Here's my minipiphany (mini epiphany) for the day. Maybe this seems obvious, but I'd never quite thought of it in exactly this way.
My men's group has been discussing different atonement theories. The basic question is how does Christ dying and rising from the dead accomplish us being forgiven of sins and being reunited to God?
What popped into my head was a way of looking at it that I had not considered. Because, for some reason, I had not taken the verse that says 'The wages of sin is death' literally. I mean, I've sinned plenty, and I'm still alive. God told Adam and Eve that if they ate the forbidden fruit, then they would surely die, but they didn't die. They lived a good long time after that. So, I don't know how seriously I've taken that sin = death.
I've heard at church that we die a spiritual death. I've heard that Jesus takes the consequences of our sins on himself on the cross. But what if it is meant to be taken literally? What if choosing sin begins the process by which our bodies begin to die? And not that it's immediate - it takes time to die of natural causes - but it's inevitable. And what if that is the end?
As a Christian, I've always assumed that I'm going to live forever, either in this life or the next. It's why death doesn't really frighten me. I've never thought much about the idea of absolutely ceasing to exist in any way. But some Old Testament writers did think just that - they talk of going down into the dust and existing no more, as if there is no afterlife.
So, what if sinning means that you deteriorate until you die, and cease to exist? Period. It would be pretty hard to hang out with God for eternity if you no longer existed. And what if the atonement, with Christ rising from the dead, allows us also to be reborn, resurrected from the dead? Brought back from the brink of nonexistence? Made to live again, so that we can hang out with God forever.
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out - those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.