As God’s beloved children, we may wonder why we have to experience death. After all, if Jesus saved us and all our sins are forgiven, shouldn’t we then be able to avoid death—a consequence of sin?
What we must understand is that death is not a punishment for believers, because Jesus bore the full penalty for our sins when He died on the cross. However, God allows our physical bodies to die because:
We live in a fallen world. When sin entered this world, so did disease, evil, and death. Even though Christians are redeemed from the eternal penalty of sin, we are not exempt from its consequences on earth. As long as we are here, we’ll face many of the same sorrows, heartaches, and losses other people experience.
God uses these experiences to complete our sanctification. The Lord has predestined us to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29), and He makes use of the suffering and hardships of this world in accomplishing that goal. Through difficult experiences, we grow in spiritual maturity and learn to comfort others. When Jesus calls us home, our sanctification will be complete, and we’ll finally be fully conformed to Christ’s image.
The Lord wants us to live in obedience to Him. His goal is not to remove us from the hardships of life after salvation. During our stay on earth, God draws us into relationship with Him, enlarges our understanding, and strengthens us through testing. When we respond in obedience, He works in and through us to accomplish His purposes. That’s why Paul was so committed to sharing the gospel, and persecution and suffering never stopped him from obeying the Lord.
Since it is inevitable, we ought to consider whether or not we’re prepared for physical death. Making funeral arrangements is important, but God is primarily concerned with the relationship each of us has with Him because that determines where we’ll spend eternity. Those who have not accepted Christ as Savior have good reason to fear death, but believers can have confidence knowing that it’s the means by which we are ushered into heaven. Whenever loved ones die, we grieve, but if they were believers, we also celebrate because they are with Jesus. One day, we’ll see them again in heaven.
This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message “Right Thinking About Death and Resurrection” which airs this weekend on TV.