Today we feature a guest blogger by the name of Christopher Gaston, a Facebook friend of mine who has also been delving into the scriptures behind immortality and abundant life. Enjoy!
“If the scripture tells us that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life, then why do Christians still die?
The reason death exists is because we believe in death. We believe in death more than we believe in life. We expect for people to die. When we go to a funeral, we expect to see the dead buried. We do not expect to see them raised from the dead. We believe in death more than we believe in scripture. See, we don’t really believe in eternal life. We really believe in eternal afterlife or more correctly eternal afterdeath. We say that this life does not really end and that heaven is a continuation of this life, but in order for someone to get into that life, they have to die to get there.
The idea of not dying is so contrary to everything we have been taught, most people reject the thought of it outright. Yet, the scripture is full of references which testify to eternal life and we reject them and push them off to a later time and a later place after the return of Christ or of some time after a person dies. We make excuses and justifications of why they are not for today. Christians are notorious for defining what scripture means according to their experiences. And because we all have experienced death, we define the scripture related to eternal life to not actually mean living forever.
We are essentially saying, “The scripture promises eternal life, but you won’t actually get to experience it in this life. You will have to wait for eternal life until after you die or until after Jesus returns whichever happens first.” Proverbs tells us God’s people perish because of a lack of knowledge and because they reject knowledge. Through unbelief, we have rejected the knowledge of God regarding life and death.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was on the edge of entering into the promise of what God had for them. They had been in a season of encountering God. God had done many great and miraculous things among them. His presence was visibly manifested in their presence. Twelve men were sent to spy out the promised land. Ten of those men can back with an evil report. The nation, rather than believing God, believed the 10 spies. They rejected knowledge and perished because of it. The entire nation failed to receive and walk in the promise of God because of unbelief. For a season, even Joshua and Caleb who had no unbelief were unable to receive God’s promise.
The church as a whole is in this place. We are on the edge of entering into the promise of eternal life where death is swallowed up in victory. We have experienced a season of healings and miracles. God has done many great things in the church. He has fought battles and won victories. His presence is tangible and at work in the church. Yet because of corporate unbelief, not one generation of the church has taken hold of the promise to live forever. Like Joshua and Caleb, even those who have no unbelief have been unable to take hold of life.
Paul saw this in his own life. He had a vision and understanding of life without end on earth. We see in II Corinthians 5 where his outward man was perishing. He called his body an earthly house or a garment. If it was destroyed, he knew he would get a new garment, a new spiritual body. His desire was not to take off the garment of his earthly body and be unclothed, which was to die, but to rather put on an additional garment, the garment of life, where mortality is swallowed up in life. He longed to be further clothed in a new heavenly garment, his new heavenly body which would never die. Sadly, however, he was not able to take hold of this in his lifetime due to worldwide corporate unbelief.
There will come a time and a generation of the church which learns to cast off unbelief and take hold of life and die no more. How can we become that generation? How can we ever truly understand and take on eternal life if we do not expect people to live forever? Why should the church continue to believe the lie that death must be tolerated? Death is an idea, a bad idea at that. Death exists because we agree with the idea of death and our agreement supports death to exist. We are familiar with death. We are comfortable with it. We tolerate it. We are taught from a young age even in church to believe in death more than to believe in life. Every part of us from birth is saturated by the idea of death. And because death still happens, the idea of death reinforces itself as truth every time someone dies.
However, whose voice will we believe? Will we be like the nation of Israel and in unbelief listen to the voice of death? Or will we be like Joshua and Caleb and believe the voice of God? For a generation to take hold of life and not die, it cannot be done by human intellect or human ability. We can only take hold of life by faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing God’s voice. How can the world hear if there is no one to tell them? Where are the Joshuas and Calebs of this generation who will be the voice piece for the living God and proclaim we are to live and not die? Who will possess life? Who will take hold of it?
There has to be a renewing of the mind, a shedding of the old ideas and taking on of the mind of Christ. To agree with death is to think according to human thinking apart from God. It takes no faith to agree with death. What is not of faith is sin and cannot please God. This death agreement actually puts us at war with God. The very nature of Christ is life and to agree with death is to be anti-Christ. This death mindset must be renewed by the mind of Christ. The church has to have an entire paradigm shift to where transformation comes to our corporate perspectives, perceptions, mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors. We have to fully reject death and take on the nature of life.
In part, this renewing the mind begins when we come to realize who we are in Christ and of the complete work of Christ on the cross. Romans tells us Jesus died once to sin. He was raised back to life and dies no more. After the resurrection, Jesus is no longer under the dominion of death but rather now has dominion over death. We have been crucified with Christ. The old body of sin was destroyed. However, as we are in Christ and He in us, we have also been raised to life with Him. As He dies no more, we die no more. As He has dominion over death, so we also have dominion over death.
The body was sown in corruption. In Christ’s resurrection it was raised incorruptible. It was sown in dishonor. It was raised in glory. It was sown in weakness and raised in power. It was sown a natural body, but raised a spiritual body as a new creation in Christ Jesus having a new nature. In Adam everyone dies. In Christ everyone is made alive. In Adam came death. In Jesus came the resurrection from the dead.
Scripture says every man is appointed once to die. We have already died in Christ. We have already been raised again to new life. If we have already died once, and as Christ dies no more and we are in Him and He in us, then we also die no more. To live is to commune with Christ, He in us, and we in Him. It is done. In Christ, death is defeated. If the church can grab hold of the understanding that we have in Christ already died and already been resurrected from the dead, it will radically change how we see death. By faith we take hold of life.
It is not enough to merely eat from the tree of knowledge and have understanding of being alive in Christ in our minds. We must feed from the tree of life which is to commune with Christ. The life of Christ has to take hold of us to become fully alive within every part of our being. Every facet of how we see, think about, and respond to death has to be taken over by life. We should be repulsed by death, so repulsed by death that it makes us sick. We should have such a fierce hatred of death that any encounter with death would cause the furious, righteous anger of God to rise up within us to say, “No more. I will not tolerate death any longer. It will not happen on my watch.”
That righteous fury of God should rise up in us to say, “It is not right for a widow to have lost her only son.” And being in such a state, we release the resurrection power of God and restore to life the only son of a poor widow. That is what Jesus did. He was repulsed by death and moved by compassion. It released newness of life. I long for the days when every encounter with death carries with it the expectation of seeing the dead raised and resurrection to new life.
There will come a generation which empties entire cemeteries. Hospitals and funeral homes will go out of business. Thousands and hundreds of thousands will be raised to new life. This generation will see the glory of God for raising the dead which has not yet been seen in the age of the church. Christ in us is the hope of this glory. The resurrection from the dead and the putting on of life so that one no longer dies are one and the same. Both are means of overcoming death. They go hand in hand.
Death is the last enemy and it will be put under the feet of Jesus. It will be done so by the work of the Holy Spirit through the working of the church in a generation who casts off unbelief, who communes fully with Christ, and who by faith takes hold of life being further clothed where mortality puts on immortality and where death is swallowed up in victory. Let it be now, and let begin with me. AMEN.”