According to the Apostle Paul, the two comprehensive features of the
present age which make it an evil age (Gal. 1:4) are sin and death — of which
the first is cause and the second is effect. The rebellion of Adam made possible
the entrance of sin's power into the very substance of the cosmos, resulting in
the corruption (death) of the whole of God's good creation.
In the Pauline letters no aspect of death is ever treated as natural.
Death is always the work of sin. Death's power is in no way distinct from sin's
power nor any less extensive. Wherever there is resistance to God's will, there
is death; and death is the "last enemy" because it will be finally destroyed only
when the last resistance to Christ's reign is overcome.
Sin's special stronghold is in the flesh. That is why Paul speaks of the
fleshly body as a "body of sin" and a "body of death". Sin's power is so great
in every person's "members" that his "inner man" is inevitably overwhelmed and,
joining in Adam's sin, he dies spiritually. A measure of sin's power in the
flesh is the fact that when the Law challenges sin's presence the Law itself is
made an instrument of sin to deceive and to kill. Even when by union with Christ
the believer becomes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, spiritually alive
with the life of the coming age of glory, his body remains under the power of
death. The body will become liberated from death's power only at the Parousia,
when by Christ's power it will be transformed into a -rrveo/^^Tiisov. In the
intermediate state the man in Christ, though he is with Christ and at rest from
the bitter tension and conflict between the Spirit and the flesh which he experienced as long as he was in a body of sinful flesh, awaits in hope the full life
of glory which he will receive — together with all the sons of God and with all
the KTtVry — at the resurrection, when his body will at last be redeemed from
its thraldom to sin and death.
Total victory over death is already the experience of one man, Jesus Christ.
He now lives the life of the coming age of glory in a redeemed body. His triumph
over death is the result of his triumph over sin in the flesh, wrought by a per¬
fect act of righteousness: his obedient acceptance of the undeserved death of a
sinner in its fullest dimensions of horror on behalf of his sinful brothers. Be¬
cause his death was fully representative and substitutionary, he is able to share
his victory over death with all who will accept union with him in his death. To
die with Christ means the death of the ego in faith and love and, also, a join¬
ing in the sufferings of Christ which Christ's body, the church, experiences as
Christ uses it to make effective in the lives of all men the redemptive results
of his vicarious death.