Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 11, 1954
NUMBER 27, PAGE 4,9b

"If A Man Die ...


There comes a time in the life of every thinking man when he asks the question posed by Job so many years ago, "If a man die, shall he live again?". It is sheer tragedy that for some men the whole span of their years is a continual search for the answer. They are miserable, incomplete, dissatisfied. With an infinite longing in their hearts, they wander all over the earth in search for the answer, and never find it. There are others of us who have found the answer. We know. The darkest problem of the race has been settled for us. It is not an enigma, it is not a search, it is not an uncertainty.

Traditionally men have given two answers to Job's question. One is the answer of the atheist. He says, "There is no future life. Dust we are, from dust we came, and to dust we shall return. There is no God; no heaven; no hell. There is neither sense nor order in this universe. We are the product of blind chance; human life is a meaningless, ghastly joke; it were far better that we had never been born." The other answer is the one put into words by the Apostle Paul, "For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens." (2 Cor. 5:1.) Jesus has declared, "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2,3.)

"There is no death! The stars go down,

To rise upon some other shore,

And bright in heaven's jeweled crown,

They shine forevermore."

In our generation, however, there has developed a third answer to Job's question, an answer with deadly implications. It is not the answer of the atheist; neither is it the answer of the believer. It partakes of both, yet belittles both. It is an attitude of heart which is increasingly common in this twentieth century — a disposition to discount the whole question of eternity. The modern man is inclined simply to dismiss the whole problem from his mind with the simple declaration, "I do not know whether man shall live beyond the grave or not. It is not susceptible of proof that he shall; neither can it be demonstrated that he shall not. I therefore will dismiss the whole thing from my mind. I will live one world at a time. I will live here and now as though this were the only existence I'll ever know. Then if it turns out that there is another life, I will deal with that when I come to it."

The increasing number who take this, attitude do not realize the utter impossibility of living "one world at a time." They fail to grasp the sheer psychological impossibility of such a proposal. For even a child ought to understand that our attitude toward the future life will determine in ways beyond calculation our attitude and our behavior in this present life. No man can live in such an airtight compartment as not to be affected in the present by his conceptions of the future. We are not creatures adapted to such a mental vacuum.

Our belief, or failure to believe, in a future life will most surely influence our attitude toward our fellow-man. If we think of other men, and of ourselves, as nothing more than beasts of the field, we will sooner or later begin to act and react as beasts of the field. A beast is neither moral nor immoral; he is amoral. He eats, sleeps, kills, and plunders at will, knowing no law save the law of survival. He neither knows nor cares about any life beyond the present; indeed, is incapable even of reflecting on such a possibility. The man who dismisses the possibility of a future life from his mind, and determines to live his years on this earth as though this were all he would ever have, will inevitably tend toward a materialistic and amoral philosophy of living. He will approach all his earthly problems from that point of view.

There is a reverse side to this dark picture. If we think of ourselves only as animals, we shall tend to become like them; but if we realize that we are sons of God, his creatures, we shall tend to become like God in our lives and character. David said, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him; Or the son of man that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him but little lower than God, and crownest him with glory and honor." (Psalm 8:3.) And again the writer of Proverbs declares, "As he thinketh within himself, so is he." (23:7.) If a man thinks of himself as a child of God, considers himself as having a divine heritage, is daily conscious of his background and origin, it will be a natural consequence that he will incline to become like the image he holds in his heart.

Certainly one tremendous consequence of our belief in immortality is our ability to "bounce back" from disaster. There is resilience, an unconquerable hope within the heart of the believer that surmounts and overcomes what otherwise would be total disaster. Consider the apostles of Christ. On that tragic night when his body lay in Joseph's tomb, when the awful hours of the crucifixion day had come to an end and darkness enshrouded the earth, there could not have been discovered among living creatures any group of men more bitterly disappointed, more sadly disillusioned, more fearful for the future than these men who had so lately followed him out of Galilee. Beaten, cowed, trembling with fear, they were the very picture of desolation and dejection.

But look at them a few weeks later! Boldly standing before the very men who had crucified their Master, fearlessly accusing them of murder, triumphant and emphatic in their declarations that he had been raised from the dead, it would seem almost beyond belief that these are the same cowed, beaten men of yesterday. What has happened to them? What has changed the picture? One thing, and one thing only: they are now convinced, beyond all peradventure of doubt, that Jesus is alive again.

If we are to live lives worth the living, lives that are triumphant in spite of all the sordid and discouraging problems of daily existence, we must believe we came from God — and shall return to him for judgment. His word is our guide; his good pleasure our goal. If we can but live so as to please him, it matters little what men may say or think. We shall stand or fall at his decision, not by the words of men. Because we believe that "if a man die he SHALL live again" we work, and serve, and humbly await the hour of our deliverance.

F. Y. T.