I was talking to my five year-old granddaughter, Lauren, about Jonah and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the middle of our conversation, she asked, “Grandpa, why do we have to die to go to heaven?” I love the way children say what they’re thinking without “getting all theological.” I believe our Lord wants us to ask Him all that is on our heart as little children do.
This question also sometimes rises in my mind: “Why did God allow sin to enter the world by one man?” I have probably tried to answer that question something along these lines: “Well, God could have done things differently, but He did it this way because this way best makes known His glory,” as Peter, not really knowing what to say. But the first part of that answer is incorrect. Based on what I read in scripture, I don’t think God could have done things differently. If God wanted to do things differently than He did, He would have. But God thinks as He is and does what He thinks. Therefore, He would have to be different to do differently. The sovereign God of scripture is eternal and unalterable and does all that pleases Him (Ps. 90:2; Deut. 33:27; Ps. 135:6). The thoughts of His heart are established from eternity. They never change (Ps. 33:11). He always brings them to pass (Isa. 46:9-11). God always does all that He thinks. What He thinks is truth. It is holy and just because He thinks it. “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Ps. 145:17). Moreover, nothing can be added or taken from any of His works, because His works are the outworkings of His thoughts (Eccl. 3:14; Eph. 1:11). God is the God of truth. If God changed, truth must change. If truth changed, God’s word must change, scripture must be broken and God must lie. But none of these are possible (John 10:35; Titus 1:2).
Our minds, in contrast, are constantly changing, sometimes learning, sometimes forgetting, ever uncertain, sometimes certain about wrong things, mostly confused about many things and troubled by everything. But God is never confused, never learning, never disappointed. If He could change, He would not be God, at least not the eternal, immutable, holy-in-all-His-ways God that He is. Therefore, all that comes to pass must, of necessity, be the only thing that could come to pass and God still be the God that He is.
But returning to the question, “Why did God allow sin to enter the world by one man?” And to Lauren’s question, “Why do we have to die to go to heaven?” The answer to both questions is the same. It is the will of God. The only thing that will be done is the will of God. The only thing that must be done is the will of God. “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). But we might go on to ask as children, “Why is this God’s will?” I think it is fair to ask, though the answer He gives may rebuke our arrogance (Rom. 9:20). God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20). Why not ask Him then? He knows. I trust Him.
I believe Rom. 8:36 sheds light on mine and Lauren’s question. “For thy sake we are killed all the day long.” Doesn’t this answer Lauren’s question? Before my mom died on June 21, 2013, I wondered how God gets glory from His suffering saints...when they seem...unable to... while the Spirit of God groans within them (Rom. 8:26-27)…and in these musings I had my answer. I believe God allowed sin to enter the world by one man because it seemed good to Him to make His glory known out of weakness and helplessness, indeed, in spite of the strength of this enemy. In spite of the obstacle that my sin raised to His justice; in spite of the ruin my sinful corruption raised to His holiness; in fact, in the face of these my greatest enemies, God showed Himself unerringly wise and strong and righteous in all His ways. Sin enwrapped and intertwined and permeated my very nature. It is so inextricably part of me that my very nature is sin! But just when there was no hope for me but to justly perish under the wrath I so richly deserved, then, into the darkness, in the graveyard of my soul, when every obstacle was raised to its zenith in opposition to my salvation -- then eternal love and immeasurable, unerring wisdom and inscrutable justice and magnificent grace stepped forward in holy concert to find in Christ a greater honor to God’s law, and satisfaction to His justice, and gratification to His eternal love, and display of His infinite goodness than any but His boundless wisdom could devise! He raised me from the dead, creating in me a new nature that knows and believes, and even loves my God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is holy, just, good, almighty, all-sovereign, gracious and merciful! This Savior ransomed and rescued and freed me from the prison of my own sin and unbelief to see His beauty at full cost to Himself! Is this not eternal life out of His eternal love (John 17:3)?
“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:36-37). Let all things in time and eternity redound to the glory of our great God and Savior! Our light affliction is but for a moment (2 Cor. 4:17; Dan. 3:17)! God told Abraham that his physical descendants would suffer at the hand of the Egyptians, and that after over 400 years He would bring them out from under the bondage of the cruel tyrant that He would raise up for the very purpose of showing His power in destroying him at the height of his pride and strength. By this He declared His name throughout the whole earth. “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things” (Ps. 72:18)! God makes known the “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of His eternal love by defeating our enemies in the height of their pride and opposition.
"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10). Believers suffer to make known "the life of Jesus", that is, that He is risen and reigning at God's right hand to the glory of God for our salvation. We are victors in every trouble by His sovereign rule. Even in death we triumph because Christ overcame death in glorious triumph, and now reigns over all of our enemies. Jesus told His disciples, "Because I live, you shall live also" (John 14:19). Christ is thus glorified in His people, and God is glorified in Him.
“When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).