If A Man Dies, Shall He Live Again?
"If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come." (Job 14:14)
We read of this cry of Job in the fourteenth chapter of his book and the fourteenth verse:
"If a man dies, shall he live again?"
This is a question that most of have asked.
It is a question as old as history.
It is the cry of Job when he was in despair and when he was at death's door:
"Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.
He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds
that he cannot pass: Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch
thereof will not cease.
Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
The waters wear the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth;
and thou destroyest the hope of man.
Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth: thou changest his countenance,
and sendest him away. His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low,
but he perceiveth it not of them.
But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn."
(Job 14:1, 2, 5, 6-9, 14, 19-22)
There is no denying the finality of the grave.
"When the silver cord is loosed
And the golden bowl is broken;
When the pitcher is broken at the fountain
And the wheel is broken at the cistern."
All have felt the oppressive sadness of this despair.
Job is the spokesman of the ages.
When we come to the end of the trail, to the breaking up of the home, to the open and fresh-dug grave,
all the flowers that blossom, all the poetry that is written, all the songs that have been sung,
cannot hide the terror of the approach of the Pale Horseman.
It is a horrible dream, inevitably relentless, inexorably come true.
Beyond the darkness of death and the night of the grave, is there light?
Is there life?
Is there hope?
Is there immortality?
Searching the depths of the vast beyond, Job asks this undying question:
"If a man dies, shall he live again?"
Humanity Has A Belief In Immortality.
A belief in the immortality of the soul is universal; nothing ever seems to alter that hope.
It is not destroyed by time nor by the passing centuries.
There is an unbroken chain of belief in the immortality of the soul from the earliest evidence
of the remote bounds of history.
The great orator and statesman, Cicero, made the most exhaustive study concerning this subject
which has come down to us from ancient times.
He concluded his vast research by saying:
"The immortality of the soul is established by the consent of all peoples."
In the tombs of the Egyptians the oldest book in the world was discovered.
For generations and for centuries mankind wondered at the content of those ancient books
written in such strange hieroglyphics.
When their secret was finally deciphered, the book was a book for the dead
that they might be directed to prosperity and happiness in the life beyond the grave.
When the ancient cuneiform inscriptions on long-buried Chaldean tablets written before Abraham
were finally deciphered, they were found to contain prayers in behalf of the dead.
The literature, the sculpture, the inscriptions of ancient Assyrian, Phoenician, Greek,
and Roman civilizations are eloquent testimony to the universal persuasion
of the death-lessness of the soul.
This subject is the basis of Homer's song and the inspiration of Virgil's "Aeneid."
The Gallic warrior was buried with his armor, and the painted Indian was buried with his bow and arrow.
These were expected to be used in the future life.
Even the lowest tribes in Central Africa, even the degraded Patagonians, teach a future life.
Through time and through generations, and through the multiplied millenniums and passing centuries,
the persuasion that men do not die when the body decays has always been evident.
Rational argument has been impotent to reason the hope away.
However the philosopher and the metaphysician may ridicule it, scorn it, laugh at it, mock it,
make many arguments against it, there remains the undying, undeniable persuasion
that there is something yet, over and beyond the brief experience of this life.
The soul and the spirit are something more than dirt and clay.
"Life is real; life is earnest,
And the grave is not its goal.
'Dust thou art, to dust returneth,'
Was not spoken of the soul."
Life without this hope is like an arch resting on one pillar.
It is like a bridge ending in the midst of a dark abyss.
Nothing is complete; nothing really matters.
No life can find its ultimate meaning and purpose without the "hope we have as an anchor of the soul,
both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil" (Hebrews 6:19),
which hope is on the other side of the grave.
Somehow, although rational argument may multiply apparent reasons for the vanity and futility
of such a hope, it still lives in the hearts of men.
The Certain Revelation Of Immortality
But where can we find, and be sure and certain the truth of this all-important question:
"If a man dies, shall he live again?"
Where is that authoritative revelation found?
The cry of Socrates in the presence of death is one of the most pathetic utterances in all literature:
"Oh, that there were some divine word upon which we could more securely
and less perilously sail upon a stronger vessel."
It is the picture of the soul wistfully scanning the mysterious waste of waters,
imagining that it is far away the golden isles, yet not so sufficiently sure as to weigh anchor
and launch out into the deep.
A syllogism is a frail vessel for so hazardous a venture as a metaphysical theory is a paper boat
in which to dare the dread abyss.
"Intimations of Immortality" are well enough for poetry to while away an idle hour,
but we need more than felicitous expressions and aesthetic fancies when the room is darkened
and the faithful physician is compelled to accept defeat.
