days thinking about everything but death.

Look at the billion dollar age-defying industry and you see what cultural anthropologist  might call symptoms of death denial.

Even our sermons are geared to the here and now: stable marriages, stout muscles, serene minds and safe investments.

Strange society, indeed: we strive to preserve the LEAST enduring part of our beings–the body. And we do this in spite of substantial words the Bible has to say about death.

Maybe you’ve never thought of death as a Christian doctrine. Or one that deserves much attention. But indeed, it is a doctrine and it does deserve healthy consideration.

Let me show you how and why.

Physical Death: The Lowdown

The Bible speaks of death in three ways: physical, spiritual and eternal.

For plants and animals, death is nothing more than the end of life. But for humans it’s more. It’s the separation of the soul from the body. It’s a passage of one kind of existence to another.

In ancient Israel, death was a natural end to life. So the goal of an Israelite was to live long and die in the presence of children and grandchildren.

For example:

And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 

But where did they believe the soul departed to? Ancient Hebrews regarded death as the soul’s entrance into –where the deceased were cut off from God and community.

In spite of this grim fate,  proclaims that God the redeemer is in both heaven and Sheol. In fact, he is able to bring a person out of Sheol:

The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 

It’s only in Ecclesiastes do you find outright pessimism expressed in the face of death. And that book probably shows considerable non-Hebraic influence.

Spiritual Death: The Lowdown

Abel was the first human recorded in the Bible to die. Cain, his brother, murdered him. But the first mention of death in a physical AND spiritual sense occurred in :

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.

In other words, death was a result of sin.

That’s why the New Testament sees death NOT as a personal event but a theological problem: sin introduced death and death involves separation from God.

This is spiritual death.

Romans 3:23 says it this way:

ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” They are spiritually cut off from God. But when we are born again–when Christ redeems us–we are raised from spiritual death and reunited spiritually with God.

Eternal Death: The Lowdown

Eternal death is the third version of biblical death. This is known as the second death–and it appears in :

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

This is the everlasting separation from God in hell. It occurs after the final judgment.

In the meantime, the devil is the –the very god of this world that Christ conquered paradoxically by dying.

Death Defeated by Christ’s Resurrection

Paul saw death–all versions–as an enemy, an enemy conquered by Christ’s resurrection:

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

In fact, the major point of New Testament passages like 1 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 2:8 and 1 Peter 3:18-19 is that Jesus did not remain dead but defeated the devil, took the power of death and ascended in victory.

This naturally rules out notions of purgatory or soul sleep, doctrines that contradict the sufficiency of Christ’s death. Christ’s death and resurrection removed the curse of death once and for all.

How Christians Should View Death

So even though Christians still die physically, death can never separate us from Christ. We do not grieve like the rest of people who have no hope.

Instead, our mourning is enhanced by our anticipation of our own transition from this life to the next.

Phillip Yancey once said, “We need a renewed awareness of death” and “a faith, in the midst of our groaning, that death is not the last word, but the next to the last.”

A proper view of death–both the beautiful and the ugly–allows us to articulate to the godless the joy found in the hope we have secured in Christ’s own death and resurrection.

That is fundamental to the gospel.

Furthermore the paradox is that we can fully engage and enjoy our commission to subdue the earth when we realize that our half-baked, corrupt crafts will transform into eternal, incorruptible objects that glorify God in the future resurrection. A topic we will visit next in this series.

What About You?

Do you have a healthy respect for death? Are you living in the light that one day you will die? And how do you cope with that truth? Do you put your trust in Christ or this culture?

Drop me a line on Google+. I look forward to your thoughts. Brutal and all.

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Heaven: My Most Speculative Post to Date


How do you think you’ll respond when you realize you’ve made it to heaven? My answer surprised me.

Not long ago, on a small hillside east of St. Louis, MO, I was cutting grass.

Naturally, my mind was a million miles away from that small hillside…

Somewhere between a lump of books in a library and a white-sand beach watching the sun set with my sweetie by my side.

Eventually my mind wandered to more weightier matters, though, like heaven…

More specifically, how I would respond when I got there.

My Likely Reaction to Heaven

I think I know how I would WANT to react: Happy, but eager to hunt down anyone who could tell me, from the beginning, the history of mankind.

But then it struck me: That’s not how I would respond at all.

Something more profound would occur in that tiny moment: When I blink my eyes after death and the reality of where I am settles in, I would probably curl into a ball and weep.

All I can think of is, “I’m home. I made it. It’s real.”

Why Heaven?

In  Paul announces the devastating loss it would be if he spent his life always on the edge of death, starvation and abuse if in fact the dead were not raised to life. If in fact Christ was not raised from the dead.

Pointless. That’s what it would amount to. His vigorous defense and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would have been an exercise in futility.

Why not just eat and drink and die?

Truth is, , “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” because he knew we would wrestle with doubt.

He knew we would struggle. And more.

Speculating on Paul’s Trip to Heaven

But in the end, though, Paul wrote “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” a letter he wrote towards the end of his life. A letter he wrote while in prison. A letter who’s dominant tone is joy, a joy grounded in the .

I can only speculate that Paul, after death and in heaven, blinked, and when the weight of where he was sunk in, he sighed and wept on his hands and knees.

What about you, saint: How do you think you’ll respond when you realize you’ve made it to heaven? Share your thoughts.