Lord Jesus has opened the door to eternal life in heaven by freeing us from the clutches of death and a life of abundance on earth but the choice is ours to accept or reject.
“They, then, who are destined to die, need not be careful to inquire what death they are to die, but into what place death will usher them”. Augustine
In the world right after birth death becomes a certainty and right from ages the question of life and death has been troubling mankind. Some believe that birth in itself is continuity of a chapter put on pause a while back and death is that pause and rebirth the resuming. Others forecast births in various forms before getting another chance to be man and thus worship God. While still others argue that this is the only chance to know God and then eternal damnation or jubilation. Scientists on the other hand are busy in their attempts to unravel the mystery of life by creating life in a laboratory. Through all these attempts man is simply trying to delve into the power of the unknown and then tame that power for his personal control. Is life just a few paragraphs in an obituary column and death a walk into darkness- the unknown destination?
What is life? – In a scientific perspective life is a continuous and dynamic cycle of regeneration through interpretation of a code written out into the genetic structure of every living being. Body comprises of trillions of cells, invisible structures, that form it and it is their death and continuous renewal that depicts life and its stopping signifies death. But the question then comes out about the origin of life itself. There is the theory of evolution and then the theory of the big bang where everything started after a large explosion and matter came into being. The jury is still out on the catalyst that initiated the explosion and the identity of the small particle that exploded to release so much of energy or matter.
What does the Bible say about life and death? – God created what is seen from things that are invisible through His Word (Hebrews 11:3). The creation process is documented sequentially to explain the whole process- that first heaven and all that is in it was created by God and then what is in, on and above the earth through a Divine command. Since life cannot exist without light, the first command was “Let there be light” and without any identifiable source the earth was filled with light of the “Glory of God”. The heavens have no other source of light and God Himself is the source and after regeneration of the heavens and the earth “There shall be no night there; they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light” (Revelation 22:5). The first three days of the creation process Lord God provides the light and whatever comes into being in His light attains a different hue. The second day is spent in making the earth habitable and waters are separated into spaces under the earth, on and the stars were revealed on the fourth day.
The creation of the first three days acquires godly traits acquired through His glory- firstly to be self sufficient in itself for replication and secondly to give its contents/produce unreservedly. Thus the earth is capable of continuous regeneration of its resources and so are the trees and plants through their fruits. Animals, birds and sea creatures do not have godly nature and God decided to provide knowledge of Himself through daily interaction. Man was provided the option of choosing light or darkness or one of the two- life through God or self dependence through knowledge. Man opted for the latter and received the effects of the option given by God. Everything was available free and in abundance to man with only one “cautionary advice” from God- if you eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall surely die. The last two Hebrew words used in the cautionary command “mut ta mut” repeat the caution of death- “you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17).
Comparing life and death – Adam had a son at 130 years of age and lived another 800 years after that whereas death was proclaimed immediately after he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When there was a double warning about death why did he not die immediately or did he die twice? Death is basically ‘an end of something’ or an separation from one part. It is thus an end of one part and start of some other part and in Adam’s case their sinful act caused an end of:
- Their stay in the Garden of Eden and expulsion.
- End of easy access to the material possessions available in the garden without effort and to start earning the same through hard labor- signifying an end of God’s grace for them.
- Termination of daily meetings with God to a state of ‘seeking Him’ in the future.
- End of life without disease and pain caused by separation from the tree of life and the start of ‘thistles and briars’- pain and trouble in life.
When God declared they will surely die, the implication was not only physical death but an end of the above advantages and later physical death also, which he suffered after 930 years. The concept of life and death thus has different aspects- spiritual death through separation from God; social death through being declared ‘persona non grata’ in the Garden or society; financial death through irreplaceable losses and physical death through the separation of body from the spirit and soul- because in each case it denotes an end of something. Life on the other hand is to retain this connection especially with God who had established a connection with man through breathing in a part of Himself into Adam at the time of creation. Life therefore is to maintain that connect with God while death is severance of the same.
What is second death? – Revelation chapter 20 lays down the details of the end of Satan’s rebellion and his being thrown into ‘the bottomless pit’ for a thousand years. Consequently the thrones were set up and books were opened and “another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books….This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15). This final judgement is pronounced on the basis of two aspects- firstly on assessment of one’s works during life and secondly on finding the name in the Book of Life. All those found mentioned in the Book are destined to reign with Christ for a thousand years and others will be consigned to the ‘lake of fire’; to suffer eternal punishment. This final separation and falling into the lake where the fires never go out is the second death an d eternal separation.
