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 Penalty
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:17

When we read in Genesis 2:17, do we not subconsciously read into it, "Yes, but He does not really mean that. He means we will eventually die"? We soften it, expecting that God will not carry through with what He literally says.

The Keil-Delitzsch Commentary says about this verse, "That in the day that you eat thereof you shall die." It means as soon as he ate, he would die. The Keil-Delitzsch is a very conservative commentary. The Interpreter's Bible Commentary, which is one of the most liberal commentaries, says, "Death would follow immediately!" From one of the most conservative commentaries, Keil-Delitzsch, to one of the most liberal, The Interpreter's Bible Commentary, they agree the verse says that when they touched that tree, thus showing the intent of their heart, they would die.

In the beginning, at creation, all sin is deemed as worthy of death. Every sin is a capital offense. In creation, God was not obligated in any way to give life to you or me. Life is a gift that puts us under obligation, and that obligation is stated, or at least implied very strongly, right when man is being created. God gave life to man and put him under the obligation of being the image-bearer of God (Genesis 1:26). That is why we were created.

In chapter 2, we are further obligated by God's command to take of the Tree of Life, and not the other tree. The implication there is that only God knows how we are to live in order to fill our obligation to be the image-bearer of God. We have to learn that the root of sin lies in the desire of men to live their lives in self-centered independence from God. This is what keeps us from being the image-bearers of God that He intended us to be. If we deviate from this, have we not broken our obligation to God? If we deviate from this—if we go from the path, if we miss the mark—we have sinned. We have broken our obligation to mirror and reflect the holiness of God.

Implied by the name “Tree of Life,” God is telling us that we do not intrinsically possess the kind of life that God has, and that if we want that kind of life, it must be added. It is added through what the Tree of Life symbolized. What if we do not meet our obligations? We forfeit the gift of life when we sin.

Is God unfair if something is so clearly stated? Do we see why He commands us to choose life? He sets before us two different ways. He commands us to go in a certain direction, because if we go in the other direction we have broken our obligation to be image-bearers, and then He is not obligated any longer after that to continue our lives. He is under no obligation to continue the life that He gave to us as a gift. God is not acting unfairly nor with injustice, for the commands are very clear.

When the penalty was stated to Adam and Eve, did God say, "If you sin, some day you will die"? No. The penalty is clearly stated to be instant death, just as suddenly as it fell on Nadab and Abihu, and on Ananias and Sapphira, and Uzza.

Let us look at this realistically and let us not try to soften what God very clearly and literally says. He meant the death penalty in the fullest sense of the word. The only reason they lived was because it was right at that point that God extended grace. God was no longer obligated to continue their life.

They had broken His Word, deviated from the path, and the just thing for God to have done would have been to kill them just as He did Uzza. That is not what He did though. Instead, He gave them mercy, and He gave them grace. There is a saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied," but not always so. In this case with Adam and Eve, the full measure of justice was delayed for grace to have time to work.

We need to be thinking of this in relation to ourselves, because He is establishing a pattern. Justice was delayed so grace would have time to work. In this case, the delay of justice was not the denial of justice, but the establishing of mercy and grace. So right at the very beginning of the Book, in its third chapter, grace is introduced.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

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 3:15

Important to us is the prediction that Messiah would be the child of a woman, and arguing from silence, that His father would not be a man.

The apostle Paul writes of this prophecy's fulfillment in Galatians 4:4: "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (see Matthew 1:24-25; Luke 2:7). All humanity has been "born of a woman," and because of this fact, we all share this trait with our Savior. Like us, He was a human being.

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman


 

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 20:13

The Hebrew of the sixth commandment is about as terse as it can be. It consists of two words that are the Hebrew equivalent of "No killing." However, enough other scriptures appear in God's Word to let us know that the commandment means that God does not permit violent and premeditated killing of one perceived as an enemy. Exodus 21:12-14 clarifies this:

He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee. But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

This clearly separates a premeditated murder from an accidental killing. One can discern from verse 14 that, under this circumstance, constituted civil authorities are permitted by God to enact the death penalty.

