CHRISTIANS NEVER DIE
Dr W. A. Criswell
5-30-71 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Christians Never Die. The reading from the text is in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, and my Greek professor said these are the profoundest words ever uttered by human speech. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never, never die" [John 11:25-26]. And that last sentence is our text, "And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never, ever die." Christians never die.
This is an unusual day. It is Memorial Day. It is the day when we honor our sainted dead, men who have fallen in battle in behalf of our country and these who have been called home before our time and our day. When I was a country pastor, Memorial Day was the day when we gathered and people came from all the ends of the earth, and we cleaned the cemetery, we remounded the graves, and we brought flowers in memory of the dead. Memorial Day now is no less a time of remembrance of these who have preceded us in translation to glory. In the providence of God, today also has been designated as Senior Day, a presentation in which you have already shared. And the two seemingly are so incongruous: the dead and the living, but this to the Christian is nothing but a different phase, a different facet of human life. To us, there is no death. Christians never die, and whether the story was long ago, or whether it is now, or whether it is a millennium from now, to the Christian it is all one constant flowing, uninterrupted stream of life everlasting.
One day I stood in front of the Coliseum and looked at the ruins of the Roman Forum before me. As I thought of the great massive Coliseum back of me and the Roman Forum before me all crumbled into ruin, as I looked at it, I saw children playing hide-and-seek in the ruins – the great civilization crumbled, but the life stream going on. Once again when I was in the Eternal City, in the middle of the town I saw a deep, spacious, chasmic evacuation. It was deep. Evidently, they were preparing for the construction of a gigantic building, office building, downtown. And as I stood at the edge of the excavation, and looked at it, fully fifty feet down there I saw great majestic arches buried underneath fifty feet of the city; the teeming town and metropolis above it and a buried civilization beneath it, but the life stream continuing on.
In the several times that I’ve been in Jerusalem heretofore, I have walked on the level of the ground into the Damascus Gate, the northern entrance into the city, but the last time I was in Jerusalem, I was astonished to see that you enter the Damascus Gate over a bridge, for there is a deep excavation on either side, and down there to the left, deep in the earth in the wall of the sacred and holy city, there is a beautiful door down there deep in the ground, where the people used to flow through. The city, built up and up and up on the debris of preceding civilizations, is now a teeming capital – the ancient world lying in ruins, but life going on. I see it pointedly today in the memorial of the memory of our sainted dead, and in the thrust and the life of our young people who are preparing on the threshold of a more glorious tomorrow.
But is that the only immortality of the human race, its endurance? The crumbling civilizations, the fallen ruins, the columns, marble, porphyry, broken in two, and the life of the nation continuing on; is that the only immortality, just that of the enduring of the race? No, according to the word and the promise of God, there is also a personal immortality for you, for me! We shall live forever, not just the spirit, the soul, but also the body! To the Christian there is no death either for the spirit, the soul, or the physical frame. What we look upon as death is just a temporary disassociation between the spirit, the soul, and the body. But there is no such thing as the destruction of the soul, neither is there such a thing as the destruction of the body!
One of the great basic tenets of science is this: the indestructibility of matter. It may change its form, such as when you burn something up, but it doesn’t find annihilation, for the substance that is burned just turns into gaseous state; the elements are never destroyed. So it is in human life; the spirit lives forever, and the physical frame is indestructible, even the scientific advancement of discovery confirms it. This body in which I live will be somewhere and forever, but according to the glorious promise of God, it shall be reshaped, it shall be remade, it shall be resurrected from the dead, and my soul and spirit shall live in this glorified and resurrected frame [1 Corinthians 15:21-23, 42-48].
Now I speak of that for the moment. The immortality of the human life; "He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never, never die" [John 11:26]. Christians never die. I speak first of the spirit, of the soul, of the me that lives inside of this house. I can illustrate it best by my mind. My mind never ceases. My body sleeps. At night, I sleep, but my mind does not sleep. My mind never stops, it cogitates, it cerebrates, it continues on, and on, and on. My mind never stops. I know somewhat of that in two ways. I know it because sometimes I can recall what we name as a dream. I dream, that is my mind continues active, though my body sleeps. Most of the times I cannot follow the dream. I forget it, but many times I remember pieces, and parts, and parcels of that dream. My mind continues on, though my body is asleep.
Again, any psychologist will tell you that the finest way to solve a problem is to think of it, then go to bed and sleep over it, and while you are asleep, your subconscious mind will think through that problem. I’ve seen men many times who say they went to bed at night with an insoluble difficulty facing them. The next morning its resolution was most lucid and clear. The mind does not cease to exist or to cerebrate or to function even though the body is asleep. So it is with the soul, with the spirit. The spirit never dies. It never ceases to be even though the physical frame falls asleep in what we call death. The me, the I, the ego, the personality, the soul, the spirit never dies, it continues on immortal and forever.
