Stump the Pastor
Q: Both from confirmation students and adults, we get many, many questions about death and heaven—too many to answer here, yet all similar in content. These thoughts are based on a devotion that I recently shared with Faith’s Ministry Team and Church Council members.
A: Because God created the world and made it good, He is deeply invested in us, our flesh and the world around us. Greek philosophy taught that God (or the gods) is interested only in our souls, and that the highest spiritual goal is to leave our decaying bodies behind and escape to the spirit world. That conviction has permeated our Western culture. The Bible, however, declares that God is as interested in saving our bodies as our souls. That is why, in the Apostles’ Creed, we confess our faith in “the resurrection of the body.” Death is “the last enemy to be destroyed” (I Corinthians 15:26), precisely because it drains the life out of our bodies. It is important for Christians to acknowledge its power and horror, and not to try to disguise or deny it. But, just because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), God, in His immeasurable grace, sent Christ Jesus to the cross to forgive our sin and destroy the power of death. Therefore, just as God raised Jesus— body and soul—on Easter, so he will raise up all his people—body and soul. In the resurrected Christ, we see our future. He was the “first fruits” of the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:20). Christian faith does not proclaim the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the body. But then, what happens in the meantime? What happens between death—when we can see the lifeless body of the one who has died—and the day of resurrection? The truth is that no one knows, because no one has come back to tell us. There are many hints in the Bible and intriguing testimonies from people who have had near-death experiences, but there is no single Biblical or doctrinal understanding of what the dead experience. What is clear is that those who die in Christ rest in God’s eternal care and that they will eventually be raised from the dead as Jesus was. Whether they experience resurrection instantaneously (since God is not bound by time) or wait with longing for the day of resurrection (Revelation 6:9-11), is not possible for us to know on this side of the grave. That may explain the mysterious ambiguity of Jesus’ powerful promise in John 11:25-26. “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” So which is it? Do they die and live again or do they never die? I think the answer is Yes! The reality of the resurrection is hidden in the mystery of God, yet it is as sure and certain as Christ’s own resurrection from the dead. So, our hope for eternal life is anchored in Jesus and his word, not in knowing or trying to know what is unknowable on this side of the grave.
By: Pastor Scott Grorud