Life NOW… and beyond the grave

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I mentioned in my last post that I had recently attended a memorial service. I actually preached on that occasion and my text was John 11:17-27. Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died and he was on his way to the tomb. Lazarus’ sister Martha went out to meet Him and scolded Him for not coming in time to heal her brother.  In response, Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again” and she replied, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Martha believed in the teaching of the Pharisees that all faithful Jews would one day rise to life in the great judgement event at the end of time. Jesus’ response was surprising and wonderful; “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”.

The Message version of the Bible translates verse 25 as, “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life”. At the memorial service the other day there were two men seated in the front row who, unbeknown to me at the time, believed in the dead doctrine of ‘Soul Sleep’. This teaching is similar to that of the ancient Pharisees and holds that when we die we cease to exist until, at the resurrection, God recreates our souls. Martha must have been surprised at Jesus’ response, and certainly the two men in the front row looked rather put out when I explained what Jesus’ words seem to quite clearly mean.

The New Living Translation presents Jesus’ follow up explanation to Martha as, “anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die”. Jesus makes sure that she, and we who read His words today, understand clearly what He means. First He states the glorious truth that anyone who believes in Him will live, even after dying. Unless we are on this planet when Jesus comes again we will all face physical death. However, if we believe in Jesus and are born again of His Spirit then physical death does not mark the end of our lives.  The grave is not an end, nor the coffin a bed in which to ‘soul sleep’, it is simply a door between one level of life and the next. Then, to ensure that Martha understood precisely what He was saying, Jesus added that everyone who lives in Him will never ever die. Could it be any clearer?

The Gospel, the good news, presents a life in Christ Jesus that starts now and transcends death. If we have a relationship with Him NOW then we will have a relationship with Him THEN. This is the glorious assurance that all disciples of Jesus have. Jesus asked Martha, “do you believe this?” and we too need to answer this question – do you believe this?

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