Excursus 08 – The first and the second death.

Man’s lifetime.

The power over death.

The second death.

The eternal existence of every human being.

The consequences of a conversion.

Golgotha – the central event of the First Creation.

Man’s lifetime.

In general we proceed from the assumption that the death of man at the age of around 80 or 90 years – with few exceptional cases, who get a little bit older – is the necessary consequence of life. An inevitability which is inherent in the system, so to speak. But is that really that way?

If we look back upon the time before the Flood, we find out that in those days people lived considerably longer. Methuselah got 969 years, his son Lamech 777. After the Flood the age of people decreased successively. Arpachshad, a son of Sem, only got 434 years, Abraham, who was born three hundred years after Arpachshad, after all still 175.

(See also Table 01: "Chronological table from Adam to Jacob.")

If we now trace back the development of man down to his creation, we can see that it was the original will of God to grant an unlimited, eternal life to man in the Garden of Eden. This is also imparted to us by Gen 3,22.

He might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.

1Mo 3,22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" Gen 3,22;

Here it is confirmed that man would have lived eternally if he had eaten onöy from the tree of life. But as we know, the first men did not observe the commandment of the Lord, their God. They ate from the tree of knowledge although it was prohibited. And for this case God had prophesied them that they had to die.

The day that you eat from the tree of the knowledge you will surely die.

1Mo 2,16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 2,17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." . Gen 2,16-17;

(See also Discourse 96: "Why believe?")

Of course, this did not mean that they had to die right after the Fall, but that they will die at all and simply were not allowed to live eternally – as it had been provided for. But apparently, Satan used this varying possibility of interpretation when he seduced Eve.

You surely will not die!

1Mo 3,4 The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 3,5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Gen 3,4-5;

We see that the very first word which Satan addressed to man, was not the truth, but it was not a clear lie either, but a half-truth. As it turned out after the expulsion from Paradise (more properly, the Garden of Eden) , the two actually did not die (right away), but went on living for hundreds of years. Adam got 930 years and even witnessed the time of Lamech, the father of Noah.

Methuselah, according to the Scriptures the man who lived for the longest time, got 969 years. So, one could imagine that man’s lifetime, which God had intended for man after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, amounted to approximately one thousand years.

But men did not prove worthy even of this concession either. They fell away from God in masses and went their own ways. This led then to the Flood, in which the godless were annihilated and only Noah with his family was saved.

The generations after the Flood then only got more or less half as old. Arpachshad, a son of Sem, got 438, his son Shelach 433 and the son of Shelach, Eber, 464 years old. During the time of this Eber men tried then to build a tower in Babel, the city of Nimrod, "with its top in the heavens".

In order to stop this haughtiness of the men at that time, God "confused" the language - which up to that time had been uniform among all people, so that everyone was understood by everyone. Due to that they were finally diverted from their plan of the building of a tower, but also their period of life decreased drastically from that time on. Whereas the first generations after the confusion of tongues still got 230 to 240 years, Jacob’s age, the progenitor of the Israelites, already dropped to 147 years.

But this successive reduction of man’s lifetime, which had dragged on for many generations and for more than almost four thousand years, was preceded by a decision of God which he had made already before the Flood. In the first book of Moses (Genesis) 6,3 we learn about this decision of God:

His days shall be one hundred and twenty years.

1Mo 6,3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." Gen 6, 3;

So, although men got still approximately one thousand years at that time, God had already decided not to let them get older than 120 years in the end.

The Kingdom of Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ which we await in the future, will, as we can gather from the statements of many prophetic texts, not only last for a thousand years, but also the people of God in this Kingdom will reach again the age of the first generations on earth – namely up to a thousand years. But up to that time these 120 years are the upper limit for the lifetime a man can expect.

A scientific confirmation of this statement was not obtained until our time. Gerontology (research investigating into the age of man) furnished proof that the telomeres – that is to say the ends of the chromosomes of the cells – , indicate the upper limit of the biological lifetime by their length (which in the course of time is gradually disintegrated by the enzyme of telomerasis). According to this method the established maximum lifetime possible for man is 120 years. This finding is called after its discoverer, the gerontologist Leonard Hayflick, and is known as the "Hayflick-limit".

(See also Chapter 10: "The Millennium.")

The power over death.

But we have still another statement in the Scriptures, which confirms God’s power over death. When the prophet Isaiah comes to king Hezekiah, in order to announce his impending death with a word of the Lord, Hezekiah prayed to his God. And God heard the prayer of the king and prolonged his life for fifteen years.

I will add fifteen years to your life.

