We saw in the previous 3 blogs that the Lake of Fire portrays that cleansing, purifying and refining fire that comes from the Law as it puts our old, fallen, selfish nature to death and conforms us to God’s standard of righteousness. The aspect of it putting our evil self nature to death is why the Lake of Fire is also called “the Second Death.” (Revelation 20:14, 21:8) This I hope will become clear shortly. For this reason it behooves us to take another look at what Scripture has to say about death; b/c if what we saw concerning “fire” is correct then “death” should also confirm it.
In order to understand the “Second Death” we must first agree on what exactly “death” is. The Oxford American Dictionaries describes death as follows, “the end of the life of a person or organism.” I’m sure that this isn’t anything new to you; the usual understanding of death is that it means something living is no longer alive; it has come to an end. But oddly enough…when it comes to the Second Death most presume it refers to a state of unending living torment!?!
The most widely held mindset concerning death as a punishment for sin is that it is an endless death. But death is not endless, rather it is an end. The death of our body is the end of our existence in this physical world. No matter how much the modern world fantasizes about a Zombie Apocalypse, when we die we don’t continue on forever in some sort of zombie like state of existence!
Nevertheless, Scripture declares that, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23 When Adam and Eve sinned in the beginning God told them that the consequence would be death . He said,
“for in the day you eat of [the forbidden fruit], you will die.” (Genesis 2:17)
God also tells us in the book of Ezekiel that,
“the soul that sins, will die.” (18:4)
When Adam and Eve sinned their spirit died immediately and they fell into a state of mortality that ultimately led to the death of their body. Death was and is the penalty for sin.
Therefore when Christ bore the judgment for the sins of all mankind He didn’t suffer in endless torment…He died! As a child I didn’t understand this. I had been taught that the penalty for sin was endless torment. So when people told me that Christ paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind I believed that meant He had to suffer in hell for all eternity! This actually really bummed me out b/c I thought I would never get to meet Him when I went to heaven. But as I grew up and learned that He had risen to heaven…I was relieved, but I just couldn’t make sense of it. It wasn’t logical to me that He didn’t have to suffer in Hell for eternity if that was the penalty for sin. It wasn’t until after I graduated Bible College that I finally put it together in my own studies that the penalty for sin wasn’t endless torment in Hell, it was death!
Death was the penalty and death is what Christ endured. The following is an excellent quote from an author I have yet been unable to discover.
“The scriptures speak of eternal punishment and eternal life, everlasting punishment and everlasting life, therefore many conclude that those being punished must live and endure punishment as long as the saints live and enjoy eternal life. But this is as illogical as it is unscriptural, the word eternal (aionios) is an adjective used to describe the word it modifies. In one case it describes life and means that the life is fixed, Age-abiding or final. In the other case it describes the effect of the punishment, for the penalty is not punishing, but punishment and the punishment is death. Therefore “eternal” has to do with death, not the means of bringing about that death. Were the punishment some kind of spiritual suffering, or physical pain that did not destroy or bring death, we might conclude that this punishing could go on and on forever. But the Scripture precludes any such idea. First in the plain statements that the punishment is death, not life under miserable conditions; second in all the types of the Old Testament that make it plain that death is the penalty (the wages of sin is death); and third by the fact that Christ in taking the punishment suffered death not perpetual punishing.” (Parenthesis and emphasis mine.)
Jesus’ death, however, encompassed more than just His physical death. Generally when we refer to people dying, we are referring to the body dying. When that happens the body ceases to operate. It begins decaying and eventually decomposes entirely. However, when God’s Word refers to the wages of sin being death it is not just referring to the death of the body, but more so of the soul.
Our body is already under the judgment of death. Thanks to the judgment passed on to us through Adam, we are born mortal. Our body is already dead before we even have a chance to sin. Once you’re conceived – you’re dead(!) – its only a matter of time.
And though our body is under judgment, it is not our body that sins. Our body is just the vessel, it is our soul that moves and controls the body. It is the soul that lusts for all kinds of evil, it is the soul that hates, it is the soul that rebels; not the body. It is our soul that directs our body into sinful actions. Jesus mentioned this when He said,
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19)
And so when the Bible talks about the wages of sin being death, it is not just referring to the wages of Adam’s sin being passed onto us through mortality, but also to the death of the soul as a penalty for its sin. This is why Ezekiel said, “the soul that sins, will die.” (18:4) And just like the body, the soul will cease to function when it dies, at least until it is resurrected from the dead (just like the body will be). (This might scare some people, but let me reassure you that through all of this the spirit that has been made alive in Christ does not die, it returns to be with the Father b/c it is made of His very life – see Ecclesiastes 12:7 and Luke 23:46.)
