I was asked this question by one of my Sunday school kids. I couldn’t even make up the words to approach this question. Please help.
@Mphiwe that is a tough question in Sunday school! I don’t know how to put it in Sunday school context for the ages you may have, but from the bible in Genesis 2, God commanded Adam that he could eat of any tree except the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). So then we know both Adam and Eve did eat the fruit of the tree (sin of disobedience), and the consequences for man were, “for dust you are and to dust you shall return” (exerpt from Genesis 3:19). So death exists because of that first sin in the garden. And it would be very easy to blame Adam and Eve, but are we really any different from them? Do we not disobey and dishonor our parents during our lifetime?
But the good news always is that in death we are reunited with Christ because of His work on the cross should we choose to follow Him. 1 Corinthians does a good job tying this together:
1 Corinthians 15:20-22
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
Also, Romans 6:23 states, “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
We are all sinners and so we all will die an earthly death, but as followers of Christ death is not the end for us, it is the beginning of eternal life in Heaven.
I hope this helps!
Praying for you and your Sunday school class!
@Mphiwe How old are the kids?
Let me just add a brief response here.
In the Bible, there are two kinds of death, the physical death and the spiritual death. It is self-explanatory on the side of physical death, but as the setting just like what you said is “Sunday School kids” we have to very careful on how to explain this.
The Bible original word for death means “separation from God.” Now, no matter what the age of the kids you handle, it is a very big and scary topic to tell them. I highly encourage you to come up with an effective illustration or storytelling to make the concept easy and light to understand.
As I write this reply post, here is my prior sample of storytelling to illustrate:
John, father of Johnny, place a burger on their table. Now, John told his son not to eat the burger, let say because he was young enough and can come up to health issues, and the disease is severe that it would put Johnny to the hospital away from his father.
Now, because Johnny didn’t listen, he ate the burger, have some health complications, and cry out to his father when he was put to the hospital for a period of time.
Because John loves his son, Johnny, He sent Joseph to ultimately heal his son, in order for Johnny to go back to His father.
The illustration means, because of the fall of Adam, we have sinned against God and death creeps into us. Sickness and death enters the perfect world. We die physically and spiritually separated from GOD. But because He loves us so much, He sent His Son Jesus, to be our redeemer, so we could only die once (physically) but not spiritually, in eternity we live with him.
Why do we have to die? Because death exists. Why death exists? Because of our sin. What is the solution for our sin? JESUS CHRIST.
I hope these help!
@Mphiwe I don’t have much experience talking to little ones - but below are some resources that looked like they could be helpful If the older kids like books like Narnia by C. S. Lewis, ‘The Last Battle’ has some beautiful descriptions of the afterlife and deals directly with a lot of challenging topics through narrative.
God made the world without pain, sadness, or death. But because humans sinned, death entered the world. Jesus came to earth to defeat death by conquering over sin. Jesus made it so that death is not the end of life, which means that we don’t need to be afraid of death. While our bodies will still die, the part that makes us human, called our soul, doesn’t die. That’s the part that goes to heaven to be with Jesus. In the end of times, when Jesus gets rid of death forever, we will have resurrected bodies, like Jesus’ resurrected body and live with God forever.
@Mphiwe I chanced upon your question just now. It fascinates me. I think that the following passage helps us to understand the answer:
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22–24, ESV)
God sent Adam and Eve out of Eden because he did not want humankind to live forever in his present state by eating from the tree of life. @hpharper4, @domingoosabel, and @SeanO have already suggested ways and resources to explain the difference between physical and spiritual death to your students. Here is another approach:
“Would you want to live forever knowing that no matter how hard you try to be good you always do something bad? Would you want to live forever knowing that you can get sick or hurt and you might never fully get better? When you ask Jesus into your heart, dying actually becomes living forever and never, ever doing anything bad again. You will never, ever get hurt or sick again. Your body may stop breathing, but your spirit goes to live with Jesus in the greatest and happiest adventure of your eternal life! Our bodies die because God wants us to live forever with him in complete happiness.”
I do not pretend perfect understanding. I am sure that others may think of better ways to say this. I think, however, that framing the answer in terms of physical death being entry into eternally joyful life with Jesus for those who trust him may be a good approach.
@Mphiwe The explanations for how and why death entered our world have been fully explored. But I loved SeanO’s mention of the Narnia Chronicles. It is the perfect segue into my own thinking. Perhaps the confusion comes in our mutual classification of “after death”. Meaning what comes after we have lived.
I think it is more an issue of understanding what living on our planet means. What trips our feet fall is the concept that this life is the most significant of living. What we really want to know is why must it end. One of my babies asked a similar question when we talked about Heaven. He wanted to be assured that in Heaven he could take a ride in an airplane. He has never flown in one before.
It threw me for a moment. I had not taken into consideration that his identification with happiness and completion rested so firmly upon what he considered wonderous in this world. It highlighted the scripture in 1 Corinthians 2 :9. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." KJV.
We set and talked with excitement about what lie ahead. How far above our imagination was that wonder we could not adequately begin to guess. He became so stretched with ideas, he said, eyes filled with tears; “I need to stop now, this is almost too much for me to think about!”
I wonder if we wouldn’t do our children a favor ay changing the names like death or afterlife to ‘living after preparation’. We occupy this mist of living in preparation for what comes next. Life eternal, where the sky is truly no limit.
@Mphiwe - I wish many adults also ask this question seriously.
God as the creator, is the source of our life. He breaths into man’s nostrils and man becomes a living being. Without God, there is no life. In the garden, God also places the tree of knowledge of good and evil and instructed to avoid the fruits from the tree and in fact, God said it clearly that if he eats from the tree he/she will surely die. Disobedience of Adam/Eve to follow the instructions of God, death entered the world.
We also read in Romans 6:23 that the wages (Result/Effect) of sin is death. Even though not immediately for Adam, it separated him from the presence of God and eventually, everyone must suffer the consequences of their sin and die.
But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, not only our sin is removed but the consequence of sin (death) is canceled. Though we die on earth we will be resurrected to eternal life in glory. 1Corinthians 15:55-57 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So from Genesis to revelation, the death reveals to us that human life was never meant to be lived apart from God and sin cannot coexist with a Holy God. Hence death is a consequence of sin and is a realization of the separation from God’s holy presence. This is also consistent about those who are not saved in this life when they reject the grace of God, will be eternally separated from God in hell, which is the ultimate consequence of sin and referred to as the second death in Revelation 21:8
I don’t know the age of the kid, but you can paraphrase the suggestions given by several others to help answer the kid.