Death: The Transition

Death: The Transition

Consideration is given to us as we make the change from the Topic of Heaven to that of Hell and that is to give consideration to the transition to either abode through that life-ending event we call death.

There are many important topics in the Bible, but the concept of death is that to which the Gospel itself pertains its urgency. it is the topic for which if the Gospel is not received or believed on time, will usher an individual into that infernal hell out of which is no hope.

It is a topic that all people aside from the rapture, will one day imminently experience. Its not a pleasant topic, but it’s difficult to imagine a topic more important than death.

Death is the means through which people will realise their final state.

Strangely enough, many people know they will die but live as though death somehow doesn’t apply to them.

There was a bold preacher who once told the congregation, “Someday every member of this parish will die!” The congregation was stunned, all except one man who laughingly said, “I don’t belong to this parish.”[1]

Death does not just separate loved ones, but death brings to the departed the permanent end for which they lived.

To those who sought the forgiveness of God for sin and desire his company, they shall retain his company in his dwelling place with all the heavenly angels and saints in eternity.

To those who despise God and desired not the knowledge of his ways till the end of their life, they shall be as separated from God as far as absolute darkness is from light, and have their solitary dwelling in hell for all eternity. 

(Contrary to popular belief, there is NO fellowship in hell, no revelry, no eternal parties. We will speak to that more next week)

What is certain about death is that it only affects the living.

What is uncomfortable about death is that it can occur at anytime.

My desire this morning is to explain death related to four different elements and, contrary to the nature of the subject, my desire is to encourage you.

I have no intention on leaving you miserable, but on telling you of both the ULTIMATE problem of life with the ULTIMATE SOLUTION in life.

Four are the topics of our study this morning.

The Origin of Death

Romans 5:12–18

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

The world does not see death as an aberration. 

Naturally, for as long as man has been in the world so too death has been in the world and therefore death seems to the world as natural as life. But strangely, life is inexplicable to the world, yet death seems to be easily understood.

You can search all your life for a scientific definition of life and you won’t find any consistency, in fact science itself cannot explain life, they don’t know what gives a substance life and so the world turns to Philosophy in order to find the definition of life, and there are several.

But it seems easy to find a definition of death, death is simply the absence of life.

Mortimer Adler, editor of the Great Books states it simply that: “Death is a change which only living matter undergoes”.[2]

Only that which is alive can die.

Even though a definition of death can be found, the origin of death is a curiosity.

 As far as the world is concerned death is a part of life, and that would be true of there was not a competing idea that better fits with reality. What do I mean?

All people in the world have in them an innate desire to life and to live forever. It seems to be built in. All people in the world find the entire concept of death inexplicable and unnatural. It’s impossible to look at the body of a dead person and think that your loved one is still there, there is a vacuum, an absence, a departure that seems on the surface final. And we find great difficulty in coming to terms with death and that is because it feels so surreal, even unnatural.

This feeling is common to us all. While we live we feel immortal, but when a loved one dies, we come face to face with a concept that ruins our previous, natural perception of life.

The World says death is natural and has always been, but the Bible says death had a beginning and will have an end. According to the Bible, death is UN Natural, man was created never to die, man was created to live forever in perfect fellowship with God. Immortality is naturally how we all feel about life! And seems to this day to be the ultimate search of many people in the world. Immortality is what is behind what is known as The Fourth Industrial Revolution, a book by Klaus Schwab Head of the World Economic Forum.

The desire is to escape from death.

Turn to the first place in the Bible where the concept of death is mentioned.

Genesis 2:15–17 

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 

1And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 

This is Adam, his name means Man, this is the first man. This man was the direct creation of God from the dust of the earth. The elements of all living things are even this day found in the dust of the earth.

Man was created as a gardener; he was created to work and to fully enjoy the fruits of his labours. He could sustain his life with the fruit of every tree in the garden but one, it was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in the Hebrew it is referred to as the Tree of Conscience (With Knowledge). God said, “For in the day that thou eastest thereof thou shalt surely die”.

There are several forms of death in the Bible and we will speak to those in the next point, but the death spoken of here is what God refers to as the most serious of all forms of death and that is spiritual death;

It’s the death that separates the spirit of man from the spirit of God. 

The death that alienates man from God.

It’s the death that makes God a stranger to man.

That has man unable to see the plain evidence of his existence,

it literally blinds him to God. And only those who diligently seek him shall find him Heb 11:6 & Deut 4:29, and when they do they wonder how it was they did not see him so clearly before. We have all experienced this.

This is the death that God sees as infinitely more severe than physical death, this is the death that is also known as The Fall of Mankind.

