Christ Our Life
by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. *
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
This is a wonderful verse, assuring us that the Lord Jesus Christ is our very life, from its creation to its eternal consummation in glory! He created life in our bodies in the beginning, and He daily gives us "life, and breath, and all things" to keep us going, so that He is "not far from every one of us" (Acts 17:25, 27) this very moment. He now is "upholding all things by the word of his power" (Hebrews 1:3) so that even the atoms of our bodies would collapse into dust if He were to withdraw that mysterious binding energy even for a moment. How foolish it would be for the men and women whom He has created to reject or ignore the very One who is giving them life every day of their lives.
In the normal course of events, of course, in spite of Christ's sustaining power, each of us will die eventually and go back to the dust. But that is not the end. The Creator of life is also the One—in fact the only One—who can be the Redeemer of life. The wonderful truth is that He "redeemeth thy life from destruction" (Psalm 103:4) if we simply trust Him to do so. Then, one glorious future day as our text promises, we shall "appear with him in glory."
The Creator of Life
First, however, we need to recognize that Christ is, indeed, the Creator of life. There are certain wishful thinkers in our modern age who still believe that scientists will someday, somehow, be able to create life in a laboratory, and that some mysterious force called "evolution" actually created life from nonliving molecules in a primordial ocean a billion years ago. Such beliefs are concepts of science fiction, however, not real science. Life at even the simplest imaginary level—say a replicating protein molecule, if there were such a thing—would need more bits of information programmed into it than contained in all the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. No scientists have ever been able to produce life from nonlife, even with all the scientific knowledge and costly equipment available to them (though many have tried), so it is naive to assume that a group of unthinking chemicals could accidentally do it in an unknown sea, long, long ago. And it is still less possible to account for the origin of the amazing genetic code which specifies the reproduction of each kind of life, once life exists. As Sir John Maddox (once the editor of probably the world's most prestigious science magazine) has admitted: "So it is disappointing that the origin of the genetic code is still as obscure as the origin of life itself."1
All the scientific evidence shows that life cannot be produced naturalistically, so it is nothing but anti-God bigotry to deny that God could have created it. The very first chapter of the Bible affirms that "God created . . . every living creature" (Genesis 1:21). The Hebrew word (translated "creature" in this verse) is nephesh, which is often translated simply as "life." Thus we are told plainly in the written Word of God that God created every life. In particular, He created human life: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). In this key verse, nephesh is translated "soul." In both cases it is clear that God created life.
That this divine Creator of life was actually none other than Christ, the eternal Son of God in His pre-incarnate existence, is emphatically stated in Colossians 1:16. "For by him [that is by Christ—see context] were all things created . . . by him, and for him." Similarly, Ephesians 3:9 says that God "created all things by Jesus Christ," and Hebrews 1:2 says that it was God's Son "by whom also he made the worlds."
The most definitive statement of this great truth is in the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4, 14)
In view of such clear revelation, we need to recognize without question that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, the eternally existent only begotten Son of the Father, was the Creator of all life, including especially our own personal lives here on earth.
Spiritual Life and Death
But physical life is not the only life there is! Adam was made a "living soul" when God created him, but he and Eve were also created "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27). This meant not only that they would have a body and mind like that which God would assume when He would eventually become a man Himself at the human incarnation of Christ, but would also be capable of eternal fellowship and communion with their Creator.
Thus, human life is "spirit and soul and body" life (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The problem is that the image of God in man was lethally marred when Adam brought sin into the world and fellowship with his Creator was broken.
God had warned Adam that disobedience would result in death. "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," He had said (Genesis 2:17). Then, when he ate the forbidden fruit, Adam was told by God: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake. . . . for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:17, 19).
As God had warned, Adam's spiritual life died the same day he sinned and broke fellowship with his Maker. At the same time, the physical mechanisms of decay and death began to work in his body, leading finally to actual bodily death 930 years later (Genesis 5:5).
But it was not only Adam whose life died. "In Adam all die. . . ." "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12). Just as children receive their mental and physical attributes by genetic inheritance from their parents and grandparents and on back to Adam and Eve, so they receive from the same source the inherited tendency to sin, as well as the genetically innate tendency toward bodily decay and death which was the result of sin. Even such a godly and righteous man as the apostle Paul had to recognize that he was unwillingly in "captivity to the law of sin which is in my members," finally crying out, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:23-24). Mary (the mother of Jesus in His human incarnation) also, as pure and godly as she was, recognized that she needed a Savior (Luke 1:47).
But, thanks be to our God of creation, there is a Savior, One who can deliver us from these bodies of death. The same God who created us—He can deliver us!
The Redeemer of Life
And there is no one else. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), and all men are sinners, for they are all sons of Adam in both nature and practice, so "none can keep alive his own soul" (Psalm 22:29), let alone the souls of others.
