- When the Commandment Came, Sin Revived, and I Died – We read the first reference to dying in Gen 2:17, where God gave this command to the first man, Adam: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”. It is worth noting that in this very important verse, the Hebrew words for “surely (muth 4191)” and “die (muth 4191)” are identical. The literal translation of the last phrase from the original Hebrew is, “for in the day that thou eatest of it dying thou shalt die”. Thus, when Adam disobeyed God’s command of “thou shalt not eat of it”, God cursed man and the earth with death, as we read in Gen 3:17–19. Sadly, we see that man’s relationship with God was broken. He died spiritually in his soul, or spirit essence. We can think of this “spiritual death” as the “first death”, although that is not a term used in the Bible. The “second death” refers to the eternal state of the unsaved who will be cast into the “lake of fire” – a place of eternal damnation – after Judgment Day. Every human being is “spiritually dead” during his temporal life on earth; and, unless God resurrects his soul from that condition so that he has become “born again” – “hath part in the first resurrection”, he will ultimately experience the “second death”. Physically man’s body became subject to deterioration and death. Physical death is a constant reminder to us of God’s curse of eternal damnation upon the human race. In Rom 7:9–11, Apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in the first person about what happened to all mankind in the Garden of Eden – that is, God gave the Law; man sinned, and, consequently, man died. Sin, by biblical definition, is the transgression of God’s Law according to 1 John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law”. Rom 4:15a says, “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression”. Furthermore we understand from Rom 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet”. So, the reason the Law (which is the whole Bible) is called “the strength [power] of sin” is because it exposes our sin and guilt before God. Moreover, because “by the law is the knowledge of sin”, it drives God’s elect to see their overwhelming need for a Savior. Now, man either pays the penalty of the second death himself or Jesus Christ the Savior pays it for him. There are no other options.
Gen 3:17–19 “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Rev 21:8 “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Rom 7:9–11 “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”
- Eternal Death and Fear of Death – Mal 3:2 drives home the horrific refrain: “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?”. Psa 130:3 poses the very relevant question, “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”. The bad news is nobody can stand in the presence of God; but wonderfully, the Everlasting God has the only viable solution – “Lord Jesus Christ”. Indeed, the Lord Jesus was able to successfully atone for the sins of His people as Isa 53:11 so triumphantly announces: “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities”. Those who do not have a Savior are spiritually dead from conception and will remain that way forever. They will have to face the bar of God’s righteous justice alone to be judged for their sins – their incessant violations of God’s Holy Law, the Bible. They will then be sentenced according to that Divine Law – the Bible – and will face eternal death in the Lake of Fire – the just punishment prescribed in that same Law – the Bible. The presiding Judge is the Triune Godhead, in the presence of all the Redeemed and all the Holy Angels. Dan 7:9–10 and Rev 20:12b and 15 outline the fearful events of that fast-approaching day. Let’s examine the reason that people fear death. It is interesting that unsaved people do not fear God, as we learn from Rom 3:18: “There is no fear of God before their eyes”. Yet they do fear death because they are aware that God exists and that one day they will have to give an account to Him, as 2 Cor 5:10 explains. However, the idea of facing God on Judgment Day is so unthinkable that man desperately attempts to suppress and ignore this truth – he desperately tries to forget about it altogether. Indeed, death is a great enemy that only the Lord Jesus can destroy, according to 1 Cor 15:25–26: “For he [Lord Jesus] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” and Rev 20:14 declares: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Dan 7:9–10, Rev 20:12b, 15 “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened … and another book was opened, which is the book of life [consists of all who are made alive by Christ – born again]: and the dead [spiritually dead] were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works … And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
2 Cor 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
Rom 1:32 “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
Heb 2:14–15 “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
- The resurrection of life; The resurrection of damnation – Because man is a two-part being with a soul and a body, God’s plan to restore His elect to a right standing with Him actually involves two resurrections – the first of the soul and a second of the body. Although the soul and body are separated when a person dies physically, God’s plan for every human being is to reunite his soul and body on the Last Day of this world’s existence. The bodies of both the saved and unsaved will be resurrected on the Last Day, as we read in John 5:29: “… they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation”. One might be quick to surmise that this verse is somehow teaching that “good works” are required to get into the Kingdom of God – but nothing could be further from the truth! We understand from the whole Bible that our good works are as “filthy rags” in God’s eyes (Isa 64:6). That’s why Tit 3:5–7 clarifies that we are NOT saved by our “good works” but by God’s Mercy: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us”. Well, where do “good works” enter in? Let’s look at the very next verse Tit 3:8 which informs us that good works result from and occur after salvation: “that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works” because it is God who works those “good works” in the lives of believers for His good pleasure according to Php 2:13: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”. So now we understand that “they that have done good” are the true believers, who have already experienced the “first resurrection” of their heavenly souls and who will receive their glorified, spiritual bodies on the Last Day. Their bodies will be changed into a form “like unto” that of Christ’s heavenly body, as we read in Php 3:20–21. Conversely, “They that have done evil” in John 5:29 are the unsaved who will be resurrected to stand for judgment. Thus, we can say that only the elect will experience two resurrections. Since the unsaved will not experience the “first resurrection” of their souls, they will only experience the resurrection of the Last Day and will remain in their spiritually dead condition forever.