Verses 12 and 13 imply that no amount of money or property settlement can atone for the destruction of the image of God in a murdered person. Even if the death was truly accidental, the killer still had to flee to a city of refuge. But for one guilty of deliberate murder, there were no sanctuaries whatsoever to flee to, not even the altar of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment


 

Exodus 21:15

Physically striking or verbally abusing a parent is no different to God than murder. They are capital crimes worthy of death!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)


 

Leviticus 4:20

The English word atonement appears in Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35 in reference to these sin offerings, as it does in Leviticus 1:4 in reference to the burnt offering: "Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him." This is the last time "atonement" appears in reference to the sweet-savor offerings in Leviticus 1-3.

"Atonement" may mislead some because we almost automatically think of a covering for sin. Atonement for sin normally makes one acceptable before God, but sin is not present in the sweet-savor offerings. Nonetheless, the word indeed conveys the sense of acceptance but on a different basis than in the sin and trespass offerings. The basis for acceptance in the sweet-savor offerings is the offerer's perfect devotion, picturing the devoted, sinless Christ worshipping God.

Concerning the sin and trespass offerings, "atonement" is used in the way we normally understand it: as a covering, payment, expiation, or propitiation made for sin. It is as though the offerer is charged just as the police charge a person with a crime. In this case, though, the offerer is charged with sin, and something must expiate it. The sin and trespass offerings, then, indicate the payment of a legal obligation to an authority, one that meets the legal requirement of that authority. To expiate sin, the payment must be in blood; a life must be given. The Authority is God, as His law has been broken.

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Whenever a person sins, the law has the power to take that person's life. It has such power over us that, for our debt to be paid, a life is required. Nothing less is suitable to expiate sin. In the symbolism of the sin and trespass offerings, the life of an animal is given, covering the indebtedness and breaking the power the law has over us.

In actual practice, the ritual proceeded like this: The offerer brought his animal before the priest and then laid his hand upon the head of his offering. Symbolically, a transfer took place so that the animal is understood as portraying the sinner making the offering. The animal then died, and the penalty was considered paid.

In Romans 6:2, Paul writes that we are "dead to sin," and in Romans 7:4, that we are "dead to the law." The ritual portrays these truths. The sin and trespass offerings picture a convicted sinner coming before God to receive the judgment of death. However, the animal's death portrays Christ's vicarious death in our stead, for in reality, since He is the offering, our sins have been transferred to Him. In this way, we are atoned for and redeemed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

Numbers 15:32-36

The conclusion is inescapable that the man who sinned here did so presumptuously. It was something of which he was well aware, and the sin was not forgiven. Instead, the death penalty was carried out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Numbers 35:33-34

Numbers 35:9-34 contains information on the use of the cities of refuge, as well as a variety of regulations regarding the attitudes and circumstances under which a death occurred. Of special interest is God's comment about what murder does to a nation.

Murder defiles, corrupts, pollutes, debases, adulterates the land. Can murder possibly enhance the quality of life? Does it produce liberty? Does it free us to move about with light-hearted security because all is well? Or does it produce anxiety in people, stain a nation's reputation, and instill fear in outsiders who do business or have social intercourse with them? Murder has no "saving grace." It produces nothing good. For society's good, God has given authority to the state to punish those guilty of murder with a penalty commensurate with their crime.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 18:20

The "generic" prophet mentioned here does not refer specifically to the Prophet of God of the previous verses. The Bible translators seem to have picked up on this point and have highlighted it by capitalizing "Prophet" in verses 15 and 18, but leaving it in lower case in verses 20 and 22. These latter verses seem to refer to any prophet—true, professing, and even false prophets. Verse 20 warns that, if a man calling himself a prophet claims to speak in God's name but speaks words that God has not given him or speaks in the name of false gods, he puts himself under the death penalty.

Staff
The Prophet


 

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

If a child was unmanageable, stubborn, and disobedient, God empowered the judges to back up the parents. However, regardless of their level of exasperation, the parents had no right to put to their child to death. The elders of the city tried the child, evidence was presented, and they executed the judgment.

