Category Archives: Resurrection

“After the cross, death is less” by Herman Bavinck

‘Mors post crucem minor est.’

‘After the cross, death is less.’

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics: Created, Fallen, and Converted Humanity, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2019), 1: 493, fn. #168.

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“The last hours of Christian men and women” by Charles Spurgeon

“There is one more operation of God’s Word about which I can speak with very great comfort to my own self, and that is the operation of the Word in the completion of the Christian character, and in the display of it in the last hours of Christian men and women.

I have come down many times from the sick chamber of those members of this church who are now in the upper house, and I have done so with faith confirmed and joy increased.

Those beloved ones have given me more strength and assurance than I ever derived from the study of the ablest works in my library.

They were sometimes very poor, but I remember well the glory of the little room wherein they were disrobing for the beatific vision. Their heavenly serenity, varied with bursts of triumphant joy, has driven all my fears away.

Some have been wasted with disease and racked with pain till it seemed impossible that an original thought could have come from them, and yet their speech has been fresh and new, an inspired utterance far excelling poetry.

They only spoke of what they were seeing, of what they were enjoying, for the jewelled gates were set open to them, and they peered within and then turned round and told us a little of what they saw.

It has been a glorious thing to find none of them trembling, none confounded, none wavering.

No dying man has looked me in the face and said, ‘Sir, you did not preach a religion which a man can die with. You taught me doctrines which are not substantial enough for the dying hour.’

No, I feel even now their death grips, as they have clasped my hand and told me of their overflowing joy.

They have said to me, ‘Bless the Lord that ever I stepped into the Tabernacle to hear of justification by faith, of the divine substitution, of atonement made by blood, and of a faithful God who casts not away His people!’

Such expressions I have heard from those upon the borders of Immanuel’s land. These are our seals and the tokens that Christ has spoken by us.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Proof of Our Ministry,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Volume 30 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1884), 30: 369–370.

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“The great Conqueror” by John Collett Ryland

“Farewell, thou dear old man! We leave thee in possession of death till the resurrection day: but we will bear witness against thee, oh king of terrors, at the mouth of this dungeon; thou shalt not always have possession of this dead body; it shall be demanded of thee by the great Conqueror, and at that moment thou shalt resign thy prisoner.

O ye ministers of Christ, ye people of God, ye surrounding spectators, prepare, prepare to meet this old servant of Christ, at that day, at that hour, when this whole place shall be all nothing, but life and death shall be swallowed up in victory.”

–John Collett Ryland, cited by Peter Naylor in “John Collett Ryland,” The British Particular Baptists, 1638-1910, Volume 1, Ed. Michael A. G. Haykin (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 1998), 1: 191. Ryland preached this sermon at the funeral and interment of Andrew Gifford on July 2, 1784.

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“It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“And a voice spoke softly behind him: ‘In the land of Ithilien, and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you.’ With that Gandalf stood before him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. ‘Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?’ he said.

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?’

‘A great Shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known.

But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

‘How do I feel?’ he cried. ‘Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel’ – he waved his arms in the air – ‘I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!’”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 951-952.

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“Longing for the endless feast to come” by Matthew McCullough

“Until we’re honest about the pervasive, painful presence of loss throughout our lives, we won’t be drawn in by Jesus and His promise of eternal life. We need to see with the eyes of the heart that we have nothing unless we have Jesus. Everything else is passing away.

Earlier in the chapter, I raised what seems to me a common objection to the Christian focus on eternal life. Sometimes talk of eternal life seems like a distraction from the challenges and opportunities and obligations of this life.

At best it sounds abstract and otherworldly. At worst it seems escapist, like some sort of excuse to ignore problems of the present. Or, perhaps, a consolation for those too old or sick to have anything left to live for.

I hope by this point it’s clear that this objection is dangerously shortsighted and ironically off the mark. If eternal life sounds otherworldly to you, then you’re the one not paying close enough attention to this world and its concerns.

Jesus focuses on eternal life because He is more attuned to what life is like in this world than those who settle for less. In this world everyone loses everything.

Eternal life only seems like a distraction from what you really want or need if you pretend you’re not dying. That’s why the objection is shortsighted.

But the objection is also ironic. Jesus’s promise of eternal life is actually the thing that enables true and resilient joy in our experience of good things that don’t last.

When talk of eternal life seems like a distraction, it’s because we’ve failed to appreciate the tremendous challenge of loss to any joy we might experience in the present. We’ve failed to honestly confront the questions raised earlier in this chapter.

How can we enjoy what we hay, when we know we’re eventually going to lose it?

When we’ve learned to feel the weight of this question, we’re prepared to see the true and wonderful relevance of Jesus’s promise for living now. Jesus’s language of eternal life, so far from an otherworldly or ascetic distraction from the goodness of this life turns out to be exactly what we need to make the most of our time under the sun.

Jesus’s death and resurrection, and His promise that He will give life to us too if we believe in Him, reframe how we experience the transient things of this life. The way to fully taste the sweetness of eternal life is not to pull back from enjoying the good things of this life, but to leverage these good and passing pleasures into longing for the endless feast to come.

Loving this life and all its goodness, knowing with truth and honesty that we’re going to lose everything, can actually deepen our love for the life to come.

Jesus’s promise of triumph over death, a resurrection to eternal life, is an invitation to fully enjoy the beauty of life in this world, no matter how fleeting. In other words, the way to deal with the painful problem of loss is not to pull back from loving the transient things, but to press further in.

To love them freely for what they are: precious gifts of a Father who loves you, foretastes of glory divine.”

–Matthew McCullough, Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 141-142.

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“No longer my past but Christ’s past” by Sinclair Ferguson

“We share one bundle of life with Christ in what He has done. All that He has accomplished for us in our human nature is, through union with Him, true for us and, in a sense, of us.

He ‘died to sin, once for all’; ‘He lives to God’ (Romans 6:10). He came under the dominion of sin in death, but death could not master Him.

He rose and broke the power of both sin and death. Now He lives forever in resurrection life to God. The same is as true of us as if we had been with Him on the cross, in the tomb, and on the resurrection morning!

We miss the radical nature of Paul’s teaching here to our great loss.

So startling is it that we need to find a startling manner of expressing it. For what Paul is saying is that sanctification means this: in relationship to sin and to God, the determining factor of my existence is no longer my past. It is Christ’s past.

The basic framework for my new existence in Christ is that I have become a ‘dead man brought to life’ and must think of myself in those terms: dead to sin and alive to God in union with Jesus Christ our Lord.”

–Sinclair Ferguson, “Christian Spirituality: The Reformed View of Sanctification,” in Some Pastors and Teachers (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2017), 533.

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“Easter Wings” by George Herbert

“Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
                  Till he became
                        Most poor:
                        With Thee
                  O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
      And sing this day Thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.”


–George Herbert, ‘Easter Wings 1” in Herbert: Poems (Everyman Library) (New York: Knopf, 2004), 25.

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