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Death and Resurrection

To have hope for Heaven is not to disguise the reality of death. Death is part of our human condition as biological beings. Death is God-given, a limitation on fallen human existence. But the reality of death should not deprive us of hope in the reality of death's defeat. Death does not separate us from God (Psalm 116:15; Romans 8:38-39). Jesus has conquered death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).

We will still die physically, yet because of Jesus Christ we need not be dead to God. When Paul writes about death being the "wages of sin", he is not referring to physical death but to spiritual death that threatens those who reject God (Romans 6:23).

1. The immortality of the soul

Christians have often expressed belief in life after death in the phrase, "the immortality of the soul". This phrase needs to be clearly understood. It is usually employed by Christians to mean that death is not the end, and this usual understanding is certainly essential to the gospel. It is important to recognize, however, that apart from God's action there is no part of us that naturally survives beyond death.

Our eternal existence is totally dependent upon God. That is true for the righteous and the unrighteous. The Christian doctrine of immortality affirms that we are whole persons, originally brought to life by God (Genesis 2:7), and because of God's action there will be no loss of integrated, embodied personality in the life beyond present existence. God brings us all into eternity to participate in the general resurrection and submit to the final judgment of Christ (Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:5-11; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Timothy 6:13-16). 

2. The resurrection of the body

The phrase, 'the resurrection of the body' is the biblical way to express Christian belief in life after death. In the Bible the word 'body' means the whole person (Job 19:25-27). We do not look forward to becoming mere disembodied spirits, but whole persons, fully alive with Christ in God.

We all die, but death is not the end for either the believer or the non-believer (Psalm 73:24; Daniel 12:2). For all will be raised to judgment (John 5:25-29; Revelation 20:11-15). Our life beyond the grave is entirely dependent upon the mercy and judgment of God, who has planned for those who trust in Jesus a re-creation into a new humanity, perfectly fulfilling his will (John 14:1-14; 1 Corinthians 15:49).

Our resurrection depends upon the Resurrection of Christ and follows a similar pattern. Jesus died a real death on the Cross. His Resurrection was a re-creation, not a resuscitation. He was not raised like Lazarus, only to die again (John 11:17-44). He had a Resurrection body that was different from his human body, yet recognizable. Our resurrection, too, through Christ, will be a total re-creation. Belief in a personal resurrection affirms our faith in God, Creator and re-creator, who has made us, and will re-make us, out of love and for love (1 Corinthians 15).