I RECENTLY attended a funeral. It was sad, but a time to reflect. Funerals can be profitable: ‘It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart’ (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
This man was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. The order of service gave brief details of his life. It included the dates when he:
“was born into Adam; was baptized into Christ; was married in the Lord; and fell asleep in Christ”
These may seem like strange phrases, but they are using Bible language and they express important Bible ideas. They were explained during the service, quoting the Apostle Paul’s letter to Corinth:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).
We are all born ‘into Adam’. The first man, Adam, disobeyed God: he sinned. As a consequence, he had to die.
Since then, every human being has been subject to death. As offspring of Adam, we are all like him. We too all sin, and so we have to die:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12).
Unpleasant though it may seem, God says that people who disobey Him deserve to die. ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23).
There is one exception: Jesus, the son of God. He ‘in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus was provoked in the most cruel and unfair ways, treated abominably, tortured and murdered. But throughout his life he was obedient to God. Every decision, every action, every word.
On the last evening before his death he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Anticipating the horrors of his imminent ordeal, his sweat was like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done’ (v. 42).
And so it was. But Jesus was only in the tomb for three days. Then, ‘God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it’ (Acts 2:24).
Now Jesus was not the first person to be raised from the dead. In fact, there were at least three people whom Jesus had previously resurrected (Luke 7:11–15; Luke 8:41–56; John 11:1–44). But all these other people would eventually die again. In contrast, Jesus was raised to eternal life. He is now immortal, just like God.
In his last message to his servants after his resurrection and ascension to heaven, he said of himself, ‘I died, and behold I am alive for evermore’ (Revelation 1:18).
And Paul wrote, ‘We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him’ (Romans 6:9).
In this way he was, and is, the ‘firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Paul continues in Romans 6: ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (v. 23).
Baptized followers of Christ are described as ‘in Christ’ (for example Romans 8:1). When they die, they are described as being asleep. They are waiting to be woken up by Jesus when he comes back to the earth:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
These people who are ‘in Christ’ are in a very blessed position. They are:
- no longer condemned but freed from the consequences of sin (Romans 8:1–2);
- a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); alive to God (Romans 6:11);
- raised up and seated in heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6);
- sanctified (that is, they are ‘saints’) (1 Corinthians 1:2, Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:2);
- blessed greatly by God (Ephesians 1:3);
- close to God (Ephesians 2:13), and guaranteed His love now (Romans 8:39).
Paul wrote of these people:
In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise’ (Galatians 3:26–29).
The other expression that is used of them is that they are ‘in the Lord’. And this also describes their attitude and way of life. They preach, look after each other, and work for Jesus.
The funeral programme mentioned ‘married in the Lord’. Such is the unique mindset and identity of the follower of Christ, that it stands to reason they will want to choose a life partner who shares the same commitment. Christians are urged to marry ‘only in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 7:39).
What of Us?
So, in order to become ‘in Christ’ we need to be baptized, as a sign of our faith. Jesus commanded:
Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15–16).
The same message: without believing and being baptized we die ‘in Adam’. But faith demonstrated by baptism can change this.
As we are dipped under the water, we are associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus. This way we have hope of being raised to eternal life, just like Jesus.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3–4).
The person who is in Christ has a new, transformed life now, following Jesus. By birth we are naturally like Adam and share his fate. We belong to his family which is doomed. By rebirth in baptism we can be counted as part of Jesus’ family, trying to be like him now and looking forward ultimately to being made like him, with eternal life.
This is the question: do you want to be in Adam, or in Christ?