Death

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5. What is death?

Death is the divine separation of the body from the soul, which results in the decomposition of the body, and the return of the soul to God who made it, all because of sin.

Lecture notes:
Death is the divine separation of the body from the soul (Eccl. 17:7)…
However peaceful death may look on the surface, the soul is torn away by God’s hand despite all resistance. As Job said; “The Lord gave, the Lord taketh away…”
…which results in the decomposition of the body…
The body was originally taken out of the dust of the earth and it shall also return to the dust.  Burial emphasizes how the body returns to dust as a result of sin. The body is dissolved, its structure collapse and are destroyed. The senses with which we experience the world are no more. All we possess is taken away. Ultimately our name is forgotten and all that is left is a pile of dust.
…and the return of the soul to God who made it…
The soul cannot and does not decompose, cease to be, die (Matt. 10:28; Lk. 12:4).  It continues in conscious existence and returns to God when separated from the body
…and all because of sin (Gen. 2:17; 3:17-19; Rom. 5:12,14,21; 6:23).
Death was not part of man’s original nature, and it is not just part of nature. It is a judicial penalty imposed for sin (Rom. 6:23).  It is the expression of God’s just anger against sin (Ps. 90:7, 11).  God did not impose the full penalty when the first sin was committed. In his grace, he restrained the operation of sin and death.  The full and final penalty is only experienced by those who refuse the deliverance God offers.

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6. Why do believers have to die?

Believers do not have to die, but do die to have communion with Christ’s sufferings, to experience Christ’s grace, to be made like Christ’s image, to witness for Christ’s glory, and to bring them into Christ’s presence.

Lecture notes:
Believers do not have to die but do die to have communion with Christ’s sufferings…
Actually believers do not have to die (remember Moses, Elijah, and also think of the believers who will be alive at Christ’s coming). Christ took the full penalty of their death upon him. However, Christ has seen it fit and wise to allow most believers to pass through death because of the spiritual benefits involved. He has chosen to delay the application of all the benefits of our salvation he earned for us.  The Christian’s death may look exactly like that of the non-Christian but is essentially different.  Our experience of death completes our union with Christ (Phil. 3:10).  Through death we imitate Christ in what he did and so experience closer communion with Him.
…to experience Christ’s grace…
Bodily death is still a painful evil to the believer. He will fear it and feel it. As the last moments approach, there is often great physical pain, spiritual fear, and emotional distress at seeing loved ones’ weeping, etc. At such times the believer can often experience tremendous help from Christ. His grace is found to be more than sufficient to help everyone through it.
…to be made like Christ’s image…
One of the blessings of death is the rapid ripening of the believer’s character and the acceleration of his sanctification. The outer person is growing weaker, but the inner grows stronger and stronger. Though death can take an ugly toll on the body of a believer, yet his soul is being beautified.
…to witness for Christ’s glory…
Death, in many ways, is the supreme test of faith. The victory of faith is seen by the world and by other believers. This brings great glory to Christ, especially if the believer is able to speak of and commend Christ in these last moments (Phil. 1:20).  The dying witness of Christians is celebrated in heaven (Rev. 12:11).
…to bring them into God’s presence.
Death hastens us into the presence of God and our coronation as His precious people. It is a temporary separation from our bodies, but it unites us to Christ in a new and wonderful way (Rom. 8:38-39).

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7. What does death teach us?

Death teaches all the brevity, vanity, and value of life, the sovereignty and justice of God, and the need and value of salvation.

