How should Christians think about death? This article explains that on the basis of the death of Christ, Christians must see their death as benefit.

Source: The Banner of Truth (NRC), 1988. 3 pages.

Is Death Customary?

Is Death Customary?People of all centuries, nations and ages have raised questions concerning the actuality of death. Thousands who do not recognize the Bible as the infallible Word of God, or those who through ignorance of what is revealed in the Word of God, or because of an unwillingness to accept as the cardinal truth what it reveals about death, respond to this phenomenon with the stand that death is a normal, frequent occurrence. According to them, there is no difference between the death of a plant, an animal, or a man. They say that all living things are subject to the law of nature and so are unavoidably subject to a process of dying. According to them, death is quite common. Everything has to die to make room for something else, something new. As all other living beings, men too have to die due to a normal process, according to a natural law. They affirm that there is no special cause for death, and that we must look at death as an ordinary happening.

Death – Unusual🔗

However, the Bible casts a totally different light on the fact that all men are subject to death. Man, created after God's image, was not created to die for the profit of something else or to become something new. On the contrary, the Lord says in Hebrews 9:27 that "it be appointed to man once to die." Death is not some consequence of a law of nature. Death is a divine dispensation by which all who are born of a woman, must die. Death is a punishment for sin. God made a covenant with Adam, the father and covenant-head of all of us. Read Romans 5:12-21. God said to Adam: "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" (Gen. 2:17).

So death is a lawful punishment for Adam and all his descendants, for in Adam we have all transgressed God's commandments. God's truth, justice and holiness demand that the soul that sins must die! In His just judgment, God will punish our sin temporally and eternally. God would cease to be God if He did not fulfil His threatenings upon our disobedience to His will and law. He cannot lie or deny Himself.

For all people upon this world there is a time to be born, and, as the wages of sin, a time to die. Thus, death is not something common. God created us very good; hence, death isn't part and parcel of our nature; it is unnatural and not of the essence of life. Due to our sin, we have brought the necessity of death into God's creation, which creation was very good. The existence of death is our guilt and shame. Willfully and voluntarily we left God; death was brought into the world as a punishment of our sins.

God is faithful and just, yes, He is without sin. He is righteous. We are disloyal and iniquitous and that is the cause of our death. Even the sinless Lord Jesus must die. That a sinless One must die is unusual, isn't it? Christ had not deserved death, but He was still appointed to die! How was that possible? Because He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. He became obedient unto death – to swallow death in victory.

Death – A Payment🔗

Our death is not in any way a payment of a debt. Paying off a debt creates an entirely new situation in which the debtor can begin to strive for an unimpeded future. Although our death is a heavy punishment, still it cannot discharge any obligations. According to God's Word, there is never any hope of being delivered from the power of eternal death if we die in our sins. Holy Scripture does not speak anywhere about some kind of purgatory Is Death Customary?where we can be purified or delivered.

Spiritual, temporal, and eternal death is as wages, a reward or a punishment for committing sins. Death is not an appeasement for installments of unsettled debt. The Lord Jesus spoke about hell as being a place where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Many teach that the deceased ones can be released from their destruction, but Scripture offers no basis for such a dogma. Although our death is not a discharge of debt to God, He has appointed us to die for our misconduct against Him.

The death of the Lord Jesus was indeed something else. His death was a payment, a satisfying of incurred debt. He was innocent and blameless, but was (in His state of humiliation, from His humble birth to His death on the cross of Golgotha) burdened with the wrath of God for the sin of mankind. However, He paid for the guilt of His elect only as their Substitute, voluntarily taking their guilt upon Himself. This is the reason He must give again that which He Himself had not taken. Christ was once offered to bear the sin of many. Becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, He paid perfectly for the guilt of all His elect. When God raised Him up, He received from His Father (as maintainer of justice and righteousness) the receipt signed: "Paid in full!" He paid perfectly for those who were incapable of paying for their own guilt.

God erased from His book the guilt of His people, for Christ's sake. He does not behold their iniquity any more. For those lost in guilt, it was in­deed a Good Friday, when God's Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, cried with a loud voice: "It is finished!" Because He paid for the guilt of His people, they never can nor shall be obligated to pay anything themselves. He satisfied all the claims of God's demanding and aveng­ing justice for His bankrupt debtors. Christ took upon Himself their guilt, and they received by pure, free grace, His righteousness which gives them a title to an eternal, blissful life. What a fountain of salvation is included in the salutary death of the Lord Jesus Christ! This salvation is described in detail in Lord's Day 16 of the Heidelberg Catechism. In the Second Head of the Canons of Dort, you can also find a detailed account of the way in which sinners can receive a share of salvation in Christ. Only by true faith in Christ (which is a gift of God, and is worked by the Spirit of Christ) do sinners be­come partakers of Christ's salvation. Rev. A. Hellenbroek, in his well-known question book, has rightly taught that only they have good reason to believe that Christ has personally paid their guilt, who receive Christ as: (a) the de­serving cause (Titus 2:14), (b) the operating cause (John 12:24), (c) the constraining cause (2 Cor. 5:14, 15), and (d) the exampling cause, of salvation (Rom. 6:5).

Death – A Benefit🔗

God's children are cut off from Adam and incorporated into Christ. As a result of the power of Christ's death and resurrection, they are reborn and truly converted to God and Christ – but still they must die.

There is, however, a great difference between their death and the death of those who die in their sins. God's child's death is changed from punishment into blessing. Their death is only an abolishing of sin and a passage into eternal life. For them, death – an otherwise humiliating, shameful defeat – is changed into victory because of Christ's vicarious death. Their death is gain. They do not lose all they have at death. Rather, their death makes them heirs of the full inheritance of what Christ, their Head and Savior, acquired for them.Is Death Customary?

"Their joy shall then unbounded be, when they see God's face eternally; their heart's desire receiving." Their desire is to depart and be with Christ. Their heartfelt desire is to be always with the Lord, to serve Him day and night without sin. When they die, this desire shall be fulfilled. The righteous shall exceedingly rejoice before God.

What a joyful prospect, to behold Him in His glory, and then to be satiated with His divine image! Practice teaches us that most beginners in grace, as well as the more advanced children of God, are afraid of death at times. This is a concern not only of babes in grace but also of young men and fathers in grace – a concern not only of the exercised, but also of inexperienced Christians. Instead of a joyful prospect, they often have worries when they think about death. The daily struggle with their weakness of faith, the evil lusts of their flesh, and the attacks of the prince of darkness (who as a roaring lion, or as an angel of light, resists them – pointing to their filthy garments) cause God's people to behold death as their last enemy, yes as a king of terror, taking away their comfort.

Happily, the risen Prince of Life knows how to sustain His attacked, concerned people. He Himself has suffered, being tempted (though without sin) so that He is able to deliver them who through fear of death have all their life­time been subject to bondage. The upright souls who seek His face receive His glory, truth and grace, even in death's vale, for He faileth never! Many children of God have experienced in truth of this when the power of God's Word and the Holy Spirit took away their fear of death while looking upon the Author and Finisher of their faith. He spoke once and still speaks: "Fear not; I am the First and the Last. I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen … and have the keys of hell and of death." "Unto God the Lord belongs the issues from death!" (Ps. 68:20). He calls us: "Turn ye, turn ye … for why will ye die?" (Ez. 33:11).

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.Isaiah 55:7

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