Death is most feared and considered unpleasant by most people. Yet the apostle Paul insinuated treating death as gain. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”(Philippians 1:21) (NIV). From Paul’s viewpoint, we can deduce that death signifies freedom. This calls for a proper understanding of the accurate denotation of death, as negatively affecting humanity:
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:15-17) (NIV).
These words came from the one who created man in His own image. This is the first-ever commandment, underpinning death, as opposed to life. Before violating it, Adam had been alive. His conditional perpetuity depended upon avoiding the forbidden tree. Of course, it cannot be possible for God to say one thing while referring to another.
Through his wife, Eve, Adam succumbed and ate the forbidden fruit. No-one else knew what death implied, except as pronounced to Adam, before eating the forbidden fruit. That death occurred on the day after the couple had eaten the wrong fruit. Their offspring would inherit the same curse, continuing to inflict humanity, regardless of background.
The most important aspect is that, for humans, death was not associated with the physical body. God spoke about spiritual death, to a man created in God’s image, as opposed to other species. Animal species need regeneration, without which, they become extinct. The lovers of pets know how depressing it can be to observe their aging and eventual death of their cherished pets.
In the year 1988, I bought a very expensive suit, imported from Germany. I always strived to look after that suit, only wearing it on exclusively special occasions. However, I recently became devastated, when my daughter, born on the same year that I bought the suit, confronted me. She openly told me that she got irritated, seeing me put a value on a suit as old as her age.
My daughter wanted me to move with the times. I didn’t like what she said, although not disputing that what she said was true. Nothing lasts forever, in this world. From that day onwards, I felt embarrassed, wearing that suit, regardless of its immaculate condition. Eventually, I had to give it away to charity.
Although true that many people are in the habit of keeping valuable pieces of material, for prestige purposes, that does not impress me. In the nineties, I knew of one white Oldman who kept an immaculate nineteen forty Alpha Romeo model at his back yard. The car looked impressive, but obviously very expensive to maintain.
Considering what has happened in Zimbabwe, over the years, I wonder what could have become the fate of both the white Oldman and his antique vehicle. Possibly the car is now in the hands of those in the business of buying and selling such vintage old vehicles?
Those vintage vehicles have a good market, in a world with those unknowing what to do with accumulated wealth. Interestingly, such flamboyant people appear as not appreciating that they, themselves, ought to be more valuable than such antiquated properties. To them, the accumulation of wealth is what sustains their being considered valuable.
However, living in this world needs balance. If you run at a terrific speed, without stopping, you risk dropping dead. Yet, at the same time, if you just sit, doing nothing, for a long time, you also risk dying. Moderate exercise is advisable. Perhaps this is why pensioners die earlier, except for those engaged in some activities.
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”(Matthew 19:20-24) (NIV).
Methuselah, having reached 969 years, lived longer than any other human being known to have lived. I suppose it can be attractive to live that long; but then what? Compare Methuselah’s long life with his father Enoch, having lived for only 365 years. Yet Enoch walked with God. Nevertheless, all humans have to be fixated on Jesus, who lived for a mere thirty-three and a half years.
The value of Jesus is unquestionable, regardless of a mere thirty-three and a half years of physical existence. Paul says death is gain. But how so? Jesus brought the assurance of resurrection. The restoration of that which was lost at the Garden of Eden is found in Jesus. Yet Jesus existed for only thirty-three and a half years in his physical lifetime.
With this theological understanding, Paul became convinced that nothing is valuable in this life. This datum exposes the fallacy in putting some value on material things, after all. Those appreciating this reality, are willing to relinquish their physical bodies, without qualms.
A physical body can be compared to the expensive suit that I had to part with, after having been embarrassed by my daughter. Regardless of how careful one can be, the physical body will eventually perish. Some people are known to have lived for over 120 years. Yet not as blessed as Jesus, who lived for only thirty-three and a half years.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Corinthians 15:54-57) (NIV).
Human beings are captured in ignorance. They mistake physical bodies with themselves. Hence, preferring to maintain such bodies, even in their frail and unproductive conditions. They cannot entertain the idea that the actual beingness is independent of physical bodies. Adam’s death was Spiritual, though most people mistake that death for a physical body. The physical body is a mere dwelling place.
Physical bodies serve only to keep the Spiritual bodies in captivity. The spiritual body in a person does not know anything when surviving in a physical body. The spirit does not lose anything when renouncing the physical body, yet the same spirit risks losing everything when holding onto the desires of the physical body. This was perfectly illustrated by Paul:
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit”(Ephesians 5:15-18) (NIV).
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other”(Galatians 5:16-26) (NIV).
The trouble with most humans has always been the inability to differentiate between the spirit and the physical person appearing in the mirror. A dead person becomes consciously unaware of existence, at death. Just as the spiritual person also became unaware of his existence in a physical body, after the sin of Adam.
What was lost at the Garden of Eden, is now retrievable in Jesus. There is more in humans than attracting the physical eyes, just as Jesus revealed. Jesus lived in physical nature, yet being not of this world. Those who understand this datum, also become God’s children.
A human, created in God’s image, is not that which perishes into the grave or gets cremated, after death. The physical body, whether having lived for 969 years or just 33 years, has got nothing to do with what was created in God’s image. If God does not die, those created in God’s image live, likewise.
That which was created in God’s image is not associated with skin color, poverty, wealth, being handsome, or ugly. The physical nature relates to that which Paul felt uncomfortable remaining in. When becoming aware of this reality, one ceases to put value in the physical body.
Freedom is a commodity, now accessible to all humans, through Jesus. Falsehood serves to pervert this datum, replacing it with prosperity, as gratifying the flesh. Jesus talked about true freedom, implying release from the attraction of the flesh.
“He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him” (Luke 4:15-20) (NIV).
Jesus talked about the freedom that releases one from being controlled by physical nature. Yet those Jews mistook Him for galvanizing the physical nature. Hence, wealth is mistaken for what Jesus, actually, came for. Scriptures are taken out of context, leading others into assuming that Jesus came for purposes of pleasures in physical possessions.
Death visited humanity as a curse, through Adam. But the same physical death has become advantageous, to spiritual people. The only reason for desiring to live in the physical body is the curse of Adam. Desiring to remain in this physical body can never be acceptable to God’s children.
Nevertheless, many people assume that it is a blessing to remain in this physical body. The death of the genetic entity does not describe the spiritual death, implied at the Garden of Eden. Adam’s death was a curse, keeping all humans spiritually dead, as long as not connected to Jesus.
“Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’”(Matthew 8:22-23) (NIV).
Jesus confirmed the reality that the physical existence is descriptive of death, due to Adam’s sin. One may live as long as Methuselah, but that is still worthless, without Jesus. Another may accumulate as much wealth, appearing as living in comfort, but perpetually remaining empty.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” At this, they exclaimed, ‘Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?’”(John 8:51-53) (NIV).
From their position of ignorance, the Jews could not understand Jesus. They confused physical life with spiritual life. Jesus was talking from the position of understanding, lost at the Garden of Eden. All is well, for those understanding this data, especially those widely sharing such information with others.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99