Truth is far more powerful–and therefore dangerous–than most people realize: It can bring either death or life, the two extremes of our existence. This truth is verified by Scripture.
“They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Ths. 2:10 NIV).
“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth” (Js. 1:18 NIV).
Death and life. Both come by the truth. For the truth tells us that we are sinners in need of a savior. That is why the law was given, to show us that we are law breakers, sinners; and once we know this truth about ourselves, we die, just as Adam and Eve died spiritually the very day they sinned in the Garden, though their physical death occurred much later.
But there is no time constraint upon the truth which the law communicates to us. Truth is eternal and eternally true, or else it would not be truth, only a fact. For facts are true only temporarily, true for this life only, while truth remains valid and true forever. Therefore, it is correct to state that when we learn the truth about ourselves, that we are sinners, this brings death to us–and we die.
“Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death” (Rom. 10:9-11 NIV).
That is the death that truth brings. For the Word of God is truth (Jn. 17:17), and the Spirit of God wields that truth like a sword to put to death all that is not of God in us. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12 NIV).
Truth is a two-edged sword, and a most unusual and unique sword at that. For while one side of the blade brings death, the other brings back to life what it puts to death. First the law and its truth kills us as guilty breakers of the law. Then he who is the truth (Jn. 14:6), Jesus Christ, resurrects us back to life. Through him, we are born again. God gives us birth through the word of truth who is his Son (Js. 1:18).
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24,25 NIV).
“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1 NIV). Peace, yes, but only if we accept the truth of who we are, sinners, and the truth of who Jesus is, the one way to be saved from who we are. If we do not accept this truth, then this same truth brings death. Life and death, peace and evil. Either can come from our encounter with the truth, depending upon how we respond to the truth of God, who says:
“I make peace and create evil” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV).
Do not misunderstand the use of the word evil in this passage. It does not mean that God somehow is the source of moral evil. Words can have more than one meaning. The Hebrew word translated as evil here means “exceedingly great grief, harm, wretchedness, affliction, calamity” and is derived from a primitive root meaning, when used in a literal sense, to spoil by breaking in pieces, and when used figuratively, to make or be good for nothing. This immediately brings to mind Jesus’ warning that if those who believe in him, who are thereby the salt of the earth, lose their saltiness, they will then be good for nothing “except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Mt. 5:13 NIV)–an evil thing.
All of these references to the evil that truth can bring all depend on the wrong response to truth of those who encounter it in their lives. God created the great evil of hell and the lake of fire as the only fitting and proper punishment for such great wickedness as rejecting the truth. Rejecting the truth, having no love for the truth, brings as its consequence eternal death, the greatest of evils.
To rebel against the truth is to rebel against reality. God is the great “I AM,” the ultimate reality, the supreme existence. Therefore, those who rebel against the truth bring the greatest evil possible upon themselves. For they take the highest that exists, the truth of God and his existence, and treat it as the lowest of things that exist, as the dust of the earth. As they rebel, they take what is divine and heavenly and sacred and throw it to the ground.
“Because of rebellion . . . truth was thrown to the ground” (Dan. 8:12 NIV).
Those who show disdain for truth by throwing it to the ground, however, find that it is not so easily disposed of. Evil men once killed him who is the truth upon a cross and then buried him in the ground, thinking that was the end of the matter. But there is the matter of the resurrection. The truth that was thrown to the ground and swallowed up rose up from that same earth “because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24 NIV).
Death is a fact, a temporary reality. The ultimate reality is truth. Ultimately, the truth and the life win over the lie and death. “I am . . . the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6 NIV). And the wondrous and amazing thing is that this truth about Jesus and his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave is imparted to all those who unite themselves to him through faith. His death and resurrection becomes theirs. They die to their sinful selves and are reborn to new life.
“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:3,4 NIV).
Thus, that which brought death to others, those who do not believe in the power of Jesus’ death on the cross, brings life to those who do. It is the same cross, the same truth, Jesus, but it has opposite effects, depending upon the response to that truth.
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life” (2 Cor. 2:15,16 NIV).
These are ponderous issues: death and life, both now and in eternity. And they all revolve around truth. It is no wonder that John so reverenced truth that he considered it his greatest joy to know that his children in the faith, fellow believers, walked in the truth (3 Jn. 4).
This is God’s great joy as well, that his children know and walk in the truth, for that is the life that the sword of truth brings. But if they do not walk in that life of truth, then that same sword means not life but death. We would do well to remember these words of him who wields the sword of truth.
“In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword” (Rev. 1:16 NIV).
“Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations” (Rev. 19:15 NIV).
“These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword” (Rev. 2:12 NIV).