Why is Death called the “Last Enemy”? *


The obvious answer I suppose is that it stands in opposition to Life and since God is the source of Life, Death can be thought of as Life’s opposite. Life and Death seem to define each other then it seems to me. Life and Death seem to me to be mutually exclusive: one cannot be both alive and dead at the same time and in the same sense. It makes perfect sense then that if Death is the Last Enemy and it is destroyed, the resulting state of things will be Life. (Which in itself seems a very Universalistic idea…)

What is it however that distinguishes Life from Death? To my mind the only possibility is the presence of sentience and consciousness. Or at least the potential for consciousness and sentience. (I make this distinction because we don’t consider an asleep person to be dead, nor one who is under anesthesia to be dead, though they are both in conditions of unconsciousness…)

This presents, to my mind at least, an overwhelming problem for those who deny the idea of “Soul Sleep” because for them the only other possible definition of death must necessarily refer only to the presence of a functioning body. But we hold that God has no functioning body and yet is Alive. Further, in medicine we recognize that one may be “brain dead” yet still possess a functioning body. That person is considered to be “dead.”

The reason this seems to be such a problem for those who deny “Soul Sleep” is that consciousness is never lost but is always present. This must mean that death is a word and concept that are fairly unnecessary which is troublesome to say the least given that the condition of Death is such a bad and negative thing that it is referred to as “the Last Enemy”. Which is to say that if one retains his consciousness, what’s so bad about death?

If what matters to God is our freely given love and adoration and worship, and that is accomplished by and in consciousness, and we always are in possession of that consciousness, then death can’t really be the enemy that Paul envisions it to be can it?

I realize that many believe that the death which matters is the so called “spiritual death” which means one can be dead yet fully conscious. This I find rather confusing. If that really is what Paul means by death, this should be great news for Universalism! for if spiritual death is obliterated that means all will be made spiritually alive. However, as I take the idea of Life to be a matter of having it or not having it, (ie all or nothing) and I see the issue of “spiritual life” to be a matter of degree (that is we are to be in a constant state of spiritual growth and forward movement and becoming) the whole notion of spiritual death and life work best as metaphor it seems to me.

For these reasons it seems to me that the idea of Death being the last enemy works best in the paradigm of Soul Sleep. For if consciousness and death are compatible, death really doesn’t seem such a bad thing at all.

For those who worry that death implies non-existence, I don’t see this; for we continue to “exist” in all our “personality” and complexity in the mind of God. (However that works!)


(*PS: I realize there is a lot of potential overlap with the discussion over on the Soul Sleep thread so apologies for that if necessary…)


I’ve thought of that in a few ways. Here is one of them:
Death is an enemy to us on this side of life, because it separates. (not to mention the fear that most have of it currently. Fear of the unknown. Well once it is known, there will be no more fear of it, that is why it is the LAST enemy.)

Going through the deaths of loved ones has been a constant traumatic event in my life.
Going through the deaths of loved ones has been a constant unveiling of His glory and power in my life

Only GOD could enable someone to say THOSE two sentences at the same time.
Only GOD could transform the coal black depths of sorrow into actual… laughter.
Actual laughter.
Blessed are those who mourn.
I understand the depths of that.

Death is percieved as an enemy. When you have lost someone, it is then that the full scope of your love comes into FULL focus. You think you know how much you love someone until that person crosses over. The saying “you do not know what you have until is taken away” is absolutely true. Being left behind to reflect, to wish you had done more, to sorrow over past wounds you have inflicted, to have no more time left to make them right… death is an enemy.

Most people fear death. It is our enemy. It threatens us, it lurks in the corners of our minds making us afraid that it will strike any one of our loved ones at any time.

But how do you destroy your enemy? You make your enemy your friend.

I think that our last enemy, death will be turned into a friend, someday. Absence does make the heart grow fonder because it allows reflection. Having what we had and being separated so we can step back and actually SEE it, and the reuniting, we will look back and see the gift that death actually was. (sounds crazy I know “death” a friend??)

