1 March 2018, by Rev. David A. Muench, Director of Ministerial Care
“…we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’”
I Corinthians 15:51-54
A short time ago we learned of the death of Billy Graham, perhaps the most widely known preacher and evangelist of the 20th century. One of his quotations that has been widely shared relates to his view on life after death:
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
This oft-repeated quote seems to be a paraphrase of sorts of a similar statement made by Dwight L. Moody, the great 19th century preacher and evangelist. Both men were driven by their conviction of two things. The first is the resurrection of Jesus on the first Easter morning. The second is our own translation into glory, the date of which we do not know.
Our faith in the substitutionary life and death of Jesus, followed by His resurrection from the dead, provides for us the same level of confident assurance shared by Moody and Graham. These men, after all, are merely passing along the confidence of the first-century evangelist Paul (I Corinthians 15), and of Jesus Himself, speaking to the thief hanging alongside Him on Golgotha (Luke 23:43).
This assurance, however, is about more than our eternity. It’s also the motivation for triumphant living in the present. You see, eternal life doesn’t begin when we arrive in heaven! That reality, quite accurately, will merely be a “change of address” for us. The assurance we know in the present-day life of faith in Jesus also is one of triumph. It is driven by loving intentionality, sharing the great good news of Easter in our words and actions toward others. All of it grows from the confidence we have within, a confidence anchored in the reality of the Easter resurrection.
It’s the same confidence expressed by a famous evangelist of another era, Martin Luther, in the words of a well-known hymn:
“Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us / We tremble not, we fear no ill; they shall not overpower us. / This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, / He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done; / One little word can fell him.”
(verse 3 A Mighty Fortress is Our God LSB #656)
My prayer for you as we observe another Festival of the Resurrection is that you would join with me and Christians around the world in the expressions of confidence about our own eternity, an eternal life that has already begun! It is a confidence we share as we join once again in the familiar call and refrain:
“He is Risen!…He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!