Friday, March 14, 2008

Why did God make humans capable of a double death?

I find it fascinating to consider that we humans were created differently with regard to death than both animals and angels were. Animals, with no immortal souls, were created with only one death that awaited them – namely physical death.

Angels, although created to be immortal, could still face death if they sinned and that one death would be, although not physical, nevertheless final and eternal. God’s word tells us that God created eternal hell for the devil and his angels – that is their one and only death.

Yet when God created humans, unique among all His creatures, He created us with the option of not one, but two deaths. These two deaths that humans can die, both physical death and eternal death each have a certain respective finality, yet they are still not the same and it is mercifully possible to experience the one, but not the other.

You see, the option of two deaths, that humans have, gives us a built-in advantage that is not only advantageous to us, but also to God, who planned to use our physical death as the centrepiece of a grand demonstration of His love from the very creation of our world.

As you can see, as we come to the culmination of the season of Lent, I have the crucifixion of Christ on my mind. For God demonstrated His love for us in this way – that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8).

Had humans been like the angels, with only a single kind of death that was possible for us (the eternal kind), then for Christ to demonstrate His love for us by sparing us the punishment that we deserved and substituting Himself instead under the judgement of God, God’s Son would have to endure eternal death and be permanently separated from His Father – separating the persons of the Holy Trinity forever – hardly a practical option! But, as we humans are capable of being punished for sin with two kinds of death, Jesus could experience one of them (physical death) and His demonstration would still serve its purpose.

Because Christ’s death successfully demonstrated that God was loving and merciful enough to redeem sinners at tremendous cost, both humans and angels benefited enormously and God is glorified eternally as a direct result.

Humans benefit, because we can be forgiven our sins and be spared from eternal death (a priceless benefit!).

Angels benefit, because only in our redemption could the they observe God, their creator, showing mercy and forgiveness toward sinners without compromising His perfect justice – something they could never have seen had humans never been created, fallen into sin and been redeemed through the atoning sacrifice of God’s Son.

And, finally God benefits, so to speak, because, as the result of what the crucified and risen Christ has done, both humans and angels join together to give Him endless praise for the perfect combination of righteousness and grace that the redemption of humanity displays.

St. Paul wrote, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3.23-26).

Consider an historic bottle of brandy. It could be kept "eternally" in a museum or it could "die" by having its cork removed and its contents poured out. Yet, how foolish it would be for that bottle to resent it's "death". It was obviously designed to have its cork removed and its contents poured out. Even after its first "death", the brandy bottle would not have to have a second death (be trashed). It could live forever in someone's prized bottle collection. God seems to have designed us well to serve the purpose of His glory.

As I've said before, God created us, knowing that we would fall into sin and that, "from the foundation of the world", His Son would be offered as the Lamb whose sacrifice would make our pardon possible. This is how God's designing humans with a "double death feature" comes into its own.

Seeing physical death this way almost rehabilitates it, or at least recognizes that human physical death serves a higher purpose by showcasing the surpassing love of God.