There are many hints and whispers and implications that reach toward the probability of immortality,
but neither poet, nor naturalist, nor philosopher, nor all of these combined, can sustain us
in our need when death's shadows fall across our lives.
Where can we find a sure and certain word concerning this question, "If a man die, shall he live again?"
To wade through the natural religions of mankind, to examine all the philosophies and speculations of men,
is a barren and fruitless search.
There is no ultimate answer to be found in any volume of any work that has been produced
by uninspired and earth-bound humanity.
Even the Old Testament Scriptures are veiled and dimly outlined, waiting for a fuller revelation.
Enoch walked with God and was not, but the Old Testament Scriptures do not say where or just how.
The Scriptures do not explain that.
Elijah was taken by a whirlwind into heaven, but what happened beyond
that glorious translation is not delineated.
Saul talked with Samuel from the dead, but the Scriptures do not go further
in the recounting of the incident.
Daniel spoke of the resurrection of the just and unjust, but the book is sealed until the appointed time.
By faith, the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets looked forward to that fuller hope
when life and immortality were to be brought to light.
They saw it from afar.
Abraham rejoiced to see that day, "and he saw it and was glad."
Job rose out of his despair to utter one of the most sublime hopes and one of the most glorious prophecies
to be found in all the passages of the ancient Scriptures:
"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another;
though my reins be consumed within me." (Job 19: 25-27)
But it was still a prophecy.
It looked for fulfillment beyond the centuries to a hope that lay far ahead.
That ultimate and glorious day of the full revelation of the life beyond the grave,
that was longed for by Abraham and Job and David, was brought to us through the coming
of the Son of God, Himself.
It is He, Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light
through the Gospel. ". . . is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ
who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Timothy 1:10.)
Running to the empty tomb, the women heard the incomparably marvelous announcement
on that first Easter morning:
"And the angel answered and said unto the women,
Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead:
and, behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him:
lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy;
and did run to bring his disciples word." (Matthew 28:5-8).
Walking by the way, the two Emmaus disciples said to one another:
"Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way,
and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32)
To the astonished disciples our risen, resurrected, living Lord said:
"Peace be with you..... Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?
Look at my hands and my feet.
It is I myself!
Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them,
"Do you have anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence." (Luke 24:36-43)
The Heart Of The Christian Faith
The heart and soul and substance of the Christian faith is to be found in the revelation
of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
The deity of Christ Himself is confirmed by it.
He is "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness,
by the resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:4)
The difference between the claims of Christ and false claims of all other messiahs
and would-be saviours is to be found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who is singled out among all mankind to be the true Son of God,
because it is He alone who has been resurrected, immortalized, and glorified from among the dead.
He is the first-fruits of them who sleep.
He is the Captain of the sainted band who rise in power to glorify God forever.
The validity of the ministry and authority of Christ and of His message is to be found
in His resurrection from the dead.
This is most evident in a conversation between Jesus and the rulers of the Temple,
recorded in the second chapter of the Gospel of John:
"Then the Jews demanded of him, 'What miraculous sign can you show us to prove
your authority to do all this?' "
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"
But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.
"Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken." (John 2:18-22)
When He was accosted by the Pharisees and the scribes who demanded a sign from Him
to authenticate His teaching prerogatives, He replied:
"A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!
But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man
will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:39-40).
Had Jesus not risen from the dead, every word of His revelation, every hope of His promises
would have fallen into the dust of the ground, decaying in Jesus' tomb with His corrupting body.
The whole length and breadth and height and depth of the hope we have in Christ
are bound up in the power of God that raised Him from the grave.
This has become the incomparable message of the Christian hope and the Christian faith:
"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God
that he raised Christ from the dead.
But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him
........ I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,
nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash,
in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality,
then the saying that is written will come true:
"Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor
in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:13-23; 50-58)
With what comfort, with what joy, with what peace, with what prospects of glory,
can the Christian face the inevitable and ultimate conclusion of this earthly life!
For he that believeth in Christ can never, never die.
Though the outward man perish, the inward man is renewed day by day.
If the house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God made without hands,
eternal in the heavens.
It is the triumph of the old, old hymn
"My latest sun is sinking fast;
My race is nearly run.
My fiercest trials now are past;
My triumph is begun.
Oh come, angel band;
Come and around me stand.
Oh, bear me away on your snowy wings
To my immortal home."
"If a man dies, shall he live again?"
In Christ, gloriously so, forever and ever, world without end. Amen!
This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White