Today I want to write about death. Death is associated with black, black is associated with goth people, and some goth people wear skulls on their clothes. Skulls happen after death, so that all makes sense. However, all of that is kindof off-topic. Death is much deeper concept than that - just ask any non-believer what they think happens after you die. You'll get different responses I'm sure. I know I have. Some people think that when you die, you cease to exist as a person. People die like dogs. Other think believe that death is just part of the cycle of reincarnation, and it's just a door you go through. Still others believe in some sort of god or devil that they serve and will be with during an afterlife. Some people simply refuse to think about the subject at all, because it's scary. So what is death? What's the problem with it? What makes it good or bad?
Because I am mainly writing to a christian audience, I won't spend very long on the second mentioned idea of death. From the Bible we know that reincarnation is not what actually happens after death, for "it is appointed unto man once to die (physically) and after this the judgment." The reason I put the word "physically" in there for clarification is that some people will also experience the "second death" which is being cast into hell. Now, if you think for just a very quick moment, you will realize that the first and the third view of death are quite incompatible. If you cease to exist when you die, you don't go on to an afterlife. Now, why do I bother to point this out? I will be able to explain that more clearly after I explain the third view a bit more. In this blog, I will only go on to explain this view, and in the next blog, I will contrast it to the first view.
As christians, I think it's safe to say that we mainly believe that there is one God, the God of the Bible, and that no matter what god or gods you serve in this life, there are only two ultimate destinies. There is an afterlife in heaven, in the presence of the almighty and holy God, and there is hell, which is the one place where God is not. With God or without God, those are the only two final options. What does that mean about death? Death is ultimately good or bad depending on where the person's final destiny is. The death of a human is not like the death of a dog, who ceases to exist, but is separation from one place and an entrance to another. As I said, that is good or bad depending on where they will be entering. How does this go along with other deaths mentioned in the Bible, such as the second death?
The initial death, spiritual death: God warned man not to eat a fruit, and that "in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die." Adam ate, and that particular day he did not die physically. What was this death then? Man was kicked out of the garden, and could no longer just walk with God in the cool of the day. More deeply, in a much more metaphysical sense, man was truly separated from God in spirit.
Isaiah 59:2 "But your iniquities have separated you from your God."
The physical death that even non-believers know about: Because of the fall, death entered the world. Not only spiritual death, but physical death as well. This death is not merely the absence of life, as non-believers sometimes think, but another separation. This death is the separation of the soul and spirit of a person from their body. "To be absent from the body is to present with the Lord." For the one writing that verse, to die is to gain. To be separated from this world of temptation and suffering is awesome. However, it isn't like that for everyone.
Luke 16:22-28 "The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment."
This man was separated from earth, and thereby not only separated from his only chance to repent and beg for God's mercy, but also separated from his brothers so that he could not help them. Again, notice that this story goes against the idea that when a person is dead, they cease to exist. This dead guy is wanting stuff, talking, and asking for stuff. He is separated from this universe, and from his former body, but he is still very much a person.
Death, as separation, can be good or bad in an eternal sense and even good or bad in a very temporal sense. Some think that the death penalty is wrong, because murder is wrong. However, the death penalty is part of the justice system in the Old Testament. The separation (death) of a family member is usually very sad and painful, but the separation (death) of a psychopathic killer is a relief because the killer can not longer inflict damage. Separating the killer from his body means that he no longer has power to hurt other physical beings.
Finally, the second death:
Revelation 20:14 "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
Even in Hades, a soul had not experienced the second death until that final moment when it was cast into the lake of fire, away from the presence of the Lord.
Matthew 7:23 "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"
There is no happiness in this death, and no hope. It is the final and eternal separation from God, from Love, and from all that is Good, for God is Good.
The main idea of death seems to be separation, and going back to physical death for a bit, I just wanted to add a couple awesome death scenes:
1 - The death scene so moving that it made God cry
And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
Now THAT is something. I mean, it's pretty easy to make me cry, but this guy was God. Jesus wept. That has got to be one of the most profound verses in Bible. Anyhow, given the context that Christ was able to raise Lazarus from the dead, why was He sad at all? I think He experienced the death of a loved one kinda like we experience it sometimes. When your saved little sister died, you are sad not because she has ceased to exist but because she is gone. A person being gone like that can be really sad. Seriously.
2 - The death scene so tragic that the sun hid its face
Mark 17:33-34, 37
Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice... “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last."
Christ tasted death for us all, and they say that He died literally of a broken heart. That's easy to believe, because that is definitely the most heart-breaking cry ever: My God, My God - Why have You forsaken Me?" It may sound dumb, but even typing that, it makes me feel like crying. Anyway, what was so awful about death? The physical component? The fact that crucifixion is arguable the most painful death invented? What made dying a big deal? It was the separation of Jesus from the Father. The Father turned His face away as Jesus died - God cannot look on sin, and on the cross, Jesus became sin for us. Jesus didn't complain about the pain as He died; the one cry of sorrow that overflowed from His heart was the pain of separation from His Father.
3 - The death that is no longer sad
When we as christians die, we leave behind the corruptible for the incorruptible. "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The victory is ours in Christ, for in physical death we let go of this decaying body for eternal life. "And thus we shall always be with the Lord." Death does not have victory over us anymore for though to live is Christ, to die is to gain. Our gain is to be with the Lord, and to always be with Him." Ultimate life is the opposite of separate: it is eternal togetherness in pure Love, for God is Love.
I just want to end by saying that I wish death had never been a part of this world. I wish that man had never sinned, so that death would never have become necessary. Death sometimes is now necessary, and sometimes is the just and proper thing. Death to us christians is sometimes joy and hope. Death is dark, and yet has death lost it's sting? Death may be many things, but it certainly is, as its core, separation. I think now of people in movies, when another who they care is dying, and they cry frantically "Stay with me - Stay with me." A song also comes to mind, a song of a person who actually wants separation from another and cries in anger "You are dead to me!" This all is what I see of death throughout the Bible, but thanks and glory be to God, we have life through Christ Jesus our Lord. And always remember:
"Better a live dog than a dead lion."