BibleTools

Topical Studies

 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Bible verses about Death
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The Bible makes some very plain points about the condition of the dead:

  • In Psalm 146:3-4, the psalmist writes, "Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans [thoughts, KJV] perish."
  • Solomon adds, "For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten" (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
  • Speaking of a dead man, Job tells his friends, "His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; they are brought low, and he does not perceive it" (Job 14:21).

These verses are very clear: People who have died can no longer think. They are not merely unconscious—every function of their body, including the brain, has stopped. They have no recognition of anything, not even of a vast emptiness or nothingness. Webster's Dictionary defines dead as "in a state of complete and permanent cessation of vital functions; inanimate, having no life; having no feeling, movement or activity."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Man and Fully God?


 

In I Corinthians 15:3, Paul writes, "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." The resurrected Jesus Himself adds in Revelation 1:18, "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore." He introduces the message to the Smyrna church by saying, "These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life" (Revelation 2:8).

Death, according to these scriptures, is a state without awareness. If Jesus was unaware, how could He raise Himself from the dead? It is impossible! He was not even aware that He was dead! If a dead person has no awareness or thought, how can he have the power and control to perform a resurrection?

Furthermore, Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death." When one sins, death is the result. Jesus did not sin (Hebrews 4:15), but "He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness" (I Peter 2:24).

Many more scriptures of this nature could be added, but it is clear that, if Christ did not truly die, the penalty for sin has not been paid, and we have no Savior!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Man and Fully God?


 

Genesis 2:7

We must briefly consider whether man has an immortal soul. Our understanding of the Scriptures compels us to maintain that he does not for several reasons:

» Job recognized that man has a spirit (Job 32:8), which Paul shows in I Corinthians 2:11 endows humanity with intellect. This spirit in man comes from God (Zechariah 12:1) and returns to Him when we die (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59). It records our experiences, character, and personality, which God stores until the resurrection of the dead. However, the Bible never describes this spirit as immortal or eternal; in fact, I Corinthians 2:6-16 explains that man needs yet another Spirit, God's, to be complete and discern godly things.

» The Bible flatly asserts that all people die: "It is appointed for men to die once" (Hebrews 9:27). Ezekiel says clearly that souls die: "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; see Romans 6:23). Jesus warns in Matthew 10:28 that God can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

» In death, life and consciousness are gone. "The dead know nothing," says Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5, and he later adds, "There is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (verse 10). In Psalm 146:4, the psalmist writes about a man's death, "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish" (see Genesis 3:19).

» Scripture also confutes the idea that people go to heaven or hell after death. Peter says to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. . . . For David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:29, 34). Our Savior confirms this in John 3:13: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." The biblical usage of Sheol and Hades simply means "the grave."

» Men cannot have immortality unless God gives it to them. Paul writes, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). In I Corinthians 15:53 he tells the saints, "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." At the first resurrection God will give "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality" (Romans 2:7). If we already had immortality, why should we put it on or seek it?

» Only God has immortality. He is, Paul writes to Timothy, ". . . the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality" (I Timothy 6:15-16). John says of the Word, "In Him was life" (John 1:4), meaning as Creator of all things (verse 3), He had life inherent. Jesus affirms this in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Men must go through Him to receive eternal life.

With such overwhelming proof, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul proves false. Man is not immortal, nor does he possess any "spark of God" unless God has given it to him through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). A Christian's hope of life after death rests in the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:12-23). Conversely, the wicked only await eternal death as recompense for their evil lives, not eternal life in torment.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Eternal Torment?


 

Genesis 2:15-17

Notice especially that God originally pronounced the curse of death should sin be committed. However, Jesus says in John 8:44 that Satan was a murderer from the beginning. When was the beginning? It had to be when God created beings whose life was in their blood, that is, humans, subject to death if they sinned. This did not occur until Adam and Eve were created. Thus, when they sinned, death had its beginning.

Genesis 3:13 adds, “And the LORD God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate.'” Thus, from what Jesus says in John 8:44 regarding Satan's part in this episode, we find that God held Satan guilty of murder. His weapon was the deceit that encouraged her to commit sin. She did not completely overlook her respect for God but discounted it enough to give into Satan's persuasion. She did this on the strength of her desire, fueled by her lust for the pleasure of eating the forbidden fruit—but even more so to fulfill her desire to become wise. Then, Adam, though not deceived as Eve was, also discounted God's counsel in order to make sure he did not displease Eve. He was guilty of idolatry.

What does knowing these things accomplish? It shows that, even though their deaths did not occur immediately, at the very least God had delivered the power of death into Satan's hands by means of deceit just before he induced her to sin. Satan used this means to murder them, and he uses this means to this day. Incidentally, Jesus indicates in the Olivet Prophecy, as well as in Revelation, that we will witness a rise in the intensity of deceit just prior to His return.

God did not intervene to stop either Satan or Adam and Eve from following their desires. Adam and Eve had a test to pass. They failed, as have all their progeny. Only Christ has succeeded. Unless one is converted and under Christ's blood, Satan continues to hold this power even to this day. But we are not defenseless; we have Christ to help us in this battle.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death


 

Genesis 3:1-5

Earlier, God had informed Adam and Eve that sin exacts a penalty, death - the cessation of life - and, if a person will not repent of sin, this means total death - no chance for eternal life. This threat God has held over mankind's head from the beginning. Notice, however, how the Devil replies:

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (verses 4-5)

Here is the lie: "Look, Adam and Eve, you have an immortal soul. God cannot enforce His threat." In its various forms through the centuries, this doctrine of man having eternal life already has appeared time and again.

In theological terms, this belief is the basis of the "Doctrine of Eternal Security." What is worse, this heretical doctrine has resurfaced in the church, having been part of the latest apostasy. It cannot stand, however, before the light of God's Word. God has a far superior way of dealing with humanity - both righteous and incorrigible.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

Genesis 3:4

Satan's heresy that "You shall not surely die," when expanded, claims that we are already immortal, so death has no real hold over us. This idea, proposed at the very beginning, has thrived throughout history. Mainstream Christianity calls it the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, while various Eastern religions contain it in beliefs such as reincarnation. Whatever its moniker, the belief that human beings possess a spiritual, eternally conscious, imperishable component is a major tenet of nearly every religion throughout man's history. In our modern culture, books and movies abound with examples of the spirits of the dead hovering around the living characters, giving them comfort, aid, and encouragement. It is taken as given that death is not the end; somehow, one's conscious spirit will live on when the physical body perishes.

The Gnostic belief in the dualism of flesh and spirit—with the flesh being evil and something to be freed from, while the eternal spirit was good—also originated in the lie Satan told Eve. Gnostics, in general, believed that the purpose of human existence was to return to the spiritual realm from whence all originated. Death, then, was seen as liberation of the spirit.

First, consider how this belief affects a person's attitude and way of life. When Satan undermined the death penalty for disobedience, in addition to sowing further distrust in what God says, he also blunted one of the keenest elements of human motivation, continued self-preservation. If life beyond the grave is assured, how this life is lived makes little difference. It is like guaranteeing a college freshman that he will receive a doctorate degree, regardless of whether anything is learned, any work is done, any classes are attended, or any tuition is paid. While the student may indeed expend some effort, the motivation to apply himself wholeheartedly to his education will be substantially weakened. It would be so easy to slack off and postpone catching up to some time next week. After all, if the goal is certain, why worry about the details in the meantime?

Spiritually, the result is the same. If one already has immortality, and is eternally saved, there is no pressing reason to resist the pulls of carnality. Resisting Satan matters little. Devoting one's life to growing and overcoming has no urgency. Sin is no big deal. Why should one study to come to know God and His truth? Believing that one already possesses eternal life removes the urgency to live according to the desires and requirements of the Creator. At best, all that remains is the vague guidance of "just be a good person."

The Bible teaches that there can be life after death through the resurrection from the dead. Eternal life is ours only if God supplies it, and not because we possess an immortal soul:

» God tells us, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4; emphasis ours throughout). God repeats this in Ezekiel 18:20. Clearly, it is possible for a "soul" to die.

» Paul instructs in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death," not eternal life—not even eternal life in ever-burning hell. As with Ezekiel 18, sin incurs the death penalty. Satan, though, would have us believe that since death is not a real threat, sin is no big deal. It is only because of God's grace that we are not struck down immediately—not because of any inherent immortality within us—as the rest of Romans 6:23 explains: "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Eternal life is a gift, not an inborn quality.

