Chapter 5

Beyond the Grave

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Sometimes facing reality can be quite discouraging. It’s disillusioning when we see that life is not what we thought it would be, not what we had hoped for or expected. Inside, we all harbor an innate desire for Eden—a world of security, intimacy, and provision. . . . But such a world no longer exists. Yet within the context of the fallen world around us, we can look forward to a peace and joy that supersedes our sin-tainted circumstances.

In John 16:33, Christ Himself said:

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

While the original creation was perfect, it has now been corrupted by sin and reels in confusion in a vacuum of truth. Thankfully, God has not left us alone in hopelessness. Through Christ and the Cross, He has purchased and prepared a way back to life for those who are willing to receive it . . . and that’s important. Actually it is really important, for soon enough life as we know it will end and our actions will follow us into eternity.

First the Bad News

I know things have been a little heavy up to this point, so let me give you a few uplifting excerpts from Scripture in Genesis 5:

And Adam begat Seth . . . then he died. And Seth begat Enosh . . . then he died. And Enosh begat Kenan . . . and then died. Kenan became the father of Mahalelel . . . and then died.

Isn’t that an uplifting passage of Scripture? If you’re not picking up on this, there is a pattern here! It goes like this: And he died . . . and he died . . . and he died. Sure, that might not seem very uplifting, but in the big picture of what God has done through Christ and the Cross, it can actually be great news.

I remember a man who once took a non-Christian friend to church and pulled the pastor aside and said “Now I want you to give a positive evangelistic sermon for my friend.” What did the pastor do? He preached on the genealogies in Genesis 5—each one ending with the words “. . . and he died.” This man thought, Oh no. Oh no. . . . This is not going to reach my non-Christian friend! I wanted a passage talking about Jesus dying on the cross and so on. But do you know what? The man’s friend became a Christian because the passage kept repeating “. . . and he died . . . and he died . . . and he died.” The man listened and thought, I am going to die! The passage challenged him so much that he made a choice to get things right with God. (You never know how the Lord’s going to use various passages, do you?!)

But I want you to think about this for a moment. If you took that passage, deleted some of the names and wrote in your parents’ and grandparents’ names, and then wrote in your name on the bottom line, that would be accurate, wouldn’t it! Since Adam, death has been reality for every one of our ancestors and that’s the future for each one of us, isn’t it? What a reminder to each one of us. Prior to the Lord’s return, we will live in a world where every human is going to die.

That understanding gives us a different perspective as we look at things like 9/11. People told me, “Oh, I am glad I wasn’t in the World Trade Center. I would have died.” Well, do you know what my response was? “Don’t worry, your turn will come!” I am in no way trying to take away from the horrible thing that happened that day, nor do I negate the grief countless people share over those that perished there. My point is only this: Both the Christian worldview and secular-humanist worldview agree that even if you were thousands of miles away from New York that day, you will still die.

It’s important to get past the “why people die” question—and face the fact that death is a reality. While reporting on a natural disaster, I once heard a television reporter ask, “If there’s a God of love, why would he let so many people and children die?” We’ve answered that question with a firm understanding of sin. Now we need to look past that issue to the extremely practical question that must be asked: What will happen when I die?

Innocence Lost

Rather than facing the reality of the grave, however, many people still get caught up in philosophical questions that keep them one step away from having to deal with their own mortality. “Why would God let so many innocent people die?” I hear this question all the time. But again, let’s be honest; how many “innocent” people are there in this world? Some people might appear to be innocent compared to other people, but how many people could say they are totally innocent before God? We are descendants of Adam, born “in Adam.” All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Nothing good dwells in our flesh (Romans 7:18). We are all dead in trespasses and sin (Romans 7:24). Without Christ, our heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; there’s none righteous, no not one (Jeremiah 17:9).

Honestly, there are no innocent people anywhere in the world. That’s why all people will die. That’s why we need to think beyond the grave. When it comes to death, it’s not really a matter of “why,” and it’s certainly not a matter of “if.” What matters is that death is imminent . . . and left to ourselves, we stand condemned before a holy God.

Looking Toward Forever

Our sin has placed us on a course away from God; if we continue in that direction on earth, we will continue in that direction after death—existing in eternal separation from God in hell, where punishment and isolation will forever be the norm. There are plenty of people who reject that biblical fact. They often ask questions such as “Why would a loving God sentence people to a horrible place like hell?” The question implies that it’s God’s fault. But it’s not. When we correctly understand who we are as descendents of Adam, and contemplate the implications of the Fall, then we should understand that it’s not God’s fault at all. It’s ours.

