Death

The Cure for Death, Part II

If you read the last post then you know what a person must do to be saved, to be born again (The Cure for Death).  But I want to tell you something more about the cure for death and that is the purpose of this post.

As we have already discussed, please remember that we are all sinners.  There are two reasons for that.  The first reason is that we were all in Adam when he sinned and when that happened Sin, as a principle or essence, entered us and became part of each and every one of us.  The second reason is that having that inborn sin nature causes us to walk in sin, to sin continuously (The Cause of Death).

But maybe you don’t believe that you are a sinner.  Maybe what I have been saying is just all a bunch of nonsense to you.  You look at the Ten Commandments and say to yourself “I have never broken any of those.  I’ve never stolen or lied or murdered or dishonored my father and mother.  I’m a good person”.  Well, how about this one: You shall have no other gods before me?  That is the first commandment.  Did you know that an electronic video game and the cell phone that contains it is a god to many people?  It demands more of their attention and energy than anything else and so they make it more important than everything else in their lives.  It is an idol to them which is another way of saying it is a god to them.  People can also make idols of money,  jobs, cars, houses, their children, and other things too.  Do any of these apply to you?

Well, I’m not going to go through the first nine commandments in  detail with you right now and I’m not going to go through the rest of all the other commandments in the Torah with you right now either.  But I do want to make sure that you know that there are a total of 613 commandments or mitzvot in the Torah.  That’s 603 commandments in addition to the famous Ten Commandments.  My Jewish brothers and sisters, please believe me.  You’ve broken many of these commandments.  After our people returned to the Land from Babylon, the Law was read to them and they wept.

“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.”  Nehemiah 8:9

Why did the people weep?  They wept because as the Law was read and then explained to them they realized how many of God’s mitzvot they had failed to keep without even realizing it.  That was the case because most  of the people had not had God’s law or instruction, the Torah, read to them for a long time, perhaps never.  That applies to many of us today.

But just to make it absolutely clear to you that you and I are sinners, that we’ve broken at least one commandment, let’s take a look at the 10th commandment:

““You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.””  Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet.”  What does that mean?  It means to want something that does not belong to you.  Now I want to be very clear here.  Coveting does not mean taking something that is not yours.  That would be stealing.  Or in the case of sexual desire it would be adultery or extramarital sex or premarital sex.  Coveting, if it proceeds no further, is a sin of the mind and the heart.  It’s a desire.  It could even be secret.  Maybe nobody but you knows that you desire some particular thing that is not yours.  And by the way, if nobody else knows about your secret desire, that probably means that you have also broken the commandment which forbids you to lie.

Let me show you an example of coveting.  Perhaps you desire to have your boss’s job, or to have your neigbor’s Mercedes.  Or perhaps  you desire your wife’s best female friend or your husband’s best male friend.  Now you might never act on this desire.  You might never progress from desire for another woman or man to actually having an affair with her or him.  But by coveting you’ve broken the 10th commandment.  Have you never desired to have something that is not yours?  I very much doubt that.  And according to God’s Law, by breaking this 10th  commandment you’ve broken all 613 commandments.

“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”  James 2:10

Now, my Jewish brother or sister (and please remember that I’m Jewish too),  you may say to me once again that this is a verse from the New Testament and therefore you don’t believe it.  Do you think that the Hebrew Scriptures, even the Torah (the first five books of  the Bible, also called The Five Books of Moses), says something different?  I’m sorry to tell you that we can’t pick and choose which commandments to obey.

“if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.”  Leviticus 26:15-16

God is saying that He wants you and me to do all His commandments and if we don’t do them all there are serious consequences.  It sounds very much to me that God is saying that if we’ve broken one commandment it is the same as breaking them all.  And there are many more verses from the Torah that make it clear that God expects all His commandments to be obeyed.  My friend, you can’t help but break at least one of the 613 commandments and neither can I.

So what is the answer?  What is the cure for Death?  A substitutionary sacrifice is needed.  Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.  This was mentioned in the last post.  The shed blood of an animal provided a covering for sin, but permanent forgiveness of sins could not be provided by an animal sacrifice.  Only the blood of Jesus could do that.

Now you may quote the following verse to me and tell me that a blood sacrifice is no longer required:

““What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”  Isaiah 1:11

This is what the LORD wants from us:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”  Isaiah 1:16-17

God never eliminated the requirement of a blood sacrifice for the remission of sins.  There is no way that the LORD would tell us about the need to provide sacrifices for the remission of sins in verse after verse after verse in the Torah, in exquisite detail, and then later tell us that sacrifices are not needed for the remission of sins.  God does not contradict Himself.   But God will not accept sacrifices from those who do not have contrite hearts, from those who do not repent.  Here is what God did do:  He sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, to die for us, to shed His precious blood.  He did this one time and that was enough.  All of the sacrifices described in the Torah were a foreshadowing of the once for all permanent sacrifice that Yeshua would make.

