Tag Archives: Resurrection

Suicide, Shame, Sorrow and Jesus’ Resurrection

While wandering around the  yesterday with my family I kept thinking to myself, “I wonder if my children will grow up to be geologists or pollen scientists.”

Then it hit me.

I could encourage them to go this route…and for the rest of their lives they’d pour over geology books…

Sift through the sediment found at the bottom of a lake…

And write articles for the .

And that’s it.

Not that a career in geology or pollen science wouldn’t be meaningful or significant. It’d just be provisional. Short-sighted. One-dimensional.

In the end, I would have missed it if I said, “Look how vast and beautiful and strange the world is. You can spend the rest of your life exploring and learning about it.” And stopped there.

I might as well have said, “Open your mind. Drink deep. .”

Suicide as the Mechanism to Remove Shame and Sorrow

In early 2007, a Japanese cabinet minister committed suicide just hours before a bribery probe. Mental health experts were shocked. Not by the suicide. But by the governor of Tokyo who .

In 2008, nearly 100 people in Japan . And it’s suicide hot line handles 700,000 calls a year.

See, in Japan, suicide is an acceptable way to avoid shame.

This view has its roots in Japan’s ancient Samurai history and Buddhist religion. To avoid shame, Samurais would kill themselves. And while Buddhism doesn’t promote suicide neither does it prohibit it.

Therefore, suicide is the mechanism to erase shame and remove sorrow.

Yet, this is a repulsive practice when it . And I could not imagine any father being but dumbfounded if his son committed suicide.

 A Strange Subject on Easter

It may seem odd to end to a week of posts on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ talking about suicide. But there is much involved.

For example, if Dan Barker and the anti-supernaturalist co. are right and the dead CAN’T be raised from the dead, then… Christ is still in his tomb, the Gospel is not true, our faith is groundless, we misrepresent God, our work is senseless, we are still in our sins, death is it, life is futile and we are pathetic.

But if they are wrong and the , then Christ has risen, the Gospel is true, our faith is hopeful, we represent God truthfully, our work is significant, our sins are forgiven, death doesn’t have the last word, life is ultimately meaningful and we are envied.

Jesus’ Resurrection as the Mechanism to Remove Shame and Sorrow

Frankly, no godless intellectual giant offers any life system that I could feel good offering to my children. No secular poet sings a song I wouldn’t mourn if written by one of my children. No political leader articulates a plan I could embrace as true hope for my son or daughter.

In essence, no man who’s ever walked on this earth is worth trusting. Except one–Jesus the God-man who redeems us from suicide, sorrow and shame.

Late in his life  once said he hoped that his paintings could be a lifeboat for someone cast away in the sea of uncertainty. Noble, but worthless coming from someone who took his own life.

To me, the defense and the spread of the resurrection of Christ is an issue to die for.  Not only because it exalts Jesus, but because it has the power to invest ultimate meaning into the lives of people, especially those whom I love, like my children.

So while I’ll encourage my children to pursue careers they enjoy–whether as a scientist or poet–I can’t neglect the very spiritual and existential task of telling them about the one who lived, died and rose from the dead to rescue them from the shock and shame of sin.

Resurrection: Why It’s Necessary to Fight for a Precise Definition

“All who died will come to life.” That is the doctrine of resurrection in seven words.

It’s probably one of the most visible and enduring doctrines of the Christian church.

In fact, as a nation we celebrate the resurrection–Christ’s resurrection that is.

But I doubt most Americans–let alone professing Christians–could articulate a clear explanation of this doctrine.

I know I couldn’t until I cracked open the books.

Let’s change that.

How Important Is the Doctrine of the Resurrection?

Ask anybody–whether they believe in a physical resurrection, a metaphorical one or not at all–and all will agree that Jesus’ Resurrection is the center of Christianity.

Indeed, Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” 

, who’s written 15 books on the Resurrection said, “It’s the center of Christianity.”

Popular atheist :

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Indeed, Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Jesus. But not all believe it unfolded the same way–that is as a physical, bodily resurrection.

Alternative Views of Jesus’ Resurrection

John Shelby Spong believes the Resurrection is real. But  at best.

His logic?

Since it’s impossible to translate a God-event like Jesus’ resurrection, the Gospel writers resorted to what they had in hand–mythological language…

That means it would be a mistake to read into the Gospel accounts a literal risen Jesus walking around and eating.

Unfortunately, Spong never sufficiently explains why communicating an event like the risen Jesus barbecuing fish and chumming around with old friends is problematic.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

John Dominic Crossan thinks the Resurrection is best understood as a metaphor–a message that Crossan says is easy to understand.

But a metaphor misses the point. It loses the reality of God in the world.

