Death is a reality. Even the most hardened skeptic will acknowledge that death is, and that it must eventually come to all men. Those few men in world history who have tried to avert death by searching for perpetual youth have been scorned by the more level headed among their fellows. No matter what medical science may discover to prolong life, not even the most optimistic scientist seriously believes that any revolutionary discovery will make it possible for men to live forever in their physical state.
Everyone recognizes the grim finality of death. Death—the loss of the senses so that no longer is the victim able to see, to feel, to touch, to enjoy that which is most precious—physical life itself. Death—the dimming of the intellect so that no more will the one who lies so cold and motionless be able to reason and to appreciate the value of his reasoning. Death—that state in which these bodies which we value so highly disintegrate and return to the dust. “It is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27).
The Second Death
But there is a death worse than physical death. This is the second death spoken of in the Word of God. While it is appointed unto all men once to die—except those who are alive at Christ’s second coming (1 Thess. 4:17)—a second and more terrible death is in store for some. What is this death? Let the Scriptures answer: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
From the foregoing passage it must be concluded that the second death is none other than the “everlasting punishment” referred to by the Saviour (Matt. 25:46). Can you imagine anything more terrible than to suffer the second death? You believe in the reality of a physical death, and the Bible teaches that it exists. The second death must be equally real, for it is described in the same Book. If one is accepted as truth, the other must also be.
“Give Me Liberty…”
The words in our title are taken from Patrick Henry’s famous speech in the Virginia House of Burgesses when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Uninspired as it is, this sentence potently presents the alternatives in reach of every man—liberty from sin or death in hell. He who fails to find the first must suffer the second.
Children of God enjoy a liberty of sort that is had by no other people. Paul speaks of, “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21), and of, “our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 2:4); and he gives his brethren this admonition: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).
Already, all doubt is erased as to who will suffer the second death—the unbelieving and murderers and sinners of other classes. The Book also points out that, “he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev. 2:11). Now, to overcome is to gain the mastery over, and thus to become free from anything. Then, since it is the child of God—or Christian—who has liberty in Christ, it must follow that only the Christian who steadfastly maintains his freedom from sin—that liberty which Christ bought with His own blood—can hope to overcome, thereby escaping the second death.
Having accepted these facts, you can do nothing wiser than to investigate the Word of God, which is “the perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25), and by which all men shall be judged (Jas. 2:12; John 12:48). These are the plain, unvarnished facts about the matter. You may find the way to, “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust” and finally enjoy eternal life, or you may ignore the teachings of the Scriptures, fail to overcome, and be punished with eternal death. Which do you prefer? Liberty or death? “Give me liberty.”