I’ve seen sick people healed by the grace of God. I’ve seen deaf ears and blind eyes opened. But everyone still dies. Why is that? If Christ’s sacrifice undid Adam’s sin, why do people still die? If last Adam is greater than first Adam, why does death still take us all?
It’s a good question, but understand that it is an earthly question. It is shaped by our earthly point of view. Jesus had a different point of view:
Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (Joh 5:24)
Has crossed over. Past tense. It’s already happened. In Adam, we lived on death row. We were born into a dying race. But whoever believes in Jesus has crossed over from death row to new life in him.
Yet we still die. Since Jesus doesn’t lie, how do we reconcile his words of life with our bodies of death?
Some explain it by saying your spirit is saved but your body is not yet saved. I don’t see it that way. I don’t believe in partial salvations. When you were saved, you were made into a new person and the old has gone (2 Cor 5:17). The gift of salvation doesn’t come to us on the installment plan. Paul said, “The new has come.” Whatever salvation is, it has arrived. You are either saved or you need to be. You are either in the kingdom or out of it. You are either one with the Lord or separated from him.
Others say we die out of ignorance, that we’re actually supposed to be immortal here and now. “Christians aren’t ever supposed to die.” Well if that were true, where are the first century evangelists and apostles? Why aren’t we hearing from the apostles who weren’t martyred, like John?
(By the way, wouldn’t that be cool? “Hey guys, we have this 2000-year-old dude speaking at the Men’s Breakfast this Friday. Interested?”)
So if salvation doesn’t come in installments, and if we have already received every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3), why do we still die?
A tent, not a home
Think about what happened when you were born again. You repented and believed the good news with your whole heart. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, you came to see Jesus as he really is and you changed your unbelieving mind. This was no small miracle! One moment you were in the dark; the next you were in his wonderful light. One moment you were alienated from the Source of Life; the next your spirit became fused with his. This was a radical change and the implications are huge, as Jesus said. You crossed over. You became a new person. You changed.
But your body did not change.
Here’s the point: You are not your body. Your body is an earthsuit which you wear for a time but which wears out and will eventually need replacing.
If you have ever been camping, you will know the difference between a tent and a home. A tent is a temporary dwelling place while your home is your permanent dwelling place. Your physical body is a tent. It is a temporary habitation useful for this brief camping trip called earthly life. However, it is not your permanent home.
While he walked this earth, Jesus wore an earthsuit like everybody else, but he’s not wearing one now. He doesn’t need one. He has something better. When he returns we shall see him as he really is. And wonder of wonders, we shall be like him (1 John 3:2).
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Cor 15:52-53)
The New Testament writers all understood that our physical bodies are temporary while we are eternal beings who live forever. Like garments that wear out, our bodies will one day need to be replaced and Paul says the change will happen instantly, in the twinkling of an eye. The older and more worn out my body gets, the more I look forward to that sudden change!
Two kings, two bodies
Thanks to King Adam’s regrettable choice, nearly everything in this world operates under the law of sin and death (Rom 5:12). That includes your body but it does not include you (see Rom 8:2). Remember, you are not your body and, like Christ, you are not of this world (John 8:23, Php 3:20):
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Php 3:20-21)
The Greek word for “lowly” stems from a word that means to depress or humiliate. Paul is saying, our earthly bodies are depressing. They’re humiliating. (If you don’t believe this, just wait!) But our new bodies will be as glorious as Christ’s body – they will be strikingly beautiful. That sounds good to me!
Don’t think for one minute that I’m one of those people trying to escape this rotten planet. I’m not. I love it here and I’ve got a fulfilling job to do (the Great Commission, remember?). The Good News is not “we’ve got a ticket on the heavenly-bound life-boat,” but that Christ is our life. Eternal life is knowing him and I am escaping to that reality, which is here and now.
So, two take-aways:
(i) We have a glorious new body to look forward to, one that will never wear out or suffer arthritis or get fat, wrinkled, and decrepit.
(ii) Thanks to King Jesus, we have already left death row. Death no longer has the last word.
Don’t fear Marvell’s chariot
Andrew Marvell may be conscious of “time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” coming to take him to the beauty-less deserts of eternity, but we need not fear what he fears. For those who are in Christ, death is but a changing room where we shrug off the mortal coil and are clothed in incorruptible glory.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54-55)
If you are in Christ, then Jesus has already made you new. But understand that the Great King is in the business of making all things new (Rev 21:5).
Healings are wonderful – they give us a taste of heaven-on-earth – but they are little more than repair jobs for tents. Eventually, your tent is going to reach the point where it can’t be fixed or stitched back together. That’s natural and not to be feared. Some things in this world can’t be mended.
But the good news is that Jesus is the Great Redeemer who is making everything new. This is why we can look forward to a new heavenly earth, the home of righteousness (2 Pet 3:13), and a new body in which to enjoy it.