Furthermore, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary , ”There’s no sense that any of the earliest followers had the remotest sense that this event was metaphorical.”

And finally, historian and atheist philosopher Richard Carrier  argues that the resurrection Paul spoke about was spiritual and not physical–a notoriously-slippery-slope notion William Lane Craig debunks.

But why should we care about the precision of Jesus’ resurrection? I mean can’t we “get the message” with out getting all technical?

One good reason why precision is so important is that Jesus’ own resurrection tells us what our future resurrection will look like.

Old Testament Hope of a General Resurrection

General resurrection is not a Christian invention.

In fact, many Greek philosophers like  the soul would be released from the body to reunite with the divine spirit.

Hebrews looked at it differently. The dead entered Sheol with their bodies and expected God to ransom them from this prison:

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. 

Moreover, their general belief in the goodness of God led the Jewish people to assume that the righteous dead would one day see God. Job said: “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” 

In a sense, God’s goodness was the foundation for this expectation.

New Testament Hope of General Resurrection

By Jesus’ time, as the Hebrew vision of general resurrection took shape, there were two competing positions on the topic.

The Sadducees and the Pharisses.

The Saducees dismissed general resurrection because they believed it was irrelevant to this life [“Look mom–a secular humanist!”] and was not included in the Law of Moses.

Pharisees, on the other hand, believed in a life after death that required a resurrection.

But why is the the Old Testament short on resurrection content while the New Testament presents a robust look?

Namely because the hope of the believer’s future resurrection rests upon the resurrection of Christ:

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:18

[See also  and .]

Five Elements to the General Resurrection

What does this general resurrection look like? Glad you asked. Here are five ways.

Transformed Body
Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. 

New Dwelling
For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling 

New Clothing
For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 

Resurrection to Life
And come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 

Resurrection to Judgment
Having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 

Now, not all who sought identification with the early Christian church proclaimed a future resurrection of the body.

Instead, they preached a spiritual awakening that already passed. This view, adopted by Hymenaeus and Philetus, and by later Gnostics, was condemned by Paul in .

The Over-Looked Accomplishments of a General Resurrection

Christ’s resurrection accomplishes at least three things.

One, it validates the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. Two, Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates God’s triumph over death. And three, it establishes and under girds our hope of a future life beyond this world.

That last point accomplishes something very important…and often overlooked when it comes to the general resurrection: it inspires our evangelism.

Here’s how.

As C. S. Lewis noted, “We’ve never met a mortal.” And if humans are immortal, then we live on after death–either in heaven or hell.

If in heaven, then we want to share this good news. If in hell, then we want to warn. This means the doctrine of the general resurrection actually informs the rather remote doctrines of comfort and compassion.

Earthly suffering sucks. But eternal sucks way more.

In the end, as a Christian, it’s impossible to sever this life from the life of the next. We do our mortal brothers and sisters injustice if we think otherwise.

Let me know what you think.

Soul Sleep: Deviant Doctrine to Avoid

Most Christians agree that the soul survives death. What happens until the resurrection, however, is a matter of debate.

What happens to the human soul when a person dies?

Does it disintegrate the moment a person’s brain flat lines like materialists argue?

Or does it survive the body to live forever?

Of course most Christians agree that the soul survives.

However, not everyone agrees on what happens to that soul once a person dies.

Roman Catholics insist they trudge through purgatory.

Sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, on the other hand, believe the soul remains unconscious until resurrection day.

This is called “soul sleep.” Or “conditional immortality.”

Soul Sleep: Biblical Proofs

Sects who embrace the soul sleep concept base their beliefs off of a host of verses:

Who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see…. 

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. 

The soul that sins shall die. 

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

At first blush it seems they might have a case. But they don’t. These verses have been wrenched out of their context.

Here’s how.

Soul Sleep: Where These Sects Went Wrong

Yes, First Timothy 6:16 suggests that it is God alone who has immortality. No argument from me. But in no way can we assume that he’s the only one.

In fact, Paul argues it’s BECAUSE God is the author of immortality that he is also the giver of immortality. We live forever because God sustains us.

I’ll admit, the notion of death in Genesis 2:17 is peculiar simply because Adam and Eve don’t actually die. At least not right away.

What’s going on? Here we have the promise of [future] physical death AND [immediate] spiritual death…

But the spiritual death the author of Genesis had in mind isn’t the soul sleep kind. No.

He had in mind the deadness in our desire for God…we turn the corner from agents who can sin to to agents who are slaves to sinblind to his beauty and incorrigibly bent to reject his son Christ.

What about Ezekiel and Romans? They simply echo the notion that physical and spiritual death is the punishment of sin. Adam’s original sin.

