By John Gavazzoni
What a concept; Eternal death; Wow! Death that just keeps going on and on and on without end. Infinite death. Now THAT'S crediting death with a lot of power, especially considering that scripture credits Jesus with destroying him who has the power of death, and that death, the last enemy shall be destroyed. I think it was while reading a study Bible with notes by Dr. Charles Ryrie---a very respected scholar at least within the Dispensationalist wing of western Evangelicalism---when I first ran across the notion that, while all men, without Christ, are dead in trespasses and sins, that state of death becomes eternal when they die without receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. This was given as the meaning of the second death in Revelation.
Think about that: Imagine that scenario. Death existing along with life for all eternity. Though Paul saw the Day when God will become all in all, it seems -- according to the above theory -- that there's going to be another all where not only will God not be all, but His arch enemy, death, will have its own kingdom where it will reign forever. They're not talking about death as annihilation, they're talking about an eternal state of anti-life existence without love, without grace, without mercy, abandoned by God to eternal darkness.
Stand this nonsense up against Jesus' claim that He is making ALL THINGS NEW. The re-making of all things new is by His resurrection life. THAT life, not death, goes on and on and on eternally. It's life that goes on and on, not death. To understand the operation of death, as opposed to life, our focus must be upon Jesus' experience of death, whose death is inclusive of all death. Yes, that's what the Bible clearly teaches. Christ died for all, the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. Possibly the most important verse in the Bible for explaining how Christ's death relates to all mankind's death, is found in 2Cor. 5:14. Nearly every translation that I'm familiar with renders this verse with greater clarity than the KJV.
This is Paul's explanation from the Amplified Version of how Christ's death relates to all mankind's death: "For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that [if] One died for all, then all died." That's what it means that Christ died for us all. We needed to die, finally, once for all; no more dying, so the death of all the generations past, present and future met its destiny in Christ, and death finally, fully died. You see, life is lived, and death is died. "For in that He died, he died unto sin once; but in that He lives, He lives unto God (Rom. 6:10)." The destiny of death is not to go on and on eternally.
The destiny of death is to die, finally. God's warning to Adam and Eve, in the original Hebrew was, ".....dying, thou shalt surely die." Get that. Not dying, thou shalt continue to die without end; "dying, thou shalt surely DIE." Death doesn't terminate life. Life terminates death. "Death is swallowed up of life," through Christ's resurrection. The Source of death's finality is the same as the Source of life's continuance: Jesus Christ our Lord, crucified, buried and risen.
As I recall--not having it with me at the time of this writing---the NAS translation of Rom. 6:10, makes very clear how death and life work, and Jonathan Mitchell includes it as an alternate rendering. From the NAS: "For the death He died, He died to sin once; but the life He lives, He lives unto God." Ah! There it is. ..."the death He died, He died....but life He lives, He lives..." Death is died; life is lived. Jesus gathered together all death into His death, and now lives, and " It's not that He merely lived; HE LIVES, and we live in and with Him. As the lyrics go to that beautiful gospel hymn, Because He Lives: "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives."
As death came through one man, spreading to all men, so death has come to its end in One Man. According to Paul in Colossians, all mankind shall be gathered together in Christ, for He sums up in Himself all humanity, as He is the fullness of the Godhead bodily. To extol the power of death, as does much of pseudo-orthodox Christianity, is an affront to the power of Christ's resurrection. The effect is the same as saying to our Lord, "yes, You live forever, but death is your equal match. It has the same power as your life."