BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
APRIL 18, 2014
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Pet. 1:3, RSV)
My sister and her husband treated Lenny and me to two trips to Israel. In 2000, we and the church group with whom we traveled visited the Garden Tomb, outside the old city of Jerusalem. Many believe Jesus’ body was laid there, rather than inside the city walls. The garden was peaceful and beautifully maintained by a British religious society, whose name I forget. The center piece is the tomb, hewn out of rock, with a stone rolled away in the front of it. Because it is so small, we had to wait our turn before going inside what was actually a small cave. As we stooped to enter, we saw on our right side, the burial shelf where the body was laid. When Lenny and I turned around to exit, my eyes fell on a rough wooden plank above the doorway on which was written, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.” Tears filled my eyes then as they do now while I’m writing this, and I marveled at the miracle of God which has been a shining beacon in our lives and our precious hope for so long.
Because He lives, we can face tomorrow and the day after that, no matter what comes to us. The Resurrection of Christ is the single most transformative event in human history! Because He conquered death, having died once for all, we need not fear death or what comes after. In fact, we can rejoice that we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” (I Cor. 15:21)
The story long foretold by the prophets, given fresh insight by the ministry of John the Baptist, was unfolded and fulfilled through Jesus of Nazareth. His life was full of glory and wonder as He healed the sick, raised the dead, brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, freedom from those oppressed by dark forces, and set the captives free: “all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” (Heb. 2:15)
Many of us have been thrilled by the Gospel account of Christ’s life since our childhood, and often, we long to see such miracles in action once more. God’s will is the prime directive for all encounters with His miraculous power, and since I know that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, I will never stop asking for Him to heal those I love who are battling death in whatever form it takes.
One definition of death that resonates with me is the seeming absence of God’s presence. Of course, He is ever present with everyone; nonetheless to the degree that a person doesn’t see or feel Him, God seems temporarily absent. The one who thinks he is on his own to fight the battles of life, is often overcome by doubt and fear. For all practical purposes, such a person is experiencing death, but “Christ is both Lord of the dead and of the living.” (Rom. 14:9)
What is on my heart today is that Resurrection from the dead is not a one time event, nor limited to Christ alone, but a precious and progressively revealed promise to all whom God has called and given faith to believe it.
The drug addict or alcoholic, the sexual compulsive or workaholic, anyone ensnared and powerless to change their behavior, are dead in a very real sense because they are not able to live overcoming lives, unable to relate meaningfully with others, and certainly lacking the ability to be a credible witness for God.
A dear friend of mine passed recently after a long and painful fight with cancer. She slipped the bonds of earth which held her captive in her chrysalis of flesh and now soars in the heavenlies with the Lord, admittedly a victory over death, yet her passing has left a hole in many people’s lives. Two other friends have recently been diagnosed with cancer; another friend is struggling to breathe new life into a marriage which has been on life-support for years; still others are dealing with being laid off from work and unable to find work sufficient to feed and house their families.
Life is tough, my friends, and I know you know that because many of you have shared with me the issues, either spiritual or physical, which keep you up nights, rob you of joy, and block all attempts to enter into God’s rest.
While in the midst of our earthly struggles, it may be difficult to glean hope from Christ’s resurrection, which most view as a long ago event. But what if resurrection is on-going, progressive, and continuous, like all the other promises of God which give us hope? I believe that RESURRECTION is on-going, progressive, and continuous. Now that’s a promise we can live with.
I am well and truly blessed by Jonathan Mitchell’s translation of the New Testament, one reason being his use of the present, progressive tense. What a difference that makes. It is, in fact, the difference between a good story which happened a long time ago, and the living, breathing, Christ-effect (Spirit) presence of God in our lives every minute of every day.
The verse I began with, I Pet. 1:3, is good in any translation, but listen to the spiritual vibrations of Jonathan’s translation: “Well-spoken of (or: Eulogized; Blessed; or Well-gathered, laid-out with ease, and worthy of praise) [is] the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ (or: Who is our Owner, Jesus Christ), the One bringing us to birth again (regenerating us; begetting us back up again; causing us to be born again) down from, in line with and in correspondence to His abundant mercy (or: the much-existing sympathizing and active compassion which is Him), through Jesus Christ’s resurrection forth from out of the midst of dead folks. [We are born again]: into a progressively living expectation (or: into the midst of continuously living hope); into the midst of an incorruptible (unspoilable; imperishable; unruinable; undecayable), unstained (undefiled), and unfading (or: unwithering) inheritance (or: enjoyment of and participation in an allotted portion as a possession), one having been kept in view, watched-over, guarded, and which continues being maintained and kept intact within the midst of [the, or our] atmospheres (or: in union with heavens; = in realms of spirit); [which things were and are being birthed and entering] into the midst of you folks, the ones being continuously garrisoned within (or: kept under watch and guarded in the center of) God’s power, in union with an ability which is God, through [His] faithfulness, into a deliverance (a rescue which brings health, wholeness and a return to your original state and condition; salvation; a [period of] rescue) [which is now] ready to be unveiled (revealed; disclosed) within the midst of and in union with [this] last season (or: resident within a final fitting situation; in a final fertile moment; on [this] last season.” (I Pet. 3:3-5)
How marvelously freeing to realize that we are born again into a progressively living expectation, the continual hope of an incorruptible inheritance, and that we are continuously kept under watch and guarded by God’s power, in union with an ability which is GOD Himself, so that the end result is deliverance from death in whatever form it takes. Because He is the I AM, we partake of His resurrection every day of our lives and forever. It is indeed the living hope which transcends us from death to life, from sorrow to joy, and from defeat to victory.
While I acknowledge that without death, there can be no resurrection, yet I can’t glorify something that is merely an instrument of God’s grace. Paul referred to death as the “last enemy.” (I Cor. 15:26) Nevertheless, after the pain and sorrow of death and dying, it is the sure and certain, God authored resurrection from the dead, and from all things which may lead to death, that joyfully shouts, “O Death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:55)
Father, we thank You that You have called us from the grave, whatever form it may take, and that you progressively, continuously, on-goingly infuse us with Your Self, Your essence, Your power, and by the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead, You have underwritten our lives. Make us living letters declaring Your unconditional love to all who live and all who have died, and to all creation itself. Open the eyes of those who walk in darkness that they may see Christ, the light of the world. In His name we ask it, amen