DEATH – WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

© Rosemary Bardsley 2019

Note: This study provides a summary of what the Bible teaches about death. The reader is encouraged to look up all the Bible references included.

A. THE CREATION PERSPECTIVE

In Genesis 1 and 2, death existed only as a possibility, conditional on whether or not humans kept the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge and evil (Genesis 2:17).

Death, and all that leads to death, simply did not exist.

For comment on how this contradicts the uniformitarian/evolution hypotheses check the relevant studies on Genesis.

 

B. THE FALL PERSPECTIVE

Death is only in the world because of Genesis 3. It is not a part of God’s creative purpose. It is here as a result of our sin and is part of the fear and bondage into which our sin has condemned us. It is also the focal point of God’s judgment on sin.

B.1 Death entered as a result of human disobedience to the word of God.

Genesis 2:17

Romans 5:12

Genesis 3:7 – 24

 

B.2 Death as God’s judgement
An extremely large proportion of Biblical references to death and dying are in the context of sin being punished.

Genesis 6 – 9

Exodus 14:23 – 28

Exodus 20 – 22

Ezekiel 18:20

Luke 13:1-4

Romans 6:23

Sometimes God’s mercy prevails, and death is delayed.

Sometimes the death penalty is implemented by God himself, and sometimes God delegates the responsibility of implementing this penalty to human beings either individually or corporately. Death in this context is something highly undesirable; and to take upon oneself the right or the responsibility of killing another is totally out of order.

 

B.2.1 The death of Christ
The substitutionary death of Christ by which our salvation is achieved is testimony to this penalty-judgment aspect of death that pervades the scripture.

Isaiah 53:4-6

Romans 3:22 – 26

B.3 Spiritual death
The Bible teaches that everyone is spiritually dead:

Ephesians 2:1, 5

Colossians 2:13

Also, all the promises of being given ‘life’ in Christ, and to being ‘born again’ assume that we are in a state of spiritual death.

B.4 The ‘in Adam’ concept
Paul teaches a direct connection between Adam’s sin, the entry of death, and the judgement of God. All are under this reign of death:

Romans 5:12 – 21

1Corinthians 15:21,22

 

Hebrews 2:14-15

 

C. THE INCARNATION PERSPECTIVE

During his 3 years of ministry, Jesus Christ reversed, in a temporary, micro, way, the suffering and death that entered the world in Genesis 3:

  • He healed the sick, blind, lame, etc
  • He raised the dead

This ministry of Christ demonstrates that it is good for us to do what we can to relieve suffering and try to avert death. It also is a micro expression of the complete removal of death and suffering when he returns.

 

D. THE SALVATION PERSPECTIVE

D.1 Because of the death of Christ for our sins, those who believe in him have been released from the spiritual ‘death’ brought upon all humans by our sin in Adam. Spiritual death ends the moment a person believes in Christ, and eternal, spiritual life begins:

John 3:36

John 5:24

1John 5:11,12

D.2 When a believer dies, their body perishes, but their soul/spirit goes immediately to be with the Lord:

Luke 23:42, 43

2Corinthians 5:6 – 8

Philippians 1:21 - 23

 

E. THE ESCHATOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

When Jesus returns:

He is returning to get us to take us to be with him in his father’s house - John 14:1-3.

He will bring with him believers who have died - 1Thessalonians 4:14 - 16.

Believers who are still alive will be caught up with Christ -. 1Thessalonians 4:17.

Their bodies will be resurrected, restored and renewed - 1Corinthians 15:35, 42 – 44, 51 - 54.

Because their names are in the Lamb’s book of life, they escape the final judgement - Revelation 20:12, 15.

Death will be abolished - 1Corinthians 15:26, Revelation 20:14; 21:4.

Believers live forever in the new heaven and new earth - 1Thessalonians 4:17.

 

F. THE HEART OF GOD

God created us for life not death. This alien and intrusive nature of death is evident in the fact that Jesus wept as he stood outside the tomb of Lazarus [John 11], even though he knew he was about to raise him from the grave.

Genesis 2:17

Ezekiel 18:30-32

Ezekiel 33:11

Psalm 116:15

Matthew 23:35

John 10:10

John 11:35

Revelation 16:6

Revelation 19:2b