Friday, October 22, 2010
The Second Death
Four times in the book of Revelations, John the Apostle writes of the "second death:" Revelations 2:11; 20:6,14; & 21:8. To the post-modern, western-trained mind, the idea of a second death makes no sense. The reason it makes no sense is the automatic definition that comes to our mind when we use the word death: extinction. We are trained to equate "permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an organism" (a dictionary definition of death) with extinction, when, by the Bible's definition, that is simply not the case.
God introduced the concept of death to Adam in the Garden of Eden. When He told Adam that his diet would be fruit and green things, He excluded one tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. According to Genesis 2:17 (ESV), God said to Adam, "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (emphasis added).
Genesis chapter three gives us an account of the effect on Adam, Eve, and the serpent when Adam and Eve disobeyed that rule, but not one verse speaks of their extinction. On the day they ate the fruit, God separated them from Himself, from the Garden of Eden and from harmony with each other and the world. Even the serpent was punished, not destroyed. From the first instance of death, we see that death means separation, not extinction.
"OK," you say, "how does that apply when a person dies? Adam and Eve died physically, too."
That's a good question, but the Bible's answer might surprise you. When a person dies, the body "ceases all vital functions" and decays. However, Jesus told us in John 5:26-29 that the decay is a temporary condition. He said, "For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."
Regardless of your spiritual condition, your body and soul reunites when Jesus calls you. That means that the death of a person is the temporary cessation of all the vital functions (of the body) and the temporary separation of the body and the soul. Extinction does not apply.
Let's go back to the second death, now. The second death of Revelations is a place – a lake of fire. This lake of fire eternally separates the unrepentant sinner from Holy God with no hope of relief. Eternal separation from God. That is a horror too unspeakable to comprehend.
In the Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren Wiersbe expresses the situation clearly: "If you have been born only once, you can die twice; but if you have been born twice - born again through faith in Christ - you can die only once."
Mortal death = separation of the body and soul in time; second death = eternal separation from God. Do not delay being born again. It's not worth the risk.