We have been sharing some of our favorite A Slice of Infinity essays written by Ravi Zacharias over the years. Thank you for sharing your own stories, testimonies, reflections, and letters. Ravi’s family and the RZIM global team have been greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support during this difficult time.
This is where I think that the Christian faith rises to its most authentic. When Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, came down with a serious illness, his sisters Mary and Martha sent for Jesus.(1) Before Jesus arrived at their home in Bethany, Lazarus died, and the sisters greeted the Lord with the half indicting words, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha added, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” (John 11:21–22).
What an odd construction of thought. She is really saying, “Since you were not here to keep this tragedy from happening, it is now our expectation that you will reverse it.” Jesus did assure her that one day Lazarus’s death would be reversed (verse 23). But that was not good enough; Martha wanted it reversed right then. In effect, she was willing to let Lazarus die twice. (I have visited a grave in Cyprus that purports to be the grave of Lazarus. Inscribed on the grave are the words, “Lazarus, Friend of Jesus, Twice Dead.”)
In a dramatic move, Jesus went to the tomb. When he saw where his friend lay, Jesus wept (see John 11:35). He wept, even though he knew that, at least for then, he was going to reverse death. Death is powerful, but the power of God to raise us indeed shouts the triumph of love over sin.
Lazarus’s resurrection portended what would happen to Jesus himself. And here is the point: if Jesus were a charlatan or had deceived himself, he could have kept his plan going in perpetuity simply by saying, “I will spiritually rise again.” Such a claim could never be contradicted or proven false. But Jesus made no such promise. He promised a bodily resurrection—a concretely demonstrable falsehood if it were not to happen. This is vitally important. Jesus made an empirically verifiable claim and then fulfilled it. This statement has profound implications. It means that these bodies of ours, which the apostle Paul describes as a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19) will some day be transformed to be like [Christ’s] “glorious body,” just as the Bible declares (Philippians 3:21). They will continue to exist and our individual identities and personalities will be translated into an eternal realm.
The transfiguration of Jesus as described in the Gospels has always fascinated me. Peter, James, and John became eyewitnesses of this staggering event. I find it extraordinary that the disciples who saw Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus immediately recognized those Old Testament heroes. Did they hear more than the voice from heaven? Did Jesus identify the ancient pair? Did God give the disciples an inner disclosure? The Evangelists do not tell us.
Peter had an especially intriguing response to the two visitors: he wanted to put up a shelter for each of them (see Matthew 17:4). A shelter from what? And why would they who lived in heaven wish to have a shelter on earth? It didn’t dawn on Peter that Moses and Elijah had no grave markers because God himself had buried Moses and left no marker (see Deuteronomy 34:5–6), while Elijah never died but had relocated directly to heaven in a flaming chariot (see 2 Kings 2:11). Neither had a burial stone. And Jesus himself would need no memorial stone.
The destiny God has for us does away with these things that we deem so important now—shelters, tombs, and gravestones. In the end, our identities will be with God, and our personalities will be sublimely consummated to the purpose designed for each one of us. Our move from earth to heaven will serve as the thread that ties our memories together with reality and will enable us to see the temporal in the light of the eternal.
Johann Sebastian Bach once said that the only purpose for music should be the glory of God and the re-creation of the human spirit. What Bach said of music will one day be seen as true of all of life. We will be “re-created,” and all the threads of our earthly life will come together for the design that we will experience in heaven. Every tribe, every language, every moment, every pain, and every sorrow will come together in the consummate pattern of God’s design.
Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
(1) The following essay is an excerpt from Ravi Zacharias’s, The Grand Weaver (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 166-167.