Emerging from the Grave

“The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works” (Revelation 20:13).
One of my most memorable experiences is going into the Great Pyramid of Gezer in Cairo, Egypt. After looking at the pyramids from the outside in sheer amazement, I then went inside to the burial chamber of the Pharaoh. There I was confronted with several sensations. There was the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped beneath thousands of tons of rock, the awe of being surrounded by ancient history, and the superstitious questionings prompted by all the legends and myths about the “spiritual protectors” of the dead.
These sensations gave way to a feeling of liberation and joy when I once again emerged into the hot glare of the Egyptian sun. Though I enjoyed and appreciated my journey into the dark, dead past, I was happy to be back in the bright light, alive and well.
It is that joy, multiplied infinitely, that faithful Christians feel in anticipation when we read the Biblical promises of the Resurrection. We will go into the grave. There it will be dark and cold. But Jesus has brought victory over death, which we will receive in the resurrection. Paul proudly proclaims,
“For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible … So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?'” (1 Corinthians 15:52,54,55).
Death is certain, and it is natural that we all face it with mixed sensations. We fear the unknown and dread the pain and suffering that often accompanies dying. We grieve in advance for the good experiences of this world that we will give up. Few are ready to immediately exchange the known pleasures of material life for the promised but only vaguely understood riches of the spiritual world beyond.
Yet there is truly no comparison. Death may be a dreaded event, but we will come out of the tomb alive and eager to know the full fellowship of the Father and the Son. Eternal life in Christ is a promise of which we can be absolutely certain. Jesus said,
“In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know and the way you know” (John 14:2-4).
The Judgment scene depicted by John in Revelation 20 reminds us that the grave (Hades) will give up its dead. Just as my visit to Pharaoh’s crypt was only temporary, so too will be the visit of my spirit to the grave. Jesus will come with a shout and the sound of a trumpet and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
It is that last phrase that gives us sober reflection. At the resurrection it will only be those who are in Christ that are received into eternal life. Other scriptures teach that “those who know not God, and … do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” will receive everlasting destruction “from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9). It is absolutely essential that we have faith in Jesus and that we be obedient to his will. Otherwise, we will not escape death, and all the things which we fear and dread will be fulfilled eternally.

Share your thoughts: