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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Hope Does the New Testament Give for the Dead?

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Don Stewart
The Old Testament provided a genuine hope for people who had to face death. Because of sin, physical death entered into the world. Individuals were born spiritually separated from God - in a state of spiritual death. Spiritual death eventually leads to eternal death. There is, however, a remedy for spiritual death. This is the good news, or the gospel which the New Testament reveals. A person does not have to be separated from God, either in this life, or in the next - they did not have to remain spiritually dead.


The death of Jesus Christ satisfied the righteous judgment of God for sin. His death was a substitute on our behalf. The Bible says:

That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them . . . For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:19,21).

Because Christ died on our behalf, humanity does not have to suffer for their sins, and be eternally separated from God.

New Birth

Only by the new birth - receiving Christ as Savior - can a person become spiritually alive. Jesus spoke of the necessity of the new birth.

In reply Jesus declared, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3:3).

Life Through Jesus

Belief in Jesus secures everlasting life in the presence of God. There will be no spiritual death. Jesus said.

I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death (John 8:51).

He told the sister of the dead man Lazarus.

Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die' (John 11:25,26).

Jesus is not saying that believers will never die physically. To the contrary, He acknowledges they will experience physical death. Because He is the resurrection and the life, those who are physically dead will be raised bodily.

Spiritual Life

Those who have trusted Christ as Savior are dead to sin but alive to God. Paul wrote.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus . . . No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:11,13).

even when we were dead through our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ - by grace you are saved - and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:5,6)

Heirs To God

Those who believe in Christ are heirs to His promises. Paul wrote.

For you did not receive the spirit of again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8:15-17).

We will share His destiny.

Everything Is Ours

Everything belongs to God's children.

Therefore let no one glory in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come-all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

Not Penalized For Sin

Although the believer experiences physical death, which was the original penalty for sin, they are not penalized in death. Death is the transition to something greater-to be with Christ. The Bible says.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15).

Death has no victory over believers. Paul wrote.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:56).

Departure And Destination

Death is a departure to a new destination. We depart from this life to be with Christ. Believers are "at home" with the Lord.

Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Present Possession Of Eternal Life

Believers are said to presently be possessing eternal life. Jesus said.

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears My Word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).

Gift Of God

The fact that humans will live forever is a gift of God.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

Abiding Forever With God

The Bible teaches that believers live forever with God.

And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever. Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He has promised us, eternal life (1 John 2:17,24,25).

Fadeless Inheritance

Scripture speaks of the hope of the believer as being a fadeless inheritance.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Value Of Human Beings

Because God has placed such value on human beings in sending His Son to die for their sins, it makes sense that the relationship between the Creator and the created will go beyond this life into eternity. This indeed, is the promise of Scripture.


The problem of death has an answer-eternal life through Jesus Christ! Humans are all born spiritually dead, but they do not have to remain that way. Christ has solved the matter of the spiritual separation between God and humanity by His death on Calvary's cross. Death, therefore, is no longer a penalty for Christians. It is a transition into a better state, a state of being in the presence of God. Consequently death has no authority over the believer.
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