2Kg 20,1 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’" 20,2 Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, 20,3 "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

20,4 Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 20,5 Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 20,6 "I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake."‘" 2Ki 20, 1- 6;

Now, the above remarks admit undoubtedly the conclusion that the time of death of man, or seen from another point of view, the duration of his life, can be changed at will by God. And with that it is also quite certain that it is God who has the power over death.

But now it is said of Jesus Christ

Through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death.

Hbr 2,14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 2,15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives Heb 2,14-15;

So, who has now the power over death? God or the Devil?

The one say God, and refer to Gen 6,3 and the decreasing age of the patriarchs in the time before and after the Flood. The others say the Devil, and quote Heb 2,14 as proof of it. But as it is so often the case in the Scriptures, it is not the texts from the Scriptures, which are perhaps contradictory or even wrong, but it is the exegetes, who simply make the one or the other statement without examining and analyzing it.

In actual fact it is that way that the two passages from the Scriptures in question, Gen 6,3 and Hbr 2,14-15, deal with completely different subjects. As the above argumentation shows, the first text refers to man’s lifetime, which, of course can be determined by God as the Creator of all life. Death is of importance here only in so far as it terminates this lifetime.

The second passage, however, which is taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, refers to a completely different context. But in order to understand the statements better, we would like to make a short analysis of the text. In verse 2,14 it says, " …that through death He (the Lord Jesus) might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."

In this connection the following questions arise:

-  What kind of "power" is it, that the Lord took away from the devil by his death?

-  Why did the devil have power over death?

-  Why were those who were freed by the death of Jesus in fear of death?

-  Whose slaves did they have to be therefore all their lives?

Before we now dare to try our hand at an interpretation, we want to let other exegetes get a word in it.

Luther comments here for instance:

"… Christ delivered us from the devil: That does not mean that the devil does not exist any more, but that we are not afraid of him any more; the same thing applies to death: It does not mean that there is no death any more, but that we are not afraid of it any more".

These explanations are basically the statements of the above text from the Scriptures and do not give an answer to any questions arising in this connection.

Another commentary reads:

"The Devil has power over death not in the sense that it would be subject to his arbitrariness, when and how he wanted to inflict death on men, but in the sense that he has his sphere of influence on death. As he is the originator of death, the moribunds and the deceased are under his control due to their dying" (E. Riggenbach, quoted in F. Laubach, WStb, the Epistle to the Hebrews).

Also here the author describes – in somewhat other words – just what we can also read in the original text of the Epistle to the Hebrews. We do learn that death is not subject to the arbitrariness of the Devil, however, also here we are looking in vain for an answer to our questions above.

If we now try to interpret this text on the basis of the Scriptures, we have to bear in mind that the Epistle to the Hebrews – as the name already implies – was addressed to the Hebrews, the Israelites, that is to say the church in Israel. In the first chapter the writer tries to furnish proof of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God by means of the Old Testament and at the same time to disprove the view – which was obviously spread among the recipients – that Jesus was an angel.

In the second chapter the incarnation of Jesus and his death which he had to suffer vicariously for the sins of all men – the "descendants of Abraham" – and consequently the "salvation out of mercy" is explained.

For if the word spoken proved unalterable, and every disobedience received a just penalty

Hbr 2,1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2,2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 2,3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 2,4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. Hbr 2, 1- 4;

In connection with the redemption act of Jesus the writer now gets to talking about the "law" here, in Heb 2,2 – the Commandments which Moses had brought to the Israelites. In the Old Covenant salvation was only to be achieved by strict observance of these Commandments. Every disobedience and every transgression received a just penalty, as we can also read in the parallel passage in Acts 7,52-53.

You who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.

Acts7,52 "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 7,53 you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it." Acts 7,52-53;

Those who did not observe these orders of the law of the Old Testament, deserved death and were lapidated to death. This is also confirmed by the Epistle to the Hebrews itself.

Who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Hbr 10,26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 10,27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 10,28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 10,29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? Heb 10,26-29;

In his further argumentation in the second chapter the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews now compares this salvation and justification according to the law of Moses with the salvation out of grace by the expiatory death of the Lord.

Jesus, by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

Hbr 2,9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. 2,10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. Heb 2, 9-10;

And this brings us right to the text we want to analyze here. In order not to lose the connection to the above context, we will first take a look at the second verse – Heb 2,15.

He might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Hbr 2,14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 2,15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. Heb 2,14-15;

It says here that by his death the Lord Jesus freed those who were subject to slavery all their lives through fear of death. In most cases this fear of death is related to the members of the congregation and especially the subsequent statement ".. were subject to slavery all their lives", is interpreted as the slavery vis-à-vis sin. But if we take a closer look at the text, the interpretation toward the congregation cannot be correct. For in this case these brothers and sisters must have been slaves of sin because of fear of death all their lives. And this is exactly the opposite of the statements of the Gospel which says that we shall keep away from sin – even at the price of having to suffer death.

