As part of a longer quote, Benjamin Franklin asserted that “nothing is certain except death and taxes.” The Bible tells us that we all have an appointment with death and that “we have the sentence of death in ourselves”; in other words, we are under a death sentence. We are all on death row.
Death is an unpleasant topic and most of us would prefer to postpone the thought of it as long as possible. Man’s fear of death is quite natural and reasonable and that fear can be a source of anguish, distress, and bondage. While death itself is certain, what happens afterward is quite uncertain to many people. The fear of death is the fear of the unknown.
But what if we can be certain about what is beyond this life? What if the certainty of death is matched with certainty about the other side of death? Would that remove our fears and give us a reason to live differently? This is what I want to demonstrate: God has given us enough information to know with certainty what will happen to each one of us after our certain death.
First, we need to establish some important groundwork by exploring the biblical definition of death. Death is mentioned early in the Bible in the form of a warning to Adam:
“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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 2:15–17, emphasis added).
The key phrase is the last one, which I have emphasized in bold type. On the very day that they ate from the forbidden tree they would die. Not the next day or a thousand years later, but on that very day.
So what happened? They ate the fruit but they didn’t die physically. Adam’s physical death is recorded as occurring at 930 years old in Genesis 5:5. But what happened on the day that they disobeyed God? They were banished from the garden of Eden, from the presence of God. Before they had walked with God, but now they were separated from Him. The death they experienced was a spiritual death, a separation from God.
Let’s go about 2,500 years down the road and look at Rachel’s death as she bore her son Benjamin.
“And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin” (Genesis 35:18, emphasis added).
Here we have a physical death, where the soul departs from the body. A separation takes place. Spiritual death is separation from God and physical death is separation of the soul from the body.
In simple terms, death is separation.
One more illustration: The prophet Elijah befriended a widow and her son and the son fell sick and died. Ignore Elijah’s strange methods and look at what he said to God as he pleaded for the child’s life:
“And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:21, 22, emphasis added).
The boy died and his soul had departed his body. So Elijah prays that the soul will return and be reunited with his body. And that’s exactly what happened.
Death is separation and this pattern is consistent throughout the Bible. And if we remember this every time we see death in the Bible (and in the world), it will give us a deeper understanding of it. It will remove some of the unknown and open the way to removing the fear of death.
(To be continued.)
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