The Image of God and Death

When God created Mankind, way back in the very beginning, we were not created to die, but to live, for our God is the God of the living, not of the dead. Yet death was a possibility:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 2:15-17

This is the first mention of death in Scripture, and isn’t it interesting that it came about with a free choice; the man could obey God’s simple and easy command, or he could choose to disobey and die. In the next chapter, we have the greatest lie ever told:

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman (3:4)

They died.

First, they died spiritually, for in their rebellion, they were cut off from God’s life-giving presence. Later, they died physically. This was not the way God wanted things to work out, and once again we are face-to-face with the amazing restraint of God, who created us with a free will, and let us make our choice to go against His will.

But that was not the end of the story!

Through a series of covenants, God began to re-establish a relationship with errant humanity, and in due course He established a Nation of people under His divine Law; Israel. Yet Israel was populated by a stiff necked people, prone to rebellion and disobedience, but God, ever faithful, sent His Son to Israel to redeem them from their rebellion against Him, and to re-establish His fellowship with humanity. As it turned out, the People of God for the most part rejected the Son of God, but not before He could establish a New Covenant between God and Man in His blood, that would change everything for those who believed and accepted His offer of salvation from sin.

Today, we find ourselves living in a messed up world full of strife and violence and great evil. Yet in spite of this, we also find ourselves with an amazing certainty of hope, for we know that even in the midst of the strife of this world, we are citizens of the Kingdom of heaven, made to be bearers of the very image of God and reconciled to Him as His servants. We know that in spite of our physical mortality, we will live eternally, for that was God’s purpose for humanity from the very beginning. Even now, we have the same choice as the first humans had in Genesis 2 and 3, to rebel against God and die, or to accept God’s grace and live forever.

To enter relationship with Jesus Christ is to accept His offer of grace and with it eternal life. We know that the day will come when our mortal bodies will give out, but the soul and spirit of Man is eternal, and our bodies will be raised imperishable on the last day. We will live with Him in a new earth forever more, as our most ancient of forebears did in the Garden, in perfect fellowship with God, and in the fullness of His Image and as an expression of who He is, as God intended us to be from the very dawn of time.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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12 Responses to The Image of God and Death

  1. Matt Brumage says:

    You mention two deaths, spiritual and physical, but what if the very term death really removes any distinction? What I mean is, what if death is actually relational in nature and not “biological” or “spiritual” except circumstantially? If it is, and I believe it is, then the “image” of God as part of us remains, even in death. In John 1, the Apostle writes, “He was the Light illuminating every man coming into the world.” Or possibly, “The Light illuminating every man was coming into the world.” Either way, Jesus is Light illuminating every man, regardless of whether they accept or reject Jesus. I believe this refers, obliquely, to His image in us. If death is relational, and biologically our earthly relationships are lost when our body stops, and spiritually, our relationship with our Creator is lost as long as our spirit is separated from Him, then what happens to the image that has been created in us in such states? While separate from our Creator, does His image draw us to “life more abundant”? If it’s not lost when we “die”, can it be part of what calls us back from death? I believe as long as we are separate from our Creator, His finger print (His image) remains as proof there is life we miss out on. Some have said the image of God is what is redeemed in salvation. As you can see, in a sense, I agree.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I would tend to agree Matt, although I wouldn’t be on board if that line of reasoning went all the way out to Universalism.

      I considered writing The Image of God and Spiritual Warfare (or maybe spiritual conflict) but I decided to hold off on that one for now, because I haven’t worked out how to present it at a high school level; this is right in the middle of that discussion, although I’m not saying that it MUST be in that discussion.

      • Matt Brumage says:

        You’re absolutely right about the danger of universalism. So I figure dead people (with no relationship with God) still have His image which I believe includes Light, which I suspect they find annoying until the come to life.

        I’m looking forward to the spiritual warfare entries. That was a challenging topic for me to wrestle with in my own blog this week. I’m still not done wrestling offline yet.

  2. pipermac5 says:

    I think that death is the destruction of the image of God in man, because death not only deprives the body of physical-life, it also separates the animating-soul and spirit FROM the body. The resurrection will not only give the body new life, it will also reunite all the parts of our being permanently, thus restoring the image of God to the glory God intended in creation.

    Light is used as a metaphor for life. If someone is alive but unresponsive, we may say “The lights are on but nobody is home”. When a person dies, we may say “Their light has gone out”.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thank you Steve; very fine points!

    • Matt Brumage says:

      True. Light is also a metaphor for understanding and even truth. So is it possible for a person living a biological life without a relationship with their Creator to have Divine “Light” and the Divine Image, and still be “dead in their sins”? Maybe dead without Light, but the Image? Maybe dead without either, or perhaps dead with both?

      Okay strange ironic tangent…Is it weird for anyone else that zombies are so popular right now and lost people really are ” spiritual” zombies? Is there some way we can capitalize on that to bring people to Jesus?

    • Matt Brumage says:

      True. Light can also be a metaphor for understanding and truth. So, can someone living biologically have both Divine Light and the Divine Image and yet be “dead in their sins”? Do they have only the Image? Or perhaps neither?

      On an odd tangent, does it seem odd to anyone else that zombies are popular and lost people really are ” spiritual” zombies? Can we somehow use this to bring people to Jesus?

  3. briananei says:

    The spirit in man died at the fall, but the soul, mind, will and emotions live on. Christ raises our Spirits to life from the dead! Afterwards, we feel and know his Spirit communing with our spirits inside of our earthy temples.

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