Good Morning. Wake Up!
I love the way the word “Anastasia” sounds when it’s pronounced as the Germans or Russians pronounce it. It has a mysterious, yet clear ring to it when pronounced the way they do. There was a time when Anastasia was a popular name chosen for a newborn female baby, but it’s not quite as popular anymore. Anastasia is a Greek word which is usually translated into the English word “resurrection” in much literature. Literally, it means “to arise from death’s deep sleep and get up and out of bed.” Just as someone awakens from a night of natural sleep and gets up in the morning. The concept of resurrection is an important theme in the Bible. Why is the subject of resurrection so important?
During a Sunday morning church meeting when I was in Belarus last year, I met a young woman named Anastasia just after she had invited Jesus into her life a few days earlier. The expression of unbridled joy I saw in her eyes when I met her almost took my breath away; I think I may have actually gasped! She had truly been “awakened” from her old life into the brand-new LIFE of God through Jesus.
This issue of The Traveler is about death and resurrection. For starters, look at it this way. The death of Jesus, all by itself, was just another death by the common Roman method of crucifixion, just another end of a good life. After He was killed, Jesus of Nazareth would have sunk into oblivion and been forgotten, but for one thing: He came back to life! He was resurrected! He was raised from the dead by the power of God the Holy Spirit!
Everything ever written about Jesus has been written since his resurrection. It is the resurrection of Jesus which sets Him apart from all other religious founders or leaders in all of history: they’re still dead. He’s alive! Take away Jesus’ resurrection and Christianity collapses. Your own faith is empty, futile, and worthless. Nothing about Jesus would be worth discussing or writing about if He is not eternally alive at this very moment.
Why is resurrection so important? Billions of people have lived and died on planet earth. Did they just die—and that’s it? Is that all there is? Is death the end of it all? Thousands of years ago, an ancient biblical person named Job asked this question: “When people die, will they live again?” (Job 14: 14) Hundreds of years after Job died, Jesus answered Job’s age-old question: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, although he or she may die, will live again.” (John 11: 25)
Sometimes I visit two cemeteries not far from my home. My great-grandparents, my grandparents, a great, great uncle, my parents, my sister, my sister-in-law, and other relatives are buried there. Is that it? Are they just going to sleep there forever? Is their dust the end of it all? What’s it all about? Also, a dear friend of mine died a few days ago; will he live again? Will I see him again?
Jesus’ death, his burial, and his resurrection are three golden threads tightly interwoven and divinely inter-connected in God’s eternal purposes and plans for you and me. The three events cannot be understood apart from one another, for together they exhibit some of the wonder-full plans and purposes of God for all humankind. In other teachings, I have written about how we are “one” with Jesus‘ death and burial. We are somehow vitally fused with Him, too, in his resurrection: we are one. Far away in the depths of my spirit today I have a very real awareness—by faith—that I was “there” to die with Jesus and was buried with Him. I was “there” with Him, too, when He arose from his sleep of death.
He Is Risen!
And that’s what we will now study together for a few moments: how we literally and actually rose from the dead with and in Jesus. We will touch upon amazing forces and events which were set in motion that bright day when Jesus strode forth from death’s dark tomb, the New Man, the Man from Heaven, the First-Born Son of a new race of beings! That’s us . . . that’s us!
Back to anastasia. The word means to be resurrected from death, to be awakened from the sleep of death. It portrays a simple picture of awakening in the morning and getting out of bed after sleeping during the night. That’s what resurrection is: to awaken from the sleep of death and get up. It’s really that simple. It won’t matter how long any of us sleep the sleep of death; we’ll awaken in the “morning” and get up. There’s a lot of speculation about when and how we’ll awaken, what we’ll look like, how “old” we’ll be in heaven—stuff like that. I won’t go into any of those subjects. I’m actually condensing approximately 40 hours of teaching about the resurrection in these few pages, so all we’ll be studying are a few of the highlights; there just isn’t space for more at this time without writing pages and pages and pages.
Body + Soul + Spirit
I assume you know that we human beings are three-part beings, as God is a three-part being. We were created with a spirit “encased” in a soul encased in a body. Body, soul, and spirit: one in three, three in one. Indivisible except by God and by his Word, the Bible. You might want to look up 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 and Hebrews 4: 12 in that regard. If you’re interested in much more detail about us humans being three in one, I recommend you read another teaching on this web site entitled Whole In One.
