In the last words which Moses at the command of the Lord spoke to the children of Israel, he said:
“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply; and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).
In this text we have the most positive evidence that life and death are exactly opposite states. It should be unnecessary to quote anything to prove such a self-evident proposition, yet it is well known that in the face of the statement that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23), many claim that the wicked, as well as the righteous, will have eternal life. If it be true that both righteous and wicked are to have everlasting life, then life and death must mean the same thing, for the Bible says that life is for the righteous and death is for the wicked.
We do not say that it is claimed that the wicked will have life under the same conditions as the righteous, but that they will have as long life as the righteous. But this we say is contradictory of Scripture. The Scripture promises life to the righteous, and death to the wicked. These terms are unqualified except as to duration,—both are eternal. Therefore, if it be claimed that the wicked will live eternally, it must be claimed that life and death are identical in meaning.
But the scripture just quoted shows that they are not identical. They are as widely separated as the antipodes. They are no more alike than are blessing and cursing. “See,” says the Lord, “I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” Who will claim that good and evil have anything in common? No one certainly who has any regard for God’s word. Well, death and life are just as far apart as are good and evil. Life follows good, and death follows evil. Again the Lord says: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.” Who will say that blessing and cursing are identical terms? There is no question but that they are as far apart as the east is from the west. But life is the blessing wherewith God blesses those who love him, and the curse pronounced upon the disobedient is death.
Notice a clause in the last verse of Deuteronomy 30. After admonishing the people to cleave unto the Lord, Moses says: “For he is thy life, and the length of thy days.” Question, If God is the life of his people, and the length of their days, what will become of those who do not cleave to the Lord? It must be that they will not have life nor length of days. This is what the Bible teaches. Paul says that those who “know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” shall “be punished with everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9). He says again that Christ “hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10), which leads to the conclusion that all who do not accept the gospel will know nothing of life and immortality.
Again the apostle John says: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). So far will the unbeliever be from having life, that he shall not see life. And this is literally true. This life amounts to nothing, unless it is used as a preparation for eternal life. It is hard enough at the best. In childhood even, when the world seems brightest and when the spirit is buoyant, there are troubles as great as the child can endure. As age comes on, cares increase, and the words of the patriarch, that “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7), are proved to be true. The life which we live in this earth is not real life. There is not a man who knows, even at his best, anything of the freshness and vigor of that life which will be felt by those who drink of the river of the water of life, and eat of the fruit of the tree of life. One moment of that life will contain more of vigor and joyous energy than threescore and ten years of this present life. And so the man who rejects God and the gospel, and who consequently is punished with destruction, may truly be said to have never seen life.
Christ is the life-giver. He came to earth and died for no other purpose than that men who were doomed to death might have life. “I am come,” said he, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). To say that we can have eternal life without Christ, is to rob him of his highest honor. Who that loves Christ can refuse to worship him as the giver of our life, as well as of all good things?
(This article was taken from the January 1889 editions of “The Bible Echo.” Some grammatical editing was done for this publication. Editor)