What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
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 thesecond 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).
Death of a Lamb
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
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)
Everybody dies this death, including believers. At first, a person may think this says that Satan has supreme rule—because he has the power of death (Hebrews 2:15)—and every human loses. However, we cannot forget Christ's death on the cross. His death wiped out the curse of death hanging over us due to our sins, and He remains our faithful High Priest. Thus, more remains to be understood about this verse.
How does this verse affect us? Paul writes in Colossians 2:11-14:
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The apostle explains that a Christian is free from the bondage of death because Christ's death has removed the charges of sin against us. Jesus, in Revelation 1:18, adds another factor in our favor: “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
Christ, because He paid the penalty for our sins and simultaneously defeated Satan, now holds the power of life and death for the converted. At this point, matters become clear. For Hebrews 9:27 to be true, Christ's blood does not cover the first death, which everybody faces, but it indeed covers the seconddeath, eternal death of the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14 confirms a second death: “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 adds detail: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Paul offers us assurance in Romans 8:37-39:
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
At this time, the unconverted face both the first and second deaths. They are still held eternally in Satan's slavery unless converted between now and the igniting of the Lake of Fire.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death
1 John 5:16-17
There are at least two applications for these verses: the first for people who, for one reason or another, have left the church of God, His truth, and His way of life; and a second for those who are still actively in the church. The most common misinterpretation of this verse is the claim that it proves there are some sins a person can commit and not incur the penalty of eternal death. Can this be true?
In short, no! It cannot be true. We know very well that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). To this, there can be no exceptions! God does not categorize sins this way. Instead, the Bible distinguishes sins differently. Through the author of the book of Hebrews, God shows us that "willful" sin brings the second death - eternal death:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27)
Please hold onto the word, "willfully." We will come back to it presently.
Of course, any sin can be forgiven if it is sincerely repented of, and if it is "confessed," not to a human priest or minister, but to our merciful God: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). Conversely, any sin can also lead to eternal death if it is not confessed and repented of, and if it is allowed to continue repeatedly in a person's life. A "sin not unto death," then, is one that is confessed, repented of, and does not involve a willful violation of God's law.
On the other hand, a person has "sinned unto death" if he has willfully turned from God's way. It is gradually becoming clear that this whole matter revolves around this word "willfully" from Hebrews 10:26. The Greek word is hekousios, and it means "voluntarily" or "willingly." The English adverb stems from the adjective "willful," which means, according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
» obstinately and often perversely self-willed;
» done deliberately;
An extensive and profitable Bible study could be conducted just on these four alternate renderings of the word "willful." The first three meanings generally speak for themselves, but the fourth and last one seems to show willfulness in its true shade. Those who are unruly are continuously unwilling to obey the rules, in this case, God's rules! They unceasingly refuse to accept God's government and His laws.
Sin unto death may not necessarily include all those who have apparently left the church, nor even all those who have been disfellowshipped, but only those who have willfully rejected God's way to the extent that it is no longer possible for them to be brought to repentance. However, this is certainly not suggesting that it is acceptable for a person to take God's loving mercy for granted, to think that he can leave God's church to "enjoy a little sin" for a while, then simply jump back in at a convenient, later date. Such devices or actions carry with them some obvious and very real dangers, bringing to mind another well known but somewhat fearsome biblical passage:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
This should be an arresting, solemn, and even terrifying warning for any who might consider leaving the church. Obviously, it is often very difficult for any fellow human being to determine who has and who has not "crossed the line." In fact, it is probably because of the extreme difficulty of discerning when this is the case that the apostle of love writes in our difficult scripture, "I do not say he shall pray for it" rather than the sterner alternative command, "He shall not pray about it."
John's open-ended statement allows for a Christian's natural desire to hope that the person has not gone too far - to hope that he will repent - and he does not prohibit intercessory prayer, even in such a case. We should rather err on the side of praying for our errant brethren than not praying. John implies that our prayer may be futile, but he does not say that it is a sin to pray even for a seemingly hopeless case, as long as we do not know for sure that it is totally hopeless.
Finally, let us bring this subject around to include those who are still in God's church. If any of us sees or hears of a fellow church member who is normally striving to obey God "sin a sin which is not unto death" - often out of ignorance or weakness - we ought to ask God to help the member recognize his error and repent of it. When we do so, God will hear and answer our prayers and may, according to His will, "give him life": "And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (I John 5:15). This is the kind of concern we must have for all of our spiritual brothers and sisters, and it is one way that we can "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
Through our deeper study into a relatively complex scripture, God reveals two simple conclusions: Should we pray for a fellow member if we see or hear of him sinning? Yes, we should. And should we pray for friends and loved ones who have left God's truth? Again, yes, we should, for "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16).
A Sin Unto Death
This verse ostensibly describes the Lake of Fire as a place where God torments people forever. This assumption raises three 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 answering these questions, we must briefly consider whether human beings have an immortal soul. For several biblical reasons, our understanding of the Scriptures compels us to maintain that they do not:
1. Job recognizes that man has a spirit (Job 32:8), which the apostle 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 upon death (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59). It records an individual's life, 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 to discern godly things. According to Ecclesiastes 3:21, animals also have a spirit, “which goes down to the earth,” suggesting that it ceases to exist at the animal's death.
2. The Bible flatly asserts that all people die: “[I]t is appointed for men to die once” (Hebrews 9:27). Ezekiel says distinctly 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, a type of the Lake of Fire.
3. In death, life and consciousness are gone. “The dead know nothing,” says Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5, and he later adds, “[T]here 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 men's death, “His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish” (see Genesis 3:19).
4. 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 pit” or “the grave.”
5. 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; emphasis ours throughout). In I Corinthians 15:53 he tells the saints, “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality”; that is, immortality is not inherent in us. 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 seek it?
6. 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.” In other words, humans must go through Him to receive eternal life.
With such overwhelming proof, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, believed by so many, 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.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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