The best way to live forever is to never die. Sounds simple enough. Don’t die and you will live forever.
Okay. Fine. But how do we keep from dying? The chances are pretty slim we can avoid it. No one but Enoch and Elijah has ever done so. In other words, you can count on one hand–actually, two fingers–the people who have never died. And the fountain of youth is as elusive as ever.
Yet we would still like to never die.
Unfortunately, everyone dies, except Enoch and Elijah, and those who are alive when Jesus returns. The Bible and our own experience make that clear. “It is appointed unto men [human beings] once to die” (Heb. 9:27). “Death has passed upon all men” (Rom. 5:12). Just before they died, Joshua and David said, “I am going the way of all the earth” (Josh. 23:14; I Kgs. 2:2). We will all be “gathered to our fathers” sooner or later.
Even Jesus died, by His own choice, of course, to take away our sins. But He rose from the dead and lives forevermore.
And He has told us how we can never die. We will look at that in a moment.
But before we do, let’s think about Jesus’ resurrection which makes it possible for us to never die and gives us hope of our own resurrection.
This hope was born on a Sunday morning.
Come with me to a stone sepulcher in a garden outside of Jerusalem where Jesus’ body lay after His crucifixion. It is early Sunday morning. The sun just slipped over the Mount of Olives and flung a blanket of light across the city walls. Now the earth is slowly sliding away from the sun. (That is, the sun is rising from the earth.)
When Jesus rose from His “place of rest” inside the sepulcher where He was laid on Friday, He passed right through the shroud that covered Him. When an angel rolled away the stone at the mouth of the tomb, it was not so He could walk out. He had already left. He passed through the stone in the same way He passed through the shroud. The stone was rolled away so we could look inside and see He is not there.
So let us go inside.
We discover linen cloth wrappings (the shroud) and a face cloth (soudarion) folded in a place by itself where the body of Jesus was. Jesus took the time to fold the face cloth before He left.
Jesus rose physically in a body like we who believe will have when we are raised from the dead. It was (and is) a physical body of a different kind than we are accustomed to: an eternal, immortal body; but no less real than the one we have now. Jesus had flesh and bones (Luke 24:37-40) and bore the scars He received on the cross (Luke 24:39,40; John 20:27). He ate food (Luke 24:41-43). And yet He walked through doors (John 20:19,26). It is a physical dimension we are unaware of. And science will have no explanation for it. But science is not the last word on what is real or true.
The resurrection and the life
Now let us step back in time a short distance from here. Most of us are familiar with the historical narrative in John chapter 11.
Just before Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, He said to Lazarus’ sister, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he were dead, he will live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die forever” (John 11:25,26). Here Jesus shows us the way to never die.
Let’s look closely at His words.
Notice. He is the resurrection. What does that mean? Obviously, it points to His own resurrection from the dead. But its meaning is much broader than that.
What does Christ’s resurrection and His power revealed in it to raise the dead mean for us?
As much as unbelievers would like to think, “when it’s over, it’s over,” and scattering ashes is the end; because Christ has risen from the dead, they cannot prevent their own resurrection from occurring. For the lost, Jesus’ resurrection has a disquieting effect. No wonder the Easter bunny is so popular. Who wants to think about answering to God because someone rose from the dead? It’s easier to pull your stagecoach in at Good Friday and call it the end of the line, and leave Jesus in the grave.
However. This coin has two sides.
Happily, for those of us who believe, Jesus’ resurrection also guarantees our resurrection.
Resurrection means life. It follows naturally, then, that the One who is the resurrection is also “the life.” Jesus is the source of life wherever we find it. Even a blade of grass reveals life that came from His hand. It is saying, “I am here because of Christ.” “In Him was life” (John 1:4). “All things were made by Him” (John 1:3). And the crowning of all life, for those who believe, is the fullness of life we experience in Jesus, which will blossom into eternal life. Christ is our life: our life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3,4).
Never die: the end of death
Since He is the resurrection and the life, death is in trouble. Jesus demonstrated this when He rose from the dead. Death had no power over Him! Therefore, in John 11:25b He says, “He who believes in me, though he were dead, will live.”
“Me” is emphatic! It won’t help to believe in anyone else. Only if you believe in Jesus is the following true. . . When you die, you will live.
The Greek text says, “even if [or, though]” someone who believes in Jesus dies, they will live. This means they are still living when they die. They’re not actually dead. So, lying in a casket is not the end. Nor is dust in the wind. If you believe in Jesus, you will never die.
So Jesus says in verse 26, “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die forever.”
Look closely at this statement.
Anyone who believes in Jesus will never die forever. “Never” is an emphatic double negative. That means, to use a euphemism loosely, there is “no way in tarnation” it will ever happen! Try shooting the sun out of the sky with a BB gun. That’s how likely it is for someone who believes in Jesus to die. Then, like driving the final nail in death’s own coffin, Jesus adds the word “forever.” No one will ever die, double negative, forever! In an ironic twist, death’s fate is sealed! If we believe in Jesus, we will never die but will live with Him in the place where His nail-scarred feet rest.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. We love and worship you, the resurrection and the life. You are the Almighty Giver of all life. Thank you for rising from the dead on that beautiful Sunday morning. And thank you, Father, for the gift of your Son.
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© James Unruh 2019 and beyond