Last week we began looking at how we can cheat death. I wrote this in my book, “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality” (Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007): “Human beings want to live – not die. They want their lives and the lives of people they care about to continue forever. Anything less than continual, unbroken life brings grief, mourning, and deep pain.” However, no matter how much we want to live, the fact is that we all will die. We can do a lot of things to lengthen the number of years we are alive on earth, but given the history of people in all human families – we know we will die. So, how do we cheat death?
Before we can understand death, why people die, and how we can live forever, we need to understand what happened “in the beginning.” If you haven’t read the first part of this study, please take a look at it before reading further. Knowing who God is will prepare us to understand how He, and only He, can help us cheat death.
God’s first work (action) was to choose us in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:3-6) Something important to see here is that God blessed us with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Last week, we looked at “the beginning,” and that beginning was when God began what we know as life on earth (Genesis 1). He created all things for us. But what we see in Ephesians 1 is that God did something before the beginning – before He created the heavens and the earth: He blessed us and chose us. The blessing came first, then the choice.
The opportunity for us to “cheat death” began with God’s blessing and choosing. The Greek word for “choose” is exelexato. It is the first aorist middle of eklego, “to pick out.” The middle voice means the subject of the verb (He–God) acted in His own interest — “to pick or choose out for one’s self.” This word is also used when presenting God’s choice of Israel from all nations for the purpose of bringing salvation to the world. The object of such choice is for a certain object or goal. The stated purpose for this choice is that Christians would be “holy and blameless in His sight.” God chose us for Himself in a past time. The aorist tense in the Greek is like a snapshot. We can pick it up, look at it, and enjoy the memory.
Paul gives us a reference time for God’s action of choosing us. It was “before the creation of the world” — pro kataboles kosmon. Kataboles, “creation,” is a compound word: kata, “down,” and boles, “to throw.” It describes the act of the Almighty God throwing down the world. The world did not exist prior to God’s creating it. The world began in space and time. God was above space and before time. Kosmon, “world,” means “order, arrangement, ornament, adornment.” What God created was beautiful and perfect in its simplicity and complexity.
What we see here is a splendid and wonderful plan. Before God created the world, He thought about us. He considered us. He made everything, designed everything with us in mind. As we see in the first chapter of Ephesians, God chose us in Christ, He predestined us, He redeemed us, He made known to us the mystery of His will, and He included us. This speaks strongly of a very special plan.
Ephesians 1:11 says it well: “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” The word “chosen” is eklerothemen. It translates “we were chosen as inheritance.” It is first person, plural, aorist, indicative. God chose us in the past (before the creation of the world). It comes from the word kleres and means “to assign by lot.” The ancients would place the names of people on a pebble, a potsherd or piece of wood and then place it into a vase. They would shake the vase until the object fell out. The first person whose name or “lot” fell on the ground was chosen. In this case, Christians were the ones chosen as an inheritance. Think about that! Do you realize how special you are to God?
Paul uses the word again in Col. 1:12 (klerou ton hagion en to photi) — “lot of the saints in the light.” The entire verse reads, “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” God wanted to give something special to a group of people. That something is an inheritance. The people are the saints (hagion), “holy ones, those separated for holy use.” What God wanted to give His chosen ones was a special relationship with Himself. That is our inheritance — a deep and satisfying eternal relationship with God. No other inheritance can compare with what God has given us.
We find God’s desire for relationship with humans throughout the Bible. It began when He created man “in his own image.” When the first man sinned against God and broke the relationship, God instituted a path back to the relationship. He gave His Son Jesus Christ as the payment for the sins of mankind. Through Christ we can get back to God!
One of the best examples of God’s desire for relationship with mankind and His merciful provision is found in John 14. Jesus is speaking to His disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Jesus continued that theme a few verses later: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the only way back to God!
Another insight to God’s desire for relationship is what He calls those who love and follow Him. Jewish followers are called “children, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, the flock of God, and the wife of the Lamb.” Gentile and Jewish followers are called children, heirs, and joint heirs (Romans 8:16-17 — “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.”), fellow workers, God’s field, and God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9 –“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”), the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 — “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”), the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23 — “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”), a holy temple, dwelling place of God (Ephesians 2:21-22 — “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”)
Let’s pause right here. Think about who you are – who you really are. We are sinners – saved by Grace. That’s who we are. Now, think about what God has done for us sinners. He has saved us from the penalty of our sins. He has placed His Holy Spirit in us. He has made us His children, heirs and joint heirs with Christ. We are fellow workers – we work with God. We are God’s field, God’s building, His church, the body of Christ. We are a holy temple, the dwelling place of the Almighty God. Think about who you are – who you really are – in Christ.
Chief among examples of God’s desire for human relationship is His love for the world. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Think about that for a minute. The great God of Heaven, Who created this world and all that is in it, loved it so much that He gave His One and Only Son to die for sin, so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. That’s amazing in light of how the human race has treated God from the first man to the present man. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) He said it – and did it.
God’s love for the world led to His mercy for people. David, King of Israel, knew about God’s love. He wrote, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5) Nehemiah, leader of Israel, wrote, “They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.” (Neh. 9:17) The Queen of Sheba told Solomon, King of Israel, that he served a God who had “loved Israel forever” (1 Kings 10:9). In Psalm 136, the people responded 26 times that God’s love and mercy “endures forever.”
God’s love for humans has never been passive. His love is active, powerful and life-changing! Paul the Apostle wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) He taught that Christ’s love “passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). It is a love of self-sacrifice — “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma … Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her … ” (Eph. 5:2, 25)
Cheating death is not about just living longer – it is about living better. It is about reaching your full potential in Christ. It is about returning to the truth and purpose of your creation. God created us to love us. He made us to be with Him forever. God wants a personal relationship of love with us. Everything else follows that goal. If we have a close and abiding relationship with God, we will have the spiritual, mental and physical support for all other relationships and challenges of life.
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?‘ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-58
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”