Understanding The "Dead"
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Ephesians 2:1-2
With no plane or pieces of plane, Malaysian authorities declared that jetliner MH370 with 239 lives on board crashed at sea. Based on the few pieces of technical information available, primarily from a satellite, experts made a best-guess estimate that the plane crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors. The result thus far of the massive but unsuccessful search leads to speculation the plane and its passengers may never be located. This news crushed what little hope families and friends held for their loved ones to be found alive, or even dead. There was great wailing and devastation of hearts. Death is an irreversible separator in the here and now, and normally great, great sorrow accompanies it. Lives, families, businesses will most likely be permanently rearranged and redirected because of these deaths. A good friend of mine died this week; many readers of SFTD have had friends or family die recently. Death is a fact of our lives. We cannot escape it; but we can overcome it.
It is a truth the Bible never ignores. Death and instruction about it is abundant throughout the Bible. But unlike many other books, the Bible speaks of two kinds of death, and it describes the “dead” in two emphatic states. The observation of one ought to teach you a lot about the other. Unfortunately, we ignore or belittle what one state of being dead teaches us about the other state of being dead; and the loss is yours if this is what you do. The two states of being dead according to the Bible are physical and spiritual.
Have you ever seen a dead person, one who is physically dead? They do not move, cannot speak or see, the breath of life has left them, their color changes, and their blood no longer carries oxygen and life’s nutrients to all parts of the body. Consequently, the flesh deteriorates as Martha, when embalming was not utilized, said to Jesus concerning her brother Lazarus who had died, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” The same word, “dead,” is used in the Bible to also refer to those who are spiritually dead. Because these can move, speak, breathe, and blood courses through their veins, and their physical flesh does not deteriorate as a physically dead person, the description of being spiritually dead does not alarm as it should, nor does the state of being spiritually dead raise appropriate concern and action. The Bible equates the two, and you need to as well.
The Bible describes the spiritually dead in a graphic fashion: their future apart from regeneration is more than grim, its unspeakable; their understanding is dulled (you have the sense when spiritual truths are the subject that you are talking to a wall); their senses are calloused and becoming more so; their pride is not only not broken, but stiffened; their spiritual flesh is deteriorating, adversely affecting the lives of those who look to them for leadership, responsibility, or example; they cannot grasp the truly important things of this life, and certainly not the next (which for them does not exist or does not matter enough to do the right thing about it); and they cannot lift a finger to help themselves, because they are dead. This is the exact point of Ephesians 2:1-10, spiritually dead people are just that, dead. They have no capacity in themselves to bring life where death reigns. Salvation is of the Lord! “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
So what do we do to “bring” life to those in whom death reigns? You love as Christ loved you (Matthew 22:39), you persevere in witnessing, teaching, and communicating the good news to them (Romans 10:14-15), you always pray for them and never give up (Luke 18:1), and you acknowledge the Holy Spirit of God must introduce life in them and implore Him to do so. If you think it is all up to you, and your efforts are not producing the result for which you yearn, you will grow weary and give up at some point. But with God, all things are possible. Pray earnestly, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” And may your will, Father, be to bring spiritual life to this one for whom I pray.
Death in each state is horrible; but the Bible tells us “not to fear those who can kill the body, but fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Matthew 10:26) Spiritual death is infinitely more important than physical. You can understand this better, and deal with it more appropriately, when you learn from physical death what spiritual death is really like, except it resides in a still physically breathing person. If you claim Christ as your Lord, then He has called you to be an instrument of His peace to someone or someones who are presently dead in their trespasses and sins. He has commissioned each of us to to be about this task until He comes or you go to meet Him.
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