It is interesting that the parents charge their son with drunkenness. It does not mean a one-time binge but repeated offenses implying alcoholism, which is a drug addiction. Drug addiction is a major problem today. The wisdom of God reveals this alternative for dealing with it. Is it offensive that God is so stern? He does not pass this problem off as of little consequence or significance! Look at what it is doing to American society.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

We can dishonor our parents through stubbornness, mocking, scorning, angrily talking back to them, thievery, and violence. These will eventually be punished by death, shame, disgrace, darkness of understanding (ignorance), and destruction. Through greedy human reasoning, the Pharisees encouraged financial neglect of parents to increase the riches of the treasury, a hypocrisy Jesus condemned (Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:6-13).

Martin G. Collins
The Fifth Commandment


 

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 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 9:11-12

The Word of God clearly acknowledges that men, even those seemingly well-deserving, will meet with unforeseen, chance setbacks, including death! This may not seem just. It may be worrisome to contemplate and very painful to experience, but we are admonished through Solomon that such things will occur. Such possibilities must be part of our thinking if we are going to face the trials of life in a mature manner that will glorify our Father in heaven.

A closer examination of this in God's Word, however, reveals that in reality there are no innocent victims! There are victims who did not trigger the tragedy that brought about a sudden and unexpected death. In that sense they are innocent. But who can stand before God and say, "I am pure and do not deserve death"?

Earlier, Solomon says, "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Ecclesiastes 7:20). His father, David, writes in Psalm 14:2-3:

The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.

These verses are a stinging indictment of each of us! The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and God, as the Sovereign Ruler of His creation, has every right to execute that penalty—or allow it to occur—on anybody at any time He deems appropriate. And in so doing He is perfectly just.

On some occasions in the Bible, God executed the death penalty with dramatic and terrifying suddenness. He struck down the sons of Aaron, probably with bolts of lightning, when they offered profane fire on the incense altar (Leviticus 10:1-7). God cut Uzza down when he stretched out his hand to steady the ark, which David was bringing to Jerusalem on a cart (I Chronicles 13:5-10). In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira fell dead at Peter's feet after lying about their offering (Acts 5:1-11).

In each case, their sin was directly and quickly connected to their death, giving vivid testimony of what God has every right to do. The only difference between these events and other seemingly random occurrences is the time lag. God can claim our lives for any unrepented sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Innocent Victims?


 

Amos 6:3

The very act of believing judgment is delayed causes violence and destruction to descend nearer and swifter! As Solomon puts it, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). When humans think they have gotten away with sin, their hearts become calloused to it, and they commit more and worse sin, bringing on its penalties: distress, destruction, and death.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Promise of His Coming?


 

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 5:21-22

It is essential to understand that Jesus did not do away with laws, but brought to completion the laws that already existed. Likewise, He did not do away with the Old Testament death penalty principles, which act as guides to civil governments. Jesus was a pioneer, not a revolutionary. A revolutionary seeks to destroy the existing order and places himself above conventional standards. A pioneer accepts the restraints laid upon him and moves forward.

Men's governments deal with the end of the act, Christ deals with the beginning. Jesus changed the law's restraint from the act to the motive. For the Christian, merely abstaining from the act is not sufficient. Jesus imposes the positive obligation of the spirit of the law on him. He seeks to prevent crimes of violence by rooting out the attitudes and drives in a person's character that make him kill. The New Covenant law searches the heart without doing away with the Old Covenant letter.

People can sometimes get infantile, sentimental feelings about Christ and fail to understand the practical realities of what He taught. A cursory reading of Matthew 5:21-22 shows that He is speaking not so much about murder but of the steps that lead to it. He traces the roots of murder and war to three major sources: 1) anger, 2) hatred, and 3) the spirit of competition and aggression—in short, the self-centeredness of passionate carnality.

"Angry without a cause" indicates someone vainly or uselessly incensed. It describes a person so proud, sensitive, or insecure that he gets angry about trifling things. He wears his feelings on his sleeve and is easily offended. He then broods on the offense and nurses it into a grudge.

