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Can the dead hear God?

One would have to presume that as God is omnipresent and omniscient, barriers between the living and the dead do not exist in the same way as they do for those confined to the dimension of linear time.

Jesus Christ lived out a narrative that defied mortality because the narrative is immortal. God speaks directly from his own mouth from who he is, not from what he knows. Jesus was not expounding a knowledge of God as something he acquired by learning from his peers, he was living in eternity with his Creator.

The time and space of his hearers was like a bubble he had to pass through in order to give eternity some flesh, to give our unconscious minds a tangible form through which to see another dimension to life other than the material one; a material world of what can be grabbed and possessed in a short breath. Communication from one dimension to another takes place in familiar territory – terra firma, but those who first heard the voice that spoke of eternal life with such over brimming confidence became fearful, insecure. As such, even when Jesus spoke to the dead, they did not believe, choosing instead to rationalise it as a demonic manifestation.

It is recorded that Jesus called Moses and Elijah into his presence, giving the few disciples with him a practical demonstration of his authority over the dead. The way Peter responded indicates shock. But how do you present something shocking to a mind that can only perceive time and space in terms of what is visible?

Our knowledge has moved on somewhat and we can see a lot more about the nature of the visible world, which entails an understanding of time and space that speaks of a parallel universe where time is of another shape or form, technically indicating the existence of another dimension where conceivably other life forms could exist. Our understanding today would make it very difficult for us to communicate to Jesus’ disciples even at a very basic level. “Well, here it is John, the pod that enables you to see the person you are talking to as large as life.” Fear would grip John as sound and video from a paper thin display bombarded his unprepared mind. While being no different from us in nature, attitude, needs and desires, his fear would nevertheless put him on the defensive. Immediately he would recognise a superior life form and, unable to understand how or why, he would be terrified to see that we had squashed a person into a sheet of living rock. How the conversation goes from there depends on how adept you are at sign language but I rather suspect you’ll get a good beating and the ipod smashed into pieces before you can say ‘It’s a gift for you John’. John perceived reality and shaped it from what was visible within his narrow spectrum of knowledge. Talking to John about the ipod would be like talking to a dead man.

“I have much to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to God is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” Jn 15:12-15

Now, if I was listening to this 2000 years ago I would first of all think this guy suffers from delusions of grandeur. Then I would discuss with my friends a way to correct his thinking and present him with a more sensible view of the world and of God. I would remind him that a more normal sense and view of the world was in order, since for thousands of years we have been accustomed to no other reality other than what we now know and have known for centuries. Thank you and goodbye.

“The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” Jn 14:17

While avoiding the obvious mistake of connecting Jesus Christ with aliens from outer space I want you to see there is a connection between eternity and the present, like between life and death, where life is a metaphor for eternity and death a metaphor for the present. The mediator or agent for bridging the two is a form of communication that speaks to us as if from the ‘other side’, which restrained by ‘normal’ perceptions of reality we would label as from ‘the dead’. Jesus expounds on this to give us a clue how time is compressed into one eternal dimension thus and how his position in eternity stretches the relevance of his word across the spectrum of time we call ‘beginning’ and ‘end’.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Jn 5:25-25

To answer the question “Can the dead hear God?” or even an inversion ‘Can God hear the dead?’ depends whether you want to grasp the reality of eternity or not. Certainly the people to whom Jesus was talking just couldn’t get a handle on it and even those who considered to be his close companions struggled to apprehend the direct way in which he connected himself to their eternity. In this exchange with Martha, the brother of Lazarus, Jesus assures her that her dead brother will rise again but Martha understood this from within her perception of time and space thus.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, (Hey, Mary, you just don’t get it do you) “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Jn 11:23-25

Martha of course said yes and then proceeded to make a statement that avoided affirming her belief in eternal life. Such was the stranglehold of the Old Testament view of God upon the psyche and perceptions held by the generation that Eternity visited that their minds naturally resisted accepting the offer of life as a gift. It was all too much them; their minds had been trained to think in a linear fashion.

What Jesus did next was to give them all a practical demonstration of his ability to talk directly to the dead. It came naturally to him. It was not a miracle. He was operating in a dimension that didn’t seem unusual or out of place to him but to some of those around him he was horrific.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there for four days.”

Now, there is one oversight in this story, if it were made up, dead men can’t hear. And if he wasn’t dead why include details about his bad odour? If you are going to embark on mythologizing an individual make sure your account is at least credible. To include detail that would be spotted immediately as fraudulent, even by a halfwit, is to defeat the purpose of story telling and moreover completely wrecks any chance of myth making.

Credibly Jesus asked the stone to be rolled to one side. Credibly Jesus shouted ‘Come out!’ Credibly the dead man heard Jesus because God is eternal. Dead men can hear God because God is not bound by time and space like we are. Jesus is Man and God who talks to the dead and the living consecutively. Get it?

Here’s a prayer you can pray:
“Dear God, I know that Jesus Christ came to give us life. The world cannot give what Jesus can give. Help me God to believe him. Help me even in my unbelief. I want to know the truth and to know you like he did. Thank you. Amen.”

Mark Golding
Brought up in public house environment and sent to a traditional boarding school. Spent my early years in bedsits in London where I mixed with some rather unsavoury people. Became a drug addict. Experienced a new life and transformation of character surrendering myself to Christ. But never could reconcile the narrative of the Bible with the narrative of Jesus Christ entombed within.
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