As our Lord said to the malefactor crucified by His side, "Today, this day sēmeÃon, today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:43]. Crucified, dead, that is his body, but the man himself with our Lord in heaven; "Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." As the apostle Paul wrote of it in the second Corinthian letter, chapter 5 and verse 8, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord" [2 Corinthians 5:8]. Just like that. Closing my eyes, yet opening my eyes in heaven. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." Or as the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of Philippians, "I am in a strait between two. I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better for me; but to remain in the flesh, to encourage the churches, the center for the people of God" [Philippians 1:23-24]. "To depart and to be with Christ which is far better"; immediately, immediately.
Our Lord spoke of that. In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke he told of the story of Lazarus and Dives. Lazarus is a poor, poor man. He’s a beggarman. He is afflicted with sores so much so that it feels good when the dogs come and lick his flesh. He’s a poor man, he’s a miserable man, but he’s a godly man. And he died, and the angels came and bore his soul to Abraham’s bosom, to heaven. He died here, he lives in glory [Luke 16:20-22]. Dives the rich man also died and had a sumptuous funeral, but in hell, in Hades, he lifted up his eyes being in torment immediately, immediately [Luke 16:22-23]. The soul doesn’t die nor does it sleep; immediately in the other world.
In the story of Samuel, when Samuel died, Saul was afflicted and accosted and confronted by the bitter uncircumcised Philistines. And in his agony, he went to the witch of En-Dor, and the witch of En-Dor raised up Samuel [1 Samuel 28:7-14]. She’s a charlatan. She’s a cheat. All witches, and magicians, and necromancers, and fortunetellers are, and without fail they are condemned in the Bible from first to last. They are charlatans. The witch of En-Dor was given the power to do it by God as a judgment upon Saul. She was terrified [1 Samuel 28:12]. She didn’t expect it; she can’t raise the dead, nor can any necromancer talk with the dead. She was terrified when she saw Samuel, but he’s still alive, and the Lord committed his appearance as a judgment upon Saul.
Moses had been dead how long? A thousand four hundred years. Elijah had been dead how long? Nine hundred years. But fourteen hundred years after the death of Moses, nine hundred years after the death of Elijah, there they are alive, named, known, recognized, speaking to the Master on the Mount of Transfiguration [Luke 9:28-31]. Stephen saw Jesus [Acts 7:55-56]. The apostle Paul met Him on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:3-5]. When the body sleeps, the soul doesn’t die [2 Corinthians 5:8].
Dwight L. Moody was in a railroad station, and some newspaper reporters were interviewing, and in that interview Dwight L. Moody said, "One of these days you will publish in your paper a headline saying Dwight L. Moody Is Dead. Don’t believe a word of it, not a word of it! For I shall be more alive then than in any other time in all of my days." Christians never die [John 11:26]. The soul, the spirit, leaves this physical frame and wakes up in glory.
But what of the body? The body sleeps. What of it? Is this body immortal? Does it ever die? Does it ever cease to exist? Is there annihilation for the body? It sleeps. The Lord says to His disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth" [John 11:11]. The disciples said, "Lord, if he is asleep, it is well" [John 11:12]. Then the Lord said plainly, "Lazarus is dead; but I go that I may awaken him out of sleep" [John 11:14, 11]. That is the Christian nomenclature for death. We fall asleep in the Lord. Lazarus is asleep. They didn’t know what He meant, for that’s Christian nomenclature. We are taught that. That is a revelation of God to the Christian. There is no death; they never die [John 11:26]. The Christian sleeps. Lazarus is asleep [John 11:11]. When Stephen was martyred as the stones beat out his life, he looked up and said, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit" [Acts 7:59]. Then the Book says, "And he fell asleep, asleep" [Acts 7:60]. It’s a Christian word. "He fell asleep."
In the tremendous sermon of the apostle Paul in the thirteenth chapter of Acts at Lystra, he said of David, "David, after he served his generation by the will of God, fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers" [Acts 13:36]. He fell asleep. Koimeterion is the Christian name. Nobody ever heard of it until the Lord, koimeterion. Take it into English, and it spells out koimeterion, cemetery, a sleeping place where our beloved dead are laid to rest, asleep. "But I go that I may awaken him out of sleep." That is the Christian faith, the belief in the resurrection of the dead, the glorifying, the immortalizing of these physical bodies. "I go that I may awake him out of sleep, that I may raise him from the dead" [John 11:11].
That is peculiar and unique to the Christian faith. There is no other religion, there is no other philosophy, there is no other teaching or faith that believes in the resurrection of the dead; only the Christian! There are other religions that may dimly approach it such as Zoroastrianism, so as Mohammadanism, but it shadowy, it is twilight, it is unrecognizable. It is Christ who brought life and immortality to light [2 Timothy 1:10]. The doctrine, the teaching, the revelation of the resurrection of the dead is a Christian doctrine. Easter is a Christian day. Sunday is a Christian day, the disciples met together on the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord from among the dead. It is a Christian day, it is a Christian observance, it is a Christian praise, it is a Christian celebration. Sunday is Christian! Easter is Christian! It belongs to none other else. It is our persuasion and ours alone that God is able to raise these fallen bodies from the dust of the earth, from the heart of the earth, and we shall live in His sight [1 Corinthians 15:21-23, 42-53].
