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The Resurrection and the Life (2)

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life:  he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.  Believest thou this?”

Believest thou this?

“I am the resurrection and the life.”  To know Me is to know the Father.  To see Me is to see the Father.  All that belongs to life is in Me alone.  If you have Me, you have life everlasting.  I have power over death in every and any form, spiritual and physical.  I speak, and a throng no man can number from all nations and tribes and tongues hear my voice unto faith and salvation.  I speak again and all that are in the graves hear My voice and come forth, the good to the resurrection of life, the evil to the resurrection of damnation.

Believest thou this?

And believest thou this: “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die?”

We say of them who departed in Christ:  He or she, my father or mother is dead.  That’s true, of course.  They are no longer with us.  We saw their bodies descend into the grave, a prey to worms and all the power of dissolution.  No longer can we eat and drink with them, walk and talk with them.  They are gone, completely and forever gone, from home and work and church.  They are dead.  That’s according to the Bible too.  True, Scripture does not prefer to speak of the “dead” when referring to those who departed in Christ.  Nevertheless, the Bible does say:  “though we were dead” and Jesus Himself says:  “Lazarus is dead.”

However, it is true in only a very relative sense that the departed saints are dead.  Actually, only the body is dead, and the body is only part of man.  We are composed of body and soul.  Moreover, even of that body two things must be said.  It is dead for only a short time.  It will not remain in that gruesome, forbidding grave.  “Though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  Hence, it lies in that grave as a seed that is sown in the soil, and it is waiting for the day of Christ to reappear in a new, heavenly, spiritual form.  That is the joyful and rest-giving hope of all the saints.  Therefore, the Bible prefers to speak about the death of the righteous as a “sleep” and the righteous dead as those “who sleep in Christ.”

In still another and very real sense, however, this is not true at all.  Those who departed in Jesus are not dead:  they live as they never lived before; they are far more alive than you and I.  Jesus says, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.”

Believest thou this?

*****

“He that believeth in Me….”

If we somewhat understand what faith really is and does, we shall also understand that it is the only way to come to eternal life in Jesus Christ.  Faith is not only a beautiful way, as though there might have been another.  It is the only possible way.

What is faith?

Is it mere assent of the natural mind to the truths of Scripture?  Mere intellectual agreement with the teaching of Holy Writ?  You believe that there is a God.  You are no Atheist.  Does that make you a believer?  You believe that Christ lived; that He is the Son of God in the flesh; that He suffered and died, rose again and is now seated on the right hand of God.  Now are you a believer?  By no stretch of the imagination!  So you believe that there is a God and a Christ.  What have you that the devil does not have?  I believe that this may well be stressed.  Too many seem to base too much on mere head-knowledge rather than inner life and the true experience of love.  Hell will be full of people who believed in that sense.  You may know the Bible by heart and have a head full of Reformed doctrine and still be forever lost.  Your hopes will have to rest on firmer ground than that.

Is faith this:  that I receive Christ with all my heart, cling to Him, trust in Him, lean on Him for time and eternity?  Yes, of course, that is faith, that is believing in Jesus.

Even so, more must be said, lest we see faith only as an activity of man and attribute to man what belongs to God alone.

In essence, faith is the spiritual bond, the life of Christ Himself as it makes us one with the Lord Jesus, like the branch is one with the vine.  In its operation, faith is the spiritual activity of that bond, the new life in action whereby we cling to Christ and put all our confidence in Him alone.  Thus we may speak of faith and believing much as we speak of sight and seeing, smell and smelling, seed and growing plant.

And all of God from beginning to end.  He must give the life itself, the faculty, the power to believe, the spiritual union with Christ in regeneration, our spiritual resurrection from the dead.  And He must bring that seed to growth and fruition; that new life to conscious activity.  Then, and only then, do we believe.  In this way God receives all the glory.  In this way faith is not our act whereby we make Christ ours, but His act whereby He makes us His.  And thus faith is not in any way the cause of eternal life, but its fruit and manifestation.

Therefore Jesus speaks as He does:  “Whosoever liveth and believeth.”  Don’t turn this around.  Believing is not first; living is first.  You don’t live because you believe; you believe because you live.

*****

What about those who live and believe in Jesus?

Christ Himself says:  they “shall never die.”  The Lord uses a double negative here to express Himself in the strongest possible way.  Shall never not die!  In our language only the stupid or careless use double negatives.  Our teachers never weary of telling their pupils that a double negative makes a positive and that they must, therefore, never commit this grammatical sin.  It could as well be reasoned, it seems to me, that a double negative is just twice as strong as a single negative.  Be that as it may, Jesus here uses a double negative.  They shall never never die!

How wonderful and how true!  What a comfort as here we walk through the valley of darkness toward our divinely set rendezvous with death and grave!  We shall never die!  How can we?  We have “everlasting life,” and everlasting means unending, unbroken, does it not?  Conscious life with God is our portion without end.  That can never be lost.  On the contrary, we go from strength to strength, from life to life, from glory to glory until we appear without spot or blemish before our God in Zion.  Now we live by faith in Christ.  When we die we enter at once into the preliminary fulfilment of our hope.  Instantly! Without one moment of death, wherein we shall stand unclothed.  And presently we shall be glorified perfectly, according to body and soul, in the blessed day of our Savior’s appearing.

Therefore, too:  “Though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  In a sense we must die, of course.  This body must be changed.  The natural must become spiritual; the earthy heavenly.  Corruption must put on incorruption; mortality immortality.  However, that death is but a moment.  The body is only the seed that is sown.  While it reposes in the grave, YOU will be in heaven, with God and with Christ and all the angels and departed saints.  Presently, your body, too, will be raised to a glory it never knew or could have known apart from the blessed Word become flesh.  Then all will be life and blessedness forever and ever.

*****

“Believest thou this?”

Not, believest thou?  That is important too, of course.  However, that’s not what Jesus says.  There comes a time when that should be established.

But, believest thou this?  That Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  And that those who believe in Him shall live, though they be dead; in fact, shall never die.

Then we have comfort, do we not?

Comfort with respect to our loved ones, who have died in their Lord.  It’s a terrible thing, when the dead must bury the dead.  However, when the living bury the living the basic note should be our resurrection hope and joy.

Then, too, we have comfort for ourselves, even in the face of death and grave.  Then we can look over and beyond these to the glory laid away for us and rejoice with the church of every age in those mighty words of Job:

“I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”