Death, the Curse and Fear (but not necessarily in that order!)

by Lester Young
From the jtGn archives…

Okay, I admit that title isn’t likely to make anybody’s Top Ten List of favorite dinner conversations. But the kid gloves are off today, which means that some old, standard “religious” ideas are probably gonna get punched dead in the throat.

Now, in order to build what we need to build, we’re going to have to break some things down into their base formats. In other words, we need to drill down to their primary (most literal) definitions. For instance, are you aware that if you’re born again, you’ve been freed from death? (Hebrews 2:14-15) Alright, how about this one: Did you know death has been totally abolished? (2 Timothy 2:10) Well, people – born-again Christians included – continue to die every day! Yes, that’s true. Or… is it God’s Word that’s true? (Psalm 119:142, 151; John 17:17; Romans 3:4; 1 John 5:10) I don’t know about you, but if there’s ever a question in my mind, I’ll always go with the latter.

Perhaps the discrepancy creeps in because of the way we ‘see’ things. In other words, we often attempt to judge spiritual truths (God’s Word) by our own natural perception of physical circumstances, which we’re cautioned not to do (1 Samuel 16:7; John 7:24; 2 Corinthians 10:7). Well, then, what are we actually ‘seeing’ when we refer to Christians dying, since Scripture clearly declares that the Lord Jesus Christ abolished death?

In order to answer that question, we really do need a very basic, fundamental definition of the term death. First, we must understand the truth that God is The Source of life – all life (John 1:1-4, 6:35, 11:25, 14:6; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 1:1-2, 5:11). Next, by the same logic that tells us darkness can only be truly described as “the absence of light,” we come to realize that death is similarly defined as “the absence of life.” That’s exactly what happened in the Garden when Adam sinned by disobeying God’s sole “Don’t”: he was disconnected from the Source of his life, with God Himself making their separation strikingly clear by calling out to him and asking, “Where are you?” (Genesis 2:17, 3:9)

God had told Adam he’d surely die if he ate fruit from that one particular tree – and not only that, he’d surely die the very same day he ate it. Of course, Satan came along and contradicted God’s Word (it’s what he does) by telling Eve, “Nooo, you won’t die if you eat that fruit, and God knows it!” And by the natural ‘look’ of things, they didn’t: Adam fiddled around at least another 800 years before his body finally laid down for the last time (Genesis 4:1, 5:3-4). But God doesn’t lie or make idle threats. Indeed, they did die the very day – the very moment, in fact – they ate that fruit in disobedience. Their spirits –the ‘real’ them – were immediately “unplugged” from the Source of life, and they found themselves separated from God. And that’s the literal definition of death: the absence of Life.

Notice that when they died spiritually, the curse was unleashed in the earth at the same time (Genesis 3:17). Not a coincidence. What is the curse, exactly? Well, just as ‘fear’ is nothing more than faith that’s operating in the wrong direction (for instance, you fear that snake you saw outside because you actually have faith [that is, you believe] in its intention and/or ability to hurt you), the curse is simply the Blessing of God that’s been perverted and is now operating in the wrong direction. The purpose of the Blessing is to cause your increase through everything good coming to you (Genesis 1:28; Deuteronomy 28:1-13; Proverbs 10:22). The curse is designed to steal from you (the Word of God and all It’s meant to produce for you), kill you (separate you from the life of God) and ultimately destroy you completely by causing everything good to flee away from you (Genesis 3:17-19; Deuteronomy 28:48; Isaiah 55:11; Mark 4:14-19; John 10:10).

To put it succinctly, the Blessing of God attracts; the curse repels. We can see this perfectly illustrated in Jesus and Peter’s fishing expedition. After Peter was kind enough to let Him use his boat as a podium, Jesus was determined to bless Peter for his generosity; so He told him, “C’mon, let’s go out into deep water and catch some fish!” You know the story: Peter let Him know that they’d already been out all night – “toiling,” mind you (Genesis 3:19) – and had caught absolutely nothing. But he relented and went back out at Jesus’ word. And lo and behold, the fish were fighting amongst themselves for a spot in those nets! (Luke 5:3-7) Why? Because the Blessing of the Lord attracted them, while the curse that was in operation just the night before (which was no more than the fishermen trying to do things by their own wisdom and natural strength) repelled those fish by the thousands. They were probably a hundred yards away from Peter’s group, laughing at them with their fishy little lips.

Now, speaking again of ‘fear’ – “a little of it,” as some folks say, is not a good thing. Otherwise, why would we continually be told to “fear not” all throughout the Bible? And why would Jesus go to such great lengths to deliver us from it if it were any good? That’s right: being delivered from death was not enough, we’ve even been delivered from the fear of it (Hebrews 2:14). And that makes perfect sense if you think about it: if we really don’t have to concern ourselves with death anymore, why would we ever bother to be afraid of it? As Psalm 23:4 declares, “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: because You are with me…” Have you ever actually been harmed by a shadow??

God is the Source of all faith (Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 13:7; Galatians 5:22). Just as faith connects us to God and allows Him to work in our lives, ‘fear’ (twisted and perverted faith that produces in the wrong direction) connects us to Satan its source and gives him the opening he needs to work (Job 3:25; Hebrews 11:1). And we could rightly call the curse “death in progress,” because everything about it is set up to diminish you until you’re completely destroyed and gone (Deuteronomy 28:48, 63). But now death, the curse, the fear of them both and the one who used to have the power of them in his hands have all been destroyed by our Champion! (Mathew 28:18; Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:10, 14-15)

So what’s there really to be afraid of?

 

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