Most of us just accept death as a fact of life. We don’t like it, and it makes us sad, but we know that one day we will eventually die as well. We hope for heaven above but don’t know much about why we believe in heaven or how death came about. Our thoughts are filled with a mix of scientific facts, religious slogans, and maybe a little something from the Bible. In the mix, we are left with a weak foundation for understanding death.
The Bible gives clarity to our thinking about death.
When death is mentioned in the Bible, it’s mentioned in two distinct ways. Physical death is a biological phenomenon. Spiritual death is a theological phenomenon. We often think of spiritual death as just a metaphor about physical death, which we perceive as an obvious and unavoidable fact of life. But our thinking is flipped. Spiritual death came first. It was spiritual death that brought about physical death in the first place.
There is ample evidence in scripture that God did not intend for us to die when he created us but that we brought death upon ourselves when we stepped outside His care and guidance. When Adam and Eve walked away from God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1-4), spiritual death ushered in physical death. Adam and Eve hid from God and chose to live life apart from Him.
Death is not something inflicted upon us by God; it is something we brought on ourselves when we separated ourselves from God. God didn’t want death to begin with, death is not natural; it’s not the way things are supposed to be. God is the source of life, not death. God didn’t create us to kill us or take us away. Spiritual death is not a metaphor based on physical death. It’s just the opposite. Spiritual death came first. In the book of Romans, Paul makes it clear that spiritual death came first: “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” - Romans 5:12 (NLT)
The amazing part of the Bible and the amazing promise of the Christian Faith is that Jesus has power over sin and death. When we know that spiritual death brought about physical death, and that spiritual death is more than a metaphor based on a fact of life, we gain a new understanding of the power of Jesus.
Jesus has power over death. He reverses the spiritual powers of death, thus reversing the physical powers of death. The Bible flips death on its head, and Jesus turns it back around. It was spiritual death that caused the pain of physical death. It was separation from God the Creator, the source of all life, that caused physical death to begin with. Physical death is not natural, it’s not best, it’s not right, it’s not even good. God is good. He does not take us. Death grieves Him and He walks through the pain with us. Death grieves Him enough that He sent His Son to die to replace our death, to give us new life in this world and eternal life in the world to come.
Physical death is mentioned 133 times in the New Testament, and in over half of its uses it is linked to resurrection. When we look at death as more than just a biological phenomenon, as also a theological one, then death takes on new meaning. Death is both physical and spiritual, and when we mix the two we discover something very beautiful. God is good. Jesus has power over spiritual and physical death!
Of the dozens of places in the Bible where death is tied to resurrection, Romans 6:7-9 is one of the most powerful. It gives us hope for our own life, not because of our ability or strength, not because of circumstance, but simply because of the hope and power of Jesus.
“7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with Him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and He will never die again. Death no longer has any power over Him.”
-Romans 6:7-9 (NLT)
“Since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with Him.” When we hook our wagon to Jesus’ wagon, when we align our lives with life of Christ, when we surrender our heart to Jesus, when we place our hopes, fears, and visions of the future in Jesus’ hands, then we die to ourselves and we die with Christ. When we die with Christ we know we will also live with Him. We gain the power of the Resurrection of Christ, and that power is sure and true because “death no longer has any power over Him.” You can’t kill a dead man. When we are resurrected spiritually in this life, we not only experience the abundant life that Jesus promised, we gain physical resurrection in the life to come.
“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NLT)