Life after Death
Because of Easter
A local Christian group offered Bible classes last fall and we joined a class planning to spend eight weeks together studying a book written by a popular Christian author. Looking forward to enjoying this Christian book I curled up on the couch one evening and started reading.
Unfortunately I only read a few pages before I started getting upset. And the more I read the more upset I got. Finally I slammed the book shut and refused to read any more of it or go to the Bible class. The sentence from this supposedly Christian book that finally stopped me in my tracks was this: “Of course Jesus did not rise from the dead as the Easter story goes.” Such blatant unbelief dressed up as “Christian” was more than I could take! It seems to me the writer thinks he is too intelligent – too sophisticated- to believe the gospel! Why were we reading his book and celebrating Easter anyway if Jesus is still in the grave?
Evidently some of the Corinthians did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead either. And they did not believe that believers would live after death. Let’s see what Paul had to say to these folks who didn’t believe in life after death! “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are false witnesses about God, for we have testified that God raised Christ from the dead… For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile: you are still in your sins. Then those who have died in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ we are really a pitiful and miserable mess.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-18) Paul is saying that Christianity completely depends on the real physical resurrection of the body of Christ: otherwise, it is all a lie!
Paul here is linking Christ’s life after death with our life after death. “Because He lives, we shall live also.” (John 14:19) And then Paul goes on to say: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep… Christ, the first fruits: then …those who belong to Him. (1 Cor. 15:20-22) Paul is saying that Jesus’ resurrection is the “first fruit” of all those who will follow Him.
. This “first fruits” story comes from the Old Testament where the Jewish nation under Moses was instructed to give or dedicate the very first ripe fruits of their harvest to God on the altar – and these first fruits in connection with the Passover were used to consecrate the coming harvest. The first fruits were the evidence that the entire harvest would soon be ripening and on the way too. (Leviticus 23:4-14) Jesus died on the day of the Passover, and conquered death and His resurrection is a promise of our own future resurrection from death! He leads our way into life.
And what will it be like when we die and follow the resurrected Jesus into life everlasting? Scripture compares our earthly body to a tent – something that is temporary and flimsy and frail. When the old tent wears out it will be covered and clothed with the heavenly body which is compared to a building – an eternal house in heaven- solid and permanent and perfect. “This mortal shall put on immortal” (1 Cor. 15:53) Let’s listen to how the Bible tells it.
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling…and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us His Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
These verses here say that we “groan” while we are in our mortal bodies –(the tent), not wanting to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. The word “groan” suggests that we may struggle with problems that cause us to groan while we are living in our mortal bodies (our tents). Let’s face it, we have many trials and troubles to face in this world. And our mortal bodies (our tents) often break down and become sick causing pain and suffering and moans and groans.
The scripture here reads: “we are burdened because we do not wish to be unclothed (die or lose our earthly bodies) but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. (be done with pain and trouble) In other words we are caught between the two - we want to go to heaven but we don’t want to die! We humans are all caught in this strange dilemma while we are on earth! Most of us are afraid to die or be “unclothed” – or to leave the body. But we are tired of suffering in this life and long to be in our forever home. An old song “
” tells it this way: “I gets
weary, an tired a tryin, I’m tired a livin, but scared a dyin.” Ole Man River
And then these scriptures also say: “Now it is God…who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (1 Cor. 5:5b) What does this mean? We have just heard about how weak and troubled we humans are so these verses seem to be expressing the paradox of how mortal human beings can hold within them the gift of immortality. God has given these weak followers of Christ this powerful “deposit” – this spirit that will be a “guarantee to life after death!” Scripture says: “We have this treasure (Gods’ Spirit) in earthen vessels (our frail lives).” (1 Cor.4:7)
And our present experience of renewed life by God’s Spirit is a guarantee (deposit) that He will perfect what He has begun. (Rom.8:23, Eph. 1:14) It is a mystery but we aren’t doing this faith walk on our own. Christ is leading us all the way through death into life!
Our scriptures today also speak of our mortal body at death being swallowed up in life. “So that what is mortal (death) may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Cor.5:4b) And in another verse we are told: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:54) Isn’t that a twist? Our mortal being – our life when we die- will be swallowed up by life, not by death! Paul reverses the age-old imagery of death and the grave as being the grim reaper or the great swallower. We always thought of death as a negative but we had it all backwards! Because of Jesus our death will be swallowed up by eternal life. We can celebrate that on Easter and on every other day of the year too!