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How Do I Overcome Death?

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What The Bible Teaches
Unit 3
Is There Life After Death?

 

Lesson 11
How Do I Overcome Death?

This is the greatest question of all time.  Can death be overcome?

Remember that we described death in three ways –

Physical death of the body

Spiritual death or separation from God due to sin.

Eternal death – forever separated from God in eternity

The question for all people is whether or not any or all of these deaths may be overcome.  A review of the literature and philosophy of the ages shows that this is the major question of humanity.

John 3:16 (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This is the best-known verse in the Bible.  Here Jesus promises everlasting life.  This promise points to the ability to overcome death.  This is today’s lesson.

Getting Attention

The above discussion should be your attention getter.  If there is anyone in your class not interested in overcoming death, maybe you should call a doctor for that person.  There must be something extremely wrong with them!

Knowing and Practicing the Bible

You may recall from an earlier lesson that death is not the problem of life.  Death is only a symptom.  God commanded Adam not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The problem was disobedience.  Death is the punishment or symptom of that disobedience.  Such disobedience is called sin, the negative relationship that exits between men and God.  Man’s nature is to be at war with the Creator.  Death entered the universe by the sin of Adam and all men are subject to death, all three types of death.  In order to over come death, man must over come sin.

I. The Divine Dilemma

Romans 3:26 (NKJV)
26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The dilemma God faced

God knowingly faced a dilemma.  This dilemma is set forth in Romans 3:26 – how can God be both just and the justifier?  Another way of stating the problem may make the issue clearer.  How can a holy God overlook sin and forgive the sinner?  God’s perfect holiness demands a punishment for sin.  God finds the solution in His grace and love.

Most religions and cults strive to find peace with God via good works.  This is an accounting approach.  If at my death I have more good works than I have bad works, the good should out weigh the bad God should forgive my sin and allow me into heaven.  If this is true, then man is capable of saving himself.  God is not needed.  The Scriptures teach the fallacy of such a position. 

Man is sinful and is not capable of performing any works that are good in the eyes of God.  As such, if an accounting approach were to be used, no one would achieve a positive balance.  All persons would go to eternal death.  Man must submit to the standards God has established.  God demands perfection and sinful man is not capable of perfection. 

Romans 11:6 (NKJV)
6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

Romans 10:2-3 (NKJV)
2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

This seems to make man’s dilemma more serious than God’s, for man will never achieve perfection. 

Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

The Old Testament sacrifices

The Old Testament is the foundation of the New.  Many of the ultimate revelations of God are hinted at in the pages of Israel’s history.  This is especially true of God’s plan of salvation.  God’s solution for sin and death are hinted at in the opening chapters of Genesis and are then developed in the Law of Moses.

After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God provided them with clothing to cover their nakedness and shame (Gen 3:21).  This is the first recorded sacrifice in the Scriptures.  One or more animals had to offer their lives in order to provided the skins for the couple’s clothing. 

This pattern of sacrifice continues throughout the Old Testament. 

Noah offered a burnt offering of the clean animals after the flood (Gen 8:20, 21).

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all offered sacrifices as part of their worship (Gen 15:7-21; 35:14; Job 1:5).

God provided a ram in place of Isaac when Abraham was directed to sacrifice his only son (Gen 22).

The Day of Atonement is established in the Levitical Laws as the annual method of removing the sins of the nation (Lev 16).  This is a part of a complete system of sacrifice set forth by God for the nation of Israel (Lev 1-9; 16; 17; 23).

What is clear about all of these sacrifices is that they are only pointers  to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.  None of the sacrifices permanently removed sin or forgave sin.  The had to be continually repeated.  As the author of Hebrews writes:

Hebrews 10:4 (NKJV)
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

What the sacrifices do tell us is about the heart of God.  Blood had to be shed for the forgiveness of sins.  Further, the sacrifices point to the idea of substitutionary death for man to over come sin and death.

Leviticus 17:11 (NKJV)
11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’

Hebrews 9:22 (NKJV)
22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

If more proof of the substitute idea is necessary, consider the following Old Testament versions that clearly point toward Christ on the Cross.

Daniel 9:26 (NKJV)
26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NKJV)
4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

The purpose of the Incarnation

While it is true that Jesus during His life offered wonderful teachings and moral directions for living, His primary purpose for coming to earth as a human was to die!  He came as the “Lamb of God” to be that substitute for our sins.  This purpose was accomplished with His death on the Cross, not by any words spoken or miracles performed during His life time.

John 1:29 (NKJV)
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Luke 19:10 (NKJV)
10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Matthew 20:28 (NKJV)
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The gospel of eternal life: basic elements

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

The “gospel,” the “good news,” is God’s plan for eternal life through the work of Jesus Christ.  Paul sets forth the gospel in short form in many of his letters, such as the passage from 1 Corinthians 15.  The gospel is that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures (such as the Old Testament sacrifice pictures), He was buried, and Christ arose again from the grave on the third day, again, according to the teachings of Scripture.

Passages such as Daniel 9:26 and Isaiah 53 pictured the death of the Messiah.  Isaiah 53:9 gives a picture of Christ’s burial “And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.”  Furthermore, His Resurrection is found in the Old Testament as well –

Psalm 16:10 (NKJV)
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

Acts 2:24-32 (NKJV)
24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ 29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.

