“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.” – John 10:28
There is but one subject for today – the Resurrection. It is delightful to us that we celebrate Easter in the spring of the year, when all life is rising again from the sleep of winter. Everyone feels within himself new gladness and new hope in the warmth of the returning sun and the renewal of earth’s life. But this new life which we see bursting into leaf and blossom is still but earthly and physical life. This resurrection of the earth in spring is the symbol – not the reality.
When the Lord said, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know,” He was speaking of His death and resurrection. He went to prepare a place for us in heaven, and the way is by His Word, which teaches of Him and shows us that where His presence is there is heaven.
Nor is man’s mere resurrection from the grave the reality of which the Lord spoke when He said, “I give unto them eternal life.” All men have risen from the grave. The life of man is indestructible and always has been so. There is no man who ever lived who does not live now. We cannot die in the sense that we cease to live. The Lord was not speaking of bodily life when He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
It is because of misconception of the subject that removal from this world has been regarded with dread. To die has been supposed to mean parting from everything that is actual and certain, and entering a condition that is vague and shadowy, a condition less real than life here. Such ideas spring from our lack of understanding of why we are here and of how our present state of being is related to that which is to follow.
John in the Apocalypse tells of a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, standing before the throne clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands. Of them it is related, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They were not suffering the loss of any powers which they had had in this world, but were praising God for His goodness to them, saying: “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
The plain teaching of the Word is that the soul is the real man. All the life of the body is from it – or rather, from the Lord through it. The soul builds the body, and when the body can no longer serve it, it casts it off and comes into the greater light and life of the spiritual world. When the Lord opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, he saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire; a mighty host far stronger than the host of the invading Syrians. The visions of John in Patmos teach of a world far more powerful and desirable than this.
The things of time obscure our vision. We find this statement in the writings of our church: “Lest there should be infernal darkness respecting God, heaven, and eternal life, and other subjects depending on them, the interiors of my spirit have been opened by the Lord, and so it has been given me to speak, after their decease, with all whom I ever knew in the life of the body, with some for days, with some for months, and with some for a year; also with so many that I should not overstate them were I to say a hundred thousand… I have also spoken with some two days after their decease, telling them that preparations were then being made for their burial; to which they replied that it is well to put away that which had served them for a body and its functions in this world, and they wished me to say that they were not dead, but living just as truly men as before; that they had only migrated from one world to another, and that they were not aware that they had lost anything, because they were in a body possessing every sense as before, and in the exercise of will and understanding as before, and that they had similar thoughts and affections, sensations and desires as in this world.”
When we see one whose bodily life is ebbing away and see the physical powers gradually declining, what we are really beholding is the loosing of earthly fetters. The life that seems to be vanishing is really preparing for more intense action. That which we love does not die. We did not love the body merely for the body’s sake. We loved that which manifested itself in the body. This does not perish; it acquires a new vitality. Here the traits we love are limited. In the spiritual world they will come into full liberty.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” They come into that state in which human life is at its best, a promotion to better service. And we who remain receive the benefits of it, for while on earth we have angel friends. They do much for us, by an inward way which is the most effective way, giving us hope and courage and strengthening us to be faithful to the part that Providence has allotted to us.
When we pass on, we look at death from the other side. When those at the sepulchre were told, “He is risen,” not mere continuation of life was meant, for we were not created to live in this world forever. How poor a purpose that would be!
The message of Easter is the message of the Lord’s triumph over the hells. Easter stands for the Redemption, the overcoming of evil, the overcoming of all that stands in the way of our happiness, and the making of this power available to us. Without this great work which the Lord accomplished there could have been no regeneration of anyone. The hells would have triumphed over all. He rose on that first Easter morn with all the fullness of Divine life and power, ever to be present as the Almighty with men on their own level without intermediaries.
Natural science has accumulated an enormous mass of important facts, but not one of them throws any light on what happens at death. The soul cannot be found by the microscope. The telescope of Galileo told him nothing of the home of the soul, and the modern 200-inch telescope will tell us no more. The Word was given and the Lord came into the world to teach us these things and the way of life. His teaching is not false. He is the light of the world. Without belief in the Lord and in the life after death, life here has little meaning and is destitute indeed.
Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. They lie wholly outside of the realm of natural science. But spiritual things are none the less certain on this account. Indeed they have a greater validity than all natural knowledges, for they deal with the realm in which are the causes of all things.
We often meet the attitude that immortality is something chiefly interesting as a matter of speculation, and that belief in it is without any practical value. This is quite contrary to fact, for when belief in life after death is lost, life in this world becomes irrational, our labors vain, there is no harvest of humanity, for the ultimate goal of human life is death.
The Resurrection has its power solely because of its truth. Its effect on the lives of men bears witness to this. The Resurrection shows that death is the gateway to a higher and better life. From it comes the power to lift our minds above the struggles and tribulations of this world and to keep our internal life true and clean. It gives us power over self, and develops the capacity for self-sacrifice and service. “Because I live, ye shall live also.”
Each returning Easter should find us coming to worship in fuller appreciation of the fact that the Lord has risen and reigns in power and great glory to make possible new realms of thought, activity, and happiness now and in the world to come. May the Resurrection mean to us not a mere continuation of existence after the death of the body, but an arising from old, dead states of mind, from the old life of self-centered desires, and from petty worldly ambitions to a new life made possible to us by the Lord’s own rising from the human to the Divine.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life” and “Because I live, ye shall live also.”