The Age Old Question
A Christian missionary was presenting the claims of Christ and of Christianity in the Court of King Edward of Northumbria. A great number in that brilliantly lighted hall had never heard the gospel of grace before, and in the course of that address an old Earl arose in his place and asked this question: “Can this new religion throw any light on what takes place beyond the grave?” Probably he was thinking of a son recently slain in battle, or of some loved one who had just fallen asleep. Continuing he said, “The life of a man is like a swallow that comes flitting in this hall from that end, and passes out the other into the dark. Can you tell us anything about what takes place out there? That is the old question, friends. It is as old as the human family. It was Job’s question. “If a man die shall he live again?” And I have this conviction that there is a voice in every human breast that answers that question in the affirmative.
Is There Life After Death?
I believe that faith in a future life is innate in the human breast. The red Indians in this country before they ever heard the gospel of Jesus Christ believed that there was a life beyond the grave, and talked about passing into the “Happy Hunting Grounds” when they left this stage of action. I am glad that God has given men this conviction apart from the Bible because I think it is a great preventative of suicide. I believe that if men could get away from the conviction that there was a life beyond the grave that we might have ten thousand suicides this week for every one that we have now. And do you know that I think self-murder is the most cowardly sin a man can commit. Somebody said to me a little while ago, “What could he do?” speaking of a man who brought shame and disgrace to his name and his family and lost his standing with his fellow citizens, and then blew his brains out. “What could he do but blow his brains out?” I answered, “What could he do?” Do you think he helped his family any by that horrible sin? Do you think it was a courageous thing to do? When he saw he had brought disgrace on his children, and wife, to add the shame of self-murder to their burden. This is what he could do. He could have done just what David did. He could have confessed his sin at the cross of Jesus, and could have had it forgiven. He could have faced life anew with the courage of God in his soul. That is what he could do. That is the courageous thing to do. Suicide is the act of a coward. When a man faces his wife and children in distress and says, “Here, It seems to be hopeless,” and then goes out and tries to end it all by killing himself, he is a coward to leave his wife like that. If he would do the courageous thing and trust in Jesus, God would help him start again. God will help a man that does that, and I was going to say that even society will help him.
There is Life Beyond the Tomb
Yes, we will live again. Death does not end it all. A woman in an hour of grief and shame made up her mind that she would end her life. She walked to the edge of a wharf and was about to throw herself into the water. She was fully determined to do it, but as she approached the edge, an electric light threw her shadow on the water, and she said, “My shadow arrested me, for I seemed to see myself standing at the throne of God, at the judgment bar.” That was not a mistaken vision. “After death the judgment.” Do not make any mistake about that.
We shall rise again. Not only those who trust in Jesus shall rise, but the Scripture makes it very plain that there are two resurrections in the future, and those resurrections are inclusive of all that are in the grave. That is clear in the Bible. Jesus said, “Marvel not, the hour is coming when all in the graves (this is His teaching) ‘shall hear my voice and shall come forth.’”
Resurrection of Just and Unjust
I might add to that, but I want you to see something in connection with it that I sometimes think we fail to see. We do not all come forth at the same time. We do not all come forth to the same inheritance. “Some shall come forth to a resurrection of life,” said Jesus. “and they that have done evil into a resurrection of damnation.” Do not forget it was Jesus who said that. “They that have done evil into a resurrection of damnation.” One Old Testament prophet said, “Many shall awake from the dust of the earth, some unto everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” What strong statements come from God’s Word!
We do not all come forth at the same time and to the same inheritance. The Scripture makes that very plain. “Blessed and holy are they that have part in the first resurrection.” The first resurrection is yet to be, we are told. If there is a first, there must of necessity be a second resurrection. There isn’t any warrant in the Scripture for any man believing in what we commonly hear called a general resurrection. There is no such thing in the Bible. The last resurrection is to be the resurrection of those who sleep in Jesus. Here is the Divine order: Christ the first fruits,—that has already taken place. We celebrate his resurrection. Afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then he goes on with the argument thus: ‘An in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” Notice it is every man in his own order. That is a military term, meaning every man in his own company.
Choose Your Own Company
John, in his Revelation, the 19th chapter, gives the picture of that first resurrection. He says, “Blessed are they that have part in that resurrection.” They shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” Here is the picture: He saw a great white throne and Him that sat upon it from whose face the heavens and the earth fled away. And he saw the dead, small and great, from Adam down, all who had not trusted in the covenant work of Jesus,—the dead, small and great, stand before that great white throne, and the books are opened, and another book which was the book of life. All whose names were not found written in the book of life were cast into a lake of fire and brimstone. I make no apology for those words. They fell from the lips of Jesus Christ Himself. Every strong expression in the Bible about punishment for sin and about hell came from the lips of Jesus.
Let us thank God if we are in the first resurrection company. We live because He lives, and you too may live. It is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. The offer is life; the alternate is death! Death unless you accept Christ. Christ is offering life, eternal life to all.