What Does The Bible Say About Death? Five Important Facts

by Robert Driskell on June 28, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

The subject of death is very often an unpleasant topic.  Most people would just as soon never have to think about it.  Nevertheless, things like funerals and sicknesses tend to force one to give serious thought to the issue.  There are many different ideas on just what death is.  In recent years, there have been several movies offering scenarios of what death, and dying, might be like.  Literature, both the classics and popular books, have also addressed the subject of death.  In this article, we will look at what God’s Word says about death.

The Bible Speaks of Several Types of Death

The word ‘death’ shows up in the Bible with several different meanings.  Some of these meanings are metaphors for different aspects of the spiritual life:

  • The Bible speaks of the Christian being ‘dead to sin’ (Romans 6:2, 11, 7:6; Colossians 2:20; I Peter 2:24).  This means that the Christian, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit is able to resist the temptation to sin.  The forces that formerly would have overpowered him are no longer irresistible.  Although he may stumble from time to time, the believer has been given the grace to never sin again, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (I Corinthians 10:13 ESV).
  • The Bible also says that the Christian is ‘dead to self’ [must die to self] (cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24, 14:27, 17:33; John 12:25).  The most basic definition of sin centers on humanity’s selfishness and self-centeredness.  Therefore, being ‘dead to self’ signifies a release from the inherent tendency in man towards self-will.  It is a companion metaphor to ‘dead to sin’ and it has the same basic meaning.  Romans 6:11 says that the one who is ‘dead to self [sin]’ is now ‘alive to God in Christ Jesus’.

The two meanings of the word ‘death’ we will focus on in this article are ‘physical death’ and spiritual death’.  Many times, they are connected in the biblical record.  Physical death is when our mortal bodies cease to function.  Spiritual death is when our spirits are separated, temporarily or permanently, from the life-giving presence of God’s Holy Spirit.  Adam and Eve experienced both types of death when they listened to the serpent and disobeyed God.  Spiritual death was instantaneous and they began to die physically when their access to the tree of life was cut off (Genesis 3:22-24).

What Does The Bible Say About Death

Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought both physical and spiritual death to humanity.

Neither Physical Nor Spiritual Death Was Part of God’s Creation

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV).  Death was not part of God’s original creation.  The Bible calls death an ‘enemy’:

The last enemy to be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15:26 ESV).

It is reasonable to assume from the biblical record that, had Adam and Eve not sinned, they would have continued to live forever (Genesis 3:22).  The biblical record indicates that man was intended to maintain the kind of relationship with God that would facilitate man never having to die.  God presented man with a choice; he could continue to trust God or he could disobey God.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””  (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

As long as Adam and Eve were faithful to God, God provided them with source of life.  However, if they disobeyed Him (sinned) they would be separated from that source.  Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought both physical and spiritual death to humanity.

Everyone is Spiritually Dead Without Jesus

The Bible tells us that everyone is affected by the disobedience, often referred to as ‘The Fall’, of Adam and Eve.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...(Romans 5:12 ESV).  It is a dangerous fallacy to believe that one is unaffected by the Fall, and therefore sinless, when this passage clearly says that no one is excluded from sin’s effects.  Every person needs forgiveness and salvation that only comes from the Savior, Jesus Christ.

We are figuratively said to be ‘dead in sin.  The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, reminded them of what they were before they were saved, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…even when we were dead in our trespasses…”  (Ephesians 2:1, 5 ESV).  This is strong language concerning an unbeliever’s lost condition.  The ‘dead’ cannot help themselves; they need help from an external source.  That source is God, reaching out to a lost world through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Not only are unbelievers dead in sin, but they are already under condemnation; and will remain so if they continue to reject Jesus Christ, “…but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18 ESV).

After Death Comes Judgment

The biblical record is clear that God is going to judge every person, And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV).  The news of judgment is good news for some, but bad news for others.  Believers will be ushered into an eternity with God.  There they will experience the kind of relationship that was only hinted at while here on earth.  No heartache, no tears, the kind of existence for which we were created (cf. I Corinthians 15:35-55).