The reason that our soul must die is b/c it is wicked, fallen, depraved. God has no desire to keep something so foul and unclean alive. This means that we really have 2 deaths to endure. The death of our body and the death of our soul. Most of us are terrified of dying once…but twice! But we need not fret about this b/c we have a great example of what this looks like – Jesus! Jesus endured these 2 deaths therefore so can we! After all, it is His Spirit that dwells within us.
“For if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:11-13)
We will see more of that in the next blog, but getting back to the 2 types of death: first of all – Christ endured the death of His body. Colossians 2:20 says that Christ died to the “elements of this world,” which is the Greek way of referring to the physical 3 dimensional world. This therefore is a physical death, a death of the body. Christ died to this earthly existence when His body died on the cross.
Secondly; Christ endured the death of His soul. Romans 6:10 says that Christ “died to sin.” It is our soul that is in a sinful fallen state. We saw above that all the evils come out of the heart. I’m sure that we don’t actually believe that our physical heart produces evil. No, rather it is our mind will and emotions which the term “heart” symbolizes. Our heart is a reference to our soul. And our soul is inherently sinful. In Scripture it is also referred to as “the old man,” “old self,” “natural man” or “outer man.”
“…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old man, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,” (Ephesians 4:22)
“…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Romans 6:6)
“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,” (Colossians 3:9)
“But the natural (Gr. Psuche – soulish) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Christ lived His whole life denying His human soul and it’s self concerned will and instead obeyed God’s will. This was a death to His soul. When it refers to Christ “dying to sin” it does not necessarily mean that He refrained from sinful temptations (although I am sure that it included this) but more so it refers to His denying His own will. For instance, if there occurred a time where it was late at night and Christ (being tired) wanted to sleep, but God told Him to stay up and pray, and Christ went to sleep anyways, that would be a sin, even though sleeping is not necessarily sinful. It would be disobedience and disobedience is sin. But we know that Christ lived ONLY to do His Father’s will. And He ultimately sealed this death to His soul when He obeyed God’s will for Him to die on the cross. Christ’s human soul will did not want to die, but Christ denied Himself saying in the Garden of Gethsemane,
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Misunderstanding the Doctrine of Substitution
Christ died for our sins; He died on our behalf, this is true b/c only a perfect and spotless (sinless – holy) sacrifice could atone for us. But despite the common opinion, that does NOT mean that we ourselves don’t have to die to sin as well. We are righteous IN Him, but we too must die to our self nature; even as we have to die physically. Like Christ our example, we must also endure these 2 deaths. The Good News is that we now have the power to obey God’s will, even as Jesus did. He is our example, and He has given us His Spirit to do this.
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:18)
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life (Psuche – soul) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Matthew 16:24,25)
That word “life” used there is literally the word soul in Greek (Strong’s Greek 5590). On top of that, the word “lose” there literally means, “utter destruction.” (Apollumi – Strongs Greek 622) We will have much more to say about this word in a later blog but for now suffice it to say that it refers to annihilation/death. Therefore unless you deny your self nature and suffer the death of your soul, you CANNOT be saved! Are you getting this? We must have our soul put to death if we want to be fully saved.
This soulish death is accomplished by that process of refining that the Lake of Fire portrays (which we looked at in the last blog). We are refined by enduring trials and circumstances that we do not like, that we do not want/will to happen. We must suffer the denial of our own will and desires, which consequently puts it to death. The Lake of Fire will kill the sinful selfish soul. This is why it is called the 2nd Death (Revelation 20:14, 21:8).
Therefore we can conclude; 1 – that everybody will die physically (this is the 1st death). 2 – that everybody will eventually die soulishly, that is, a death to their soul and its selfish, evil desires (this is the 2nd Death, it is named thus b/c they have already died in the body). And 3 – it is the Old Adamic nature within us who dies.
We must (and will) all go through this death, this baptism of the Spirit and fire. But those who endure it in this life will get to take part in the 1st Resurrection and reign with Christ over the world during the Millennial Kingdom (for more info about this see my blog here). But even though the rest of the world will not endure this fate until the next life, it will still lead them to new life even as it does for us.
And that will be the topic of the next blog.