Insights #12 September 20, 2014
Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Death and Resurrection"
For the week of September 20, 2014
This week's lesson covers two of Scripture's plainest and most fundamental teachings:
1) In his fallen state, man is mortal and subject to the first death which the Bible describes as a sleep.
2) Because of Christ's victory over sin and the grave, all men -- righteous and sinners alike -- will one day be raised in either the first or the second resurrection.
Actually, the lesson doesn't use those precise words. If you read carefully, you'll see that the lesson author and/or editor has chosen to use gender-inclusive language. Assuming the best of motives, we will not judge as to why this is the case except to note that gender-inclusive (or neuter) language is part of the new moral code for the 21st century.
The Bible does not use gender inclusive language. Have you ever wondered why? If using gender-neutral language is new light, then we should embrace it. But new truth never negates old truth, nor does new light reverse old light. To the contrary, new light makes previously understood truths more plain.
If you're wondering what this discussion about gender-neutral language has to do with the state of the dead, please continue reading.
In the beginning there was a bus. The driver's name was Adam and seated on the bus were all Adam's children. One day, Adam drove dangerously close to the edge of a cliff. He had been warned not to venture near this place, but his wife Eve encouraged him that down in the canyon were rich treasures not to be found above. She had already hiked down there herself and she highly recommended the detour. Steeling himself against his better judgment, Adam floored the gas pedal. The bus plummeted thousands of feet to the canyon floor. Everyone on the bus was killed, including Eve, and wreckage was strewn everywhere.
Now Adam's Creator was standing by to witness this tragic event. No one could put the bus back together again, and for sure there was no hope for Adam or any of the passengers. Then a long-laid plan, echoing back through the years of eternity was unveiled. Adam's Creator would leave the comforts of His heavenly home and attempt a dangerous rescue mission. To the bottom of the canyon He would go on a perilous mission to save mankind at any cost to himself.
It's worth noting here that the Hebrew word for Adam means mankind, which includes both men and women. Further, we are told that if Eve only had sinned, the human race would not have been lost.
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned," (Rom. 5:12) we are all affected by Adam's choice.
We may not like it or appreciate the representative role given to Adam by God. We may not think it fair that Adam could make a mistake that would have such far-reaching consequences as to affect you and I six thousand years later, but in His infinite wisdom, God permitted the poor choice of one man, Adam, to inflict terrible consequences on those of us who would follow after. We suffer and die not only because we have sinned. We die because Adam sinned. That is why babies who have never sinned can still die. They are reaping the results of Adam's choice.
When God created us, He wasn't in gender-inclusive mode. The man "Adam" represented us all. If that was the end of the story, there would be no hope for any of us.
But there is hope, praise God!
"Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life." (Rom. 5:18)
In Philippians chapter 2 Paul describes the precipitous journey Jesus took from heaven to save us. No one else could embark on this journey. He who had breathed into Adam the breath of life [lives], would take man back into Himself. He would identify so closely with man in his fallen state that He would suffer even as we do, He would be tempted even as we are. He would traverse the path that Adam took, not remaining at the pristine garden overlook. Forsaking all but love He would reach us in the very depths of our helplessness. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Cor. 5:21
From that lowest point of the earth, when "your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed," (Ps. 139:16) Christ came to our aid.
"Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." Heb. 2:9
And from this representative, non-gender inclusive biblical language we learn the truth of the state of the dead as it is in Christ:
"For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." 1 Cor. 15:21, 22
Please notice that since "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself," (2 Cor. 5:19), and since the Lord through the unspeakable gift of Christ has "commanded the blessing -- Life forevermore." (Ps. 133:3), there is no reason that any be lost.
It is true that we still experience the first death -- a sleep -- as a consequence of Adam's sin. We also experience pain, sickness, suffering, heartache, temptation, and loss not only because of Adam, but because of our participation in that choice to sin and in the choice of others to do the same.
The world needs to hear the Good News that in Christ, the (eternal) death sentence pronounced upon us fell upon our Saviour Jesus Christ. Through His life Jesus the second Adam bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. Even as we were "in Adam" at creation, we were "in Christ" at the cross. Jesus died the death that we deserve, and we died "in him."
"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." 2 Cor. 5:14, 15
We may not appreciate old-fashioned, gender-representative language such as we find in the Bible, but we should think before we edit, for this language contains the truth about the state of the dead and the living in Christ:
"And this is the testimony; that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. " 1 Jn. 5:11
The fact that we are alive today, even in this probationary time, gives unmistakable evidence that Christ has redeemed us. Wicked and righteous alike, all live in Him and because of Him.
The final judgment will reveal an awful reality: Many of Adam's children have despised this gift of Life in Christ; they may have taken His name, but they didn't want to partake of His food or wear His robe. They have chosen to live apart from Him in this life, and at that time will be revealed the mysterious truth: "He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death." Prov. 8:36
With unspeakable grief, Christ will give them over to their choice. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 Jn. 5:11, 12