» I Timothy 6:16 says that God "alone has immortality"—not any member of the human race, Christians included!

» Romans 2:7 promises "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality," again proving that eternal life is a gift, not a right, and that immortality must be sought (by "doing good") rather than assumed to have it already.

» Finally, in the "Resurrection Chapter," I Corinthians 15, Paul explains when Christians receive immortality:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (I Corinthians 15:50-54)

It is not until "the last trumpet," when Jesus Christ returns, that the dead will be resurrected and given immortality (I Thessalonians 4:16). At this time, the saints will be changed and given new spiritual bodies (I Corinthians 15:49; I John 3:2). Clearly, immortality is not given until the resurrection from the dead, which does not take place until Jesus Christ returns.

That God must resurrect a person for him to continue living means that He retains sovereignty. He is not obliged to grant eternal life to anyone who demonstrates, once he has the opportunity to know God, that he is not willing to be subject to His way of life. However, by belittling the truth about the resurrection from the dead, and telling people that they already have immortality, Satan can distract them from a basic reason why they need to listen to God—so that they may be resurrected and continue living!

David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part Three: Satan's Three Heresies


 

Genesis 3:7-21

Here we have the Bible's first sermon. This is what Abel heard, believed, and submitted to. The same instruction merely informed Cain.

Adam and Eve were the first sinners to stand before God and be called into account. In this passage are four elements that apply to what Abel believed. The first element is that, in order for a sinner to stand before God, nakedness must be covered. Nakedness, both spiritual and physical, has wide usage as a symbol. At its best, it indicates innocence, child-like simplicity, and vulnerability. At its worst, it indicates humiliation, guilt, shame, and punishment. Adam and Eve were attempting to hide their humiliation, guilt, and shame when they grabbed a few fig leaves to provide covering.

An interesting spiritual lesson comes in understanding an application of the symbolism here. Adam and Eve threw together as a covering whatever was handy at the moment. What they chose to cover themselves with physically was totally inadequate as a spiritual covering. God immediately rejected their effort, which is the main instruction of this vignette.

A secondary teaching is that many carnal people today think it does not matter what they physically wear when they come before God at church services. Oh, yes, it does! These days, people arrive at church to worship wearing all kinds of casual clothing. In fact, many churches invite them to do so, advertising themselves as "casual"! Sometimes this reflects a matter of ignorance; they just do not know any better. At other times, it reveals a serious matter of disrespect for the primary covering—Christ's sacrifice, as we shall see shortly.

It is good to remember the overall principle to appear before God covered with acceptable covering. The symbolic instruction carries through to both physical and spiritual applications, and the person who cares what God thinks will do his best to conform to Him. God covered Adam and Eve with truly fine clothing. That is our example.

The second element Genesis 3 reveals takes us a step further spiritually in regard to the covering: What humans devise in terms of covering spiritual nakedness is, in reality, worthless. The third element clarifies this further: God Himself must supply the only covering that is spiritually adequate.

The fourth element is that the only adequate spiritual covering is by means of death. As in the first element, there are two lines of instruction. The first leads to the necessity of the second, if life is to continue. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The underlying principle is that we are always to give of our best to the Master. When we fail, the death penalty is imposed. This, then, brings forth a second teaching: In a spiritual sense, the entire human race sinned in Adam and Eve, who represented all mankind at the time. Since the wages of sin is death, and all have subsequently sinned, all of us must receive that wage—or another, an innocent One on whom death has no claim because He never sinned, must substitute for us.

However, we find it clearly spelled out in Romans that there must be a link between us and the Substitute (Romans 4:1-4, 11-12, 16, 19-20, 23-25; 5:1-2).

Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the link between us and God's forgiveness, which provides the acceptable spiritual covering necessary to be received into God's presence and receive the gift of life.

The second aspect of the fourth element also involves another death—ours. In this case, it is not a literal death but a spiritual one:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? . . . knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. (Romans 6:1-2, 6-8)

This death is achieved through repentance because one believes he is a sinner in need of God's forgiveness, having broken His law and earned death.

What we have just reviewed must have been taught to Cain and Abel, probably by Adam. How do we know this? Because Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel offered by faith, and faith comes by hearing. He heard the divine words given by God to Adam and Eve, which were passed to him, and Abel believed. Cain heard the same words, but did not believe as Abel did.

More proof is recorded following Cain's rejection. God says to him in Genesis 4:7, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." God clearly indicates a choice between right and wrong. Good and evil faced Cain and Abel. The one brother by faith chose what was right in God's eyes, while the other chose what was right in his own eyes. In essence, he chose death.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

Genesis 3:19

The last part of God's curse on Adam involves the brevity of physical life. To this point, death had been mentioned only as a threatened punishment for sin (Genesis 2:17), so it must be assumed that, as long as Adam and Eve remained sinless, they would not die. Paul writes in Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned."

God designed His wording of Adam's punishment to link mankind with the earth: He was created out of it, and when he died, he would return to it. His sin had removed him from the environs of the heavenly and forced him to dwell, labor, and die in the earthly. Yet even this has a silver lining:

And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (I Corinthians 15:45-49)

The benefit of a physical body is that it can die! This may sound strange, but it is exactly this fact that makes man able to become immortal sons of God! Men can die and be resurrected, following the pattern set by Christ, receiving eternal life and the rewards of His Kingdom. It is our righteous living in the flesh through the grace of God that qualifies us for this glorious potential.

On the flip side, our physical nature also makes it possible for God to rid the universe of anyone unwilling to submit to Him. Unlike angels, men can be completely consumed in the Lake of Fire—totally destroyed for all eternity and unable to defile the holiness of God's Kingdom. Though God desires "all [to] come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9) and "all men to be saved" (I Timothy 2:4), He has this option should it be needed. Revelation 19:20 shows that it will indeed.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Genesis 18:23-25

Is God fair in His dealings with man? Consider this: Has God warned man what He is going to earn in the way of a death penalty if he sinned? Consider this list. In Exodus 21, we are warned that striking or cursing parents will result in death. In Leviticus 19, He says that if you desecrate a sacrifice, you are going to die. In Leviticus 24, He said that if you murder somebody, you are going to die. In Exodus 21, He says that if you kidnap somebody, you are going to die. In Leviticus 20, He says if you sacrifice a child in the fire, you are going to die. In Leviticus 24, He says If you take My name in vain—if you curse Me, if your use blasphemous statements about Me—you are going to die.

In Exodus 35, He issues the death penalty for breaking the Sabbath. In Leviticus 20, He issues the death penalty for consulting mediums. In Leviticus 20, He says that if you are practicing homosexuality, you are going to die. In Leviticus 20, if you practice incest, you are going to die. In Exodus 22, if you practice bestiality, you are going to die. In Deuteronomy 22, He says that if you rape somebody, you are going to die. In Deuteronomy 13, if you give a false prophecy, you are going to die.

In Exodus 22, if you practice sorcery, you are going to die. In Exodus 22, if you sacrifice to a false god, you are going to die. In Leviticus, if you commit adultery, you are going to die. In Numbers 4, if you desecrate a holy thing, you are going to die. In Numbers 16, if you disagree with God's judgment, you are going to die. In Leviticus 21, if you are a priest's daughter and you play the harlot, you are going to die.

I have only given you a partial list. God has clearly made known the penalty to mankind. Is God acting fairly? The penalty for some of these offenses really sounds harsh to modern minds. Death for a false prophecy? Death for committing adultery? Death for bestiality or homosexuality? All of these penalties are given in the Old Testament. By contrast, there is no corresponding list of penalties in the New Testament, which misleads some who are close to being biblically illiterate into thinking that they prefer the God of the New Testament to the God of the Old Testament. But the God of the New Testament is exactly the same Being as the God of the Old Testament; He says, "I change not" (Malachi 3:6). "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

Those of us who are living under the New Covenant need to begin to think seriously about the way we conduct our lives, and especially in reference to our own relationship with God. We cannot deny that the New Testament list of capital offenses would appear to be a dramatic reduction from the Old. What we fail to consider is that the Old Testament list above is a massive reduction from what appears at the beginning of the Book, as in Genesis 18. The list, mainly out of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, represents an astonishing measure of grace from how things began.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Exodus 21:22-23

Without doubt, death is "lasting harm." These verses illustrate the accidental miscarriage of the unborn. If the miscarried baby dies, although no harm was intended against it, the judgment is manslaughter, and the accused can become a victim of the avenger of blood (Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 19:4-13; Joshua 20). How much more valid is the judgment of murder if the unborn is the intended victim? The Bible shows that the unborn "unviable tissue mass" is human. God's viewpoint is clear: Willful killing of the unborn—abortion—is murder.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Abortion: The Land Is Full of Bloody Crimes


 

Exodus 21:22-24

To whom does the "lasting harm" refer, the mother, the fetus, or both? If it refers to the fetus or both, then the Word of God recognizes the personhood of the fetus. Regardless of its age, if the fetus dies as a result of the fight, its death becomes a capital crime, just as punishable as if the mother had been killed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Murder?