Only God can create life; therefore, only God can redeem and save life. The Creator must also be the Redeemer, for there is none other with the power to accomplish our redemption.
Yet God cannot contradict Himself, or compromise His own standard of holiness. He cannot merely overlook the universal rebellion of all mankind against that standard. The infinite gulf opened by sinful man between himself and the all-righteous Creator can never be either removed or bridged by mere human effort.
God, however, cannot fail in His purpose in creation, for He is omnipotent and omniscient, by definition. He had implemented a magnificent plan to redeem fallen mankind even before Adam brought sin and death into the world. The "Lamb" of God was foreordained to be "slain from the foundation of the world," thereby serving as the perfectly holy and sinless sacrifice for sin that "taketh away the sin of the world" (Revelation 13:8; John 1:29). That blemish-free sacrificial Lamb, of course, was none other than "God . . . in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." He who "knew no sin" was made sin for us, "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21). Such an amazing transaction, so beautifully testifying of God's love for us, could never have been invented by human ingenuity, and this fact clearly indicates its origin in the heart of God Himself. The Creator—the One who made us in His own image for eternal fellowship with Himself—has Himself paid the redemption price, saving us from the just consequence of our sin, which otherwise would have been eternal separation from the God who created us.
Only God our Creator (that is, Christ) can be our Savior. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The eternal, only begotten Son of God had to become the one perfect, sinless, man—man as God had intended man to be—and thus qualified Himself to be man's substitute in the suffering of death for the sins of the whole world.
Indeed, our Creator must become our Savior, for otherwise He would fail in His purpose in creation, and this could never be! He could never consign His beloved ones to eternal separation from Himself, for that would defeat His purpose in creating them. The Creator must become the Redeemer, and the Redeemer can only be the Creator! But the redemption price is death, so the Creator of life must die! Yet He cannot die forever, for He is the eternal God. How can such things be?
The Resurrection of Life's Creator
The solution to this divine paradox seems to be that God in Christ must die "infinitely" but not "eternally." He must bear the infinite weight of all the fleshly sins of all the men of all times and places in His own sinless body, and all the mental sins of all men everywhere in His own sinless soul, and all the spiritual sins of all humanity in His own perfect Spirit, thereby suffering the infinite pains of hell itself as He was separated completely from God the Father for three awful hours on the cross. Then, after "finishing" the suffering of the infinite spiritual death of separation from the Father (John 19:30), as well as the terrible physical and mental agonies of crucifixion, He finally died physically. His body then rested for three days in the tomb while His Spirit (which, of course, could never "die" in the sense of ceasing to exist) went and proclaimed His victory over sin and death to the spirits confined in Hades (1 Peter 3:18-20).
And then came the great miracle of resurrection! Theological liberals often claim that Christ's resurrection was only a resurrection of the Spirit, but this is empty rhetoric. His Spirit never died, except in the sense of that awful time of separation from His Father, so how could it be resurrected? Even Christ's disciples thought they might be seeing a "ghost" when He first appeared to them after His crucifixion, but He quickly corrected them when He said: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39).
All four gospels describe not only the death, but also the burial of the Lord Jesus. Furthermore, the core of His saving gospel, as outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, includes belief in His burial (note verse 4). The writers all realized that it was vital for people to know that Christ's resurrection was a bodily resurrection, not just spiritual. He died physically, thus confirming that the judgment on Adam's sin was physical death as well as spiritual.
Remember that our life is a life involving body, soul, and spirit, and all three components of life are the objects of God's great salvation and preservation (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Once Christ had suffered the three hours of awful separation from His Father on the cross (note Matthew 27:46), and once He had left His body to "sleep" for three days in the grave, the debt for sin was fully paid, and He arose—body, soul, and spirit—from the dead in a mighty victory over Satan, sin, and death. As Peter proclaimed in his great sermon on the day of Pentecost: ". . . it was not possible that he should be holden of it" (Acts 2:24). That is, death could not hold Him. God could not really die, except for a moment out of eternity to pay the awful redemption price for our forgiveness and salvation. Once that price had been paid, He returned to His body resting in the tomb, took it through its grave clothes, opened the tomb, "showed himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days" (Acts 1:3), and then "was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19).
Entire volumes—many of them—have been written on the "many infallible proofs" of the resurrection and the true deity of Jesus Christ. The age-long, worldwide existence of the Christian church is itself an obvious proof, for the church would never have been born without it. Other religions are based on the teachings of their respective founders, but not Christianity.
The accounts of its beginnings in the Book of Acts, as well as the writings of the so-called church fathers of the post-apostolic period, make this fact very clear. As great as were the teachings of Christ, they resulted at the time only in His arrest and execution. It was His amazing bodily resurrection from the grave that convinced and energized the early Christians. In spite of dreadful persecutions, they persisted in preaching Christ and His salvation, for they knew beyond question that He was alive forevermore.