Tit 3:5–7 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”
1 Pet 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten [born-again] us again unto a lively [living] hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead …”
John 5:28–29 “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
Php 3:20–21 “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
- He that hath part in the First Resurrection: on such the Second Death hath NO Power – The Greek word for “resurrection” (anastasis:G386) literally means “to stand up again”, and it always refers to a raising from death – that is, to “live again”. The “first resurrection” is a critical step in God’s salvation program. It is the spiritual resurrection of the souls of God’s Elect from their spiritually dead natural condition, on an individual basis making them “born again”. In John 11:25–26 Jesus declares, “… I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die …”. That is similar to what Jesus said in John 5:25, “…when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live …”. The references to death and life are all spiritual in nature and relate to salvation. And we know with certainty that Rom 10:17 proclaims, “So then faith [or salvation] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. The “hearing” God has in view is His gift of “spiritual hearing” without which no one becomes saved. The Greek word for “power” here in: “He that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power” is exousia (G1849), which means “authority”, the true believers are no longer subject to the “second death” – it has no authority over them. “He that overcometh” in Rev 2:11b: “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” are the true believers, who have already experienced the “first resurrection”. Notice that five characteristics of those who have experienced the “first resurrection” are listed in Rev 20:6 as follows: (1) They are blessed, (2) They are holy, (3) The second death has no authority over them, (4) They are priests of God, and (5) They reign with Christ. All five of these characteristics apply to every true believer – those who have become born from above.
John 5:25 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”
Rev 20:6 “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years [eternity].”
- Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear – As sinners, we are born spiritually dead in “bondage”, or enslaved to sin and to Satan, as Eph 2:12 states. The “spirit of bondage” versus the “spirit of adoption” are also apparent in 1 Cor 2:12 as the “spirit of the world” versus the “spirit which is of God”. Furthermore Satan’s downfall is also pictured in 2 The 2:8: “And then shall that Wicked [Satan] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth [the Word of God], and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming …”. 1 John 4:18 declares “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment (kolasis 2851). He that feareth is not made perfect in love”. Why does “fear” have “torment”? Mat 25:46 is the only other place where the same Greek word for “torment (kolasis 2851)” is used, and it is a very significant passage where the word is translated as “punishment”: “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment (kolasis 2851): but the righteous into life eternal”. It describes the end of the world and the final destinations of the unsaved as well as the saved. Now we can see why “fear hath torment” (or “punishment”), and why unsaved man fears death because of what awaits him – the trial of the last day and the sentence of eternal damnation in Hell. 1 John 4:18 also indicates that “perfect love casteth out fear”. What is “perfect love” and how can it “cast out fear”? Let’s read 1 John 4:16–19: “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment …”. The Christian has “boldness in the day of judgment” because his salvation is totally dependent on the work and faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. Wonderfully, he can rejoice in what 2 Tim 1:9–10 proclaims: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel …”
Eph 2:12 “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience…”
1 Cor 2:12 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
Rom 8:15 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
1 John 4:16–19 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.