What may make Jesus' comments even more startling is that many commentators feel that the best Greek manuscripts do not include "without a cause." If this is so, Jesus is saying that even getting angry—with or without a "justifiable" cause—puts one in danger of breaking this commandment! The Bible permits anger against sin (righteous indignation) but not anger against another person.

Raca literally means "vain fellow," someone who is deemed shallow, empty-headed, brainless, stupid. People said raca in a tone of voice that conveyed scorn, contempt, or bitterness born of pride, snobbery, and prejudice.

"You fool" implies a moral fool. One using it was casting aspersions upon another's character to destroy his reputation. It is an expression of condemnation, of character assassination.

We should not take the increasing severity of punishment in the examples Jesus gave literally. He is teaching about the sin of murder, and the punishment is the same in each example—death. He gives the gradations to teach the degree of wickedness and viciousness of each sin.

William Barclay, in his commentary on these verses, writes:

What Jesus is saying here is this: "In the old days men condemned murder; and truly murder is forever wrong. But I tell you that not only are a man's outward actions under judgment; his inmost thoughts are also under the scrutiny and the judgment of God. Long-lasting anger is bad; contemptuous speaking is worse, and the careless or malicious talk which destroys a man's good name is worst of all." The man who is the slave of anger, the man who speaks in the accent of contempt, the man who destroys another's good name, may never have committed a murder in action, but he is a murderer at heart.

Brooding anger, contempt, and character assassination are all the spirit of murder. Christ here traces murder to several of its major sources. To continue in any of these states breaks the sixth commandment. Death is the penalty. Christians have to keep the spirit of the law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

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 8:3

Knowing the gruesome details of leprosy, one can easily imagine the crowd hastily parting as this man worked his way toward Jesus. Yet, He, in contrast, reaches out to touch the leper, signaling His willingness and power to heal. In Exodus 15:25-26, God reveals Himself as Yahweh Ropheka, or "the Eternal-Who-Heals," at the incident at Marah. Nathan Stone writes in his book, Names of God, that this name means "to restore, to heal, to cure . . . not only in the physical sense but in the moral and spiritual sense also" (p. 72). Dying to sin and living for righteousness are a kind of healing through Jesus Christ.

Ordinarily, uncleanness is transferred among men, but holiness is not (Haggai 2:10-14). This scene of the leper coming to Christ pictures divine reconciliation, since what is holy and what is profane usually do not mix. This is overcome through the work of our Savior. Jesus stretches out His hand and commands the leper to be cleansed, showing God in action as the Eternal-Who-Heals. This is why the leper's uncleanness does not transfer to Jesus - at first.

Later, however, the death penalty for sin was transferred to Jesus. A price had to be paid for the leper's cleansing. "Clean" has a sense of purity and holiness, so to be cleansed was to be made pure. Proverbs 20:9 says, "Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin'?" The leper could no more pronounce himself clean than we can pronounce ourselves sinless (I John 1:10). Proverbs 20:30 adds, "Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart." Comparing these two verses from Proverbs suggests that a certain chastening is required for cleansing.

Isaiah 53:4-5 adds another piece to the picture:

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

These verses place the emphasis of our cleansing from spiritual impurity on Christ: He paid the price to heal us and restore us to fellowship with God.

Thus, when Jesus Christ became sin for us, on Him was transferred all uncleanness. For those who have repented and accepted His sacrifice, there is increasingly more responsibility to continue this cleansing process in cooperation with and submission to Him. Peter summarizes this idea in I Peter 2:24, "[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed."

Staff
The Gift of a Leper


 

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)


 

John 8:2-11

Condemnation would have meant the death penalty because "the wages of sin is death." Jesus provides us an example of righteous judgment under the terms of the New Covenant. First, let us consider who He is, so that we can see His authority. He is Immanuel—"God with us." If anybody understood the application and administration of the law of God for the church under the New Covenant, it was Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, He is not only Immanuel, He is also the Head of the church.

