„Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live“. ( John 5: 25)
For the Kingdom of God death is not the limit. The death of the soul does not occur with the death of the body. Mortality of the soul can occur due to mortal sins, sooner or later, regardless of bodily death. It is the spiritual death of people before they die physically. Jesus Christ came into the world to cast out the ancient fear of death. But he came and warned us of the eternal death of those who will not repent and continue to sin. Many people, in order to overcome the fear of bodily death, make enormous efforts hoping for the help of this world. They use science and technology for a single purpose – to ensure the longest possible life of their body. Yet, they fail because they forget the One who is the source of life.
„I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die“. (John 11: 25-26)
Lord Jesus Christ, in the Holy Gospel, repeatedly testifies of Himself that He is the resurrection and eternal life. His testimonies were not empty words, but true and confirmed by deeds.
Jesus Christ raises the son of the widow of Nain
„Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.“ Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region. (Luke 7: 11-17)
Lord Jesus Christ arrived with a large crowd at the city gates, when a young man who had just died was brought out. The grief was great for everyone present, and that sadness was exacerbated by the mother’s weeping and wailing for her only son. The power of death exceeds our power. The man in front of it crawls in its shadow, and burying the dead man in the ground he feels that he is burying part of himself in the grave darkness. In the face of death the powerless could find no consolation. Lord Jesus Christ took pity on the people and especially on the grieving widow who lost her only son. “Do not cry!”, God comforts the grieving mother. These words sound different from what others say. This time, they did not come from those who can offer nothing more to the grieving mourner, but out of the mouth of the One who knows where the soul of the dead is, from the One who holds everything under His control, including death. Lord Jesus Christ, who himself wept over the dead Lazarus (John 11:35), clearly does not say to the woman “do not weep” so that she does not weep for the dead at all. We know that nothing soothes a person as crying. In Orthodox ascetic practice, weeping is one of the main means of purifying the soul, mind and heart. So, in addition to the dead, it is useful to weep for ourselves, for our souls killed by their own sins. However, a significant difference should be made in the way we cry as an expression of regret. The Apostle Paul tells the Macedonians – Thessalonians, not to grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), because even the ungodly grieve and despair for the dead as if they had completely lost them. Christians should mourn and weep over the dead with hope and faith in the mercy of God. To weep and pray that God forgives the dead and grant them eternal life. That is why God tells the widow not to weep in a desperate, hopeless cry. Christ does not give her inconsolable consolation, but He says to her: “Do not weep” I am here! So he reached for the stretcher and ordered the boy to get up. Creation listens to its Creator and rises, much like man was created from dust. The words “do not cry!” were not in vain. The word and deed of Christ are in harmony and give the perfect consolation. Death before the face of God does not exist. God lovingly lifts up his creation and hands it over to the mother. It directs him from this earthly and temporary life to eternal life. “Fear” gripped the gathered. But not ordinary, but sacred, fear before the greatness of God, fear that turns into praise of God.
The resurrection of Lazarus
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him (John 11: 1-45)
The mortal disease of Lazarus was not a consequence of personal sin and punishment, but through it to glorify the Son of God. And we, if we die with the hope of resurrection, die to glorify God, and on the day of the universal resurrection to rise with all the righteous for eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. For Christ, Lazarus was just asleep. To God, bodily death is like a dream, because the power of death is no greater than the power of God. Death becomes frightening only if we look at it beyond the Gospel perspective. In the gospel of Christ the power of death is stripped, it is powerless before the face of the Living God. Death is equated with sleep, it is humiliated, and man with the faith in the resurrection is freed from fear, rises above death and prepares for eternity. Unlike the previous event, for the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain, who had almost died, in the case of Lazarus, several days of death were ascertained. The body was placed in a sealed tomb, much like the tomb of Christ’s burial. And the smell was a sign of mortal decay. Well, it was clear that Lazarus was not asleep, nor was he unconscious, nor was he in any clinical death. Lazarus died and was buried. Martha, his sister, when Jesus met her, said to him: “Lord, if You were here, my brother would not have died. “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha, before the fact of her dead brother, although at one point she showed weakness and hopelessness, at the next, with the help of Christ, confessed her faith in the resurrection of the dead. When temptations and problems weigh on us, disbelief and hopelessness are often manifested in us, as well. Human weakness comes to the surface. But we need to sober up as soon as possible and regain our unwavering faith and hope in God. Christ’s disciples knew of the general resurrection that would take place at Christ’s second coming, when He would be the Judge. “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” Martha told Jesus. We, too, need to have faith in the universal resurrection, and in no case, under any temptation, should we neglect God’s providence and lose hope in the resurrection from the dead.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