Taking into account the preceding context, in which we found out that here the salvation out of grace – in contrast to the salvation out of the observance of the law known by them hitherto – should be explained to the Israelites, we have to interpret the text from verse Heb 2,15 in a different way.

It is not the congregation that is addressed here, but the newly converted Israelites. And here, in this verse 15 (not 14!), there is no talk about the Gospel, but about the Old Covenant. For it says "… and might free those who (…) were subject to slavery". So, the point at issue is the behavior of the newly converted Jewish brothers and sisters in the past, under the law of Moses. And now this verse can also be broken down without any problems.

Those Israelites, who converted to the faith in Jesus Christ, and who were redeemed here by the Lord, had been slaves of the (Mosaic) law in their former lives. And they also had to observe this law, these Commandments, slavishly, for – as we read above in Heb 10,28 – "Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses". And therefore they also were "subject to slavery (of the law) all their lives through fear of death (by lapidation)".

With that we have found out the meaning of verse Heb 2,15 and can now try to analyze the first part of this sentence, in verse Heb 2,14. The part of this sentence which is relevant for our purpose is: "that through death He (Jesus) might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil". As we have seen above also this text has been interpreted relatively vaguely – since Luther!

When it says here that the Devil "had the power of death" and when we then read in the explanation of Riggenbach in the book by Laubach quoted above: "The Devil has power over death not in the sense that it would be subject to his arbitrariness, when and how he wanted to inflict death on men", the question arises what else "power" should mean but "arbitrariness".

However, this semantic aspect is not at all of so much interest for our examination, but rather the fact that most exegetes agree here in one point: They see in the "death" mentioned here, over which the Devil has power, the quite natural, biological death of man.

Now, this clause is also written in past tense, it says: "..who had the power of death". So, we can proceed from the assumption that the Devil lost this power over death due to the redemptive death of Jesus. And this is now the difficulty for those exegetes who want to see the biological death here. If the Devil had lost the power over this death due to the sacrificial death of the Lord, something about this death must have changed. There must be a difference, if the Devil is master of death or if he is not. But nothing has changed. We, the people of today, die this death today just as people died it two thousand or five thousand years ago. No matter if they are righteous or wicked – all people have died the same death since the beginning of time.

And this is the point where some exegetes set in and believe that since the Lord’s death and Resurrection, the faithful do not go to the realm of the dead any more, but get directly to heaven to the Lord. Fritz Laubach chose this approach in his interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews (quoted above), when he writes (page 69):

"They (the members of the congregation) can now face the end of their earthly lifetimes without any fear, because death becomes for them the passage to the eternal glory of God":

That means, after their death the members of the congregation will not come any more to the realm of the dead and will not have to wait there until their Raising, but they are immediately caught up into heaven.

This view would be very reassuring for every Christian and, of course, we would all like it, unless there were a proof to the contrary in the Scriptures. In 1The 4,15-17 Paul passes on to his church in Thessaloniki a revelation, which he had received from the Lord. And here he prophesies them – and consequently also us – that the Resurrection of the dead in Christ will not take place before the second coming of the Lord. The dead in Christ will first be raised from the realm of the dead, afterward they will be caught up into heaven together with the living, and only then they will be with the Lord forever.

The dead in Christ will rise first.

1The 4,15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 4,16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 4,17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1The 4,15-17;

Therefore the believing dead of all times could not have been in heaven with the Lord but were obviously dead – in the realm of the dead – up to this very last moment of the Lord’s return. So, then death and the Resurrection of Jesus did not change anything about the physical death of man – up to the return of the Lord. Might it now be that the meaning behind this "power over death", which is taken away from the Devil as a consequence of Golgotha, is Resurrection in itself? Also this approach is not illogical. But this would mean, however, that Resurrection would not have "started" until the death on the cross of the Lord. But on the one hand we have Resurrection texts in the Old Testament and also the fact that the Lord discussed Resurrection with the Sadducees (Mt 22,23-33) and considered Resurrection a given fact already during his lifetime and proved it by means of a passage from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, shows us that also Resurrection was provided for in God’s plan with men from the very beginning and had not been to be bought only by the sacrificial death of Jesus.

It seems now that we have examined all conceivable possibilities for an interpretation of this text in Heb 2,14 in connection with the power of the Devil over the death of man, without having achieved a satisfactory result. But as we will see right afterward, the reason why it is so difficult to find an answer to this question is that obviously the question is not formulated correctly. The question should not be:

"What power over death was taken away from the Devil as a consequence of Golgotha", but:

"The power over what death was taken away from the Devil as a consequence of Golgotha".

