Death and Life
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Description: Some Christians view death as a new beginning, but what does it mean to die? Right here and now God wants us to die to our sinful natures.
Many people are worried about death, but for Christians it should hold no fears. The apostle Paul virtually taunts death in 1 Corinthians 15:55: ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ But, of course, it’s not as simple as that – or is it?
For most (if not all) non-believers, this life is all there is. Sometimes it’s a good life; sometimes not so good. But this is equally true for Christians. Some non-believers do really wonderful and altruistic things; some live selfishly, only concerned with themselves and their own. But this too is equally true of some Christians. So what is the Christian difference?
It’s a difference in perspective. It’s a belief that this life is definitely not all there is. It’s a belief that we are inseparable from Christ and that when our human bodies die, we will be transformed – exactly as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:50-55. Earlier, in 1 Corinthians 15.35-44, he challenges us not to ask ‘foolish’ questions about ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ and directs us to examples all around us in nature.
For example, a seed that is sown in the ground does not sprout new life until it dies. He also draws out the fact that not all ‘flesh’ is the same: people, animals, birds and fish all live, yet each has different ‘flesh’. Equally, the sun, moon and stars are all celestial bodies, yet by no means the same – just as our heavenly bodies will not be the same as our earthly ones. Yet God has already determined what our heavenly bodies will be. We need not be concerned.
The process of death
I guess the process depends on what we mean by ‘death’. One thing is certain, except for those alive on earth when Jesus returns, all people will experience human death (1 Corinthians 15:51). For some, their death will be peaceful – perhaps simply not waking one morning. For others, it might be slow and physically painful. For most, it’s likely to be somewhere between these extremes.
No matter the transition from earthly to heavenly life, perspective matters – and so does what we mean by ‘death’. As Christians, we are called to die to ourselves – our own human nature with all its associated sin – and live spiritually in Christ to the glory of God the Father. Giving over our (formerly selfish) will to God means letting him put to death all within our beings that could create a barrier (were it not for his grace). As every Christian knows, sin is a powerfully persistent enemy. Resisting sin is a process in which we all stumble and for which we all need the infinitely more powerful intervention of the Holy Spirit.
What does all this mean? It means that we should heed Paul’s exhortation and adopt an eternal perspective (1 Corinthians 15:58). Yes, we will suffer in our lives on earth. Some will suffer terribly, even be killed, and we may agonise over why some good hearted people and/or innocent children should be subjected to apparently cruel torments. But we are not God and cannot (on this side of heaven) ever comprehend his purposes. Yet we do ‘know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,’ (Romans 8:28).
Having an eternal perspective means accepting whatever may befall us and trusting God in all things. We need only read the Bible or look back over our own lives to be reminded of how faithful and loving God is – and that he always keeps his promises. Our eyes should be set on what God has promised through Jesus – an eternal life so wonderful that words cannot describe it. All we have to do is believe in Jesus – in who he is and what he has done for us. Any earthly adversity pales into insignificance by comparison to the eternal life to come.
Final thought – our decisions
We all make decisions all the time: what to say, what not to say; whether or not to be generous, kind, forgiving, discouraging, helpful, awkward… the list could go on for ever. The key point is this: every decision we make is a seed sown in one of two kingdoms: that of God or of the devil.
Christians naturally recoil at any prospect of allying themselves with dark forces, yet our decisions are exactly that – our decisions. Each one is an opportunity to advance God’s eternal kingdom, even if only by the smallest of margins. In this very real sense, the consequences of our choices go on into eternity.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.