Lesson One – The Blessing of Physical Death

The Blessing of Physical Death

Lesson Aim:  To show the sentence of physical death changed from a curse to a blessing after Adam and Eve sinned and where dead people abide until Jesus comes.


The Bible clearly describes death and things beyond for Christians.  We, above all people, are capable of understanding our own death; even so, many prefer to ignore a discussion of the separation of our spirits from our bodies.  Even though the statistics are very clear that one out of one dies, we still have some trouble looking our own death directly “in the eye.”  Christians sing a lot about going to heaven but we also pray a lot about staying alive.  We want to go to heaven, but not yet.  The irony of this inconsistency shows how much we need our faith strengthened in regard to our own death.  Since faith comes by hearing God’s word, we can become more positive about our death after a deeper Bible study on this subject.  Paul had a faith that let him express the following feelings about his death.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.  Phil. 1:21-24

In this lesson and the remainder of Part VI, we will study the Biblical concept of death and the things that follow.  We pray this study will comfort those in the immediate state of dying and at the same time help all Christians “be imitators” of Paul in the area of faith about death (I Cor. 11:1).


The Greek word nekros has been translated dead in the New Testament.  It simply means one who has breathed his last.  We really cannot improve upon James’ explanation of death when he said, “The body without the spirit is dead.”  James 2:26.  Death was translated from the Greek word thanatos.  It means the separation of a person’s soul from his or her body at which time life on earth has come to its end for this person.  Nekros and thanatos are used in both the spiritual and physical sense.  Those who have let sin separate themselves from God have undergone spiritual death, thanatos; therefore, they are dead, nekros, spiritually.  Neither word suggests the end.

A study of biology reveals how the human body is made up of 63% hydrogen, 25.5% oxygen, 9.5% carbon and the remaining 2% consists of seven other chemicals of which 1.4% is nitrogen.  It is not difficult to understand the following scriptures after we learn the earth’s crust and seawater contain, in abundance, most of the atoms found in the “make up” of our bodies.

The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  Gen. 2:7

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.  Eccl. 12:7

If, as the atheists believe, there is no spirit to return to God, then they would interpret death as the end.  Of course, they may believe the atoms in their bodies will continue to be a part of the universe.  Perhaps, the atheistic view has pervaded the eschatological view of many religious people.  Where this is the case, they will not share Paul’s enthusiastic view of death.  People with weak, or no faith, will interpret their death as their end; however, the Bible does not promote this doctrine.

The following are a few examples of Biblical terminology used to describe a proper view of death.  God said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers.”  Deut. 31:16.  God told Abraham, As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.”  Gen. 15:15.  Later it is recorded; “Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life, and he was gathered to his people.”  Gen. 25:8.  When Job lost his health he asked, “If a man dies, will he live again?” and then he said, “All the days of my struggle I will wait, until my change comes.”  Job 14:14.  Later he said, “For when a few years are past, I shall go the way of no return.”  Job 16:22.  Peter said, “Knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent.”  II Pet. 1:14.  Paul spoke of death as nothing more than a departure to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23).

Although, the Bible does not present death as the end, or an experience to be feared, many Christians do not think death is a happy subject.  Surely, we need to look upon our death as a blessed event when the time comes.  It could be a joyous occasion for our loved ones who are left; If it could be said of the deceased, as it was of Abraham, they were of a ripe old age and satisfied with their life.  Still, we will never be able to be happy about our own death until we develop a positive view of things beyond.

In order to believe “to die is gain” we must understand the answer to at least four questions.  First, why should God allow us to die?  Second, exactly what happens in physical death?  Third, where does our self go immediately after death, and finally what happens after all this?  We will study the fourth point in future lessons, now let us consider the first three questions in order.  Why did God allow mankind to die?  There is a valid reason and it is stated clearly in the following scripture.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.  Gen. 3:22, 23

Many people believe physical death is a curse.  This is because of their own negative eschatological view.  If we have a negative view of death then the statement God made, “For in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” will be a curse (Gen. 2:17).  However, if we look at the same statement with Paul’s declaration about sin and death in mind, it is only a statement of fact.  He said,  “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”  Rom. 5:12.  The curse God placed upon mankind after Adam and Eve sinned is found in their physical tribulation of securing food and child bearing.  Physical death was not a curse.  It became necessary only after mankind became sinners with the knowledge of good and evil in the physical body.  Please read Genesis 3:13-21.