Why does He make this judgment? Under the terms of the New Covenant, the church is not a civil entity, meaning that it has no civil authority to carry out the death penalty. But does this mean that the law of God is done away? No. Romans 6:23 still says, "The wages of sin is death." Death for sin is merely delayed under the New Covenant. The sin and the death penalty are still there, but the church is in a peculiar position in relation to law. The law of God is not administered by the church as it was by Israel when they made the Old Covenant with God. Both covenants have the same laws, but different administrations.

Are adultery and lust (two sins involved in this episode) still sins under the New Covenant? Absolutely! So is the breaking of the other eight commandments. But the church, out of necessity, has to administer it differently. Forgiveness of this woman is implied, as Jesus, Immanuel, said that He did not condemn her. Even though it is not stated directly, He forgave her.

But did He say, "Go, and don't be concerned about committing adultery again"? Certainly not! As the Head of the church, He said, "Go, and don't break that law again!" He justified her in relation to this one law, and warned her, "Don't break it." His forgiveness did not do away with the law! It is ridiculous, on its face, to conclude that, when grace clears us and brings us into alignment with God and His laws, that it eliminates the law! Only when there is a clear statement or example in God's Word that a law has been put aside should we make such a determination.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

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 5:8-9

We are justified by faith in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ's life was worth more than all the rest of humanity combined, His death paid the penalty of the sins of the whole world. Through faith in His suffering and death, we receive forgiveness of sins and are brought into a right relationship with God.

The scripture states that "we shall be saved from wrath through Him." "Justified" does not mean "saved"; nor does it mean that we have eternal life. It simply means that our guilty past has been wiped clean because Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Once justified, we can proceed to the next step in the process of salvation.

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


 

Romans 5:8-10

Verse 10 says, "We shall be saved," in the future tense. Thus, we now have access to the Father, to the Tree of Life, and to a relationship to build upon which should lead to everlasting life. But God has willed that our development must take place within the world, not the Garden of Eden.

Part of God's solution clears us of guilt of past sins; this is referred to in the Bible as "justification." Justification by faith in Christ's blood is only a partial solution because it neither changes the nature nor the character that is the cause of our needing justification through Christ's blood. It does clear us of indebtedness due to sin, and that in itself is a major blessing—an enormous gift—but by itself, it does not change the behavior that was responsible for us being indebted in the first place. It does open the door to that change, and thus verse 10 says, "We shall be saved by His life." This phrase implies help to enable us to be saved. Help is available to fulfill our part because Christ is alive to assist us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Romans 6:14-15

What does it mean to be "under the law"? The apostle Paul says that we are "not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4, KJV), and every human being who has ever lived—except Jesus Christ—has sinned (Romans 3:23). Once the knowledge of the law comes, there is no excuse, and the law condemns all who break it to eternal death. Paul personifies the law as the instrument that points the finger of condemnation at each of us: "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Romans 7:9). Therefore, to be "under the law" means to be "under the condemnation of the law."

The phrase "under the law" is also used in Romans 3:19; I Corinthians 9:20-21; Galatians 3:23; 4:4-5; 4:21; 4:18.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?


 

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 7:4

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?


 

Romans 7:5

Paul explains how that before we were converted, our sinful natures brought us under the death penalty. He shows that the carnal, sinful mind is so hostile toward God (Romans 8:7) that knowledge of God's commandments actually stirs a desire in an unconverted person to commit even greater sins.

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


 

Romans 7:6

We have now been delivered from the power of the law. The law no longer has authority to condemn us to death because our old man of sin has died, and Christ has paid the penalty for sin in our stead. Now that God has given us His Holy Spirit, we now "serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." In other words, we now keep not just the letter of the law, but we also keep God's laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose as Jesus Christ magnified them throughout His ministry (Matthew 5:17-20).

