“Jesus not only conquered spiritual death by giving us faith and the Spirit of God to live inside of us, He also conquered our soul’s death by dying in our place so that we wouldn’t have to face the judgment alone.”
Have you ever had a life- threatening moment where you thought you were about to die? I have. When I was in high school I was working at a Christian camp, cleaning up debris after a major thunderstorm. We had loaded a small truck with the remnants of a dead tree that had been struck by lightning. When we realized that it was too heavy to make it down the washed out barn road to the rubbish heap, we decided to move the load to a trailer pulled by a tractor.
While I was leaning against the trailer my partner moved to pull the truck forward. Struggling under the weight of the tree the motor revved and then lunged forward. The trunk of the tree was too long to fit in the truck bed and was hanging over the passenger’s side. Like a sharp spike, the limb came right at me and pinned me to the trailer. In that moment it felt like time was standing still. What had required four people to lift into the bed of the truck was now piercing my hip. Adrenaline surged through me and I managed to lift the limb up and away from my body.
That moment has stayed with me ever since. Coming out of the experience gave me a strong appreciation for life. It was like I had been reborn. I have never looked at my life the same way since.
It’s amazing how much the looming reality of death has over us. It is the one thing that everyone is certain will happen. Every religion and non-religion has accepted the reality of death. Yet most people put it out of their mind until they have a life altering experience, until they are faced with their own mortality.
Much of life is dedicated to distracting us from the reality of our short existence. If death is final, then we should all just “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (I Corinthians 15:32 NKJV). That is, if life truly is the end, but “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NKJV).
When Jesus came into the world He addressed a culture that was already dead. Plagued with the curse of sin, humanity not only had a death wish, but they were spiritually dead. They were dead spirits headed to a physical death with a soul that would eternally die in the pit of hell. You could say that death was more a part of the human existence than life itself. But Jesus was spiritually alive, no one could take His life unless He lay it down, and He offered humanity something only He could comprehend: eternal life.
There are relatively few instances of anyone being raised from the dead. It’s not as common a miracle in the Bible as you might think. Elijah and Elisha both saw the power of God raise boys from the dead (I Kings 17:17-22, II Kings 4:32-35), and once a corpse rose from the dead after being thrown into the tomb of Elisha and touching his bones (II Kings 13:20-21). But God never raised any of the patriarchs, judges, kings, or prophets. He didn’t raise David’s first son with Bathsheba and He didn’t raise Adam’s first son Abel. In fact, Elijah and Elisha were the only two people recorded in the Old Testament who were even bold enough to pray over a dead body.
Even when Jesus was healing people on earth, no one brought Him a dead body and pleaded with Him for a miracle. The first record of Him raising someone from the dead was by divine circumstance. Jesus was walking down the road when a dead body was brought out of a house and He stopped them and raised him (Luke 7:11-15). Even Jairus was only seeking out Jesus because his daughter was sick. After his servant told him she was dead, he continued, “Do not trouble the Teacher” (Luke 8:41-55). And even Jesus’ closest friends, Mary and Martha, who had surely heard of Jesus raising those other two from the dead, never implored a miracle from Jesus after their brother Lazarus had died (John 11:1-44). The harsh reality of death was more real to them than the Giver of Life who was right before them.
Jesus even spoke of His own inevitable death. Not because He was like everyone else, mortal and thus destined to die, but because He had come to do the will of His Father who had sent Him. Jesus would face the cross, not because His body would eventually betray Him, but because those whom He had come to save would betray Him. Jesus also spoke of what would happen after He died, and His disciples did not understand Him. They thought He was speaking metaphorically or in parable as He was prone to do. So when He actually did die, they were not prepared. They had watched Him escape death before. They thought He was untouchable.
It is no wonder then, that when Jesus rose from the dead no one believed the report until they had seen it with their own eyes. So often we are harsh on Thomas because he didn’t believe the other disciples, but you have to remember that the other ten didn’t believe the women until Jesus appeared to them in the upper room.
It is amazing how much of a hold death has over our minds. Even those of us who believe in the resurrection of Jesus are crippled by the thought of our own mortality. Yet, throughout the Bible we are reminded time and time again that Jesus is the creator, provider, and sustainer of life. But that’s not enough. Death still looms over all of us. It consumes our thoughts. So it wasn’t enough for Jesus to be life, He had to conquer death. This is why the resurrection is so important. Jesus not only conquered spiritual death by giving us faith and the Spirit of God to live inside of us, He also conquered our soul’s death by dying in our place so that we wouldn’t have to face the judgment alone. But that still wasn’t enough. He also conquered our physical death when He rose from the grave, so the one thing that has complete control of our mind can be shattered for the hope that is set before us.
The true believer has no reason to fear death. Physical death is the necessity to eliminate the corruption of our flesh. This body is weak. It is susceptible to disease and harm. It can be broken, swollen, punctured, burnt, and crushed. But our eternal bodies will never experience pain or harm. That is why we are reminded to keep our eyes on Jesus, who endured the cross, but is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:54-55 NKJV)