“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order…” (1 Cor. 15:22–23).
Fall is a delicious, aromatic time of year. I love walking outside and drinking in the earthy combinations—the smell of moist, crunchy leaves under my feet, ripe apples wafting through the air, and wood smoke as my neighbors start up their cozy fireplaces for the winter.
But there is always a part of fall that is sad to me. It is the part about death and the oncoming winter. I absolutely hate seeing summer go and facing the thought of the stillness and desolation while everything and everyone hibernates for months on end. No sounds from the nearby park. No moms walking or running by my house with baby strollers in tow or helping their little ones learn to ride bikes. The signs of the life of summer all become a distant memory as we hunker down to survive earth’s cold death, longing for the new life of spring.
I noticed this fall moreso than others, with its languid descent upon our valley, that there is an order to death, just as there is an order to life. The Virginia creepers turned scarlet red and died a month ago. The aspens only recently lost their dazzling golden and orange leaves. Many trees in our valley are still green, and some are still a combination of green on one side and yellow on the other. Nothing dies at the same time.
The Bible speaks of two deaths, and I believe that both of them have an order about them. There is the death of our physical body. We all die when it is our appointed time to die. Most of us don’t have a choice about this, and we don’t really want a choice about it. Only God knows when we are going to die, and for the most part, we do all we can to live. But we die when our body shuts down and stops. This is the first death.
There is a second death spoken of in the Bible. In fact, it is found only 4 times, all in Revelation (2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8). I believe that at least in this lifetime, this is a “chosen death.” In other words, we somewhat choose when it happens (not really sure how much of a choice it is for people later). It’s the time when we each lay down our will that is in rebellion to the will of God—put it to death with Jesus—and choose instead, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
In the aforementioned verses in Revelation, it says that those who are overcoming and who have a part in the “first resurrection” are not hurt by the second death, which is the “lake of fire.” I fully develop the lake of fire and what it represents in my book, Raising Hell. The lake of fire is only found in Revelation, which is a book of symbols and metaphors, and if you want to read more about the lake of fire and exactly how I came to my beliefs about it, check out the book. But for now, I postulate that the lake of fire doesn’t harm those who have overcome because they have already experienced a chosen second death in this lifetime. In fact, I believe Paul referred to the second death taking place for certain folks in this lifetime in several places:
“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:5–7).
“So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:12–13).
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
Just as there is an order to the first death, I believe there is an order to the second death. For some it will come sooner than others, because, as mentioned, some of us will choose to do it here, in this lifetime. The Jews taught and believed that those who choose the second death in this lifetime get to experience an extra period of time in celebration with the Anointed One to come. We believe that Anointed One is Jesus. But they also taught that, in future ages, everyone would be given the opportunity to experience this second death, which is ultimately a purifying and renewing death unto rebirth, not a damning end in eternal destruction.
Starting in the Old Testament and continuing through the New Testament, there are three major crops that represented people as they “die” and are reborn into a different, useful form, each in their season—barley, wheat, and grapes. Each crop matured at its own rate and was harvested in its own season of ripening. The barley came first in early spring, the wheat came in late spring and summer, and the grapes were put through the winepress and harvested in late summer/early fall. This represented the order of death for people, and more specifically I believe, the second death. And again, each represented a change in form in its newness of life—a change that resulted in the enjoyment and betterment of the quality of life for others. Barley and wheat make delicious bread. Grapes, after being put through the winepress, produce what is often thought to be the best of the crop—the sweet wine!
What is the good news in all of this? Death is the predecessor to life. When something dies, it makes a way for new life. As each of us choose a second death, in our own order of time, we will be given new and better life.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24–25).
I believe that, in each person’s order, they will lose their old life and find their new life in Him.