Far from being abolished, the laws of God are now even more binding on Christians. Because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, our sins have all been forgiven, and we now live transformed lives in which we keep God's laws of love through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

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


 

Romans 7:9

What Paul means by "I was alive once without the law" is that, at one time, he without the knowledge of what the law meant. It was "when the commandment came" that he understood. At this point, Paul knew that he was as good as dead because he had broken the law (Romans 6:23).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 27)


 

Romans 7:9-14

Notice that it was not the law that killed him but sin! Plain, simple truth—sin slew him. By contrast, Paul says that the law was ordained to life. It is holy, just, good, and spiritual. That is very clear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

2 Corinthians 3:7

When Paul speaks of "the ministry of death," he refers to the administration of the Old Covenant rather than the Ten Commandments. The Levitical priesthood, a carnal priesthood based on physical descent from Levi, administered the Old Covenant. This covenant provided no promise of eternal life and no means for sinners to receive forgiveness because "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Therefore, the people lived and died under the condemnation of the law, and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Another reason why Paul refers to the Old Covenant as "the ministry of death" is that God required the Levitical priesthood to execute those who transgressed certain laws. God's law mandates the death penalty for certain sins like murder and dishonoring parents (Exodus 21:12-17), Sabbath-breaking (Exodus 31:14-15) and certain sexual sins (Leviticus 20:10-13). The priests were responsible to enforce the death penalty by actually putting such transgressors to death in the proscribed manner. In this sense, the Old Covenant ministry was indeed a "ministry of death."

However, why did Paul say that the "ministry of death," the administration of the Old Covenant, was "written and engraved on stones"? Was it not the Ten Commandments that God wrote on two stone tablets? Even though the Ten Commandments were not the covenant itself (a covenant is simply an agreement between two parties), they were the terms of the covenant. Because the Ten Commandments constituted the part of the agreement between God and Israel that the Israelites agreed to keep, the Old Covenant became synonymous with the Ten Commandments. In Deuteronomy 4:13 Moses writes, "So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tables of stone." To put it another way, "keeping the Old Covenant" was the same as "keeping the Ten Commandments."

A paraphrase of the first eleven words of II Corinthians 3:7 helps to clarify what Paul means: "But if the administration of the Old Covenant, [the terms of which were] written and engraved on stones. . . ." The Ten Commandments undergirded all the laws that God gave to Israel—laws that the Israelites could not keep. The responsibility to teach these laws to Israel and enforce penalties for disobedience, including the death penalty, fell to the priests.

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? (Hebrews 7:11)

When Moses went up Mount Sinai the second time to receive the Ten Commandments, he wrote God's statutes and judgments in a book, and God wrote the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone. This, in essence, finalized the "contract" that God made with Israel.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28)

Verses 29-35 then describe how Moses face shone when he delivered the Ten Commandments and the book of the law to Israel.

So what is passing away? Hebrews 8:13 provides the answer: "In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." The Old Covenant and the Old Covenant ministry, the Levitical priesthood, are passing away, not the Ten Commandments!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Have the Ten Commandments Passed Away?


 

Galatians 3:5-11

Here, the subject is the role faith and works play in the justification process. 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)


 

Galatians 3:13

Paul is not saying that the law is a curse, but that the law has a curse—death. Christ paid the penalty for our sins (Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:24-26), and so as long as we remain in the relationship with Him, we do not have to fear the eternal death that is the normal penalty for sin. II Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus Christ "became sin for us." He took all the sins of the world upon His sinless life and paid the penalty of death for them.

Galatians 3:10 shows that it is not the law that is a curse: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."

Deuteronomy 21:23 shows that a man who is hanged is accursed by God. That means that, if a man dies such an ignominious death, it is a sign that He has greatly displeased God. This is also why the people were not allowed to leave the body of the hanged person still hanging past sundown on a Sabbath day: It was an abomination—what the person did and what he was—and was supposed to be taken out of sight and buried. This fits in perfectly with Christ's sacrifice: He undeservedly took on all of the sins of mankind and as such the Father had to hide His face from Him. Christ was the epitome of one accursed at that point. True to form, He was also buried before sunset and arose again three days and three nights later on the Sabbath before sunset.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:4

Was Jesus Christ born under the law and thus bound to keep all of the Old Covenant rules and regulations? From this verse, some attempt to show that Jesus Christ was under the law from His birth. They conclude that Christ was duty bound from His birth to do many things that we do not have to do.

