Putting Death to Death
A meditation on the title The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.
What exactly does John Owen’s title mean? The dying of Death? Death has been killed? I’ve been thinking about this concept ever since I wrote my paper for theology 2.
Let’s start by defining Death (the second usage in the title, big “D”). I think we can agree that Death refers to rebellion against God that leads to eternal condemnation. This means, Scripturally, all rebellion against God leads to eternal condemnation. Obviously, since Death entered through Adam and Eve’s rebellion, Death refers to the consequences of rebellion, and that rebellion should be thought of synonymously (i.e. “it’s gonna be the death of me”).
So the death of Death means the final destruction of that rebellion. How is Death destroyed? The title here says by the death of Christ. We find this to be eminently true in the book of Revelation, when Death and hell are cast into the lake of fire; that is, into eternal destruction.
This means that all rebellion against God has been effectively ended and destroyed with the death of Jesus. All rebellion for the elect and non-elect alike has effectively ceased, making us very clearly without excuse for continuing to rebel despite God’s command for all people everywhere to repent.
What does this mean for the elect? It means their rebellion has been atoned for. Christ draws them out of what He has destroyed by the power of His death. They have effectively been made alive from eternity.
What does this mean for the non-elect? I am increasingly coming to think that this means Christ’s death effectively puts them to death. It does not pay for their sins. Rather, it destroys them utterly. From eternity, Christ has cast them into the lake of fire. Christ’s death exacts the just sentence they deserve. They are already condemned because of their sin nature, and in Christ they are delivered unto destruction.
This is a revolutionary concept in my thought over the past two weeks. It is also quite troubling in some respects because I’m not too sure it is coherent or even a biblically supportable concept. I will post more on this as I reflect more and search the Scriptures.