“. . .Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Revelation 1:17-18 (NASB)
Skeptics are fond of belittling those who believe in victory over death as practitioners of wishful thinking. The skeptics declare that there is no credible evidence for life after death. They further suggest that people would be much better off striving for a happier here and now, instead of being preoccupied with “pie in the sky, by and by.” We can answer that there is indeed evidence for life beyond the grave. The historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead can hardly be dismissed as wishful thinking. In spite of eras of persecution and the rantings and writings of countless scoffers, Jesus’ death and resurrection are still proclaimed two thousand years after they happened. The Lord’s Day, the Lord’s Supper, and Christian baptism testify to the victory over death that Jesus won.
“You Jews knew that Jesus was risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven, as the prophecies did foretell was to happen.” A. D. 147, Just. Mart. Dialog cum Tryph, p. 130
“Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works–a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” A. D. 93, Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities Of The Jews, 18.3
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)
In Hebrews 11:1 we find the Divine definition of faith–the only definition of faith in the Bible. The Scriptures contain many illustrations of faith, many applications of faith. We read of those who have little faith, much faith, great faith. We read how faith comes and what faith does, but only here do we have the definition of what faith is.
Faith is firm persuasion and expectation, knowing that God will perform all that He has promised to the believer in Christ; and this persuasion is so strong and complete that it assures the believer of possession, even now, of those things for which we exercise faith. Faith gives the believer substance in the soul by the first-fruits and foretaste of things desired and requested of God in faith.
Faith does not look to God with a cold heart and clouded thoughts concerning things to come. Faith inspires confident expectation in the heart of the believer concerning the objects his hope promises. True faith imparts reality and life to the things promised in Christ. Faith does not give the believer an imaginary appearance of things promised, but real substance. Genuine faith is a grace which marries subject and object. The true believer does not ask to be allowed to visit heaven and see what is there; faith brings heaven to the believer.
Faith believes God simply because God is God. Faith believes the promises of God because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). When we believe we receive: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
Faith enables the believer to worship God, and to thank and praise Him for future blessings as though he were already in full possession of those blessings.
I cannot emphasize too strongly that faith does not ask to see, feel, taste, or touch. Faith accepts as substance things promised–things invisible, but we know they are ours because God promised them.