Death and Resurrection
A human being has an earthly body and an immortal Soul. According to religious definition, death is the separation of soul and body; the moment of end of (earthly) life (James 2:26 Matt 10:28 Ps 31:5 Luke 23:46 Acts 7:59 Rev 6:9). On the other hand, science defines death as the cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Based on the Holy Bible, second death refers to separation from God; Loss of eternal life; eternal punishment (Rev 21:8).
Resurrection refers to the re-uniting of soul and body at the end of ages. It is the return of all the dead in to life at the end of the world. It marks the start of eternal ‘life’ after the second coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Resurrection also denotes the final removal of the consequences of Adam’s sin (human disobedience). This mystery represents all what is at stake in our spiritual journey at earth. We believe in the authentic apostolic Gospel to be genuine candidates of the Kingdom of God, which would be revealed at the end of the ages. We take part in sacramental rituals implementing two among the five pillars of mysteries (Mystery of Baptism and Mystery of Holy Eucharist) for the same reason. The essence of Christianity is the life we have after death. We don’t dare to sacrifice our everlasting life in heaven for “a moment of happiness” on earth which transgresses God’s commandments. We believe and proclaim that all the dead humans will rise up for glory or demise. We believe the way we do and perform good deeds to be genuine candidates of God’s grace for a glorious resurrection.
When is the final day?
Many people are preoccupied with the question “when is the final day?” Throughout history, we have witnessed people claiming that “judgement day is around the corner”. In many cases, fake prophets and teachers want to take advantage of the preoccupation on the question to take advantage from easily deceivable fellowship. Church scholars warn us not to be speculative about “judgement day” and follow fake prophets with objectives ranging from personal aggrandisement and misleading the fellowship. (Mathew 24:15-35) Yes there is “a final day” when the world will wither away.
But the Lord said “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angles of heaven, but my Father only.” (Mathew 24:36) Some people with heretic teachings misread this verse and say “Our Lord Jesus doesn’t know the day and the hour.” This is wrong and utterly disrespectful. The Lord spoke these words in reply to his disciples about the signs of His second coming. It’s Him who is coming back. It is Him who is telling them the signs. So how do people rely on their wicked reading of the words instead of understanding the expression in its rightful context?!
Our Lord has taught us that “All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:15) A proper understanding of the reason why our Lord said “Father only” knows of the days and hours requires a through understanding of the Mystery of Trinity. In short, the Lord is stating the essence of Divinity. The Father is symbolised after the heart in the teachings of the church. Judgement day, as is the case for other things, shall be known by the Father as the Heart, declared by the Son as the Word and thrive with the Holy Spirit as the Symbol of Life.
The Lord warned us not to be fooled by fake prophets claiming to know about the “day and the hour” in view to achieve their objectives. His words are thus protect us believers from false Christs, and false prophets. (Mathew 24:24) It is impossible not to witness the second coming of the Lord (judgement day) and hence we don’t need someone to tell us “it’s here or there”. The lord said “For as the lightening cometh out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Mathew 24:27) Church scholars rightly note that the moment of our physical death on earth, even before judgement day, is our “final day”. We don’t have the chance to have the faith and deeds for salvation after departure. Hence, our final day is our judgement day and there is no point to speculate about the “final day of the world” while our final day comes without being noticed.
Verses on resurrection: Old Testament
Daniel 12:2: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Isa. 26:19: “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.”
Ezk 37: 1-10: “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!… Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.”
Ps 71:20: “You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, Shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth.”
Verses on resurrection: New Testament
John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”
1 Corinthians 15:52: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
Matthew 25:31-32: “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;
Temporary and Eternal Resurrection
There are numerous examples of temporary resurrection in the bible: 1) Widow of Zarephath’s Son (1 King 17:17-24); 2) Shunammite Woman’s Son (2 Kings 4:18-37); 3) Israelite Man (2 Kings 13:20–21); 4) Widow of Nain’s Son (Luke 7:11–17); 5) Jairus’ Daughter (Luke 8:49–56); 6) Lazarus (John 11:1-44); 8) Saints in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:50-54); 9) Tabitha or Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42); 10)Eutychus (Acts 20:7–12). There is death after this type of resurrection. Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-25; 1 Cor 15:1-56; Acts 1:9-11) is a key example of eternal resurrection. Resurrection and Ascension of St Virgin Mary is also eternal. Resurrection of the dead at end of ages is also eternal. There is no death after this type of resurrection.
The second coming of Jesus Christ
The second coming of Jesus Christ will be as lightning as it’s said: “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27). He will be seen with great power and authority: “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30-31). “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” ((Matthew 16:27 Luke 17:28-30 Luke 21:34-36 Matthew 25:1-12 Luke 12:37-38 John 14:1-3 Luke 12:40 Mark 8:38).
The Process of Resurrection of the dead
By the order of God, Archangel Michael will make three announcements. During the first announcement, all particles of the dead body will come together. At the second announcement, the particles get united and form a complete human body. At the final announcement, the soul gets united with the body; and the dead resurrects. Everyone will arise at a complete age as a complete person. Church scholars mention the notion of “complete age” with approximate equivalence and say it is 15 years for women and 30 years for men. It has to be noted that the numbers mentioned are just symbolic and they should not be taken in the literal sense.
