How God Views Death

Have you ever been to a funeral for someone your own age, or someone close to your own age? I assume most of our readers are millennials (18-35 or so), so to see someone die at our age means they died very young. Most of us would agree that by normal accounting, someone our age shouldn’t be dying already. But, we do. We aren’t immortal, we are subject to the same disasters and diseases that will kill the rest of us eventually. Still, the younger the person is, the harder it is to fathom that they are gone forever. That they cease to exist on earth except in our memories. When someone so young or so beloved dies, we often ask why. Why did this person “deserve” to die? How could God be so cruel? How could a loving God allow such a terrible thing to happen?

The last question is the one I want to focus on. How could a loving God allow such a terrible thing to happen? How could he let a child, or a teenager, or a young adult die? Cause God obviously knows how horrible death is!! He knows that its literally the worst possible thing in the universe!! How could he allow the most horrible thing that could possibly ever happen happen to somebody who it shouldn’t happen to?

The reason people “blame” God is because there is a difference in how we see death, and how God sees death. In fact, death literally means two different things to us and God. Think about what Adam and Eve were told in Genesis. If they eat of the forbidden tree, they would surely die. But they didn’t, at least not from the fruit. They eventually did die after living for hundreds of years, but this death is still not what God meant.

We see death as final, painful, and scary. Painful because of some of the means of physical death. Final because it is the end of life on this earth, the end our physical existence. It is scary because we have no evidence of what happens afterward. There hasn’t been any concrete evidence of someone coming back and being able to tell us what death itself actually feels like, or what happens after you leave the physical world, leave your body. To our brains which have only evidence and experience in the physical world, where fact and truth are based on evidence, something unknown yet certain to happen is terrifying (a side effect of our natural will to survive).

But, even as death can be painful and scary, is not birth also painful and scary? Yet life cannot begin without it. And as much as we see death as something final and terrifying, it is necessary. God knows this. And he allows death because to him it is merely a transition. He has no qualms about his children experiencing physical death. It is temporary if it is painful. It is nothing more than the severance of the link that ties us to physicality. Once death occurs, we are no longer tied to the requirements of the body. But to God, even this is not true death.

If we believe in Christ, physical death is merely an ending of a phase. A wearing out of the body. It is not true death. Christ came to give us life “more abundantly.” That means to have more of it. To live longer. Again, not physically. We are promised eternal life through Christ, but that life does not exist eternally on this earth and in this body.

This ceasing to exist on earth, this physically painful, scary experience that we are subject to is not death. Death is separation from the presence of God, physical death does the opposite.

This separation from God is the death he promised Adam and Eve, before they fell they actually walked and spoke directly with God. This is the same death Christ experienced (while physically dying on the cross) when he cries out “Why have you forsaken me?” To God, this is the only real death. And it is the definition of Hell itself.

So naturally, physical death (scary and painful as it may be) is no sweat to God. How and when are merely subject to what he intends for us to do while we are on earth before we leave it. The only death that really concerns God is the spiritual death of separation.

Many are asking “Well doesn’t God subject his children to that too? How is that any better than allowing a child or someone young to die physically?”

The difference is in that one death is voluntary on our part, and one is not. Physical death will happen, no matter what. Only two people have actually foregone death (Enoch and Elijah were carried off of earth, they never experienced actual death). We will die physically, we have no say in that matter. But, we do have a choice in whether or not we die spiritually. This is the whole point of sending Christ, to make a way for us to choose our own fate after we leave physicality. How can we say God “subjects” us to a fate when we have a choice in the matter?

Losing a loved one, especially when they are young, is painful to us. Mourning and sadness is natural. But blaming God for death, and treating physical death as if it is the worst possible occurrence in the universe comes from selfishness and ignorance. Real death (spiritual death) should not be feared either. It is avoidable, and it is avoidable because of a sacrifice made by God himself.

4 thoughts on “How God Views Death

Add yours

  1. (I am not in your 18 – 35 range, hope that is okay… I feel like I might be at the wrong party or something. Please let me know.)

    I always dwell in Mark’s Gospel. I even wrote my own layman’s commentary on it (not published, don’t look for it). I say that to give you a sense of what I mean when I say I am really into Mark. (BTW, I read the rest of my Bible too, not just Mark).

    Anyway, I recently began looking at death differently as I watch Jesus dealing with it in that book. I see a phenom there I have never seen before and never heard anyone else deal with either. I wonder if you might.

    I will try not to get too extensive in this comment, but you did say “Join the Discussion!”.

