God and Creation—Part 12

The Gift of God

THROUGH THE GREAT deception of Satan and the adoption of the great lie, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4), Christianity today has brought forth the concepts of eternal torment and purgatory. These two doctrines are not taught in the Word of God. They teach that man must choose between heaven and hell. However, the alternatives set before us in the Bible are not heaven and hell, but life and death. Death is the penalty for sin, and life is the gift of God. This marvelous gift was proffered to our first parents, and was available to them on condition of obedience to God’s law. They disobeyed, and the penalty of death came upon them.


God’s gift of life is again available for all. Jesus said, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Notice that Jesus used the word ‘perish,’ meaning complete destruction, not torture. Except for God’s gift of life through Christ, the Redeemer, the human race would have perished, but it was never threatened with torment.

Satan’s deception has been so great that it has robbed language of its meaning. Ordinarily everyone would know the meaning of the words die and death, but Satan’s lie has been so deceptive that in theological circles these words are twisted to mean separation from God, and separation from God to some means torture in a fiery hell.

The Scriptures make no distinction between the death of beasts and man. The Bible says, “As the one dieth, so dieth the other; … All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”—Eccles. 3:19,20


It is man’s earnest desire to live that makes him so readily susceptible to Satan’s no-death deception. Even under the abnormal conditions of sin and sickness and war, life is considered by most people a boon, a blessing, and it is hard to believe—millions refuse to believe—that when the heart stops beating there is no more life. With this determination to live, mankind has fallen ready prey to Satan’s lie, ‘Ye shall not surely die’—‘There is no death.’

This human attitude toward life is one of the things that sets man apart from the lower animals. God created man with the intention that he should live, not temporarily, but forever. (Deut. 30:19) Death, therefore, was the severest penalty that could have been attached to sin. Little wonder that we should shrink from it; and it is not surprising that so many are willing to insist that it is not real, but rather that what we call death is merely a means of escape into another life.

But, severe though the death penalty is, the Scriptures emphasize its reality. Nevertheless, the Bible does hold out hope for a future life. This hope is not predicated on the vain illusion that no one really dies, but on God’s promises to restore the dead to life. The followers of Jesus are promised a heavenly home with him, not because there is some death-proof element within them which escapes when the body dies, and which is whisked off to heaven, but because the power of God will restore them to life in the resurrection and exalt them to “glory and honour and immortality.”—Rom. 2:7

When the Prophet Job had suffered beyond the point of ordinary human endurance, he asked God to let him die. Having thus prayed for death, Job raised the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14) Job did not ask, “If a man die, is he really dead?” Job knew that those who die are dead. He asked God to let him die. This, he believed, was the only way he could be free from suffering. What concerned Job was whether or not God would restore him to life at a later time.

Job spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or power of God, and answering his own question, he said, “All the days of my appointed time [in death] will I wait, till my change come, [then] Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” (vss. 14,15) In the New Testament Jesus confirms this hope of being called forth from death in God’s due time, using as an example the death of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary of Bethany. This account is recorded in chapter eleven of John, verses 1 to 46.


When Jesus was in the north country of Galilee, Lazarus became ill, and his sisters sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” (vs. 3) The sisters evidently thought when their Master received this information he would come to Bethany and to their home at once. Instead he waited for two days, and then announced to his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” The disciples did not understand the intent of this remark. They thought Jesus referred to “taking of rest in sleep.” Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”—vss. 11-14

A fundamental truth of the Scriptures is set forth in this conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Actually, as Jesus said, Lazarus was dead; but because he expected to restore him to life, Jesus spoke of death as being merely a sleep. The same is true of all mankind—the dead and those who will yet die—they are dead. Satan lied when he said, ‘Ye shall not surely die.’ This penalty for sin would have been eternal oblivion for all of Adam’s children, except for the provision of Divine love through Christ, who gave himself in death as a substitute for the forfeited life of Adam. Paul wrote, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”—I Cor. 15:22

They are not actually made alive until God’s due time to restore the dead to life. But as God now looks upon those who have died he sees them as though they were asleep. Those who sleep are unconscious, and so are the dead. For those who are asleep we have an expectancy of an awakening, and God has promised that through Christ those who sleep in death will also be awakened.


Jesus returned to Bethany, and as he approached the home of that little family which he so dearly loved, Martha met him, and said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Jesus replied, “Thy brother shall rise again.” (John 11:21,23) Jesus did not tell Martha that her brother was not really dead, that now he was actually more alive than ever. Jesus’message of comfort was that although Lazarus was indeed dead, he would be restored to life. This is the great hope of life the Bible holds out to all mankind.

Martha then replied to Jesus, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (vs. 24) The Bible reveals that the ‘last day’ is the final age in God’s plan for the recovery of man from sin and death. With this recovery program completed, endless ages of peace and joy will spread out before the restored human race. Martha knew that her brother would be restored to life in that time of the general resurrection, but that did not take the loneliness from her heart which all experience when they lose their loved ones.

Jesus replied to Martha again, saying, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, even though he die, shall live again. And no one who liveth again and believeth in me shall in anywise die.” (vss. 25,26, Rotherham) From this wonderful statement we have Jesus’ own assurance that both believers and those who have not had a full opportunity to believe in this life will be awakened from death—the believers to immediate perfection of life, and the unbelievers to an opportunity to believe and live forever. A little later, Jesus awakened Lazarus from death as an illustration of the Divine plan for all mankind. We read, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good [the believers], unto the resurrection of life: and they have have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.”—John 5:28,29, Revised Standard Version

There are many Bible texts to show that in the resurrection the faithful believers in Christ of this age will be rewarded with immortality—Paul uses the expression, “glory and honour and immortality.” (Rom. 2:7) But those who are awakened from death, or come forth to ‘judgment,’ will, if they pass through the judgment successfully, be restored to perfection of human life. The word judgment in this text translates the Greek word krisis. It means a test, or trial, so in that time of the general resurrection all mankind will be placed on probation, as Adam and Eve were on trial in Eden.

The great difference between the future probation period of all mankind and the trial of our first parents will be that the people will not then be deceived by Satan, as Eve was deceived, and as all mankind have since been deceived by him. Then they will know that God spoke the truth when he said that death would be the penalty for sin, because they will have observed and experienced it. When they are awakened from death and learn how much time elapsed without their knowledge of it, they will know that they had been dead.

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