My fellow Jewish brother and sister, you may also tell me that Jonah went to Nineveh to preach the message that God gave him for the Ninevites, to save them.  They repented and 120,000 were saved right then.  There was no shedding of blood.  How could that be?  Here’s how:

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”  Hebrews 9:15

Are you familiar with the New Covenant that the LORD spoke about through the mouth of the Jewish prophet Jeremiah?  It’s in Jeremiah chapter 31, in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Yeshua inaugurated that covenant many years later at The Last Supper which was a traditional Jewish Passover seder.  The  blood that Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, shed was so efficacious that it provided effective atonement for the sins of those who loved God and had contrite hearts even before Yeshua came to earth to die on the cross.  That would include people such as Abraham, Moses, King David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and many others.  God operates in the sphere of eternity and He can even provide permanent forgiveness of sins for those who died before Jesus came.

There is yet more to talk about under the title of The Cure for Death.  The blood of Jesus provides for even more than just the forgiveness of our sins.  It provides for our justification.  Justification is a forensic term.  It makes us think of a courtroom, a judge, and a defendant.  When this defendant, who represents you and me, accepts the judge’s, i.e., God’s, free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, God justifies us.  This means that we are not only pardoned for all our sins but we are are considered by God to be one who never sinned in the first place.  Jesus took all the punishment for all our sins and gives us His perfect righteousness.  How could that be?  It can be because God made the provision for it and because God declares it to be the truth.  It’s better than a pardon.

But, you ask, why then does the person who is saved still commit sins?  Thank you for that very important question.  We will address that in an upcoming post.

Posted by Art in Death, Eternal Life, Justification

The Cure for Death

At the end of the last post I promised to tell you about the cure for death. I’d like to begin to do that today with this post by having you read the story below about a man with terminal cancer.

*

“Mr. Cohen is here, Dr. Kaplan.”

“Please put him in my consultation room, Denise.”

Noah Cohen was 77 years old. Prostate cancer had been diagnosed 6 years ago and was advancing in spite of treatment. Widespread metastases in the bones was causing pain.

“Hi Noah. How are you?”

“The pain’s getting worse Ben. I can’t sleep because of it.”

“Are you taking your pain medication?”

Noah had known Ben Kaplan since Ben’s medical school days. Noah’s older brother had been one of Ben’s professors. Their families had met and over the years had grown close.

Noah had never really accepted his diagnosis of cancer. He knew he had it but was unwilling to acknowledge the seriousness of it. His wife, Sarah, had passed away six months ago, suddenly. A few months before, she had accepted Jesus as her Messiah and Lord. This had caused quite a stir in the Cohen extended Jewish family and it upset Noah. There were no children.

“You know I don’t like to take pills, Ben. I admit the pain is getting worse. Do you think this cancer could kill me? I’m starting to worry about that.”

“Yes, Noah, it could kill you.”

“Ben, what do I have to look forward to? I’m afraid of dying.”

“I understand Noah. Fear of death is very natural. That’s why it’s so important to know that you will be with God for eternity after you die. With that knowledge comes peace,” said Ben.

“You’re talking about Jesus, right? You’ve told me about Him before, about the need for forgiveness of our sins. And you’ve told me that Jesus is my Messiah, the Jewish Messiah, right?” said Noah.

“That’s right. We’re all sinners Noah, we have all broken God’s commandments, and a righteous God can’t have us with Him in heaven unless we are righteous too. Only God Himself can make us righteous and He made that possible by providing the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and for me. Our Hebrew scriptures talk about this: ‘My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities,’” said Ben.

“You told me about Isaiah 53 before and I read it. My Rabbi said that the servant in Isaiah 53 is Israel, not Jesus.”

“The Rabbis are not always right, Noah.”

“How can I know the truth Ben? I want to know. And I want to know if Jesus is really the Jewish Messiah, and if He is, how could He save me from death?” asked Ben.

“Noah, you say you believe in God, but you have no peace. Why not ask God to tell you if He sent Jesus to be the sacrifice for your sins? I believe that God will answer you.”

“I’ll do it Ben. Can we talk again soon?”

“Absolutely.”

*

Noah Cohen was looking forward to tonight. It was Friday and Susan, Ben’s wife, had invited him to the Shabbat meal. Noah drove down the tree lined street to their home. He always felt comfortable coming here. There never seemed to be pretenses.

“Hi Noah. Glad you could make it. Shabbat Shalom,” said Susan as she gave him a hug. “It’s been too long.”

There were just the 3 of them tonight. Susan lit the candles and said the prayer, ushering in the Sabbath. Ben said the prayers over the bread and wine.

“Dig in Noah. There’s plenty of food,” said Susan.

