The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem
Our world in dying. In fact, our whole universe is dying. The Bible tells us that it will soon wear out, and God will simply fold it up like a worn out piece of cloth (Psa. 102:26). Now, let us bring this truth a little closer to home. Our physical bodies are also dying, and they have been doing so from the moment of our birth. Even our spirit, that essential man within us, has been touched by this decay and corruption. The Bible speaks of the resulting death to man’s spirit as an eternal and everlasting one.
We have to live in an environment of death, decay and change. In the natural world around us we see these processes going on every day. The processes are so certain that they can be measured scientifically. For instance, in the field of archaeology the scholars are now able to date organic remains. This method is made possible because certain elements decompose at a steady predictable rate and this rate can be measured over the centuries. We are assured that this same predictable process of decay and death is going on in our physical bodies. It normally runs its course in about three-score-and-ten, or perhaps fourscore years (Psa. 90:10).
Yes our world and everything in it has become subject to decay, change and corruption (Rom. 8:20). This process began in the human realm the same moment that Adam and Eve listened to Satan and sinned in the Garden of Eden. With their sin and rebellion they introduced that evil microbe that began its work of decay, resulting in death. Indeed, the Bible states quite simply that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezek. 18:4).
DEATH AT WORK EVERYWHERE
We see this same process of decay and death at work even in the world’s institutions. It is at work in world governments. Some have been under the illusion that governments are getting better and better. The Bible tells us the truth that they are getting worse and worse. The world governmental system has been growing weaker and more corrupt since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. This great king was described as the head of gold in the Gentile world governmental system. The Media-Persian world empire coming after him was made out of silver, a less valuable metal. The Greek kingdom was described as one of bronze, which is less valuable still. Later the Roman Empire came on the scene and has remained in power, in one form or another, until the present. This kingdom was described as one originally made of iron, but in the end days the final governments of Rome will be made of a mixture of iron and clay (Dan. 2:41-43). Obviously, this is a very weak and worthless mixture.
We can even see the process of decay in religious institutions and movements. If we trace the history of denominations and religious movements we will see that they all began with a great zeal for God and with much life and vitality. However, their zeal usually wanes at an almost predictable rate over the years. In time, rigor mortis sets in. Dr. Vance Havner has well expressed it, “First there is a man, then a movement, then a machine, and then a monument.” We can almost look at a religious organization and tell how old it is by its spiritual condition. We might note that sometimes revivals and awakenings can greatly arrest this process, and prolong the life of these institutions.
So there is death, decay and change all around us and we must daily confront this. We long to be free from this tyranny, indeed we cry out for deliverance. The Bible tells us that the whole creation travails in pain to be delivered from this bondage of decay and death (Rom.8:22).
DELIVERANCE FROM DEATH
In all of world history man found no solution to this problem, nor was one revealed clearly until New Testament times. There were a few occasions in the Tanakh (Old Testament) where the processes of decay and death were overcome or suspended for a season. A few people were raised from the dead by the prophets, only to die again at a later time. Some sicknesses were cured, but in time, other sicknesses took their place. The people eventually died and the law of sin and death took its final toll.
In the Old Testament a few people saw dimly the possibility of death being overcome. Job asked that all important question: “If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14) Later in the book he seemed to grasp the answer when he said: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). Many generations later David expressed the hope of dwelling in God’s house forever (Psa. 23:6). Yet, for the most part, the Old Testament does not have much to say on this subject. It was so vague that in Jesus’ time the important sect of the Sadducees did not even believe there was a resurrection (Mk. 12:18).
It is primarily in the New Testament that we see the victory over death and the deliverance of man, as well as the deliverance of the whole creation. The Bible says that the appearing of Jesus Christ “has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). After Jesus was crucified, we know that he was in the heart of the earth for three days (Matt. 12:40). There he preached to those imprisoned spirits (1 Pet. 3:19), then he took away the keys of death and hell (Rev. 1:18). When he arose, we know that he spoiled these principalities of death and led captivity captive (Psa. 68:18; Eph. 4:8). To all those who have believed upon him he has granted the free gift of eternal life (Jn. 1:12).
Since the resurrection of Jesus, there is something entirely new in the world. Death is being overcome along with the processes of decay. To be sure, people are still dying and our present world is still passing away right before our eyes. However, individual believers in Jesus who are “born again” are growing and thriving in an eternal and ever increasing life. The Apostle Paul sums this up beautifully for us in 2 Corinthians 4:16 where he says, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed
day by day.”
Imagine that! Everything around us is dying and wasting away, but inwardly we believers are defying that process. If we are spiritually healthy, we should be more spiritually alive today than we were ten years ago, or back when we were saved. We may be losing our eyesight naturally, but we can now see things spiritually that we could not have perceived ten years ago. Likewise, we can now hear things that we could not have heard a few years back. Spiritually, we can even “leap over walls” that we couldn’t have gotten over before. Perhaps we can now “run through a troop” (Psa. 18:29), that we would not have dared encounter in the past.
Yes, the simple and incredible truth is that we believers are becoming more alive and stronger with each passing day, while everything around us is sinking in death and decay. And it is not just our spirits that will benefit from this new life. The Bible assures us that even our physical bodies will be transformed at the proper time. For those living when the Messiah appears there will be an astounding transformation of their physical bodies. They will be instantly changed into the likeness of Christ. For those believers who are alive, and even for those who have fallen asleep, the Bible has this promise: “For the trumpet will sound, the dead shall be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality…then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory ’”
We are not alone in our rejoicing over this glorious fact. The Bible tells us that the whole creation is rejoicing with us over this possibility. It is almost as if the whole creation were waiting breathlessly for this event – “for the sons of God to be revealed” (Rom. 8:19). Thus the creation has a vital interest in us believers. As we live triumphantly in Christ, we will even be able to cooperate with God as he brings about its permanent deliverance from the bondage of sin, decay and death.
The possibilities of this glorious thought are quite beyond our power to explore. We know that in the end, not only ourselves, but the natural creation will be fully redeemed. It will be made new, as is told us in 2 Peter 3:13: “But in keeping with the promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” In that new creation, the wolf will live peacefully with the lamb (Isa. 11:6). Night will be gone forever (Rev. 21:25). And as for man, with all his heartaches and sorrows, the Bible promises that God will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
May we comfort ourselves with these thoughts, and may God hasten this bright and glorious day spoken of in scripture. As we once again observe the resurrection of Jesus, may he make this resurrection a daily, glorious reality in our lives.
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem. Original publication date, 1995.