[In this post, we will examine the most comforting reality that is true and only true because Jesus is alive.]
Resurrection Reality #4: The Dead in Christ are Alive
Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised…Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (vv. 17-18). If Christ has not been raised, we have seen that the wrath of God therefore remains on every sinner. So, all who have died believing in a dead Jesus will perish. If Christ has not been raised, then death is an undefeated enemy and death has the last word. There is a great reality facing us all and coming for us all. His name is Death. He comes swiftly and he comes unexpectedly. He is an equal-opportunity robber of life. He severs relationships. He wounds the living. He leaves great scars on the grieving. And he is coming for you. He is coming for me. If Christ is not raised, then there is no hope for you beyond the grave. You will die and then you will bear the wrath of God against your sin in an eternal hell.
Oh, but praise the grace of God today! Praise God! Christ has been raised from the dead! You can face death with confidence that he has been defeated. Paul would later write, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Death has been defeated in the death of Christ and this is proclaimed in the resurrection of Christ. You can rest in the assurance that those you know who have died in faith in Jesus are alive today and will one day be resurrected with a perfected and glorified body. So, bring on all forms of disease. Bring on all deformities and disasters. No matter what happens to your body on this earth, if you are in Christ by faith, you will inherit a body that is more glorious than your wildest dreams! Death is a dreaded enemy. But death is also a conquered enemy!
There is one story that my wife and I have read multiple times that I want to share with you to help drive this point of the hope we have beyond the grave in the resurrection of Christ home. It is one of those stories that we cannot shake from our minds, particularly with where we are in our lives. It is the story of John and Betty Stam. They risked all for the sake of Christ. They met as students at Moody Bible Institute and both surrendered their lives to be missionaries in China. They signed up with the China Inland Mission in response to a call for 200 new missionaries to be sent to China. China was an incredibly hostile place for a missionary to be at this time. However, fear found no place in John Stam’s mind. In his address to the graduating class at Moody in 1932, he said:
Shall we beat a retreat, and turn back from our high calling in Christ Jesus; or dare we advance at God’s command, in the face of the impossible?…Let us remind ourselves that the Great Commission was never qualified by clauses calling for advance only if funds were plentiful and [if there is] no hardship or self-denial involved. On the contrary, we are told to expect tribulation and even persecution, but with it victory in Christ.
Betty left for China one year before John in 1931, but they were reunited and married in 1933. In September of 1934 Betty gave birth to a baby girl. In December of that same year, Communists ravaged the village they were serving in and took them captive. John and Betty were both 25 years old and had an infant. On December 6, 1934, John Stam wrote a letter to his superiors at the China Inland Mission informing them of his capture. He concluded his letter with these words:
Things happened so quickly this a.m. They were in the city just a few hours after the ever-persistent rumors really became alarming, so that we could not prepare to leave in time. We were just too late. The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, may God be glorified whether by life or by death.
Two days later, John and Betty Stam hid their daughter in a basket to save her from execution just before they were stripped of their clothes and paraded through the streets of a neighboring town. They were then taken to a hill outside the village. John was ordered to kneel before his wife. The last thing Betty saw of her husband was a long sword taking off his head. Betty was next. It is told that she did not scream, but trembled as she lay down next to her husband’s lifeless body. With a similar swing, the same sword that beheaded her husband ended her life.
I have always asked myself, “Why didn’t she scream?” I like to think that behind her soft tears, a deep thought welled up in her heart that cried, “That sword does not have the final word! Because Christ has been raised, his head is coming back and so is mine! You may end our lives on earth, but we are far from dead because we are united to the one who is alive!”
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, the dead in Christ will never perish! The life that is not wasted is the life that faces death confidently and takes risks for Christ boldly knowing death has been forever defeated.