As a usual thing, we consider that one passes from life to death. The writer of Hebrews said, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Recall all the examples in the genealogies of Genesis chapter five. For example, “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died” (Gen. 5:5). We all understand the concept. One is born into this life and then dies, leaving this earthly life behind. We have all seen it happen and expect the same to occur to us in the future.
Yet, Jesus said that one can pass from death to life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Just how is it that one can pass from death to life? Recorded are examples of those who were resurrected from the dead. Jesus raised Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, from the dead after he had already been dead four days (John 11:1-44). Peter raised Dorcas, the woman full of good works and almsdeeds (Acts 9:36-40). But, these resurrections are not what Jesus was talking about when he said we pass from death to life. Jesus was talking of passing from spiritual death to spiritual life. The apostle Paul spoke of the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). The law of sin and death is simply that sin results in spiritual death, it’s the law! God told Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they did not die physically that day, they lived many more years. Yet, they did die spiritually that day. To the Ephesian church Paul wrote, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Paul told Timothy that the widow “that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (I Tim. 5:6). Sin separates man from God, resulting in spiritual death (Isa. 59:1-2; I Pet. 3:12).
The word “death” means “separation”. Physical death occurs when the body and spirit separate. James writes, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Spiritual death is the separation of man from God as noted in the above paragraph and results in eternal separation or death if one does not pass from death unto life. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians concerning the day when the Lord would return, “…with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (II Thess. 1:7-9). Notice the punishment is both “everlasting” and “from the presence” of the Lord.
When one becomes a child of God, he has passed from death to life. In order to become a child of God, one must be born again. Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, that “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus questioned if a man could “enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born” (John 3:4). Jesus’ response is to explain to Nicodemus that the two births are different, one physical and one spiritual. He told him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Nicodemus had been born of the flesh and was a child of his physical parents. Jesus spoke of being born spiritually and becoming a child of God, who is a Spirit (John 4:24).
The apostle Paul made the analogy of the new birth to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:1-5). One dies to sin, is buried in baptism into the death of Christ, and like Christ was raised from the dead, the new child of God is raised to walk in newness of life. Having been baptized into Jesus Christ (verse 3), one has put on Christ (Gal. 3:27) and is then a new creature (II Cor. 5:17). To the Colossians, Paul wrote, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col. 2:12-13). Thus it is at this point that one is in Christ, has been born again, is a new creature, has put on Christ, has passed from death unto life and is to walk in newness of life. The change of spiritual states, from that of the lost to that of the saved is presented in a number of ways in the New Testament. Passing from death unto life is just one of those word pictures used by the inspired writers. Unless one passes from the state of being spiritually dead to that of being spiritually alive, he or she shall never partake of the eternal blessings of heaven. The ways and means of that transition is clearly taught in the word of God (Rom. 1:16-17; II Tim. 3:16-17). Be sure you pass from death unto life!