Noah’s appetite had not been good lately but this table laden with traditional Jewish food was appealing to him. The smells were wonderful and before he realized it, Noah was helping himself. After dinner, over coffee served at the table, Susan spoke first.

“Noah, tell me what’s going on in your life.”

“You know I have prostate cancer and it’s getting worse. The pain is really bad. What really worries me is the thought of death. Ben tells me that this cancer could definitely kill me. I feel like that time is getting close.”

“Ben did tell me that he spoke with you about Yeshua and spending eternity in heaven with Him. What are your thoughts about that?” asked Susan.

“I don’t want to die, at least I don’t want to be put into the ground and have it all end there. That would be just nothingness, a void for eternity. How can I know if there’s more, and if there is, how can I have it?” said Noah.

“Noah, our Scriptures say that one day the wolf will lie down with the lamb and that someone who has lived one hundred years will be a young person. The prophet Isaiah said these things. He was talking about the Messianic Kingdom. The New Testament tells us that it will last a thousand years, and then eternity starts. The soul never dies. The Jewish Messiah, Jesus, came so that our relationship with God could be restored and by accepting Him we will spend eternity with Him, with God. Sarah is with Him now,” said Susan. “Yeshua came to pay the ultimate price, to be the ultimate blood sacrifice. God told us in His word that there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. Let me read to you from the New Testament, or New Covenant, also called the Brit Chadashah in Hebrew,” said Susan.

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:22

“But Susan, that’s from the New Testament. Our people don’t believe the New Testament,” said Noah.

“Ben and I are Jewish and we believe it. So do many other Jews. Sarah believed it. We also believe that the Old Covenant, or Old Testament, and the New Testament, together make up one book. Together they are one complete Bible. But there is something else that you have to know also and that is that God made it clear in the Old Testament that the forgiveness of sins requires the shedding of blood,” said Susan.

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” Leviticus 17:11

“But Noah, you must also know that all of the bulls and goats and other animals that were sacrificed in the days of Moses, and afterwards, never provided permanent forgiveness of sins. If they did these sacrifices would not have had to be continually repeated,” said Susan. “That’s why Jesus had to shed His blood and die. Because He is God, the shedding of His infinitely valuable blood once provided permanent forgiveness of sins.

“I never really understood that before, Susan. What you are telling me makes sense.

“Susan, my parents and grandparents never accepted Jesus. Does that mean they’re in hell? How could a loving God send people to hell?” asked Noah.

“Noah, only God knows if your grandparents are in heaven with Him. He gives everyone an opportunity to accept Him. He doesn’t want anybody to perish, to spend eternity separated from Him, to suffer eternal death. God loves you and wants you with Him forever but that can only happen if you are holy and pure, because He is holy and pure. Jesus came to make you holy and pure, righteous in God’s sight, but you have to accept Him for that to happen. It’s a free gift but you have to accept the gift,” said Susan.

“Susan, what do I have to do to accept Him? I want to know that God will accept me now,” said Noah.

“Noah, sit down next to me. Ben, please join us,” said Susan.

The three of them, Noah in the middle, were seated on the sofa, hands joined. Susan explained to Noah how to ask for forgiveness and salvation and Noah prayed on his own.

“Father in heaven. I understand now that I’m a sinner and that I need forgiveness and cleansing. I know that you sent Yeshua to shed His blood and to die for me on the cross to pay the price for my sins. I know that according to your Law, I should die and spend eternity separated from You. Please don’t let this happen to me Father. I accept what You and Jesus did for me. Please accept me into Your Kingdom that I might have eternal life with You. Thank you Father. Thank you Lord Jesus. Amen,” said Noah.

After Noah’s prayer Ben wept.

“Susan, I’m going to spend eternity in heaven with God,” said Noah. “It seems too good to be true.”

“You’re right Noah. It does seem too good to be true. But it isn’t. We serve a God who is unbelievably gracious,” said Susan.

“Baruch Ha Shem! Bless the name of the Lord!” said Ben.

Posted by Art in Eternal Life

The Cause of Death

Have you ever been afraid of dying? We all know that everyone dies at some point. There are no exceptions. But is there anything that we can do about Death? I’m quite serious. Is there anything that can be done to forestall this problem of Death or is it just a foregone conclusion that we will all die and that that’s the end of it, the end of everything? Have you ever been to a funeral and heard a visitor say to a bereaved family member “He’s in a better place now”? What could that possibly mean? And did the person who said it have any idea what he was saying? Frankly, I very much doubt it.

If we want to “get a handle” on Death does it not make sense that we must know the cause of Death? We must find out the etiology of Death, what the underlying cause is, if at all possible, because then we might be able to find an effective treatment for Death just as we would for any other illness or condition. So, can we get to the root cause of Death itself? Can we uncover the fundamental reason for Death?