 

Joshua 7:20-21

Covetousness produces only negative results like theft, lying, murder, harmful lusts, and apostasy. Only sorrow comes from covetousness—and eventually death, if it is allowed to dominate a person's mind.

Martin G. Collins
The Tenth Commandment


 

2 Kings 4:31

The biblical writer uses an interesting clause to relate the child's continued state of death: "there was neither voice nor hearing." Today, we would say, "There was neither pulse nor breathing," but the Hebrew author highlights speaking and hearing as signs of life. Why?

Obviously, the Israelites knew that "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11; see Genesis 9:4), and that God "breathed into [Adam's] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). The writer of II Kings, then, is not giving medical or clinical proof of the child's death but commenting on the state of death. When someone is dead, they can no longer speak or hear; communication is impossible.

What makes this especially interesting is that God frequently speaks of spiritual enlightenment as "life" and spiritual darkness or degeneracy as "death." Speaking of the uncalled, Jesus tells a potential disciple, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matthew 8:22). He tells the church in Sardis, "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Revelation 3:1). Paul writes, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). In Ephesians 5:14, he says, "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

The child typifies the individual Christian. He is dead and can neither speak nor hear. What happens to the Christian who dies spiritually? No longer does he communicate God's way in any fashion—by deed or speech; he cannot "talk the talk" or "walk the walk"! Nor are his ears open and attentive to God's Word. As Jesus says in Matthew 13:15:

For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.

A biblical euphemism for death is sleep. For instance, in I Corinthians 11:30, Paul explains that many had died for taking the Passover unworthily: "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep." He uses this euphemism similarly in Acts 13:36: "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption" (see also Daniel 12:2; I Corinthians 15:20, 51; I Thessalonians 4:14).

Because the Bible connects death and sleep so closely, it also uses the metaphor of sleep for spiritual decline. The best known example of this is the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. The lesson is that we must stay spiritually alert, especially as Christ's return nears, but Jesus prophesies that all of God's people will fall asleep on their watch! On this point, Paul advises us:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)

In II Kings 4:31, Gehazi reports to Elisha and the Shunammite woman, "The child has not awakened." Like the individual Christian at the end time, this child is "dead"—he "sleeps" because of overlong exposure to the "fiery darts of the wicked one" (Ephesians 6:16), from which he had no protection. His only hope of revival lies in the mercy and power of God and the faithfulness of His true minister.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part II: Serving God's Children


 

Job 14:13-15

Job did not fear death; in fact, he felt death would be a relief from the struggles, infirmities, and trials of physical life. He knew that God would raise him at the appointed time, the first resurrection. He was sure in his redemption; he trusted God to forgive, save and resurrect him. Further, he understood that his life in the Kingdom would be so much superior to his physical life (Job 19:25-27).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Time and Life


 

Psalm 90:1-10

Psalm 90 gives us probably the best biblical perspective of time. This psalm, the only one attributed to Moses, compares how man and God view time and life. His conclusion, of course, is that man and God look at time from entirely different perspectives. It is this difference in point of view that makes a huge difference in how we conduct our lives.

Moses begins by asserting that God is everlasting and almighty (verses 1-2). He can destroy men's lives, and a thousand years later, He resurrects them to life with a word (verses 3-4)! Thousands of years can pass, and God can still bring people back from the dead! Man has no power over death, but God can, has, and will overcome time and death by the power of the resurrection. To God, these thousands of years pass swiftly "like yesterday . . . like a watch in the night."

This is far different from man's point of view. "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" (verse 10). Ethan, the psalmist of Psalm 89:47-48, echoes this in his plea to God:

Remember how short my time is; for what futility have You created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? Selah.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Time and Life


 

Ecclesiastes 2:14-15

The wise person knows where he is going. He has goals in his life and works hard to achieve them. His "eyes are in his head." The fool, conversely, seeks folly, mirth, pleasure, and so forth.

Solomon discovers that the stupid idiot shares the same fate that he, a wise man, does: They are both going to die. He asks, "What good is it, then, to become wise?"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

If we believe these verses, we must accept that death must have its "better" points. We are all well aware of the reasons why we think of death as a negative thing, but how can we think of such an event and condition as positive?

We must always remember that our Creator, the Master Craftsman who made everything of the highest quality (Genesis 1:4-31), built death into man's design. He did this for good reasons. Surprisingly, there really are good and positive purposes behind both the "first death" and the "second death" (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). The first death is the one with which every person is familiar—the one everyone must face. This death terminates the physical life of every human being who lives during the 6,000 years allotted to man.

Before the Flood, even though many people lived for multiple hundreds of years, they all still died. Afterward, God gradually shortened man's average lifespan to 70 years (Psalm 90:10). Perhaps He did this to show us the results of long lives of disobedience to God's law, such as we see in the record of the pre-Flood world, the Tower of Babel, and Sodom and Gomorrah. What would the world be like if it were filled with immortal, law-breaking humans?

God is reproducing Himself. He wants children who will not turn to lives of sin. Death is the wages of sin for human beings; death, the wages of sin, is our penalty for failing to live God's way (Romans 6:23).

Is death, the just penalty for sin created by God, really the "bad thing" in this equation? Is it not rather sin, which causes the death penalty to be incurred, that is really bad?

God does not want one of us to live a miserable, sinful existence for all eternity. He wants children who will learn to obey Him willingly, who will learn to reject sin and reap the positive results throughout eternal lives of joy. He has promised to give every human an opportunity to receive His gifts of salvation and eternal life in His Family and Kingdom. However, if any of His regenerated children insist on continuing in sin after they have been given adequate time to learn, weigh, and understand the consequences of each alternative, they will incur the penalty of the second death, God's loving and merciful penalty of eternal sleep (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). Romans 6:23 can be paraphrased as, "The wages of sin is death! Eternal death! Not eternal life in hell-fire, agony, and misery!" We can see by this merciful method of final punishment that, when God tells us to love our enemies, He is not asking us to do something that He is not willing to do Himself. What a loving and merciful God we have!

We believe and hope that Jesus Christ will return very soon to straighten out the mess that man has made of His creation. However, if He does not return before our allotted time expires, we will experience the dreamless sleep of the first death as He did. Jesus' sleep lasted only 72 hours. We should not be concerned that ours will probably last longer because, when we are in a deep, sound sleep, we are unaware of time passing (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Staff
Death of a Lamb


 

Ecclesiastes 7:1

Why is the day of death better? At birth, a person is largely a blank slate - his reputation is nothing (apart from his connection with Mom and Dad), so his name is little more than a mere label. However, at his death he has built either a good reputation or a bad one.

David F. Maas
What's in a Name Anyway?


 

Ecclesiastes 7:1

Ecclesiastes 7 is another chapter of comparisons, that is, it essentially states that this is better than that. Recall that we should not take these comparisons as absolutes, which is why Solomon uses the term “better” rather than giving a direct, dogmatic command. Why does he do this when we would normally expect a direct command from God? Sometimes conditions alter cases.

We can see a clear illustration of this in Solomon's statement in verse 1 that the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. It should be that way, but in real life, it is not always so. Some foolish people absolutely waste their precious gift of life from God, so their deaths leave no room for hope.

