I remember being afraid to die.
I remember being surprised when an acquaintance securely and serenely spoke these five words to me, “I’m not afraid to die.” “Really?” I asked.
A lot has changed since that day 35-ish years ago. Spiritually, I was not then awake. My eyes were still closed, not yet supernaturally opened by God. In other words, that incident predated my coming to really know personally of the Savior Jesus Christ’s love, ministry, Atonement, Resurrection, and Plan of Redemption for each of us, as taught in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
An August day in 1980, things changed, preceded by a 25-year search for truth.I’m no longer afraid to die but look forward to seeing the Savior and the Father, and loved ones again. Death is but a doorway. Heaven is real.
When I first opened the New Testament, parched for light about life’s meaning and for knowledge of the real character of God and His Son, I was overcome. Overcome by the fact that Jesus died for me literally, that He died for me spiritually. He had saved my life physically just days before, intervening in a thought pattern that was moving me to take my life. I didn’t proceed with my desperate plan because of unmistakable impressions that appeared on the screen of my soul. When He speaks, we don’t doubt it. We might not know it’s Him at first but ultimately we do; we at least know we’ve been hit by the sweet sword of truth as I was then. (The Spirit, an agent of truth, testifies of and ratifies truth. We’ve lost trust in this possibility in our culture. I affirm it. You can know for yourself that Jesus died, atoned for your sins, and was literally resurrected).
This knowledge of the Atonement, Resurrection, Redemption, and Restoration of these truths changed my life and my perspective forever.
Since then, as I’ve grown to know the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which He Himself founded and re-established in our day, I’ve marveled at the gifts that are ours and at the tendency to disregard them all in popular culture.
I remember the Jesus Seminar, when a group of academic colleagues gathered and selected colored beads representing whether or not they found a particular scripture verse in the gospels to be truly accounted to Jesus or not. At the end of this exercise of opinion, they “published” their results—unscientific and ridiculous as they were–bringing fertile young minds down into caverns of doubt and disbelief. I grieve for those so crestfallen and hope this post finds at least one of you. I know the despair of disbelief and the wanting to find truth. I know something of the thirst, the emptiness, the hole that only God and truth can fill. Well, the Jesus Seminar will not give it to you. Reading the Word of God yourself and sincerely asking God if it’s really true, and to clearly, understandably manifest that to you, will bring you divine answers. I promise you. I also hope you’ll share your findings with me on this site or at[email protected].
Preparing the Easter Program: Believe the Promise
As I prepared a narration one Easter for a program we were holding in our Sunday worship services, our Sacrament Meeting (where we partake of the bread and water blessed by those in authority, representing Christ’s atonement [and subsequent resurrection] and our willingness to follow Him and remember Him daily), I spent extra time in study. I remember reading and re-reading the account of the Resurrection until a clear pattern emerged:
There were so many witnesses.
There were so many doubters, even of the witnesses, until each received their own personal witness (spiritually, and in Thomas’ case, even physically).
The women who saw Jesus after the tomb was found empty and rolled away, went and told the disciples. They didn’t believe them! (See Luke 24:10-12.)
The apostles on the road to Emmaus wondered. The Resurrected Savior appeared to them, affirming and attesting of the reality of His fulfilled promises—that He would die and rise again on the third day. (See Luke 24:13-31.)
Thomas had to thrust his hands into the side of Jesus to believe. (See John 20:27-29.)
But all of these and other hundreds of witnesses testified of His living reality at one point and stand as eternal witnesses of Jesus Christ. The apostles bore witness that they saw Him ascend also into heaven and indicated He would likewise come again.
Eventually, all of the apostles and the faithful witnesses came to know that all that Jesus promises, prophesied, speaks, spoke, will speak, is true. We can place our full weight on His promises, not the least of which is that He is resurrected and as a beautiful result, so will we be.
Spiritual Evidences of the Resurrection Abound
May I share with you a few other reasons to re-consider the reality of the Resurrection if you’ve lost faith in it or if you’ve never heard about Jesus Christ. The most important spiritual evidence you will find of the Resurrection will come, again, as you consider God’s word and scriptural accounts, which I’ll outline below, and then inquire of Him directly as to whether or not this is true. Let us know what you discover, if you are new to the faith or if you have lost the faith and are wondering still….
The Resurrection: Spiritual Evidences: The Empty Tomb of Jesus
The tomb was empty. No other tomb ever produced a Jesus—had the Romans wanted to stay the rumor that it was the wrong tomb, they could have dug up another. Besides, angels declared the tomb was empty, and the women had been to the tomb prior and knew the tomb. This dispels the nonsense advanced by unbelievers that Jesus’ body was stolen or that the women were at the wrong location. Again, ask God, not men, what happened there. Kindly read the account yourself. (See Mark 16:1-8.)
The Resurrection: Spiritual Evidences: Women Eyewitnesses
The holy women, Mary Magdalene, Simone, and others were eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection. The Bible indicates that the risen Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene and other holy women. Jesus, who always had special respect for these women, honored them as the first eyewitnesses to his resurrection. The male Gospel writers recorded this as well as the apostles’ initial disbelief, until they saw for themselves. (SeeMark 16:9-11, Matthew 28:1-10.)