For we have a hint at a "second death" in the Scriptures, in the Revelation of John.

He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

Rev2,11 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’ Rev 2,11;

The second death.

So, according to the Scriptures there are two "deaths". The first death is the biological, the physical death, as we know it. And as we have seen above, this death is the consequence of the original sin of Adam. But it is not only this one sin which weighs upon the whole mankind. It is all personal sins of each individual human being, which make him guilty and have their consequences just as the original sin had. They lead to death. However, this death is not of this world any more. As we learn from Rev 20,14, the second death is the lake of fire, the lake burning with fire and brimstone and into which all the godless and impenitent are thrown at the end of the world.

This is the second death, the lake of fire.

Rev20,14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. Rev 20,14;

At the Universal Resurrection, the "rebirth/regeneration", as the Lord calls it (Mt 19,28), all the dead will rise with a resurrection body and will stand before their judge at the Last Judgment. The righteous will then enter the heavenly Jerusalem, the New Creation of God in eternity. The wicked, however, will suffer the "re-death" with their resurrection body and die a second time.

(See also Excursus 07: "The resurrection body.")

However, this second death is not the destruction and dissolution of man "without any residue", as some people think, but an eternal bodiless existence in damnation, away from God and his love. This is suggested once more in the Revelation and with Matthew:

Their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Rev21,8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Rev 21, 8;

Mt 3,11 "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 3,12 His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Mt 3,11-12;

Mk 9,47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 9,48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. Mk 9,47-48;

Mt 8,11 ."I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 8,12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Mt 8,11-12;

Mt 13,41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 13,42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13,43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Mt 13,41-43;

Mt 13,49 So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 13,50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mt 13,49-50;

Jud 1,6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 1,7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Jude 1, 6- 7;

(See also Chapter 12: "The Resurrection.")

The wages of sin is death.

The texts here above, from Rom 6, deal also with death. To be more precise, with the death as the wages of sin. And also here it becomes clear that it cannot be the first, the physical death of man which is meant here. We know from our experience that in this world sin and unrighteousness are not punished by the death of man, but are in many cases rewarded with power, wealth, and a long life. There are many examples both in history and in our time that for instance the most brutal dictators, who were responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people, lived to an extraordinarily old age (as in our days for instance the Chilean dictator Pinochet). Therefore, the wages of sin is not the physical death, but also here Paul draws our attention to the second death, which all those have to expect, whose sins have not been forgiven.

You are slaves of the one whom you obey.

Rom6,16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? Rom 6,16;

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rom 6,20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 6,21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 6,22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 6,23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6,20-23;

Also the comparison between this death – as the wages of sin – and the gift of God, namely eternal life, above, in verse Rom 6,23, shows that this second, last, and final death is meant here, in contrast to the ultimate, eternal life.

But we have hints at this second death at other passages in the New Testament as well. So the Lord said in Mt 8,21-22 to one of his Disciples who wanted to bury his father hastily before he could follow Jesus,

Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead!

Mt 8,21 Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 8,22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead." Mt 8,21-22;

Here we have in a single short sentence an allusion to both the first, the physical death at the end of our lives, and to the second, the spiritual death, after the Last Judgment, at the end of the world. For the Lord those who bury their dead here are already dead, too, namely dead of the second death, because they do not want to convert to God and remain in their sins.

(See also Chapter 13: "The Last Judgment.")

As Paul says in Rom 6,16 we are slaves of the one whom we obey. Either slaves of sin resulting in death or slaves of obedience resulting in righteousness.

In order to understand this slavery of sin correctly, we have to become aware of the fact what sin actually is: Sin is every action against God’s Commandments. And here the point at issue is in most cases not murder, robbery, and homicide, but the sins of daily life: malice, miserliness, greed, envy, hatred, theft, lie, false witness ("slander"), fraud, adultery, alcohol or drug addiction, etc.

And here it becomes apparent that many people find it difficult to admit these sins to themselves. What is in actual fact a lie is passed off as a "little white lie", the received small change which is obviously too much is put into the pocket and this is not perceived as fraud, because it was not the fault of oneself and so one does not feel "guilty", the little extramarital escapade is justified with the pretext that in all likelihood the partner is not faithful either, etc.

But even if man resolves then to get rid of one or the other sin, he has to realize that this is not possible that easily. There is then the inner resistance which refuses to give up this habit. This resistance is even of the opinion to be "entitled" to it, "for after all …". This kind of argumentation is probably known to most of us. And this is now the proof of the fact that we are sold to sin. We are slaves of our sins.