However, the news of God’s judgment should strike fear into the hearts of those who are in rebellion against Him.  Eternal punishment, or the second death (cf. Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 14, 21:8), is the destination for those who reject Jesus.  Jesus himself said about those who did not live for Him, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  (Matthew 25:46 ESV).  Even though both believers and non-believers exist after the death of their bodies, only         believers will enjoy eternal life.  Unbelievers will persist in a state separated from God.  Their spiritual death will continue beyond the grave, except there will be no opportunity for repentance or salvation.  The time for the unbeliever to turn to God is now.  No one is guaranteed a next breath.  One day it will be too late.

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world…”  (Acts 17:30-31 ESV).

Jesus Conquered Death

 “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV).  Sin is the cause of both physical and spiritual death.  The good news is that Jesus has overcome both of them.  The moment we are saved, we receive spiritual life as we are forgiven of our sins and empowered to live a holy life.  In addition, the hope of the future bodily resurrection promises us physical life once again, in a new body that will never die, at the end of this age.

The Bible also tells us that the minute one becomes a follower of Jesus, he or she is no longer under God’s judgment.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV).  Believers are no longer looked upon by God as “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), but are now considered “children of God” (John 1:12; Romans 8:16, 21; I John 3:1, 5:2).  Instead of fearing God’s judgment, the believer enjoys a close, loving, personal relationship with the Creator of the universe, from Whom all love originates.

Conclusion

Therefore, barring divine intervention, death will come to everyone.  Unbelievers, who remain in their unbelief, have only judgment and condemnation as their destiny.  However, the Christian has a completely different destiny to look forward to.  For the believer, death is the beginning of a wonderful new existence with God.  The death of our mortal bodies is simply the door through which we must pass to gain entrance into this heavenly realm.

Someday, Jesus will come back, with the believers who have already joined Him in heaven, for the believers still on earth, “…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28 ESV).  Then we will be able to say with the apostle Paul,

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”  (I Corinthians 15:54-55 ESV)

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Resources

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Mabel Jacome June 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I LOVE THIS ARTICLE!!!!! :) THIS IS WHAT I BREATH FOR, MY ONLY SOURCE OF HOPE, MY MOST PRECIOUS JOY! THIS IS MY LIFE, MARANATHA!!!!! :) COME LORD JESUS!!!! :):):)

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Mabel Jacome June 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Gob Bless you! :)

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Robert June 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Thank you Mabel,
I am pleased to hear that this article has had a part in lifting your spirits. God is great, isn’t he. I can tell by your comments that you have a sweet spirit. I pray God will continue to fill you with the joy that comes from knowing Him.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jack Wellman June 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Robert, this establishes the fact even more that you are a true student of the Word and know your Bible so well. I must say your college degree in the ministry is evident, not only in your articles, but in your responses that I have so been blessed by over the years. Hebrews 9:27 is one of those memory verses I believe that is so important in evangelism. I thank God for you being here my brother. We are so blessed.

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Pamela Rose Williams June 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Robert,
This is a great article, well thought out and wonderfully presented. Death is a tough but very popular subject in these days. I am so happy to have you on board here at WCWTK. Your articles fit right in and I agree with Jack, it is clear that you study your Bible. Well done!

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rachel(kenya) June 30, 2012 at 8:23 am

Hi Robert,
Thank God we have people like you who encourages us. Infact every prayer that i pray and every breath that i take unto Him my blessed Saviour. Am so glad for your enlightenment on death.It excites me to have people of God like you around because people have been living in darkness on this. Well, may God bless you richly.

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Robert Driskell June 30, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Rachel,
I am honored and humbled to know that God is using me to encourage other believers. Thank you for your kind comments. Jesus is the light of the world, no one has to stay living in darkness. May God bless you more every day.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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nida Adrias June 30, 2012 at 9:39 am

am so glad to know the meaning of physical death and spiritual death . hope people will aware of what the bible teaches. am glad that you are here to help people understand about the meaning of death.in Hebrews 9;27 says . and as it is appointed for men to die once ,but after this the judgement. we keep praying for all the lost people. God bless you.thanks you Pastor Robert . continue to share the Gospel of God.