It is these words of Christ that we should keep in mind and keep them in our hearts in every temptation and sorrow. Jesus Christ is the Conqueror over death, resurrection, and life. He asked Martha if she believed in this, so that the gathered people might be convinced of her faith: “Yea, Lord, I believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” Whoever lives in this world with faith in the Saviour Christ immortalizes death during earthly life and will not die spiritually. People who live according to God’s commandments have the experience and the feeling of immortality. A perfect example of our love for Christ and the Gospel are our holy martyrs, who gladly accepted the tortures, sufferings and executions of bodies, and the tormentors could not kill their souls. Where there is evangelical righteousness, death has lost its power, and in fact does not exist. However, the presence of death in historical times is shocking to everyone. When Jesus saw Mary and the Jews who had come together to weep over the dead, He was saddened and shaken. Jesus wept, but without weeping desperately, but out of compassion and philanthropy. Lazarus had been dead for four days, and in order to dispel any suspicion that Lazarus might have been in some clinical death and to refute God’s miracle, Jesus deliberately delayed. The scent of Lazarus’ mortal body represents the stench of human sin. And where God and righteousness are, there is the fragrance. God’s mercy can forgive sin and stench can disappear. That is why the relics of the saints have a mild and pleasant smell. Because they loved God, so the grace of God remained on them and filled their bodily bones and remains. Christ commanded the stone to be removed from the tomb door of Lazarus’ tomb. With this commandment he encourages and gives hope to those gathered. He publicly prays and thanks God the Father for believing that He was sent by Him. With this example, Christ teaches us that we can do nothing without praying to God. Therefore, before we start any work, it is best to pray to God for help and blessing. Finally, after the work is done thank Him. The Saviour commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb! Lazarus got out and started walking. Death no longer has power over his body. The miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection took place just one week before Christ’s resurrection, so that the people could be convinced that Jesus is the sent Son of God who has power over death. The resurrection of Lazarus was a foretelling of Christ’s resurrection, as well as an assurance of the universal resurrection from the dead in the last day.
Christ’s Resurrection from the dead
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28: 1-10,16-20)
During his three years of preaching on earth, the Savour constantly spoke to them and prepared the disciples for His suffering, for His death on the cross, after which He would be resurrected on the third day. That was fulfilled. Christ surrendered to benevolent and life-giving death. He spread his arms on the Cross and nailed the sin of the whole world. Dying, He descended into the depths of hell to destroy it and to destroy the power of death. Death and decay could not contain the Chief of life. Christ rose from hell, and again, with His soul entered into His most-pure Body and rose from the dead. Metropolitan Peter says: “With the death of Christ and His Resurrection, all the consequences of the Fall have been overcome: both the spiritual (loss of God’s grace) and the physical death.” What Christians sing in the Easter song, “Christ is risen,” they literally experience it.
„Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and those in the tombs granting life!“
What did God do for us with His Resurrection? What did He give to the human race by defeating our greatest enemies — death, the devil, and sin? Christ, with the resurrection, became the firstborn from the dead, enabling us with the resurrection and eternal life. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15: 22-23). Each in his own turn. Christ is the first, and then, at His coming, all who are of Christ will be resurrected. If there is no Resurrection and eternal life, what is the purpose of our existence on earth? But Christ is risen and will not die again, death is defeated, and through His resurrection, all mankind is subject to the future, universal resurrection. Human nature is one, and the Word of God – Christ, that is why he became human, to carry and bring from death our fallen nature. Those who receive Christ’s gift of salvation will be resurrected to eternal life, while those who reject Him will be resurrected to eternal damnation (John 5:29). Only in Christ the Risen One has purpose and fulfillment. Through Him, each of us has the opportunity to renew the fallen image, to gain the image of God and to worship. This means acquiring the Holy Spirit, returning to paradise, and inheriting eternal life.
