Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a tract to read:
by George C. Clark and John David Clark, Sr.
“If a man die, shall he live again?”
“He’s not here, for he is risen, just as he said. Come see the place where the Lord was laid.”
The apostle Paul considered the resurrection of man after death the very heart of the doctrine of God. He said, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen, and if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain” (1Cor. 15:13–14). Again, we hear this great man of God firmly exclaiming, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1Cor. 15:19).
Unbelieving Jews, as the Bible shows, pursued Paul to the hour of his death and sought to kill him on several occasions. They harassed and involved him in repeated court proceedings. And why? He gave the answer, in Acts 23:6: “I am on trial concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead!” Paul could have saved himself from many stripes and imprisonments with just one retraction, namely, refrain from stressing the glorious resurrection of all saints. But instead, we hear him fervently and uncompromisingly making this declaration before Felix, the Governor of Judea: “I am being put on trial by you today for the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 24:20–21).
There is something about the promise of the resurrection that troubles unbelieving men. Paul was laughed off the stage in Athens when he mentioned it (Acts 17:31–34), though a handful who were there believed him. Christ foretold his own resurrection, and Jewish rulers requested that Pontius Pilate seal his tomb, but the miracle of God’s power challenged the sealed tomb and offered the open tomb as the consummation of Jesus’ astonishing prophecy: “After three days, I will rise again.” And what was the immediate and direct cause of our Savior’s death on the cross? Was it not the raising of Lazarus from the dead? Indeed it was.
Jesus said there will be two resurrections, the “resurrection of life” for those who do good and the “resurrection of damnation” for those who do evil (Jn. 5:29). Paul agreed, saying, “There will be a resurrection of the dead, of both the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). Referring to the first resurrection, Paul said his greatest hope was that he “may attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:11). In John’s vision of the end of this world, he learned that those two resurrections will be 1,000 years apart. Those who were in the first resurrection “came to life and reigned with Christ [on this earth] a thousand years” as “priests of God and of Christ.” No wonder John said, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:4, 6). And then it was revealed to John that the wicked “did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (Rev. 20:5). That is the second resurrection, the resurrection of the damned.
To become eligible for the resurrection of the just, one must receive a new birth, or we could say that one must experience a spiritual resurrection while in this life. Paul was teaching exactly this when he spoke of the Colossian believers as being already raised up with Christ (Col. 3:1). This same apostle tells us that “if we have been united with him now in the likeness of his death, we shall certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:5–6a).
Only by the indwelling Spirit of God will we have a part in the first resurrection. Paul said in Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He who raised Christ from the dead shall also bring to life your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you.” Yes, if the Spirit of holiness dwells in us, it will keep us from all evil so that we may be in the first resurrection. Life in the Spirit is life without sin, and it gives us a testimony like Enoch’s: “He was borne witness that he pleased God” (Heb. 11:5).
Reader, are you ready for the first resurrection? Please give serious thought to that question, bearing in mind this profound and timely warning of our dear Savior: “Be ready, for at an hour you don’t expect, the Son of man is coming” (Mt. 24:44). Has the Spirit of God borne witness that it has entered into you, my friend, as it did for Jesus’ disciples on Pentecost morning (Acts 2:1–4)? That is how one knows that he is prepared to meet God in peace. Remember, John said, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness” (1Jn. 5:10). And he goes on to say, “the Spirit is the witness because the Spirit is truth” (1Jn. 5:6). Jesus also spoke of the Spirit’s witness in John 15:26: “When the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth which comes out from the Father, he will testify of me.” Oh, how we do thank God for having this witness, the baptism of the holy Spirit, which is essential if we are to be in the first resurrection!
Just here, these words from an old familiar hymn push themselves into my memory:
“On that bright and cloudless morning
When the dead in Christ shall rise,
And the glory of His resurrection share,
When His chosen ones shall gather
To their home beyond the skies,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”
Many people fear death, but that is only because they do not possess the faith that would entitle them to a part in the first resurrection. But faith in the heart of a true believer makes this old world just a veil of tears, a preparatory chamber for that glorious resurrection which is soon to translate us into a better world. Not long ago, I saw a man of God laid to rest, and as I took a final look at that empty house of his, I knew that it would soon be dissolved into the earth from whence it came; yet, I knew that this man had “a house not made by hand, eternal in the heavens” (2Cor. 5:1). Though the tent in which we live be taken down, we have another one which is more substantial – an eternal mansion prepared for us by our dear Savior. Therefore, we walk toward the grave without fear, looking with eager anticipation toward the goal that is set before us.
Often I think of a little boy in a tract I once read. As his mother lifted him up to take a last look into the face of his dead father, she burst into tears and could not refrain from weeping. The little boy, looking his mother in the face gently, whispered softly, “Why are you crying, Mother? Isn’t Daddy going to live again, like Jesus said?” This child had fully accepted the Lord’s words as being the answer to Job’s question: “If a man die, shall he live again?” The most explicit answer to Job’s question was found in the empty tomb on that early Sunday morning two thousand years ago. Our Lord, while in that rocky cavern, figuratively wrote on its barren walls: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall live even if he dies” (Jn. 11:25). As someone put it, “Christ knocked both ends out of the tomb, and made it a tunnel into eternity.”
This life is not all of man’s story. Physical death is not the end of man. What we call death is, for those who believe, merely a transition from the terrestrial to the celestial. Child of God, let’s join Brother Paul, and confess that “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will grant me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all those who love his appearing” (2Tim. 4:8). Yes, my Friend, we are “waiting for the blessed hope, even the manifestation of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us so that he might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:13–14).
by John David Clark, Sr.
He had no lovely words to say,
and hurt, sincere, alone,
his eloquence was in his heart;
his language, here, unknown.
No audience would pay to hear
those unpretentious cries,
which rose from depths of thirst for God
and flowed out through his eyes.
And human ears can only hear
the words men’s lips impart.
They cannot see how God receives
the message from the heart.
We see the leaves; God sees the wind.
We see without; God sees within.
We know the words and deeds of men;
God knows what words and deeds intend.