The Bible is about a cosmic struggle between good and evil, truth and error. The two contenders are God and Satan. God is the embodiment of truth (John 17:17). Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).
We don?t get very far into the Bible before we see Satan at work. God said to Adam and Eve, ?You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die? (Genesis 2:17). Satan had the audacity to directly contradict God and to tell them, ?You will not surely die? (Genesis 3:4).
Eve had dealt with only truth up to this point. She had talked to only God and her husband. Now, for the first time, she faced contradictory concepts?one truth and one a lie. Unfortunately, she chose to believe Satan rather than God.
Satan still wants you and I to doubt God?s warning that ?the soul who sins is the one who will die? (Ezekiel 18:4). Why? Because that lie has major ramifications and opens the door for these other eight lies that Satan wants you tobelieve:
1 The results of sin are not serious. In fact, Satan tried to convince Eve that disobeying God would have good results instead of bad. He told her, ?God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil? (Genesis3:5). But the tragic consequences of her decision soon became evident. And the whole Bible record tells the story that sin has devastating results. Romans 6:23 says, ?For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.? The only way to unveil Satan?s lie?and reverse the terrible consequences of sin?was through the life, ministry, and atoning death of God?s own Son (see John 3:16).
2 Death is not the end of life but a transition. Satan tries to convince people that death is not the end of life but simply life in another sphere?and often a better sphere at that (such as being reincarnated as another being or going to heaven as an immortal soul). If Satan is right, why mourn over death at all? If at death we go immediately to a better place, why should we empty bank accounts to save the life ofa child or some other loved one, or even ourselves? Wouldn?t Jonestown and Heaven?s Gate be triumphs rather than tragedies? Why not dispense with hospitals and the medical professional together? Aren?t they engaged in delaying the entrance of their patients into eternal bliss?
If Jesus? friend Lazarus had ascended to heaven, did Jesus do him a favor by raising him from the dead (John 11)? Did Lazarus?s sister Martha believe that he was in heaven? No, her faith was in the resurrection ?at the last day? (John 11:24), the day of Jesus? second coming. And what about the saints raised when Jesus arose? Did they come from heaven or out of their graves? The Bible points clearly to the latter (Matthew 27:52, 53). Jesus Himself told Mary on Sunday morning after His resurrection, ?Do not hold onto me, for I have not yet returned to the Father? (John 20:17). He was wakened from the sleep of death, not brought back from heaven.
3 Death is not an enemy. God gave the gift of life in the beginning and sacrificed His own Son to buy back our chance for eternal life. Death is completely against God?s plan?He never intended that it should exist. It is an enemy to be challenged and conquered.1 Corinthians 15 describes the second coming of Jesus and says, ?The last enemy to be destroyed is death?(verse 26; see also verses 54 and 55).
The immortality of the soul idea came into the Christian church through the influence of Greek philosophy. Greek philosophers taught that the body and the soul are separate entities, and the soul lives on when the body dies. Neither the Jews nor Jesus embraced this concept. The Bible makes it clear that only God has immortality (1 Timothy 6:15, 16), and humans are mortal (Job 4:17; Romans 6:12). At the second coming of Jesus, the righteous will exchange ?perishable? bodies for ?the imperishable?(1 Corinthians 15:53, 54).
4 God is not love; He?s cruel and vindictive. Hell and the idea of eternal torment sprang from the concept of the immortality of the soul. If the soul cannot die, then not even hellfire can consume it. Wicked souls will burn eternally. But what kind of picture does this paint of God? It makes Him crueler than Hitler, Stalin, or any other sadistic ruler who has marched across the pages of history.
What would we have done with Hitler had we captured him alive during World War II? We would have hanged him or put him before a firing squad. We certainly wouldn?t have tortured him for years. What did the Iraqi people do with Saddam Hussein? He was hanged. So how can Christians condemn the atrocities of the Holocaust and the genocide in such places as Rwanda and Darfur if, with the next breath, we proclaim a God who will keep His victims alive for eternity so He can continue to torture them? If this were true, God would be tried and convicted in any court for engaging in cruel and unusual punishment.
5 The occult is enlightening. Much of the occult is based on the immortality of the soul. If people who die are really not dead but living on in another sphere, why shouldn?t we be able to converse with them? If we believe Satan?s lie, we leave him an opening for one of his evil angels to masquerade as a dead loved one with the purpose of deceiving us.
Consider the experience of King Saul. As he departed from God, he was deceived by elements of the occult. He tried to contact the prophet Samuel, who was now dead. The results were tragic. We are told that one of the causes of Saul?s sad end was this act of disobedience and defiance (see 1Samuel 28 and 1 Chronicles 10:13, 14).
6 Christ and the cross were not important. This is perhaps the most toxic outgrowth of the big lie. If people possess innate immortality, doesn?t that cheapen (or make unnecessary) the sacrificial death of Jesus? Christ was lifted up on the cross so that ?whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life? (see John 3:14-16). And during Jesus? time on earth, Satan relentlessly pursued Him and tried to sabotage His mission. Why? Because ?Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved? (Acts 4:12). Jesus ?has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel? (2 Timothy 1:10). Without Jesus? death, we humans would have no hope.
7 Jesus? second coming is unnecessary. If we go to our rewards at death, why does Jesus need to return at all? Yet that is exactly what is promised throughout the New Testament. Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us in heaven and would come back and take us there (John 14:1-3). And 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, ?The Lord himself will comedown from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.?
1 Corinthians 15 proclaims that our hope is the resurrection of Jesus and His promise to resurrect us: ?Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him? (verses 20-23). When the trumpet sounds and Jesus returns, we will be given immortality (verses 51-54), something we would not need if we already had it.
8 Life in heaven isn?t very attractive. Would heaven be an enjoyable place for someone who is still fully aware of all the tragedies unfolding on earth? How about for a love done watching not only our joys but our sufferings and heartaches as well? Doesn?t it make more sense?isn?t it more loving and merciful?to know that people who have died are sleeping, unaware of our trials and triumphs and with no sense of the passage of time? Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, ?For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.?
God?s kingdom will be more than we could ever imagine. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, ?No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.? Read Revelation 21 for a vision of what God?s kingdom will be like?no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. He will wipe all tears from our eyes, and we will inherit all things. God says that He will be our God, and we will be His sons and daughters (verse 7).
That is a hope built on the Solid Rock. Satan?s big lie is built on shifting sand.
Lee R. Tripp served as a pastor for 40 years in Ohio, New Jersey, and California. He is now retired in California with his wife of 54 years. He enjoys reading, hiking, and traveling