Modern man has expended a certain amount of effort to comb the stars, searching for life, listening for messages, eager to determine whether or not we are alone in the cosmos. So far our telescopes, our satellites and our radars can detect no messages. There is no sign of life on other planets. This has led some to reach the conclusion that all the evidence points to there being nobody out there in space with which to communicate. Still others insist we must keep looking.
Semi-relatedly, there are many who have spent a certain amount of effort trying to contact the dead. They buy spirit boards, visit mediums, and engage in other sundry activities to perhaps hear a message from the other side. Failure follows failure, but still people attempt to get that one clear indication that there is someone on the other side of death who will speak to them.
Ironically, man has already received a message from beyond our world, and we have a communication from one who has risen from the dead. These messages contains within them instructions for how to live a better life, how to accomplish peace between all men, and even guide men so that they might be able to live forever in perfect joy. Sadly, this message, as profound a thing as it is, goes ignored.
This is not to say that men are unaware of the communication from beyond our existence. Rather, men have largely decided that they do not like what the message tells them and so they have chosen to either look elsewhere for guidance, or else trust their own instincts on how to live.
But the message is there. Men have had access to it for thousands of years. It is the Bible and there is no place on earth where it cannot be read, studied and applied.
God delivered this message, over a span of a thousand years and more, not through encrypted, coded messages relayed from the stars, but by speaking to chosen men who themselves relayed the message to their neighbors. As the book of Hebrews says, “God … at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets …” (Hebrews 1:1) As the message of God to man was compounded with revelation following revelation, men were able to better and better understand that God had a plan for the world.
Finally, God sent His Son into the world to complete the message. (cf. Hebrews 1:2) This man Jesus, as a sign of His identity, and as a part of the plan of God, allowed Himself to be crucified. For He Himself had prophesied that if His temple, that is, His body, were destroyed, He would raise it back up in three days. And thus it was, after three days of being dead, He rose again. Nor did He rise from the dead in secret. The Apostle Paul relates of this resurrection: “He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. ” (1 Corinthians 15:4-7)
Jesus had foreseen however, that this sign, as momentous as it was, would still not be enough for some. Specifically, He prophesied, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)
And so it is. We have this amazing message, a message from beyond our world. A witness from beyond the grave, and men, rejecting it, rejecting what God wants them to do, seek vainly for some other communication and some validation to their existence.
But the message is there, ready to impart wisdom to any who will read, understand and obey it.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.