That is a cardinal doctrine to the Christians first because of Christ. Christianity in its power and its faith began in the resurrection of the dead, the raising up of Jesus Christ [Matthew 28:5-7]. Were He still in Joseph’s tomb [Matthew 27:57-60], there had been no gospel, there had been no good news, there had been no evangel, there been no Christian faith. The Christian faith was born in its power when Jesus was raised from among the dead. And in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter Paul says, "If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins" [1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 17]. The resurrection of the dead is cardinal to the Christian faith, and it is cardinal to us. A part of the great fundamental commitment of a man in his life to God is this: that my body as well as my soul is redeemed, and there shall someday be a purchase of the whole redemptive possession, our soul regenerated when we’re saved [Titus 3:5], and our bodies raised from the dead when the trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall descend, and all of us shall be changed [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
We’re not alone in stumbling at that. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, that peculiar Christian faith is almost unimaginable! Reason, rationalization, man’s fallen discovery could never seize it, attain to it, find it, lay a hand upon it. It is something that belongs to the revelation of God. It is something in Christ. When the apostle Paul preached Jesus on the Mars’ Hill to the Areopagus, the supreme court of the Athenians, they followed him with affinity as long as he spoke of Iēsous and anastasis, the strange gods male, Iēsous, anastasis, female, but when he came down to the resurrection of the dead, they laughed, they scoffed [Acts 17:22-32]. It was philosophically ridiculous and inane, and they laughed and left. It has its physical, human, unimaginable problems. Sometimes we stumble at it. This body decayed, turned back to dust; you mean the Lord shall raise that body up, these atoms, these molecules, this physical frame, and it shall live in God’s sight? Is that the faith?
Michael Faraday was a great scientist in the 1700s. He was a British physicist and chemist, and upon a day in his class, he heard one of his students sneeringly remark about Michael Faraday’s belief as a Christian in the resurrection of the dead. Michael Faraday overheard it. He took a silver cup, and in a large jar of sulfuric acid, he dropped the silver cup in the sulfuric acid; it immediately disappeared. All you could see was the jar with the sulfuric acid; the cup had disintegrated, it had disappeared. The great chemist then took a handful of ordinary table salt, and put it in the acid, dropped it in the acid. It acted as a catalytic agent, and immediately the silver fell to the bottom of the jar in a blob. Michael Faraday took it out, brought it to a silversmith and said, "Make me the most beautiful cup genius hand can fashion." And Michael Faraday brought back the silver cup and held it there before his class, and said, "Young gentlemen, if I, just a man, can take a silver cup and dissolve it, make it to disappear; and if I just as a man have power to reclaim it and to reshape it more beautiful than it ever was before, shall I falter or stumble at the power of Almighty God, who can take this body when it dissolves into the dust of the ground, raise it, reshape it, make it more gloriously beautiful than it ever was before?" That is the Christian faith. God is able to raise us from the dead. God is able to take this frame of dust and ashes and reshape it in the likeness of His own glorious body. Christians never die [John 11:26].
Think of it; to touch a hand, and find it God’s. Think of it; to breath new air, and to find it celestial. Think of it; to step on shore, and to find it heaven. Think of it; to feel the pulsing of new life, and to find it immortality. Think of it; to close our eyes on this world of violence, and death, and sorrow, and suffering, and pain, and tears, and heartaches, and open our eyes in the fellowship of God’s redeemed, a world of righteousness, and holiness, and immortality in God’s new heaven and God’s new earth [Revelation 21:1-8].
No wonder the Greek professor said the profoundest words ever spoken in human speech when Jesus said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me,. though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never, never ever die" [John 11:25- 26]. It is life now, it is life over there. It is glory now, it is glory over there. It is victory now, it is victory over there. It is heaven now, it is heaven over there. Christians never die. This is the glory road, the highway to heaven, come, and pilgrimage with us. Come, and sing the songs of Zion with us. Come, and rejoice with us, come. A family you, come. A couple you, come, or just one somebody you, come. On either side there’s a stairway, at the front, at the back, and there’s time and to spare. If you are in the topmost seat of that last balcony, down that stairway, and to the front, "I’m coming now, pastor, I make it now." On this lower floor the press of people, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I come, today I give my heart and life to Christ, and here I am." Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming. "Here I am, pastor, I make it today. I’m coming now." God will bless you, the angels will attend you. On the first note of that first stanza, come. Stand up coming, the greatest step you’ll ever make in your life is that first step into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, and here I come." Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.