“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, October 16, 2009

Resurrection to Eternal Life

…I sometimes find myself wishing that I could find a portal to another world where I would find exciting adventures, perhaps a wardrobe or a picture or a book, as in Lewis’ Narnia. But the fact is that our deepest longings can only be satisfied in the life to come, to which death is the portal, as we have seen. There is life beyond death, and it is not merely the life of renewed consciousness in a bodiless spiritual realm, or of return to a physical body in another realm (reincarnation), or of return to the same physical body (resuscitation). Heaven is the everlasting life of love and joy in the presence of God, life in a resurrected, perfected, glorified, and imperishable physical body (1 Corinthians 15), life so glorious that no mind can conceive it (1 Corinthians 2:9), life where every tear is wiped away and every wound healed (Revelation 21:4, 22:2), life that has no end and is lies ever before us, life that grows and branches out into reality in ever-increasing wonder and joy, life where the things that bring us greatest happiness in this mortal world are shown to be foretastes and reflections of the far greater things of God. Surely hope for this life gives us reason to await death with anticipation, even excitement. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15,

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies…What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power…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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’”
Most people today operate as if the natural movement of things is from life to death. We live for several decades, and then we die – so we might as well make the most of our lives. This life-to-death direction may be biologically natural, and natural within the context of the universe as it is now (see my posts on “Integrating Scientific and Biblical Eschatologies”). But there is a deeper nature of reality, in which death to life is the fundamental direction. Not life ending in death, but death first, and then – only then – life to the fullest. Death gives birth to life: a flower from dry rock, water in the desert, fire from ashes. This is the secret that Christianity has found, the treasure of resurrection.

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