Once I was asked by an inquisitive teenager: “Why is there death?” From a Biblical perspective, the answer is surprising simple.
Unfortunately, death is one of the greatest penalties for sin. After all, God warned Adam and Eve that disobedience would result in death. Genesis 2:16-17 reads: “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.”
One of the first lies committed on earth (at least, the first lie that is recorded in the Bible) occurred during the temptation of Eve by Satan. “And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” (Genesis 3:2-4, emphasis added)
As a result of this temptation both Eve and Adam sinned. From that time until Jesus’ death on the cross for us, sin reigned in the world. All humans born are born into sin. Romans 5:12 says: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
The consequence of sin is death, a physical death as well as an eternal death. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) If we accept redemption from Christ, then we will not take part in the second, eternal, death but receive the gift of eternal life. (John 3:16,17; John 10:28) However, the first death – the physical death – will continue to take place until Christ’s second coming.
Ecclesiastes 9:2 tells us that good and bad things happen to everyone no matter if they are “righteous” or “wicked”. Therefore, because of sin, everyone, no matter what they believe or if they are “good” or “bad”, will experience the physical death (unless they are alive at the time of Christ’s return). The passage of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 was written to comfort believers on this very subject.
In verse 13, Paul begins: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Then he speaks of what will happen at Christ’s second coming, that the dead in Christ will be resurrected and then those who are alive will join the Lord and the raised believers to be with Him forever more. In verse 18, Paul ends with: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
We take comfort in knowing that, though death will still occur until the day on which the Lord will return, death no longer needs to be feared by believers. Christ defeated sin, defeated death, when He died in our place and rose again. We should take comfort in the words: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
Death, especially to one we know and love, can be devastating, but we must cling to the promises of the Lord. Take heart! “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)