Soul, Death, & Grace Chapter 2
A CONCEPT OF DEATH:
THE MATRIX FOR OUR THOUGHTS
While He was here, Jesus said, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt 22:31, 32).
In this statement is contained the heart of the problem we are studying. Are the dead only thought to dead, do they really live in death? Is this what Jesus was implying when He named men long dead and said God was the God of those men, and that as such He was the God of the living? Or, is there some other truth contained in Jesus’ statement?
The Body and Death: Some General Observations
One of the earliest records of resurrection from the dead is the account of Moses’ experience. Moses had faithful led the children of Israel as God had given him directions for forty years, and then on the borders of the Promised Land he sinned a great sin. Because of this God told him he would not be able to go into the Promised Land, but must die. SR, p. 173. Therefore, “Moses passed through death, but Michael came down and gave him life before his body had seen corruption. Satan tried to hold the body claiming it as his; but Michael resurrected Moses and took him to heaven. Satan railed bitterly against God, denouncing Him as unjust in permitting his prey to be taken from him; …” EW, p. 164.
The first significant element in this account to our study is the obvious importance attached to the possessing of the body of the victim after death. The concern for continual possession seems to imply that Moses would not be given life again by God while the body of Moses was in the prison house – death. This implication is supported by Satan’s railing against God for “permitting his prey to be taken from him” by the resurrection of Moses. To lose his prey in this context obviously refers to more than the loss of the body of Moses; it must refer to the fact Moses was given life again, for Moses didn’t fully become death’s prey until death put an end to his life; hence to his usefulness to God.
Several implications may be drawn from this story, but one point is particularly relevant to our study. When the dead are raised to life before the body has returned to dust, the same body is given life.
This principle is clearly observable in stories of Scripture recounting the resurrection of the dead that are recorded from times after Moses’ experience. The following list will illustrate the point.
- The Shunamite Woman’s Son Jairus’ Daughter
- The Son of the Widow of Nain
- The young woman who fell out of the window while Paul preached, etc.
In these accounts of resurrection the Lord made the necessary repair to the body of the deceased to give it life again.
We read of a similar encounter regarding the body of Jesus after He had been crucified and laid in the tomb.
“Had it been possible, the prince of darkness with his apostate army would have kept forever sealed the tomb that held the Son of God. But a heavenly host surrounded the sepulcher. Angels that excel in strength were guarding the tomb, and waiting to welcome the prince of life.” DA, p. 755.
Here we see implied the same struggle regarding the body of Jesus as was waged over the body of Moses. There are also some additional implications. First, while the value of the body of Moses might have been implied to lie in the fact that it was intact – “before his body had seen corruption” Michael came to give him life – here the desire is to keep forever sealed the tomb that held God’s Son. This implies that the value of Jesus’ body, and/or its resting place, is not limited to the time the body is intact. It is apparently of value even after that body was turned to dust.
This also means that it is proper to speak of Jesus’ tomb as containing a dead person. Notice concepts like the following: “On that Sabbath when Christ lay in the grave, Nicodemus had opportunity for reflection.” Ibid. And again, “Physicians were consulted in vain; there was no skill like that of Him who lay in Joseph’s tomb.” DA, p. 776. Also illuminating is the idea expressed regarding Jesus’ state in death, when, comparing His condition then to all that He had suffered in the last hours prior to His death, we read, “At least Jesus was at rest. The long day of shame and torture was ended. As the last rays of the setting sun ushered in the Sabbath, the Son of God lay in quietude in Joseph’s tomb. His work completed, His hands folded in peace, He rested through the sacred hours of the Sabbath day.” Ibid., p. 769.
We also see that one can speak of the tomb as being sealed – implying that the dead person inside can’t get out. That would signify that they can’t be resurrected.
We can read, for example, “But a heavenly host surrounded the sepulcher. Angels that excel in strength were guarding the tomb, and waiting to welcome the prince of life.” Hence we conclude that the plan to keep Christ forever in His grace was thwarted by the overmastering power of the heavenly angels who guarded the tomb.
The concepts here being portrayed emphasize that one isn’t safe from the effects of the Evil One even in death, except for the protecting power of God. Something ‘goes on’ after death – at least for some people!
The fact that the angels were not only guarding the tomb but waiting to welcome the Prince of life tells us that while He was presently in the domain of death, the power of death was incomplete and was to be broken by the power of God when Jesus was called back to life by His Father.
Note: “When Jesus was laid in the grave, Satan triumphed. He dared to hope that the Savior would not take up His life again. He claimed the Lord’s body, and set his guard about the tomb, seeking to hold Christ a prisoner.” DA, p. 782.
“When the voice of the mighty angel was heard at Christ’s tomb, saying, Thy Father calls thee, the Savior came forth from the grave by the life that was in Himself.” Ibid, p. 785.
- Though the body of a person returns to dust after his death, it and/or its resting place is of significance to the final end of that person.
- The tomb is spoken of as containing a dead person.
- Christ came forth from the tomb by the call of God, and the life that was in Himself – while His body was intact.
The principles stated are perhaps too clear to need to be restated, but for clarity:
- The model for death followed by resurrection before the body was weeks dead, is that the dead have lived again through the power of God to protect them during death, and bring them back into interactivity with the things and people of the life experience they had before being overtaken by death – with the same body.
- Christ came forth from the grave, when called, by the life which was in Himself.