How We Can Have Hope After Death
But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. Job 19:25, Living Bible
“You can make three wishes,” goes the old story of the genie and his jug. If you could fulfill three desires, what would they be? Fame, fortune, and power? Or what? When he wrote to friends at Philippi, a colony in northern Greece where he had established a church, Paul told them he had three desires, much different ones from those which I suspect we would have written about. First, he said that he wanted to know Christ in a meaningful and completely fulfilling relationship. He then added that he also wanted to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
Question: Didn’t Paul know about everything there was to know about Christianity? After all, he was a first-hand witness to the dynamic growth of the church. He saw the explosion which changed the world. He lived through history as this ragged band of poorly educated, low class disciples exploded numerically and spiritually with a dynamism which Rome’s power could not stop.
Yet what Paul wanted to experience – the power of His resurrection – is something which he and we as well have to encounter one-on-one. It’s a truth which is personal and experiential – not theoretical or intellectual. The power of the resurrection is the driveshaft of the Church’s existence, and the certitude for every believer that the future is real—not just a make-believe, false hope. Christmas is wonderful, but it is Easter which guarantees the credibility of everything that Jesus said. Like what? Like this statement: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25), and “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
There are many things which Jesus said which are meaningful only because He rose personally and physically from the grave. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was not just a belief of the early church, it was a fact around which the early church grew up. It was at the very heart of their belief system, not an appendage which was an “add-on” to round out the calendar.
Donald Grey Barnhouse was widowed as a young man, and he had the foreboding task of raising a little six-year-old girl who very much missed her mother. Of course, he struggled with the loss, but what was far more difficult was how to explain why a loving God should take her mother to be with Him. Nothing Barnhouse said seemed to get through to the little girl.
One day Barnhouse and his daughter were standing on a busy street corner, waiting for the light to change so they could cross the street. Suddenly, a large truck came speeding around the corner, momentarily blocking the sun and casting a shadow over the two standing there. The little girl was frightened. Her daddy picked her up in his arms and began to comfort her. In an instant, a truth crystallized in his thinking.
“When you saw the truck, it scared you,” he began. “But let me ask you,” he continued, “had you rather be struck by the truck or the shadow of the truck?” Of course, the little girl replied, “The shadow.”
“When your mother died,” said the father, “she was hit by the shadow of death because Jesus was hit by the truck (death).”
This is the power of the resurrection, the antidote to the sting of death, the comfort which makes loss bearable. Paul knew what he was asking for when he expressed the desire to know the power of the resurrection. His was not an idle wish but an expression of profound wisdom. Yes, God help us to know the power of the resurrection which dissipates our fuzzy thinking. Knowing the power of the resurrection gives strength for today!
Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 4