The implication of Solomon's thought is that his statement reflects the way it should be, and those who believe God's Word can take steps to ensure the conclusion of their lives will be that way. That better conclusion to life largely depends on the choices made in life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death


 

Ecclesiastes 8:11-13

Just because the penalty does not occur immediately does not mean it will not come. Be aware! Adam and Eve set aside the teaching of God because they became convinced that the penalty—death—would not occur. When they sinned and death did not occur immediately, they were even more convinced. But death did occur, and other evil things happened in their lives that did not have to occur.

We need to understand this as part of the way God operates; He gives us time to learn lessons, to come to a better knowledge of Him, to understand cause and effect. If God reacted immediately when we sinned, it would be all over the very first time. No building of character could take place, no learning by experience, no growth in wisdom, and no understanding of human nature.

Do not be deceived because the penalty does not seem to fall quickly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Ecclesiastes 9:2-3

Both the righteous and the wicked—even the animals!—go to the same place at death. All physical creatures are composed of dust and return to dust again. These scriptures make it abundantly clear that no one goes to either heaven or hell at death, and further, no one who is dead has the capacity to feel joy or pain.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked


 

Ecclesiastes 9:5

The Bible shows that the dead know nothing, and even their very thoughts perish when they die. In other words, all mental and physical processes cease when an individual dies. Solomon's definition of death concurs with Webster's Dictionary: "a permanent cessation of all vital functions: the end of life."

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked


 

Ecclesiastes 11:7-8

Light is a symbol of the goodness of life or joy. Life is just not good of itself, but it is to be savored with enthusiasm, as one might enjoy honey.

Life is good, but it can be even better. This is quite a change from the beginning of the book, where Solomon says life is frustrating, meaningless, and absurd. The difference is that God is involved in the life that is good, and things will work out for the good. God removes the frustration by His Spirit.

It is intended that life be enjoyed all life long, but Solomon says at the end of verse 8 to take advantage of it now, because the clock cannot be turned back. All that is coming is vanity, futility, death, which verse 9 picks up on.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ezekiel 18:23

God takes no pleasure in all of the pangs and the bondage of death, but the reality of the world is that they are out there. People are dying by the tens of thousands everyday, and some in agonizing situations. This has gone on for a long, long time. Yet, God's attitude remains, "I don't like to see this. It doesn't give Me any pleasure to see this occurring."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Malachi 4:1

The ultimate fate of the wicked will be total annihilation. Body, mind, and spirit will be utterly destroyed. They will cease to exist.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked


 

Matthew 6:9-13

It is interesting to note in this model prayer that sin is expressed through the image of debt, a true metaphor. Duty neglected, a debt to God, must be discharged by a penalty. All have sinned and the wages or penalty is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). We are all under a peculiar form of indebtedness which we cannot pay and still have hope!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Matthew 28:18

Let us consider the issue of power with respect to Jesus Christ. He says of Himself in Matthew 28:18, "All authority [power, KJV] has been given to Me in heaven and earth." "Authority" is translated from exousia, which has wide usage in the Greek language. It can be used to indicate jurisdiction, privilege, capacity, freedom, influence, force, and right, besides authority and power. Obviously, its usage is not restricted to sheer, brute strength. Jesus, then, is perfectly equipped to handle our needs in the widest variety of situations.

Notice that Jesus says authority has been given to Him. For this to be true, a greater Being must be the Giver. In this vein, I Corinthians 15:25-28 transports us into the future, revealing the source of His powers:

For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

The Giver in Matthew 28:18 must be the Father, so the word "all" in that verse excludes the Father, who is supreme in authority. The resurrected Son is the channel through which the Father's every purpose and plan are being worked out.

How extensive is Jesus' given authority? Colossians 1:14-19 explains some of His authority more specifically:

. . . in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. . . .

Paul stresses Christ's positional authority, that is, where Christ stands in relation to all other beings, whether human or spirit. "Firstborn" in verses 15 and 18 does not refer to His being created, as other verses clearly show that He has eternally existed. Here, the word indicates primacy of rank, since the apostle is showing Christ's status in relation to all other beings and institutions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Luke 16:19-31

In the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the latter, a heartless person, speaks to Lazarus while being "tormented in this flame." This alludes to the wicked being cremated when God burns up the earth, turning it into the final Gehenna, called elsewhere "the Lake of Fire." The rich man is raised out of his grave at the end of God's plan for humanity on earth. Because the dead know nothing, he does not realize the passage of time, but he certainly realizes that he has failed to receive salvation. He sees "a great gulf fixed" between him and those who are with Abraham in the Kingdom of God. At this point, it is impossible for anyone to change his fate.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Third Resurrection


 

Luke 16:19-31

In the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus illustrates death—total unconsciousness—as being followed by a resurrection from the dead and a restoration to consciousness. Secondly, Jesus describes the second death, eternal death, in the Lake of Fire that will totally destroy the wicked. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), not endless torment.

Jesus shows that the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear the voice of God and come forth—those who have lived righteously to the resurrection of life, and those who have lived wickedly (including the rich man) to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29). We need to understand how vital it is to hear and submit to God's voice now.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Part Two)


 

Luke 16:22-23

Lazarus, who represents those who are Abraham's spiritual children, is resurrected at Christ's return with all the firstfruits (I Corinthians 15:23). These saints will live through the Millennium (Revelation 20:4), but the rest of the dead will not live until the thousand years have past (verse 5). The rich man, then, will not return to life until a thousand years after Lazarus and all the saints have been made alive.

All human beings know they will die (Hebrews 9:27), but the dead have no thought or knowledge—they know nothing and can do nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10). They are totally unconscious (Job 14:21). David writes: "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day, his plans perish" (Psalm 146:4). The rich man, at the time of his resurrection after the Millennium, will come to consciousness, knowing absolutely nothing of the centuries that have passed since his death. To him, it will seem that only a fraction of a second has passed.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Part Two)


 

John 3:13

Perhaps no other doctrine more clearly exposes the effectiveness and thoroughness of Satan's deception of the whole world (Revelation 12:9). Jesus plainly states in John 3:13, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of man who is in heaven." Yet, most of the Christian world believes that immediately upon death a person's soul wafts off to heaven to be with others of the dearly departed.

This verse does not stand alone; many scriptures confirm Jesus' testimony. Peter says regarding the highly respected, man-after-God's-own-heart David, ". . . he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. . . . For David did not ascend into the heavens . . ." (Acts 2:29, 34).

Other scriptures remind us that, when a person dies, he is without consciousness:

For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. . . . Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10)

Psalm 146:3-4 adds, "Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans [thoughts, KJV] perish."

Jesus identifies Himself in Revelation 1:18 as, "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen." He says something similar as He begins His message to the church at Smyrna: "These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life" (Revelation 2:8). Who are we to believe, a God who never lies or the tales of false prophets? Was Jesus telling the truth when He said He was dead - that He was not off in heaven during those three days and three nights, conversing with the Father, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses? If we believe the Bible, the answer is beyond question.

The gospel Jesus Christ brought reveals the Kingdom of God as the Christian hope. The Bible teaches that a person must remain in his grave, unaware of events in the conscious world, until a resurrection occurs, when his life is renewed (just as Jesus' was), his body is changed to spirit, and he enters God's Kingdom.

In I Corinthians 15:50-54, the apostle Paul teaches that the resurrection does not occur until Christ returns. Then, those who "died in Christ" will be resurrected from their graves with spiritual bodies, and the living saints will also be changed, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. . . . [T]he dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (verse 52).

Galatians 3:29 speaks about our reward: "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise," confirming that those who are true Christians - "in Christ" - will receive the same inheritance Abraham was promised. Romans 4:13 establishes beyond doubt what Abraham will inherit when he is resurrected: "For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith."

Furthermore, regarding those who will be resurrected with Abraham, Revelation 5:10 adds, "[You] have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth." Later, Revelation 11:15 says, "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'"

Many centuries of pagan tradition have convinced people that heaven is their "home" and their reward when they die. Nevertheless, the biblical record is unassailable: God's Kingdom will be established on the earth He created for mankind, and it will be an everlasting Kingdom with Christ as its King.

In awe of what he saw, John declares in Revelation 21:1-4:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven [to the earth] from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

The Bible contains much more on this facet of the gospel. Yet, with just this small sampling of verses, there should be no doubt remaining that the gospel teaches that the inheritance of Christians is this earth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)


 

Romans 3:23

Sin is universal, and perhaps this is one reason why the term is so frequently ignored. So many are sinning so frequently that it is a way of life! It has become acceptable because everybody is doing it!