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Robert Driskell June 30, 2012 at 6:16 pm

nida Adrias,
I am a new writer to this website, but the more time I spend looking around here, the more I realize what a Godly work it truly is. I am excited to be a part of it and so thankful that believers are being encouraged and enlightened by the work here. Remember, God never fails us.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Maurice Lindsay July 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Great Article. yes death is promised but its according to the live we live here on Earth hat determines our after-life. I’d whether suffer my whole life worshiping God then live wealthy and burn in hell eternally.
Read my article http://www.id-value.com/is-there-a-heaven-and-hell/
God Bless!

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Robert Driskell July 3, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Maurice,
Thank you for the kind words. I read your article and am very impressed. We must keep spreading the truth of the Gospel as long as we have breath. Keep fighting the good fight, brother.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Morden Grey January 29, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Question. Who are the unbelievers, specifically?

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Jack Wellman January 29, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I can not answer for Mr. Driskell, the author, but it appears for those who believe (John 3:16-17) and those who are not believers (John 3:18), they are different because of what they believe…or more precisely, WHO they believe or Who they put their trust in.

For those who have trusted in Christ, they are believers because they believe in Him.

For those who reject Christ and refuse to believe in Him, they are the unbelievers. There are either “saints” or “aints”. Did this help Morden?

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Robert January 30, 2013 at 7:18 am

Well said, brother Jack.

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Robert January 30, 2013 at 7:18 am

Hi Morden,
Thanks for reading. Believers are simply those who trust Jesus’ for their salvation and who seek to love and obey Him with their lives. Un-believers (non-believers) are those who reject Jesus’ lordship and live under their own rules. (See Jack’s response also, which I fully agree with). God bless you, Morden. I hope this helps, but feel free to ask more if you’d like.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Morden Grey January 31, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Would you guys be okay with giving an example?

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Robert January 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Morden,
I’m not quite sure what you are asking for? Can you be more specific?
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Morden Grey February 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Specific religions. Muslims. Jews. Buddhists. Hindus. Every other religion other than Christianity. And, are there unbelievers in the Christian faith?

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Robert February 4, 2013 at 11:20 am

Hi Morden,
For the purpose of this article the definition of an unbeliever is one who is not trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation and one who does not seek to do God’s will. All the religions you mentioned would fall into this definition of ‘unbeliever’. There are ‘unbelievers’ in the church building, but only believers are part of the true body of Christ, the Church. Hope that helps, Morden.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Nicholas April 24, 2013 at 4:18 am

i did want to let you know , all of you praying for my mother-in-law that she seems to be doing much better to my wife and me . She says she feels better too , she had siad to me several times she felt like there was a piece of plexi-glass between her prayers and GOD , I told her HE had no problem coming through it , she has said she doesn’t think she is any good at praying , as if she were a a little child , I told her great , she should come to HIM as a child for HE is OUR FATHER , and Jesus had said let the children come to me . Does this sound okay to you all , and again thanks to GOD for your praying , I had told her as I think I said before there were folks praying for her that she had never met or even imagine were praying ……….

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A.Albert August 29, 2013 at 7:04 am

thank you sir for giving us this most precious words of god and information regarding what we are longing for so I praise the lord to bless you with more grace god bless you

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Patricia Schneider December 9, 2014 at 7:21 am

Hello, Robert!
Another excellent article with Scriptures, my brother!! Thanks so much for being an ambassador for our precious Savior, JESUS!!
Don’t know if you know this, Robert, but this terrific site, WCWTK, is ‘responsible’ for my being born-again in God’s Spirit in late 2011? (Or early 2012…can’t exactly recall! Groan~. LOL!)

PRAISES, GLORY AND HONOR BE ONTO OUR FATHER GOD, HIS SON, JESUS, HIS HOLY SPIRIT!!! BLESSED TRINITY-ONE GOD, THANK YOU!!!

God’s wonderful blessings & His sustaining graces be showered upon you, Robert, your family, and your ministry!!
With love, forever your Sis in Christ Jesus ~ Patty

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Patricia Schneider December 9, 2014 at 7:23 am

Oh, forgot to mention:
EVERYONE, DON’T MISS THE VIDEO ABOVE ON RIGHT SIDE, “HOLD ME, JESUS!”

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