Gareth Andrews named one of his Alaskan whaling scene sculptures Sons of Death. He was advised by art curators that works with “death” in the title would not sell; but the story the sculpture tells is one of death, so the title stayed. (The story is here.)
Death. We cannot escape it, not since it came into a perfect creation by means of sin. Ever since our first parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God in the Garden, sin has made itself known. We all have inherited our bondage to it and know its effects. We are separated from God, spiritually dead, from conception; unless we are alive when Jesus returns, our bodies will die; if our spiritual death is not dealt with before the death of our bodies, we will remain separated from God for eternity.
The first consequence of sin is spiritual separation from God, spiritual death. When the serpent spoke to Eve and Adam in the Garden, he told them they would not die when they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As is the case with most of his temptations, there was a half truth in the lie. The fruit was not a poisoned apple that would cause their hearts to stop and their breath to cease. Death, however, came to them. They disobeyed God’s command. They failed to trust that God had given then all they needed for abundant life. They sinned. The relationship, built on trust as are all good relationships, was destroyed. They didn’t drop over dead when they took that delicious bite, but they died spiritually. They were separated from God. Every one of their children, all of us, from then until now (with the exception of Jesus the Christ) has spiritually inherited this death. We are conceived and born in bondage to sin. We are bound to sin and its resultant death. We are slaves of sin, and we must sin. It is our broken nature that we desire first to rebel against God and His good way for us. It is our broken nature that we are at war against God. It is our broken nature that we demand we be allowed to be our own gods.
The second consequence of sin is the brokenness of the creation and physical death. The first death recorded in Scripture was that of the animal whose skin God used to cover the sin nakedness of Adam and Eve. The second and third deaths were murders. With the exception of Enoch and Elijah and those living when Jesus returns, every human ever born died or will die. Some deaths are accidental. Some deaths are the result of disease. Some deaths happen in natural disasters: floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes. Some deaths are simply the wearing out of the body. All death happens because the creation itself suffers the consequence of sin. It was not in God’s original design that our bodies die, but with sin the death of the body came also. Adam and Eve’s bodies did not fall over dead when they ate the fruit, but eventually their bodies functioned no more and they, too, died.
There is a third way the Scriptures speak of death. The term in John 3:16 is “perish.” Those who believe in God’s Son will not perish. In Romans 6:23 the word is “death.” The wages of sin is death. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:9 that the unrighteous will “not inherit the kingdom of God.” We understand from the whole of Scripture that this perishing, this death, is both that of the spirit and that of the body but that the consequences far outlast life on earth. This third death is an eternal separation from God that will happen if the first death, spiritual death, is not dealt with before the second death, death of the body. To perish, to die, to not inherit the kingdom of God is to be eternally, for ever and ever, separated from God and all that is good.
There is only one hope we have to mitigate the effects of sin and death in our lives. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Our bodies will die, but if we believe in Jesus and are waiting eagerly for His return, when the judgement of death comes, we will not be judged by our disobedience. Instead we will be judged by the obedience Jesus fulfilled for us on the cross.