Face the First Death with Brevity
1. It is hard to miss! All around you people are dying. Soon, it will be your turn to die. Are you ready for the first death, if it should call your name? "...All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Because of that, "...the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23 ). This universal law affects every living thing. "...[And] the living... know that they will die! But the dead know nothing; they don't even have their memories" (Ecclesiastes 9:5, TLB). On the surface, this might seem like a depressing topic, but the light of joy will soon emerge as children of "... connection with Adam... [discover the benefits of] connection with the Messiah..." (1 Corinthians 15:22, CJB | Romans 5:12).The discussion that follows will take you along this cognitive path:
- There are important distinctions in death that must be understood—¶ 2
- One companion of the first death is the first resurrection—¶ 3
- Jesus Christ is the unmitigated—complete, perfect—champion of the first resurrection—¶ 4
- In God's plan, not one of His children will be left behind—¶ 5
- Awareness of your mortality should not scare you—¶ 6
- Trust in Adonai your God and you will be safe—¶ 7
2. There are important distinctions in death that must be understood. Take for example "...the fate of fools. Though they are remembered as being wise, like sheep, they are led to the grave, where death will be their shepherd. [In contrast], in the morning, [when the first resurrection occurs], the godly will rule over them. [Speaking of fools, the Scripture says], their bodies will rot in the grave, far from their grand estates. But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave" (Psalm 49:13-15, NLT). "Isn't this reassuring, good news? Indeed the time is coming when all the dead in their graves shall hear the voice of God’s Son, and shall rise again—those who have done good,—meaning, "...sows to the Spirit" (Galatians 6:8, NKJV)—to eternal life; and those who have continued in evil—meaning, "...sows to the flesh" (Galatians 6:8, NKJV | Galatians 5:19-21)—, to judgment (John 5:28-29, TLB, NIV, AMP | 1 Timothy 5:24, CJB, NLT). "...At the last trump, ...the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible..." (1 Corinthians 15:52). Even so, God will abide by His rule—"Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40). Therefore, "each [deceased person will rise], however, in his [or her] own turn. Christ rose first; then when Christ comes back, all His people will become alive again” (1 Corinthians 15:23, TLB); and to be precise, we are speaking of the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6). Does not the Scriptures make it clear that our departed families and friends are NOT IN HEAVEN, but rather resting in the grave? What was John's reason for this clear statement—"...The hour is coming... when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25)! Beyond the shadow of any doubt, every dead person is asleep, like Lazarus, (John 11:11), awaiting God's call to "...come forth" (John 11:43). "...They will [all] rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment(John 5:29, NLT).
3. One companion of the first death is the first resurrection. "Blessed and holy are those who share in the First Resurrection. For them the Second Death holds no terrors, for they will be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6, NLT). "Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended" (Revelation 20:4-5, NLT). "O men of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing tremendous miracles through Him…. But God, following His prearranged plan, let you use the Roman government to nail Him to the cross and murder Him. Then God released Him from the horrors of death and brought Him back to life again, for death could not keep this man within its grip" (Acts 2:22-24, TLB). And when Christ was resurrected, “…graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matthew 27:52). These early resurrections, like the resurrection of Lazarus, (John 11:38-44, CJB, TLB), demonstrate God's power to "...bring [to] Him those who sleep in Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 4:14, NKJV). Therefore, we can have confidence in the Revelator's word picture of those who will arise in the first resurrection. In view of these things, let us keep hope alive, for eternal life awaits all who are in-Christ, whether they are alive or resting in the grave.