As we can see, the unredeemed man is in the hands of his sins and cannot free himself from them. If he nevertheless succeeds in getting rid of one sin, he probably falls immediately into another sin, which is perhaps even greater than the first one. This is the slavery of sin: we are captives of our desires and sins.

When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Jam1,13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 1,14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 1,15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Jam 1,13-15;

In the light of the above statement in Jam 1,13-15 we are now also able to give an answer to the question put at the beginning, why the Devil has power over death. Since Adam and Eve it is Satan, through whom temptations have got into the world. But these temptations cannot do harm to anyone, if no attention is paid to them – they only can do harm to those men, who lend their names to tempting others, as also the Lord says in Mt 18,6-7.

For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom it comes.

Mt 18,6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 18,7 "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! Mt 18, 6- 7;

But if our own desires jump at this temptation and realize it, this gives birth to sin. Sin, in its turn, if it is completed, leads to the (second) death. As we can see, the power of the Devil over the (second) death is only an indirect one. It is true that he brings temptation – however, its acceptance and its realization lies in the sphere of responsibility of man. Nevertheless this method of Satan – as world history shows – is a very successful one.

The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for our sins.

But have not all of us committed a sin, isn’t that the way it is? Have not all of us succumbed to the temptations of Satan once? That’s exactly the way it is! Already Paul writes us in the Epistle to the Romans, "… we have already charged that (…) are all under sin, as it is written: ‘There is none righteous, not even one’". And consequently, all of us would be strictly speaking lost and condemned to the second death in the lake of fire. The sins we once committed cannot be made undone by us.

A sacrifice for the sins, as the Jews offered it in the form of a bull or a ram, would not be sufficient in order to redeem the sins of all of us. Not even if you would immolate all cattle and sheep of the world.

Therefore God chose an offering which is really capable of redeeming the sins of all men. He sent his son, who died the expiatory death for the sins of the whole world as an offering which is well pleasing to God. And this offering broke the power of sin and consequently the power of the Devil over the second death. The background of this vicarious offering is much too little consciously perceived at our time and therefore it shall be explained here a little bit in more detail.

On the one hand there is God who is absolutely righteous and who does not tolerate any unrighteousness – and consequently sin. It is the same God whom the faithful Jews have been worshiping and venerating from the very beginning to today. And on the other hand there is man, who does not succeed in meeting this requirement. Not that this requirement, this dictate, is by nature unrealizable as such. No, the Law of God, his Commandments, are only right and fair, and if all people observed them, this world would be peaceful and righteous.

But man, in his delusion of grandeur, thinks that he does not have to keep to these Commandments. He even thinks, in an arrogance that cannot be surpassed any more, that he can make himself his own commandments and that he does not need these Commandments of God – and even this God himself – any more.

We realize here again the hand of the "angel of the light" Luzifer: While he urged men in a whispering tone, "You are not going to die" in the beginning, he now puts into our heads, "You don’t need a God". And as already our first parents did, we, too, are only too pleased to yield to these insinuations and play "God" ourselves. But with that the Devil has killed two birds with one stone. He separates us from our God, so that we get incapable of loving this God of ours, and at the same time he separates God from us, because thereby we are also withdrawn toward God’s love.

But with that we offend against the first and most important Commandment:

The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your might.
(Deut 6,4-5)

Up to two thousand years ago this dilemma was only present to the minds of the faithful Jews. For only they believed up to that time in this one and only God. And they were conceded to cleanse themselves from their sins by blood. By the blood of an animal to be immolated.

But then God sent his own son in order to put an end to this slaughter. In a similar way as we know it from Abraham with his son Isaac, whom God prevented from killing his son at the very last moment, so that Isaac could stay alive, God now offered himself in the person of his only son. And in contrast to the situation with Abraham, there was nobody who could have kept him from doing so.

There is perhaps no better parable to explain God’s actions here than the story of Prince Shamil, an Avar leader of the northern Caucasus in the early 19th century, as reported by the economist Roscher:

In order to safeguard and keep up unity and discipline in his tribe, the prince had given the strict order that nobody was allowed to misappropriate the booty which belonged to the tribe as a whole. Those who violate this, will be punished by 100 strokes of the whip.

Then it came to the first breach of this order – by the old mother of the prince. What shall be done now? If the penalty is not executed, the justness of the prince is doubted and the seriousness of his orders is undermined for all times.

Rosher reports, the prince shut himself up in his tent for one day. Then he stepped out of his tent with the instruction: The penalty shall be executed.