In Genesis chapter three is where that unfortunate event unfolds;

Genesis 3:4–6  

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it waspleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat

This event is what is known as Original Sin.

It was Original because this is where sin first entered into the world, and death by sin.

It was Original because the first couple on earth committed this sin.

It was Original because the sin nature would now be inherited by all generations following. 

Mankind had transitioned from immortality to mortality through sin. Death now became the unnatural state of most people. 

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Death therefore had a beginning. It did not exist before mans sin, it had its origin by sin.

Charles Spurgeon wrote of it this way;

Death is an alien in this world: it did not enter the original design of the unfallen creation, but its intrusion mars and spoils the whole. It is no part of the Great Shepherd’s flock, but it is a wolf that cometh to kill and to destroy…Certain it is that as far as this present creation is concerned, death is not God’s invited guest, but an intruder whose presence mars the feast.

We all have a natural inclination that death seems unnatural, the Bible is the only place where that natural inclination has an answer. Death seems unnatural because it is unnatural.

Man was not created to die, but as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

As a result, therefore, we fear death. 

And so we should

The Effect of Death

Romans 5:20

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Embodied in this passage is both the reason for genuine fear but also the opportunity for genuine hope. This one verse lays out the dilemma for all mankind, but also provides the answer to all mankind. But the fearful aspect of it is in the first part;

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation

Hebrews 9:27 

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 

The sin of mankind has placed all of mankind in the greatest of all dangers and death is seen as the ultimate enemy for man.

Preaching on 1 Cor 15:26, Spurgeon wrote;

Death is well called an enemy for it does an enemy’s work towards us. For what purpose doth an enemy come but to root up, to pull down, and to destroy?

Throughout the cultures of the world in history passed, death was always seen as a transition from this life to the next, but in reading of the history you cannot help but to think of death as a fearful thing, even an enemy.

In Mesopotamia, Sumerian, Babylon, Persia, Canaan, Egyptian, all of the most ancient peoples of the world had understood that Death is a transition but none of them spoke well of it. Death was seen as an enemy as far back as history records.

All of these ancient cultures see the final place not in the grave, but in the belly of the earth. Where do they get that idea from? What we see in these writings are partial remembrances of the truth the Bible lays out. , yet none but the Hebrew people had the answers for the soul. Only the Hebrew nation had the Oracles of God and only they knew of the Messiah that would come to free men from sin.

The Jews believed this by faith, their sacrifices offered where sacrifices of innocence, the blood they shed were a foreshadowing of the blood of Christ that was to wah away sin.

But to the world, death is the enemy in every way.

Continuing his writings, Spurgeon goes on to say

 Death is also a subtle foe, lurking everywhere, even in the most harmless things. He meets us both at home and abroad; at the table he assails men in their food; and at the fountain, he poisons their drink. He waits for us in the streets, and he seizeth us in our beds. He rideth on the storm at sea, and he walks with us when we are on our way upon the solid land. For from the summit of the Alps, men have fallen to their graves; and in the deep places of the earth where the miner goeth down to find the precious ore, …. Death is a subtle foe and, with noiseless footfalls, follows close at our heels when least we think of him. [3]

 Three forms of Death;

  1. Separation of Man from God [Spiritual Death: Affects all]

That is, man is alienated from God. We find the concept of God difficult to grasp, we are far from him and desire no knowledge of him or of his ways. As a result even our minds become darkened against him.

Romans 1:21 

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 

This is that death that is evident in ALL of mankind. Ephesians 2:1 says we were dead in trespasses and sin.

Ephesians 2:5 says we were “dead in sins”

John 5:25 

25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 

Clearly it was NOT the physically dead that could hear the Gospel and live. Jesus reffered to the spiritually dead, those dead in trespass and sins.

The First death is Spiritual death, where all mankind is alienated (separated) from God.

  • Separation of Soul from the Body [Affects Most]

I say it affects most because a few are taken to heaven according to the Bible, never seeing death. 

Otherwise, this is the death that awaits you and I. It is a separation of the soul from the Body. Physical death.

2 Corinthians 5:6–8  

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Revelation 6:9 speaks of seeing the souls of them that were slain for the word of God.

Possibly the clearest passage relating to this type of separation is in Luke 16, it has its example with one man in heaven and the other in hell immediately after death.

Luke 16:19–23 

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 

 Clearly both bodies are buried and remain in their graves, but the soul, fully conscious and alert, even able to observe and plead (as seen in the dialogue following), demonstrates the 2nd form of death, the separation of the soul from the body. What we see as Physical death.

  • Separation eternal (aka: The Second Death: Hell) [Affects Many]

This is the reason Jesus came and died.

