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Will We Live Again
Every Time Death Knocks On Our Door We Can’t Help But Ask This Question
Since I started my pastoral ministry in the San Bruno Church in April 2010, death has visited us in unexpected ways. Within a span of four months we lost four senior members. That’s one member per month. In my own household, my uncle died in the month of May and my father-in-law is currently in critical condition. The death or disability of every one of these men came as a shock to loved ones, family members, and friends alike.
And every time death knocks on our door, we can’t help but to ask the question: “Is there life after death?” It’s a question that has been asked by every society and culture since humankind’s existence. It’s also a question that has challenged our Christian faith in every generation for centuries. Does life exist on the other side of a grave? Is there life after death? Where do we go when we die?
In every church memorial service, the living or the loved ones of the dearly departed, are given an opportunity to revisit the question of life after death in light of the hope of God’s people woven within three historical settings: (1) What was the ancient Jewish hope; (2) What was the early Christian hope; and (3) What is our present hope in Christ?
What Was The Ancient Jewish Hope?
First, “What was the ancient Jewish hope?” In the Old Testament, Job was a very respected man and the head of his family. An entire book in the bible was named after him. According to the scriptures, he was a man described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”[i] Without a doubt, Job was a leader in the city of Uz and his family was the pride of the entire community. People like Job walk through life inspired by their goals and dreams. Job lived with a life purpose and great faith in God. With the limited information we’re afforded, Job appears to be a conscientious husband and father and a prosperous businessman with spiritual values.
Job’s story starts out with a severe set of trials in chapter one. Hard times hit him in one fell swoop. It cost him everything he possessed and nearly everyone precious to him. Job’s children, wealth, and health simply vanished overnight with no explanation whatsoever. His spirituality was the only thing left intact and that too was challenged. How could he possibly endure the sudden heart-rending tragedy that befell him?
It was in this context that Job asked the age-old question, “If a man dies, will he live again?”[ii] As noble as it may be, Job’s question was not, “Is heaven real?” He wanted to know if the resurrection existed on the other side of the grave. Is a “come back” possible for the person who loses everything on earth that is good and valuable? Can dead dreams, lost destinies, and misplaced relationships have life breathed back into them?
After “the crisis” Job no longer considered himself alive. His quality of life not only diminished, but was also questioned by his friends. He only existed now in the midst of his cursed circumstances. You can say that he was as good as dead. Sick though he was, it was the death inside him that hurt most. He longed for another shot at life. Job was desperate as he reached out toward a hope against hope for a future resurrection.
In the New Testament, there’s the story of two sisters who sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was dying. They needed Jesus to come quickly and heal him before he passed away. Jesus delayed the trip and Lazarus died before he arrived.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”[iii] In other words, “It’s too late. Now, even you can’t help him.”
When Jesus reassured Martha that her brother Lazarus will rise again, Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Martha was thinking “resurrection on the last day.” Jesus was talking “resurrection today.” In time, Jesus would explain that a resurrection could also be experienced before and instead of a funeral!
What Was The Early Christian Hope?
Second, “What was the early Christian Hope?” You can rise again—live again! Not later, not in the sweet by and by, but in the here and now! Jesus is not the “I was” or the “I will be.” He is the “I AM!” When Jesus Christ arrived on the planet he invaded earth with the resurrection power. This answers the question that haunts every person who has died inside, suffered loss or failure, and dreads waking up to another day. After experiencing personal devastation, is it possible to fulfill my destiny and realize my dreams again? Will I ever live again, love again, trust again? Are second chances realistic this side of the grave? The answer to these apparent impossibilities is a resounding “Yes!”
Standing toe to toe with the dead man’s tomb, Jesus lifted his voice and shouted into the burial chamber, “Lazarus, come out!” Resurrection prayers always look foolish to those comfortable with the status quo. To them, resurrection is irrational—an insane faith. To the crowd’s astonishment, they behold a “dead man walking” out of his grave. Lazarus is alive again!
Many years ago, I was dead in my sins. I dug myself into an early grave and didn’t know it. Sin had its way with me for a season. I was stubborn, self-centered, and ambitious. I wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice my precious and meaningful relationships for the sake of getting ahead. In the process, my life became empty and meaningless. Sin ate away chunks of my life and I was powerless to stop the bleeding. Like Job, I died inside. In fact, Job’s question surfaced in my mind, time and again. My hopes and dreams died as I asked myself, “Will I ever live again?” Some of you ask the same question in regards to divorce, failures, loss of employment, scandal, moral collapse, addictions, spiritual decline, or abuse. You face your own personal deaths.
