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The phrase “life after life-after-death” originated with N. T. Wright, a highly acclaimed British scholar. It helped me understand some of what the Bible teaches about life after death.
Life After Death
Let’s begin with what the Bible teaches about life after death.
The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Jesus answered their hypothetical question (Matthew 22.23-27) with an affirmation of life after death.
Jesus said, “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22.31-32).
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had a personal relationship with God while they walked on earth. God would never be so cruel to be our friend while we live on earth, and then end that friendship at death.
Jesus said this to Martha after her brother had died: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11.25-26).
Jesus taught that death does not separate Jesus’ followers from the relationship that they have with him. Paul believed the same thing.
He wrote, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8.38-39).
N. T. Wright uses the expression, “life after death,” to describe the fact that nothing can separate us from the relationship that we have with Jesus – even death.
What is Life After “Life-After-Death”?
Dr. Wright uses the expression “life after life-after-death” to describe the new body that Jesus’ followers will receive when the end comes.
Below is an outline of Paul’s teaching from 1 Corinthians 15 about the new body believers will receive.
— Verse 35 – But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”
This is the question that Paul answered about the new body.
— Verse 36 – Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
— Verses 37-41 – (Summary) All seeds are buried, but one day will demonstrate God’s glorious work through them.
— Verses 42-44 – So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.
It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.
Every person is born in utter humility. They are completely dependent on the care of others for their existence.
Every person, no matter how great they may have been, dies totally vulnerable to the process of death.
However, the end-time body of believers will be imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual (fully able to relate to God).
— Verses 45-48 – (Summary) This is a comparison between Adam and Jesus.
— Verse 49 – Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Our end-time body will resemble the resurrected body of Jesus. We have no idea of what it will look like. Yet, there are two consistent views of Bible scholars.
(1) People won’t need a body or bones that have been buried in order to have a new body at the end. Cremation or ages of decay will not encumber God’s ability to give us a new body.
(2) Even with a new body, the personality of the person will still be present. We can be assured that we will be able to know our loved ones and they us at this time.
— Verse 50 – What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
This new body will be accomplished by God. Without God life after life-after-death is impossible.
— Verses 51-56 – (Summary) Death will be finally defeated by the power of God in the end. God’s people will receive the new body that is perfect to continue living in a relationship with God.
Our response to all of God’s activity is praise and hope.
— Verse 57 – But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
— Verse 58 – Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Just to Clarify
I want to make what I am saying clear.
(1) People who live in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will never have that relationship broken. We are calling this “life after death.’
(2) At God’s appointed hour, people who live in a personal relationship with Jesus will receive a new body that is perfectly fit for God’s next phase of life.
We are calling this “life after life-after-death.”
So much of how God will do this is a mystery, but this is the best explanation we have for what the Scripture seems to teach.
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