If Jesus conquered death, why do people still die?
Thank you for your question to us. Your question is excellent; it is, in fact, almost exactly the same as was asked in our Westminster Larger Catechism, which was written hundreds of years ago. The question there, and the answer, are full of sweet comfort for the child of God; let me quote it for you.
Q. 85. Death being the wages of sin, why are not the righteous delivered from death, seeing all their sins are forgiven in Christ?
A. The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day, and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it; so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love, to free them perfectly from sin and misery, and to make them capable of further communion with Christ in glory, which they then enter upon.
Please note the various parts of the answer. Death came upon the world as the consequence of sin; it is God’s curse on a fallen creation. But the earth itself will be freed from that bondage. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:20–21). So, until Christ returns, death will remain in this world; at that time, it will be removed.
This is an evangelical truth. The wicked are regularly confronted with the truth that they cannot escape the consequences of their sin. No matter how hard sinners try to ignore death or paint it in happy colors, the ugliness remains and the threat hovers over their heads. It is an unescapable call to repentance, a reminder that they WILL meet God.
But to the Christian, death is a blessing! It proceeds from the love of God, and does us wondrous good! We know something of the miseries of this life and share in part the relief when a dear saint is taken home to be with the Lord. For the believer, death is the end of ALL misery.
But there is much more. We are freed from our greatest misery, the indwelling sin that so besets us. All of the battles against our sin, all of the grief that we feel when we must confess our sins before God, all of the failures to love him purely and properly—all of these are gone!
And still there is more. We are made able to commune with God as fully as a creature can ever commune with the Creator. We will know him Whom our soul loves, and have deeper fellowship with him than we have ever enjoyed in life. The corruptions of sin are gone, and we no longer have anything that interferes with our enjoyment of God. As pure sons of God, we will fully enjoy the embrace of our Father.
It is sometimes hard for us to grasp these things in the pain of the death of a loved one. But we must remember that, for the believer, our sorrow is for ourselves. The departed Christian has lost nothing, and gained all.
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