Jehovah God created life. He also created death.
Now, if I want to know what life is, what life represents, does it not make sense to go first to the one who created it? The same can be said for death. If I want to know what death is, what it consists of, would not the definitive source for that information be the one who created it?
If you looked up any word in the dictionary that describes a thing or a process and find various definitions, would not the definition of the person who created that thing or instituted that process likely be the most accurate definition?
Would it not be an act of hubris, of extreme pride, to place your definition above that of the creator? Let me illustrate it this way: Let us say there is a man who is an atheist. Since he does not believe in the existence of God, his view of life and death are existential. For this man, life is only what we experience now. Life is consciousness, being aware of ourselves and our surroundings. Death is the absence of life, the absence of consciousness. Death is simple nonexistence. Now we come to the day of this man’s death. He lies in bed dying. He knows soon he will breathe his last breath and slip into oblivion. He will cease to be. This is his firm belief. That moment arrives. His world goes black. Then, in the next instant, all is light. He opens his eyes and realizes he is still alive but in a new place, in a healthy young body. It turns out death isn’t exactly what he thought it was.
Now in this scenario, if someone were to go to that man and tell him that he is still dead, that he was dead before he was resurrected, and that now that he has been resurrected, he is still considered to be dead, but that he has a chance to live, do you think he might be a little more amenable to accepting a different definition of life and death than he had previously?
You see, in God’s eyes, that atheist was already dead even before he died and now that he has been resurrected, he is still dead. You may be saying, “But that doesn’t make sense to me.” You may be saying about yourself, “I am alive. I am not dead.” But again, are you putting your definition above that of God? Remember, God? The one who created life and the one who has caused death?
I say this because people have very strong ideas about what life is and what death is and they impose these ideas onto their reading of Scripture. When you and I impose an idea on our study of Scripture, we are engaging in what is called eisegesis. We are reading our notions into the Bible. Eisegesis is the reason there are thousands of Christian religions all with different ideas. They all use the same Bible, but find a way to make it appear to support their particular beliefs. Let’s not do that.
At Genesis 2:7 we read about the creation of human life.
“Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (World English Bible)
This first human was alive from God’s point of view – is there any point of view more important than that one? He was alive because he was made in God’s image, he was sinless, and as a child of God would inherit everlasting life from the Father.
Then Jehovah God told the man about death.
“…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 Berean Study Bible)
Now stop for a minute and think about this. Adam knew what a day was. It was a period of darkness followed by a period of light. Now when Adam ate the fruit, did he die within that 24-hour day? The Bible says he lived on for well over 900 years. So, was God lying? Of course not. The only way that we can make this work is to understand that our definition of dying and death is not the same as God’s.
You may have heard the expression “dead man walking” which used to be used of convicted felons who had been sentenced to the death penalty. It meant that from the eyes of the state, these men were already dead. The process that led to Adam’s physical death began the day he sinned. He was dead from that day forward. Given that, it follows that all the children born to Adam and Eve were born in the same state. From God’s point of view, they were dead. To put it another way, from God’s point of view you and I are dead.
But maybe not. Jesus gives us hope:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24 English Standard Version)
You cannot pass from death to life unless you are dead to begin with. But if you are dead as you and I understand death then you cannot hear the word of Christ nor believe in Jesus, because you’re dead. So, the death that he speaks of here is not the death you and I understand as death, but rather death as God sees death.
Do you have a cat or dog? If you do, I’m sure you love your pet. But you also know that at some point, that beloved pet will be gone never to return. A cat or a dog lives 10 to 15 years and then they cease to be. Well, before we knew God, you and I were in the same boat.
Ecclesiastes 3:19 reads:
“For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.” (New King James Version)
This is not how it was meant to be. We were made in the image of God, therefore we were to be different from the animals. We were to go on living and never die. For the writer of Ecclesiastes, everything is vanity. However, God sent his son to explain to us exactly how things could be different.
