In that hospital room in Ames, IA we read John 11 together and took comfort from Jesus words:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die,” (John 11:25-26, ESV).
Believers in Christ are not those who mourn without hope. We have the hope of the resurrection. We know that we’ll pass from death into eternal life. My grandmother passed away shortly after Easter in 2002. After celebrating the fact that Jesus’ tomb is empty entered into Christ’s presence and His loving embrace.
When it comes to eternal life one person said (and I wish I knew who to give credit to), “for Christians life on earth is as close to hell as they are going to experience, but for unbelievers life on earth is as close to heaven as they will realize.” Very true, which is why we should live our lives with eternity in mind. My denomination in their 1950 statement of faith echoes that sentiment taking a position on the resurrection of man saying:
We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead; of the believer to everlasting blessedness and joy with the Lord; of the unbeliever to judgment and everlasting conscious punishment, (Article XII, 1950 EFCA Statement of Faith).
Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. The Preacher, King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:7 said, “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it,” when we die.
Presently the souls of those who die in Christ are in the presence of the Lord. Scriptures tells us when we are away from our body we are at home in the Lord, (2 Corinthians 5:8). Souls of those who do not believe, the Bible teaches are in constant torment as Jesus taught in His parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead,’” (Luke 6:19-31, ESV).
The Bible teaches the resurrection of both the saved and the unsaved. The bodies of those who have died in Christ will be resurrected at His return, (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Revelation 20:4). The unsaved dead will be resurrected at the close of the millennial reign of Christ, (Revelation 20:5-15).
The Great White Throne Judgment will mark the end of the millennium and the beginning of the eternal state where Christ will created a new heaven and earth. All those whose name are not written in the book of life will be judged for their works and cast with Satan and his angels into the lake of fire forever, (Revelation 20:11-15). The destiny of the believer is to be in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for eternity and be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ according to their works, (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Jesus said that He is the Resurrection and the Life, those who believe in Him will never die, but will experience His life, eternal life. Jesus asks in John 11:26, “Do you believe this?” How we respond to that question and respond to Jesus will determines our eternity.