By Norman E. Sewell
I love to read, but I’m not an avid newspaper reader. I learned a long time ago not to believe everything I see in the paper or on TV. But I have noticed lately a lot of fairly young people are mentioned in the obituary column. Some, of course, are quite young, in their 20s or 30s, but there seems to be a very large number in their 40s and 50s, and that’s getting too close to home. Perhaps it is just that too many people in my own age group are dying and it re-minds me of my own mortality. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, he writes of a time when we will put off our earthly bodies and put on one suited for eternity. It becomes clear that he is not writing about death so much as he is writing about what lies beyond death. Note some of Paul’s description: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up of life” (vv. 2-4).
Death is the end of life and activity here on the earth. Solomon wrote about this: “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Eccl. 9:5-6, NKJV). The simplest way to under-stand these verses is just to recognize that death ends our existence and our activities on this earth, under the sun. Death is just a part of the process determined for us all by God the journey through this world as we travel on toward our eternal destination.
At the end of chapter 4, once again in 2 Corinthians, he described some of the persecution that he and the other apostles endured. Paul wrote: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). From this we are to understand that the eternal things are more important than the temporary things.
And it is clear that there is more to man than just a body. This body that we wear is mortal and thus corruptible. And at some time we will all put off this body and put on one suited for eternity. Jesus warned his disciples about the cruel things that men would do and then told them: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). There is something far worse than dying, and that is to be destroyed spiritually, to lose your own soul or yourself (Luke 9:25).
As we read a moment ago Paul had said, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). All of us would have to admit that our outward man is growing older, definitely on its way to perishing. Can we all say that our inward man is being renewed day by day? Are we really getting better and better spiritually? The process of maturing as Christians never ends. We never get so “good” that we no longer need to be “renewed.” Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24). Even though we have put off the old man it seems as though he keeps fighting to get back into prominence in our lives. Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians and warned them: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17). Paul says to put away that old man and to be renewed in our minds; to make ourselves more like God. Which one is winning the battle in your life? Is it the old man of sin, the man devoted to the flesh? Or is the inward man? What are you doing to strengthen the inner man and to be renewed day by day?
Paul prayed for the Colossians, “that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and in-creasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power? for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col. 1:9-1 1). To be renewed, to be strengthened, to walk worthy of the Lord and to bear fruit we need to be “filled with the knowledge of His will.” This only comes through diligent study of God’s word, striving to rightly apply it to our lives. Then with Paul we can look forward to the time beyond death when “mortality may be swallowed up of life.”
Guardian of Truth XLI: 2 p. 19-20
January 16, 1997