Did Christ claim victory over the second death for believers?


Did Christ claim victory over the second death for believers?


Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

While all Christians will eventually die their own personal physical death (Eccl. 3:2; Heb. 9:27), God’s elect won’t die “the” eternal second death (Rev. 2:11).

What is Death?

The Bible is God’s holy Word. If the scriptures communicate to us something concerning death, then we can stake our very lives on it. The most complete answer of what death truly is comes from the scriptures themselves. What does scripture tell us?

God promised Adam and Eve that if they partook of tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they would “surely die” (Gen. 3:17). Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit and as God ordained death passed not only on them, but upon every single soul (save Christ) that would ever be born (Rom. 5:12, 17, 18). At the moment of Adam’s first sin, the curse and tragedy of death - both physical and spiritual - passed upon all mankind.

From the moment we are born, we begin to physically die. The human body is described as a body of death (Rom. 7:24). We all sense that we will die (Eccl. 9:5). And even when death is expected it seemingly comes upon us suddenly, in an instant (Eccl. 9:12).

Death is an appointment that we all will keep (Heb. 9:27). Sooner or later we all die physically (Job 14:5; Psa. 39:4; 103:15-16). Physical death can be described as a gradual weakening of the body. At times though it’s not gradual but an unexpected surprise. Ultimately, it is the separation of the spirit from the mortal body. We observe this in the scriptures. In the case of Jarius’ daughter, the Bible describes her coming back to life as “her spirit returning to her” (Luke 8:54-55). James 2:26 states, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

However, we are also born into this world in spiritual death (Eph. 2:1-2, 5). Spiritual death is when we are dead spiritually toward God (Col. 2:13). When Adam sinned in the garden he lived a total of 930 years before he died physically (Gen. 5:5). But he instantly died spiritually and as a result hid from God immediately after his sin as he was estranged from his Creator (Gen. 3:8). The natural man, like the first couple hiding in the garden, is isolated from God. So, as Adam and Eve, we are separated from God by our very fallen nature. Thus, spiritual death is described as “being alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). In this state, we can’t please God in anything we do (Rom. 8:7-8) as nothing we do may glorify God (1 Cor. 1:31).

As seen above, death is an intruder that came into existence with Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12). Death is an enemy - the last enemy that will be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:32). It is a wage - an obligation - that must and will be paid (Rom. 6:23). The second death is an ongoing agony in an eternal hell (Luke 16:23-24).

What Are Two Ramifications of Death?

Judgment is associated with death. God's curses, that is his judgments, aren’t pleasant. Judgment and thus death is something to fear for most people. It's a great unknown for many. Most are griped as prisoners in its chains. Aren’t we terrified by the very thought of death? So, terrified that we don’t even like discussing it.

No one desires to pay the debt for every single thing they’ve ever done wrong and for the things we should have done but neglected. Who desires judgment and the sentence it brings? Who wants suffering and agony? Who desires eternal agony? So, death for most is something to be dreaded.

Death happens twice for those who don’t believe in Christ as both Lord and savior (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8). First they die physically. As a former homicide detective I'll simply state that death comes in many shapes and sizes, some violent others not. But that’s not the end of their long, long story. At physical death the unsaved will receive new bodies - eternal bodies - that will dwell and suffer for all eternity in hell (1 Cor. 15:42, 44, 53). While their consciences are very much alive their new eternal bodies are tormented forever. They have a continuous debt to pay for all eternity, an eternal agony.

On the other hand, death only happens once for a believer. [1] “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). While Christians will eventually all die physically [2], in Christ they already have eternal life (John 17:3). Eternal life is a present possession of the believer. John 5:24 states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Eternal life, what a life it truly is!

So, the saints of God only die once and that only a physical death.

What, if any, is the Good News of Death?

So far death doesn’t sound very positive does it? But it does have a rather glorious and exciting side for some.

Jesus Christ was born to die. He died a real human death and then he was literally buried and rose again three days later (1 Cor. 15:3-4). As Luke wrote, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46). So, Jesus breathed his last breath. He died! It was a death of severe agony. It is the death of deaths!

God the Father raised Jesus from the dead thus freeing him from its agony (Acts 2:24). And Jesus cannot die again as “death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom. 6:9). By his death Jesus destroyed him that had the power of death - that is he destroyed the Devil (Heb. 2:14). 1 John 3:8 states, “… for this reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” So, death was swallowed up in the victory of the cross (1 Cor. 15:54).

At the cross, Jesus destroyed spiritual death for believers (2 Tim. 1:8-10). In Christ through the Spirit they are made alive and irresistibly believe in Christ and repent of their sins. So when Jesus rose from the dead, he freed all those that believe in him from the prison house of sin (Heb. 2:15). Since Jesus rose from the dead, death cannot separate his chosen people from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39). The second death can’t touch them!

Through the atoning work of Christ, Christians now have victory over death. Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death, “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Jesus died and rose again to deliver his people.

So, believers are justified by Christ’s atoning work (Rom. 4:25; 5:10). In Christ, the curse of the second death was removed from them (Gal. 3:13). Since they already have eternal life, Christians will never taste the second death (John 5:24; 8:51; 11:25). As John writes, “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Rev. 2:11; cf. Rev. 20:6).

So, the death and resurrection of Christ from the grave means the Christian’s victory over death as well. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57:

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So, the good news of death is that it was defeated at the cross of Jesus Christ for all believers.

Do you desire to be free from the second death? Do you desire life - that is eternal life? Then believe in Jesus. Believe he was born, lived a perfect sinless life literally being God in the flesh, that he was crucified, died, and was buried. Also believe he was resurrected three days later from the grave. He died for his people. He defeated hell, death, and the grave for all those that believe in him. Know Jesus and know life. As Jesus said:

John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”


[1] Lazarus died twice physically, but he was only judged once (Heb. 9:27), thus Jesus himself described Lazarus’s first death as “sleep” (John 11:11). God ordained in eternity past that Lazurus’ first death would only be temporary. One reason we know he was subject to death again is that the chief priests literally sought to put the resurrected Lazarus to death later on (John 12:10). Moreover, the fact that Lazarus died again is apparent in that in his first death he wasn’t resurrected with a glorified body, that’s is not subject to death and corruption (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Jesus is “the first fruits” of all who would be resurrected with a glorified body, but Lazarus was raised before Jesus died. So, it follows that Lazarus couldn’t have had a glorified body yet. No one will have a glorified body until Christ returns (1 Cor. 15:52).

[2] In the course of time, the physical death of the Christian isn’t a condemning death; ultimately it’s a death that leads to living life in the new heavens and new earth. Ursinus provides numerous reasons why a Christian still dies; (1) to admonish our remaining sin; (2) to admonish the evilness of sin itself; (3) to abolish our remaining sin; and (4) to provide a path to eternal life. Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (Elm Street Print Co., 1888).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).