JESUS TEACHES US THAT THERE IS LIFE AFTER DEATH
Jesus permitted Himself to be crucified
Man, in his lack of knowledge, his vague understanding of the justice of a loving Father, has made the grave a darkened sepulcher, a thing to be dreaded, and an end to all his aspirations and his ambitions. For ages he has feared this ending of physical existence and has made of it a time of intense mourning, a period filled with tears. BUT, this Great Spirit who had power over life and death permitted Himself to be crucified; He came to this Earth for that great purpose. But the question may be raised: If we claim that Jesus the Christ had power over His life, then why did he permit the great indignities and cruelties which were perpetrated upon Him and why did He not save Himself from this undignified and cruel death? In the parable of the sheepfold in John 10, Jesus tells His hearers, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” We find another statement given by the Christ after the crucifixion, after He had suffered death on the cross–when He had come back from the spiritual world to commune with His disciples. In the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew, the eighteenth verse, He again claims the same power. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in Earth.”
Jesus’ Victory over Death
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4).
“Christianity,” said one writer “is a religion of the open tomb.” Keep that thought in mind as you study this journal on the resurrection. The founder of Christianity could not be kept in the prison house of death. An angel rolled the great stone from the door of Joseph’s new tomb, and the Son of God came forth triumphant over death. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He said (John 11:25).
The apostle Paul argues that the Christian faith stands or falls upon the fact of the resurrection of Christ.
“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” (1 Corinthians 15:13, 14).
Our hope of deliverance from sin in this world (see Romans 6:4, 11, 12) and the reality of life in the next (see 1 Corinthians 15:17-23) are dependent upon the resurrection of Jesus. The incarnation of God’s Son, His sinless life and vicarious death, would have availed nothing if He had been kept a prisoner of death. The saints of all ages would remain in their graves, sealed forever, if Christ had not broken the power of death and come forth to immortal life. And Christians would have been “false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised” (1 Corinthians 15:15)
There is Life after Death
Jesus came to this Earth to teach mankind a particular lesson; and if He was destined to become the Savior of mankind, then the greatest lesson which He could have taught man was that of faith; faith in his God and faith in a life after death. By His very death Christ Jesus must bring to man faith, and the belief in a LIFE AFTER DEATH. He preached immortality, and to further impress this fact upon humanity, He must go through the throes of death in order to return to life and bring to man proof of an after death life. To accomplish this He appeared to His beloved disciples in His spiritual body. In I Corinthians, 15:6, Paul says, “After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once: of whom the greater part remains unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.” He walked and talked to them so that they might believe that what He had preached, the immortality of the soul, was a fact and that after man has laid aside his physical body, he still lives in a finer and more ethereal body.
Our New Spiritual Body
Paul also brings man much hope in a life after death in the fifth chapter of II Corinthians, verses 1, 2: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” In the fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians, Paul again preaches to those who have no faith in the life after death. This wonderful chapter is used by the majority of ministers to bring comfort and faith to those who have been bereaved by the loss of their loved ones. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
During the old dispensation and all through the Old Testament, man had very little hope in a life after death; to him the grave ended all. We find such discouragement when we read the ninth chapter of Ecclesiastes, the fifth verse, where the statement is made, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.”
We are made in God’s Image
Man is an immortal Spirit, made in the image of God, for are we not told in the 26th verse of the first chapter of Genesis that God said, “Let us make man in our image?” Now if God is Spirit and man is made in His image, can we no longer deny that man cannot die, or that if he did that a part of God would die? Can one imagine a Great Spirit which would create a being like man in His own image and then permit him to die? Could such a being himself become a creator as God had destined him to do if one Earth life were all, and if, when man had lived his three score and ten years, he should pass out of existence with no further chance to become as his Father in heaven, perfect? If he but stops to reason this thing out he cannot but be convinced that man, too, must go on evolving, learning, in order to become all wise as his Father in heaven is wise, and that this cannot be accomplished in the few years of one short life. To learn these lessons on the Earth over which God gave man dominion, he must return again and again, and in each embodiment he must take up his cross of matter (his physical body).
It is through the physical vehicle that man must learn to become a creator like unto his Father in heaven; it is the toll which he uses in his efforts to master the numerous lessons of life so that he can be recognized by his Father in heaven as a son. This tool (the physical body) becomes tired, wears out; and it is necessary that the Spirit be given a time to assimilate and digest all the experience gained on Earth. Therefore, God has arranged that the Spirit step out of this worn-out old robe and function in its spiritual body.
When this occurs, man with his limited vision, grieves over this change; to him it appears as a final parting from a loved one when this worn-out garment disintegrates and the loved one is permitted to function in a finer and a more ethereal robe, or body, one in which the individual is not limited by distance, nor can physical matter obstruct him in his progress. This is the spiritual body of which Paul tells us in II Corinthians, a building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. In this vehicle our loved ones can visit us, and while we in our blindness may not have the spiritual eyes with which we can see them, yet they are none the less very near to us. They are still interested in our welfare, and when we need them they do not fail us; they encourage and help us more often than we realize, though by our very grief we may hinder their progress in this new life to which they have been called.
When a man enters into a sound sleep and his physical body is inert on the bed then he is awake and active in the realm of the spirit. He is no longer hampered by a physical body. However, he is tied to this vehicle by the silver cord which leads him back again to his body upon awakening. During the unconsciousness of sleep he is in the land of the living dead and if he will he can communicate with his loved ones who are ever near him.
The Spiritual Minded student has this assurance of his nearness to those who have passed over in what is commonly termed death and does not grieve as do others who have no hope.