The Christian believer’s hope of life after death is highlighted by a comment attributed to John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States (from 1825 to 1829) and a leading opponent of slavery.
A friend once asked him when he was an old man, ‘How is John Quincy Adams today?’ His reply was, ‘I am doing very fine sir, but the building in which I live is getting rather tottery. I fear I must soon have to vacate it. I expect, however, to move into a new one some day’.
John Quincy Adams’ remark was biblical. Death is not the cessation of existence, but the moving of the soul from the home of the body. Death is the ultimate, inevitable destiny of all people on earth. Death, as we ordinarily think of it, stands for dishonour, dreadfulness and defeat.
But is this all? Does human existence end in the grave? Not according to the Bible. The Scriptures teach that, just as a seed must die in the ground before it sprouts and becomes productive, so the believer must die before he is raised to eternal glory, when Jesus comes.
The most complete description of resurrection found in the Bible is in 1 Corinthians 15. Here the contrast between death and resurrection is drawn in vivid colours. The human body at death is in corruption, but in the resurrection it will be incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:42). Death brings sorrow and shame, but the resurrected body will exhibit glory (v.43).
Death brings weakness, resurrection gives power (v.43). Death preys upon the natural body, but the new body will be spiritual (v. 44). The natural body is mortal, or subject to death, but the resurrected body will be immortal, that is it will live for ever (v.54). Finally, resurrection turns the defeat of death into the victory of eternal glory (vv. 54-57).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is important to the Christian, because we believe he did not rise as a private person but as the spiritual head of all his elect people. As Paul says, Christ is the ‘firstfruits of them that slept’ (v.20).
When Jesus returns, all the graves of his people will open and rise to meet him. This is the great hope of every true believer in our Lord Jesus Christ. Take courage brothers and sisters!
John Thornbury served for many years as a pastor in Baptist churches in Pennsylvania and Kentucky (YSA).