Sin is not like a disease that some contract and others escape. Some may self-righteously think they are better than others because of outward appearance - living by sight - but we have all been soiled by it. "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). Perfection is gone. Because of sin, we have all come short of the glory of God.

The phrase in Romans 5:12, "And thus death spread to all men" can be translated into more modern English as, "When death entered the race, it went throughout." It means death indiscriminately affected all because all sinned. It almost seems as though sin is like an amoebic blob whose tentacles reach out to encompass all in its path, absorbing and sweeping everything to its death.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Romans 6:23

If a man pays this wage for his own sins, he dies and the chance to gain access to God and eternal life is lost. This leaves God with three alternatives:

  • He could simply let each person die for his sins
  • He could, like an indulgent grandfather, overlook sin and grant mankind access to Him, all the while hoping for the best.
  • As His holy justice demanded, He could allow the death of another to substitute for the payment of sin for the sinner who wanted access to Him and met the conditions.

But this last choice, the one God chose, presented another problem. The substitute had to be a sinless human being, since God cannot die and only a man who lived a sinless life would qualify. Why? Because if the substitute sinned, his death would pay only for his own sins. In addition, this person had to be of such importance and stature in his own right that his vicarious death to pay for other men's sins would never have to be repeated. Once this substitute gave his life, it would apply to all mankind for all time!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amazing Grace


 

Romans 6:23

God says that the "wages" of sin—that is, what you "earn" for transgressing God's law—is death. He does not say that the unrepentant sinner will live eternally in some sort of torment but that he will die.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked


 

Romans 6:23

A wage is payment for work. Death, then, is what we "earn" as a result of committing sin. This is not eternal life in hell fire but death, the complete annihilation of one's life.

God offers eternal life to those who are willing to meet His conditions. Therefore, salvation—being delivered from the consequences of sin—is receiving the gift of eternal life. Though some think that we already have an immortal soul, the Bible makes it plain that the only way we can receive eternal life is to receive it as God's gift.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 6:23

God could see—in His wisdom He knew—that man would sin. Because the wages of sin is death, how could God extricate man from this dilemma? How would He continue His purpose?

There is an interesting aspect to this when we consider the word "wages." The apostle uses this term because in his day they did things in much the same way as we do. One does not work for a person for a lifetime and then receive his wages, but rather he works a specified period of time—a week, two weeks, a month—and receives his wages on a regular basis. Today, it is common to receive wages every two weeks.

This should give us a better understanding of this verse. Since a wage is something that we earn and the wages of sin is death, the apostle—and therefore God—is telling us is that we will receive these wages—the penalty of sin—not just at the end of our lives. The penalty of sin is meted out on a regular, just as wages are. In other words, we will be affected by the penalties of sin all the time. It is what we are earning.

God looks at these things in an interesting way. We can begin to see the scope of what God is doing, with Passover opening up a new avenue. Salvation is not something that we receive at the end of our life. Actually, it is something that begins whenever we accept the blood of Jesus Christ. Whenever we begin on the process of salvation, of true freedom, we begin to receive salvation on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. In other words, our liberty, our freedom, is progressive. Like the penalties of sin, freedom or salvation does not come all at once.

It is not that we earn it—please do not misunderstand. It is something given. Grace is a gift of God, and it is not something that happens only once but constantly. God is always giving because it is His nature, His way. He is giving us of His life constantly. Christ says, "I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." God wants us to begin to receive His salvation right here and now by living the abundant life. It is a wonderful concept.

We need to expand our thinking in regard to Passover because the solution to God's "predicament" regarding human sin begins immediately upon our acceptance of the blood of Jesus Christ. Salvation is much bigger in scope, involving far more than just the end of the process.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Romans 6:23

One of the most basic truths in God's program involves the fact that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The death we are intended to understand is the second death. There are only two ways to satisfy this basic truth: First, all humans must be paid that wage because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Second, another, an innocent One on whom death has no claim because He never sinned, must pay that wage in our stead, substituting His death for ours.

We find both aspects applied to practical Christian life in Romans. Paul writes in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." It is essential that we thoroughly understand that Christ died, not merely as a benefit, but for us, that is, in our place. His death substitutes for our well-deserved death, which we earned through sin. Earlier, the apostle had written in Romans 4:1-5:

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

When confronted by such scriptures that cannot be broken, our only possible conclusion is that the sin-debt that each person owes to God absolutely cannot be worked off. It is so huge and serious that an already sin-defiled person cannot pay it off. Once a person sins, his debt is absolutely irredeemable by anyone or any action except through death. Either each individual pays for himself, or Christ pays in his place. These are the only acceptable payments.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Romans 7:1

Paul states that the law has "dominion" over a man only as long as he lives. Some have interpreted this to mean that, now that we have died with Christ, the law is no longer binding on Christians. Indeed, some modern translations of the Bible translate this verse to say just that. However, note how Paul uses this word "dominion" in other places.

In Romans 6:9, Paul speaks of Christ's immortality now that He has been resurrected, saying, "Death no longer has dominion over Him." During the period that Christ was a flesh-and-blood human being, He could die, and He did die on the cross. Now, however, death no longer has any power over Him, because He is an immortal Spirit Being.

In Romans 6:14, Paul uses the same word to describe our relationship with sin. "For sin shall not have dominion over you." Here he shows how our past sins have been forgiven, and we have access to Christ's atoning grace for forgiveness of future sins. Therefore, sin no longer has the power to condemn us to death.

Throughout Romans 6 and 7, the Greek word translated "dominion" is kurieuo, meaning "exercise lordship over." Paul uses this term in the context of having power over something. In Romans 6:9 and 14, he states that death and sin no longer have power to harm us or to cause any adverse effect in our lives.

Now we can better understand Paul's meaning in Romans 7:1. In this verse, Paul explains how the law has "power" over a human being only while he lives. He means the law has power to condemn us as a sinner and, consequently, condemn us to death only as long as we are alive. Once we have died, the penalty for sin has been paid, and the law has no more power to condemn us.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:2-3

Paul continues to discuss our relationship to the law and begins to draw the analogy from a human relationship, marriage, which illustrates the points that he was making in Romans 6. He explains how a woman is bound by the law to her husband for as long as he is alive. However, marriage is "till death do us part." Death breaks the marriage bond. Therefore, if the wife marries another man while her first husband is still alive, the law has the power, the authority, to condemn her as an adulteress. However, if her husband dies, the marriage bond is broken, and if she remarries, the law cannot condemn her as an adulteress.

Note that the law to which Paul is referring in these verses is clearly the Ten Commandments. The seventh commandment is the law forbidding adultery. Here Paul plainly states that this law against adultery is binding on Christians! Contrary to the antinomian persepctive, the law is still in effect.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:4

The apostle Peter admits that many of the things that his fellow apostle Paul wrote are hard to understand, and because of this, he warns, some people distort Paul's writings to their own destruction (II Peter 3:15-16). This is still happening today. People—some sincerely and some not—are constantly twisting what Paul said in an attempt to show that the law of God is abolished.

A favorite target of the "no-law" advocates is Romans 7:4. In this scripture, Paul writes that a Christian is "dead to the law" and is now "married to another." From these statements, some conclude that God no longer requires a Christian to obey His laws. Unfortunately, those who force such an interpretation on this verse fail to understand the profound truths that the apostle is explaining.

In verse 4, Paul further explains the marriage analogy (Romans 7:2-3) and how this relationship of a woman to her husband bears upon our relationship to the law and Christ. "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ." Just as the woman in his example cannot be condemned by the law as an adulteress if her first husband dies, so we cannot be condemned by the law because our "old man of sin" has died (Romans 7:1).

In other words, we have become dead in the eyes of the law! At the time of our baptism, the old man of sin was put to death and buried in a watery grave (Romans 6:4). Because Jesus Christ died in our stead, and we have been buried with Him in baptism, the law regards us as having died. Therefore, the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23) has been paid, and the law no longer has power to condemn us to death for our sins.

