Song of Songs 8:6 - “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm – for love is as strong as death, jealousy as severe as hell. It burns like blazing fire, the very flame of the Lord.”
God's love for us is complete in Himself and is what it is apart from anything in us, either good or bad. In fact, “Before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ... (Ephesians 1:4)”. Since God is unchanging, His love for us is just as unchanging. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)”, and so is His love for each of us. Because of His love for us, God overcame and destroyed sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:26) so that we might have eternal life. To truly grasp the significance of this fact, let's take a closer look at and gain a better understanding of the nature of sin and death, love and life.
What is death?
What really happens to a human being at death? In this case, what we're referring to is physical death. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body and the cessation of conscious existence in this world. This state we all instinctively know to be unnatural for us as humans for God has, “... set eternity in the human heart... (Ecclesiastes 3:11)”. It is intrinsic to the nature of a human being to be the union of body and spirit (thus the importance of physical resurrection, but that's another sermon altogether). Besides physical death, the Bible refers more frequently to spiritual death. Spiritual death is the far more serious of the two, for Scripture everywhere refers to the death of the saved as simply “sleep” (John 11:11, 1 Corinthians 11:30, 15:20&51). Physical death is temporary, “for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will...come out – those who have done good will rise and live, those who have done evil will rise and be condemned (John 5:28-29)”, but without spiritual birth in Christ (see John 3:1-16), spiritual death is eternal. Spiritual death is the separation of sinful humanity from a holy God. Scripture says that in the end, “death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)” The “lake of fire” or what we commonly call “hell” is described as, outer darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12)” - it is final and eternal separation from God. It is the place where, “... their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:46). Don't make the mistake of thinking that hell is somehow temporary or metaphorical. Even the most casual reading of Jesus' teaching in the gospels should dispel that lie (read Luke 16:19-31).
Sin and Death
Someone might well ask, “If eternity is in our hearts and we were meant to live forever, why then do we die? Where did death come from?” The answer, of course, is found in the very beginning of the history of the human race. We see in Genesis that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule...God blessed them...God saw all that he had made and it was very good.... now God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man He had made... And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”(Genesis 1:1,26,31&2:8,16-17). This is the only command that God gave to humanity in the beginning and He clearly indicated that disobedience (which is by definition sin) would lead inevitably to death. Scripture says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned... (Romans 5:12)” for, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)”. Death is the final consequence of sin. As James says, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)” So God gave His command and a warning... enter the serpent. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the animals... and he said to the woman, “Did God really say... (Genesis 3:1)”, and then, calling God's motives and truthfulness into question, he tempted Adam and Eve and deceived them (Genesis 3:1-4).
For Scripture says that, “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked. (Genesis 3:6-10)”
We see some key points just in this small section. First, we see that sin will always seek to hide itself. They covered their bodies to hide from each other and then they tried to hide from God. Evil hates to be exposed and nothing exposes like the light of God's presence and His Word for He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Scripture says, “This is how judgment works; Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil. Those who do evil things hate the light, and will not come to the light, because they do not want their evil deeds to be shown. But whoever lives by the truth comes to the light in order that the light may show that what they did was in obedience to God. (John 3:19-21)”. There is no hiding from God no matter what we may think or how we try. God sees all and knows all, yet sinful man is always trying to hide (Luke 23:30, Revelation 6:16). We hide behind religion and good deeds - just look at the Pharisees of Jesus' day whom He called “white washed tombs full of dead men's bones (Matthew 23:27)”. We hide behind the lies of denying His existence and His righteous standard with atheism and universalism (or any other “ism”). Until you know that you have been forgiven and washed clean, you will always be trying to hide – from God, from others, even from yourself. No matter what name you give your denial and hiding place, that does not change what it is. But we see something else in this passage - God is always calling out to us. Though we cannot hide from Him, still He calls out to us to come out from hiding and to let ourselves be seen as we truly are that He might make us clean and new. And what did He do for Adam and Eve in their sin and shame? Let's read on.
“The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)”. Thus we see the first physical death on this earth and it was done by God Himself. This is the first sacrifice made to cover man's sin (though not to remove it). Tradition says it was a lamb, symbolizing the sacrificial death of Jesus who is, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)”. Adam and Eve had tried to clothe and cover themselves with plants, but God's action here indicates what is written elsewhere, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22)”. The sacrifice of animals is instituted right here as the means of covering over sins in God's sight, however, only the blood of Jesus actually cleanses us as we shall see (Hebews 10:4&10). Through faith in Him our sin is not merely covered but is removed, “far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)”. And here in the very beginning is the first promise of the redeemer, the messiah, who was, “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). Scripture says, “Then the Lord God said to the serpent... I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head, and you will bruise His heel. (Genesis 3:15)”. This is what Jesus did for, “...Jesus was the first to conquer death, and he is the ruler of all earthly kings. Christ loves us, and by his blood he set us free from our sins. (Revelation 1:5)” and, “...He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:26-28)”.
