Let My People Think

Posts tagged ‘death’

Fear of death – an unholy idol of nominal Christianity

Fear of DeathSomething just dawned on me, as clear as day. At the root of the way modeled by Jesus Christ is the certainty and security about our relationship with our good heavenly father, carried into eternity. At the root of religious fundamentalism is the ever-present good old fear of death – and at its core, that fear of death is unmitigated even by the cross of Calvary. These two streams flow within the larger nominal framework of Christianity. They may employ the same terminology and the same sacred texts, but the difference is truly night and day.

Here’s what brought it to light for me. During these past few years, I’ve read theological books on a variety of subjects, and from a variety of perspectives. I’ve read much material on the subject of atonement. I’ve read entire books on some of the views, in addition to reading background material on all of the currently and historical popular views. I came away with a renewed understanding of the complexity of the issue. What’s important – awareness of those perspectives, coupled with my own in-depth research and analysis, gave me many tools to help me construct my own understanding of the meaning of the atonement.

I did very similar kind of research with the issues of “hell”, “heaven”, “theodicy” (goodness of God vs. evil that’s in the world), “end times”, and many others. Again – my awareness of those perspectives, coupled with my own in-depth research and analysis, empowered me to construct my own understanding of the meaning of the “hell”, “heaven”, “theodicy”, “end times”, etc. My understanding of these and many other subjects became much more textured, much deeper, much more internally coherent, much more resonant with the Scriptures in their historical and cultural context – and as the result, often very different from the commonly circulated pop-theology teachings.
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Death according to the Bible is: loss of life, lack of life, absence of life

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

DEATH IS THE OPPOSITE OF LIFE

As mentioned before, in dozens of Scripture passages, “death” is juxtaposed with “life”, and thus has to have a meaning opposite of life. In a quick keyword search I found over 40 scriptures where “death” is directly presented as a word meaning the opposite of “life”. There are more if you take into consideration different lexical forms of these words. Here are a few of the pairings of these antonyms, to give you a flavor:

Deuteronomy 30:19
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

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Divine bio-engineering. How Jesus Christ solves the problem of death of fleshly bodies

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

Now, after we have disambiguated ourselves of extra-Scriptural meanings, we are in a position to define what the scriptural meaning of death is.

DEATH OPERATES ON THE BODY OF THE FLESH

Death that has been plaguing humanity ever since the fall of Adam operates on the bodies of flesh, and not on spirits. This is stated in the Scriptures quite clearly, but scripture expositors rarely tie this knowledge in with the topic of death, for whatever reason. Sin (dysfunction, being “apart / amiss” from God’s design) operates in the flesh, producing death, as apostle Paul noted most notably in Romans chs. 5 – 8, and this is also noted in a lot of other places in the Scripture as well.

Here are some passages pertaining to sin / death operating on the bodies of flesh:

2 Corinthians 4
11 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members [of the body] to bear fruit to death.

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Physical death is not equal to annihilation

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

The “physical death is equivalent to annihilation” viewpoint is held only by a minority of Bible-believing followers of Jesus, we still need to address it. The Scriptures speak of two deaths: of first death (physical) and, in the book of Revelation, of second death. Physical death is what all of us are unfortunately familiar with, and I will address this first.
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Death in the Bible does not equal separation – summary

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

SEPARATION IS THE OPPOSITE OF UNION

To arrive at the meaning vested by the author into a word, we could examine the antonym pairing that a given word participates in, to be able to more precisely see what exact semantics makes the antonym pairs stand opposite of each other.

In dozens of Scripture passages, “death” is juxtaposed with “life”, and thus has to have a meaning opposite of life. In a quick search I brought up over 40 scriptures where “death” is directly presented as a word meaning the opposite of “life”, and that’s not counting word derivatives.

Now, if death was equivalent to “separation”, then it would be juxtaposed with the verb “join” or “unite” in all these passages, but it isn’t. If it were, then “life” would have to mean “union”, and we would be in an even bigger mess linguistically, since by now we would have redefined 2 important words to mean something that they weren’t intended to. Then every time we would discuss scripture bring up the subject of life, we would have to preface it (as we often times do with death): “In the Bible, “life” really means “union””. Well, union requires an indirect object denoting what the subject is being united with, whereas “life” doesn’t … And we are now in the same predicament as we were when we redefined the word “death”.
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Death is not separation of spirit or soul from the body

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

DEATH IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO SEPARATION OF SPIRIT (OR SOUL) FROM THE BODY

Some might say – well, death really means “separation of the spirit from the body” (or some may say “soul from the body” – either way, the discussion below applies to both, since the type of separation in question is fundamentally the same).

Well, to be sure, physical death of a human being does involve separation of the spirit from the body. That’s a very important point, which is necessary to grasp to understand the mechanics of joint death with Christ and “new birth” in Christ. However, that is an entailment, which is a type of implication. As demonstrated above, implication is not equivalence. Again, if the two were equivalent, let’s plug in the substitution in a couple of verses and see how it bears out:
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Spiritual death – no such thing is ever mentioned in the Bible

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

SPIRITUAL DEATH – NO SUCH THING EXISTS IN THE SCRIPTURES

Now let’s analyze the passage where the notion of “spiritual death” takes root.

Genesis 2
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

The prooftext that’s usually given for “spiritual death” is that in the passage above God said to Adam “you shall surely die the day you eat of the fruit”, Adam did eat, and since Adam didn’t die physically that day, he must have died spiritually. There are a few problems with this conclusion. For one, the scriptures don’t state that he died spiritually, period. That’s an assumption. The second problem with that is that conclusion is that the Scriptures contain no references whatsoever to spirits dying, or “spiritual death”, or anything of that sort. Spirits don’t die. When people die, their spirits simply return to God. There are a number of references to that in the Scriptures.
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