What is life, and where did it come from? When we die what happens to our life? Answers to these questions have not been obtained using the disciplines of science. Usually scientists can conceive of some idea or theory or method to unlock secrets of our existence but the mystery of life is so profound that no one has any idea how to investigate it. There is a reason for this. Life, like energy/power originates from outside the box we call a Universe. Unless one believes that God exists the questions cannot be answered. Life comes from God.1 If we have questions about it we should consult with Him!
Followers of Jesus must not fear that our existence will someday be explained and reproduced from scratch by human effort because cells and DNA are purely mechanical structures until they are joined with that mysterious thing called ‘life’. Once life leaves our body energy to the cells diminishes and our flesh begins to degrade (decompose) because flesh is purely mechanical, it operates even at the level of a cell in an organically mechanical fashion. In the New Testament Paul calls our body a ‘tent’; it is something we live in.2
Everything dies. Old cells are replaced by new cells, old creatures are replaced by new creatures, and old humans are replaced by new humans. This sounds like an idea drawn from Ecclesiastes but the implications of this observed truth resonate within me when I see liver spots on my hands, a lined face, and gray hairs reflecting back at me from the mirror. I am going to die and from the looks of things I am headed that direction faster each day. Science has its own problem trying to figure out life excluding God from the equation. My problem is more basic. What happens when my life leaves the tent it inhabits?
We can live as if we are immortal which is a careless and casual way to live when overwhelming evidence suggests otherwise. Television, video games and good times distract us from quiet contemplation needed to face the truth that our tent is not an eternal residence. Where will we go to live when the tent wears out? Science has no hopeful answers here; Jesus does. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even though he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”3
Generally, religion is associated with philosophy about good and bad, or right and wrong but Jesus is not a philosophy to adopt. He testifies about Himself that He is resurrection and life and that should be of interest to the whole world, not just me with my gray hair and liver spots. Resurrection is the central truth of Christianity. Jesus came to save the world from eternal death which in scripture is not oblivion but existence without even one single goodness or provision of God. In a parable Jesus described death without God as: existence without mercy, agonizing, yet being conscious of our misery.4 It is outer darkness (ignorance and lack of understanding) away from the light of God where there is weeping and great anger (gnashing of teeth).5 That is the fate of every human who has lived, or will live without the resurrection and the life.
When Paul writes to the Christians in the city of Philippi he associates knowing Jesus Christ as Lord with resurrection from the dead, …”that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death: in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”.6 When we are baptized into Jesus we ‘are conformed to’ His death so that we might attain the resurrection.7 Baptism is much more than an outward sign of an inward change. It is where we ‘die’ to our fleshly thoughts, desires and motives and experience new life with help from Heaven. It is not our initiation, it is our decision to be found in Jesus and the Life that He is. The good news (gospel) leads us to baptism where we enter into new life in Jesus. Sometimes I do not feel like I have new life because the devil reminds me at a weak moment where I came from, or, a thought or attitude I no longer want to nourish crops up. At these times I am thankful that New Life is not based on my feelings, but on God’s promises. New Life is where I am going, not where I came from.
Peter James and John were witnesses to a conversation that Jesus had on a mountainside with long dead people.8 Elijah (who lived about 800 years before Jesus was born) and Moses (who lived about 1400 years before Jesus was born) had a conversation with Jesus that the three disciples saw and overheard about Jesus’s impending death which in the text of Luke 9 is described as a departure. Although Moses and Elijah (as well as Jesus) were radiant during the exchange the disciples recognized them perhaps by the nature of the conversation. Several things stand out here the most obvious being that death is not oblivion. It is just the end of the first chapter in the existence of one who is ‘in Christ’. Also, these two ancients were in comfortable conversation, like friends, with Jesus. Their intellects and personalities were preserved and active. Is this in store for you and me someday? I do not like death but departure has hope to it. The children of God get to depart the tent and move into radiant permanent digs9 unencumbered by aches and pains, fears, sorrows, or distressing thoughts.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that those who believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Written by Steve Long
- II Cor 4:16-5:5
- John 11:25-26a
- Luke 16:19-31
- 13:47-50 (esp. 50)
- Phil 3:1-14 (esp. vs. 10-11)
- Romans 6:1-7
- Luke 9:28-36
- I Cor. 15:50-58