However, this assumption overlooks the true meaning of this verse, which is often obscured by the interpretation given by modern translators. The word translated "born" in modern translations is from the Greek word ginomai, which can have many different shades of meaning depending upon the context. It primarily means "to cause to be" or "to come into being." The King James Version translates it: "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law."

Jesus Christ was physically born through the normal process of human birth to the virgin Mary. But God did not inspire Paul to use the Greek word for "born," gennao, in Galatians 4:4 because He wanted to focus on the miraculous conception of Christ and the overwhelming significance of Jesus' sacrifice.

God emphasizes His Son's humanity in this verse. Like all other men, Jesus was born of a woman; He was flesh and blood. Hebrews 10:5 verifies this: "Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: 'Sacrifice and offtering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.'"

Another point of note is that the original Greek text does not read "the law," but simply "law." The definite article is missing! Paul is speaking of law in general, not specifically the law of God. The apostle thus means that, when Jesus became a man, He was subject to the same terms, forces, and conditions that any other man is. It simply becomes another reference to His humanity like Hebrews 2:10-18.

The verse does not support the idea that Jesus was bound by the Old Covenant because He was born into it. The deeper meaning of Galatians 4:4 is that Jesus Christ came into being through the divine miracle in which God the Father caused Mary to conceive by the Holy Spirit. Also, by another miracle, God the Father caused Jesus to be placed under the law - under the death penalty - at the time of His crucifixion. Note the King James' rendering of Galatians 3:13: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made [ginomai] a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."

Jesus Christ was never under the law except at the time of His crucifixion when God the Father laid the entire burden of the sins of the world upon His head (II Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:4-12). He led a perfect life. Therefore, the Old Covenant rules and regulations did not apply to Him because they were designed to remind the people of Israel of their sins and their need for a Savior (Galatians 3:19).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?


 

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)


 

Titus 2:11-15

Grace penetrates a person's life in the same way that light penetrates darkness. It does not just appear to offset darkness, but rather it penetrates it and disperses it. That is what grace does for a human being. It enters into a person's life, penetrates it, and begins dynamically to produce things.

This is what John 1 is about. God came to the earth in the flesh, and He penetrated humanity. The grace of God appeared to man in the person of Jesus Christ. It can be translated that God's grace made its appearance bringing salvation.

Grace can rescue man from the greatest possible evil. What could that possibly be? The greatest possible evil that anybody can face is God's curse. Men can curse us, but if God curses us, we have had it. That curse is the penalty of sin. But God counterbalances that, and more, by giving us grace.

Here, grace is shown as the power that teaches, trains, disciplines, guides, and leads us. It does not force us. In other places, it is shown as counseling, comforting, encouraging, admonishing, guiding, convicting, rewarding, even restraining. It teaches us that we must deny immorality, exhorting us to give ourselves over to self-mastery, that is, to controlling ourselves. We must devote ourselves to integrity and loyalty to God right here and now, while expectantly and patiently looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection from the dead to glory.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Hebrews 2:14-15

Some religions make no mention of Satan as a reality. Others include him as a reality and enemy, yet they make little or no accounting of him actively working to destroy mankind and God's purpose. Jesus makes no bones about Satan actively working to destroy men. In John 8:44, in accusing the Jews of unbelief, He puts Satan's nature in plain words:

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

Satan is clearly responsible for drawing Adam and Eve into the first of mankind's sins, opening the floodgate to the sins of all of their progeny, all physical and mental sickness, countless emotional agonies, and the billions of deaths that mankind has experienced.

God makes it clear that the wages—the ultimate penalty—earned by one's sins is death (Romans 6:23). The sobering truth of this matter is that it takes only one sin for God to impose the death penalty! He warned Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they ever sinned, "In the day you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). The death penalty falls immediately on anyone who sins, even if it is the first time!

