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Archive for Death

The Cross and Death

Paul spoke plainly!  “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Gal. 3:10). The law demands, “Keep the law or die.” We cannot keep it. We are sinners, and sinners cannot keep the law. The law demands from us a righteousness that we do not have and can never have, no matter how hard we work at it. We will always miss the mark and fail. God’s law will always be faithful to do its thing. It makes known that we are cursed – dead in trespasses and sins. So where is the escape? How can this curse be removed?

It has been removed.  Read carefully these words written over 2000 years ago. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:13). Jesus Christ bore the curse of the law for us by hanging on a tree. It was not mere chance that He died on a cross. The place of His death had everything to do with the final judgment of death imposed by God’s holy law.

The law, because it is connected with man’s sin in Adam, is God’s executioner pronouncing that everyone is guilty and condemned. The law’s role as an assassin is illustrated graphically in the Old Testament. “And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, you shall hang him on a tree. But the body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day (for he who is hanged is accursed by God)” (Deut. 21:22-23). If a Jew broke a law which was to result in death, he was to be stoned to death and his body hung from a tree. This lawbreaker suspended on the tree graphically illustrated to everyone that God’s Holy Law had been broken and His judgment of death had been completed. The death of Christ is unmistakably tied to the curse imposed by the Mosaic Law – Jesus Christ bore the curse imposed by the law by hanging on a tree! Amazing! Where Christ died was crucial, but how He died was just as important. 

In order to understand His death, we must recall how the first Adam died. Death does not mean a ceasing to exist; it means separation. Adam and Eve were separated from God the very moment that Adam sinned. This division was made clear by their stitching together fig leaf coverings to hide their guilt before God. This death was then passed on by his corrupt seed – father to son – down through history, infecting the entire race. Every human being born into this world from then until now is born physically alive but spiritually separated from God – with the exception of just One.

Jesus Christ was not subject to Adam’s contaminated race because He was supernaturally born of a virgin. He, therefore, bypassed Adam’s sin and came into the slave market of the spiritually dead as a freeborn human being – physically alive and spiritually alive, the only one of His kind. The Father and Son enjoyed a special personal intimacy with one another throughout eternity. They had never been separated. This is evident in the New Testament in that the Second Person of the Trinity always referred to the First Person as “My Father.” The times are too numerous to mention. This is what makes a single moment so memorable. Jesus was hanging from a Roman cross.  Look closely at Matthew 27:45-46: “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour [three o’clock] Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?’” He did not say, “My Father, My Father,” but He used the impersonal “My God, My God.”

This cannot be missed! This reveals a mark of separation similar to God’s saying to Adam in Genesis 3, “Adam, where are you?” Jesus Christ died spiritually! Here was the perfect Lamb of God bearing the sin of the imperfect children of Adam’s fallen race. At that moment, God the Father touched His Holy Son with our sin. He turned His back on His Son and allowed Him to die the death that we should have died. Christ at that moment on the cross received in His body our just judgment of death. He bore the curse of death that was meant for us. He became sin for us. Our Lord, having finished His work, then said – and please note – “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And He died! Wow! Blessings!

 

Sin and Death

Happy Independence Day! We have all heard the saying. Weightlifters know it! “No Pain, No Gain.” “If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those that are perishing, in whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Unbelievers are under a spiritual trance, inflicted by the god of this age; the very same god who said to Eve in the garden, “You shall not surely die!” This god “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). This deception is to convince the world that there are no such things as sin and death.

 

Sigmund Freud said that we all have a touch of mental illness and just need to get well.  Our sickness can be cured if we see our local shrink, limit our bad habits, and seek some higher power. The deceiver’s false logic for humanity goes something like this: “We are all ultimately destined to go to heaven, each in his own way. After all, we are not all that bad, and there is at least a spark of good in the worst of us.” If we can just provide the right environment and some outside positive influence, we can all get better and make our world a better place for everyone. All our society needs is just a good cleaning up. Did not Jesus come to motivate us to love one another, and didn’t He tell us to follow His example, and make this a better world?

 

This is exactly what the god of this age wants Adam’s fallen race to believe. If we never knew our true condition before God, why would we desire to flee to Him? If we never knew what it really means to be wrong, why would we ever want to be right? If we never knew what it was to be in darkness, why would we seek to come to the light? If we never knew that we were spiritually blind, why would we ever want to see? If we never knew the tremendous horror of being spiritually dead in Adam, why would we ever desire life?

 

The Bible does not say that we are spiritually sick; the Bible says that we are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Jesus said it!  Explaining the perils that lay in store for those who chose to follow Him, a young potential disciple asked Jesus to allow him to first go and bury his father. Our Lord’s response is jaw dropping. He said, “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22). How do dead people bury dead people? Think a moment about the result of being spiritually dead and at the same time blind to that fact. A spiritually dead man does not “feel” his death any more than a physically dead person would feel a 400-pound weight on his chest. If we felt spiritually separated from God, realizing that we might die in that condition and spend an eternity separated from Him in hell, then there might be a sense of extreme urgency to do something about it. But because of Satan’s veil of blindness, we do not feel dead, nor do we feel any sense of urgency to receive life. Instead, this death in us is like the pain being inflicted by a dentist on our gums that have been deadened by an anesthesia. In the case of the dental profession, anesthesia is good because it deadens the feeling of pain in the gums, and the dentist is free to do his work. A few hours after the procedure, however, this anesthesia wears off, and only then is the pain felt, even though it had been there all the time. The pain of the second death that is born in us is likewise being spiritually anesthetized from our mind.