In one respect, Adam and Eve became like God after they disobeyed Him.  They had the ability to discern good and evil, but they were sinners.  They would always be sinners because they could not choose good in every situation.  Now this question:  Would it have been a blessing for God to let Adam and Eve live forever with this new knowledge as a part of their mental faculties?  Today, they would be thousands of years old, and probably still arguing about which one was responsible for their removal from the Garden of Eden.  But, the practical question is: “Should we be allowed to live forever in a physical body with this knowledge?”  Adam was the first of the human race, and through him came all of the rest of us (Acts 17:26).  Apparently, God never had any intention of redesigning mankind, even after we received this capability which we cannot properly handle in our present form.  What happened to Adam happened to all of us according to the following scripture.

So also it is written, ‘The first man Adam, became a living soul.’  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.  The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.  As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.  And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.  I Cor. 15:45-49

Since Adam and Eve got the knowledge of good and evil, all people are destined to have it, and because we got it, we must die.  We simply cannot make the appropriate use of the knowledge of good and evil while in this physical body – like Jesus was able to do.  Neither can we live a happy life separated from God.  The fact is; when we miss the mark by choosing evil, which is sin, God separates Himself from us.  This is spiritual death.  “The sting of death is sin.”  I Cor. 15:56.  The Bible is a story about God’s patient struggles with mankind after we became possessors of the knowledge of good and evil.  It is also a story of how Jesus came to offer a happy ending to the story of our struggles “in Adam” with the knowledge of good and evil.  The first part of His answer is our physical death.  Armed with the hypothesis that physical death is a blessing and not a curse let us contemplate why God lets us live even seventy years as Moses suggested in the following Psalm.

As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.  Psa. 90:10

Job appeared to be looking for an answer to our question when he made the following statement.

Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.  Like a flower he comes forth and withers.  He also flees like a shadow and does not remain.  Thou also dost open Thine eyes on him, and bring him into judgment with Thyself.  Job 14:1-3

A part of God’s plan is that we should be fruitful and multiply and rear our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Gen. 1:20; Eph. 6:4).  God created all people to be His children.  We should be very careful how we rear God’s children for Him (Ezek. 16:20, 21).  God did not create children for His kingdom.  He created living souls and arranged things so we can develop into what He wants.  Even though mankind cannot properly use the capacity of knowing about good and evil God did not cancel His sonship program.  He did add grace to maintain fellowship with people who have faith in Him and His program.

We gained the ability of becoming aware of good and evil; however, the capability did not make us aware of what is good and what is evil according to the law of life.  This awareness is learned.  “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good and evil.” Heb. 5:14.  This learning involves discipline by tribulations in our daily living (Heb. 12:4-14).  It is the life of a Christian who wants to develop as a son or daughter of God while still “in Adam, in Christ.”  We “hate what is evil and cling to what is good.”  Rom. 12:9.   Our daily goal: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Rom. 12:21.  We strive “to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”  Rom. 16:19.  Evidently, on the average, we need about seventy years to accomplish what the Lord desires for us while on earth.  We are given time to mature as sons of God, rear children for God, function as the body of Christ to evangelize and help mature these new babes “in Christ.”

The second question for which we need a Biblical answer, if we will appreciate physical death is;  “Exactly, what happens when we die?”  Fortunately, God created us in such a way that He can take us apart without destroying our character and personality, which is our self – our spirit.  God knew mankind would get into trouble before He created us.  The New Testament writers tell of the foreknowledge of God about Jesus’ work for our new birth and our adoption (I Pet. 1:2, 20; Eph. 1:4).

Since God knew we, like Adam, would need to die, He made us in two distinct parts (I Cor. 15:22; Matt. 10:28).  In I Thessalonians 5:23, Paul mentions three parts, the spirit, soul and body, but they can be understood as really only two, when we consider each of us became a living soul when our spirit and our body were combined in physical life (Gen. 2:7).  It takes a spirit and a body to make a living soul.  This is true in both the physical and spiritual sense.  For as Paul said: “We do not want to be unclothed.”  II Cor. 5:4.  These two parts are separated in physical death (Eccl. 12:7).  In the next lesson, we will see how our spirit will eventually be housed in a spiritual body; therefore, in this way these two will form a living soul once again.  This may be the way Paul was thinking while writing to the Thessalonians.

