Invincible in Christ
How Believers Never Die
(excerpt from message by John Piper)
One of the most powerful moments in my seminary life was the funeral of Jaymes Morgan, my 36-year-old professor of systematic theology.
Lewis Smedes was preaching his funeral message. Morgan’s wife and four little children were there. And at one moment, Lewis Smedes, in his magisterial voice, lifted it up and cried out, “Jaymes Morgan is not dead.” And I remember, to this day, the tingling in my spine as the truth just crashed over that moment. I’ve never forgotten it. It was just one of those unforgettable moments.
So, if Jaymes Morgan is not dead at his funeral, and Jaymes Morgan was not dead a few months earlier when I was listening to him teach theology, what happened in between? What was that? Well, let’s let Jesus explain it. I’m going to take you to two passages of Scripture, where Jesus owns the paradox that I’ve just articulated. You’re not going to die, follower of Jesus — you’re not.
In John 11:25–26, Jesus is talking to Martha, the sister of the man who’s in the grave.
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.
“Believers in Jesus who keep his word have passed already out of death into life.”
Yes, we die. The text itself says, “though he die, yet shall he live.” But no, we don’t die, because it says in verse 26, “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Lazarus’s body lay dead in the grave, but Lazarus was not dead. His body was dead. He was not dead. He had not died.
Now here’s the other verse. This one is even more important. Jesus says in John 5:24,
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life
Believers in Jesus who keep his word have passed already out of death into life. They now have what’s called eternal life. Eternal life cannot, by definition, stop for a second. It cannot stop. You never lose it. It is eternal. There’s not a five-minute pause in the hospital or anywhere.
Believers do not see death. They do not taste death. Our bodies die. They lie there. They look like they’re sleeping. That’s why in the New Testament death is called sleep sometimes. It’s not because we go to sleep and don’t have any consciousness but wake up at the resurrection. That’s a very bad interpretation. It’s because they look like they’re sleeping. It’s just an analogy. “The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
When our bodies die, we do not die. We have passed from death to life — eternal life, unbroken life, unending life. And what that means is this: When we are born again, chapter 3 of John,
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)
Until you are born again by the Holy Spirit, you have no living spirit. You are flesh — mortal flesh. When you are born again, spirit is awakened. Life is given — eternal life. The Holy Spirit lives within you and imparts the life of God to you. This life is indestructible. That’s what happens.
And now we experience God. We speak with God. We hear from God by his Spirit through his word — very personally, experientially. We love God as the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This is the work of God the Spirit. We’re alive to him. We have fellowship with him. We walk with him. We know him. We taste and see that he is good. We’re alive.
“This fellowship that we enjoy with God cannot end. It cannot be broken.”
When somebody asks you if you were born, you shouldn’t show them a certificate; you should breathe in their presence — speak, touch them. Don’t look for your birth certificate as proof you’re alive. And when somebody asks you if you’ve been born again, don’t look for your certificate — breathe, speak, pray, love, touch, enjoy God in front of them. You’re alive. You know him, you enjoy him, he’s real to you. This is what never, ever ends. It just gets perfected in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when we meet Jesus face to face.
Sometimes it just hits me — older people, you know exactly what I mean — how close to that moment I am. Just a few years, and I will sin no more. I will enjoy him face to face forever. I’m sixty-five. Suppose I live to eighty. Let’s say I have fifteen years. I can remember fifteen years ago like it was yesterday. That’s not very long, and I’m probably not going to live till eighty. This fellowship that we enjoy with God cannot end. It cannot be broken. It is eternal. When our bodies die, we do not experience one millisecond of break in fellowship with God through Christ; it is in that instant perfected (Hebrews 12:23).
The life we have with Christ in God today because of the new birth will never end. We will not see the end of it. We will not taste the end of it, because there is no end of it.