 

Little Beverly Smith, born in Akron, Ohio, almost never cried. She never cried when she fell down; she never cried when she bumped her head; she didn’t even cry when she touched her hand on a hot stove. She cried only when she was hungry or sleepy or angry. The doctors discovered that she had a very rare defect of the central nervous system for which there is no cure. She was born with the inability to feel pain. The doctors told her mother that she had to be watched constantly because little Beverly could break a bone and not know it, or she could develop appendicitis and not know it. This is what it must be like to be spiritually dead and not know it.

 

Tragically, it will take passing through the valley of the shadow of death for many to awaken from this spiritual swoon to the pain of eternal separation from God in hell, but it will be forever too late. Left to ourselves we do not feel threatened, nor do we sense any desire for God’s life because we are spiritually dead. Without God personally scraping the scales of blindness from our eyes, we will remain dead and insensitive to the truth about who we really are (Jn. 6:44;65). We will remain oblivious to His gracious provision in Jesus Christ. God was gracious to provide His law in order for us to understand our spiritual condition before Him, to feel the pain of sin and death, and to be pointed to God’s provision of life in Jesus Christ. Just how does God’s Spirit use His law to remove these scales of blindness from our eyes? More tomorrow. Blessings!

Saved from What?

Well, it’s Monday!  I woke up early this morning thinking and thanking. Thinking about the storm that passed and thanking God for sparing our lives once more. But there were some who were not spared. Some lost homes, and others their lives. We should remember them this morning and pray for them.

But quickly my thoughts once again focused in on the horrible virus still raging around us. Though the winds have stopped blowing, death is still in the air. How do we respond to this fear? We preach the good news of the gospel with the realization that it will trump any bad news that this life can throw at us – including the sting of death and the fear of hell. The apostle Paul makes the gospel crystal clear. Writing to the church at Corinth, he began chapter 15 with the words “Moreover brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).

I do not claim to be a Bible scholar, but I understand Paul’s words clearly. He says that what he is going to make known to the Corinthians, and to us, is the gospel. That is what the word “declare” means. He remined the Corinthian believers that he had preached the gospel to them and that they had received the gospel and now held firmly to it. His next few words shout to me. “By which also you are saved.”

The word “saved” does not mean a thing to us – nor will the gospel – unless we come to grips with the truth that we are lost. Lost! What does that mean? The Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Roman 3:23). “Sin” means to miss the mark. God sets the mark that measures the standard of His character, His glory.

God’s standard is absolute perfection. This absolute perfection is called “righteousness.” Translation? We have all missed this mark. We have all sinned and come short of the righteousness that God requires for life before Him (Romans 6:23). The only way to have forever life is to be as good as God is. And obviously we cannot! We have already missed it. The only payment required by God for falling short of His mark is death – not physical death – but it will take another kind of death.  

Death is never far from our thinking. It is appointed (an appointment that we are all going to keep) to man once to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible calls death an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is an enemy that all fear. The writer of Hebrews calls this fear of death “a bondage” (Hebrews 2:15).  If we say we do not fear death, we lie! And if we say we do not sin, we lie (1 John 1:8). We all live under the looming bondage of sin and death.

And then there is a judgment? I hear it! “I don’t believe in God, therefore I do not fear death or any impending judgment.” I get that, but Jesus said do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. He is saying that we do fear those who can kill our body. He continues, “But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). The “Him” here is speaking of God. Jesus, the One Who spoke truth, said that we are to fear God because death and hell are real.

You may respond, “I don’t believe that.” If you are right, then you should not fear death, but the Bible says you do, and you should not fear the possibility of hell, but the Bible says you do. I choose to believe words coming from the Lord Jesus Christ because He conquered both death and hell, and He does not lie. In fact, Jesus spoke more of hell than any writer in the Bible. That’s hard to toss out.

He has been there and done that! The Bible calls physical death a shadow (Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79). Words from my favorite song writer, the shepherd boy named David, come to mind. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). A shadow is just a reflection of the real.  I would not fear getting hit by a shadow, would you? 

But here is a truth that sets the stage for what is coming.  We are taught not to look on things which are seen but the things that are not seen. The reason? The things that are seen are not the real. The real are the things which cannot be seen by our human eyes (2 Corinthians 4:18). Physical death is but a reflection of real death. Physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. That death does not hurt.  Spiritual death – real death – is the separation of the soul, and the spirit from God – in hell. This is the death to fear because it has eternal consequences – very painful eternal consequences.  The gospel is our only relief from the bondage of the fear of death and the fear of the impending judgment of hell. Stay safe and stay tuned.