Okay. If souls don’t sleep while they wait for resurrection, what do they do? Here’s what the Bible teaches.

Orthodox View of the Soul After Death

Traditional Christians affirm that the human soul survives death. But not in a slumber.

In  Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The Apostle  meant the “shedding of this body” and union with Christ in spirit.

Paul echoed a similar sentiment when he said, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” .

Then you have the spirits of the martyred tribulation saints in heaven who cry:  ”O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 

The clincher, of course, is Jesus who said to the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” .


As you can see, the biblical evidence for soul sleep is lacking while evidence for the souls immediate union with God is strong. In a nutshell, when a redeemed person dies his soul is united with God immediately to wait the final resurrection of his body…

And when an unregenerate person dies, he is immediately ushered out of the presence of God to await final judgment.

Now, it’s your turn. What did I miss? Got any questions?

Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Death: A Doctrine We Can’t Neglect


Death looms over us all.

It frightens some and elates other.

Drives us to noble works and dreadful deeds.

Perhaps no single force has worked so powerfully on man as his knowledge that he must surely die.

 called the knowledge of one’s own death the essential fact that distinguishes us from animals.

Yet, we spend our days thinking about everything but death.

Look at the billion dollar age-defying industry and you see what cultural anthropologist  might call symptoms of death denial.

Even our sermons are geared to the here and now: stable marriages, stout muscles, serene minds and safe investments.

Strange society, indeed: we strive to preserve the LEAST enduring part of our beings–the body. And we do this in spite of substantial words the Bible has to say about death.

Maybe you’ve never thought of death as a Christian doctrine. Or one that deserves much attention. But indeed, it is a doctrine and it does deserve healthy consideration.

Let me show you how and why.

Physical Death: The Lowdown

The Bible speaks of death in three ways: physical, spiritual and eternal.

For plants and animals, death is nothing more than the end of life. But for humans it’s more. It’s the separation of the soul from the body. It’s a passage of one kind of existence to another.

In ancient Israel, death was a natural end to life. So the goal of an Israelite was to live long and die in the presence of children and grandchildren.

For example:

And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 

But where did they believe the soul departed to? Ancient Hebrews regarded death as the soul’s entrance into –where the deceased were cut off from God and community.

In spite of this grim fate,  proclaims that God the redeemer is in both heaven and Sheol. In fact, he is able to bring a person out of Sheol:

The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 

It’s only in Ecclesiastes do you find outright pessimism expressed in the face of death. And that book probably shows considerable non-Hebraic influence.

Spiritual Death: The Lowdown

Abel was the first human recorded in the Bible to die. Cain, his brother, murdered him. But the first mention of death in a physical AND spiritual sense occurred in :

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

In other words, death was a result of sin.

That’s why the New Testament sees death NOT as a personal event but a theological problem: sin introduced death and death involves separation from God.

This is spiritual death.

Romans 3:23 says it this way:

ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” They are spiritually cut off from God. But when we are born again–when Christ redeems us–we are raised from spiritual death and reunited spiritually with God.

Eternal Death: The Lowdown

Eternal death is the third version of biblical death. This is known as the second death–and it appears in :

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

This is the everlasting separation from God in hell. It occurs after the final judgment.

In the meantime, the devil is the –the very god of this world that Christ conquered paradoxically by dying.

Death Defeated by Christ’s Resurrection

Paul saw death–all versions–as an enemy, an enemy conquered by Christ’s resurrection:

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

In fact, the major point of New Testament passages like 1 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 2:8 and 1 Peter 3:18-19 is that Jesus did not remain dead but defeated the devil, took the power of death and ascended in victory.

This naturally rules out notions of purgatory or soul sleep, doctrines that contradict the sufficiency of Christ’s death. Christ’s death and resurrection removed the curse of death once and for all.

How Christians Should View Death

So even though Christians still die physically, death can never separate us from Christ. We do not grieve like the rest of people who have no hope.

Instead, our mourning is enhanced by our anticipation of our own transition from this life to the next.

Phillip Yancey once said, “We need a renewed awareness of death” and “a faith, in the midst of our groaning, that death is not the last word, but the next to the last.”

A proper view of death–both the beautiful and the ugly–allows us to articulate to the godless the joy found in the hope we have secured in Christ’s own death and resurrection.

That is fundamental to the gospel.

Furthermore the paradox is that we can fully engage and enjoy our commission to subdue the earth when we realize that our half-baked, corrupt crafts will transform into eternal, incorruptible objects that glorify God in the future resurrection. A topic we will visit next in this series.

What About You?

Do you have a healthy respect for death? Are you living in the light that one day you will die? And how do you cope with that truth? Do you put your trust in Christ or this culture?

Drop me a line on Google+. I look forward to your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Image source: