People from all sorts of cultures fear death. Some say death is normal, and we should just get over it. But if death is simply a natural thing, why is it a terror to us? An ancient book, the Bible, tells us why.
The God who made everything, also made human beings to live forever. But this life was conditional. The first man, Adam, was told that the world was his to enjoy, all of it, except the fruit of one tree. That tree was not for him. Leave it alone, God said, and you will have life to the full. Adam and his wife decided not to be content with all that God had given; they took bad advice from a rebel creature and they stole the fruit. God pronounced the sentence of death upon them. But Adam’s situation was unique. He didn’t act for himself alone, but he represented all his future children as well. His act condemned not only himself, but all human beings who would descend from him in the normal way. Each child of Adam willingly follows Adam in his rebellion. Death is a terror because it is the judgment of our creator against our rebellion.
Even though Adam’s act was inexcusable and brought disaster into God’s good world, the news wasn’t all bad. The God whom they had offended, the one against whom they had rebelled, promised Adam and Eve one way of escape. God himself would eventually come as a human being to put right what Adam had done wrong. This one is known to the world as Jesus Christ. Why is Jesus Christ our only hope? The Bible calls Jesus the second Adam, because he was the second person in all history who made a real difference to the human condition. By Adam’s disobedience, death came to all people. By Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, life comes to those who trust him.
Jesus’ life was one of love; love toward his God, and love toward his enemies (people like us). Jesus lived an obedient life; a substitute life to replace our bad lives. He did this as a human being. He was born a human being, yet the Bible says that God himself is his father. Jesus is the Son of God. As God, his good life can be donated to us. His good life is accepted as a replacement for our bad lives when we trust him.
Jesus’ death was also a substitute. Rebels against God deserve to die and undergo everlasting judgment, because — left to ourselves — we would and could never stop rebelling. We love our bad ways, even though they will bring us to a bad end. But Jesus died once for rebels, to take death in their place. Jesus was not personally bad, so the only way he could die was if God regarded him as a substitute. Jesus died as a sin-bearer, but the sins he bore were the sins of other people, people like us. Because he is human, he could die; because he is God, that death can be accepted as the death of sinners who trust him.
Jesus really died but he didn’t stay dead. When Jesus came back to life, it showed that Jesus is truly good. Death could not hold him, because he wasn’t personally bad. The resurrection of Jesus means at least two things. First, he will never die again, and second, those who trust him will be raised to endless life too — because his death finished the punishment that their sins deserve. The Bible tells us that those who trust Jesus are regarded by God to be as sinless as Jesus. The reason people die is because of sin. So those who do trust Jesus, are deemed to be ‘sinless’ and are given an endless life just like Jesus.
The Bible says that a judgment is coming. At that judgment every human life will be compared to the righteous life of Jesus Christ. Those who fall short of that high standard will be condemned. We all personally fall short of that standard; we don’t even maintain the low standards we set ourselves. Our only hope is to have our Judge as our Saviour – to receive his goodness as a gift, by faith. We can know that we have everlasting life simply because of who Jesus is and what he has done. The Bible says that, if we trust Jesus, we will be saved.