The “reuniting” “reconciling”, I sometimes sit on the fence and think about and ponder this:
When we are born here on earth, it is actually like a DEATH. !!
Perhaps we were with God before, perhaps we were part of “Eden”. We bite the apple wanting/needing to know the knowledge of good and evil, “thou shalt surely die”, our spiritual “death” is us being “born” here on earth. When we die here on earth, it is actually our birth (rebirth?) our spirit going back to whence it came. :confused: Maybe that is a possibility. Maybe not.
But that death and being born on earth was a gift, because it is allowing us (mankind as a whole, whether your individual part in it lasted only one hour or a 100 years) it is allowing us to STEP BACK and see GOD for who God is. (God is LOVE.) and the darkness or knowledge of evil (non-love) will last forever. The darkness will be gone, but the KNOWLEDGE OF it, will last forever. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Knowledge is bliss. God is LOVE. And that knowledge is BLISS. That we otherwise would not have fully comprehended.

a quote: “Before we wake we cannot know that what we dream does not exist… before we die, we cannot know that death is perhaps the greatest joy”

hmmm. Well, I don’t know.
just thinking out loud.
Please excuse the rambling.


Yes sparrow – I agree with this. But for those who do not embrace Soul Sleep it’s only a bodily separation since the spirit remains communing with God. But if God doesn’t have a “body” (though He could if He wanted I suppose) it seems trivial to reduce the idea of “death” to being “without body”. Or so it seems to me.

So it makes sense that the reason death is an enemy, IS because it separates. It separates consciouss’ (what’s the plural of conscious - which I’m using as a noun?) ie it separates minds. And it hurts God far more than it hurts us (though it hurts us more and more as we grow to know Him better!) because He is the great Lover of Souls…

For me then death becomes a far more trivial and inconsequential idea if it only involves the material body while the part of us that communes with God continues on. And I can’t see how something this trivial and inconsequential can possibly be referred to in such dramatic terms as being the “last enemy.”



Hi there!

In my post, I’m referring to death not being an “enemy” to those that have died. Rather, it is an enemy to those left behind.
In this life, our greatest experiences = love. Love for another.
In this life, our worst experiences = death of those we love.
Death is an enemy to us.

Look at the grief Jesus was in the midst of when Lazarus died.
Death of a loved one is the worst thing human beings can go through here in this life. What is worse?
For so many who do not yet have hope, it can be unbearable.

See, I think it is the exact OPPOSITE! :slight_smile: Death (from the perspective of those left behind, NOT from the perspective of the dead person!) hurts US more than it hurts God!! We are the ones who are ignorant as to what is going on, not God. “Jesus Wept”. Now I think there are many reasons that Jesus wept and what it symbolized, etc. However I DO think that part of that reason he wept was he felt humanity’s pain and sting of death, the mourning and grief that we (in our ignorance) experience, the unbearable pain of being seaparated from those we love. I truly beleive this is ONE of the reasons that “Jesus wept.” Not the only reason, of course, but one. I think within those tears, He was also taking on our grief.

I couldn’t disagree more! I say the more we grow to know HIm better… the LESS death hurts us! The more we grow to understand Him, the less death hurts us. I can attest to this in my own life with the death of loved ones. 20 some odd years ago when my mom died, I was a teen. I can’t even describe the pain. But now that I have grown and gotten closer to God, and having gone through more death, it still hurts, but the hope and the vision and promises I have in my mind and heart and spirit that I feel He placed there takes away a big part of that “sting”. I have more hope, more of a positive outlook on death. It hurts because of the temporary separation, and death will always be difficult, but it is not an unclimbable mountain anymore. I’ve been to the top of that mountain and I have a much better perspective of it, then when I was down at the bottom looking up at it.

Now another way of looking at this “death is the last enemy” is this":

Consider it from yet another perspective. When we are born, THIS is when we “die”. Our birth here on this plane of existence is our DEATH! And when we die, we are actually being BORN into LIFE.

Do you understand what I mean?
So much points to this.
The day of our death is far greater than the day of our birth. (I can’t remember the verse.)

Death is our enemy because it has “separated” us (in our mind) from God. From Love.
Here is where we experience the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Here is where we experience NON-LOVE.

