Another important question is, —
If a Man Dies, Shall He Live Again?
This question is not one that is asked now so much as it ought to be. The question that is now asked a good deal more than it ought to be is whether man really dies—whether there is really any such thing as death. And as it is, in the great majority of cases, decided that man does not die, that "there is no death, what seems so is transition," in the view that man never ceases to live, it would not be an appropriate question at all to ask, Shall he live again?
But, as we have abundantly shown, the Bible considers this subject from the standpoint of the fact that man does die; that when he is dead he is wholly unconscious and that all prospect of future existence depends upon an affirmative answer, from the Word of God, to the question as to whether he shall live again. In Job 14:14 is written the question to which we have here referred, "If a man dies, shall he live again?" And in Isaiah 26:19 we have the direct answer to the question: "Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead."
The only hope of future life, which the Word of God presents, is in the resurrection of the dead. This is the hope of the righteous; it is the Christian's hope. Paul, in discussing this subject of the resurrection of the dead, proves first that Christ is risen, and then says: "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty" (1 Cor. 15:12-14). It is evident that there were some at Corinth, even as there are some now, who professed to believe in Christ, and at the same time believed not in the resurrection of the dead. But Paul settles that at once by saying, "If there be no resurrection of the dead," your faith in Christ is vain. This proves plainly that our hope and faith in Christ meet their fruition only at and by the resurrection of the dead.
This is so important that the Spirit of God, by the apostle, repeats it. Again he says: "For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (1 Cor. 15:16, 17). Here it is declared that to deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the resurrection of Christ, is to leave the professed believer yet in his sins; and therefore it subverts the gospel and the salvation of Christ. This is followed by another most important conclusion, and that is, If the dead rise not, "those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." It would be impossible to more forcibly show that all hope of future life depends upon the resurrection of the dead. If there be no resurrection of the dead, then the dead are perished. And this is stated, not of the wicked dead, but of the righteous dead, "they also which are fallen asleep in Christ," even these have perished if there be no resurrection of the dead. In verse 32, this is repeated in another form: "If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!””
Such argument as that is very seldom heard in these our days. The argument now is, ‘What advantage it us to practice the life of Christian self-denial if the soul be not immortal? What advantage it us to do these things if we do not go to heaven when we die?’ And so it is sung, —
"Oh, you must be a lover of the Lord, or you can't go to heaven when you die!"
The truth is that, though you be a lover of the Lord, you can't go to heaven when you die, but you can go at the resurrection of the dead; and that is at the coming of the Lord. For so it is written: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming" (1 Cor. 15:22, 23). "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16, 17). In this manner it is that we go to heaven. In this manner we meet the Lord.
The hope of life by Christ, at the resurrection of the dead, is the hope in which Paul lived, the hope in which he exercised himself, the hope that he preached. When he stood before the council, he said: "I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" (Acts 23:6). And afterward, when he answered his accusers before Felix, he said: “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.. . . . let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day’” (Acts 24:15-21). Again, when he stood before Agrippa, he said: "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?" (Acts 26:6-8).
Now put these things together: (a) He stood and was judged for the hope of the promise made of God. (b) This was the promise made unto the fathers. (c) Unto this promise the twelve tribes—all Israel—hope to come. (d) For this hope he was accused of the Jews. (e) But he was accused—called in question—of the Jews, "touching the resurrection of the dead." (f) Therefore the hope of the promise of God, made unto the fathers, is the hope of the promise of the resurrection of the dead. (g) This is made emphatic by his question to Agrippa, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" When Paul was at Athens, "because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection" (Acts 17:18).
Therefore it is plainly proved that the hope, which God has set before us in Christ and His blessed gospel, is the hope of the resurrection from the dead unto everlasting life and eternal glory. And as this resurrection all depends upon the glorious appearing of our Savior, therefore the second coming of our Savior is inseparably connected with this, the Christian's "blessed hope." Thus says the Lord: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13).
This is that for which Job looked. He says: "All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes" (Job 14:14). This change is at the resurrection, for says Paul, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (1 Cor. 15:51, 52). Again says Job: "If I wait for the grave as my house, if I make my bed in the darkness, where then is my hope?” (Job 17:13-15). Here it is: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).
Time and space would fail us to quote the words of this hope, expressed by David, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Daniel, and Hosea, and Micah, and all the prophets and apostles. We can only cite again the words that this is the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers, unto which promise we instantly serving God day and night hope to come. Why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead? The righteous dead shall live again, at the coming of the Lord, and therefore we look and anxiously wait for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus. Like faithful Job, our reins within us are consumed with earnest desire for that glorious day. And as He assures us, "Surely I come quickly," our hearts reply, "Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus."