"But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel." 2 v.10

 "Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord," says the apostle to Timothy. It is however a common experience of believers that they are ashamed before men of this testimony. At the same time, if they are ashamed, it is because the range and reach of the gospel have not been fully apprehended. Let us look at the central fact of our text, which is a truth embedded in the gospel. It is that death has been abolished. There is a type of person who is loyal to the Scriptures and yet, in the face of a big problem which seems to cut across fundamental positions, is tempted perhaps unwittingly to endeavour to explain away rather than explain the truth of the Word. Now there can be no shadow of doubt about the statement of the apostle here. Death has been abolished. It has been abolished by Jesus Christ. .

Some facts must be taken into account. The truths brought to light are made manifest within the gospel. That is to say they are not truths to be argued from a Christian standpoint with a view of convincing the carnal mind of the unbeliever. Life and incorruption are not matters to be proved on a Christian evidence platform in Hyde Park, valuable as in some directions such a witness is. They are made manifest to the man or woman who has entered into the gospel revelation in believing faith.

Then they are made manifest as by the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. That word "appearing" is quite unique in this present connection. It certainly means much more than the mere birth at Bethlehem. It comprehends the sum total of God's manifestation in His Son and must inevitably refer to His birth, death, resurrection, descent into hades, ascension into heaven, and also His present glory and His ultimate manifestation as Lord and Head of the Church and Rightful Ruler of the earth. It is only in the full revelation of the gospel as set forth in the New Testament that the believer will in very truth see life and incorruption brought to the point of manifestation.

Life and incorruption are brought out into the light, made plain for faith to see as faith rests on the Victorious Saviour risen from the dead to die no more. These are important truths because God brings everything into light through the Son in the regeneration of the believer. Ultimately we shall see all the truth. Scientific, philosophic, creative, moral and spiritual, through Him by Whom God made all things and who is the heir of all things. The scientist pursues the truth without the knowledge of the Son Glorified and finds himself confronted with mystery. The philosopher in like manner arrives at the inexplicable ultimate. It is given to the mind that is enlightened by the Spirit concerning the Son,to see that He is the Key to all the mystery of the universe.

Hence following the thought of the apostle, we have two questions to ask.

First, how has our Lord abolished death and made it manifest in His own person.

Secondly, in what way has He already done this for His believing people.

1) What "Death Abolished" means to our Lord:

Now although it is beyond our understanding we know that Christ died for the sin of the whole world. On the cross He accepted the judgement of sin in death. It was the only possible way whereby the eternal judgement, which rested on sin, could be wrought out. God laid the sin of the world upon Him. For all who have accepted that salvation He is their Substitute. But in what did the process of death consist? Was it merely a physical experience initiated and completed in the moment when He dismissed His spirit? Most usually think of our redemption in such a way, but perhaps they have never really thought out the issue for themselves. For what is death? Death is a mode of existence even as life is.

Death is not extinction, for in that case when Jesus died on the Cross He ceased to exist. The realm of death is the inevitable destiny of the wicked. When Jesus came that He might take the fruit of our sin, He came not merely to deal with the effect of sin, as touching the spirit of man dead in sin, nor the body of man doomed to corruption, but that He might conquer the whole realm of death. Consequently His death on the Cross was not a mere physical experience terminating when He dismissed His spirit. So far from being a termination, it was an initiation. He died on the Cross to gain entrance by death into the realm of death which is Hades. There are some who think that He never entered Hades and they quote our Lord's promise to the thief on the Cross: "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise."

True it is that Paul knew Paradise as the third heaven but the transition of the place of Paradise from the abode of the dead to the heavenly realm was the immediate result of the conquest of death by our Lord. His resurrection had a minor significance if Jesus when He died immediately went to heaven and came back again on the third day to take up His body again. In those three days He was not in the blissful presence of the Father in heaven but breaking the power of Hades from within, in the power of His redemption. He went to the Cross, laying down His life for us, that He might enter the realm of death and from within that realm break its power and take His life again even as He had received commandment from the Father. A territory to be conquered must be invaded and its inhabitants forced to submit. Jesus could not conquer death and all its powers by passing from the Cross to heaven and so returning in resurrection power. He could only conquer death by passing into it and making it and its powers subject to Him.

Deep and profound, mysterious and beyond our understanding, yet this truth is not beyond our faith. As we take hold of it we see how it greatly magnifies the triumph of the Cross. If Jesus went to the Cross, bearing the travail of His soul for sin, adding to it His physical sufferings then, terrible as must have been His agony, He can be placed in the category of martyrs only. A great martyr, perhaps the greatest, yet many have suffered mere martyrdom with equal fortitude. Indeed, though some have suffered more than He, their fortitude has been the fruit of their faith in Him. But the reason for that is that He is much more than a martyr, indeed the word does not become Him. He is much more than a martyr because He endured a far greater thing than the mere suffering of the soul and body however intense.

