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April 2004

The empty tomb of Jesus Christ declares that a time is fast approaching when every grave and cemetery will be emptied. Not only those who have died within living memory, but the whole human race, will be raised at the general resurrection of the dead, at Christ’s Second Coming.

Never again, after that climactic event, will anyone die. Death will be banished for ever from the created order. Christ’s elect people will be rid of all disease and catastrophe, all sorrow and tears (Revelation 21:4).

What a prospect! It seems too good to be true, as we hear daily of suicide bombs, murders, warfare, epidemics and natural disasters.

He is risen

Perhaps some readers are suffering present anguish from the loss of a loved one. But lay hold on this inescapable fact – one day, all death will be abolished.

What is the ground for this assertion – an assertion made so regularly by the apostle Paul that he gained a reputation for insanity (Acts 17:32; 26:23-24)? The ground is solid history, recorded plainly and accurately in the New Testament writings.

Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ, God’s Son, was born in Bethlehem. When thirty-three years old, he was crucified by his enemies, and buried in a borrowed tomb. Three days later he rose (literally and physically) from the dead.

An angel told the women who came to anoint his body, ‘He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay’ (Matthew 28:6).

Christ had become the plague of death and the destruction of the grave (Hosea 13:14) – not only on his own behalf, but supremely for his people. He is the ‘first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Christians can look death (their final enemy) in the face and sing, ‘Made like him, like him we’ll rise; ours the cross, the grave, the skies. Hallelujah!’

Healing

What will the world be like without death? We are not without some insight. On at least two occasions in the past, large communities have had their sick beds miraculously emptied, while everyone stopped dying. Both occasions are described in the New Testament.

The first was when ‘Jesus went about all Galilee … healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people … and they brought to him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and he healed them’ (Matthew 4:23-25).

The second was in the ministry of the apostle Peter, when ‘they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.

‘Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed’ (Acts 5:12-16).

Wonderful world

Are these events recorded to tantalise us with a past golden age in which we can have no part? Not a bit of it!

They are written in profound anticipation of what all true believers will one day experience – to provide a realisation of what it will be like.

All suffering and death will vanish away – not just locally as it did in Galilee or Jerusalem, but universally. The world that remains will no longer be fallen and sin-sick, but renewed and perfect.

Someone has truly said, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and he wants it back!’ The resurrection of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago declares that God will certainly have his world back, and will present it in renewed beauty to the glory of his Son.

And what a world it will be! If in this life your trust is in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, you will assuredly have a glorious part in that wonderful ‘world to come’ (Hebrews 2:5).

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