Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Guide to Basic Ideas #5: Death

We mentioned in the last entry that mankind’s fall into sin disrupted both every part of mankind and the physical itself. One of the results was that death entered the world. According to the scriptures, before mankind entered into sin, there was no death. This is undoubtedly difficult for modern man to accept since he expects to see the universe functioning in a mechanistic way and expects to see physical evidence to confirm such radical ideas. However, we don’t know how long the world existed without death, nor do we know exactly when these events occurred. Nor do we know all of the physical processes that have created the appearance of distance or time between us and the events of Genesis. We have ideas, but we can’t fully reconstruct what happened. In part because we were not there, in part because we cannot reconstruct what happened, and in part because God is a volitional actor of infinite power not a lab rat that can be put into an experimental maze and made to perform at will. The bible teaches that death entered the world through the sin of mankind. This death is both physical and spiritual. Human being’s bodies not only die, but human being’s, because of their rebellion against God, eventually suffer judgment and separation from God. The bible teaches that this involves eternal torment. While that may seem highly unpleasant or undesirable to us, it is completely just. God has behaved toward mankind in an incredibly loving, merciful, and gracious manner. Yet human beings rebel against God and behave selfishly, greedily, and sinfully almost from their very conception. God, through the provision He made in Jesus Christ, has made every opportunity for us to come back to Him. Through general revelation, He has revealed the way the world works, our sin, and our need for Him. Yet most human beings still reject all of this and do not seek God. God has to come out and find us and drag us almost kicking and screaming into His kingdom. God’s sentence of death is just and reasonable under the circumstances even though we as opposing parties to this judgment at times find that difficult to accept. God, in His mercy, has made it possible for us to avoid eternal death and to obtain eternal life. God has promised to resurrect to eternal joy and happiness those who are willing to accept His provisions in Christ. More on that will follow. It is interesting that the resurrection that God promises is a resurrection of human beings with bodies as well as a spirit or soul. We will continue to have a material and an immaterial element in eternity. This is another reason why Plato is wrong in thinking that only spirit is good.
The bible says it is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment. People who believe in reincarnation believe something completely incompatible with the biblical worldview. Every human being has only one life, dies, and then will face God’s judgment with a resurrection to eternal life or a resurrection to eternal suffering. There is no do-over. No human being is reincarnated or has any past or future life ahead of them except for the eternal life in Christ or the eternal life apart from God following the judgment. There certainly are some people who have an affinity for the past. I certainly feel that way myself. I can easily see that in many ways I am more of a pre-modern person than a post-modern person. But I never lived before 1960. I am not reincarnated from any prior person. Neither is anyone else. This basic teaching of Christianity is important because it means we have to get things right the first time around. There is no second chance. So, we try as hard as we can to persuade people to respond to God and to accept his mercy and grace.

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