Lord of the Living and the Dead

From The Resurrection of Christ (1946)

The Christian gospel was not first addressed to people who had no belief in a future state. Greeks were familiar with a philosophical doctrine of immortality. Jews believed in the resurrection of the body. Sometimes this was thought of as the resuscitation of human relics and a reconstruction of human existence after the fashion of the present life. Sometimes this was thought of as a transformation of dead bodies not an utterly new state of glory and spiritualization. But nowhere, either for Greek or for Jew, was belief in the future life vivid, immediate, central, and triumphant. Nowhere did the belief combine a conscious nearness of the world to come with a moral exalting of life in this present world.

This is what Christianity brought. Its doctrine was not a flight to another world that left this world behind, nor was it a longing for another world that would come when the history of this world was ended. It was the very near certainty of another world, with which the Christians were already linked and into which the life of this world would be raised up.

For the Christian belief about the future state centered in Jesus Christ. He had been seen and loved in this life; and he had been seen and loved also as one who had conquered death.. He had become vividly known as the Lord both of the living and the dead; and the conviction of his people concerning the future life rested upon their conviction about him in whose life they shared. It was an intense and triumphant conviction that where he was there also would his people be. It found utterance in ringing tones, “He has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” “Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the living one; I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.”

Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. A gifted theologian and spiritual writer, he advocated for the cause of church unity throughout his ministry. His book The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a work of Biblical theology written during his early ministry as a professor of theology.


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