His Death Brings Us Life
We are all born in sin and “separate from Christ... Without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12)” and we are all, “by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)”. But God would not leave us that way because He loves us. And so, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)”. For, “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5)”. He did this, “by the sacrifice of Himself” for, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)”, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)”. God became a man and died to remove our sins. As Scripture also says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death... For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:14-17)”.
The law and the sacrifices proscribed by the law were never meant to be by themselves the means of putting us right with God. Scripture says, “for what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in human flesh, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4)”. Scripture says that, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshiper would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins... we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool. For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy... where these (sins) have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. (Hebrews 10:1-4&10-14&18 )”.
From Death to Life
Even though we all come into this world, “dead in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1&5)”, yet God offers to give us life. He offers it to us freely though it cost Him the death of the Son. Scripture says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)” What our sin earns us is death and separation from God who is the source of life; but through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we can have life, if we will receive it as His free gift to us. Scripture says that, “the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:15-21)”.
Through faith in Jesus we are “brought from death to life (Romans 6:13)” and Scripture says that, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit Who gives life, has set (us) free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2)”. Once we have been given new life in Christ, we must choose to live and walk in that new life. Thus Scripture says, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:13)” and, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)” Just like Jesus, we should die to sin that we might live for God. As Scripture says, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Romans 6:10)”
God offers us new life in Christ, but what does this really mean? We've talked about moving from death to life and being “dead to sin, but alive to God”, but what is this life we're talking about? Jesus said, “the thief (that'd be the devil) comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life, life in all it's fullness. (John 10:10)”. What kind of life is He talking about? Scripture says, “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. (John 3:16)” And what is eternal life? Most of us tend to think of eternal life as simply unending life, but even the unsaved will live forever separated from God in hell. So that can't be what that means. But Scripture does not leave us wondering for Jesus Himself said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.(John 17:3)” Therefore, just as death is separation, so life is about unity, love, and relationship. This point is wonderfully illustrated in the story of the prodigal son. When the son finally returned to his father, the Father embraces him and says of him, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:24)”. While the son was relationally separated from his father, he was in a sense dead to him for the relationship at that time would have been nonexistent and therefore dead. Yet, when that relationship is restored, life is restored. This is what God means when He talks to us about life – real life – and it is all motivated by love. Love is about gaining and maintaining a relationship. Love always longs for and works toward reunion, restoration, and reconciliation.
Life VS Death
And so we all have the choice between life and death. Most people do not think of themselves as making this kind of choice, but we make it every day in the way that we choose to live. Scripture says that, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. The sinful mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:1-14)”.
God has given us a choice, but He says to us, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life... (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)” Once we have chosen life in Christ, sin and the fear of death loses its power over us. As Scripture says, “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. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)”. Yes! Jesus gives us the victory that He has won on our behalf! It is freedom from sin and death. Just as Scripture says, in the end there will be, “no more death, mourning, crying , or pain for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:?)” for, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)”.
Point to Ponder
What kind of choice are you making each day between life and death? Have you received new and real life in Christ by faith in Him as your savior and Lord? If you have chosen life in Christ, ask for His help to make it a daily reality in your life through the power of His Holy Spirit. Choose to live each day in a way that is worthy of God's call on your life (Ephesians 4:1).
Let's pray, “God, we see in your Word that each of have been born dead in sin, separated from you, and subjected to the law of sin and death. But we also know that You have offered us life through the sacrificial death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. You have pleaded with us to choose life, and right now, God, we do want to choose life – real life in You, a restored relationship with You. We confess that we have sinned and know from Your Word that when we confess, You will always forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Thank You for the free gift of life that You give to us. We receive it right now. So now, Lord help us to walk in this newness of life (Romans 6:4) and to live every day in a way that is pleasing to You. Incline our hearts to Your will and Your Word for Your glory. We ask these things in confidence in the name of Jesus, the name above all names (Philippians 2:9). Amen.”
See these songs: I’m Calling to You (Prodigal)*, Who Will Save Me, Save Me
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