But when the first stroke rushed down on the mother’s back, he tore down his coat, threw himself before his mother and shouted at the soldiers, "Go on beating and no lash fewer!"

So he had found the solution! His mother was saved while at the same time the torn and bleeding back of the prince showed how serious he is about the respect of his orders and about law and justice in his tribe (according to Werner de Boor: Der Brief an die Römer = "The Epistle to the Romans", WStB, R. Brockhaus Verlag).

And in the same way the blood and the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross shows us how relentless God is in his justice toward sin, and how great is his love to us men at the same time.

The Jews did not realize this background at the time of Jesus and unfortunately they have not realized it up to the present!

God gives the victory also to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And now Paul says below, in 1Cor 15,57, "but thanks be to God, who (namely God) gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." And this sentence does tell us no more and no less that it is up to us, if we want to accept this victory over the power of death – to be more precise of the second death – or not.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Cor15,54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "death is swallowed up in victory. 15,55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 15,56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;

5,57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 15,58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. 1Cor 15,54-58;

As members of the congregation we have a great responsibility here with regard to our behavior in the world. When we on the one hand readily agree to the statement of Paul, above, in 1Cor 15,57, and also announce that our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, has achieved victory over the sins for us by his sacrifice on the cross, but when on the other hand even apparently converted Christians are not prevented by anything or anyone, from going on committing these sins, some people wonder and rightly so, where redemption shall have taken place there.

The redeemed man is now not "incapable" of committing a sin, as some people think or hope. He is completely free to do or to leave what he wants to. The difference lies in the fact that he – in contrast to the unredeemed man – does not have to commit a sin any more. He is not the slave of his sins any more and can stop committing them, without hearing an inner voice holding something against it. He is released from the chains which bound him to sin and did not let him go previously. But he himself is responsible for it to also throw off these loosened chains.

God himself condescended to offer us salvation in his son. The sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus is the offer of our God to help us.

If we accept this offer and claim this victory also for us, we will be saved.

The consequence of sin and salvation through grace.

Sin is every act that goes against the commandments of God (Ex 20:3-17; Mt 5:21-48). The consequence of every single one of these acts is the death of the perpetrator – and not just the first, physical death, but the second death (Rev 21:8), to which the sinful person will be condemned at the Last Judgment after Resurrection from the dead – the rebirth (Mt 19:28, 25:31) – with his or her new and eternally existing body. Just as the first death is merely a transitional period up till the resurrection, so too the second death is not an extinction of the human person but rather an eternally prolonged existence, distant from God in the darkness of damnation.

In order to meet the righteous demand of God that his commandments be fulfilled, while at the same time offering those human beings who infringe them the possibility of being saved from this eternal damnation, the Son of God died on the cross for every single human individual (1Cor 15:3-5). Thus all those who accept in faith the redeeming sacrifice of the Son of God in atonement for their own sins can be saved, and as sinners who have been justified by grace can enter into eternal life with God (Rom 5:9-11).

The "small print" in the offer.

Now, the above sentence is without any doubt the essential core of every evangelization, but often the new converts are left in the dark about the implicit consequences of this action. And so one can often hear the legitimate doubt, "This cannot be everything. That would be too easy." And then, some evangelical circles endeavor to call upon people cheerfully, "Oh yes, it is that easy. Say ‘yes’ to Jesus, and you will be saved".

One might almost think these certainly very committed evangelical brothers and sisters have lost their common sense. For the newly converted skeptics – if they mean it well – feel instinctively that this cannot be everything. And, of course, they are skeptical about the euphoric asseverations of their new brothers and sisters and perfectly rightly so.

For what often is not told to them is the "small print" of this decision, so to speak:

If I accept this offering of the Lord for my sins and for my salvation, I profess at the same time and "automatically" the following facts:

1. I am a sinner and unworthy of even uttering the name of God.

2. I am not capable myself of offering God an adequate atonement for my sins.

3. Therefore I have been living separated from God up to today, that is to say I am godless and a Gentile. (This hits especially those people very hard who have done good works since their childhood or who have been active as Christians by name in a religious community for many years.)

4. With this decision of mine I confirm that I am lost and that I must be saved.

5. I acknowledge that there is only one salvation for me, and this salvation is called Jesus Christ.

6. I know that this sacrifice, this victory of Jesus Christ, who is now my Lord, is meant for all my sins, and will give me eternal life on the day of my physical resurrection.

7. I herewith declare that I am ready and willing to accept this salvation and to take it into account as part of my life in all decisions in the future.

The eternal existence of every human being.

The eternal existence of every human being.