The Resurrection: Spiritual Evidences: Jesus’ Apostles’ Apostolic Witness
After the crucifixion, Jesus’ apostles were terrified, thinking they might likewise be executed, but their hearts were changed as the knowledge of the Resurrected Christ distilled upon them fully. That influence was a result of seeing their Master, bodily risen from the dead. Christ not only appeared to them in the locked room, but on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and again on the Mount of Olives. After seeing Jesus alive, Peter and the others left their quarters only to unabashedly preach the risen Christ. Their eyes were now fully opened and that which they saw through a glass darkly became a living reality. They finally understood that Jesus was who He claimed to be, that He was the Atoning One and the Resurrected Lord. To the end of their martyred lives, they bore out the witness they received as apostles of God. (See Mark 16:14, Luke 24:32-43, John 20:19-23.)
The Resurrection: Spiritual Evidences: James
James, the brother of Jesus, was another doubter, another skeptic who struggled to wrap his mind around the idea that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah. Yet, The Holy Bible bears out that later on, James led the Jerusalem church fearlessly, even being stoned to death for his faith. Why? The Bible says the risen Christ appeared to him. James and the apostles were zealous missionaries and personal eyewitnesses to a Risen Christ. With this kind of ardor and witnessing, the early church exploded in growth, spreading west from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond. For 2,000 years, personal witnesses of and encounters with the resurrected Jesus have transformed lives, and continue to transform lives. (See 1 Corinthians 15:7.)
The Resurrection: Spiritual Evidences: Large Crowd of Eyewitnesses
A large crowd of more than 500 eyewitnesses saw the risen Jesus Christ at the same time. That’s no small number of witnesses! The Apostle Paul details this event in 1 Corinthians 15:6. He states that most of these men and women were still alive when he wrote this letter, about 55 A.D. Undoubtedly, they spread the word about this miracle. Smaller clusters of followers also saw the risen Christ, such as the apostles, and Cleopas and his companion. They all viewed the same scene and personage, and in the case of the apostles, they even touched Jesus and watched Him eat food. Hallucination, nah! But ask God, please.
The Resurrection: Spiritual Evidences: Conversion of Paul
The conversion of Paul is an amazing and true account. I’ve played it forward in my mind many times as a motion picture movie, to visualize and to glean from it. As Saul of Tarsus, he was an aggressive hater and persecutor of the early church. When the risen Christ appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road, Paul became Christianity’s most consummate emissary. He endured five floggings, three beatings, three shipwrecks, a stoning, poverty, and years of ridicule. Finally the Roman emperor Nero had Paul beheaded, because the apostle refused to deny his faith in Jesus. What sustained Paul through overwhelming affliction?: A sure and undeniable personal witness of Jesus Christ as Savior, Redeemer and Resurrected Lord. His encounter was real and personal. (See Acts 9:1-20.)
The Resurrection: Spiritual Evidences: Jesus Appears in The Americas
Can you believe there’s more?! The Savior appeared in the Americas after His resurrection! This is even a second Continental witness that He truly is who He claims to be and that we will be reunited with glorified immortal bodies after this life, through the gift of His resurrection. This account is found in Another Testament of Jesus Christ known as the Book of Mormon.
Again, this sacred volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon, provides yet another powerful witness of the Resurrection in a most significant way. It records that when the Savior appeared to the people gathered at the temple in a city called Bountiful, the Lord invited them all to come forth “that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14). It’s been estimated that because there were 2,500 present and because they came forth “one by one” (see 3 Nephi 11:15; 17:25), this process must have taken hours, even assuming that each person had only a few seconds with the Lord. Simply seeing Him was not enough to fully attest to the reality of the Resurrection because a spirit can look like a tangible body (see Ether 3:6–16) and a body of flesh and bone can be believed to be a spirit (see Luke 24:36–39). The Resurrected Redeemer wanted the people to know beyond any doubt that even though He had been “slain,” He now possessed a resurrected body they could actually feel. Thus, these 2,500 witnesses make the Book of Mormon’s testimony of the resurrection singular and sure.
The Resurrection: Life After Death
One of the Lord’s late apostles shares an interesting perspective of the process of restoration as it applies to the resurrection:
“The body will come forth as it is laid to rest, for there is no growth or development in the grave. As it is laid down, so will it arise, and changes to perfection will come by the law of restitution.”
More specifically, he stated that “every organ, every limb that has been maimed, every deformity caused by accident or in any other way, will be restored and put right. . . . Not that a person will always be marred by scars, wounds, deformities, defects or infirmities,” he clarified, “for these will be removed in their course, in their proper time, according to the merciful providence of God. Deformity will be removed; defects will be eliminated, and men and women shall attain to the perfection of their spirits” (Joseph F. Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 1998, 91–92).
Those Who Die As Children
Concerning those who die in childhood, Smith explained, “We know our children will not be compelled to remain as a child in stature always,” adding, “for it was revealed from God, the fountain of truth…that in the resurrection of the dead the child that was buried in its infancy will come up in the form of the child that it was when it was laid down; then it will begin to develop. From the day of the resurrection, the body will develop until it reaches the full measure of the stature of its spirit, whether it be male or female” (Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 130).
All of nature bears this out and typifies of Jesus Christ—His reality as the Son of God, His Resurrection. I write this post on the first day of spring. Who cannot see that all of life, externally and internally, is re-born, grows into the measure of its creation, through an Intelligent Designer—a loving Father’s care for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ’s Atonement and Resurrection? Ask God that you might see. He and His Son are able to make all things aged and decrepit and ill, new; all things broken, fixed; all hearts broken, full; all sorrows now, subsumed into eternal joys. Physical death is overcome specifically through the wonderful blessing of the Resurrection. I so witness in His name.