4. Jesus Christ is the unmitigated—complete, perfect—champion of the first resurrection. "…He was taken up into heaven and sat down at God’s right hand, …next to God..." (Mark 16:19, TLB | Acts 2:33, TLB | Acts 7:55, TLB). There is a reason why Jesus Christ sits next to God! John saw "...a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: 'Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?' But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it. Then I began to weep bitterly...; but one of the  elders said to me, 'Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David's throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals'..." (Revelation 5:2-8, CJB, NLT). Why is the opening of the scroll important? "...Those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His name" (Malachi 3:16, CJB, NLT | Malachi 1:6, CJB, NLT). "What we are saying is this: Christ, whose priesthood we have just described is our High Priest and is in heaven at the place of greatest honor next to God Himself. He ministers in the temple in heaven, the true place of worship built by the Lord and not by humans hands" (Hebrews 8:1-2, TLB). When, in the heavenly sanctuary, Christ’s priesthood ends, He will command the angels to "bring [His] faithful people to [Him]—those who made a covenant with [Him] by giving sacrifices” (Psalm 50:5, NLT). Then "…the angels will come and separate the wicked people from the godly" (Matthew 13:49, TLB), and that includes both the living and the dead.
5. In God's plan, not one of His children will be left behind. In view of this pre-arranged plan of God to dwell with His people (Revelation 21:3), "…we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. When Christ returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died. We who are still living, when the Lord returns, will NOT meet Him ahead of those who have died. …First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain, on the earth, will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, NLT), because a day is coming in which "...death [will be] swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, CJB, NLT). John saw that day and prophesized thus: "I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, 'Look, God's home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever" (Revelation 21:3-4, CJB, NLT). Then, the real party will begin! "...The Lord Almighty will spread a wondrous feast for everyone around the world—a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine and choice beef..." (Isaiah 25:6-9, TLB). All this will be fulfilled because "...the Messiah has been raised from the dead, never to die again. Death [neither] has no authority over Him" (Romans 6:9, CJB, NLT), nor its former captives (1 Corinthians 15:55)
6. Awareness of your mortality should not scare you. God has made plans so that you might live after the first death. If you have fears about where you might spend eternity, then explore the source and nature of your fears. For Jesus Christ, by His resurrection, secured your release from the grave, and He gave this assurance—"The path of the godly leads to life. So why fear death" (Proverbs 12:28, TLB)? "Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O My people, I will open your graves… and cause you to rise again…’" (Ezekiel 37:12-13, NLT)."…The eyes of the Lord are watching over those who fear Him, who rely upon His steady love. He will keep them from [the terrors of the second] death…"(Psalm 33:18-19 | Revelation 20:6, TLB). Therefore, you can approach the first death with brevity knowing that its just a sleep (John 11:11). Hold onto this assurance: “…I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my [transformed] body I will see God, …[when] death is swallowed up in victory…” (Job 19:25-26 | 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, NLT). There is a great banquet being prepared for graduates of the first resurrection (Isaiah 25:6-10, NLT). "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure..." (2 Peter 1:10, NKJV). The healthy and adaptive way to deal with awareness of your mortality is to "...be found in [Christ], not having [your] own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Philippians 3:9). Then you will live a life, wholly dedicated to the glory of God (John 11:25, AMP, CJB), and secure your passport to destination New Jerusalem, where "...there shall be no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination, or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life" (Revelation 21:27).
7. "Trust in Adonai your God and you will be safe..." (2 Chronicles 20:20, CJB). "...Adonai, who once delivered the people from Egypt, later destroyed those who did not trust" (Jude 1:5, CJB). "Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you will also remain in union with both the Son and the Father" (1 John 2:24, CJB). "Delight yourself... in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4, NKJV). Therefore, if you desire to be "...in the first resurrection... [and also] be priests of God and of Christ..." (Revelation 20:6, NKJV), "...we thank God for all of this, [because] it is He who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:57, TLB). An essential component of this victory will come when Adonai removes "...the cloud of gloom, the pall of death that hangs over the earth" (Isaiah 25:7, TLB). You are invited to share in this experience of—O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory" (1 Corinthians 15:55, NKJV)? If you should go to rest in the grave, in-Christ, before He returns, then approach that possibility with confidence because one day your tomb will look like this one.God's children will, "...in that day..., [proclaim]—"Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him. We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isaiah 25:9, NKJV). With so many assurances that are available to us, you can face the first death with brevity when "...this material, which can decay must be clothed with imperishability..." (1 Corinthians 15:53, CJB). Be sure that you sow to the Spirit so that "...your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called His holy people, who are His rich and glorious inheritance" (Ephesians 1:18, NLT).
Bro. Graham F. Watts, Sr.