The importance of the Gospel is that it sets forth salvation and the method of overcoming death.  “by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you” (1 Cor 15:2).  Remember everyone’s “best-known” verse – “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  This is the Gospel!  This is God’s answer to both His dilemma and ours.  The Cross and Resurrection are the answer to overcoming death.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (NKJV)
12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

The Divine Atonement

Romans 3:24-26 (NKJV)
24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This short passage of Romans explains the reason Christ died.  From Romans 1:18 through 3:20 Paul has been explaining that all men are sinners and deserve death.  No one is good enough to be in eternity with God.  What is needed is an “atonement.”  That atonement is Christ’s death on the Cross which overcame sin and death.

Justification

“being justified freely by His grace”

The concept of justification refers to God declaring, as a FACT, the sinner to be righteous.  This declaration means the sinner is no longer found to be guilty of sin.  This is a free gift.  Notice that the person is not made righteous, only that God finds him to be righteous.  This is very similar to a court ruling and is called a forensic determination.  It is an act of God’s grace.  Justification has nothing to do with good works.  It is all God’s grace.  The only condition is that imposed by John 3:16 – to believe on Jesus as the Christ, Lord and Savior, the Son of God.

Redemption

“through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”

In the Old Testament redemption means deliverance or salvation.  The New Testament makes redemption more specific for now redemption is from sin based upon the death of Jesus on the Cross.  Jesus, by His death, has paid the price to God for all sin.  This price has been paid for all men and women who have ever lived, even the unbelievers.  For those who believe in Jesus, the price of redemption is applied in their justification.  For those who do not believe in Jesus the price is not applied and is of no benefit.

2 Peter 2:1 (NKJV)
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

Propitiation

“whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith”

This word or concept is little used in most Christian circles today.  This is unfortunate, for it is the most descriptive term applied to the work of Christ.  Propitiation goes to the heart of what happened when Jesus died on the Cross.  Propitiation means that Jesus was the perfect Substitutionary sacrifice which satisfied the wrath of God for all sin.  Jesus was the penal substitute as He died on the Cross.  He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system.  Christ was, indeed, punished for the sins of the world of all times.  Like all of the other attributes of the work of Jesus, it is only “through faith” that the propitiation is effective. 

1 John 2:2 (NKJV)
2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Notice that this concept of propitiation helps to explain one of the sayings of the Cross.  At the point in time when all the sins of the world rested upon Jesus, God turned His back on His Son as His wrath was poured upon sin.

Matthew 27:46 (NKJV)
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

 

Faith

“through faith”

Faith means to trust in, rely upon, or believe in someone or something.  Faith is the channel through which the benefits of the Cross, the death, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus, pass to the sinner.  A person must believe in Jesus and trust Him.  This believe is a trust that Jesus is the Son of God, is Lord and Savior, and that He did indeed died on the Cross and was Resurrection so as to offer salvation to mankind.  The person must believe that Jesus is the Gospel.

Romans 3:28 (NKJV)
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

John 3:15-18 (NKJV)
15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Romans 4:1-5 (NKJV)
1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

Blood

“by His blood”

We considered earlier that the “life is in the blood.”  God’s plan, as hinted at in the Old Testament, demanded that the blood of Christ be shed in order to overcome sin.  This was required for Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice of a Man dying for men.  However, notice that the death of Jesus was a spiritual death as well.  This was forseen in Isaiah.

Isaiah 53:10 (NKJV)
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

As reflected in Matthew above, this is seen at the Cross when God the Father turns His back on the Son as the wrath is poured out.  Jesus died as a complete person, body and soul – physically and spiritually – just as Adam.  Jesus was able to endure such an awful death because He is the God-Man.  But, only the God-Man could offer the perfect sacrifice needed to appease the wrath of God and save sinful man from his dilemma.

Righteousness

“to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

At the Cross, God the Father demonstrates His righteousness by extracting the payment for sin.  The righteousness of God demands that sin be punished.  God was right in His actions through Christ’s death.  This action establishes the mechanism or channel of faith whereby a sinner may find salvation.  In Christ the sinner can stand before God innocent of sin and guilt.

Romans 3:22 (NKJV)
22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;

This is the doctrine of imputation.  The sin of the sinner is imputed to Christ on the Cross and the righteousness (perfect standing) of Christ is imputed, or laid over or upon, to the account of the believer through faith.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Reconciliation

Reconciliation means that the death of Christ has created a way of peace between God and man.  Man no longer needs to be at war with God.  Those who have been justified by faith in Christ are reconciled to God and have this peace applied to them.  They are no longer condemned.  The dilemma of sin and death is no longer an obstacle.  The sting of death is removed.  While man may face a physical death, he does so in the knowledge that just beyond lies an eternal spiritual life with God and Jesus.

Romans 5:1 (NKJV)
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 8:1 (NKJV)
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NKJV)
18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (NKJV)
54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

Applying the Bible

This is another long lesson, but for this lesson, the Applying the Bible, may be the most important part of the lesson.  Consider the questions offered in the book –

Do you accept the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ on behalf of the sinner as the only option for overcoming sin and death?  Yes – No

The goal today is to get all of those in your class who might answer this question No before the lesson to move to the Yes column. 

The second question is: Have you accepted Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as your option for overcoming sin and death?  Yes – No.

            If not, do you see your need to do so?  Yes – No

I would add to this last question, another.  If not, what do I need to do to help you understand that it is only by faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior that you may overcome sin and death.  There is no other option.

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