Changing from death to life and vice versa – First death is initial separation from God but still there is a chance to get back into a relationship with Him; in earlier times it was through our seeking Him and now through opening of the door to answer His knock and welcoming Him into our hearts. Lord Jesus declares “I am the way, and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and anyone who comes to Him receives life and restoration of that earlier severed relationship with God. Lord Jesus took upon Himself all our sins to pay the penalty that we are supposed to bear. Through His sacrifice on the cross all our sins were washed away and since this was the basic impediment to our secure relationship with God, we can confidently have access to the Most High God. Rather through the Holy Spirit that every believer is blessed with Lord Jesus dwell in us and we in Him and this was His prayer while on earth. “That they all may be one, as You Father are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in Us” (John 17:21). Our Lord through this inter-relationship provides us the opportunity to present ourselves before God and partake of Divine glory.
When we accept Lord Jesus as our Lord and surrender to His sovereign authority over our lives, we receive this oneness with Him and through Him to God the Father. This not only cleanses us of our sins through repentance and forgiveness but also restores to us our life and we are changed from death to life an d are born again. It is in our hands to receive this reformation through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Lord Jesus. However after accepting Him as our Savior we decide to revert back to a life of sin and reject Him we backslide into the same previous state of being dead in our sins.
Is there a chance after physical death? – Many religions do believe in birth after death and Hindu and Sikh religion believe in a cycle of 8.4 million life cycles after death. As per this theory a human being gets a chance to worship and know God to be united to Him, for each one is a part of God-Aatma and Paramaatma. Thus one gets a chance to improve oneself through good deeds to be like God or be condemned to hell eternally. This however leaves many questions unanswered- How is hell worse than the life as an insect; when does final condemnation happen; how does one improve himself to become man again from an animal’s life and is there any help available from any quarter to attain this state of union with God or is it solely self effort? Bible clarifies all this that there is only one life and one chance for we are made in the image and likeness of God and through the Savior we are blessed with the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and gradually through daily change transforms us into the original Divine look and forgiveness of sins entitles us to our heavenly inheritance through faith in the Lord Jesus. Thus apparently there cannot be another birth or sequence of rebirths just to enable man to take a chance to be one with God, for though God loves us dearly but He is also just and judgement is part of His character.
On the judgement day there will thus be three category of people before God’s throne- first, those whose names are found in the Lamb’s book of Life through faith in Him and whose sins are pain for and forgiven already; second will be those who refused to accept Him as their Savior despite being told about His being Son of God and third will be those who had never heard of the Lord during their life on earth. The first are blessed to be “children of God’ and heirs to inheritance in the Father’s house; the second are condemned on two counts- first for rejecting the Son of God and second for their sins. The third will probably be judged as per their deeds with a relatively lenient view.
How can pride lead to life and death? – In heaven God created various angels with different constitution as per their assigned tasks. Lucifer was created ‘as a guardian cherub’ to be in the presence of God eternally but “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth” (Ezekiel 28:14-17). In the same manner the eating of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve was an attempt to become self dependant from being God dependant. Self or ego is pride that keeps us occupied with our own efforts and strength rather than surrendering to God and accepting His sovereign status. It was pride that caused Lucifer to get expelled from heaven and it was an attempt to reach that state that caused separation and ‘death’ of Adam and Eve. Even in a physical sense pride causes undue stress on the individual to perform and be above others in every sphere and stress is the root cause of most of the fatal diseases.
Why did God create life and death? – God created everything as an expression of His great love for His creation and He had no compulsion to do so. He gave life but He provided a choice to mankind to choose between life and death through the fruit of the two trees in the Garden of Eden. “God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4). The light was good for the creation but God did not want captive prisoners or robots to worship Him and it was up to man to make the choice. Man decided to opt for death and was not forced by God. Creation of no option would have been an act of unfairness by a just God. God did not create death but man opted for the separation from God and death.
Death entered as a sure happening after birth once sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Death teaches man to be prepared to face it and in the interim period between life and death make all possible efforts to accept the Savior who alone assures us of eternal life with God. The earlier we learn the lesson the better becomes our stay on this earth and the fear of the unknown is eliminated. It was in this state that Apostle Paul could declare “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) for he lived in a close relationship with Lord Jesus and in faith was sure of his union with Him after death.
Faith in the earthly life and death on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ assures us of eternal union with God for He declares “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). He assures us of such a great blessing of life eternal in Himself.
The place in heaven is ready but are we prepared to believe the promise and go? As always God never forces, only provides choices- we have the choice, eternal death and damnation in lake of fire or life of fellowship with God in His house!