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January 29, 2012

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  1 Corinthians 15:51-52

When you go to a burial service, the pastor says “We commit his or her body to the ground. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust…” Then he ends by saying, “in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Our subject today is the certain hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus was born in a manger.  He was crucified in weakness, but on the third day, He was raised with power and He is coming again in glory, “The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

In another place Paul tells us that when Jesus returns, He will bring believers who have died with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14).  In other words, the souls of those who are with Jesus will accompany Him when He appears.  At that time, the dead will be raised.  The souls who are with Jesus now, will be clothed with resurrected bodies then.

When that day comes, some Christians will still be living.  These believers will bypass death altogether.  That is why Paul says, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Thessalonians 4:51).  Paul goes on to explain, “We who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (4:17-18).

Just as Jesus Himself ascended into heaven, those who are united with Him by faith in His death and resurrection will also, when He comes, share in His ascension.  What a day that will be!  It’s hard to imagine, but the Bible calls it a living hope.

I want to focus on three aspects of this vast subject…

  1. How has Christ changed the face of death for His people?
  2. What has God told us about the resurrection body?
  3. What will the day of resurrection mean for you?

How Has Christ Changed the Face of Death for His People?

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ 1 Corinthians 15:54

Here’s death, and death is the great devourer of the human race.  One-by- one, death swallows every one of us up.  One writer says about death…

“Gold cannot bribe it, wisdom cannot elude it, eloquence cannot charm it, greatness cannot awe it, power cannot resist it and tears cannot melt it.  Death is everywhere; it has made the world a field of graves.” [1]

Death is the great devourer of the human race, but here we’re being told that death itself will be swallowed up in victory.

Death, the old grim reaper, has two dreadful henchmen.  One of Death’s henchman is called Sin, “the sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56).  The other henchman is called Law, “the power of sin is the law” (15:56).

These three form a dark triumvirate—a triple tragedy.  Law is the demand that we cannot meet.  Sin is the stain that we cannot remove.  Death is the outcome that we cannot avoid.

I’ve spoken with folks, and I’m sure you have too, who don’t care much about death, “I don’t know what you’re worried about.  You live, you die.  You make the best of it.  And when you’re gone, you’re gone.”

They forget about Death’s henchmen.  If death was simply the end of life, dying would not be a great problem.  The sting of death is sin.  The problem is dying in your sins.  That’s the sting!

Why is dying in your sins a problem?  Because of the law.  God has called you to a life that you haven’t lived.  God has given you commandments that you haven’t kept.  God has work for you to do that you haven’t done.

Friends, this puts every one of us in a desperate position.  We find ourselves swallowed up in a triple tragedy: A demand that we cannot meet, a stain that we cannot remove and an outcome that we cannot avoid—Law, Sin and Death!

Now look up with me to Jesus Christ.  Who is He?  And what did He do?  He is the Son of God, and He took our flesh.  He has come to stand with us, and to act for us as our Redeemer.

What did He do?
Christ lived a perfect life that completely fulfilled the law of God Everything God calls a man or a woman to be, Christ was.  Everything God calls a man or a woman to do, Christ did.  Read through the Gospels and you will find this affirmed.  He fulfilled the law.  That deals with the first henchman…

What did He do?

Christ laid down His perfect life as a sacrifice for the sins of others

He gave His life for people like you and me.  At the cross, the sins of others were laid on Jesus.  He had no sins of His own.  He took the sins of others on Himself, and came under a terrible curse.

Christ died for the ungodly—the people who have not fulfilled the law; those who know that they have many sins.  He died for sins.  That deals with the second henchman…

What did He do?
Christ went into death itself

“Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit,” he said, and then he breathed his last (John 23:46).  The eyes of Jesus closed in death.  Death came into the experience of the Son of God.  They took His body from the cross and laid it in a tomb.

On the third day, He rose from the dead.  It was impossible for death to hold Him!  He went into death, swept through it, and came out of it.  Christ swallowed up death in victory!

Christ’s triumph will also be yours if you are in Him.  Of course, if you are in Him, you will still die.  Unless you are alive when Christ returns, you will go through death.

But if you are in Christ, death’s sting has gone for you.  You will not die in your sins; you will die in the Lord.  You will stand before God, not in the rags of your own half-hearted righteousness, but in the white robes of Jesus’ perfect righteousness.

Then, when Jesus comes in glory, you will come with Him and He will give you a resurrected body.  Death will be swallowed up in victory for you.  No wonder Paul says, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

What Has God Told Us About the Resurrection Body?

“Behold, I tell you a mystery.”  1 Corinthians 15:51

There is so much about the resurrection that we don’t know.  But God has told us some things, and what He has told us is our hope, comfort and joy.  The resurrection body is described in four words in these verses…

The Resurrection Body will be…

Imperishable

What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.”

1 Corinthians 15:42

 

Your resurrection body will never wear out, and it will never be sick.  All limitations and disabilities we experience now in the body will be gone.  The blind will see; the lame will walk and children in wheelchairs will run and dance.  Those who’ve lost limbs will raise their arms in praise…

“Isaac’s eyes will not be dim nor will Jacob limp.  Lea will not be shortsighted. Mephibosheth will not be on crutches…

 

For as the goldsmith melts down the old broken vessel, and casts it over again in a new mold… so shall the… body, which lay dissolved in the grave, come forth at the resurrection, in perfect beauty and lovely proportion.

