For thousands of years humans of all cultures and all races have acknowledged the inevitability of physical death but have refused to accept that this event is the end of personal existence. Almost all religions and tribal mythologies have some concept of an afterlife. Only recently have atheists and humanists rejected the idea that there is any other form of existence for us. I suspect that the hardest problem with accepting an atheistic world view is giving up the hope of resurrection.
There is an old saying, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes”. In the natural world, life and death are fundamental to existence. Jesus said,
“I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”.
Our physical bodies consist of about 7*1027 atoms (that’s a 7 followed by 27 zeros!) or seven billion billion billion atoms. These atoms do not really belong to us, they are constantly being replenished and eventually have to be given up to the ground, and then to produce other life.
But we are not just flesh and blood. The real you, and the real me, is the breath that God breathed into us; what we call our spirits. The hope and the certainty of resurrection is that even though our bodies die, our spirit can live on for ever. Death, mankind’s oldest enemy, was defeated when Jesus as the Son of God, died a terrible death on the cross but three days later was resurrected, bringing hope to us all. The Spirit of God, alive in Jesus, made it impossible for him to stay dead. That same Spirit of God, alive in us, means that we too have the hope of resurrection (see Romans 8:11).
Resurrection is central to the Christian Gospel. Without it we might as well ‘pack up and go home’. When our God, in the form of his son Jesus, took on human form he faced the inevitability of physical death. But it was impossible for God to remain dead. The good news for us is that because God defeated death, we too have the reality of resurrection life before and after death.
Paul, in writing to the romans, made it clear that without the resurrection of Jesus, our faith is pointless and we are to be pitied.
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;
and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (Romans 15:16-19 NIV)
Resurrection and the Life
Before Jesus died he said to one of his followers,
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
Note the following:
- Jesus was already the resurrection although he hadn’t yet died.
- Resurrection is a part of Jesus’ nature (I AM …) – not something which happened to him.
- Resurrection is for us too!
- Resurrection isn’t an event – it’s a lifestyle.
- Resurrection life is available to us now, not just after we die!
What does it mean to live forever? Time is a funny thing. Things happen in sequence. We are on a journey through time, always travelling forward, never backwards. Forever is like infinity, a mathematical concept but with no value that we can measure. We cannot imagine living outside time. Not being bound by time is a concept we can talk about, but we cannot get our heads around exactly what it means in practise.
What happens to those who do not believe? I cannot say for sure, although I am leaning towards the idea that the benefits of resurrection apply to everybody. But I can say that resurrection life starts immediately if we live out our lives, believing in Jesus Christ.
Eternal life is about the QUALITY of life not just the QUANTITY of life. The good news is that eternity starts now, not when we die. Resurrection life is for now, not just a future event, and our God freely offers it to all, now, as we live our daily lives.