This is the 2nd Blog in this series reflecting on death. The 1st Blog is Death: The Last Enemy of God.
God warned Adam that should he disobey God’s command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would die (Genesis 2:17). This was a warning from God, for Adam’s own good, not a punishment. What would make me think so? We can look at God’s attitude toward death in several other Biblical passages.
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? … For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:23 … 32)
“And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:10-11)
God could not make it any more clear, that death is not what God hopes for anyone and He finds death to be unacceptable to Him, but He still recognizes it as a human choice. And in the New Testament, death is described as the last enemy of God.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)
In fact the Good News of God’s Kingdom is that death is being overthrown and no longer has dominion over humanity. Additionally, in what is a transfiguration of death’s origins, God comes to value His servants who die.
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalms 116:15)
Here we have in the Psalms a prophecy which will see its fulfillment in the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. For when God allowed the first Adam to die because of his disobedient sin of eating of the forbidden fruit, God the Father already knew what this meant for His Son, the new Adam. God intended for humans to share in the divine life, but God was willing to share in the human life to make it possible for humans to attain full communion with Him. Thus death which was the direct result of human sin against God, became part of what God would experience to save humanity from its fallen state and to lift humanity to heaven. This is God’s plan of salvation.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [Philippians 2:5-11 (RSV)]
Unlike the first Adam – in fact, the exact opposite of the first Adam – who was disobedient unto death, Jesus Christ, the new Adam, is obedient unto death. The first Adam disobeyed in sin to bring death into the world, Christ the new Adam obeys God and dies in order to give life to the world.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
How was it that humans created in God’s image and likeness, created to have dominion over the rest of creation, become subject to death? How did it happen that all of humanity, created to share in the eternal divine life, became mortal?
“Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned— sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (Romans 5:12-14)
It was human sin that brought death to humanity. The first Adam sinned as did all his descendants until the time of Christ. Torah given by God for humanity, did not stop sin or death.
The incarnation of the Word of God (John 1:1-14) was God’s plan for taking on death. The Word became flesh in order to die in the flesh with the purpose of destroying death.