The cup that He drank was not three hours of agony on the cross and then Paradise in the presence of the Father. It was the deep unfathomable challenge of passing through the agony of the Cross into the realm of death that He might conquer it and all its powers from within. He tasted death for every man. His contact with such an inferno, His conflict in it, His conquest over it all, contributed to the bitterness of the cup. He was facing a task never committed to any human being before or since. It was a task that had to be accomplished and He alone could do it. And blessed be God, He took the victory. And now let us consider:

2). What it means to a Believer:

Calvary is a fact to be considered from many angles. There in death God laid the sin of the world upon Jesus. The holy wrath of God against sin found its deepest expression in the smiting of God's Only Begotten Son made sin for us. But man also had a part in Calvary. Animated by the deepest jealousy and hatred by those who should have received Him, rejected Him and cried, "Crucify Him." Satan, too had a part, for we are told that by wicked hands He was slain. Hands inspired and animated by the wicked one brought Him to the Cross in death. Satan no doubt encompassed His death to bring Him within the sphere of death that He might forever be his captive.

Out of that realm none had ever emerged, and yet to the amazement of the powers of darkness He made a show of them, openly taking His victory over them in that very realm where they believed He was in their power. He came forth with a life which unlike His human life from Mary, He could give to others and so became an imparting spirit, Himself possessing a life that death could not touch and able to give that same life to others. The fact is stupendous in its implications. In very truth He has brought life, eternal life, to light. He has likewise brought incorruption into manifestation and completely transformed the outlook of the believer.

The bible is very clear on this process of grace to glory, which is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. From this standpoint the unbeliever is a person dead in sin. That is to say his spirit, as a faculty of fellowship with God is dead. When Adam sinned in the garden, death passed upon him. It was not the immediate death of the body but it was the immediate death of his spirit. Hence the unbeliever is a man whose spirit is dead in sin and whose body is fast decaying in harmony with it. Now when such a man hears the word of the gospel and believes in Jesus the Living One, once crucified for sin, names and receives Him as Saviour, the Saviour of the sinner, then the answer of God from heaven is to impart through the Son on the throne two blessings.

First the Holy Spirit quickens the spirit of the man which is dead. It is brought to life and secondly that newly quickened spirit becomes the vessel for the abiding of the Holy Spirit in the believer hereby he is in very truth made a new creature. Henceforth the Holy Spirit indwelling the new believer is the seal of the heavenly body which he shall one day possess and is also its germ for out of the working the Spirit in the believer the new body of incorruption will be formed. the conception of the human body is marvellous and the conception of the body of the glory is even more wonderful. Truly does the writer of Ecclesiastes declare (chapter 11:5) "As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all." Hence the believer is a man whose spirit has been made alive unto God, but his body is in process of decay

Now consider this fact that our Lord who has abolished death has also tasted death for every man. When the believer "dies" the judgment is passed upon his physical body. It is inevitable, for sin and the flesh are so wrought together that sin has been condemned in the flesh, but through the victory of Christ the believer is spared the terrible experience of entering the realm of death. The Lord who is his life conquered death, for him and His victory really means something. It is vastly more than a mere doctrinal belief, it is a triumph over the whole estate of death so that the believer, who is at one moment in the mortal body, finds himself in the next "with Christ which is far better."

Calvary for us means that death for the believer has been "bypassed." He has passed through death for us, in our place, to preserve us from it. Death is in actual fact abolished. There lies before us no stygian gloom, no darkness, no place of fear, but life in and with Christ. The Romanist heresy that plays upon the fears of the human heart, and extorts large sums of money even from the poorest for masses, for the repose of the soul is seen to be a system, an unblushing system for getting money out of the ignorant by false pretences. If I am a true believer in the possession, by grace through faith, of life eternal, I need no masses for the repose of my soul, no masses to secure my passage from purgatory to heaven. And if I am not a believer, if I do not possess the life that Jesus now has, no mass, sung or unsung, pontifical or otherwise, can be of the least possible value to me.

The contemplation of this glorious fact that death for the believer is abolished makes the heart sing for joy. It scatters the gloom and throws a marvellous glory upon the pilgrim path. At the same time it crystallises the issues of time and eternity. All about us are those who are hastening to eternity without being in possession of life eternal in Christ. For them the realm of death and the judgment of the second death are inevitable. And remember that death is never extinction, it is another form of existence. Can there be any greater work than to plead with men to take the way of life and to enter into it?

If you are a believer, are you true to this most serious and glorious stewardship of witness? If you are an unbeliever then know that He willeth not the death of any but that all should turn to Him and live.


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