Paul continues in verse 4, "...that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God." In the analogy of the woman and her husbands, the first husband is the old man of sin to whom we were "married" prior to conversion. After the old man of sin died at baptism, we are now free to marry Christ. Just as He died and was resurrected, so our old man of sin has died, and we have been raised out of the watery grave of baptism a new man, empowered to bear righteous fruit in service to God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

1 Corinthians 15:26

If death is part of God's good creation, how can it also be an enemy? God does not create enemies, does He? Yes, He does! For the ultimate good of His people, God has allowed—and even raised up—many different kinds of enemies throughout history to test us. Without making light of the seriousness of human death, we might look on it as a "disposable test tool." When God has finished with it, He will throw it in the garbage!

Yes, death is an enemy. Death and its inseparable and causative partner, sin, are enemies that, although they have led to so much unhappiness and misery over the years, God will one day destroy. But they will not go down without a fight!

In some respects, the first and most crucial battle in the war between humankind and these enemies, sin and death, has been won already by our Savior: ". . . knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him" (Romans 6:9).

Because Christ won this first battle through His death and resurrection, we—His fellow-soldiers (II Timothy 2:3-4; Ephesians 6:11-18)—have been given an opportunity to fight in these subsequent battles, to participate in the destruction of sin and death. Our reward is to receive the gift of eternal life: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. . . . For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:20, 22).

Staff
Death of a Lamb


 

Galatians 3:5-11

Paul approaches the faith and works question from yet another angle. This time, he uses Abraham as the model by which all his "children in the faith" also become "children of God." He begins by posing a question, which can be paraphrased as, "Do miracles come by ritual?" There is in this a veiled illusion to magic. Do miracles come by incantation? Do they come by knowing certain formulas that may include even such things as cutting the flesh or going through long periods of fasting or sufferings to get God's attention? Will God respond with a miracle out of pity once we show Him how humble and righteous we are? No, it does not work that way. Miracles come by a living God, who is actively working in our lives because He called us and we have faith in Him.

With that foundation, Paul begins what turns into the preamble for a very controversial section of Galatians. He proceeds to state that it was through faith that Abraham was justified. It is good to remember that Abraham not only believed who God is, but he also believed what God said. This is what set him apart from everybody else. His faith was not merely an intellectual agreement, but he also lived His faith.

Abraham's works did not win him acceptance by God, but they did prove to God that Abraham really did believe Him. So Paul says in verses 10-11 that those who rely on their works to justify them are under the curse of the law. What is "the curse of the law"? The death penalty! When one sins, he brings on himself the curse of the law he broke, which is death. In effect, he says that those who seek justifcation through works are still under the curse because justification by this means is impossible.

So powerful is the curse of the law that, when our sins were laid on the sinless Jesus Christ, the law claimed its due. Jesus died! Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 to counteract those who were troubling the church, because they were saying that their asceticism, magic, and similar things (like keeping Halakah, the oral law and traditions of Judaism) could justify.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Ephesians 2:1

"Dead" means "as good as dead" because of sin. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). When God forgave us, He in effect gave us life because the death penalty had been hanging over us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

Hebrews 9:27

Hebrews 9:27 says that all men are appointed to die once. Considering this, some have asked: How can one die a second death? How many times can one die?

First, baptism is symbolic of death (Romans 6:2-11) and so is "dying daily," as Paul describes the sacrifices of the Christian life (I Corinthians 15:31). Paul mentions this latter death in the context of the resurrection chapter to emphasize our need to crucify the old self daily and renew or resurrect the inner man as symbols of actual death and resurrection (see II Corinthians 4:16-17). In this sense, we die every day of our lives.

When speaking of great embarrassments, many have used the phrase, "I died a thousand deaths." That is just what God expects of us if we are to reach maturity of thought and conduct! Each of these deaths is just as difficult and excruciating as the one before, and thus Paul describes them as crucifixions (Galatians 5:24). These play a major role in overcoming, and it is never easy.

Apart from symbolism, the general rule is that we each die physically at least once and then await the resurrection to eternal life. But some few humans have already died twice! Lazarus, Dorcas, Eutychus, those who came out of their graves when Christ died and others were physically resurrected and physically died again.

It is conceivable that some few might even die three times! If those who were resurrected physically were converted and accepted for the Kingdom, they will be resurrected when Christ returns - changed "in the twinkling of an eye" into immortal spirit beings (I Corinthians 15:52). If they were not called and converted - not yet having had an opportunity for salvation - they will come up in the second resurrection to be alive a third time. At the end of that life they will then be either changed to spirit or die in the Lake of Fire, a third death.

Why, then, does Revelation 20:14 call the Lake of Fire "the second death"? The emphasis is on the fact that it is a permanent death. Once a person experiences the second death, no hope remains for another resurrection. However, for a few it could represent a third physical death.

The point is that all of us are appointed to die at least once! Even those "blessed and holy" individuals who are alive and changed at Christ's return will go through a kind of death. As Paul writes, "For this corruptible [body] must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (I Corinthians 15:53).

Staff
The Third Resurrection: What Is Its Value?


 

James 1:13-16

In death, there are no ideals. No exercise of our will can overcome it because our will has been totally overcome. Degeneracy has reached its nadir and ended in the ultimate slavery. According to I Corinthians 15:54-56, death is the last enemy to be destroyed in God's plan. James 1:13-16 provides us with a brief overview of the course of sin, telling us succinctly where everyone not under the redemption of Christ ends.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

James 1:15

In James 1:15, the apostle changes his description from a snare to conception and birth. Notice the reference to the growth of a person from fetus to adult—from complete innocence to corruption by the world.

First, temptation comes when desire, like a mother, conceives and "gives birth to sin." Then sin, the child of desire, develops until it is full-grown. When sin is full-grown, it becomes a way of life that without repentance ends in death. Paul concurs in Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death." God says through the prophet Ezekiel:

The soul who sins shall die. . . . When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:4, 26)

"Brings forth" in James 1:15 is a phrase Greeks used to refer to an animal giving birth. It means that sin "spawns" death. This suggests that man, once conquered by desire, becomes less than human, sinking to the level of a beast. He has not progressed to be more like God but has regressed to the moral level of animals.

To summarize, temptation begins the process to sin and ends in death. God plays no part in tempting us; to the contrary, we are either drawn away by our own desires or enticed by Satan. Illicit desire begets sin, which in turn spawns tremendous destruction and—eventually—death.

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

1 Peter 3:19

Jesus could not have preached to anyone, dead or alive, while His dead body lay in the tomb. Why? Because He was dead! If He was not dead during those "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40), then His sacrifice for the sins of humanity was in vain!

Scripture says that, when Jesus died on the cross, like all men His "spirit [returned] to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7; see Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30). The spirit of a human is not conscious in death, for Solomon tells us plainly that "the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Thus, the spirit of a dead person cannot do anything: "for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (verse 10). As the psalmist writes, when a man dies, "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans [thoughts, KJV] perish" (Psalm 146:4; see also Job 14:20-21; Psalm 104:29).

Jesus, in order to taste death like every man (Hebrews 2:9), had to die just as every man does. He was completely dead for three days and three nights; He was without life and consciousness both in body and in spirit. He could do no preaching to anyone, much less "to the spirits in prison," whoever they are.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus and 'the Spirits in Prison'


 

Revelation 6:3-4

The second horseman is perhaps the most easily identifiable of the famed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, since both of its symbols, the fiery red color and the great sword, are well known to represent war. However, underlying this facile identification of the symbols are a few interesting details that add depth to them.

The Greek word John uses for "red" is purros or pyrros, meaning "the color of fire" (compare our words "pyre," "pyromania," "pyrosis"). This is not the normal Greek word for red (eruthros), but a more specialized term that suggests fieriness or flickering reds, oranges, and yellows like a flame. It is the same word that John uses to describe the redness of the Dragon (Satan) in Revelation 12:3 (the third and only other occurrence is in a proper name, Sopatros Purrou, which is strangely not fully translated in Acts 20:4). This particular color intimates heat and ferocity like an out-of-control wildfire.

The Hebrew language does not have a similar, biblical term. However, the color red or scarlet in the Old Testament frequently symbolizes blood, whether the blood of sacrifice (Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49-52; see Hebrews 9:19) or the blood of violence (II Kings 3:22-23; Isaiah 63:2-3; Nahum 2:3; etc.). Scarlet has two other interesting meanings: that of wealth and luxury (II Samuel 1:24; Proverbs 31:21; Lamentations 4:5; etc.; see Matthew 27:28; Revelation 17:4; 18:12, 16) and of sin (Isaiah 1:18; see Revelation 17:3). One could make a case that all these meanings could apply to the second seal.

