Living is pretty great, right? That's why humans like to stay alive as long as possible. Sometimes, they even become vampires to do just that.
But according to Paul, even though you're walking around living and breathing in the world, you can still be dead as a doorknob. Oh, do tell, Paul.
Paul uses life and death as images for the transformation that Christians go through when they put their faith in Jesus:
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-5)
Here, Paul uses death as a way of explaining how things were for Christians before they met Jesus. They were living in sin, so it was like they were non-existent. They might as well have fallen off the face of the Earth because God shouldn't even have seen them standing there. They should have been dead to him. But he loved them anyway. God's wacky like that.
But once they hopped on the Jesus bandwagon? Then they came alive. Now, they're walking around, living, breathing, and experiencing a life with God. And life is good. Talk about a resurrection.
Death Becomes You
So being dead is bad, right? Being alive is the way to be. Shmoop prefers breathing to lying in a coffin, personally. But sometimes you need to give the bad stuff in your life the death penalty, too:
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). (Colossians 3:2-5)
A couple things are going on here. Christians are alive in God's eyes, but they're dead to the world. That just means they don't conform and do what everyone else out there does. Now they're non-existent to the rest of society. Paul also wants them to take some of their impulses and love for the world and kill those suckers. This time, death is a good idea. Christians need to take all the bad stuff in their lives and toss it in a grave somewhere. (Figuratively, of course. That could get weird otherwise.)
This is kind of a symbol flip flop. Before these guys had Jesus in their life, they were dead to God but alive as far as the rest of the world was concerned. Now they're persona non grata out in society, but they're living and breathing beings in the kingdom of God. And according to Paul, they got the right idea now. He's such a non-conformist.