And just what were the infallible proofs that so convinced those first disciples? Well, the very first was the empty tomb.
The disciples all knew for certain that He had been buried in Joseph's tomb, for the women that had watched Him die on the cross also had watched as Joseph and Nicodemus laid Him in the tomb. Then, when the women returned to that same tomb very early in the morning of the first day of the week, they found the heavy stone rolled away from its entrance, the soldiers who were supposed to be guarding it nowhere to be seen, and two angels (Luke 24:4) in shining garments assuring them that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had left the tomb. When Mary Magdalene heard this, she ran back to tell Peter and John (probably also to tell Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was being cared for by John—note John 19:27).
Peter and John then also ran to the tomb and went in themselves. John's moving account is as follows:
So they ran both together: and (John) did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying: yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. (John 20:4-8)
John thus immediately realized that the linen shroud and head napkin, now collapsed inward where they had been lying, could be explained only by recognizing that the resurrected body of Jesus had simply passed through them as they lay there. So John believed!
The fact of the empty tomb is still today one of the impregnable proofs of Christ's resurrection. The various, almost desperate, suggestions by skeptics trying to refute it all fail miserably. The idea that Jesus had merely fainted from loss of blood, for example, would never explain how He, in such a terribly weakened state, could manage to move away the great stone, overpower the guards, and then convince His disciples to preach a lie concerning His supposed resurrection. In such a state, He would eventually have died anyway, and then what? Similarly, the notion that the disciples somehow stole the body not only ignores the fact that the soldiers were guarding the tomb with their lives but also completely fails to explain how all the disciples and their thousands of converts soon were preaching about His resurrection at the cost of their own imprisonment and martyrdom. Who ever heard of a group of people giving up their lives in defense of what they knew to be a gross concoction of lies? Some things just could not be!
Nor would it help to claim that the authorities had moved the body to some other grave. Soon the disciples had won thousands of converts to Christ on the strength of their preaching that He had been raised from the dead, and the authorities were doing all they could to stop this unwelcome and unsettling movement. They could easily have stopped it by simply exhibiting Christ's dead body to the populace. This they could not do, however, for the body had already ascended back to heaven!
The tomb is still empty, and no satisfying explanation exists except the resurrection. All other great religious leaders and philosophers of the past still occupy their tombs. Buddha is dead, Mohammed is dead, Confucius is dead, Karl Marx, Mao-tse-tung, Gandhi—all are dead, but Jesus Christ is alive! Years later, He appeared to His aged apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, and said: "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen" (Revelation 1:18).
The empty tomb is compelling proof of the bodily resurrection of Christ. But that is not all. The disciples were still further convinced when they actually saw, heard, touched, and ate with the risen Christ. He was "seen of them forty days" (Acts 1:3). Although we today have not seen Him as they did, their testimony is firm and persuasive.
The apostle Paul rehearsed many years later the testimonies of some of those who had seen him.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Paul did not even mention his first appearance (to Mary Magdalene) or the last (to John at Patmos), nor to the two disciples walking to Emmaus, nor to various others. Any of those whom he cited—particularly those of the five hundred who were still living—could have accused him of being wrong, especially as they were being persecuted for their faith and were under great pressure to recant. But not one of them ever did!
Some of the appearances were to individuals, some to groups, some inside closed rooms, and some on the open road or hilltop. They could not have been hallucinations, for hallucinations never occur under such varied circumstances as all these. Nor could all these witnesses have been conspirators, for they were all suffering, not profiting, from their testimonies. There is no question that they really saw the risen Christ and knew this fact with absolute certainty; just as they knew His tomb was empty. Therefore, "with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33).
Our Resurrection Life in Christ
The Lord Jesus Christ paid with His life to redeem us from death and to save us from the just penalty of our sins, and His glorification in a wonderful resurrection body assures us that God is completely satisfied, and we are fully redeemed. He therefore has promised that all we who trust in Him will also be resurrected and glorified, in a resurrection body like His. He "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Philippians 3:21). "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption" (1 Corinthians 15:42).
But this change must await the second coming of Christ, when all true believers—both dead and living—will be resurrected and glorified. "Because I live, ye shall live also," He has promised (John 14:19).
In the meantime, this present life can no longer be lived in the manner of a person dead spiritually in trespasses and sins. If we have truly come to Him in trusting faith, recognizing and confessing our status as lost sinners in need of salvation, believing in His substitutionary death for our sins and then also in His resurrection and authority as our Lord, then we have been, as it were, born again into a new life.
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:9-14)
It is evident that our daily lives, though still in our old physical bodies, should be lived in a manner befitting our new life in Christ. We have His sure promise that these old bodies will soon, at His second coming, be also resurrected and glorified as Christ's body was, predestined by God "to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). For now, we should live appropriately to such a promised glorious future.