The horseman's "great sword" is a translation of máchaira megálee. Again, this is not the ordinary sword of war (romfaia) but a short sword or long knife like a dagger. Frequently, máchaira is the knife used to prepare a sacrifice or to slaughter an animal for food. It is also the sword worn by magistrates and executioners. That the red horseman's sword is "great" (megálee) means either that it is larger or longer than usual or that it is highly effective in doing its job. Surprisingly, romfaia appears in Revelation 6:8: "And power was given to [the four horsemen] to kill with sword, with hunger, with death. . . ." A "great sword," then, is the equivalent of a thoroughly effective instrument of death.

The sword is often a symbol of God's judgment. David writes in Psalm 7:12, "If [the wicked] does not turn back, He [God] will sharpen His sword." In Isaiah 34:6, 8, in the context of the Day of the Lord, God combines the sword of judgment with the idea of sacrifice and slaughter:

The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made overflowing with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. . . . For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

Even to His own people, if they do not obey Him, God promises, "I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of My covenant" (Leviticus 26:25). Like this horseman, "the sword of the LORD shall devour from one end of the land to the other end of the land; no flesh shall have peace" (Jeremiah 12:12). Clearly, the purpose of the great sword given to the rider of the red horse is to inflict violent death on masses of people in divine judgment.

As if there never was any intent to obscure the meaning of this figure, John's description of the red horse says matter-of-factly, "And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another" (Revelation 6:4). This second seal plainly represents conflict, war, destruction, and bloody death.

Of course, this parallels the second point in Jesus' Olivet Prophecy in Matthew 24:6-7: "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." The wording implies an expected increase in conflicts due to the stresses of the time leading up to the end. In other words, amplified contention is a precursor of the end time.

It is interesting to note that the second seal is introduced by "the second living creature saying, 'Come and see'" (Revelation 6:3). Revelation 4:7 gives us the order of the living creatures as lion, calf, man, and eagle, so the living creature that introduces the seal of war is probably the calf. Just as the first seal's introduction by the lion presages the white horseman's prime characteristic of ferocious pursuit of prey, so does the calf foretell the red horseman's main trait.

The calf, young bull, or ox, as translations variously render it, is known for its staying power and strength (Numbers 23:22; Psalm 144:14; Proverbs 14:4; Hosea 4:16). An ox can pull a plow or wagon or turn a mill all day for days on end without complaint. Some have been known to work and work until they die from exhaustion. Rarely will one make its frustration or weariness known. A calf or ox will just keep going—a relentless, untiring worker.

We are to consider the red horse and his rider along the same lines. In this vein, they compose a picture of inevitable, unceasing, untiring, insatiable warfare. Perhaps we are to think of them in terms of a wild ox, as God describes it in the book of Job (Job 39:9-12).

A wild ox cannot be trusted to do its domesticated cousin's chores; he is just as likely to charge and gore anyone who tries to yoke him! Likewise, David cries out, "Deliver Me from the sword, . . . from the horns of the wild oxen!" (Psalm 22:20-21). Isaiah 34:7 uses the same imagery: "The wild oxen shall come down with them, and the young bulls with the mighty bulls; their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust saturated with fatness." Though the ox can be a placid, indefatigable worker, a wild ox can be a gory terror!

The red horseman, with its fiery red horse, great sword, and relentless aggression, is a fearsome symbol of unremitting, intensifying, uncontrolled, horrific conflict. God intends this figure to instill terror in mankind in the hope that he will repent of his enmity and be saved from its destruction and death (II Peter 3:9-13).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Three): The Red Horse


 

Revelation 6:8

Characteristically, the apostle John describes the fourth horse and rider using a paucity of verbiage: The horse is "pale," the rider's name is "Death," and "Hades" follows him. This is the extent of the biblical description, yet even so, these provide us with sufficient clues to deduce a cogent interpretation.

First, the horse's coat is a unique and otherworldly pale. The Greek word is chlooros, which we recognize as the origin of such English words as "chlorine," "chloroform," and "chlorophyll." It technically refers to a greenish-yellow color found in nature in the pale green of just-sprouted grass or new leaves (see Mark 6:39; Revelation 8:7; 9:4; these are chlooros' only other occurrences in the New Testament).

Secular Greek writers, however, did not confine chlooros just to sprouting plants. In The Iliad, Homer describes fearful men's faces with this term, suggesting a pallid, ashen color, and in other instances, it is the pale golden color of honey or the gray bark of an olive tree. Sophocles writes that it is the color of sand, while Thucydides applies it to the skin color of those suffering from plague.

It is this last description that is probably John's intended meaning; the color of the horse reminded him of the pale, greenish-gray color of a corpse or decaying flesh. The Phillips translation renders chlooros as "sickly green in color"; the New English and the Revised English Bibles, as "sickly pale"; the New Jerusalem Bible, as "deathly pale"; and the New Living Translation, as "pale green like a corpse." The fourth horse sports a coat only producers of horror movies would love!

Upon the back of this gruesome beast sits one whose name is "Death." This is another unique feature of this horseman, as none of the others receives a name. The Greek word is the normal word for "death," thánatos, suggesting on the surface a generic application of the term. However, this would be jumping to a conclusion, for the term is probably meant to be understood more specifically as "pestilence" or "disease."

The evidence for this meaning here derives primarily from the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. In several places, the Septuagint translators rendered the Hebrew word deber, meaning "pestilence" or "disease," as thánatos. For instance, in Exodus 5:3, Moses and Aaron tell Pharaoh, "Please let us go three days' journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence [Hebrew deber; Greek thánatos] or with the sword." This combination of translations also occurs in the fifth plague, that of the murrain or cattle disease: God tells Moses to inform Pharaoh, "There will be a very severe pestilence" (Exodus 9:3; see also verse 15). In a later instance, God warns Judah through Jeremiah, "I will send . . . pestilence among them, till they are consumed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers" (Jeremiah 24:10).

The most convincing piece of evidence for thánatos meaning "pestilence" in this passage comes from the mouth of our Savior in the Olivet Prophecy, as He describes the events leading up to His return. He prophesies to His disciples, "And there will be famines [third seal or horseman], pestilences [fourth seal or horseman], and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:7). He does not use thánatos but loimós, which literally means "pestilence" or "disease." Once Jesus Himself weighs in, there is no argument. The pale rider brings death by disease.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Five): The Pale Horse


 

Revelation 6:8

The final descriptive item regarding the fourth seal is "Hades followed with him." Obviously, "Hades" has been left untranslated in the New King James; it is "Hell" in the Authorized Version. Strong's Concordance defines this simply as "the place (state) of departed souls," although this is in itself an interpretive definition. A more complete definition would include that it is a proper name of the Greek god of the lower regions, known as Pluto by the Romans, who gave his name to the realm of the dead (Thayer's Greek Lexicon).

However, this barely scratches the surface of the subject. The Complete Word Study New Testament adds, "In Homer and Hesiod the word is spelled Haïdês meaning obscure, dark, invisible," suggesting that it is a place or condition about which mortal man understands little. The same reference work mentions that it equates to the Hebrew word Sheol, and that in all the New Testament passages in which it occurs, Hades is associated with death (with the possible exceptions of Matthew 11:23 and Luke 10:15).

Cutting through all the scholarly speculation, much of which is based on either Jewish or Greek—not necessarily biblical—conceptions of Sheol or Hades, the basic idea is the grave, the place where the dead go after death. As Solomon writes so plainly, "But the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward. . . . [F]or there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10).

Many scriptures show that God will resurrect or redeem us from the grave, not from some shadowy netherworld of spirits. For instance, the psalmist writes, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave" (Psalm 49:15; see 30:3), and God prophesies through Ezekiel, "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves" (Ezekiel 37:13). Jesus Himself says, "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29).

