DIE AND NOT LIVE
There are a number of definitions of death but the most common seems to be: “separation from God” and many seem to feel death is best defined by these three words. The first thing that occurs to me is: this definition is not Biblical. I shall proceed to give what I feel is the Biblical definition.
It is always helpful to inject a little background into a subject. Since, “as in Adam all die”, I Corinthians 15:22 why don’t we go back to the Garden of Eden? That’s where God started in his words to us, so it seems like a good place for us to start. Please notice how easy it is to overlook a very important truth:
Don’t pass by that story (history or his-story) too fast. It’s easy to miss a very important truth. According to the story, (history) Adam and Eve had sinned. God was very displeased with their behavior. At the start God encouraged them to eat of any and all of the trees (fruit) in the Garden of Eden, but from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” they were not to eat.
- And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Gen 3:22-24 (KJV)
Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden because of sin. They had received from God the sentence of death. “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” They were also not allowed back into the garden. It is easy to understand why the sentence of death was placed on Adam and Eve, because that’s what God said he would do; but why were they not allowed access to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden? By driving Adam and Eve from the garden and forbidding them to return, God assured they would ultimately die and not live. Had they remained in the Garden, conceivably they could have taken of its fruit and eaten of the Tree of Life and lived forever.
- 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil… 15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And 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. Genesis 2:9,15-17 (KJV)
It should be noted here that God, from the beginning, has not intended for mankind to live forever in sin. That is why God “gave his only begotten Son”; “that whosoever believeth in him might not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Had Adam and Eve remained in the Garden, they could have, and no doubt would have, eaten of the Tree of Life and lived forever. As I read the passage in Genesis it is my understanding that God had a reason for driving our first parents Adam and Eve from the garden where he placed cheribum at the east of Eden and a flaming sword that turned every way, to keep the way of the Tree of Life. Had Adam and Eve eaten of the tree of life, they would then not have needed for God to give his only begotten Son so they might live forever, for they could have been assured they would live forever by eating of the tree in the midst of the garden. It then becomes apparent to me that mankind is not inherently immortal. The story (history) about God driving our first parents from the Garden lest they take of the Tree of Life and eat and live forever would be a farce if they had been created inherently immortal.
MAN BECAME A LIVING SOUL
There is a deep muddle here if God did in fact put a soul into Adam and Eve at their creation. First of all this story would make absolutely no sense at all. Perhaps it would be good to review the story (history) of the creation of man more fully.
Please note that this truth is also pointed out in the NT:
- And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Gen 2:7 (KJV)
Some believe that God breathed a soul into Adam. That is confusing because, according to the author of Genesis, the “dust formed man” was what became a living soul. The only thing that was needed to complete the creation of man, after God had formed him from the dust of the ground, was whatever was breathed into Adam. What was it then that was breathed into Adam? Carefully notice that it was breathed into his “nostrils”. The KJV, NIV, NASB and The Message all use the word “nostrils” here. So the author must have meant the “nose”. What do you think God would have breathed into man’s nose? Don’t you suppose it was the breath of life? That makes sense because when the breath (oxygen) of life enters the body through the nose it is then carried to the lungs where it is distributed throughout the body. Without that breath of life, death occurs.
- And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; 1 Cor. 15:45 (KJV)
This is exactly what God told Adam would happen if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
- Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Psalms 104:29 (KJV)
The wise man Solomon emphasized this truth in conjunction with remembering one’s creator while he is young; before the ravages of life changes his attitude and cause him to look at the last years of life and confess of them, “I have no pleasure in them.” According to Solomon the vanity of it all would be realized in the end when:
- In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Gen 3:19 (KJV)
I particularly like the way THE MESSAGE brings out the truth being taught here:
- Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Eccl 12:7 (KJV)
James, the brother of our Lord, realized this truth when he compared faith without works to “the body without the spirit.” James 2:26. The body without the spirit he said is dead. Without works faith just will not work. Even so, without the breath of life the body will not live. David puts it this way:
- The body is put back in the same ground it came from. The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it. Eccl 12:7 (MSG)
When that spirit; that breath of life, goes forth; the sons of men return to the earth out of which they were taken and at that point their thoughts perish. They are no longer able to think. We not only do not work well without the breath of life, we don’t work at all without it. Isn’t it remarkable how God created the world with just the right amount of oxygen to sustain life? If we go down into the ocean to great depths, we must take our oxygen with us. If we were to ever go to the distant planets in space, we must take along oxygen and the means to replenish it. This is why Solomon encourages us to:
- His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Psalms 146:4 (KJV)
- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Eccl 9:10 (NIV)
WHEN A PERSON DIES...WHERE IS HE?