This is why we are to preach the gospel to all people.

This is the most horrible of all.

It is known as the “Second death” as it is referenced four times in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:4 and 21:8

Turn to Revelation 21:5-8

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

In all three definitions of death in the Bible, we see SEPARATION as the effect of death.

  • The Spirit separated from God
  • The Soul Separated from the Body
  • Soul and Body Separated in hell.

We all suffer the first

Most will suffer the second

Far too many will suffer the third.

What we see here is that Death is the greatest enemy of mankind and death takes us whether we are ready or not.

BUT: There is a way to gain victory over death, and especially the second death.

The third definition of biblical death is the worst transition of all and yet it is 100% avoidable in scripture

The Victory Over Death

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

That is the state of all of mankind to this day. It was through the prime representative of mankind, a man made perfect but with a will that was free to obey or disobey God.

There is no man alive that believes the freedom to make choices is a bad thing, God made man in his own image, and he made him free to love God or reject God. 

Unlike other religions, you are not forced to love God, it is not the point of a sword or the nozzle of a gun that has you fall in love with God, it is Romans 5:19

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. 

It was Christ who was promised to come from the moment the curse was pronounced upon that first man for his sin, that would take away the sin of the world.

Paul wrote

Galatians 4:4–5 

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

That moment was the greatest moment seen by the host of heaven, it was what the angels had long anticipated would come.

Jesus came into the world, and the moment he did a multitude of angels were heard to say;

Luke 2:14

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 

It is sin that alienates us from God, it is sin that has separated man from God and condemned him to die, forever separated from God in hell with the devil and his angels.

But “light is come into the world

Jesus said;

John 12:46 

46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. 

When Christ came into the world, he fulfilled the law of God. He lived a sinless lifeand died as a man; innocent of the charges laid against him by those he came to save.

John 1:11–12

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 

Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, that we might have the victory over death.

Shakespeare once wrote simply; “We owe God a Death”.

Jesus paid that death in his own flesh for us all.

As we live with the penalty of sin hanging over our heads and weighing us down, we live already condemned to die and even die that second death.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 

Romans 5:8 

Those who believe the Gospel have victory over death, the sting of death can no longer worry them all their lives.

There is an incredible passage in 1 Corinthians 15 that speaks largely of the body that those who have overcome the sting of death shall receive. But in it also there is an incredible passage that speaks directly of the victory received over death

If Jesus Christ won for us the victory, if it is true that because of his sacrifice for the sin of the world and the way to claim the gift for yourself is simply to believe that Gospel, that good news that Christ died for you, and if that means at your death you are immediately in heaven with Christ, is that not a victory?

Turn to 1 Corinthians 15:51-58

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin isthe law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

There is a Victory over death for all who have trusted in Christ.

Death is that transition that is to take place where all will receive to themselves that which they desired in life.

Those who are pleased to be near God will abide with him for ever.

Those who are pleased to be alienated from God will never know of him again.

Those who believed the Gospel have won the victory over death

Those who will not believe it will suffer the second death for eternity.

The End of Death

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Today the world believes that life and death are part of an ongoing cycle. Death will continue for as long as life continues because that is all they have ever known. To those who experience the death of a loved one, we see death as un-natural, as surreal, almost dream like. It is the first response and reaction when we dwell upon it, it just doesn’t seem natural and there is a reason why.

Death came into the world and it did so by sin, the sin of man, the sin of the ones for whom all of creation was made and now, as a result, the entire creation groans and travails in pain.

Entropy has afflicted the entire universe, everything is winding down, and all of life dies.

To the world this will continue.

Scientists in the west believe this will go on until what they refer to as the “heat death” of the universe. They belived in the big bang and believe also in the big crunch where the winding down of the energy of the universe seems to be taking us.

But the Bible says death will one day have an end.

Revelation 21:1–4 

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Only the Bible reconciles how we feel about death. Only the Bible makes it able to be understood.

Death is an aberrant element in life. You can’t have death without life, this is understood by the world, but you can have life without death.

You can’t have rust without steel, but you can have steel without rust.

You can have a wound without flesh, but you can have flesh without a wound.

Turn to

1 Corinthians 15:24 

24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemythat shall be destroyed is death. 

Job 19:25–26

25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter dayupon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 

You do not have to wait to know if you will one day see God. You can know now that your redeemer liveth.

[1] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 101). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Adler, M. J. (Ed.). (1990). The Syntopicon: An Index to the Great Ideas (Second Edition, Vol. 1, p. 787). 

[3] From a sermon delivered on Lord’s Day morning, December 17, 1876, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.


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