By Patrick Ramsey
In the movie The Princess Bride, Westley has to leave his fiancé Buttercup in order to make his fortune. Buttercup is worried that she will never see him again. Westley reassures her: “This is true love-you think this happens every day.”
True love is the reason they will always be together. The rest of the movie puts that reason to the test. Buttercup is forced to marry the prince after she hears about Westley’s death. Westley, however, is not dead. He tracks her down before the wedding and says, to her, “I told you I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?” “Well…” she says, “you were dead.” Westley replies: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” Although they face more obstacles, their true love wins out in the end. They live happily ever after.
“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” That is a beautiful sentiment. You can make it work in movies, fairytales and books. But you can’t make it work in real life because love can’t overcome death.
Death will bring an end to us and our relationships regardless of how much we love or how much we are loved. ______’s death is another vivid reminder of this sad reality. The Bible says, “…it is appointed for man to die…” Death is universal.
Nonetheless, we know that there is something terribly wrong with death. A human body shouldn’t be lifeless or soulless. A wife shouldn’t be without her husband, a mother without her son, and a man without his friend.
Death fills us with tremendous sorrow and grief. And rightfully so, because death is our enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). We may try and convince ourselves that death is natural or just the way things are. But we know better, don’t we? The grief and sorrow tell us that this is not the way it is supposed to be.
The Bible teaches us that God made us in his own image to love him and to love one another. He made this world for us to live in it and to enjoy it. He didn’t make us to live just a few years and then die for no good reason. Death is an intruder into God’s good creation. Death is our enemy. It teaches us that all is not well with the world.
But why? Why do we die? The answer is us. We all die because of who we are and what we do. The Bible typically uses the word “sin” to refer to our problem. Sin is essentially rebellion against God. To sin is to do what is evil, as defined by God. The Bible says that we are all sinners who sin, and that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). That is how evil sin is. Sinners deserve death. Death, therefore, also teaches us that all is not well with us.
This is why love in the real world can’t stop death. Our love can’t overcome God’s just punishment of death for our rebellion against him. But that is not true for God. Death does not stop God’s love for those who are in Christ Jesus. His love is true love.
The well-known Bible verse John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Even though we rebelled against him, God loved us. He so loved us that he sent his Son, Jesus of Nazareth, to be the Savior of the world.
How Jesus is able to save sinners from sin and death is quite extraordinary, and it involves his death and resurrection. But the main point that I want you to see is simply this: God saves sinners in and through Jesus. Paul says: “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Salvation or the gift of eternal life, however, is not like a one-way ticket that you hand out to people. Eternal life is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In John 11, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus himself is resurrection and life. You need to hitch your wagon to his in order to share in his resurrection and life. Or to use a biblical metaphor, you need to be married to Jesus in order to receive what he has.
A man and a woman are joined together in holy matrimony by taking a wedding vow. How are we married to Christ? We are married to Christ by faith. We believe in him and look to him to save us and to lead us to glory. That is why John 3:16 says whoever believes shall not perish but has everlasting life.
______ believed in Jesus. He was united to Jesus by faith. He loved Jesus. More importantly, Jesus loved ______. Jesus loved ______ with true love. At the end of the day that is what really counts because no Christian loves Jesus perfectly. ______ didn’t. I don’t. No Christians does. One day we will, but not in this life.
We don’t love Jesus perfectly in this life because we are not yet in glory. We are on the road to glory but not yet in it. Let me explain what I mean by using ______ as an example. When ______ became a Christian, he was saved from sin and death and given the gift of eternal life. But he was saved in this broken world. In other words, God didn’t immediately transport ______ into heaven or into the world to come.
Practically speaking, this means that ______ didn’t experience the full salvation that God has promised him in Christ. In fact, the Bible speaks of salvation in the past tense and in the future sense. We have been saved and we will be saved.
Jesus says in John 5 that whoever believes in him has eternal life. He will not come into judgment (i.e. condemned) but has passed from death to life. Or as Paul put it: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus.” All believers are saved right now in the sense that their sins are forgiven and they no longer stand condemned before God. They won’t be eternally punished for their sins.
But there is also sense in which we have yet to be saved. In Galatians 5 Paul says that by faith we wait for the hope of righteousness. In Romans 8 he says we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
This distinction between past and future salvation explains why Christians still die. All of this talk about salvation from death might seem untrue since Christians die like everybody else. They physically die like everybody else because they have yet to receive the redemption of their bodies. That won’t happen until Jesus returns and raises the dead. This aspect of salvation is still future. And as long as it is future, Christians will continue to die like everyone else.
But it must also be said that Christians don’t die like everybody else because they have already passed from death to life. They already have a saving, loving relationship with God in Jesus. Thus, when they die, they don’t go into judgment. Rather, they go into the presence of God in heaven. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. They go to be with Jesus in heaven, where they will be until Jesus comes back to make everything perfect forever. This is why ______s’ former pastor rightly said, Christians don’t die, they go from life to life.
This distinction between past and future salvation also explains why Christians still sin. Again, all of this talk about salvation from sin might seem untrue because Christians still sin, like other people. Indeed, some Christians commit terrible sins. David, a man after God’s own heart, slept with another man’s wife and then had him killed. God’s people still sin. They still sin because they have yet to receive their salvation in full.
One of the beautiful promises of salvation that we Christians have in Christ is that Jesus washes us thoroughly from our sinfulness. By that I mean he will make us perfectly righteous so that we will love him perfectly and love one another perfectly. We have to be perfectly righteous in order to dwell with God and live with him in glory forever. After all, sinners would defile heaven. They would ruin it in the same way we ruin this world with our selfishness, envy, murder, bullying, adultery, lying and so on. Christians need to be saved thoroughly from their sinfulness. They will be so saved by God’s grace but not in this life. That is why they still struggle with sin.
So, we don’t presently experience salvation in its fullness. We have been saved and we are on the way to salvation. In this sense, Christians are like Israel in the OT. They have been delivered from slavery in Egypt and they are on the way to the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Now since we haven’t arrived in glory yet, we might doubt whether we will actually make it. The present reality of sin and death might suggest that we aren’t saved or that we won’t be saved. Will my sins as a Christian keep me from being with Christ? What if I struggle with sin right up to the end of my life or commit a sin that results in my death? Will that ruin everything?
Absolutely not! You don’t save yourself. Entering glory is not based upon how much you haven’t sinned. It is not based on how many good things you have done. It is based upon Christ and what he has done for you and in you. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ Jesus, then you have resurrection life!
In Romans 8 Paul says that God is for us. And if God is for us then who can be against us? Nothing. Even our sins can’t be against us. Why? Because as Paul says, God has justified us. He will freely give us all things. Christ has died for our sins and he was raised from the dead and he is at the right hand of God interceding for us. Christ is the reason our sins as Christians won’t condemn us!
Paul goes on in Romans 8 to say that he is persuaded that nothing, absolutely nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, either now or in the future. Even when we are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13).
So how do I know that nothing has separated ______ from God? True love. That is how I know. God’s true love. Nothing can stop the love of God. Not sin or death. God’s love in Christ is all saving and all powerful.
______’s pilgrimage on earth has ended. His struggle with sin is over and he is at rest. He is with his savior in heaven, which is far better.
If you do not know Jesus and trust in him, I hope and pray that you do so now. Life is short. Come to Jesus and live. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but has eternal life.
Meet the Puritans is the Alliance’s
voice of Puritan and Reformed Theology. It is supported
only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Meet the Puritans
and the mission of the Alliance.