While faith in Jesus is key to attaining to life, it is not as simple as that. I know that some would have us believe that, and if you only read John 5:24, you might get that impression. However, John didn’t stop there. He also wrote the following about attaining to life from death.
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3:14 BSB)
God is love and Jesus is the perfect image of God. If we are to pass over from the death inherited from Adam into the life we inherit from God through Jesus, we must also reflect God’s image of love. This isn’t done instantaneously, but gradually. As Paul told the Ephesians: “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature person, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:13 New Heart English Bible)
The love we are speaking of here is the self-sacrificing love for others that Jesus exemplified. A love that puts the interests of others above our own, that always seeks what is best for our brother or sister.
If we put faith in Jesus and practice the love of our heavenly Father, we stop being dead in God’s eyes and pass over to life. Now we are talking about the real life.
Paul told Timothy how to grab hold of the real life:
“Tell them to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be generous, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, so that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:18, 19 NWT)
The Contemporary English Version renders verse 19 as, “This will lay a solid foundation for the future, so they will know what true life is like.”
If there is a real life, then there is a fake one as well. If there is a true life, then there is a false one as well. The life we live without God is a fake life. That is the life of a cat or a dog; a life that will end.
How is it that we have passed over from death to life if we believe in Jesus and love our fellow Christians? Do we not still die? No, we do not. We fall asleep. Jesus taught us this when Lazarus died. He said that Lazarus has fallen asleep.
He told them: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.” (John 11:11 NWT)
And that is exactly what he did. He restored him to life. In doing so he taught us a valuable lesson though his disciple, Martha. We read:
“Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask of Him.”
“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.
Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?””
(John 11:21-26 BSB)
Why does Jesus say that he is both the resurrection and the life? Isn’t that redundancy? Isn’t resurrection life? No. Resurrection is being awoken from a state of sleep. Life—now we’re talking God’s definition of life—life is never dying. You can be resurrected to life, but you can also be resurrected to death.
We know from what we have just read that if we put faith in Jesus and love our brothers, we pass over from death to life. But if someone is resurrected who has never put faith in Jesus nor loves his brothers, even though he has been awoken from death, can it be said that he is alive?
I may be alive from your point of view, or from mine, but am I alive from God’s point of view? This is a very important distinction. It is the distinction that has to do with our salvation. Jesus told Martha that “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”. Now, both Martha and Lazarus did die. But not from God’s point of view. From his point of view, they fell asleep. A person who is asleep is not dead. The Christians of the first century finally got this.
Notice how Paul words it when he writes to the Corinthians about the various appearances of Jesus following his resurrection:
“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” (First Corinthians 15:6 New International Version)
To the Christians, they hadn’t died, they had only fallen asleep.
So, Jesus is both the resurrection and the life because everyone who believes in him doesn’t really die, but merely falls asleep and when he wakes them up, it is to eternal life. This is what John tells us as part of the Revelation:
“Then I saw the thrones, and those seated on them had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image, and had not received its mark on their foreheads or hands. And they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6 BSB)
When Jesus resurrects these ones, it is a resurrection to life. The second death has no power over them. They can never die. In the previous video, [insert card] we discussed the fact that there are two types of death in the Bible, two types of life in the Bible, and two types of resurrection. The first resurrection is to life and those who experience it will never suffer the second death. However, the second resurrection is different. It is not to life, but to judgment and the second death still holds power over those resurrected.
If you are familiar with the passage in Revelation we’ve just read, you might’ve noticed that I left something out. It’s a particularly controversial parenthetical expression. Just before John says, “This is the first resurrection”, he tells us, “The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years were complete.”
When he speaks of the rest of the dead, is he speaking from our point of view or God’s? When he speaks about coming back to life, is he speaking from our point of view or God’s? And what exactly is the basis for judgment of those who come back in the second resurrection?
Those are questions we will address in our next video.