(Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from chapter 8 in Carl’s book, Game of Gods: The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-Enchantment.)
Life can be very testing. My mother, a remarkable woman of wisdom and courage, battled cancer three times before it took her at the age of 67. My father, a man of conviction and understanding, comes from a farming era when brute strength and sheer toughness was as necessary as food. The first year my parents were married, Dad was in an airplane crash that killed his brother; the physical damage caused by this drop-from-the-sky, compounded with a long list of farm and machinery accidents, has taken a heavy toll. I have never known my father to be without pain.
Life can be trying and hard and short. Every person reading this will have a story of trials and troubles. No one has a monopoly on suffering, nor is suffering an argument for the non-existence of God. Jesus Himself intimately knew betrayal, pain, suffering, and the sharpness of death: He felt our plight. And if we are honest with ourselves, we too know the sting is never far away. Pain and mortality are not illusions, as suggested in some Eastern spiritual philosophies. Goodness and righteousness, beauty and kindness, mercy and grace – these too are real, and marvelous.
Sin is not an illusion either, and thankfully, neither is forgiveness. Leading up to His own execution, Jesus Christ encouraged His disciples with these words, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (John:16:33).
Three days after his crucifixion, Christ proved His power over death. Unlike Oneness – the belief that God, Humanity and Nature all share the same essence, and that separation is an illusion – with its blending away of relationships and its submergence of love into a nameless void, the resurrection of Christ demonstrated the eternal, relational character of the Godhead:
1) The Spirit raised Christ from the dead: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans:8:11)
2) Jesus raised Himself: “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John:10:17-18)
3) God the Father raised Jesus Christ: “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts:2:24) And, “God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.” (1 Corinthians:6:14)
In this act of overcoming the grave, the hope of humanity was placed on His shoulders alone.
I am reminded of Job, the Old Testament figure who lost his family, possessions, and health. Wracked with grief and misery, the likes of which are beyond my comprehension, Job nevertheless recognized that God’s ultimate plan is bigger than our temporary sufferings, no matter how severe. Job knew a resurrection was on the horizon, not fashioned by Man’s hands, but completed through God’s living Messiah.
Job’s future is our future for those who hope and trust in the Savior,
“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job:19:25-27)
Death could not hold Jesus Christ. How would it? For Christ is the Author of Life. And in His resurrection, a foretaste is given to those who hope in Him as Redeemer: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John:1:4). Will you put your hope in nature? In humanism? In the illusion of Oneness? Or will you trust Jesus Christ, in whom “all things were made?” (John:1:3)
Paul, “a bondservant of Jesus Christ,” (Romans:1:1) put it simply but elegantly, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’.” (Romans:10:9-13)
Yes, we will all answer – one way or another – the life-or-death question asked by Jesus the Messiah, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John:11:25-26)