Any religion that is without Christ leaves the door open to thoughts that salvation can be earned by means of good works. The idea is that the evil an individual has done in the past can be compensated for by doing good deeds. This is the very charge the apostle Paul lays against the Jews in Romans 10:1-4:

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

In order for one to be justified before God and accepted by Him requires a righteousness that no man who ever sinned even one time can achieve. No amount of good works can compensate for even one sin. God will accept only the righteousness of One who has never sinned, and He will accept that payment only when a repentant sinner by faith believes.

Peter's statement in Acts 4:12 confirms that salvation is found nowhere else: "There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (emphasis ours). Christ's involvement in the forgiveness of sin for salvation is imperative; there is no alternative! Peter is not saying we can be saved or may be saved. The word "must" reveals necessity according to God's decree. Salvation is found through no other person and no other way of life except through the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth.

Salvation denotes deliverance or preservation from harm or evil. In this case, it is deliverance and restoration from the effects of sin. The result, then, is deliverance from eternal death (unless one goes on from that point to commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus says God will not forgive; see Matthew 12:31-32). This is because salvation begins upon one's repentance from his sins and faith in the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This combination of acts justifies a person before God, and no human works, regardless of their quality or quantity, are acceptable for the forgiveness of sins.

Does any other religion have a Savior with the qualifications of Jesus Christ? No other religion offers such a magnanimous gift. Forgiveness, and therefore justification, is available only through that perfect sacrifice, along with the sincere repentance of a believing sinner who exhibits faith in the God/Man Jesus Christ and in God's grace. God will then give us of His Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?


 

Hebrews 9:27

A primary factor in Jesus' death is that it was substitutionary. For each sin we commit, we earn the death penalty. This penalty cannot be paid by dying a natural death of old age, by accident, or by disease, for this is the way everyone dies as a matter of course. Verse 27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once." If "merely" dying any old way were the payment for sin, idolaters, murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, adulterers, and other sinners would be completely absolved of their sins upon their deaths. Cleared of all guilt by death, they would legally qualify for entrance into God's Kingdom.

However, we must remember the rest of verse 27: ". . . but after this the judgment." Thus, even after a person's physical death, he is brought under judgment. This means the penalty for sin is something more than "just" death. Verse 22 helps to clarify this: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." Sin cannot be forgiven until someone pours out his blood to cover the transgression. The penalty for sin is therefore death by execution.

So, as a substitutionary sacrifice, Jesus had to die the way we would have, by execution. He could not have paid the penalty for our sins by dying any way other than by execution. He could not have died by suicide or even "euthanasia," as these forms of death would have been sin, disqualifying Him as Savior. He would then have had to die for His own sin.

Remember also that Jesus' death resulted from a pronouncement of Pilate, when he handed Jesus over "to be crucified" (John 19:13-16; Matthew 27:26). Though Pilate literally washed his hands of the whole affair by saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it" (Matthew 27:24), he made the judgment and sentenced Him to death.

Of course, Jesus was not guilty of any crime or sin. Our sins brought on us the death penalty. In taking the penalty on Himself, Jesus had to die by execution, and crucifixion was Rome's preferred means.

Staff
Why Did Jesus Have to Die by Crucifixion?


 

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 The Living Bible this passage reads:

And remember, when someone wants to do wrong it is never God who is tempting him, for God never wants to do wrong and never tempts anyone else to do it. Temptation is the pull of man's own evil thoughts and wishes. These evil thoughts lead to evil actions and afterwards to the death penalty from God. So don't be misled, dear brothers.

In many, desire arises to use the Sabbath in a way that is beyond God's simple directives. The temptation arises, perhaps in part motivated by a demon, and our heart follows after it rather than God's simple commands, just as Adam and Eve did in the Gard. Keeping the Sabbath is not complicated.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 2)


 

1 John 3:4

The apostle John defines sin as the breaking of the law (I John 3:4). Paul states that the effect of sin is death (Romans 6:23). He also shows that both sin and death have been a factor in human existence since the start (Romans 5:12-14). The inescapable conclusion is that God's law, His definition of right and wrong, has been in effect since the very beginning! Because His law was in effect, God has ascribed sin to man from the beginning. Without law, there would have been no sin, and thus no death.

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

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


 

 




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 145,000 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 1992-2018 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