Death always means separation, because the dead are separate from the living. We dig graves for that very reason, and we say goodbye when a loved one passes; it often bugs us to no end when we didn’t have a chance to say goodbye before their passing. Death is final that way. On this side of heaven we won’t see this person again.
However, when it comes to death there’s still more separation involved than meets the eye.
There’s separation of body and soul, once our hearts stop beating. Not everybody is on board with an afterlife – assuming that once our bodies are dead, we are completely gone. Well, here is the good news: a person is way more than just a body (a good thing to remember if you happen to struggle with yours). The soul is the part that passes on, the body is the part that is buried in the ground.
And then there’s separation from God, also known as spiritual death.
If one has a hard time grasping the fact that human beings have souls
moving out of the body at the time of death, then spiritual death will
probably make even less sense. Maybe it’s helpful to think of a
spiritually dead person as a human being without conscience. We all are
born with one. If we succeed in overriding this God-given inner compass
we’ll be spiritually dead.
The Bible calls our physical passing “first death” and refers to our separation from God as “second death”. Getting separated from God is like severing roots from a thriving plant. Without roots this plant withers and dies. By the same token, without God our soul withers and dies. So theoretically, we could very well be physically alive but spiritually dead and vice versa. Worst case scenario: we’re both spiritually and physically dead.
Jesus’s resurrection is an amazing milestone in the history of mankind, because His resurrection counteracts both first and second death. Case in point: His body and soul were reunited when He rose from the grave, and He was restored to the Trinity when He went back to heaven. That is brokenness completely restored! Creation suffers from the death grip, animals included. All of this is reversed in one big swoop! The ripple effect is enormous. Can you imagine the kind of impact Jesus’s death and resurrection has made in the entire universe? Can you imagine what this means for you?
It looks like all the innovations man is so proud of is no match to death and resurrection, which are both brought on by man. Before Adam and Eve nobody died, so there was no need for resurrection. That changed when the drama of mankind unfolded. We don’t really think of death in terms of an innovation nor as a blessing. Nobody really wants to die. But maybe death is a blessing in disguise, at least for life on Earth as we know it. Imagine everybody – all the way back to Adam and Eve – would have stayed alive in this deeply dysfunctional state we’re in, can you imagine the resulting chaos? Even though death feels unnatural to us – and it is: we were not meant to die – death helps contain the chaos we’ve created when we separated from God and went our own way.
However, with God’s intervention the nature of death has forever changed. Instead of being the ultimate end – not unlike a period signifying the end of a sentence – death became a prelude. Again, in terms of punctuation we could compare death to a semicolon in that the Bible now differentiates between first and second death. What happened? Jesus happened.
God intervened on our behalf through His Son Jesus. He decided to partake in His own creation by becoming man; so the Son of God, for a brief time, became a Son of Man by being born into a Jewish family. Becoming man, Jesus was prone to die at some point, like everyone else. However, Jesus was not like everybody else. Unlike any of Adam’s children, He never sinned. He lived a life of love; He loved God, and He loved people. He is the fulfillment of God’s law in that He satisfied all of its requirements – including the punishment of sin. He took the punishment for our sin when He died, which is why Jesus died a criminal’s death being executed on the cross.
With Jesus God introduced resurrection. Jesus was the first to come back from the dead. On the Third Day God brought Him back to life. He rose from the grave. His Resurrection signifies two things:
1. Jesus’ sacrificial death completely satisfies the law and represents appropriate punishment of all sin that ever happened and going to happen as long as man walks this Earth.
2. Jesus’ resurrection is the door to life for all creation. Death is positively overcome – swallowed up by Life!
This is a circle that cannot be broken: Believing in our cause God’s Son became Adam’s Son and went the extra mile to save us; believing in God’s story and accepting Jesus’ gift Adam’s children become God’s children and share in His Eternal Life.
Revelation 20:6: “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.”