In his popular book, Hope For All, Gerry Beauchemin does a comprehensive job of covering the biblical subject of death—especially hope in the afterlife for those persons who have not begun a relationship with God during this mortal life. It is a common teaching throughout most of Christendom that people who do not become believers in Jesus in this life will not enter Heaven’s bliss upon their death. In Gerry’s introductory remarks for Anchor Five (reason five), why God gives hope even in death, he poses this critical question: “Where does the Bible say death ends all hope of salvation?”
Gerry then goes on to teach that death does not end all hope of salvation, citing ample references from the Bible to that effect—and offering sound logic and reason that death does not end all hope of salvation.
I was struggling with how to supplement Gerry’s teaching about death when Holy Spirit whispered to me that I have already presented some teaching about the matter. I placed on my website a number of years ago some thoughts I had originally taught about human death—and resurrection—to a small group of students during a Bible study in our home.
That teaching—with some revision and shortening—follows.
I love the way the word “Anastasia” sounds to my ears 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. Anastasia is a Greek word which is most commonly translated into the English word “resurrection” in much literature. The concept of our resurrection following death is an important theme in the Bible. Why is the subject of resurrection so important?
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, 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!
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 leaders in all of history: they’re still dead. He’s alive! Take away Jesus’ resurrection, and being a believer in Jesus collapses. Our faith is empty, futile, and worthless. Nothing about Jesus would be worth discussing or writing about if He is not alive at this very moment.
Why is resurrection so important? Billions and 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 the 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, my 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? Or is their dust the end of it all? What’s it all about? Also, I have a dear friend who will likely die within just a few days; I’m going to visit him tomorrow morning—probably for the last time. After he dies, 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 for you and me. The three events cannot be understood apart from one another, for together they exhibit some of the wonderful 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. For 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 also “there” with Him in his resurrection.
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 well 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—matters of that nature. 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.
I have to 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 my 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 personalities (souls) and bodies sleep in the grave (or are buried at sea or cremated), awaiting God’s summons for us to awaken and get up some bright morning when Jesus returns to usher in his Kingdom on the freshly restored earth.
At the time of our death, our body—this earthly, mortal tabernacle, our “earth suit”—will melt away and our spirit will lift up as on eagle’s wings to return to God, shedding its confining physical bonds, loosing its gross fetters of our physicality. 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 earthen vessel (the human body) that previously contained 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 that 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.
Incidentally, we’ve read and heard much the last few years about so-called near death experiences (NDE’s) when people leave their bodies, travel down 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—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 (in the future resurrected state) rather than near death experiences . . . based upon my present understanding of what the Bible teaches about such matters.
Let’s return to the subject of death being mere sleep. The best biblical example is that of Jesus’ 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.
I’ve taught again and again and again through the years (in person and in print) that we are in Jesus. We are permanently fused and connected with Him in his death and burial. You must come to see you are also permanently in Him in his resurrection.
Old things passed away when we became one with Jesus in his death and burial; now, behold! all things become new in our being one with Him in his resurrection. Just as certainly as Jesus was raised from his sleep of death by the power of God the Holy Spirit, from the overarching vantage point of eternity we are already risen with Him, children of the resurrection! (Luke 20: 36)
We must understand clearly the resurrection is not merely a comforting event to occur sometime in the distant future. The great fundamental fact we must comprehend is that the resurrection is above all else a Person, and that Person is none other than Jesus who died, who was buried, and who rose again!
The day will come for each of us when family and friends will place our bodies in a coffin (or our ashes in an urn) and bury us under the ground or at sea (or burn our bodies like they do in some cultures). I cannot believe that such an event is gross, distasteful, and horrible to any person who has identified himself or herself with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection. It is but a brief time of peaceful sleep which the Bible calls being “asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 14)
Your resurrection in Jesus is the difference between meaningless, dark, and dreadful death with no hope beyond the grave—and true LIFE incorruptible and eternal. He who died and was buried is forevermore alive. He is risen. Hallelujah, He is alive . . . and we shall live also!
There is a concept taught in the Bible having to do with the Feasts celebrated by the ancient Israelites (and by many Israelites—Jews—today). It is a concept containing many metaphors and symbolic word-pictures about our resurrection. The concept is that of “First Fruits.” The ancient Israelites celebrated three major Feasts annually (those same feasts are still celebrated to some extent by certain modern Israelites—and even by some Jesus-believers).
The three Feasts are the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Exodus 23 and Leviticus 23) Also celebrated during or “within” those three major Feast-events were seven “minor” events: three during Passover, one during Pentecost, and three during Tabernacles.
Jesus “fulfilled” the first Feast by being the Passover Lamb who was THE sacrifice and whose blood was shed for the sin of all humanity. At the conclusion of the first Feast, Passover, the ancient Israelites would take one sheaf of newly ripened grain and wave it before God as the first sign of a ripening harvest to come. With the waving of that first sheaf of grain, the Israelites were reminded of the fact that a great harvest was soon to be gathered in.
1 Corinthians 15: 20 and 23 calls Jesus the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. When resurrected, He was “waved” before God signifying a great harvest to follow. What is the great harvest to follow? We are! Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. If it dies, however, it springs forth into an abundant harvest of grain.” (John 12: 24) It is clear from the context that Jesus was speaking of his own death, burial, and resurrection.