When this breath of life, this spirit leaves a man, where is he? Where does that leave the man? Is he in heaven? Is he in hell fire? Job was interested in the answer to this question just like you and me. Is the movement of the soul into and throughout the animal and insect world what I should expect? After death, will I come back as a cow or fly? If it is, I want to know? If the spirit makes its way into some place of bliss following my death, it would be great to know and to anticipate. Job was very interested in the answer to this question. When “man expires, where is he”?
- "For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail. 8 "Though its roots grow old in the ground And its stump dies in the dry soil, 9 At the scent of water it will flourish And put forth sprigs like a plant. 10 "But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he? 11 "As water evaporates from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dried up, 12 So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep. Job 14:7-12 (NASB)
|Job looked at the trees. If you cut them down, they will sprout again. If a stump dies in the dry soil and is later exposed to water, it will spring to life. However, man is not like that. Eventually he will die. Yet, where is he when he expires, when he dies? What does “expire” mean? To expire is to breathe your last breath. After “we breathe our final breath”, where will we be? Job’s answer was that “Man lies down and does not rise until the heavens are no longer….they are asleep.” What did mob mean by “til the heavens be no more”? Isaiah and Jesus spoke of the day when there will be a change in the heavens:
- And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. Isaiah 34:4 (KJV)
- Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matt 24:29-31 (KJV)
And yet, in spite of this, he believed that in his flesh he would see God. There is only one way that in his flesh he could see God and that can only occur through a resurrection of the dead. The answer cannot be found in the realms of those who appear to be dead, but are not. How can God raise the dead? I don’t know, but I do know that he said he would, through his Son who will come and raise the “sleeping” dead. John 5:28-29
- All the ramifications of that are yet to be understood and to be realized. But in some revealed way, Job foresaw that day. Job believed that“in his flesh he would see God.” Job 19:26. He was a man of great faith. He realized that “man is of few days which are full of trouble”. Job 14:1.
We need a simple working definition of death and that definition is available in Isaiah:
The prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah: "You shall die and not live" (Isaiah 38:1). What better definition could be found to define death than this: TO DIE IS NOT TO LIVE? Death is the opposite of life. When you are dead you will not be alive. Hezekiah knew this and did not want to die. He prayed and cried. He knew that death is an enemy, not a friend. I Corinthians 15:26 It does not take us into the presence of the Lord in heaven. We will be in a state of “sleep” waiting to be awakened by the “shout of the savior, the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.” I Thessalonians 4:16 Then those who are “asleep in Christ will rise from their sleep”. That will include Job and all those who have fallen asleep in death “having done good to the resurrection of life.” John 5:28-29.
- In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.' " Isaiah 38:1 (NASB)
David desired to build a more permanent place for the worship of God but was not allowed to do so because he had killed so many and spilt so much blood in his life.
Realizing and accepting this he determined to provide the materials which his son Solomon would need to build the “house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord.” When those items had been accumulated, he offered a prayer which included these words:
- Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: As for me, I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building: 3 But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood. 1 Chronicles 28:2-3 (KJV)
Please don’t run past this statement too quickly: From the beginning, it has been true; We earth creatures do not abide; we die. It is so simple and can be so clear. Job made it plain that we “our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”“there is none abiding.”“flee as a shadow and continue not.” Job 14:2 A baby is born in all its beauty and glory. We do come forth like a flower but we do not “continue”.
- But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. 15 For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. 16 O LORD our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own. 1 Chronicles 29:14-16 (KJV)
HOW MANY ARE ALL THE DAYS?
Our days are limited. There comes a time when we have lived all our days: like the following list of people from Adam to Noah who did not continue and are not abiding. All the days that they lived were different in number but “and he died” always came. The time came when they expired, they took their last breath. “He returneth to his earth in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalms 146:4
If God said all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died. Gen 5:5 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Seth lived were 912 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died. Gen 5:8 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Enosh lived were 905 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died. Gen 5:11 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Kenan lived were 910 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years, and he died. Gen 5:14 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Mahalalel lived were 895 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years, and he died. Gen 5:17 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Jared lived were 962 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died. Gen 5:20 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Enoch lived were 365 years, who am I to say that he is still alive?
- All the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Gen 5:23 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Methuselah lived were 965 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died. Gen 5:27 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Lamech lived were 777 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died. Gen 5:31 (NASB)
If God said all the days that Noah lived were 950 years, who am I to say that he is still alive? Should I believe it when God said “he died”?
- All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died. Gen 9:29 (KJV)
The prophet of God might not be sent to us as Isaiah was sent to King Hezekiah with the message: “you’re sick; you’re going to die; you’re not going to live”; but the time truly will come when we will die and not live. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and saw his tears. God added 15 years to the King’s life. Ultimately however, the time came that it was said of the King. “Hezekiah slept with his fathers.” 2 Kings 20:5,21 He sleeps, awaiting the day when he shall hear the voice of the Son of God to wake up and live.