Many would put off and try to ignore the inevitable fact that they will one day die. And, yes, even believers die. Unless the Lord Jesus returns soon, I too will die.
But, why must I die? The answer is found in the Scriptures, and most specifically in Genesis, chapter three. As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, each and every one of us must die.
Following Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience, God told Adam in Genesis 3:17-19: “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” The apostle Paul also wrote to the Romans (5:12): “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Why must I die? Because, like Adam, I am a sinful man. As David says in Psalm 51:5, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” My entire nature – something God originally created good – is now corrupted by sin. Instead of loving God and seeking His perfect will, I am turned in upon myself and think of my will and desires first. Instead of loving others as I love myself – recognizing them as God’s creatures and putting their needs above my own – my nature is to put myself first and give to others the leftovers. Instead of loving and serving God with all my heart, my heart so often is just not into it. And, as a result of my corrupt and sinful human nature, I have come far, far short of keeping God’s commandments in my thoughts, desires, words and deeds. Even when I try to obey, I fail. My motives are wrong and I just can’t measure up.
When I became a Christian, God’s Spirit took up residence in me and created in me a new nature which does love the LORD God and does desire to serve Him by living in accord with God’s commandments. But, as long as I am in this body and in this world, I have still have my old sinful nature, too, which is far less enthused with learning God’s Word and walking in the ways of the Lord. In fact, my old nature still balks at the thought of going to church, reading God’s Word, worshiping the Lord God and living in accord with His commandments.
St. Paul describes this in Romans 7:18-25a: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Even Moses, who was certainly a man of God, had to die! He wrote the following words in Psalm 90 (v. 1-12): “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You turn man to destruction, and say, ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; they are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: in the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers. For we have been consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
“So, what is the difference?” you might ask. “If believers die just like unbelievers, what’s the point in being a Christian?”
Yes, it’s true I will die unless Jesus returns and judges this world very soon! But the death of a believer and an unbeliever is so different.
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” When an unbeliever dies, he dies in his sins to face the judgment of the almighty and holy God. And God does not grade on a curve! The Bible teaches that “there is not a just man on earth who does good
and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). It also teaches that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4,20).
Death for an unbeliever (one who does not repent of his sinful ways and trust in Christ and His shed blood for mercy and forgiveness) is the gateway to God’s judgment and to his eternal condemnation for sin and the rejection of God’s offers of mercy in His Son (Mark 16:16; John 3:18,36).
For the believer (one who acknowledges his sin and looks to God for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world), death, too, leads to God’s judgment; but the believer’s sins are pardoned and forgiven and will not be held against him. As Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
We are told of believers (Revelation 7:14-17): “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Though unbelievers are raised up to be judged and condemned to the eternal punishments of hell, believers are raised up without sin and given the eternal joys of heaven.
The believer’s “citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
The Bible tells us as believers: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
So, yes, I must die! But that is not bad at all for me as a believer in Christ Jesus. Why? Because, my sins are washed away in Jesus’ blood and will not be held against me! And, when my body is raised up, it will be changed into a glorious and heavenly body like that of my glorified Savior (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35ff.) I will no longer be a sinner or corrupted by sin but will be able to serve my God in righteousness and true holiness – forever! There will be no more sin, death or sorrow.
Yes, I must die; but, by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, I will rise again without sin to live forever with my God and Savior in a perfect heaven and earth which He will create! Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1ff.; Revelation 21:1-8.
You see, I must die, but Jesus took away the sting of death and made it for me the gateway to true life! Cf. Romans 8:28-39.
“As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Hebrews 9:27-28
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]