The Genuine Hope of Resurrection
Many of you have reached out to us as SWO asking what you need to be thinking regarding what is happening at Bethel Church, so we wanted to take a minute to help give a biblical perspective on resurrection. If you are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about let me give you a brief background. One of the families that is heavily involved at the ministry at Bethel church experienced a horrible tragedy on Saturday when their 2-year-old daughter, Olive, passed away. I cannot imagine what they are going through and my heart breaks for them. I want to be sensitive to their situation and we all need to be praying for them as they go through such a tragic loss.
In response to this situation, the church has responded by praying for the resurrection of this little girl. Bill Johnson, the pastor at Bethel, released this video on YouTube explaining what they were doing and why. And it has caused a lot of conversation and controversy. That is why we are choosing to address it presently.
Where is God’s Sovereignty?
Please hear my heart in this. It is always difficult to discuss the sovereignty of God when faced with a hard providence like this. I am writing as the son of parents who lost their firstborn son at a young age and the husband of a woman who lost her mother as the result of domestic violence also at a young age. In both of these situations, you can see the unnaturalness of death (in this sinful world) and the loving, sovereign hand of a gracious Father. I do not want to minimize the loss that this young couple is feeling, but to generate real hope in the Resurrection.
First off, Bill appeals to John 11 (such a good place to look in this situation) and highlights the fact that we need to believe… But is this helpful right now? Are we to assume that if we have enough faith that this little girl will come back from the grave? Is the opposite true? If she doesn’t come back to life then we just didn’t have enough faith? This is a very “man-centered” theology. Let’s step back for a second. The remedy in this situation is not to generate a false hope for resuscitation to this life to occur but to look beyond the brokenness and see that this little girl is currently in the presence of Jesus and will one day be physically resurrected never to suffer or die again.
Can God raise the dead?
Bill says that Jesus performed miracles because “not everyone dies in God’s timing”. Whoa, that’s dangerous. Let’s look back to John 11 with Lazarus. Jesus knew he was sick, and knew that he died, He waited… because that was His timing. Then, when His timing was completed, He raised Lazarus from the dead. We need to break free from this man-centered thinking. This is that same way of thinking that prompted the Jewish leaders to ask Jesus about whose sin caused the man to be born blind. But how did Jesus respond to that? By saying that God made a mistake and it’s a good thing Jesus came along to clean it up? No way! He said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1). You see, God is constantly working things out together to show His glory and grace.
The bottom line is that this is not a question of, “Can God raise the dead?” Of course He can, but this is not the normative way that God works today. Because of the curse, we are all going to die, and after that we will all be raised, some to eternal life with Jesus and some to eternal punishment separated from God (Matthew 25; Daniel 12). Our hope is never that we will be raised back to an earthly life only to die again, but that we will be raised to eternal life with our Creator in Heaven.
Where is the good news?
The good news in this situation is that we believe that this baby girl is already in heaven with her Creator. We believe that these prayers have been answered, but not in the way that they were intended. She has not been raised to physical life, but she has been raised to eternal life. Praise God. Because of this we can echo the words of the apostle Paul and we can mourn and weep, but not as those who don’t have hope (1 Thessalonians 4). And we can come alongside this grieving family with the same consolation that David had when he lost his infant son when he said, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (1 Samuel 12:23).
The hope of Christianity is not to be found in this world. We will all die, but if we are in Christ we will live again. This is the hope that should push us forward in the midst of any loss and suffering in this temporal world, knowing that this, “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).