Hope for the Future- Resurrection

“IN THIS WORLD nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” This phrase was famously used by the American founding father Benjamin Franklin over 200 years ago, and it still chimes with us today.

Death and taxes are both difficult subjects. We have tax experts who can help individuals and businesses understand their tax liability, and reduce their payments or even avoid them completely. However, death is truly inevitable, and it can be very difficult to discuss. Working as a health professional I have faced this subject a few times. I recall patients telling me they had recently lost close relatives or life- long partners, and understandably getting emotional. It was difficult to find the right words to provide some small comfort or to help ease the suffering they were going through at the time.

As a believer in God and His Son Jesus Christ, there is a peace of mind that can be found when reading His word, the Bible. God provides a hope and promise for those who have faith in Him of a better future, a world in which there will be no more suffering or death.

What Is Death?

To understand the promise that God offers to everyone, we must first understand what the Bible teaches about death, as over the centuries this has been misinterpreted.

First the book of Ecclesiastes (part of the Old Testament wisdom literature) states:

The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and for ever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:5–6).

The Psalmist says, ‘In death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?’ (Psalm 6:5). (“Sheol” means “covered place”, it is a word the Bible uses for the grave.)

These verses clearly state that after death there is nothing. No memory, no separation of the soul and no heaven-going. That word ‘perished’ in the original Hebrew language means ‘no escape’. This is the reason it can be difficult to provide comfort for those who have no belief or hope in God, and it is why I struggled when faced with this situation at work. Without God, once dead there is no escape; a person’s memory may live on for their friends and relatives, but eventually this too will fade. It’s a sobering thought for many, but the reality is that after you die you will most likely be totally forgotten about after three generations.

The Promise of Life

However, now let’s look at the promise God has for those who believe the message recorded for us in the Bible. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel so that those who respond may be saved from death.

The Apostle Paul says, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek’ (Romans 1:16).

We read in the previous article how Jesus taught that to be saved from death, we must humble ourselves before God and admit that we fall short of His nature and expectations. We must then be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and repent from our sinful nature and follow his example and teachings. Jesus lived a life according to the will of God his Father and did not sin, he was the perfect example. Despite this, Jesus was crucified by people who did not believe he was the one sent from God for salvation. As Jesus did no wrong, he was raised back to life from death by God, so that now anyone who believes in these things can also be saved from sin and death.

Paul explains, ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God’ (Romans 5:1–2).

He is telling us that by God’s grace, anyone who has faith in Jesus will be justified (made right) in God’s sight. There is therefore no more condemnation for those who belong to Christ, despite our sinful nature. So even if we die, there is still a hope of being resurrected to live in God’s Kingdom.

Again Paul writes, ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).

The Sleep of Death

Death entered the world through Adam—as the book of Genesis explains, he was the first man who was created by God.

However, through Christ we can be saved from death. We can see here that for those who believe in God and His promise, death is described as ‘sleep’. Jesus uses this metaphor of sleep himself when referring to his friend Lazarus who had died:

He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died” (John 11:11–14).

After explaining this, Jesus went on to raise Lazarus from the dead. We read that although Jesus was not the first person to be raised from the dead, he is still described in the letter to the Corinthians as the ‘firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’. Lazarus and others who were raised were still mortal and would die again, but Jesus was the first to be raised and given immortality—never to die again.

Shortly after being raised to immortality, Jesus ascended to heaven to sit at his Father’s side (Acts 1:6–11). He now waits for the moment God will send him back to the world, firstly to raise those believers who have fallen asleep in Christ. Paul reminded the believers in Thessalonica of this:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:13–16).

After the dead are raised there will be a judgement (2 Timothy 4:1), and then ultimately Jesus will set up his Father’s Kingdom on earth. The Bible lays out the hope and joy of the Kingdom throughout its pages. It will be an age in which there is no longer war, no more pain, suffering, jealousy, hatred, and no more death. In fact, it is impossible for us to imagine the peace and joy we shall experience in God’s Kingdom. We shall only fully appreciate God’s love for us once we are there, with Him and His Son. It is written, ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1Corinthians 2:9).

In a world of uncertainty and fear, God offers to us a promise and a hope. If we believe this we can have a peace of mind, and we need not worry about the troubles that this life, or even death, can bring.

Josh Poole

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