By Femi Aribisal
Don’t believe in any faith where the dead cannot be raised back to life.
How many times have you heard these kinds of testimonies? “Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! God has blessed me with a brand new car.” “My wife just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.” “Glory be to God, I have just been promoted at work.”
These testimonies are invaluable, but you must admit they are run-of-the-mill. In the first place, they are not limited to believers. Unbelievers also buy new cars, have children, and get promoted. But there are testimonies that separate the sons of God from the sons of men. Those testimonies are usually preceded by a death, after which they reveal the power of resurrection.
Imagine you are in church when Lazarus gives this testimony: “Praise the Lord! I fell sick and died. After four days, the Lord Jesus raised me from the dead.” I bet you would sit up and really pay attention. Or imagine you were there when Jonah says: “Praise the Lord! I was thrown overboard on the high seas. A big fish came and swallowed me. I was in its belly for three days and three nights. While there, I phoned Pastor Joshua and told him to labour in prayer with me. After three days, God answered and the fish vomited me at Nineveh harbour.” Now, how about that for a testimony?
Jesus was crucified and he died. On the third day, he rose triumphantly from the dead. On his resurrection, he told his disciples: “You shall be my witnesses.” What does it mean today to be a witness of the death and resurrection of Jesus? You have to experience a living death and then be resurrected from the dead. You have to be thrown down a well; sold off as a slave; and then resurrect in Egypt as the prime-minister.
A resurrected man is a completely different kettle of fish from a natural man. A resurrected man has been fed to the lions. He has overcome death and no longer fears death. Indeed, he can no longer be killed. John says: they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11).
There is no other way to overcome in life except by undergoing a living-death. Jesus says: “He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21). To overcome like Jesus, we must be prepared to enter into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. So doing, we experience first-hand the power of his resurrection. It is at these imperatives that many of us draw back from following Jesus. (Hebrews 10:32-35).
The life Jesus gives is the resurrected life. Jesus does not just say: “I am the life.” He says: “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25). Before there can be life, there must be a death and then a resurrection. Hannah says: “The LORD kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and brings up.” (1 Samuel 2:6).
The true Christian life is “the resurrected life.” The promised abundant life in Christ is a life after death. To live it, we have to become a Lazarus. We have to die in our afflictions and then be raised to newness of life. Jesus says: “a grain of wheat that falls on the ground will never be more than one grain unless it dies. But if it dies, it will produce lots of wheat.” (John 12:24).
In the scriptures, God reveals himself as the resurrection and the life to a number of people, including Job, Joseph, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel. The revelation follows a familiar pattern. God decrees their death in afflictions, and then he raises them back to life. The new life inevitably makes them impregnable to the travails of life.
Sons of God must conform to the image of Christ. Jesus died and rose from the dead. Thereafter, death no longer had dominion over him. By the same token, the life of the redeemed is the resurrected life. Without death there can be no resurrection. Therefore, the redeemed is a man or woman who died and has risen from the dead.
The problem here is that most Christians simply do not want to die. But if God does not kill before he makes alive, then the motions of sin in us would soon corrupt and defile the new man in the redeemed. Jesus warns: “No one puts new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17).
Life after death
In this life, life does not prevail over life. But death normally triumphs over natural life. Therefore, to be victorious in this life, we must conquer death. Death boasts: “No matter what you become, no matter what you acquire, I will get you in the end and bring it to nothing.” Since death is always victorious over natural life, the only life that is worthwhile is the life that has prevailed over death. If your life cannot prevail over death then you are done for. The victorious life is life after death.
If Jesus had performed all his miracles, only to die like any other man, he could not have been the Messiah. He might still have been a remarkable man. But he would nonetheless have been just another prophet. Don’t believe in any faith that cannot guarantee the resurrection of the dead. Don’t believe in any faith where the dead cannot be raised back to life. Only Christianity guarantees this. Even in my ministry, the Lord has used me to raise the dead back to life.
Just think about it. If there is no life after death, then the poor and the needy would be the most miserable people on earth. However, Jesus says: “God will bless you people who are poor. His kingdom belongs to you!” (Luke 6:20). Why should a man come into this world just in order to encounter all kinds of problems and, at the end of it all, simply die? Paul says: “If our hope in Christ is good only for this life, we are worse off than anyone else.” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
The problems of this life only make sense in light of the life after death. It is the life after death that makes this life bearable. It is the life after death that gives meaning to this miserable life. Therefore, even in this life, God is determined to socialise us into the resurrected life. Even in this life, God insists that we lay down our lives so he can raise us from the dead.
Listen again to the words of Jesus: “Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18).