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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Because I Live You Shall Live Also

Because I Live You Shall Live Also

Jesus gives his followers a promise: “Because I live you shall live also.” ( John 14:19) We will have life after death because He had life after death. We celebrate Easter because Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)  “Scripture says that Jesus is the first to conquer death and through Him we will all follow.  “In Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn: Christ the first fruits: and then when He comes (through death), those who belong to Him will come.”  (1 Corinthians 15: 22b)

I used to teach Sunday school to forth graders and I had a picture book to help illustrate the concept that Jesus was the way to eternal life.   In this book there was a picture of two countries divided by a deep river.  The shore of one of the countries was named “earth”.   And across the dangerous river, the distant shore was called “heaven”.  And the treacherous river that ran between these two lands was called “death”.

Each person living on the earthly side eventually had to come to the banks of the wide river.  And when it was their time to cross over, each person would try to bring along a plank long enough to reach to the other side.  Many arrived at the river with construction workers and supplies in an effort to build bridges strong enough to withstand the tumultuous waters and long enough to reach across.  But each person and every group that tried to conquer the river, only tried in vain. They all failed and when their time came, they were all carried away in the rushing waters or pulled down beneath the waves by the undertow.     

Some of the bridges constructed along the river were named “good works” or “church attendance” or “religious pilgrimages”.   Other bridges were named “charitable giving”, “denying oneself” or “religious legalism”.  Nations joined forces with other nations to span the river with a bridge. And over the centuries billions were spent to get the job done.  But all to no avail!

 Wars were fought and institutions sprung up - all working on finding a way to conquer the dark river of death.  But all human efforts failed. No manmade bridge could reach across the rushing waters.  Every bridge would eventually crumble and the humans crossing on it would be swept away in the torrents.        

But just as all seemed hopeless, help was offered from the other side (heaven).  A Bridge like no other bridge in history was provided at a very great expense and everyone on earth was invited to use it.  Finally every body could cross the deep river safely if they wanted to.  And now anyone could travel to the Promised Land if they chose. This bridge was strong enough to withstand the turbulent waters and long enough to span the great distance. And the name of the bridge was “Jesus”.  This was the first and only bridge to make it all the way across the river. The only bridge to withstand the undercurrents and storms out on the river.  The only way over the river of death.  Scripture says: “I (Jesus) am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6)

We celebrate Easter because Jesus is the first and only way- or bridge- over the river of death.  And because of Him we are invited to follow.  But how can we conceive of such mysteries as life after death? 

Paul describes life after death and what happens to us and to our bodies when we die.  He says that we shall be changed after death and he compares our death and resurrection to a seed that is planted in the ground and afterwards sprouts and grows into a plant or tree.  The plant or tree that grows doesn’t resemble the seed that was planted. And so it will be with us when we die.  Our resurrected bodies will be different from our earthly physical bodies. Let’s listen to what Paul says in Scripture. 

“But someone may ask, how are the dead raised?  With what kind of body will they come?  How foolish!  What we plant does not come to life unless it dies.  When we plant, we do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else … So it will be with the resurrection of the dead.”  (1 Corinthians 15:35-37,42)

Scripture goes on to say, “The body that is planted is perishable, but it will be raised imperishable…it is sown (planted) a natural body, and will be raised a spiritual body”  -“the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  When our perishable body has been clothed with the imperishable, and our mortal body with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true.  ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where O Death is your victory: and Where, O Death is your sting?”   (1 Cor. 15:42,44, 52b, 53b-55) 

We celebrate Easter because Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death.  He has conquered death for us and is our bridge over the dark waters of death.  “Because He lives, we shall live also.”  (John 14:19)     

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