[forthright] Emerging from the Grave

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthright@...>
Date: Sat, 16 Jul 2005 20:34:09 -0500
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross


COLUMN: Field Notes

Emerging from the Grave
by Michael Brooks

"The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and
death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in
them. And they were judged, each one according to
his works" (Revelation 20:13).

One of my most memorable experiences is going into
the Great Pyramid of Gezer in Cairo, Egypt. After
looking at the pyramids from the outside in sheer
amazement, I then went inside to the burial
chamber of the Pharaoh. There I was confronted
with several sensations.  There was the
claustrophobic feeling of being trapped beneath
thousands of tons of rock, the awe of being
surrounded by ancient history, and the
superstitious questionings prompted by all the
legends and myths about the "spiritual protectors"
of the dead.

These sensations gave way to a feeling of
liberation and joy when I once again emerged into
the hot glare of the Egyptian sun. Though I
enjoyed and appreciated my journey into the dark,
dead past, I was happy to be back in the bright
light, alive and well.

It is that joy, multiplied infinitely, that
faithful Christians feel in anticipation when we
read the Biblical promises of the Resurrection. We
will go into the grave. There it will be dark and
cold. But Jesus has brought victory over death,
which we will receive in the resurrection.  Paul
proudly proclaims,

"For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be
raised incorruptible ... So when this corruptible
has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put
on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the
saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in
victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades,
where is your victory?'" (1 Corinthians
15:52,54,55).

Death is certain, and it is natural that we all
face it with mixed sensations. We fear the unknown
and dread the pain and suffering that often
accompanies dying. We grieve in advance for the
good experiences of this world that we will give
up. Few are ready to immediately exchange the
known pleasures of material life for the promised
but only vaguely understood riches of the
spiritual world beyond.

Yet there is truly no comparison. Death may be a
dreaded event, but we will come out of the tomb
alive and eager to know the full fellowship of the
Father and the Son. Eternal life in Christ is a
promise of which we can be absolutely certain.
Jesus said,

"In my Father's house are many mansions; if it
were not so, I would have told you. I go to
prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come again and receive you
to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
And where I go you know and the way you know"
(John 14:2-4).

The Judgment scene depicted by John in Revelation
20 reminds us that the grave (Hades) will give up
its dead. Just as my visit to Pharaoh's crypt was
only temporary, so too will be the visit of my
spirit to the grave. Jesus will come with a shout
and the sound of a trumpet and the dead in Christ
will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

It is that last phrase that gives us sober
reflection. At the resurrection it will only be
those who are in Christ that are received into
eternal life. Other scriptures teach that "those
who know not God, and ... do not obey the gospel
of our Lord Jesus Christ" will receive everlasting
destruction "from the presence of the Lord and
from the glory of his power" (2 Thessalonians
1:8,9). It is absolutely essential that we have
faith in Jesus and that we be obedient to his
will. Otherwise, we will not escape death, and all
the things which we fear and dread will be
fulfilled eternally.

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