Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
All Men Die
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23NKJ
Question 84 of the Larger Catechism, asks, "Shall all men die?" It gives the answer, "Death being threatened as the wages of sin, it is appointed unto all men once to die; for that all have sinned." Last week considered the coming torments of Hell that the wicked begin to experience in this life. This week we examine why all men die.
Everyone dies. In fact, every living person is presently dying and each day we live brings us one step close to our deaths. We do not like to think about death, especially our own impending deaths. Our culture has many ways in which we try to blunt the stark reality of death. Our fairy tales end with the refrain "and they lived happily EVER after." We promise our spouses that we will love them "forever." We pledge that we will "never" forget important events or people. But the fact of the matter is we do not have forever, neither will we "always be there" no matter how much we mean to. There is a day coming that we will die. I will be dead someday. You will be dead someday. It is a truth that none can escape and not talking about it does not make it go away.
Now in affirming that "it is appointed unto all men once to die" the Catechism is careful to say what is appointed and not what in fact will actually happen. The Westminster Divines were well aware of Paul's instruction to the Corinthian church: that some people would not taste death. "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed," (1 Cor. 15:51-52). Accordingly, the Catechism rightly teaches that although it is appointed for every sinner to die, there will in fact be some sinners who do not taste death. Likewise, the Bible seems to teach that when Enoch and Elijah were taken up into heaven, they did not pass through that experience of death, which every other person in heaven has passed through, including Jesus (Gen. 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11).
The reason why all die is because death is the wages of sin. Wages are earned not given. As a worker your wages are owed to you. You are paid wages for a certain amount of work done or for a task successfully performed or completed. The man who does the job deserves the wages promised to that job. In fact it would be wrong to not give a man the wages he has earned. At the end of the day, every employee or contractor has a right to the wages that were assigned to him. Here we notice that according to the Bible, God owes the sinner death. It is funny and unnatural to say the subject "God," followed by the verb "owes." God by definition owes every creature nothing. We were all created by divine fiat, we were no-thing and then God made us. How could it ever be that God would "owe" a creature anything? Only when the owing inheres in God's own character. Thus, God owes sinners death because being created in the image of God, when we sin we give a monstrous witness to what God is like. By definition when a being made in the image and likeness of God sins he bears false witness to God. God's honor is impugned by the sinner. His holy person is slandered, and therefore to maintain His own divine dignity and perfection He must receive satisfaction from the sinner. The one who has offended must be punished in exact proportion to the nature of the offense. Accordingly, the death threatened in the Garden to sinners must be, by definition, an everlasting punishment. God is an infinite, eternal being. Any sin committed against Him by one given the honor of representing Him can only be an infinite offense, and thus the offender must give infinite satisfaction. The only way a limited creature can give an infinite being full satisfaction is to be everlastingly punished. Thus, death is promised to Adam and Eve should they sin, for it is what God must give to them. Sin deserves death; everlasting death. To not give everlasting death to the sinner would be an unjust action on the part of God. It would be to do what is not right.
The wonder of the gospel is that God sent a man, an image-bearer like us, to fulfill the honor we owe to God by His obedience, and to satisfy the offense we have given to God by His death. Because Jesus Christ was not only man, but the infinite, eternal Son of God, His obedience and death have infinite and eternal worth in the sight of God; enough to earn the salvation of every sinner in this world, and even a thousand worlds, should God have chosen to create them! Therefore, sinner, consider the wages you have earned before God and seek the free gift of salvation earned by the Lord Jesus Christ and given freely to all who trust in Him.