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COMFORT IN THEOLOGY
At the culmination of life

Chapter 1 - Comfort in Theology

Comfort in Theology

theology is more comforting when it is consistent

Christians who are facing the end of life can find significant comfort in consistent theology. But theology that is disconnected from reality and the rest of scripture is far less convincing.

Bible verses that have been disconnected from the body of consistent truth are like bricks strewn on the ground at a work-site. They are independent and not part of the structure itself. They demand credibility for no reason other than that they are part of God’s Word.

Although this fact alone is good reason to believe them, scripture passages that have been isolated are not facially coherent. God’s Truth is a tapestry that presents a consistent whole and when we can see where each scripture fits, it is far more compelling. When they isolated threads become interwoven into the entire tapestry, they take on a credibility and faith that is massive in comparison.

Tragically, the great promise of Christ found in John 11:25 is one of those isolated threads.

“He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

When the Messiah spoke these words He was only minutes away from raising Lazarus from the dead. So His intent is clear. He was quite literally teaching that if we believe in Him we will live even though we die.

But we do die. We can remind ourselves that God said we are not really going to die and we can believe it and that is supposed to settle it. But when relentless death stands leering at our bedside where shall we go for assurance?

The conflict between scripture and observable reality is present at every funeral. The pastor or the priest solemnly announces to the congregation that the corpse or the ashes in the little box are the remains of someone who is “not really dead.”

How does Christ’s statement fit into what we are actually seeing? How can it be true that we never die when, in fact, we most certainly do?

The explanation offered by the evangelical church of today less than adequate. The conventional explanation is simply that we don’t really die, because death in the Bible is not really death at all. Death in the Bible means separation from God. So, when Christ said that we will live even though we die He meant that we will never be separated from God.

In fact, as the explanation goes, no one ever really dies. Everybody goes to heaven or hell and lives forever in peace or in torment. Death just looks like death, but don’t you believe it

That is ridiculous. Death is really death and it does not matter whether it occurs in the Bible or out of the Bible.

And if there were ever a time when consistent, credible theology is needed it is when we reach the end of life. When comfort is most needed, conventional evangelicalism offers little because its doctrine squares with neither life nor scripture.

In fact, one look at a Greek or Hebrew dictionary shows that death in the Bible is nothing other than death plain and simple; it is no different from the death that is fully understood by the doctor who does the autopsy. There is no scripture that teaches death is not really death in the Bible. And there is no reason whatever to believe that the definition of death changed just because the word was used in the Bible.

So, do Christians really die when they die? Of course they do. In fact the Bible teaches that everyone must die.1

But does that mean that Christ was wrong when He said that we would never die?

No. Christ was not wrong about anything.

So, if Christians actually do die and Christ said that they don’t die, who is right? Both statements cannot be true.

Herein lies the sheer beauty of scripture. Both statements are true. But they are true not because death is not really death, but because there are two deaths, and Christians die only one of them. Christians die the first death, but they do not die the second death. So, they live even though they die exactly as Christ said.

The first death is the death of the body and the second death is the death of the soul.

Scripture teaches that the first death is “appointed” to all men. Everyone dies this death.2

“It is appointed for men [all men] to die once…”3

So we should expect our body to die, just like everyone else.

But there is a second death that occurs after our body dies. The second death follows the final judgment where all those who have sinned will die. This is the final enactment of the warning posed by Paul when he said “the wages of sin is death.”4

The second death occurs at the end of time when the unredeemed of mankind are judged die in what scripture refers to as the lake of fire.5 The soul of the unredeemed dies in the second death and it never lives again.

We know that we have a soul because scripture teaches that God has given us a soul.

“Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine.”6

And scripture teaches that souls that sin will die.

The soul who sins will die.7

Therefore, we know that we have a soul and that the soul that sins will die. We know from other scriptures that the soul does not die in the first death8 and we know that the soul is who we really are. The body dies because is wears out. The soul dies because it sins.

