Current Issue

A shiver ran down the young woman’s body, and the cold fingers of darkness pulled her in. As her husband’s arms held her close, she reflected “I’m scared! When will it happen?”

Her young husband gently lifted her chin and looked into her eyes, “It’s no use going over it again. He said there would be a way to escape. We’re going to be OK. Let’s try to get some sleep.” And that’s how the first couple on earth may have begun their journey of grief that first night after sin had invaded.

Still, they knew that the mysterious phantom called death—whatever that meant—loomed on the horizon of their future.

While we can speculate about what they might have said to each other that first night, one thing we do know is that Adam and Eve understood that their disobedience in eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil would result in death (Genesis 3:2, 3; Romans 6:23). They knew a Redeemer had been promised, but they didn’t know exactly when He would arrive. Perhaps they thought their very first child, Cain, would be that Redeemer. Maybe they raised him with that expectation. We don’t know. Yet we do know that Cain became the world’s first ambassador of death when he later killed his own brother in broad daylight.

By this time, Adam and Eve had already gotten a glimpse of death—little samples here and there, even before their younger son was murdered. Every time a vibrant leaf faded, crunched brown under their feet, and then blew away in the dust, death hovered nearby. Or when a graceful gazelle became fast food for a lion, they must have sensed the cruelty of sin and its partner, death. I’m sure they were shocked and felt revolted by all those scenes—and I doubt they ever got used to it their whole lives. And even today, no one ever expects one of their children to kill a sibling, and we all look forward to our own death with a sense of foreboding.

As Adam and Eve held Abel’s lifeless body, they knew that God’s breath of life in their youngest son had returned to the Creator. They knew that it took a body plus the breath of God to make a living being (Genesis 2:7). They knew that they would not see Abel again until the promised Redeemer crushed the enemy death for the last time at the resurrection.

Yet this first murder was as tragic then as it would be today. Adam and Eve were able to put one foot in front of the other each day because of the promise that One would come who would defeat death—the enemy they now knew all too well. God had promised when He cursed the serpent, the author of death, that the seed of the woman—the Redeemer Himself—would crush the serpent’s head and finally eliminate the power of death (Genesis 3:15).

Through His death, Jesus, the Innocent One, would restore all those humans to communion with God who trusted in His sacrifice and His righteousness. This second Adam would take back the keys that the first Adam had handed over to Satan. The planet’s first couple just had no idea how long that journey would be!

Fast-forward across the sea of time. People could either choose to believe what God had said—that if they sinned, they would die—or they could choose to believe what the serpent said—that they would not surely die. Some, like King Saul, even tried to speak to the departed ones, only to discover that the devil was impersonating the prophet Samuel. He ignored the fact that God had specifically commanded the Israelites not to seek the advice of mediums and spiritualists. He said “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:21; see also 20:6, 27).

By the time the promised Messiah arrived on earth, there was much confusion. The lying serpent had muddied the waters of death and tried to steal people’s hope. The devil succeeded in convincing some people that there is nothing after death, which is the reverse of the lie that the soul is immortal. One group in Jesus’ day who believed this was called the Sadducees. They rejected the idea of a future resurrection. And Satan still tries to convince people of this. Even today, there are those who claim that this life is all there is.

Others, like the Pharisees, believed in life after death, but they believed the only way to a better future with God in eternity was to earn your way to heaven by following an ever-growing list of man-made rules. They invented more than 600 rules for how to keep the Sabbath. But Jesus came to break this legalism. He came to give people hope. That’s why He was called the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He came as the Light of the world to shine light on the mystery of death, break the power of sin and offer the hope of a resurrection and life beyond this dismal planet.

One of the ways Jesus brought light was by healing people from the effects of sin. He did more healing than preaching. It’s as if people needed to see demonstrated in real life what He was talking about. He tried to tell people that death is more like a deep sleep, where people are resting in an unconscious state (John 11:11–14).

Jesus performed several resurrections right in front of the onlookers. The most notable one was of His friend Lazarus, who had been dead for so long that his body had already begun to decay. At Lazarus’s resurrection, Jesus made it clear that death is real, but He also demonstrated that resurrection is possible for those who serve Him. He declared, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

And that’s not all. Ultimately, Jesus defeated death by offering His own life as a ransom for sin, thus paying the death penalty for sin that He had warned Adam and Eve about. He fulfilled all the symbols of the sacrificial system and offered His own body on the cross as a ransom. By being the perfect and unblemished Sacrifice, He obtained the victory over sin where Adam had failed.

Jesus never gave in to selfish desire. He never sinned. He lived to show us how to trust in His righteousness and how to live in communion with God. He died to break the curse of sin and pay the price of Adam’s failure. Then, He rose again and demonstrated His power over death. He explained to both Sadducees and Pharisees that He would lay down His life by dying on the cross, and He would and take it up again by His resurrection (John 10:15–18).

Fast-forward again on this journey through time to that day when Jesus fulfills His promise to return and take His believing children home. The Bible tells us that “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Those who are alive at His second coming will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and the dead will be raised incorruptible as mortal finally puts on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51–53).

Jesus said, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (Revelation 22:12). He left us the hope that one day those who believe in Him will live again.

While there will be a resurrection for those who have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, there will also be another resurrection leading to God’s ultimate, very strange act, when He destroys all sin and sinners (Revelation 20:14, 15). Thus, the last enemy to be defeated will be death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Imagine the joy Adam and Eve will experience when they are raised back to life at Jesus’ second coming! And think of the happiness every parent will experience who has ever lost a child—when an angel places that child in their arms, restored to life in an immortal body! There will be no more death because Jesus paid the ransom. In God’s heaven, there won’t be any more fear of death because it will have been defeated!

It is this very hope that brings people comfort in this world. Even though accidents, foul play, wars, and epidemics have done their worst on earth, there is a light in the darkness. Because of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, we have the comforting realization that the cold fingers of death will no more be able to separate us from those we hold dearest. We have the assurance that the God who breathed the first breath of life into our first parents will restore them and us into even better bodies that will live with Him for eternity! Thus, the journey of death through time will finally become the journey of life through eternity!

Joy Wendt lives in Athens, Tennessee. She has a degree in ministry leadership and counseling, and she is an occasional contributor to Signs of the Times®.

Death: A Journey Through Time

by Joy Wendt
From the September 2021 Signs