Published April 10, 2012

Paul's Epistle...
"Resurrection Life"

During the Easter season we hear a lot about the Lord's resurrection. And, of course, that's a fundamental part of Christian faith.

Preparing my Easter weekend broadcast, I included some Scripture from the familiar teaching of Jesus in John 11. Lazarus had died and his sister, Martha, was asking Jesus about the resurrection.

"Jesus said to her, ‘You brother will rise again.' Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'" (vss. 23-24). And then Jesus dropped the proverbial bombshell: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die..." (vss. 25-26).

What a wonderful assurance this is from the lips of Christ Himself that believers will live with Him forever. He also said, "...Because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19).

Verse 25, above, which is often quoted at funerals, reassures the Christian that even though physical death may intervene, we will be alive with the Lord forever. Even when a believer dies, although his body is placed in the grave, his soul and spirit are immediately in the presence of the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:6-8). His body, glorified by Christ, will be reunited with his soul and spirit later at the resurrection of the saints.

Commentators – at least those I could find – say verse 26 indicates that Christians can experience new life right now through their belief in Christ.

While that is certainly true, an alternate interpretation occurred to me. And, when those two verses are taken together, it also makes sense.

Christ, here, was speaking in the context of resurrection. He was talking about the resurrection of the saints, which will take place at the rapture (from the Latin rapere, or forceful catching-away) of the church. He was talking here about our resurrection, not His.

Notice that in verse 25 Christ said that someone who believes in Him may experience physical death, but will be resurrected – physically alive – to be with Christ when He returns for His church. But in the very next verse, which some might otherwise construe as redundant, He says "whoever lives...shall never die."

Might this not provide a picture of what happens at the rapture? First, those who are physically dead in Christ (v 25) are resurrected to meet with Christ. Then "whoever lives" – those who are alive at the time of the rapture (v 26) – will be taken, never having had to experience physical death!

This is exactly the scenario presented by Paul in 1 Thess. 4, 16-18: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."

There you have Paul giving the same sequence that Christ gave – the dead in Christ rise first, then the saints who are still alive shall be caught up (raptured) to meet the Lord, never having had to experience physical death. In both cases, believers will immediately be "changed" (1 Cor. 15:51), given brand new physical but glorified, immortal bodies to live with Christ forever. I believe that day is near.

The key question to consider, then, is the same one Jesus asked Martha: "Do you believe this?" (John 11:26). Can you respond, as did Martha, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God..." (V. 27). And, of course, are you ready for the day Christ is talking about, to be counted among believers? If so, you will inherit eternal life with Christ in heaven.

The Lord's resurrection proved that all He had been saying was true. He was, in fact – and is – the "way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

Christ died on the cross to pay the inescapable penalty for our sins so that we all could live forever through faith in Him. But He rose from the grave to prove it. After all – as I heard someone say on the radio the other day – the resurrection assured what Calvary secured.

I'm ready for that day. And, like ol' J. D. Sumner used to say, "I can't wait!" How about you?

- Paul

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