People were no less astounded with Jesus’ resurrection power in my life than the crowd was with Lazarus in Jesus’ day. Today, I am serving the Lord with all my heart, my wife is by my side with loving support, and I am fulfilling my call to shepherd a wonderful Spirit-filled people in the San Bruno Church. Together we’re forging a covenant to impact the Bay Area for Jesus Christ. I never expected the Lord to use me in this way. People who die my kind of death usually don’t come back to life. They remain dead and buried in sin. But I’m back from the grave, more alive than ever, and extremely grateful to God for proving to me that he still raises the dead!
“If a man dies, will he live again?” Lazarus and I agree that it’s entirely possible. And what of Job’s outcome? The book that carries his name documents his finale. “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.”[iv]
What Is Our Present Hope In Christ?
Third, “What is our present hope in Christ?” Today there are people who hold to the teaching of Plato. They believe in a disembodied immortality or the existence of an eternal soul without a body. The early Christians thought otherwise. They agreed with the ancient Israelites view of the resurrection in that real life meant embodied life—the kind of body life Jesus had after he resurrected from the grave. When a person dies, the people of God believed that their loved one’s spirit didn’t continue to exist out there in the great somewhere. Western Christians today have been conditioned by stories and films that when one dies, their spirits go to a peaceful heavenly place—a spiritual place that exists outside the bounds of earth. Films like The Bluebird, Heaven Can Wait, or even Brainstorm, depict an otherworldly realm where the souls of our dearly departed are gathered together after death.
The question we should ask today is, “If we die, will we live again in the resurrection on the last day along with our loved ones in the new heaven and the new earth?”[v]
I’m not talking about resuscitation, but transformation—a new type of body living within a new type of world—a divine supernatural existence! Compare the dead bodies that Jesus resuscitated—Jarius’ daughter, the Nain widow’s son, and his friend Lazarus—bodies that eventually died. Compare these bodies to the resurrected body of Jesus himself that lives forever.
The resurrection is not just a historical event that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday. The resurrection is a Person, a faith, and a possibility for anyone who has experienced death in any form. The resurrection is the crux of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul said, “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”[vi]
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?[vii] That’s a pointed question if there ever was one. It is a question directed to all of us. Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that he can call you out from your grave and turn your life around? Do you believe that Jesus alone can resurrect your life anew? Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[viii] Do you believe this?
The Apostle Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”[ix] The word for “power” in the Greek is dynamis. This is where we get the modern word for “dynamite.” It is often heard that the “gospel” or good news of God is dynamite. Yet equating dynamis with dynamite is an inappropriate comparison of the word. The reason being that dynamite blows things up, tears things apart, and just plain destroys stuff to smithereens.
Contrary to this unfortunate interpretation, Paul defines dynamis as the “resurrection power” that raised Jesus from the dead. It is the power that brings things back to life, mends things anew, and delivers us from the destructive power of sin. The goal of this resurrection power is “for our salvation.”
Do you want your long lost life back again? Do you desire to be made whole again? Do you yearn for real change from the inside out? God has made this resurrection power available to anyone who seeks to return from the grave of sin and death—a power that restored Job’s fortune, resuscitated the corpse of Lazarus, and resurrected my life from the grip of sin and death. It’s the power that will ultimately resurrect our bodies on the last day. It’s a power that promises to forgive and restore all that sin has come in contact with and utterly destroyed—a power that promises to fill, empower, stamp, and seal men and women who were once lost without a hope and future with the Holy Spirit of God.
A theologian once said, “When you’re dealing with worldviews, every community and every person must make their choices in the dark, even if there is a persistent rumor of light around the next corner.”[x] It was also said that, “The clear moments in life occur when you can’t see a thing.” And rumor has it that though you might be in the grip of darkness and death, if you listen closely, you’ll hear your name being called.
Today it’s your turn to walk out of the grave that you’ve been buried in for so long. The choice of life or death is before you. You can go on digging our own graves or you can surrender our sinful lives to the One who holds the power over life and death—receive the resurrection power!
[i] Job 1:1.
[ii] Job 14:14.
[iii] John 11:21.
[iv] Job 42:10-11.
[vi] 1 Corinthians 15:16-19.
[vii] John 11:25.
[viii] John 14:6.
[ix] Romans 1:16.
[x] N. T. Wright.
© 2010, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.