Monday, June 7

Purposes of Christ's Death, No. 12

In this post, let's look at two texts that have purpose statements for Christ's death that deal with both living and dead people :
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. (I Thes. 5:9,10 NASB)

For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:9 NASB)
There are some who don't think that the terms awake and asleep in the text from Thessalonians refers to our physical life and death, but rather to being alert and sober instead of unaware and caught off-guard when the day of wrath comes. The context previous to this verse might support that notion, but I think it is quite likely that Paul is bringing us round again to the idea of the last part of chapter 4--that those who have already died and those who remain alive until Christ's return will be joined together to be with the Lord. If you look at 4:17 and 18, and compare these verses to 5:9-11, I think you will see the parallels. Given these close parallels, I think it's reasonable to conclude that the ideas Paul was getting at in the two portions of scripture are similar, and so the terms as used in verse 10 refer to physical death and physical life.

So, now that we've established that both the text from 1 Thessalonians and the one from Romans refer to the actual life and death of people, let's find the two purpose statements. In the verses from Thessalonians, the purpose statement is "so that whether we wake or sleep, we will live together with Him." The words "to this end" alert us to a purpose statement in Romans 14:9. A goal of Christ's death and resurrection was so "that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living".

In both of these texts, our being united with Christ is tied to something remaining the same for us even if we should die. In the first text, we see that our physical death does not change our expectation of living forever with the Lord. We need not fear the wrath on the day of the Lord--even though we die physically--because those who are united with Christ in His death are assured that there is no wrath in store for them, but rather, a wonderful life in the presence of the Lord.

In the second text we are told that because Christ both suffered death and lived again, He is Lord of all those who belong to Him, those who are living and those who have already died. Because Christ himself has been in both states--living and dead--those who are "in Him" will remain "in Him" in either state. For those to whom He is Lord in this life, He will remain Lord after death.

As a result of Christ's death and resurrection, those who are united with Him can be assured that death will not change these two things for them: they remain appointed to eternal life with Christ rather than God's wrath; and Christ remains their Lord. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians that we ought to use these thoughts to comfort and edify each other. We have nothing to fear, no matter what happens to us, for our inclusion with our Lord is a permanent, forever state, because He died and rose for us.

Christ died and rose on our behalf so that we can be certain that we will live forever with Him, whether we live until He returns or die first; and so that He will always be our Lord, both while we are living, and after we die.
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