But the New Testament teaches we who are “in” Jesus are also a type of first fruits of the coming harvest (James 1: 18 and Revelation 14: 4). Jesus is the first fruits, but we are also first fruits “in” Him.
I’m only touching upon the highlights of the marvelous teachings found in these three major Feasts (including the seven minor events contained within them). We won’t have space to teach anything at all about the second major Feast, Pentecost. Maybe some day . . .
The third major Feast, Tabernacles (sometimes called the Feast of Ingathering, too), contained three “minor” events: the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Trumpets suggests to us that there will come a time when those who are asleep in Jesus will hear a trumpet call resounding so loudly from the portals of eternity that the dead in Jesus cannot help but be awakened from their sleep (1 Corinthians 15: 52).
Ancient Israel had two (sometimes three) growing seasons, each one ending in a great harvest. I’ve already mentioned waving the sheaf of grain (Jesus) to signify a great harvest to follow (that’s us) at the end of the first growing season. The great harvest during the last Feast, the Feast of Ingathering, is when all people who are asleep will be “harvested”—in addition to those who have been sleeping in Jesus. (John 5: 27 – 29) It is the great harvest at the end of the ages of time when all persons will be summoned to the throne of grace in the courtroom of God, there to give an account of what relationship (or lack of one) they have had with Jesus.
Jesus, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. Then those who are in Him, the following first fruits. Finally, the remainder of humankind who sleep in death. When all is said and done, it all rests upon one person, Jesus, and upon one event: Jesus’ resurrection. He is the resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in Him, though they are dead, shall live!
Earlier, I referred to a couple of nearby cemeteries which I sometimes visit. I don’t do so in order to be morbid or sad. They’re quiet, serene places at the eastern edge of the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. To the west, the majestic hills begin their climb to the heights. To the east, the rolling Dakota prairies begin their long march to the Missouri River and beyond.
The soft winds whisper through the pines and the prairie grasses. The sun and rains and winter snows gently caress the mown grasses of the cemeteries. They are peaceful places situated on gently sloping hillsides—places full of rich memories and comforting thoughts I have of loved ones who have fallen asleep before me. My memories are rich and full as I contemplate those who have preceded me in the great mysterious adventure we call death. From God’s eternal perspective not limited to time or space, I know they have “already” awakened (in a manner of speaking) from their long sleep and are basking in the golden glow of God’s bright splendor on the rich table lands of Jesus’ coming Kingdom. They wait for me to join them there some bright morning.
On the gravestone of one of my ancestors—a great-great-uncle whom I never knew and who died at an early age—there is this faded inscription, almost unreadable now from the ravages of winds and storms and the passing years:
“Another link is broken in our family band,
But a golden chain is forming in a better land.”
In Jesus, we are one with Him, one with all those who have preceded us in the sleep of death, one with all those who live now, one with all those who will yet live in Jesus. We all march on inexorably through the passing centuries to our final time of sleep. But some bright morning, we shall see the Lord of Harvest face-to-face when He summons us to come forth and awaken from the long, long sleep of death. Yes, because He lives, we can face all our tomorrows and the inevitability of death, knowing it is merely a falling asleep followed by an “instant” awakening.
I have not written these words in an attempt to convince you of the reality of your resurrection. Either you are in Jesus and believe you will be resurrected, or you do not believe you will be resurrected. Neither have I written in order to reaffirm my own faith in the resurrection; I settled that issue in my own spirit and mind many years ago. My own resurrection is as real to me as living this mortal life is real to me. In some ways my resurrection into an immortal life in RealRealm is even more real than the mortal life I now live in ShadowLand.
No, I have written at length about Resurrection simply because it is something that will one day actually happen to everyone reading this teaching—to every human ever born. It is a subject each of us needs to settle in our own minds and spirits. If you don’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection and in your own, I ask you this question: “Why even bother considering yourself a Jesus-believer?” If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity; there are merely a lot of nice sayings by a person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived and died and who was buried many centuries ago. If there is no resurrection, his body has since turned to fine dust and has been dispersed to the four corners of the earth by the relentless winds of time.
No resurrection, no living Lord Jesus. No Christianity. No Church. No reason to pretend. No reason to play at being a Jesus-believer in whom Jesus lives in his “unbodied form” of the Holy Spirit. No Holy Spirit who lives inside us, energizing, empowering, and motivating us to live in Jesus, following and serving Him. If there is no resurrection, none of it makes any sense; it is all nonsense and religious foolishness. As the Bible puts it, if there is no resurrection, our faith is in vain and we are of all persons most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15: 19)
Dear reader, you need to settle this issue in your own spirit and mind. Is Jesus alive today? Is He alive in you? Does He live in other people? Is He your resurrection and your Life?
“Now may God, the source and fountain of all hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you place your hope in Him. And may the inner power of Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his superabundant goodness until you radiate with hope!” (Romans 15: 13, paraphrased)
NOTE: Many more of my teachings and writings may be found on our ministry website, leservices.org and my books may be found at billsbooks.org