But not from physical death to physical life. Physical death is, after all, “the last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26). And furthermore we already have physical life.
No, the new life we are promised gives our experience as physical beings a new quality — we have peace with God. And we have an assurance that if we believe in our Savior Jesus Christ and live under his Lordship, we will not face the penalty of our sins at the judgment because he paid that penalty for those of us who believe.
For sinners, Jesus sacrificed his life on Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:21). He says of those who believe in him, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
Before we pass from this spiritual death to spiritual life, we are dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1). God is not in our thoughts except as some remote being to be feared or ignored.
After we receive the gift of eternal life, however, we are made aware by God’s Spirit that this new life has entered into us, giving us a whole new perspective on the present and the future.
Jesus called it an experience as radical as one’s being born again (John 3:3). It is like starting all over. And the very God we have resisted or tried to ignore or even hated is now seen to us as a loving Heavenly Father (Luke 11:11-13).
Jesus told a man who came to him under cover of darkness that one’s passing from spiritual death to spiritual life is as mysterious as the wind (John 3:9). When the wind blows we can hear it and feel it as it brushes our faces so our senses tell us it is real. But we can’t see where it came from or where it is going. Just so, when we put our trust in God and he visits upon us a new birth the experience is real but also mysterious to our full understanding.
I revere the memory of Elmer, a churchman whom I knew years ago. He had heard the gospel for the first time from a radio broadcast many years earlier. It was a radically new message to him. Yet, upon that first hearing, in simplicity, he accepted the message, prayed the “I’m sorry” prayer of a penitent and expressed a simple faith in Jesus as his Savior.
It was all so new and strange to him that he didn’t go near a church building for a year. He never saw the connection between faith and church — worshiping and serving along with God’s people. Then a caring pastor crossed his path and led him into the church for worship, fellowship and service to others.
Across the years since that first encounter with the Lord, Elmer explained to me, he had tried to walk in obedience to him. The result I observed was that he had become an outstanding servant in the life of the church, and the evidence that he had passed from death to life way back then was warmly apparent as long as I knew him.
The Apostle John summarizes spiritual re-birth so simply: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11,12).
Oh the joy of passing from death to life. All from, and for Jesus! It prompts the question: Am I dead or alive?