Now this enemy is finally overcome when we learn what we need to learn. When we understand the stark constrast between LOVE and non-love. Death is the last enemy to be overcome. Love conquers ALL. How do you overcome your enemies? By making them your friends. Love conquers all. When we look back on it, this death (being born here on this plane of existence experiencing the tree of knowledge of good and evil) will become our friend. This experience will become our friend because the knowledge we will take from it will last an eternity. And will forever allow our eyes to be FULLY opened to just WHAT Love is. (God is love). It will allow our eyes to fully be opened to WHO GOD IS. What wonderful news.

I hope this is making sense. This is hard to put into words.

Well, I could talk more on this one, but I’ll just leave this for now to ponder.



I think the death Paul speaks of is spiritual and I fail to see how it could be the physical. Also, I believe spiritual and physical death is more connected than “orthodoxy” would have us believe as the later is the consequence of the first. I think 1 Cor 15 is the strongest evidence for soulsleep in the NT. I recall seeing a Johathan Edwards writing where he tried to use 1 Cor 15 as evidence for eternal conscious existence for the wicked. You dont see that anymore.


Does scripture call it the last enemy, or does it say that it is the last enemy to be destroyed?

Maybe that’s just hair splitting and it doesn’t really matter. At any rate, we know that the wages of sin is death, so it would seem obvious that sin would need to be destroyed first, and then the destruction of death would naturally follow it (since they go hand in hand). Interestingly, the lake of fire is described as the second death, which is defined as the destruction of death and hades. I also think it’s interesting that those not found in the lamb’s book of life are thrown into the lake along with those two; perhaps because this is the final judgment on sin and death, and those still caught in the power of them must be cleansed of it, in order to finally remove the corrupting influence of sin and death from the universe… :question:


It’s the last enemy because after death there are no threats/enemies. If you cannot die, you have no enemies.



I’m studying James Stonehouse’s “Universal Restitution” right now (written back in the days of the Wesleys as part of a series of exchanges he hoped to inaugurate with them), and recently noticed that he partially explains this as an Aramaic referential technique: “death” stands for the one who has the kingdom of “death”, namely Satan.

(And since it isn’t “destroyed” but “abolished”, then he argues against annihilation.)

But he also considers “death” more figuratively, too.

If I can find it again, I’ll quote him specifically, as his discussion is quite interesting.


It seems, Jason, that Origen also considered Satan to be the personification of “death”. He wrote:

When it is said that ‘the last enemy shall be destroyed’, it is not to be understood as meaning that his substance, which is God’s creation, perishes, but that his purpose and hostile will perishes; for this does not come from God but from himself. Therefore his destruction means not his ceasing to exist but ceasing to be an enemy and ceasing to be death. Nothing is impossible to omnipotence; there is nothing that cannot be healed by its Maker. De Principiis, 1.vi.1-4


Hmm. Yes, good catch. I guess some translations got it wrong by translating it “destroyed”. That is interesting about Satan being the personification of death…


1 Cor 15:16-18
16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

The above passage seems to indicate that if there is no resurrection then all have perished. Our hope beyond the grave is our resurrection in Christ. Death is indeed an enemy - as long as it remains in force we are separated, without working, planning, knowledge, or wisdom.

Eccl 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.



While I’d see no problem with “death” being used metonymically to refer to “satan” (however one understands him/it), it seems much more reasonable to me to understand the “death” of which Paul speaks in 1 Cor 15:26 to be the same “death” referred to in v. 54: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (cf. 2 Cor 5:4, where Paul speaks of that which is mortal being “swallowed up by life”). The “death” referred to here (and in vv. 55-56) seems to be that which will cease to be when those who have physically died and those who are mortal become immortal. And one can only guess why a rebel angel (assuming this is what “satan” refers to) would be “abolished” and “swallowed up in victory” when the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality; it just seems like a much more natural interpretation to understand Paul to be speaking of physical/existential death in both verses. According to this understanding, death will be “abolished” when all people become “equal to angels” and “cannot die anymore” (Lk. 20:36).

According to searchgodsword.org/lex/grk/v … umber=2673, it would seem that καταργέω would be a pretty appropriate word if “death” is one day going to cease to exist!

1. to render idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative
a. to cause a person or thing to have no further efficiency
b. to deprive of force, influence, power
2. to cause to cease, put an end to, do away with, annul, abolish
a. to cease, to pass away, be done away
b. to be severed from, separated from, discharged from, loosed from any one
c. to terminate all intercourse with one