After resurrection, everyone will face the final Judgement. Our Lord said “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day” (John 12:48). Jesus also said “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” Matthew 12:36 John reaffirmed this by saying “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:11-15). Other related verses about final judgement include the following: 2 Corinthians 5:10 Acts 17:31 Ecclesiastes 12:14 Hebrews 9:27
Right and Left: Sheep and Goats
This is symbolic as there is no right and left for Divinity. He will put the sheep on his right. Right is a symbol of Salvation (Matthew 25:33, 41), Wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10:2), honor (Matthew 26:64), and strength (Exodus 15:6). He will put the goats on his left. Left is a symbol of wickedness, foolishness, dishonor, and failure.
Sheep and goats are symbols of the righteous and wicked, respectively. Sheep follow their Shepherd (John 10:1-27). The righteous also follow their God. Sheep love each other and eat together. The righteous also love each other. Sheep’s ‘private part’ is covered. The righteous cover their sins with repentance the sin of their friends with love. Sheep look down/inside. The righteous look into their own sins, not their friends’. Sheep flee when wolves take one. Righteous flee persecution and spread the Gospel to other people. Goats are different from this, in fact the opposite. Goats have attributes opposite to those stated here in relation to the sheep.
There will be six questions for the final day: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matt 25: 35-36) One might say “we will be sitting an exam whose questions have recited throughout our christian life.”
Life after resurrection
Till resurrection, the soul of righteous stay in Heaven and the wicked in Hell (2 Peter 3:13 Rev 21:1-5 2 Cor 5:1 2 Peter 1:14 Philip 3:20-21). After judgement day, the righteous enter to Kingdom of God and the wicked to Hell-fire (Matt 10:28 Rev 20:14-15 Rev 19:20 Mark 9:43). Regarding this, Paul the Apostle said “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Our Lord Jesus said “Those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:35).
Some people tend to have a reductionist view about life after resurrection. They take it as a simple dichotomy between life and death and foolishly assume “it’s ok to do the bare minimum (in terms of faith and deeds) and avoid hell.” Christian life is not meant to be calculative. It’s a life which we must aspire the fullness of the Grace of God. Human deeds are generally tainted by imperfection. How can one “underperform” aiming to achieve “the bare minimum” while leading a life typically tainted by imperfection? It is true that we will have eternal life or eternal punishment after resurrection. But that is not a reductionist dichotomy as if there’s nothing within the ranges.
Eternal life and eternal punishment are broader categories. We don’t really know what’s in store for us. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ 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.” (John 14:2) The Lord’s place is not monotonous. Not everyone has the same rewards. That’s why our Lord said “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” (Mark 4:20).
What kind of student will say “it’s ok if I can score the pass mark” and be lazy not to aspire bigger? How will the teacher see such a student? We obviously don’t want to be like that. That’s why our forefathers have taught us to continuously grow into the ladder of fullness. Even the most revered saints at church died trying to be better. So should we. We have a life waiting for us for eternity. Let’s not waste anything with a seemingly clever trick that prevents us from aspiring for more in terms of spiritual growth.
Consequences of denying resurrection
If there is no resurrection, every religious activity will remain in vain. As St Paul stated it as “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; your faith is also empty; your faith is futile; you are still in your sins; then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (Corinthians 15:12-19). He also said “What will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour?… If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:29-34).
What about those taken to Heaven?
They will come back and experience death before resurrection. …”Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6 …”Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed” (Matthew 17:11-13).
Prayer for the departed and remembrance
Our church prays for the departed. In these prayers, the Church as the Body of Christ existing in time manifests the relationship between our temporal life in this world and our eternal life to come. Those of us in this world benefit from the prayers and intercessions of the saints and the righteous who have preceded us. The reverse is true, as well. When we offer Divine Liturgies and charitable deeds in the name of those who have departed, their souls rejoice if they were righteous and receive some relief if they were wicked. Some people question the relevance of prayers after death. Little did they know that we pray with our immortal soul, not a mortal body.
Some others are speculative about “who is going to be saved and who is not”. Prayers are ours, judgement belongs to God. But it’s important to note that these are essentially prayers, not parties. The practice of forcing people to organize extravagant parties in the name of prayer for the departed is a wicked practice by the opportunist clergy and ill-informed people. It should not be conflated with the prayer and remembrance which does not take more than what one can afford and provide out of volition, not out of concerted pressure and a sense of reverential fear towards the clergy or other powerful figures on earth.
Is there an eternal punishment for the wicked?
Some people say that there is no eternal punishment for the wicked as God is gracious and merciful. However, if there is no eternal punishment after death, there is no real justice. If there is no punishment after death, then God is neither gracious nor just. But God is both gracious and just…and there is eternal life for the righteous and eternal punishment for the wicked.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the coming age forever. Amen.
Glory be to God, the Almighty!
Praise to St Virgin Mary (Theotokos) and Holy Cross. Amen.