with Jeremy Westcott –
In this series of posts about the ‘Restoration of All Things’, we have seen that restoration deals with the sin that occurred at the fall when mankind lost their identity, and with the death which came as a result. In fact, Jesus’ death and resurrection dealt with everything that happened because we chose the DIY path.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus… For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Rom 6 8-11, 14).
…our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10).
Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades for all ages to come (see Rev 1:17-18), and He uses them to free everyone, not lock them up!
Death and resurrection
“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power” (Rev 20:6).
There are several questions to consider here:
- What is the second death?
- What is the first death?
- Who has a part in the first resurrection?
The second death
Some see the ‘second death’ as eternal separation from God. They believe either that when the unsaved physically die they will go to eternal conscious torment in hell or that when they die physically they will cease to exist (annihilation).
Neither of these views allow for ‘the restoration of all things’, nor do they accurately reflect the merciful, just, loving nature of God.
The Bible itself tells us what the second death actually is:
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire (Rev 20:14).
The lake of fire is not ‘hell’. In fact, if you insist on translating the Greek word Hades as ‘hell’ then it is where ‘hell’ ends up! It is the death of death itself, the destruction of all that prevents us experiencing fullness of life. In the first death, Christ died the death of all men, receiving the ‘wages of sin’ on our behalf. The second death is the death of death itself. The second death cannot mean some kind of endless death, because Jesus destroyed death and “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54).
We are not subject to the second death if we have experienced the first death (being co-crucified with Jesus) and the first resurrection (being made alive together with Him). Death is defeated. It will not triumph over billions of people forever by consigning them to a ‘lost eternity’. Jesus’ resurrection life brings an end to death, either through water (baptism) in this life or through fire (the consuming fire of God’s love) after this life is over. In place of death, He has given us life:
The wages of sin is death. But the gift of God is age-enduring life, through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 6:23).
We can voluntarily embrace being buried and resurrected with Jesus (which we acknowledge and identify with in baptism) or through fire. God Himself is that consuming fire. If we have died to self in this life, the second death has no jurisdiction over us.
But many people are blind to the truth, and are unnecessarily living in their own DIY mindsets of lostness. They continue to live separated from God, although He has done everything necessary for their reconciliation, so they continue to experience the resultant sin and death. So what happens to them when they die physically and end up in the consuming fire of God’s love?
What is the purpose of fire? Fire refines and makes pure. The dross in their lives will be burned away until each person chooses life through Jesus and receives their new name which was written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. What has been stolen from them is restored to them. How long it takes is dependent on each individual’s resistance to the working of that consuming fire.
The end of choice?
…then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it (Eccl 12:7).
The physical body of everyone who dies returns to the earth, and everyone’s spirit returns to God. But what happens to the soul, our conscious understanding of who we are?
If people do not choose life through Jesus in this life, there is not an automatic ‘free pass’ to relationship with God in the next. But I cannot find even one Bible verse which indicates that physical death is the end of choice. I have asked others, especially those who contend that unbelievers go straight to the eternal conscious torment of hell when they die, and none of them can only come up with anything except a verse taken entirely out of context:
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment… (Heb 9:27).
In context, the ‘once’ is the death of Jesus with which we identify. The word ‘judgment’ is not a synonym for ‘punishment’, it means ‘reaching a verdict’; and the verdict is ‘blamelessly innocent‘. The only death that everyone needs to experience is inclusion in Jesus’ death.
On the other hand, there are plenty of Bible verses which speak of God rescuing people from the grave.
The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Sam 2:6).
For the Lord will not reject forever, For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion according to His abundant loving kindness. For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men (Lam 3:31-33).
For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him (2 Sam 14:14).
Jesus went into Hades, preached there and led captivity captive: see Eph 4:8,9; Psalm 68:18; 1 Peter 3:18-20. Death is not the end of God’s power or desire to save. I have testimony of this myself, which I have posted about before.
A covenant with death
Jesus has restored what death robbed us of: access into God’s loving presence to experience restored face-to-face relationship.
Religion, meanwhile, has a covenant with death. To enter heaven and experience eternity, it teaches, you have to die. So even believers are expecting to have to die before they go to heaven.
Heaven is open now because we already died with Christ! The covenant with death needs to be broken so that we can live the abundant life that God intends. If you have a covenant with death, go ahead and break it! Do not agree that you have to die.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal [lit: age-enduring] life. I am the bread of life.Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever [lit: to the age]; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:47-51).
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