Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].
If life exists on other planets, did Jesus die and resurrect for them, too?
What a great Easter question!
Revelation 13:6 describes Jesus as the "Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.”
Could it be that Jesus was crucified and then resurrected on a cosmic cross before God spoke the universe into existence?
“World” is the English translation for the Greek word “cosmos." Jesus was the Lamb slain before the creation of the cosmos. Sometimes, "cosmos" is translated as "universe."
Notice that He was slain "from" or "before" the creation of the cosmos.
The idea that our universe is populated with others is not hard to imagine any more. Our universe is “carbon based” and life-friendly. It stands to reason that life on earth is not the only life in the universe. Scientists have already found over 400 planets orbiting distant stars. Approximately 25 of them are in the bio-life zones surrounding stars that could sustain life as we know it. A billion trillion more stars exist that have yet to be observed. The number of planets in our universe must be mind-boggling.
Personally, I have a hard time imagining that the only life in the universe is on our little planet Earth. After all, our sun us just a second-rate star tucked between two spiral arms in the Milky Way galaxy. We are not even in a spiral arm! Our earth is cosmically insignificant!
Creating billions and billions of galaxies with trillions and trillions of planets seems like a tremendous waste of God’s time and energy if He created only one planet to harbor life.
When Henry Ford began mass producing cars in giant factories, thousands of cars emerged from the warehouse doors. It's inconceivable that Ford would build massive factories and then make one automobile and no more! In the same way, it is hard to conceive that God would make a massive universe and produce only one car — I mean only one planet with living humans. I believe that God loves people and He enjoys having many of them posited throughout His universe.
Jesus may have made an oblique reference to life on other planets in John 10:16. He told His disciples: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” Most probably Jesus was referring to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, some people have put this verse into a cosmic perspective and wondered if Jesus were talking about sheep on other planets.
Because of the distance between stars, the likelihood of actually visiting another planet to verify the existence of life there is miniscule. Wormholes are highly unlikely to work (if they even exist). The instantaneous connectivity of Quantum Mechanics may one day prove otherwise -- but probably not.
Then why bother to speculate on such questions?
Because such imaginings stretch our insight into the "height, depth and width" (Ephesians 3:14-19) of an all powerful, all-knowing and always-present God!
Again, why bother to speculate on such questions?
Because if alien life does exist throughout our universe, what might be God’s relationship with them?
In his Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), C.S. Lewis ponders the existence of life on other planets and asks the same question.
Out of the Silent Planet is set mostly on Mars. Dr. Elwin Ransom voyages to Mars and discovers that earth is exiled from the rest of the solar system due to its fallen nature. Earth's Oyarsa, or the angel whose assignment was to protect earth, has rebelled against God and fallen into sin. Instead of protecting, he has seduced mankind into sin. People on the other planets know that something horrible has happened on earth and that the people of earth are now bent. No more information is know about the fallen planet.
Intriguingly, four races live harmoniously on the planet Mars where sin has never occurred. Dr. Ransom observes that Satan is trying mightily to bring sin into any or all of the four races?
Perelandra is set mostly on Venus. Dr. Ransom journeys to an unspoiled, sinless planet in which the first humans have just emerged. Only two people live on Venus. Satan is utilizing every trick in his Satanic tempt book to seduce them into sinning.
Perhaps there are aliens in our universe where sin has not occurred. They would not need a Savior. But, it is more likely, I suppose, for aliens to be just as sinful as we are. They would certainly need a Savior.
(For your information, That Hideous Strength is set on Earth. A scientific think tank is secretly in touch with demonic entities who seek to ravage and lay waste to Earth.)
Jesus being crucified and resurrected "before the creation of the cosmos" (Hebrews 11:3) may mean that Jesus died on some sort of cosmic cross with an accompanying cosmic resurrection.
He is free to come in a human or alien form, incarnated in a physical body, die an actual physical death and be fully, physically resurrected to pay the penalty for sin on any planet that needs it.
As far as Earth is concerned, Jesus was crucified and resurrected before the creation of the universe. Our fallen earth is saturated with sin and needs a Savior. So, according to John 1:14, the cosmic Christ (the "logos," or the "unrevealed wisdom of God" in John 1:1) put on a body and appeared on earth in human form. Then, He was crucified on Good Friday, 30 A.D., and resurrected by the Father and the Spirit three days later on Easter Sunday morning.
Well, Tom, thanks for the great question. The speculation is fun. The possibility is mind-shattering.
God bless you. Have a happy Easter.
Dr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: April 3, 2012