Death is a sobering topic that we must all face. As Christians, understanding what the Bible teaches about death can bring hope and comfort amidst the uncertainty. The Bible speaks of two deaths – the first and second death.
Knowing the difference is vital to interpreting key passages about the end times and eternity. In this post, we will explore what Scripture says about the first and second death and the glorious hope we have in Christ.
The First Death
The first death is physical death – when our earthly life ends and our soul departs from our body. The Bible teaches that because of sin, all people face physical death:
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Physical death is inevitable, but Jesus Christ offers victory over its permanence. For those who put their faith in Christ, physical death leads to eternal life with God. The apostle Paul declares:
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57)
So while we mourn death’s curse, Christians joyfully anticipate everlasting life with Christ after our physical bodies die.
The Second Death
The second death is eternal separation from God in hell. It is the final spiritual death endured only by those whose names are not written in the Book of Life:
“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14-15)
The second death is the complete alienation of unrepentant sinners from God’s mercy and goodness. Scripture depicts hell, the second death, as a place of fiery torment, darkness, and despair.
Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in Scripture. He warns that the second death entails,
“weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12)
“the fire that shall never be quenched.” (Mark 9:43)
Tragically, the second death lasts forever. Revelation 20:10 states that those who experience the second death will be “tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Those Who Overcome the Second Death
While the first death is inevitable outside of the rapture, the good news is that you can avoid the second death by putting your faith in Jesus Christ!
Revelation 21:7-8 promises,
“Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
The victorious are believers who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood. Although we will experience the first death, Christians will overcome the second death through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
So while the first death ushers us into God’s presence, the second death banishes the unrepentant from God’s presence forever. These two deaths represent opposite eternal destinies – eternal life or eternal punishment.
3 Key Takeaways on the First and Second Death:
- The first death is inevitable physical death marking the end of our earthly life.
- The second death is eternal separation from God in hell reserved for the unrepentant.
- Christians overcome the permanence of the first death and avoid the second death by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
The First Resurrection and the Second Resurrection
Along with revealing two deaths, Revelation speaks of two resurrections:
“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)
The first resurrection refers to believers’ spiritual regeneration through faith in Christ while on earth:
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” (John 11:25)
At the rapture, deceased Christians will be bodily resurrected and living believers will receive imperishable resurrection bodies.
The second resurrection happens at the end of the 1000 year millennial reign of Christ described in Revelation 20. All the unsaved dead will be resurrected to face judgment before the great white throne. Since their names are not in the Book of Life, they will experience the second death in the lake of fire.
So the first resurrection leads to eternal life while the second resurrection leads to the second death. All believers partake in the first resurrection while the second resurrection is for unbelievers.
The Glorious Hope of Eternal Life in Christ
While death reigns on this fallen earth, Jesus promises:
“I am the living one; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18)
As Christians, we can take courage that Christ has defeated death and unlocked the door to eternal life! No matter what losses we suffer here, we have unspeakable joy to look forward to in eternity with Jesus.
The apostle Paul exclaims:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
Cling to Christ, the resurrection and the life. Then you can rest securely, unaffected by the fear of death or condemnation of hell. Jesus promises those who believe in Him will live forever!
So thank God that in Christ, you can overcome both the first and second death. The grave could not hold Jesus, and it cannot hold you. Hallelujah, even so come Lord Jesus! Our eternal redemption is drawing near.