The Old Testament instruction, carried into the New, is that death and the grave are parallel if not synonymous ideas. Notice these passages which use parallelisms:

» For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks? (Psalm 6:5)

» Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them. . . . (Psalm 49:14)

» [I am] adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, and who are cut off from Your hand. (Psalm 88:5)

» What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? (Psalm 89:48)

» For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave. . . . (Song of Songs 8:6)

» I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! (Hosea 13:14; see I Corinthians 15:55)

» And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death. . . . (Isaiah 53:9)

These verses accent the common-sense truth of Revelation 6:8: "And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades [the grave] followed with him." Death, in this case by pestilence, and the grave—Hades or Sheol, the abode of the dead—are inseparable companions; where one goes the other must follow because they are essentially the same. One can argue that they are technically different—that death is the cessation of life, and the grave is the repository of a person's earthly remains—but the difference is purely semantic. In the end, they both describe a state of lifelessness and corruption, of being cut off from the living and from God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Five): The Pale Horse


 

Revelation 6:8

A minor controversy exists concerning the last half of verse 8: "And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth." The argument deals with whether this sentence applies to the fourth horseman alone or summarizes the depredations of all four. The latter seems preferable.

Jesus appears to treat the first four seals as a subgroup in His Olivet prophecy, saying of them, "All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8). His intent is clear: These four judgments are a distinct set of calamities that acts as a kind of warm-up for the exceedingly more terrible judgments of the time of the end. As He warns, "See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (verse 6). It is entirely logical to believe that the same Revelator would likewise separate the Four Horsemen from the last three seals with a short summary of their work as well as the limits of their authority.

Another proof involves the fact that the sentence restates the missions of the red ("to kill with sword"), black ("with hunger"), and pale ("with death [thánatos, meaning disease]") horsemen. Applying these means of destruction to the fourth horseman alone would make the other two redundant and significantly diminish their roles. In addition, lumping pestilence in with hunger, war, and beasts as activities of the fourth horseman would obscure the role of disease as a judgment of God.

Commentators argue that the plural pronoun "them" in Revelation 6:8 has "Death" and "Hades" as its antecedents. They are certainly the closest antecedents, but the Greek does not demand them to be the pronoun's true antecedents. Besides, the real subject of the previous sentence is not really "Death" and "Hades" but the singular "name" of the fourth horseman. If God intended it to be a summary statement of the whole passage, we can easily recognize "them" to refer to the entire passage's active characters—the Four Horsemen—the ones to whom the Lamb gave authority to execute His judgment.

A final, curious factor is the inclusion of "by the beasts of the earth" in the powers of the horsemen; it seems to come out of the blue. However, it follows naturally in the progression of catastrophes. In times of severe war, famine, and disease, depopulation occurs, which upsets the precarious balance between human civilization and wildlife. Suddenly, with hunting and developing of wilderness areas reduced or eliminated, the population of predatory creatures expands, increasing the chances of animal attacks on humans.

The Bible provides an example of this in Genesis 10:8-9. It is thought that Nimrod's rise to power over the post-Flood world began with his skills in hunting and killing predators, which had the upper hand over the miniscule human population at the time. Another example appears in Exodus 23:29, in which God promises Israel, "I will not drive [the Canaanites] out from before you in one year, lest the land become too desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you" (see also Deuteronomy 7:22; Ezekiel 34:25, 28). Incursions of lions actually killed some Samaritans after Assyria took the bulk of the Israelites into captivity (II Kings 17:25).

Wild beasts are included in the curses for disobedience of Leviticus 26: "I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate" (verse 22; see Deuteronomy 32:24; Jeremiah 15:3; Ezekiel 14:15). Through Ezekiel, God prophesies that disasters such as the Four Horsemen bring happen together with the scourge of wild beasts: "So I will send against you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I, the LORD, have spoken" (Ezekiel 5:17; see 14:21; 33:27). Though death by wild beasts is included in the text of Revelation 6:8 without warning, it fits nonetheless.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Five): The Pale Horse


 

Revelation 20:10

This verse seems to describe the Lake of Fire as a place where God torments people forever. This raises a few questions: 1) If the Beast and False Prophet are mortal men, why are they still alive after the Millennium when Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire? 2) If they are mortals, how can they "be tormented day and night forever and ever" in an inferno that would soon consume them? 3) What kind of God would devise such a "cruel and unusual" punishment?

Before we answer these questions, we must briefly consider whether man has an immortal soul. Our understanding of the Scriptures compels us to maintain that he does not for several reasons:

» Job recognized that man has a spirit (Job 32:8), which Paul shows in I Corinthians 2:11 endows humanity with intellect. This spirit in man comes from God (Zechariah 12:1) and returns to Him when we die (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59). It records our experiences, character, and personality, which God stores until the resurrection of the dead. However, the Bible never describes this spirit as immortal or eternal; in fact, I Corinthians 2:6-16 explains that man needs yet another Spirit, God's, to be complete and discern godly things.

» The Bible flatly asserts that all people die: "It is appointed for men to die once" (Hebrews 9:27). Ezekiel says clearly that souls die: "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; see Romans 6:23). Jesus warns in Matthew 10:28 that God can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

» In death, life and consciousness are gone. "The dead know nothing," says Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5, and he later adds, "There is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (verse 10). In Psalm 146:4, the psalmist writes about a man's death, "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish" (see Genesis 3:19).

» Scripture also confutes the idea that people go to heaven or hell after death. Peter says to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. . . . For David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:29, 34). Our Savior confirms this in John 3:13: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." The biblical usage of Sheol and Hades simply means "the grave."

» Men cannot have immortality unless God gives it to them. Paul writes, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). In I Corinthians 15:53 he tells the saints, "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." At the first resurrection God will give "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality" (Romans 2:7). If we already had immortality, why should we put it on or seek it?

» Only God has immortality. He is, Paul writes to Timothy, ". . . the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality" (I Timothy 6:15-16). John says of the Word, "In Him was life" (John 1:4), meaning as Creator of all things (verse 3), He had life inherent. Jesus affirms this in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Men must go through Him to receive eternal life.

With such overwhelming proof, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul proves false. Man is not immortal, nor does he possess any "spark of God" unless God has given it to him through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). A Christian's hope of life after death rests in the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:12-23). Conversely, the wicked only await eternal death as recompense for their evil lives, not eternal life in torment.

To understand Revelation 20:10 correctly, we must put it into its proper chronological context. Once we know when it occurs, much of the confusion about this verse clears up.

Though only twelve verses separate Revelation 19:20 from 20:10, one thousand years pass between their respective events. The Beast and the False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire when Christ returns (Revelation 19:11-21). Soon thereafter, an angel imprisons Satan in the bottomless pit for the thousand years of the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-3). When the thousand years pass, Satan is released, and he gathers Gog and Magog to fight against the saints (verses 7-9). After God defeats this futile attempt, He casts Satan, a spirit being, into the Lake of Fire to be tormented forever and ever (verse 10).

Obviously, the flames of the Lake of Fire totally consume mortal men like the Beast and False Prophet. In no way could they survive a thousand years of burning! The laws of nature simply will not allow it.

The translators of the King James and New King James versions render the final clause of the first sentence as "where the beast and the false prophet are." The present-tense verb "are" is not in the Greek; it is an understood verb. In English grammar, such silent verbs take the same tense as the verb in the main clause of the sentence. The translators ignored this rule, however. The primary verb of the sentence, "was cast" (an aorist verb usually translated as simple past tense), demands that the silent verb should be "were cast" (past tense) to agree with the plural subject, "the beast and the false prophet."

Deceived by the false doctrine of the immortal soul, the translators had to deny nature and break the rules to make this verse fit their understanding! On the other hand, we can confidently assert that our teaching agrees with Scripture, nature, and grammar!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Eternal Torment?


 

Revelation 21:8

The Bible describes the "hellfire" into which the wicked will be cast as a lake of burning fire and brimstone. Some have pictured this Lake of Fire to be like an active volcano spewing out molten rock. Into such a fiery liquid the incorrigible will be thrown. After having died once and been resurrected to judgment (Hebrews 9:27), they will die the "second death" by being burned up in the Lake of Fire.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked


 

Find more Bible verses about Death:
Death {Nave's}
 




The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

Sign up for the Berean: Daily Verse and Comment, and have Biblical truth delivered to your inbox. This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 140,000 subscribers are already receiving each day.

Email Address:

   

We respect your privacy. Your email address will not be sold, distributed, rented, or in any way given out to a third party. We have nothing to sell. You may easily unsubscribe at any time.
 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
©Copyright 1992-2017 Church of the Great God.   Contact C.G.G. if you have questions or comments.
Share this on FacebookGoogle+RedditEmailPrinter version
Close
E-mail This Page