The Holy Apostle Paul on the Resurrection
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. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 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! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15: 12-24)
The foundation of hope in our resurrection is the resurrection of Christ. Christ is God, but also man. He was resurrected, so we will be resurrected. As soon as the first has become, the second will also become. And if we do not believe that the second will happen, we deny that the first happened. Christ’s apostles and disciples were eyewitnesses and witnesses of the Risen Christ. In the Risen Christ the resurrections before His glorious Resurrection are a sure confirmation and additional testimony that the good news of the Resurrection from the dead is neither a deception nor a lie. Many people witnessed the resurrection power of the Lord, and the Apostles and those whom God willed were given the power of God to raise the dead. Many people, although they declare that they believe in God, pray, read the Scriptures and attend church services, still, because of their attachment to the world, expect only the good in this world. As a result, they are easily and quickly overwhelmed by worldly temptations, losing hope and falling into despair. There are many people who call themselves Christians, but significantly fewer who hypocritically profess the symbol of the faith, and live according to the last paragraph: waiting for the resurrection from the dead and life in the next century. We cannot believe in God without believing in His resurrection and universal resurrection from the dead at the second coming of Christ. You either believe or you do not believe. It is not possible to believe in something and at the same time to doubt it. Christ’s resurrection is the pledge and activation of the process of universal resurrection. Just as all people must die after Adam’s sin, so after the resurrection of Christ on the last day, all will have to be resurrected. The last day is the day of the universal resurrection, when Christ, in his words, will judge the world, over all terrestrial who will rise from the dead:
Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5: 25-29)
Resurrection of the body
Why does God care about the resurrection of the body which eventually dissolved in time in the ground and returned back to the mysterious cycle of nature? Will all the bones be resurrected, and veins and flesh covered with skin formed on them? Why would our body be in that extraterrestrial life? Is it not more understandable and more probable that certain philosophers claim that the good side of death is the decay of the body which frees us from the dependence of the physical and the bodily? According to Orthodox anthropology, the Word of God – Christ, is the archetype of man, his beginning and end. He, after the eternal Council of the Most Holy Trinity, by the grace of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, creates man in His image and likeness. Everything created by the Divine Logos was good and without error. The created man in his natural composition is a unique, inseparable unitary organism. That is why man is whole and complete when the soul lives in the body. Our first image, Christ, in the fulfillment of the Plan of our salvation, after His resurrection, showed us that His body was the same that suffered and was resurrected. St. John of Damascus says: “The risen Lord did not reject any part of His nature – neither body nor soul, but had body and soul, with mind and intellect, with will and energy, and thus ascended to heaven and sat down to the right of the Father.” So, the resurrection is the union of the soul and the body, that is, the renewal of the destroyed unity of nature. Orthodox Christianity empirically understands the place and role of the body in human life. The soul without the body is inactive and immobile, and only through the body can it express and act. Through the body, it’s no accident that love finds its embodiment – the highest form of communion and community. Therefore, in no case is the body a prison for the soul, but its freedom. Losing the body, the separated soul loses totality of life, and although it does not disappear, it resides as in a state of sleep and dormition – uspenie. Christian soteriology speaks of the renewal of the body mentally through the resurrection of the body spiritually, such as the body of the Lord after the resurrection, which passed through closed doors, did not feel fatigue, need for sleep, food and drink. This transformation, in accordance with the glorious resurrected body of the Lord, does not mean a transformation in a completely different form, but a transition from decay to incorruptibility.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15: 42-44)
Christ’s Resurrection is the tenet of our faith. Metropolitan Peter says: “It is the Force that conquered the world despite the most brutal persecutions against Christians.” The man is still dying, but the power of death has been abolished. The power of the resurrection is given to all human nature. God turned every human being into an immortal. Therefore, the Christian should be the one who co–resurrects with God every day and lives as if resurrected from the grave. “Christ is risen and we are going to live a new life,” the Holy Apostle Paul tells us. The curse of death has been lifted. Although we continue to die, we do not remain in death. If after death man is resurrected, then death is not death but sleep. The joy of the resurrection should be constant for us, because the paradise in Christ has been renewed. The risen Christ gave eternal life to all His followers. If we are Christians then we are merged with Christ – in equal death and resurrection. Let us remain participants in the liturgical mystery, remember Him and partake of the Crucified and Risen Christ Who tells us:
„Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.“ Amen! (John 6: 54)