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Dead. Or Not Dead.

Dead. Or Not Dead.

I hate death. I hate it intensely. ~ Ray Ortlund, Tweet, June 2022

The original title of this, the opening chapter of a book on a serious subject was, “Yucky. Not Yucky.” My editor wisely suggested something more grown-up-sounding. I’m good with adult words. However, having raised two daughters all the way from silliness to full maturity, clearly the word yucky was a favorite. The target of this word could have ranged from small sticky place on the kitchen counter to something much more serious. Like mortality.

The opening two chapters in the first book in the Bible paint a pristine picture of all things good. In some cases... very good. But when we arrive at chapter 3, the landscape changes. And everything in this Genesis chapter shows us what bad looks like. In some cases, very bad.


  • one of those terrible things that resulted from Adam and Eve’s disobedience was death.

Until that moment, nothing or no one died. Then a decree went out that eventually everything would perish:

For you are dust, and you will return to dust. — Genesis 3:19 CSB

Like, which part of this diagnosis don’t we understand?

And the most sobering part of this God-spoken directive is that the word you isn’t just delivered to Adam. The pronoun is plural. Thousands of years later, you and I are included. The people we have loved, the people we love now, and the people we will love tomorrow are in there. And the process of dying begins the moment we suck in our first big swallow of air as tiny newborns. Like an hourglass that’s been flipped over, the sand above begins trickling below through the pinch in the middle. There’s no turning that thing right side up. We’re on a one-way trajectory.

And beyond the Garden of Eden and throughout the Bible and all of recorded history, there’s plenty more that has been written about death.

For example, the man Job, from the depths of his own despair affirmed this to be true.

Anyone born of woman is short of days and full of trouble. He blossoms like a flower, then withers; he flees like a shadow and does not last. — Job 14:1–2 CSB

A flower that “does not last.” A brilliant and descriptive metaphor for death.

Even the most beloved psalm written by David assumes life’s end. He doesn’t open this subject in the Shepherd’s Psalm with “just in case” or “maybe”; rather he begins the death phrase with the conjunction “even though,” like there’s no choice in the matter. Because there isn’t.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley... — Psalm 23:4

So because of the shortsightedness of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, and the consequence, the Bible includes the stories of men and women dying. From these accounts you and I can learn a few important things. Here are some examples.


The verses immediately following the eating of the forbidden fruit tell of the birth of two boys — first Cain, then Abel.

Imagine the joy the parents of these men must have experienced at their births. And like every mother and dad throughout the remainder of recorded history with more than one child, Adam and Eve likely wondered, How is it possible that these boys came from the same parents? They could not be more different from each other.

If you’re the parent of more than one kid, you’ve had this conversation with your mate, right?

Apparently, it was too much of a difference for Cain to bear.

Cain said to his blow-dried, always-do-everything-right brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. — Genesis 4:8, Robert’s paraphrase

God’s sentence of death directed to Adam’s sinful decision struck first in his own family. It doesn’t matter how long it was before Cain murdered his little brother, the sting must have been awful... for their dad and mom.

Remember that it had been many years since Adam and Eve had disobeyed God. We know this since there had been time for Cain and Abel to be conceived, born, and grow up. And don’t you know that when their mother and father first learned of their son’s murder, their minds must have careened back to God’s declaration of the thing called death. And this, as a result of their own disobedience. Now death was paying a visit to their family. No small thing to be sure.

As you know, the whole idea of this book is that you and I are going to die. Someday we will cross that line. The event will be complete. The finish line will be our death.

It’s a certainty. Or is it?


When Jesus walked this earth, there were times when He went nose-to-nose with the Genesis 3 narrative about the sentence of death and literally brought departed people back to life. If this was the first time you’ve ever heard of this, what I just wrote would have sounded incredulous. Even impossible.

But you’ve likely heard there was a Man who lived and had the power to call dead people back. And according to the gospel accounts, Jesus did this three times. Just three times — not counting His own resurrection.

The first such miracle involved the only son of a widow. Take a second and let that sink in. Here was a lone woman who had lost her husband and her only child. Jesus and His disciples were visiting the town of Nain and happened upon a funeral procession. No one needed to tell Jesus about the circumstances. No one showed Him the press clipping that included the obituary. Jesus knew. Scripture says that Jesus saw the mother and had compassion on her and said,

Don’t cry. — Luke 7:13

Jesus approached the bier and did something no self-respecting Rabbi would ever do.1 He touched the corpse and said,

Young man, I say to you, get up! Immediately, the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. — Luke 7:14–15

The biblical account tells us that Jesus left the scene and got on to the next thing on His schedule. But can you imagine what the next few hours must have been like for the young man’s mother? Dead son. Because of Jesus, not dead son.

The second account, found in Mark 5:21–43, is also a familiar one. This story has to do with a man named Jairus, the father of a daughter, which is probably why I’m so attracted to it.

Another reason to love this story is the way Jairus, a decorated Jew, humbly fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading on behalf of his twelve-year-old girl. For priests or Pharisees who may have been there, seeing a holy Israelite on the ground in front of an unschooled teacher like Jesus would have been scandalous. But Jairus didn’t care what anyone thought. This was a nothing-to-lose split second.

Once Jesus arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jairus, He entered the youngster’s room with her mother and father, Peter, James, and John. Given the likelihood of the size of the room, a crowded space, to be sure. And as He had done with the other dead body, Jesus broke protocol and took her hand. The tenderness of this scene overwhelms me. And like the man’s corpse on the cart, the young girl immediately sat up. Dead daughter. Because of Jesus, not dead daughter.

And maybe the most famous Bible story of a dead person coming to life, doesn’t include any touching at all. This time Jesus just spoke, as He had at the very beginning — at creation in Genesis — turning death into life.2

  1. “The prohibition of Kohen defilement to the dead is the commandment to a Jewish priest (kohen) not to come in direct contact with, or be in the same enclosed roofed space as a dead human body” (Wikipedia contributors, “Prohibition of Kohen Defilement by the Dead,” Wikipedia, _Kohen_defilement_by_the_dead, accessed August 10, 2022).
  2. The Bible on Jesus and creation: John 1:3, 10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2.

Excerpted with permission from Finish Line by Robert Wolgemuth, copyright Robert Wolgemuth.

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Your Turn

Death is coming for all of us. It’s a one-way trip. Except for Jesus. We now get to say, “Dead. Because of Jesus, not dead.” How does that fact change your view of death? Come share with us! ~ Devotionals Daily