“God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”
Covert Matters Digest
The truth of life beyond
By Maurice Dunbar Ashbury
Matt. 22:32 “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
These are words of our Lord Jesus Christ. He used them in answer to a question concerning the resurrection. The question was raised by the Sadducees, who were the materialists of their day, and who said that there was no resurrection. To these first century skeptics who denied the life beyond the grave, he said: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God.”
Today multitudes all over the world meet together to give thanks and praise God for the victory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ over death through the Resurrection. It is an occasion for great rejoicing, because the longing of the heart of man finds an answer in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now we know that our lives will not end when we leave these earthly bodies, but that we shall enter upon a far more glorious life than we have known in the flesh.
I. Reason compels us to believe the truth of life beyond. This much at least is certain: Science has discovered no fact of nature that puts any obstacle in the way of believing in the soul’s eternal life. The anatomist who dissects a human body may declare that he finds there no evidence of an immortal soul. But he must also admit that he finds there nothing to explain a mother’s love, nothing to explain the genius of an artist, nothing to explain the prayers of a saint. He finds only a cast-off instrument of highly perishable material. And how the departed tenant of that cold and decaying form ever made its fingers perform feats of skill, and its eyes flash messages of love, ever made its tongue sing praises to God and its pulses leap with ecstasy in response to thoughts and feelings he cannot determine through physics or chemistry.
Personality is not an attribute of matter. You may smash a musician’s violin with a club. Yet you have not destroyed the genius of the artist who played it. He can get another instrument. You may kill my body with a bullet, but you cannot so destroy the soul that for a timer has used this body. That soul will have another instrument for use in another realm.
If nature does not prove the soul’s immortality, at least it offers no evidence to the contrary, and by many analogies it suggests the likelihood that the life of man has a higher goal than the dust of the grave.
Can it be that our Maker has no use for the finest product of his creation? Morally we are bound to object to such a conclusion. Within us and all about us we find reason to believe that God is just. Yet in this world we see many inequalities that demands a life beyond this life for their correction. Is 40 there no reward for the saintly martyr? Is there no retribution for the heartless-libertine? If there be a just God there must be a time beyond this time for moral readjustments.
II. The heart of man no less than his reason bears witness to the life beyond. There are many matters concerning which the testimony of the heart is more valid and convincing than the testimony of the mind.
I am persuaded of the beauty of sunsets: of the sweetness of music, of the worth of purity and unselfishness and love, not by the logic of reason, but by the feelings that surge through my heart.
Just why God made us we may not know, but we know that he has taught us to love Him and to love one another, and love requires more time than earth’s brief day for its fulfillment. What sort of a God would he be who would endow his creatures with tender hearts, and bind them to one another and to himself with strong and sacred ties, only to send grim death to snap these precious bonds and tear heartstrings to shreds with no promise of comfort or reunion?
III . But the crowning and all sufficient evidence of life beyond the veil is not in these intimations, but in the witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who not only taught but demonstrated in the most dramatic and conclusive way the fact that physical death cannot destroy the human soul.
Jesus was put to death in the presence of a host of witnesses. His friends were there, and His enemies. With the white light of such publicity turned full upon him, the Man of Nazareth, whose fame filled all the land, was nailed to a Cross.
When death had ended his physical anguish, his body was removed to a tomb by the order of a Roman governor. The details of his death and burial are recorded in the noblest and most reliable narratives that have come down from antiquity. Three days later his tomb was found empty, and during a period of forty days he appeared repeatedly to his disciples, who with detailed accounts of what He did and said reported the fact of their Lord’s resurrection to all the world.
“Because I live,” he said to his disciples, “ye too shall live.” And in the very hour that his enemies were plotting his death, he said to those who loved him: “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God; believe also in me; In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And. if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
With faith in Him, we journey on with singing hearts and a passion to do his will: And yonder, at the end of the lane, we see no grim portals of death, but a veil of light, and beyond the veil, and sharing his glory, we see the smiling faces of our loved ones gone ahead, in whose restored companionship we shall someday find another glorious proof of our Redeemer’s love:
“For God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Amen.
John W. Ashbury, Editor/Founder of The Tentacle, is a distinguished former newspaperman. He is cataloguing the sermons of his late father, the Rev. Maurice Dunbar Ashbury, a native of Portsmouth, Va., and a 1930 graduate and professor at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Va.
Dr. Ashbury came to Frederick, Md., as rector of All Saints Church where he ministered for some 40 years and was a beloved church and community leader.
This Easter Sermon was first preached at St. John’s, Petersburg, Va., and Old Sapony, McKenney, Va., on April 12, 1942. The message was last preached at All Saints Church, Frederick, Md., on April 13, 1952.