In brief, it seems clear to me from the Bible that when we die our spirits return to God, while our souls and bodies sleep in the grave, awaiting God’s summons for us to awaken and get up some bright morning when Jesus returns. Incidentally, our souls and spirits are NOT one and the same as many people mistakenly believe they are. They’re two separate “parts” of who we are as humans.
Deep, Deep Sleep
At the time of our death, our body—this “earth suit”—will melt away and our spirit will rise as on eagle’s wings when it returns to God, shedding its confining physical bonds, loosing its anchor to earth. It will rise up as if passing through layers of denser atmosphere, soaring up into God—into higher regions of clarity and light until it will be pure spirit returning to Him Who is the Father of all spirits. It will finally be free to tear away from the peculiar prison of the clumsy and cumbersome earth suit (the human body) that previously restrained it.
The Bible teaches that the personality (person) sleeps in death after the spirit has returned to God: the person as well as the body sleeps. The Bible doesn’t limit death to the body alone. When one sleeps at night it is the person who sleeps, not just the body. There is no consciousness in truly sound sleep. All dreaming occurs in the twilight area between consciousness and deep sleep. The sleep induced by a general anesthesia for surgery is a good example of the deep sleep of death.
When we fall asleep in death it is comforting to know sleep obliterates the interval of time between the moment of death and the moment of resurrection. To our consciousness, the moment of resurrection will seem to instantly follow the moment of death—whether we’ve slept in death a thousand years, a few centuries, or only a few days by solar time. As far as your consciousness is concerned, the next fraction of a second after you die you will be awakened in your resurrection, even though many years or centuries may have passed in actual time. Yes, death brings instant awakening to full consciousness in your resurrection.
Near Death Experiences
Incidentally, we’ve read and heard much the last few years about so-called near death experiences (NDE’s) when people allegedly leave their bodies, travel through long tunnels, meet relatives and friends who have died, experience being engulfed in a bright light, etc. In my mind, those are not near death experiences; rather, they are visions of actual death experiences in which the persons experiencing them have actually died—and then “instantly” awakened in the future at their resurrection. That’s why it seems to them only moments after their death that they begin to have those experiences.
Please understand that is mere speculation on my part, but it seems more reasonable to me and seems to better “fit” what I understand about death and resurrection in the Bible—never having experienced either of them yet! I have no idea why such visions of death experiences happen to some people; however, I believe they are real. I just happen to think they’re visions of actual death experiences rather than near death experiences . . . based upon my present understanding of what the Bible teaches about such matters.
Wake Up, Lazarus!
Let’s return to the subject of death being mere sleep. The best biblical example is that of Jesus’ close friend, Lazarus. He had been dead for four days (John 11: 17), but was awakened from the sleep of death by Jesus. As far as we know, Lazarus had no consciousness during those four days—rather, he was in the deep sleep of death. Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I will awaken him from his sleep.” (John 11: 11) If you want to know a little of what your own resurrection will be like, this incident about Lazarus is somewhat of a pattern or prototype—not exactly, but somewhat.
The following is not a point I would argue with anyone, because there is so much about the subject of resurrection we simply don’t know since it hasn’t happened yet to any of us who are still living this mortal life. It seems clear to me the Bible teaches there will be two resurrections (or maybe they’re just sequentially two points on a continuum). Here are some references you can study yourself and see why I feel that the Bible teaches there will be two resurrections:
First resurrection: 1 Thessalonians 4: 14 – 17; 1 Corinthians 15: 49 – 53; Revelation 20: 4 – 6.
Second resurrection: John 5: 28 and 29; Acts 24: 14 and 15; Ezekiel 37: 1 – 14; Revelation 20: 4 – 15.
This will be a two-part teaching, continued next month.
“We are all going to be changed; we’ll all hear the loud blast of a trumpet, and in less time than it takes to blink, we’ll be changed! We’ll be up and out of our graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. Yes, in God’s resurrection scheme of things, we will all be changed! –Paraphrased from1 Corinthians 15
To Think About This Month
“We shall never cease from our mortal journeying, and the end of all our journeying will be to arrive at where we started and know the Place for the first time!” –adapted from T. S. Eliot
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Revised and Updated November 2020