There are many wonderful testimonies and promises in the Bible concerning our new life in Christ—far too many to rehearse them all here. But note just a few. Paul said: "Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). In fact, God even views us as "in Christ," already resurrected and with Him in glory. "Even when we were dead in sins, (God) hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:5-6).
In light of our exalted position with Christ at the right hand of God—in promise as sure as if we were already there—we should live daily while still on earth like Christ would live if He were still on earth. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3).
The very next verse following the above quote (Colossians 3:1-3) is our text verse, Colossians 3:4, and what a glorious verse it is! "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."
Not only do we live "in Christ" now, seated "positionally" with Him at the right hand of the Father, but we shall soon be with Him in person when He "shall appear" once again here on earth. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).
This is His promise, and He cannot fail to keep His Word. "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3), He has said.
Our promised resurrection life, like that of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, will never end. Concerning His "sheep" He promises: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:28).
That is, we who have trusted the Lord Jesus as our Savior have eternal life already, ever since the moment we believed. The apostle John gives us this assurance: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Note that this life is eternal! This means that no one can ever take it away for, if they could, it would not have been eternal.
When a believing Christian dies physically, his body will rest in the grave for a while. However, the spiritual component of his body goes to heaven for that same little while, where he or she will be with the Lord. "We are confident," Paul says, willing "to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). He also said in another epistle that he was willing and ready "to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" (Philippians 1:23).
This spiritual existence for a season in heaven out of the body will not, however, be a time of unconsciousness in some kind of suspended animation "soul-sleep," where none of the departed can see or communicate with one another. That kind of existence could hardly be called "better." Jesus, in his narrative about the souls of the rich man and Lazarus in Hades, certainly indicated otherwise (Luke 16:19-31). "Father Abraham" and "Lazarus" were not yet "with Christ," of course, for Christ had not yet died and been raised to take them with Him to "paradise" (Luke 23:43), but they were certainly conscious and able to converse with each other after death. We shall indeed have some kind of recognizable spiritual body during this period of life in heaven prior to Christ's return. We can hardly know less in heaven than we do here on earth. "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
But this stage of future life is only for a season. When the time comes for Christ to return to earth, to judge the nations and establish His kingdom, all the redeemed men and women in heaven will accompany Him, "at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
Then comes the great resurrection day! The spiritual bodies of the saints will, in some great miraculous transaction, be reunited with their dead physical bodies, transformed and glorified like that of their Lord.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
It is not within the scope of this presentation to deal with all the events that are prophesied in Scripture to take place in heaven and earth when Christ finally comes to complete His "redemption of the purchased possession" (Ephesians 1:14). It is enough right now to know that He could come at any moment for the first of these great events, the glorious resurrection day, and it surely behooves us to be ready at all times for His coming.
"Watch therefore," He said, "for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13). The Scriptures have given us many signs that indicate His return may be near, but there is no event that must precede His coming. If there were, we would tend to be watching for that, rather than Him!
And He wants us to be looking for Him, not for the Antichrist, or the tribulation, or anything else except Him. "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28).
In times of great trouble, such as often have occurred in many times and places, it is natural that people long for His coming to deliver them out of their troubles. But that should not be our main motive in watching for His coming. Rather, it should be our desire that His "will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," as He taught His disciples to pray long ago (Matthew 6:10). The events associated with His coming will result in the establishment of His perfect kingdom here on earth and the eventual fulfillment of all His glorious purposes in creation, and that is why we should look and long for His coming. "Henceforth there is laid up . . . a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give . . . unto all them . . . that love his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).
There will indeed be wonderful times ahead in the ages to come for all who have received His gift of eternal life. "God himself shall be with them, and . . . wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (Revelation 21:3,4).
It will be a time of "rest from their labors" (Revelation 14:13), but it will also be a time of glorious, satisfying service for the Lord in His redeemed creation. "And there shall be no more curse: . . . and his servants shall serve him" (Revelation 22:3), as they enter forever "into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21, 23).
The Lord Jesus Christ who created our life, who sustains our life, who died and rose again to redeem our life from sin and death, has done all this "for the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:2) and so "that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7).
In the meantime, as we watch expectantly for His coming, He would remind us to "occupy till I come" (Luke 19:13), being "not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11) here on earth.
And as we "look for him" and "love his appearing," it is vitally important that we "abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming" (1 John 2:28).
We need to remember, daily and lovingly, that "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall (we) also appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4).
Finally, to any who have not trusted in Him for salvation and everlasting life, the Lord has given one last invitation in His Word: "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17). That spiritual water will become "in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14) when he receives Christ by faith as his personal Savior and Lord.
- Maddox, J. 1994. The genetic code by numbers. Nature. 367 (6459): 111.
* Dr. Henry M. Morris (1918-2006) was Founder and President Emeritus of ICR.