Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I was talking about Easter and the fact that death is not the end.
The Bible says we live in a tent. Our bodies are like tents. They wear out, they sag, they expand, they wrinkle, the joints get creaky, the arteries harden, gravity pulls everything downward, the heart slows down, the eyes grow dim, the teeth fall out, the back is stooped, and the arms grow weary. Our bones break, our muscles weaken. The body bulges in the wrong places.
Sooner or later we grow old and our bodies begin to break down. Eventually they stop working altogether. At best, we can only slow down the ageing process; we cannot delay it forever. Exercise is good and good nutrition is even better, and it would help all of us to get in shape and stay in shape.
But I have a bit of news for you. Your body won’t last forever. You can eat all the low-carb ice-cream you want, but your body will still fall apart in the end.
Did you know your body disintegrates all the time? The cells of your body are actually programmed to die. The scientific term for this is apoptosis. Each day the average adult loses 50-70 billion cells. That’s not a misprint. Before the sun goes down today, between 50 and 70 billion of your cells will die. That’s 350 billion cells a week. No wonder you need to lie down and take a nap.
The Tent and the Building
We will one day trade in our tent for a building. Think about the difference between a tent and a building. Tents are temporary and flimsy, easily torn, and meant to be replaced. A building is strong, built on a foundation, and not meant to be moved.
Someday we will give up our tent and replace it with a building made by God himself. That one fact tells us something important about death:
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- Death is not the end.
- Death is not reincarnation.
- Death is not evaporation.
- Death is not annihilation.
- Death is a trade-in.
One day we will trade in our broken-down bodies for a new body. Look what Paul says about that new body: It is from God. It is not made with hands. It is eternal. It is heavenly, not earthly.
That’s what Paul means when he says, We know. Lots of things we don’t know about the future, but this much is certain. We won’t have to live in tents forever. Someday our ‘tent’ will be replaced with a ‘building’ made by God. What an inspiring thought for Easter.
Paul keeps going:
Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:2-4 – NIV).
What will the coming day of resurrection be like? We can find three answers in these verses:
- It is like putting on an overcoat.
When Paul says we long to be clothed, he uses an unusual Greek verb that means something like ‘to be clothed upon’. It has the idea of putting on an overcoat, which is literally a coat put over (or upon) the body. Paul looks forward to the day when Christ returns and thinks to himself, I can’t wait for that day to come because I will put on my new resurrection body like I put on an overcoat.
- It is the answer to our groaning.
We groan because of a job we hate or because of unfulfilled dreams. We groan because our bodies break down. our marriages break up, or children go astray. Or because our friends disappoint us. We groan because we live in a fallen, mixed-up, messed-up, broken-down world, and we ourselves are broken-down. So we look for a better day and a better place, and we dream of a better world where there is no more cancer, abuse, hatred, hurricanes, crime, sadness, sickness, death.
- It removes our deepest fears.
Among all the fears associated with death, one of the greatest must be that we will die alone and forgotten. As sad as death seems, how much worse it must be to die in some distant place with no-one around to give you comfort. How blessed we are if we can die with our loved ones gathered by our side. Often times that is not possible because death comes unbidden to our door. We may end up dying in some lonely place despite our best plans.
At Home with the Lord
What is the current condition of believers who die before Jesus returns? The clearest thing we can say is that they are ‘with Christ’ and ‘with the Lord’ in heaven. Paul says as much in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. We don’t have to worry about our loved ones who died in Christ. They have passed into the presence of the Lord Jesus himself.
When we die, we will not die alone because we will be with Jesus forever. And if we should live to see Christ return, we will receive our resurrection body at that very moment. Either way, we have a hope that death cannot shake. This means we were made for something better than this.
Sometimes we look at the world around us and wonder, Is that all there is? The atheist Bertrand Russell once said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless”.
Dr Hugh Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, once wrote to 250 of the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals in the world, asking them, What is the meaning of life? Then he published their responses in a book.
Some gave their best guesses, while others were honest enough to say they didn’t know. A few wrote back to the Professor and said, When you find out let us know. But in the Bible Paul has some definite answers:
- We were made for something better than the sadness we see in this world
- We are made for a new life and a new body and a new existence with the Lord in Heaven
That is the message of Easter. God himself has made us for this very purpose. Our future does not hang on our own desires but on the eternal purpose of God who called us to be his children. We are saved by an eternal love that will not let us go. Not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Let’s remember that Easter tells us that God raised his own Son from the grave. God raised his own Son from the dead. If God would not leave his Son in the grave, he will not abandon those who trusted in his Son. Death cannot win in the end because our Lord has conquered the grave.