Lecture notes:
Death teaches us the brevity of life…
The Bible depicts the speed of life as a weaver’s shuttle or a brief flower (Job 7:6; Job 14:2).  One person in the world dies every second. Time is a divine gift, but it passes so quickly and is soon over. We may extend life by some means but not indefinitely. Death will certainly come, usually quicker than we expect.
…the vanity of life…
When we are well and all our loved ones are well, this world looks so attractive and often satisfying.  It takes death to remind us that this world is an empty place, and so much of what fills it is meaningless and unsatisfying.
…the value of life…
Life is precious and is to be treasured, especially in the light of death (Ps. 90:12).   Death should not make us conclude, “Life is short, therefore just give up living.” Rather, we should conclude, “Life is short, let me glorify God as much as I can while I live.” (Eccl. 9:10)
…the sovereignty of God…
The Lord gave: Job does not say that he earned or deserved or worked for all these things.  He said all that he had – physically, mentally, spiritually – was the gift of God
The Lord has taken away: He did not say the Lord gave but the Devil or the Sabeans took away. This was not chance, this was not natural necessity, this was not the temporary triumph of good over evil.  This was the Lord. He that gave all may take what, when and how much he pleases.  Boetner said: “The very inequality and irrationality of death should teach us the gravity of our sin and the absolute sovereignty of God in executing the penalty wherever he chooses.”
…the justice of God…
Sin is the crime. Death is the penalty.  God is unavoidable judge and righteous executioner.
…the need of salvation…
Death reminds us that we need to be saved. Many deaths have been the occasion of spiritual life and deliverance to the thoughtless an careless.
…and the value of salvation.
When you see what sin deserves close up, and think of how much Christ’s salvation procures for us (Rom. 5:17; 1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 1:18; Rev. 20:14) we cannot but marvel at God’s grace and love His salvation all the more. That does not mean that we do not mourn the death of Christians, but our mourning is certainly different as it is mingled with hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14).

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8. What is immortality?

Immortality means undieable and so strictly speaking can only be used of God.

Lecture notes:
Immortality means undieable…
Immortality does not merely mean continued existence. It means did not die, does not die, and cannot
die.
…and so strictly speaking can only be used of God.
In the absolute sense of the word, immorality is ascribed to God only (1 Tim. 5:15-16). It cannot be ascribed to perfect Adam, nor even to perfect Christ in human nature.

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9. Why then do theologians and some confessions ascribe immortality to man?

Theologians, and some Confessions use immortality to describe the continued and endless conscious existence of every soul after death and also the limit ed soul-immortality of the believer.

Lecture notes:
Theologians…

Calvin speaks of immortality of soul for the wicked. However, that is inaccurate as the soul of the unbeliever passes immediately into eternal death – a deeper state of death.

Berkhof says that 1 Tim 6:15,16 does not deny that any other creature is immortal. He says that it is simply saying that God alone is the source of original immortality. Men have immortality, but it is a conferred immortality.

Dabney says that “the immortality of the Bible is that of the whole man, body and soul…and this future existence implies the continuance of our consciousness, memory, mental and personal identity; of the same soul in the same body.”

It may be well to note that the immortality of the Bible is that of the whole man, body and soul; and herein God’s word transcends entirely all the guesses of natural reason. And this future existence implies the continuance of our consciousness, memory, mental, and personal identity; of the same soul in the same body, (after the resurrection). There must be also the essential and characteristic exercises of our reasonable and moral nature, with an unbroken continuity. For if the being who is to live, and be affected with weal or woe by my conduct here, is not the I, who now act, and hope, and fear, that future existence is of small moment to me.

…and some Confessions…

The Westminster Confession of Faith 32.1 speaks of immortality of the souls of the ungodly: “The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them.”

The Belgic Confession Article 37 says: “The evil ones will be convicted by the witness of their own consciences, and shall be made immortal– but only to be tormented in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

…use immortality to describe the continued and endless conscious existence of every soul after death…
It is not saying that they shall never die, but that they shall never cease to exist. The soul is indestructible.
…and also the limited soul-immortality of the believer.
Apart from Enoch and Elijah every believer’s body dies and decays. The body is mortal. However, the believer’s soul has the seed of immortality in it (John 11:26; 2 Tim. 1:10), which comes to full flower at death, and even fuller flower at the resurrection. Then we will put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:50-54), which is much more than mere continued existence.