Vol. 9, No. 4
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Several years ago while viewing the Today Show on television, I became quite interested in an interview that the host was having with a noted author who had written a book about the civil strife in Northern Ireland. The author's wife, who was a professional photographer, had taken many pictures in the city of Belfast and the surrounding areas that depicted the physical destruction caused by the bombings. One scene was of a building that had only one wall standing. I could not help but be overwhelmed with a sign painted on the wall. It was painted in large letters and asked the question, "Is there life before death?" Such a question reflected the remorse of a person's heavy heart. It is difficult to imagine circumstances being so deplorable that one could not enjoy life, at least to some degree. But here was a person asking if one could live before one dies. How sad! This so different from the usual question asked by the masses of people, and that is, "Is there life after death?" This is the all consuming inquiry of persons seeking hope beyond this earthly pilgrimage. But the question remains in our minds, "Is There Life Before Death?"
First, one must understand that all people outside of the spiritual relationship with Christ are dead (lost) presently. The basic meaning of death is the absence of life. Physically, death occurs when the spirit of a man departs from his body (James 2:26). And in the moral and spiritual realm, a person is dead (lost) when he is in the world of sin. Jesus Christ is life (John 1:4). Therefore, when a person is outside of Christ, he is dead, spiritually speaking.
Often the statement is made that a sinner is going to be lost unless he obeys the Gospel. That is only partially true. The fact of the matter is the disobedient person is dead (lost) presently. Please observe the following passage: "And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). The sinner is "dead" outside of Christ. Paul declared that the widow who gave "herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth" (1 Timothy 5:6). How can a person be dead while living? We must understand that Paul was speaking of the spiritual condition of the widow who gave herself over to the lust of the flesh.
Please note also the description given in Ephesians 2:11-12 of the Gentile brethren prior to their conversion to Christ: "Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the common-wealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Therefore there is the absence of spiritual life in the lives of all those persons who have never been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). A person can be dead while he lives and before he experiences a physical death. One might appear to be healthy and possess all the vital signs, but as far as salvation and spiritual life is concerned, be dead (lost).
Second, those persons in Christ are really living, spiritually speaking. Notice again these two passages of Scripture in Ephesians 2:1, 5: "And you did he make alive..." Paul emphasized this point again when he said that God "made us alive together with Christ..." Those obedient believers who have been buried with their Lord in baptism have been raised to "walk in newness of life." Thus they are "dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:4, 11).
Jesus spoke of this abundant life for his followers (John 10:10). The apostle Peter refers to Christians as being a "holy priesthood" and a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5, 9). John wrote that Christ has "made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and father" (Revelation 1:6). All these expressions denote the spiritual wealth and position of the children of God. This is truly living but not according to the world's standard.
Third, let us observe the various aspects of this rich and abundant life in Christ. All spiritual blessings are to be in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3). This implies that none are to be enjoyed by those people outside of a spiritual relationship with the Lord. It is wonderful to know that our God "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think..." (Ephesians 3:10). We now mention several of those blessings bestowed upon all followers of Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness of sins through the blood of the Lamb (Ephesians 1:7). This fact alone should cause us to greatly rejoice (Acts 8:36-39; 16:34).
By faith in Christ Jesus we become children of God. He is our Father. This stresses the family relationship we sustain with God (Galatians 3:26-27).
We become members of the great spiritual body of Jesus Christ which is his church (1 Corinthians 12:13, 27; Colossians 1:18).
We have a clearness of conscience and peace of mind in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 3:21; Philippians 4:7).
God is truly our Provider and Protector. He has promised to be with us always and never to forsake us (Matthew 6:33; 28:20; Hebrews 13:6).
In Christ we have the hope of eternal life (Romans 8:24-25; John 3:36; 1 John 5:11).
In Matthew 25:31-46 we are given a glimpse of the coming judgment. On that day there will be some who will be granted by God's grace a 'deathless life.' Jesus has promised, "he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25-26). In heaven, "death shall be no more" (Revelation 21:4). However those on the "left hand" shall depart into a place of a 'lifeless death.' This will be the final "wages of sin" for the disobedient (Romans 6:23). All those who have lived according to the flesh must die and experience eternal corruption (Romans 8:12-13; Galatians 6:7-8).
Several years ago, a prominent religious cult predicted that Christ was soon returning to the earth. The date was even set by this group. A slogan was coined that claimed that "Millions Now Living Shall Never Die." But Jesus did not come as they had promised. The sad fact is that 'Millions Now Dying Shall Never Live'--eternally.
A person can enjoy true living now in Christ Jesus and in the world to come, eternal life (Mark 10:29-30). The penitent believer who will confess Jesus' name and be immersed for the remission of sins will become a new creature in Christ (Acts 2:36-38; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:11). A "crown of life" will be given to all Christians who live faithfully to God (Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).