There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, "Master, just now when I was in the marketplace, I was jostled by a woman in the crowd; and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me."
"She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me." The merchant lent him his horse; and the servant mounted it; and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.
Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, "Why did you make a threating gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?" "That was not a threatening gesture," I said, "it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."*
As I said in my last post, a great many people fear death. But for those who know Jesus Christ, there is no need for this. I would like to elaborate on that assertion today.
Biblically, death only exists as a consequence of sin against God. Sin and the curse it brings first entered the world in Genesis 3. In the process, sin brought about spiritual death; and that necessarily involved physical death. Thus, we read in the Old Testament book by the Prophet Ezekiel (18:20): "The one who sins is the one who will die." And in the New Testament book of Romans (6:23a), the Apostle Paul adds, "The wages of sin is death."
But God loved the men and women He had created in His image so much that He immediately set about redressing the situation. The process of sacrifice and blood atonement found in the Old Testament was a temporary solution whereby an animal vicariously died on behalf of sinful men and women. The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament stresses how the sacrificial process was not sufficient in the long run because it was a never-ending process.
But, in His Son Jesus Christ, God was about the business of reconciling the lost and dying world to Himself once and for all. Thus, Hebrews 9:28 tells us that Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many. Because of this, the Apostle Paul says (in Romans 6:23b) that "...the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Jesus, as the only begotten Son of God, lived a sinless life, and therefore became the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of men and women. Thus, He gave His life on an old rugged cross in order that we all might have life. This one sacrifice forever atoned for the sins of men and women.
Accordingly, in his second New Testament letter to the Corinthians (5:21), the Apostle Paul says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
As a result of this, we no longer need to fear death. For this reason, in his first New Testament letter to the Corinthians, (15:50-58) the Apostle Paul has this to say:
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - 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.
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?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
And to this, the Apostle John adds these words in the New Testament book of Revelation (21:3-5):
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
Praise God for this great truth. We need not fear death! For we have read the back of the Book, and we win! But there is one caveat.
Physical death awaits us all. But spiritual death awaits only those who have not embraced the freely offered grace of God in Jesus Christ. As one famous evangelist put it, "Born once, die twice. Born twice, die once." **
The meaning is this. If we live only a physical existence, we are destined to die both a physical and a spiritual death. However, if we are born physically, and then are born again spiritually through Jesus Christ, we will die only a physical death, but not a spiritual one.
And thus, in response to Nicodemus' question about what it means to be "born again" (in the Gospel of John, chapter 3)Jesus Christ said:
Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
Thereupon, the Apostle John records the most famous Bible verses ever written (John 3:16-18) :
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
And to this, John later adds (I John 5:11-12):
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Amen! I hope you have found life by placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ today. If you have, you will never have to fear death.