Every individual human being who leaves the amniotic sac of his or her mother alive in being physically born – who is "born of water" (amniotic fluid), that is to say (Jn 3:5) – receives a human spirit (1Cor 2:11) from God (Jn 4:24) with eternal existence (Mt 25:46). In the first, temporal and earthly part of their existence – in their life, human beings have the possibility of deciding, in complete freedom, without any compulsion and with the help of the spirit given them by God (Gen 2:7; 6:3), whether or not they will give this God, the creator of all life, their complete trust and entire love.

After death, the human body returns to the dust from which it was made (Gen 2:7), but their spirit goes to the Kingdom of the Dead (Dan 12:2; 1Pet 3:18-19; 1Cor 15:23-24), where they pass the time until their resurrection in a state resembling sleep (1Thess 4:15-16).

In the Resurrection (Rom 6:4-5), the "rebirth from the spirit" (Mt 19:28; 1Pet 3:18; Jn 3:7), human beings are again given a body (Mt 22:30; Jn 3:8; Rom 8:10-11), similar to that of the Son of God after his resurrection (Jn 20:26-27).

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

1Cor 15,42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 15,43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 15,44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 15,45 So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, became a living soul." (Gen 2,7) The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 15,46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 15,46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 15,47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 15,48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 15,49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. 1Cor 15,42-49;

With this body the human being will then stand at the Last Judgment before the Son of God, who has been given the task by God (Jn 5:22, 26-27) of judging every human being on the basis of their earthly deeds and their decision for or against God while still alive (Rom 2:16).

Anyone who has decided for God and faith in his Son Jesus Christ in the course of his or her life (Jn 17:3) has the possibility of invoking before this court the expiatory death of the Son of God as a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of all humanity, and so atoning for his or her own sins and derelictions against the law of God (Jn 3:16), and so will meet with the mercy of God (Jn 5:24). Those people who have not accepted this faith cannot have their sins forgiven them, and so they will be condemned (Jn 3:36).

After the Last Judgment these condemned persons will spend their eternal existence in the darkness (Mt 22:13) of the damnation of the eternal fire (Mt 18:8), with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 13:49-50) over the fact that they refused to come to faith while they were alive and have now come to realize that they can never again make up for it, and so cannot ever expect any further change in their condition.

Those who have been forgiven, on the other hand, will spend their eternal life (Mt 25:46) in the New Creation in the light of God on a new earth (Rev 20:11) and under a new sky created by God (Rev 21:1-3,5).

The Son of God said:

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." Jn 14,15-17;

Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." Jn 11,25-26;

In the light of this, the well known evangelist and preacher Wilhelm Busch said to his hearers, "You don’t need to accept the message I am giving you. You can choose not to convert to Jesus. But just be aware that this means you are choosing hell! You have complete freedom – it’s your choice!"
(People who are unable to believe)

(See also Discourse 22: "Is there such a thing as the immortality of the soul?")

For all those who would like to have it short and modern:
The spirit of man is the "software" – the operating system – which works the "hardware" – the body. At runtime end of the hardware, the software is stored in the cloud. At the end of the world, the software will receive a new hardware with unlimited running time.

The consequences of a conversion.

And here the whole matter looks somewhat more realistic then.

We realize: It is not "that easy". These are consequences, which have an effect on the life of every human being. In the feeling of one’s own value, in one’s pride, in one’s guilt, in one’s heart, in one’s soul, in one’s mind and in one’s thinking, in one’s dealings with other people, old friends, new friends, in one’s own attitudes toward honesty, righteousness, lie, fraud.

But also my behavior toward God: I cannot hide anything from him. He knows how many hairs each one of us has on his head (Mt 10:30). And that at every second of our lives. How should I then be able to hide anything from him? He knows all my thoughts. Even those which I have not thought yet, but which I will think.

I cannot enter into a discussion with such a God. I cannot argue against him. He knows me better than I know me myself. He puts forward ten arguments against each argument I put forward, and I cannot contradict his arguments because they are absolutely true and correct.

Finally I have to admit that I am at my wit’s end. I see that there is no possibility to justify myself. I have tried everything, but all that I did proved to be in vain.

And then I realize: I do not need all these things in reality. I cannot justify myself – but I need not do it either. God does not want me to justify myself, but he wants me to confess my guilt and to accept his forgiveness. And with that my guilt is wiped out and God does not think of it any more.

And with that a beginning has been started for the time being. A beginning of a new, converted life with God. And this life differs fundamentally from the life of the Christians by name.

Recently I have had a conversation with such a "Christian". He told me that he did not believe in God, but that he nevertheless went to church every Sunday, because he was fond of singing. I suggested to him that he had better join a glee club, but he did not seriously consider my proposal.