C.S. Lewis wrote that those who are in hell will to be there, and would be worse off in God’s holy presence as unrepentants.1 We, in Adam, separated ourselves from God through our sin, effectively saying we didn’t want Him. Remember, the temptation was that we would be like Him, that we would be our own god, choosing our own right from wrong according to what seems good to us. Sin is far more than just actions; it’s an act of high treason against the Creator and Sustainer of all life. God is a righteous God, and thus had to judge sin—but in reality we have sentenced ourselves to hell (eternal separation from God) by our actions to be independent of Him.

You can see the impasse this has caused: As the God of love, our Lord desires for us to be united with Him forever . . . but as the God of justice, he must punish sin and rebellion. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death,” and Hebrews 9:22 says that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Yes, it is our fault that we are destined for hell and can do nothing to save ourselves, but is it possible that God, in His merciful and timeless wisdom, created a way out for us?

The First Sacrifice

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken (Genesis 3:21–23).

God is a righteous God. All His ways are perfect, so He had to judge sin with death. Banished from Eden where the tree of life grew, the descendents of Adam and Eve would forever know illness, suffering, and death. Prior to driving them from the Garden, however, God clothed them with garments of skin. (That’s the origin of clothing by the way; the first covering of our guilt.) But I would like to suggest to you that it’s even more than that. Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, knew they had to bring a sacrifice to God . . . so we know that someone had shown them that there needed to be a sacrifice because of sin. I believe that the very first sacrifice—the first blood sacrifice as a covering for sin—takes place right there in Genesis 3:21, where God killed an animal, and then used the skin to clothe Adam and Eve. It is the first recorded incident of nephesh death, the first killing of something with flesh and blood. God is the one that provided the animal; He is the one that performed the sacrifice . . . and He did it for the sinners He loved.

This first sacrifice was a picture of what was to come Jesus Christ—a looking forward to the redemption that could be ours in Christ. It’s what we would call a “proto-gospel”—a preview of Christ and what He was to do on the Cross when God himself provided the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all.

We see in this first sacrifice a picture of God’s covering for the sin of Adam and Eve and a prophetic image of what is to come. . . . It’s right there in Genesis 3:15 where God chastises the serpent (the devil) and tells him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.

This proto-gospel and these prophecies were realized when God himself stepped into human history to become a man so He could pay the price for our sins, which was death. Through His resurrection, He proved He had victory over death, and now offers us the free gift of salvation.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodl. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Romans 5:6–9).
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. . . . But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many (Romans 5:12–15).

The whole of Romans 5 draws a vivid contrast between Adam and Christ . . . a powerful comparison between the one whose sin initiated death and the One whose death can bring us life.

This book has sought, like all publications associated with Answers in Genesis, to give glory and honor to God as Creator. We are convinced of the truth of the biblical record of the real origin and history of the world and mankind. Part of this real history is the bad news that the rebellion of the first man, Adam, against God’s command brought death, suffering, and separation from God into this world. We see the results all around us. All of Adam’s descendants are sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5) and have entered into this rebellion of sin. We therefore cannot live with a Holy God, but are condemned to separation from God. The Bible says that all are therefore subject to “eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

But the good news is that God has done something about it. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus Christ—though totally sinless—suffered on behalf of mankind, paying the penalty of mankind’s sin—the penalty of death and separation from God.

Leviticus 17 tells us that the life of a creature is in its blood; so blood represents life and there has to be a shedding of life to pay the penalty of death. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Indeed, sacrifices have been made since the first one in the Garden, but the blood of bulls and goats can’t wash away human sin (Hebrews 10:4). Because we are not connected to the animal kingdom, human blood had to be shed . . . and it had to be perfectly sinless blood in order to sufficiently pay the price of all sin.

That’s why God did the unthinkable: The Creator himself stepped into history to be one of us, to be our substitute on the Cross. We rebelled against our Holy God; we don’t even deserve to exist. But God not only allows us to exist, but He also provided a way for us to come back to be with Him. Through Christ’s death on the Cross, He satisfied the righteous demands of the holiness and justice of God His Father. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice; but on the third day He rose again, conquering death. All who truly believe in Him, repent of their sin, and trust in Him (rather than their own efforts), are able to come back to God and live now and for eternity with their Creator.