    One of the important things to note about Mark is that everything after 16:8 has been added on by later copyists. There is debate over whether Mark intends to stop there or if we lost the last bit. I happen to think he stopped there, but that puts me in a minority opinion. Either way, we know that is the last of Mark’s original work as we have it handed down to us through the centuries. And the really baffling thing is that if he stops there, we don’t actually have a narrative account of Jesus’s resurrection in Mark.

    That is all the further I am going to bark up that tree on this comment; there is a ton I could say, but this needs to be brief.

    But if my observation is right, it means Mark’s whole Gospel story is driving us to look at Jesus’s death. The resurrection is left to our imagination (and in fact my overarching thesis is that Mark wants to do that – but that is getting into a lot of complexity).

    So, my point is that death and resurrection FUNCTION in mysterious ways for us readers of Mark’s Gospel. And we get our first hint of it when Jesus heals Peter’s mother-n-law in 1:30-31. She is not dead. Sick and lying down with a fever, alright… but the text gives NO SENSE that anyone thinks she is dead. But the Greek verb used for the way Jesus heals here is RAISED – the same kind of raise you get when you raise the dead. Point being, this woman is sorta OVERLY healed!

    That might not be so remarkable actually if not for some of the other dead/not dead people Jesus raises. And this is very easy to miss, but once you see it… well, it doesn’t just go away…. Notice Jairus’s daughter in 5:35-43. The messengers come to say she is dead. By the time they get to her, the funeral mourners are already there. The girl is 12 years old – younger than the audience you are addressing with your post! But Jesus claims she is JUST SLEEPING! But then he RAISES her. And it aint just a simple nudge that wakes up sleepers from usual sleep. But he said she was SLEEPING, and he aint a liar! So what is this… exactly??? What is God’s view of death here!???!

    Mark is not done with this weirdness yet. In 9:14-29, Jesus casts out a demon (I should say, yet another demon, because if you read it from the start, you notice this aint the first one, but in fact this one is a bit different). The disciples, who have become accustomed to driving demons out, could not drive THIS one, so Jesus does it for them. And when he does, the boy “becomes LIKE a corpse”. In fact the crowd thinks he is dead. Now, I don’t know if someone checked for a pulse or not (the ancients would know to do that). But either way, Jesus RAISES this boy too!

    Now I could add other bits that will enhance this observation, but these are enough for a strip down version for my questions. I could drag in stories from the other gospels too, but they did not write until AFTER Mark, so the earliest readers would not have been ABLE to run to John’s Gospel and look at Lazarus’s story and so forth. And, anyway, John highlights OTHER things and allows stories to have OTHER functions… so this is a MARK question, even though it is a GOD question as well? But I want to know what Mark is doing with death and resurrection, because is sure is strange.

    Are these people dead? Really dead? or just a sleep? And I notice you chose to say that Adam and Eve did not actually die – at least not from eating the fruit (by that I presume you mean not right away). But I know godly scholars who would suggest they did actually die when the ate the fruit. That LIFE ABUNDANT which Jesus brings to the world eons later is somehow gone from them upon sinning and eating that fruit. Could the absence of that LIFE be called death? Some say, YES. You said, NO. But then I get to this strange phenom in Mark, and I find some kind of theological dance going on here.

    I wonder if you have some thoughts on it.

    I, of course do to, but I have no firm conclusions. I would love someone having a discussion to consider this stuff with me!

    X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m extremely late to the game on this one! Andy wrote the post and I never checked out the comments. I think there’s a few points to consider.
      One is that “sleeping” has always been a euphemism for death – so Jesus isn’t “lying” as much as he’s making a cultural colloquialism that everyone around him understood. Paul also uses sleeping as a reference to death, and it held a special significance in cultures that believed in an afterlife. Sleep is where you go with the hope of waking up, so sleep is a good analogy for death and resurrection.
      Another point is that Jesus tended to keep secret his identity and ask others to do the same. Looking in other Gospels, he frequently warns people not to share the conclusions they came to about his identity. This was so he could reserve that until the proper time; to outright say he was God in the first year of his ministry would prematurely end his time on earth and he still had much to do. By saying people were asleep, he could give people an “out” to question whether he was miraculous.
      Finally, I do believe there is a distinction between physical death and spiritual death. Adam and Eve’s perfect nature or intended paradise or heightened intimacy with God all died with the fruit, even though they did not die physically. Paul again uses this frequently, they idea that we were dead in our sin and only by God have we been brought back to life as it was intended, life in relationship with him.
      Hope some of that helps clarify. I believe every time someone was resurrected in the New Testament, they were actually physically dead. But these are miracles that point to greater things – that God is compassionate and that the God who can resurrect the physical can also, more importantly, resurrect the spiritual. He can redeem our bodies and lives, yes – which gives us greater confidence he can redeem our dead spirits and our broken relationship with him.

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