Security Arising From Death

Genesis 15:8‑18  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
There are several lights in which we may view death. It is the wages of sin. (Rom. 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23).) It came by man. (1 Cor. 15:2121For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:21).) It has a claim on all the children of Adam, and all such are liable to enter into it. It terminates a man's existence upon earth, it cuts short all his plans in connection with this life, and manifests how really, because of sin, he is but a sojourner in the world. To the weary, the troubled, the distressed, it brings cessation from earthly toils, and earthly vexations. (Job 3:13-1913For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest, 14With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves; 15Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver: 16Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. 17There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. 18There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. 19The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master. (Job 3:13‑19).) To many it has come as the king of terrors. (Job 18:1414His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors. (Job 18:14); Hebrews 2:1515And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:15).) To the unconverted, the impenitent, if at all alive to that which comes after it—judgment (Heb. 9:2727And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)), it is a most unwelcome intruder. The Christian, however, if at peace with God, without desiring it (2 Cor. 5:44For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (2 Corinthians 5:4)), can yet quietly yield to it. For him its sting is gone (1 Cor. 15:5555O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55), 5G), it is annulled (2 Tim. 1:1010But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (2 Timothy 1:10)), and made subservient to his interests (1 Cor. 3:2222Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; (1 Corinthians 3:22)); and, if called to pass through it, he will find it the door of exit from earth, through which he departs to be with Christ. (2 Cor. 5:88We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8); Phil. 1:2323For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (Philippians 1:23).) There is, however, another light in which we can view it, for it makes secure beyond the possibility of revocation or change, that which is based upon it. " For a testament is of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." (Heb. 9:1717For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. (Hebrews 9:17).)
But this introduces the thought of the death of another by which we receive a benefit. The man of the world then may talk of the certainty of death, the Christian can speak of security which results from it; but the worldling will be thinking of his own, or other men's death, the Christian of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the worldling, if he continues such, death is certain, " for it is appointed unto men once to die." Death will come, and rob him of all that he possesses. Others may profit by his death as far as regards the things of this life, but to him death will be a robber, a spoiler, a captor. And it is the prospect of death which makes him feel, whether willing to confess it or not, how uncertain is his continuance on earth, and his tenure of the things of this life. Certainty of death, and insecurity arising from it, on these the man whose portion is in this life may sadly soliloquize, and descant. With the Christian how different! Of the uncertainty of his death he may speak, and on the security resulting from death, that his hopes shall be accomplished, he can confidently rely. If he thinks of death as affecting himself, he knows it cannot take from him one iota his proper portion. His inheritance lies beyond it, and is untouched by it, for it is " incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven, for those who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Pet. 1:4, 54To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4‑5).) If he thinks of the death of the Lord, he knows how secure is his future. Now the one who has taught us this is God, and in the darkness of night He gave His servant Abraham, and us also, to understand, that what is based upon death, can never be annulled, nor altered.
When Abraham first pitched his tent at Sichem (Gen. 12), God promised to give the land to his seed. When Lot separated from him, and chose the plain of Jordan, by Sodom, God renewed His promise to Abraham, that the land should be given to his seed, and accompanied the reiteration of His promise with the gracious addition of "forever." (Chap. 13:15) In chapter 15 God came to him in a vision, and Abraham asked for assurances both as to the existence of his seed, and as to their possession of the land. As regards his seed God gave him a fresh promise, and he believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. As respects the inheritance of the land, God entered into a covenant to reassure him of it. Now this was not the first covenant God had made with men. But it was the first which was ratified by death.
God established His covenant with Noah, when He shut him into the ark, and kept him in safety throughout the flood. (Gen. 6:1818But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. (Genesis 6:18).) He made a covenant too after the flood with the whole human race, and with every living creature with them, from all that went out of the ark, to every beast of the earth, that a flood should never again cut off all flesh, nor destroy the earth. (Gen. 9:9-179And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth. (Genesis 9:9‑17).) It was nothing new then on God's part to enter into a covenant engagement with man, when He graciously bound Himself to Abraham on that memorable night. But it was quite a new feature in any such engagement, as far as we are aware, for God to ratify it by death. In after years, too, God made covenants without any such ratification, for example, Exod. 34; Deut. 29:1 Sam. 23:55So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. (1 Samuel 23:5); but on this occasion He instructed Abraham as to what he was to do. When all was prepared, God bound Himself at sunset to bring back Abraham's seed to that land, and to judge those who should have afflicted them. And when darkness had overspread the earth, a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp passed between the pieces of the animals slain. The burning lamp was the token of the divine presence. (Exod. 20:1818And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. (Exodus 20:18); Eze. 1:1313As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. (Ezekiel 1:13); Dan. 10 G.) The smoking furnace seems to be the emblem of judgment (Psalm 21:99Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them. (Psalm 21:9).; Isa. 31:99And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 31:9); Mai. iv. 1); for judgment on their enemies, as well as deliverance of his seed, God bound Himself to Abraham to accomplish. We know how fully that was carried out. The same inspired word which tells us of the covenant, acquaints us will! its fulfillment.
But why did God act in this way with Abraham?
He had promised in chapters xii. and xiii. that his seed should have the land, and that forever. Why then, did God pass, as it were, through the pieces of the animals slain? It was to give the most complete assurance of the fulfillment of His promise, binding Himself in the most solemn way to perform the promise to Abraham's seed, after the patriarch's death. But why were the animals slain? Men might make a covenant after that manner, in token that they deserved death, if they broke it, as Jer. 34:18-2018And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, 19The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf; 20I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth. (Jeremiah 34:18‑20) shows us. But on God's part there could be no failure. Was not then God's action on this occasion an intimation to Abraham of the immutability of the covenant thus made? For where death has come in, one cannot revert to the condition of matters which existed before it. The life given up cannot be taken back, hence there can be no change in the engagement solemnly entered into. What is based upon death must therefore stand forever. Abraham, it would appear, perfectly understood this, for never again, that we read of, did he ask from God for any fresh assurance that his seed should inherit the land. All was made sure to him, since the covenant was ratified by death.
Now, if we read this narrative only as a chapter in the life of the patriarch, we could not but feel an interest in the account of that night's intercourse with God, when the Almighty was solemnly binding Himself to a creature to perform for his seed what He had already promised. But that would be all. Yet, surely no one, whose God is Abraham's God, should turn away from that history as one in which he has no concern. Of course in the fulfillment of the promise then confirmed to Abraham, we have no direct concern. In the ways of God, however, and His teaching, we are intimately concerned; for we learn what He is, who is the unchanging One, from what He has said, and from what He has done. And here we are taught by God Himself of the immutability of that which rests upon death. In this principle then here first authoritatively set forth, we are all interested. For in the death of God's Son, we who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are now deeply concerned. All then that rests on His death must abide immutable, and secure. Is this man's deduction merely? Nay. It is God's own gracious teaching from His ways with Abraham on that night.
Have we then forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ? (Eph. 1:77In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:7).) That must stand good forever, for the blood, which is the life, has been shed, and the life so surrendered cannot be taken back. Death having come in there can be no going back to a previous condition of matters, and so no revocation of what has been effected by it. x\re we justified by His blood? (Rom. 5:99Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:9).) Our justification must abide then forever. What has been done cannot be undone. Have we boldness to enter the holiest by His blood? (Hob. x, 19.) Of that right of entry we can never be deprived. All is secure and unchangeable which rests on death, and we can add the death of God's Son. And who teaches us this, and would settle the heart in this confidence? It is God, who has written this history of that light's intercourse between Himself and Abraham for our instruction, and the establishing, and joy of our hearts. C. E. S.