This article originally appeared on calvarychapel.com on April 20, 2019.
“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
Jesus’ claim to be the resurrection and the life is so radical that it does not allow the hearer to hold a neutral position concerning Him. As C.S. Lewis said, “There are only three possibilities with Jesus: He is a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.” Any serious consideration of His words will almost certainly force one to admit, like it or not, that He is Lord.
Jesus made this statement in response to the death of His friend, Lazarus. Death is that dreaded reality that every human being hopes to avoid, but can never escape. Death is man’s perennial enemy and man’s greatest fear. In fact, the Bible says that men live all their lives in bondage to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).
Actually, death was never a part of God’s original plan for man.
It is something that came in because of sin. God had said to Adam, in the day that you eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17). Our ongoing inability to accept death as just another part of the human experience is, to me, a strong indicator that the biblical explanation of it is the right one-death is abnormal.
Think about it: no matter how young or old the person, no matter how sick or disabled, no matter how far removed from a person we might have been, there is a pang in our hearts when we hear of their passing. Millions were stricken with grief over the untimely death of pop star and cultural icon, Michael Jackson. Yet how many actually knew him personally? Why do people react so passionately to death? Because death is not right. It never was right. It never will be right. Nevertheless, it is.
“The current death-rate is awesome. Three people die every second, 180 every minute, nearly 11,000 every hour, about 260,000 every day, 95,000,000 every year. Death comes to young and old, rich and poor, good and bad, educated and ignorant, king and commoner. … The dynamic young businessman, the glamorous actress, the great athlete, the brilliant scientist, the television personality, the powerful politician-none can resist the moment when death will lay its hand upon them and bring all their fame and achievements to nothing. … Death is no respecter of time or place; it has neither season nor parish. It can strike at any moment of the day or night, on land, on the sea or in the air. It comes to the hospital bed, the busy road, the comfortable armchair, the sports field and the office; there is not a single spot on the face of the planet where it is not able to strike.”
The philosopher Epicurus said, “It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls.”
Are there any solutions? Is man destined to go on endlessly being defeated by death? Jesus answered those questions when He stood face to face with death and said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Just a few days later, Jesus would meet death head-on Himself in fulfillment of the prophecy:
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!” (Hosea 13:14).
His destruction of death would come through His resurrection.
Paul the apostle would later write of Christ as the one who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
The word “abolish” means to put an end to. Some synonyms for “abolish” are: eradicate, rescind, repeal, obliterate, annihilate. Jesus Christ obliterated death! You might say, “Wait a minute, as you just stated, three people die every second. What do you mean Jesus Christ obliterated death?” There are two definitions of death: man’s and God’s. Man’s definition of death is essentially the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. God’s definition of death is the separation of the soul and spirit from God.
The Bible teaches that physical death is the result of spiritual death. Jesus obliterated spiritual death by bringing man’s soul and spirit back into conscious fellowship with God. But He also obliterated physical death by rising from the dead and becoming the first of a great multitude who will rise also. In the original order of things, spiritual death (which came through the sin of Adam) led ultimately to physical death. In the new order of things, spiritual life (which comes through faith in Jesus Christ) will lead ultimately to physical life without the possibility of death.
Again the apostle Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15, that great chapter on the resurrection:
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).