But even more serious Christians by names are not aware of the fact that their relationship to God is not really what you would call a relationship. Their prayers are approximately as rich in content and as personal as an information sign on the highway. These people are only mechanically repeating what they hear and rattling off what they have learned by heart. So, strictly speaking, what they are doing does not deserve at all the designation "prayer".

And this is something we should be happy about, in fact. For if we proceed from the assumption that "praying" means speaking to God, this monotonous recitation that some people perform, this reeling off of texts which have been learned by heart, during which the thoughts already center around lunch and the eyes are glued on the new coat of the neighbor, so, this kind of "speaking" to God alone would be an incessant sin in itself.

The "newborn" child speaks to its father.

As converted people we are children of God. And just in the same way as children speak to their father, we should speak to our God. No reciting of poems. No rhetorical cramp exercises. This would be an insult to God and for us it would be completely useless. And we should not choose the public for holding this conversation either. Those who pray in public, often are aiming at a completely different purpose. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. So, let us go "into our inner room" for praying and let us shut the door. There God can hear us much better than in a church, however beautiful it may be.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Jn 4,23 "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 4,24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." Jn 4,23-24;

When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret.

Mt 6,5 "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
6,6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 6,7 "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 6,8 "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him". Mt 6, 5- 8;

Gottfried Daniel Pomacher, a revival preacher from Wuppertal, took the same view when he stated:

"Christianity does not consist in words, but in the power of the Holy Spirit in the faithful. The pillars of the temple are not those whose public utterances of ‘Lord, Lord’ attract the admiration of those who hear them, but rather those who address their prayers to the Lord at home, in their inner room and without anyone listening. These are the true pillars of the congregation."

In addition to that: such public "recitals of prayers" often are not honest. People pay more attention to the form than to the content. On the other hand, this does not mean that we should not pay attention to the form when we are speaking to God. But the form we use without any artificiality also in the conversation with our loved ones is completely sufficient.

Much more important is, however, the content of our prayers. We should have a talk to our heavenly Father every day. In these talks we should express our requests, but also our gratitude through our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as there are on the one hand fundamental necessities for us and our loved ones in our lives, and just as on the other hand changing requirements occur every day, also our prayer will be a reflection of these needs, but also of the gratitude for the success that has been achieved.

Apart from this daily "basic talk" to God, we should not shrink from approaching our Lord in love before or at important activities, events or decisions, as we would do it also with our earthly father, when we need his help.

So, the point in our prayers is not to perform literary and rhetorical supreme achievements, but to express the worries and troubles, but also the joys of our hearts, be it now spoken, thought, wept, jubilated or praised. And if in certain situations we utter only a stammer, the Lord promises us that the Holy Spirit will help us, and will bring our thoughts before God for us.

Finally we should not forget:

The shortest distance between a problem and its solution is the distance between our knees and the floor. The one who kneels to the Lord can stand up to anything.

Golgotha – the central event of the First Creation.

Commencement of the First Creation
Man has eternal life and is in the presence of God (In the Garden of Eden)
Because of the belief in the son of God Satan man lost eternal life (fall of man)
As a result of the insubordination of the son of God Satan man is expelled by God (expulsion from Eden)
Life of man lasts only about a thousand years (time between expulsion and the Flood)
In the Judgment of God the righteous are saved, the godless exterminated (the Flood)
Satan seduces the haughty: They want to be like God (building of the Tower of Babel)
The Lord confuses the languages of all nations and scatters them (confusion of tongues)
Men fall away from their faith – he who falls away is lost

The son of God Satan is defeated by the Son of God Jesus

Men get to faith – he who believes is saved
Through the Holy Spirit the language of the saints becomes again understandable for all (wonder of Pentecost)
Satan seduces the haughty: They want to be like God (Babylon the great)
In the Judgment of God the righteous are saved, the godless exterminated (Great Tribulation)
Man’s life lasts again about a thousand years (Millennium)
Due to the belief in the Son of God Jesus man acquired eternal life (regeneration)
Owing to the submissiveness of the Son of God Jesus man is accepted by God (Last Judgment)
Man has again eternal life and is in the presence of God (Heavenly Jerusalem)
End of the First Creation – Beginning of the Second Creation

As the above list shows, the historical development of our world, from the very beginning of its creation up to the incarnation of the Son of God, displays its inversely proportional parallelism from this very event up to the end of this First Creation.

However, this comparability is by no means astonishing, but rather a logical consequence of the process. In a similar way, as one passes again the same points when descending a mountain, which one has already passed when ascending it, the way of mankind to their God runs in the opposite direction to the way on which mankind has withdrawn from this God.