But that is where Jesus Christ comes in. He paid for our sins by bearing them on the cross.

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross…”9

In doing so, He became sin for us, so that we could be righteous (without sin).

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”10

That’s why Jesus Christ is so important. He died in our place. He paid our penalty for us and in doing so made us righteous and without sin in God’s sight. That means that we will not die in the second death.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.”11

He gives us eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”12

It is the gift of God.

Through grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.13

To obtain it, all you have to do is sincerely decide to come to Christ trusting in Him and Him alone for the gift.

And the Spirit and the bride [the church] say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

The condemnation (the second death) is based upon one’s choice to receive or to reject Christ.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”14

So when Christ said that we would live even though we die, He was not saying that our bodies will never die, nor was He saying that death in the Bible is not really death. He was saying that when our body dies, it is only our body that dies, not our soul. The Christian’s soul will not die in the second death; it will live forever.15 And at a later time God will give us resurrected bodies.16

The scriptural message to Christians who are facing their own death is this: Don’t delude yourself. All men, Christian or not, must die once17 because all bodies eventually die. But our comfort does not lie in pretending that death is not really death or that death does not actually happen. Our comfort lies in the scripture that teaches there are two deaths and that we will die only one of them. The soul of the Christian will never die because it has been given eternal life.18

Death for the Christian is like the woman who comes home and in from the cold. She is tired. She walks through her house and drops her arms to her side and lets an old coat fall from her shoulders to the floor. But she, the real she, walks on and life for her has just begun. Even though our body will die, our soul will live. That’s what Christ was talking about when He said “He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”19

2

1 Hebrews 9:27

2 Hebrews 9:27

3 Hebrews 9:27

4 Romans 6:3

5 See Revelation 21:8

6 Ezekiel 18:4 This verse shows that the reference to souls is not a reference to people, but to the souls of people.

7 Ezekiel 18:4 This verse refers to the soul as a soul, not as a physical person.

8 See the Parable of Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31

9 First Peter 2:24

10 Second Corinthians 5:21

11 Revelation 2:11 Being victorious means yielding to the commands of Christ (cf. John 14:21,23). This results in the presence of Christ within, which is the hallmark of salvation (Second Corinthians 13:5).

12 John 3:16

13 Ephesians 2:8,9

14 John 3:17

15 First John 5:11

16 Revelation 20:6 “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”

17 Hebrews 9:27 “it is appointed for men [all men] to die once…”

18 John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish [die] but have eternal life.”

19 John 11:25. The erroneous belief that death in the Bible is really only separation from God arises from the doctrine of eternal torment. The doctrine of eternal torment is the belief that no one dies in the second death because the second death is not actually death. Instead, it is a conscious existence that permits the condemned sinner to feel excruciating pain forever. This re-definition of death is necessary in order to accommodate the doctrine of eternal torment because if the second death is actually death, then eternal torment cannot be true because one cannot torment something that is truly dead. Thus death in the Bible has been is re-defined so that the doctrine of eternal torment can be supported.

The doctrine of eternal torment is an abominable doctrinal error that no only alters the meaning of death but also significantly affects other doctrines (eg. the doctrine of substitutionary atonement). There is no scripture in the Bible teaching that any entity will suffer eternal torment other than Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet (Revelation 20:10). Every single scripture that speaks of the ultimate result of sin of man says that sin results in death and makes no mention of eternal torment. There is no scripture that says the wages of sin is eternal torment. See Revelation 21:8, the final end of unbelievers is “the second death”; Romans 6:3 “The wages of sin is death”; Ezekiel 18:4 “The soul who sins will die.” The Bible contains 48 scriptures that specifically teach that sin causes death and Greek dictionaries define the Greek word that is translated “death” as plain and simple death. But if the doctrine of eternal torment is to stand, death in the Bible must be re-defined and the dying are never told of the second death because it is not supposed to be death. See the author’s Fate of Unbelievers.