Although, we need to see ourselves as two distinct parts, we understand at this time there is an interaction between our spirit and body so that they form one.  They form our present being.  Perhaps, in our present state, only the word of God can make a division between the soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12).  If we are not able to properly make application of the word of God about this separation, we don’t need to worry about it because death will make the proper division, according to the following:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  II Cor. 4:16

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  II Cor. 5:1

As Christians we decided in our repentance to present ourselves to God and the members of our bodies as instruments for righteousness (Rom. 6:13).  We were able to make this transformation in our lives because we renewed our minds with the gospel.  If we have been true to our repentance, our physical death will be as simple as a carpenter laying down his tools and going home to rest after a day of work.  Our earthly house is the tool God has given us with which to serve Him while on earth.  When our “outer-man” decays to the point our spirits must leave it, then God will have finished developing the “building of God,” He desires.  Paul has summed up the Christian view of death in the following scripture:

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.’  I Cor. 15:54

Paul had already said, “You fool!  That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”  I Cor. 15:36.  What happens in our physical death is a simple separation of our self from a body that is no longer functional.  In the resurrection we will receive a body that will not malfunction.  Why should we look upon death as a curse when it is the only way God can give us “that which is our own?”  Luke 16:12.

The final question we will consider in this lesson is equally important in relation to a Christian’s view of our own death.  It is, “Where will we go immediately after we die?”  The new church members in Thessalonica were concerned about some of their members who had died.  They were told they should not grieve about those who had fallen asleep in Jesus, because they will remain in this state only until Jesus comes again.  Paul said, “the dead in Christ shall rise first.”  I Thess. 4:13-18.

When Jesus opened the fifth seal in John’s Revelation we learn about some activity among “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God.”  They were told they should rest a little while longer, “until the number of their fellow servants and brethren who were to be killed, even as they had been, should be completed also.”  Rev. 6:9-11.  The case of these dead saints may have been unusual, whereas the following may depict the normal condition of dead Christians.

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write:  ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”  Rev. 14:13

In order to glean a picture of both the saved and unsaved we need a view of the complete Hadean world.  Jesus gave us a very good look as He told us the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Please read Luke 16:19-31.  This certainly is not a parable as it is sometimes classified in religious literature.  It is a factual account of what happened to two people.  In this eschatological story Abraham’s bosom is the place where Lazarus is at rest.  Since Jesus spent a part of three days in Hades after His death on the cross, we know there is a good portion of Hades (Acts 2:27).  Lazarus may have been in the good area where Jesus resided.

We can understand why Lazarus and others, who were faithful to God, reside in Abraham’s bosom.  After all, God promised Abraham he would be “the father of all who believe.”  Rom. 4:11.  When Christians put on Christ in baptism, we become Abraham’s offspring (Gal. 3:27-29).  We should feel comfortable in his bosom until “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.”  I Thess. 4:16.  The Hebrew writer declared, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”  Heb. 4:9, 10.

There was another place in Hades set apart by a great chasm from the place where Lazarus was being comforted.  The rich man woke up in that place.  He was in immediate torment and he was aware of his errors.  He was also aware of his five brothers who were still in a position to make a choice about where they would go after they died.  We are not told he was aware of what was happening with the living at that time, but he did remember what he knew when he died.  He did have a perception of something beyond his place and his memory.  He knew where Lazarus could be found.

From the foregoing story and other scriptures, we can conclude people who are in proper fellowship with God when they die will go to a place where they will find rest.  They may or may not be in a state of awareness, that is, they may be asleep.  In Jesus’ story, Lazarus neither said nor did anything; however, for the lost it was quite another story.  They were conscious of being tormented and they were conscious of the state of affairs they left behind on earth.  The latter could be a source of torment for many people.

Armed with an answer for these three questions about our death and Hades from the Bible, we understand why faithful Christians do not view our death as a curse; contrariwise, it will indeed be a blessing.  We know God had to set a time limit on our life after we got the knowledge of good and evil.  We understand nothing is lost from our inner man, our self, in physical death.  It is just a matter of laying down our tools after our work is finished in this world.  We may get a rest before our resurrection, unless of course, Jesus comes before we die.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was the Apostle Paul’s view of his physical death?
  2. What is James’ explanation of death?
  3. Why is it easy to understand how our bodies will return to the dust of the earth?
  4. How will people who have weak, or no faith, possibly interpret their death?
  5. List four Biblical terms used to describe physical death, terms that do not suggest the end.
  6. Why should God allow us to die?
  7. Did God re-design Adam’s offspring after he sinned?
  8. Do you believe death was a blessing or a curse after Adam and Eve got the knowledge of good and evil?
  9. Summarize the degradation of the human race after Adam sinned.
  10. What were the curses God brought upon the human race?
  11. Why does God let people live approximately seventy years?
  12. What exactly happens in the process of physical death?
  13. What does the combination of our spirit and our body produce?
  14. For those who are true to their original repentance, how is death a victory?
  15. Where will people go immediately after death?
  16. Describe the Hadean world.
  17. Describe the conscious awareness of both the saved and lost people in death.
  18. Why should Christians feel comfortable in Abraham’s bosom?
  19. What will determine our attitude about our own death?
  20. What can prevent physical death?

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