Life is a “fatal disease.” If God really loved us, then why does every living being on this planet have to die? Isn’t that a strange way of showing his affection?
Before answering this question, it’s important to remember that God’s creation was initially immortal. Death wasn’t part of the original design—which is why all animals were herbivores and humans were vegetarian (1)—but only entered the scene after humanity rebelled. (2)
Regardless of when it started, death still dominates our present existence on earth, bringing nothing but pain and sorrow in its wake. So why would God allow it?
What I’m going to say may sound strange, but please let me explain before you run off to another website! Death is really an expression of God’s mercy. If we didn’t die, there would be no way out of this planet and no possibility of escape or salvation. We would be doomed to spend eternity in a world full of suffering and evil, with no end in sight and no hope for change. I, for one, wouldn’t want to live forever on this earth filled with wickedness and pain.
This is why God acted so quickly to block the way to the tree of life, ensuring that mankind wouldn’t become immortal. (3) He knew that death was our only hope for life, as strange as that may sound.
So our mortality doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us, even though it may sometimes appear that way. The Lord’s actions throughout human history, both in the Old Testament and in the incarnation of Christ, show us that he had a rescue plan from the very beginning, of which death was a part.
The presence of death allowed for God’s strategy to bring us salvation thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. His blood made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and experience once again—in eternity—our original state of communion with our Creator. (4) Immortality on earth would have made that impossible.
When my father passed away several years ago, I sat by his coffin, and the words “Death, where is your sting?” came to mind. (5) As never before, I understood that death has no power over us because it doesn’t keep us from fulfilling our purpose for being: enjoying fellowship with God. On the contrary, it ushers us into his presence.
My peace in the face of death is not based on anything I’ve done. It’s certainly not because I’m good enough to deserve salvation. God knew we could never be sinless, but he had a solution (whew!). That’s why Jesus died in our place to take away our sin and give us his righteousness in return, enabling us to meet God’s standard of perfection. Only Christ removes the barrier of our sin. (6)
Because God has given us the freedom of choice, this salvation doesn’t come automatically. If we want to receive it, all we have to do—and it’s all we can do, really—is recognize the problem (we’re sinners) and believe in the solution (Jesus saves us). (7)
I don’t mean to minimize the pain we feel when a loved one passes away. Mourning is natural and necessary, and even Jesus felt the grief of loss. Dearth hurts! But when we understand its purpose, we don’t need to fall into despair, and we can experience peace and hope despite our sorrow.
Death is not the end. It’s the door that allows us to stand face to face with God.
(1) Genesis 1:29-30
(2) Genesis 2:16-17
(3) Genesis 3:22-24
(4) 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
(5) 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
(6) 2 Corinthians 5:21
(7) Acts 16:29-31