Tag Archives: eschatology

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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On the Second Coming: What You Can’t Neglect

Forgive me, but there’s something you and I have forgotten.

It’s simply this: Christ will one day return.

When? We don’t know.

We do know that it will be .

And .

Unfortunately, we so often live as if Christ won’t return as he promised.

Often we lend so much of our time and energy and emotions and hope to the things of this world that we end up looking no different than non-believers.

Not surprising.

We live in a culture where we are bred to look no further than the end of our noses. Narcissism is in our bones.

We Live Differently Due to the Second Coming

But Christian: there’s more to our life than that. There’s more to our faith, our hope.

Paul in his  puts it like this:

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

We live differently because we have a different future. We have a different hope.

A hope that inspires endurance. Holiness. Charity. Love. Gratitude. Adoration of the one to come.

We Are a Waiting People Due to the Second Coming

In one sense, this makes us a people who wait. But what exactly are we waiting for?

We wait for our salvation to be complete. Our innocence to be demonstrated. Our war with sin to end.

We wait for our final gratification and joy. We wait for the death of anxiety and misery.  We wait for the redemption of our bodies and all creation.

We wait for God to finally and fully vindicate his name. For Christ to expose his undeniable majesty to the world. And for every knee to bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

So, what do we do in the meantime? Good question.

We Live Out the Gospel Due to the Second Coming

In the meantime, we give a little six-year-old girl who’s home has burned down new clothes and toys. We feed families devastated by poverty. We dig out parkas and blankets to share with the homeless.

We teach our children to love the lost. We show kindness every minute to our spouses. And we extend God’s grace to mankind.

We pray for the salvation of our brothers and sisters. Mothers and fathers. Sons and daughters. Friends far and wide. Strangers of all stripes.

Most importantly, though, we share the gospel.

We share the hope that through Christ’s death we are spared the coming day of God’s wrath and judgement…

And we tell them that God is graciously redeeming a rebellious people to adopt into his family and that they are invited to join.

Your Turn

That’s what we do in the meantime. Any questions? Any things we are waiting for that I missed? Any more examples of our duties while we wait?

Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.