It seems to me that it is reasonable to say that Life and Death are connected even though they are, in a sense, opposites. So could it be that if we found the cause of Life that that might help us to find the cause of Death? To my knowlege no scientist, including experts in the field of evolutionary biology, has ever been able to find the ultimate cause or origin of Life. So could it be that we need to look outside the field of Science for answers to the questions of the underlying causes of Life and Death? I believe that the answer is an emphatic yes. Now we want to be entirely reasonable here. We don’t want any fantastic explanation or explanations used to explain the origins of Life and Death. We want to deal in facts. At this point, I think we definitely have one fact that we can hang our hats on. Here is that fact: Science cannot explain the ultimate origin of Life and of Death.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I know that cancer can kill, I know that a blocked coronary artery can cause a heart attack that can kill, and I know that a major car crash can kill, and I know that Science can sometimes help with these things. I know that well because I practiced medicine for 46 years. But I’m talking about Death on a much deeper level, a level that transcends all of these things that unfortunately happen every day in our world. If we must seek answers outside the realm of Science for the ultimate cause of Death, from what realm should we seek the answers? And is there a realm that might provide a narrative that clearly explains things and that clearly provides a solution to our problem? We need a practical and an understandable answer, and a solution, to the problem of Death.

So what realm do we search in, if not Science? What other realm do we look to that will still keep us dealing with facts and will keep us thinking in a logical and practical manner? I believe that we need to search for answers in the field of philosophy, specifically in the field of metaphysics, which deals with fundamental or first principles. But where would knowledge of first principles come from? My dear reader, knowledge of first principles comes to us from the Bible which is the word of God.

Are you now going to tell me that you don’t believe the Bible? Perhaps we’ll talk about the reliability and infallibility of the Bible another time but for now please permit me to ask you one question. Do you have a better source of knowledge to tell us the ultimate cause of Death? Perhaps you’d like to wait just a bit before you answer, until after I show you what the Bible has to say on this subject.

There is a verse in the Bible that can shed light on the fundamental cause of Death. It’s from the New Testament.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

What is this verse telling us? It’s telling us that Sin caused Death. It, Sin, came into the world through one man. That man was the first man, Adam. Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God.

Let’s read from Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Genesis has something to say about first causes.

Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (emphasis mine).

Please note that God commanded Adam not to eat of the specified tree and God told Adam that if he broke this commandment he would die that very day. We know that Adam did not die physically the day he broke this commandment. The death he experienced that very day was spiritual death. He became separated from God. He and Eve had to leave the Garden.

Did you know that ancient rabbis even taught that there is no death without sin? The following is an excerpt from the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 55B: An objection was raised: Said the ministering angels before the Holy One blessed be He, “Lord of the universe, how come you have imposed the penalty of death on the first Adam?” He said to them, “I commanded him one easy commandment, but he violated it.” They said to him, “But isn’t it the fact that Moses and Aaron, who kept the entire Torah, also died?” R. Simeon b. Eleazar says, “So, too, Moses and Aaron died on account of their sin: ‘Because you didn’t believe in me … therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them’ —lo, if you had believed in me, your time would not yet have come to take leave of the world.”

Please observe that we know that Sin entered Adam because the verse in Romans tells us that this happened.

Adam consciously and knowingly sinned by disobeying God, and Sin entered into Adam and became part of his constitution, part of who he was. We, Adam’s posterity, all sinned because all of us were literally in Adam, in an inchoate form. We came from Adam. And all people yet to be born, future to the time of this writing, also were in Adam. We were all in Adam when he sinned, so we sinned then too and since Death comes through Sin, we will all die. Even a seemingly innocent baby sinned in Adam because every baby was in Adam when he sinned. That’s why even babies can die.

Now you might not like what I’m telling you here. But God, speaking to us through His word, is telling us that we were all in Adam when he sinned and therefore we also sinned, including even Moses and Aaron.

There’s something else that I want you to know. Because Sin became part of Adam’s constitution after he sinned, and because each and every one of us is descended from Adam, Sin is part of our constitutions too. Because of that we all have a rebellious and sinful nature just like Adam did, and just like Moses and Aaron did, and because Sin is part of each one of us, we are all born spiritually dead. There are no exceptions. At birth, we are by nature rebellious and antagonistic to God.

Is there anything that can be done about this? Yes! Most emphatically yes! We now know what the root cause of Death is. It is Sin. Knowing this we can now seek a cure. We must be born again. We must be born spiritually alive. We must be brought from Death to Life. How can we do this? We can’t do this but God can. That is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross and we can now seek a cure for Death from God. We can ask Jesus to save us. You see, Jesus conquered Death. Please read what He, Jesus, said to Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin and a famous Jewish teacher.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

You see, we are talking here in eternal terms. Eternity is forever. Wouldn’t you like to have eternal life?

What to do? Please read the next post.

Posted by Art in Eternal Life