He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18; NKJV).
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:1–2).
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

Those who accept this incredible gift of forgiveness and new life undergo a radical spiritual transformation . . . one in which they are “born again” (John 3:3). While all people are descendents of Adam and were born “in Adam,” those who give their lives to God and receive His payment and forgiveness for their sins are spiritually reborn “in Christ.”

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17–18;l NKJV).
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).

What a wonderful Savior—and what a wonderful salvation in Christ our Creator! By receiving His free gift of new life you can begin the great adventure of renewing and reclaiming His original intent for humanity, one in which you walk with Him and talk with Him as His child. His inerrant Word lays the foundation of truth upon which this new life is constructed; its timeless principles and insights are “living and active” (Hebrews 12:14). Struggles with the fallen world and sinful flesh will continue while on this earth, but beyond the grave, rather than eternal separation from Him forever, you will leave this world and your sinful body behind and enter into a perfect and pure relationship with Him in heaven.

Dear reader, if you have yet to come to Christ for forgiveness of sin and to have the assurance of eternal life, do it now before it is too late. Nothing else offers any hope, and nothing else makes sense of all of reality. This is where the “big picture” must become your picture. You must choose to receive His free gift of salvation. If you are having difficulty reconciling Bible/science issues, write to the nearest Answers in Genesis office, or check our website,, where you’ll find a wealth of information, resources, and encouragement. If you have become a Christian from reading this book, we would love for you to write and tell us; and of course, we would encourage you to commit to a strong Bible-believing church.

Let me be very straightforward with you right now. If you are rejecting God and Christ because of questions you have regarding suffering and death, it’s time to get past that.

Let me be very straightforward with you right now. If you are rejecting God and Christ because of questions you have regarding suffering and death, it’s time to get past that. As I’ve shown you, there are sound and reasonable answers from Scripture regarding these questions, but if you choose to dwell on these issues, basing your objections on what you think is right and wrong, you’re going to miss the point. The point right now isn’t why death and suffering exist, or why some seem to suffer more or die sooner than others . . . the point is that you will die, and you need to be prepared for that reality.

Christ faced these same objections in Luke 13. Someone brought up an “unjust” situation where Pilate had killed Galilean citizens and mixed their blood with his sacrifices (a hideous atrocity for sure). Jesus cut to the real issue, however, with this response:

Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:2–5).

Issues of “fairness” and supposed “injustice” may pester us for the rest of our lives, but the core issue that Jesus focuses on is the one we have already stated: They died. It was their time. You are going to die. Now is your time to repent and turn to the Lord. Make sure you have committed your life to Christ, for death is a reality, and what happens beyond the grave depends on your decisions in life.

Questions for Group Discussion:

  1. Many people have a clear understanding of the gospel, and yet do not repent and receive God’s gift of salvation. What are some of the reasons this might be?
  2. Do you think that concerns about the origin of suffering and death are legitimate reasons to reject the gospel? Why or why not?
  3. C.S. Lewis wrote that those who are in hell will to be there, and would be worse off in God’s holy presence as unrepentants. What do you think of that statement?

Questions for Personal Reflection:

  1. Contemplate James 4:13–17. Do you really believe this passage, or is death just a hypothetical? How would your life be different if you truly realized that the end of your life could come at any moment?
  2. If you had to explain God’s motives for coming to earth and dying on the cross for you, what would you say?
  3. Can you pinpoint a time or season when you committed your life to Christ and accepted His offer of forgiveness and renewed life? If not, why not talk to God about it right now. Thank Him for dying in your place for your sins. Invite Him to come into your spirit, and commit your life to Him and His purposes.

Bible Verses for Contemplation and Memorization:

Understanding who you now are “in Christ” is a vital aspect of a godly life. Spend some time considering each of these truths presented in God’s Word. How could these truths from the Bible change your life?

  • 1 John 1:9
  • Galatians 4:4–7
  • Ephesians 4:22–24
  • Ephesians 2:10

How Could A Loving God...?

With sensitivity to the person whose perception of God has been calloused by tragedy, apologist/Bible teacher Ken Ham makes clear the hope-giving answers found in the pages of Scripture. Be ready when hurting hearts need comfort. Sensitively sharing the reality of original sin—and all that it means—creates a vital foundation for Bible-based healing in the midst of crisis.

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  1. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).


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