[So] do not be discouraged by reason of a weak or sickly body – there is a day coming when you shall be entirely whole.” [2]

If you have some struggles with your body now, I tell you, you won’t be worried about this in the resurrection.

The Resurrection Body will be…

Glorious

It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.” 1 Corinthians 15:43

Christ will change our lowly bodies, so they will be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:21), not merely Jesus’ resurrection body, but His body after the ascension.  That’s what Paul saw on the road to Damascus, what John saw in the book of Revelation and what Peter saw in the Transfiguration.

“Brilliant, brilliant light… bodies so luminous, so splendid, so light-bearing, so majestic that in them the glory of God Himself is seen.” [3]

 

The Resurrection Body will be…

Powerful
It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” 1 Corinthians 15:43

 

“The body is going to have more energy, more physical capability, more stamina, more athleticism, more speed, more coordination, more durability than it ever, ever had because we’re not going to need the body less, we’re going to need it more…” [4]

The Resurrection Body will be…
Spiritual
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”
1 Corinthians 15:44

 

You say, “What in the world is a spiritual body? If it’s spiritual, how can it be a body?”  A spiritual body is a body that is completely responsive to your glorified spirit.  Alec Motyer says…

“The Christian’s present experience… is that the body militates against living the godly life. There is a downward drag in our bodily members, so that frequently our best intentions and ideals are destroyed by the inability and rebellion of the body.

How marvelous then is the promise of a body which will respond automatically to the promptings of God, and will be the perfect vehicle for the expression of the new nature.” [5]

Understand, whatever gifts God gives us in the material world are only a shadow of what is to come.

What Will the Resurrection Mean for You?

Jesus made it very clear that the resurrection will mean different things for different people.  Jesus said, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

Jesus says that there will be a resurrection of all people.  No one is excluded.  There is a resurrection to life and there is a resurrection to judgment, and these are completely different things.  The resurrection will mean different things to different people.

One of the writers I like to read is an old Scottish preacher by the name of Thomas Boston.  He had a vivid imagination and in one of his sermons, he pictured the soul and the body of a believer engaging in conversation after they are reunited in the resurrection. [6]

Imagine your resurrected body, talking to your believing soul…

Well, my friend, it’s good to be back together after that awful separation we endured.  It was all right for you—you went into the presence of Jesus.  I got stuck in a grave!

The silver cord that tied us together was cut, but now we are reunited, and we’ll never be separated again.  How different this is from the moment that we were pulled apart.

I am so glad to be your body.  Your great longing was that Christ should be in us.  You knew that Christ in us was our hope of glory.  You made me a temple of the Holy Spirit.  You have brought me into all of this joy.

I’m sorry I made life so hard for you.  I was often a burden to you; so slow, so sluggish, so reluctant.  How often you were willing; I was weak.  

 

I know I was difficult for you to master.  But you mastered me well.  You made these eyes shed tears over sin.  You led these knees to kneel before God in faith and repentance.  You used this tongue in confession and prayer and thanksgiving, and now it will be used in praises forevermore.

I’m so grateful you did not let me have my way.  Others pampered their flesh, lived for their comfort, followed the lusts of their bodies and it led to their destruction.  But here I am, risen and taking my place with you in mansions of glory.

 

And now, my soul, no more will you complain of a sick and weary body.  Now I will keep pace with you in the praises of our God forevermore.

 

Then your believing soul will say to your body something like this…

I’m so happy to be reunited with you, my friend.  You were, and are and always will be, a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Arise, my body. and come with me: Let the eyes that used to weep over sins look with joy on the face of the Redeemer.  Let the ears that heard the Word of Life come and hear the songs of heaven.  Let the feet that took me to worship with the people of God take their place in the great congregation of above. Let the tongue that confessed faith in Christ, join the choirs of heaven to sing His praises forevermore.

Listen, to me my body: Often you have been fasting, now you will be feasting.  Often you have wept, but now all tears will be wiped from your eyes.  We took part in the fight together; come, let us together receive and wear the crown.

Isn’t that a marvelous picture?  The believing soul and body, rejoicing together in complete harmony, entering as one into the presence of Jesus with joy that will never end.

Now follow me one step further…


What will it be like for the wicked at the resurrection?

“All who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out… those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”  John 5:28-29

So, it’s not just believers who will experience the soul being reunited with the body on the last day, the wicked will experience this too.  This is what is being taught by Jesus Himself.

Try to imagine that conversation with me… What would the body say as it is raised up and joined again to its unbelieving soul?

I would rather have been the body of a dog or a donkey than to be your body.  Then at least I would be allowed to rest in peace. 

But now, because of you, I am raised up to face this awful eternity.  You gave me what I wanted and led me to destruction.  It was cruel kindness—you hugged me to death.  You took me down.

 

You made me an instrument of unrighteousness.  Your pride made me boast.  Your greed made me a slave to work.  Your rage made me curse and scoff.

 

You kept me from hearing the truth that could have saved me.  Every time the truth got near, you ran off in flights of imagination, and now we’re bound together in an everlasting loss. 

Then the unbelieving soul will answer…

Don’t blame me, you wretched hypocrite!  I am now driven back into you, and I wish you had lain forever in the grave.  

It was by caring about you that I lost myself.  It was in gratifying your senses that I was ruined!  It was to please you that I turned away from opportunities to make peace with God.  It was because of you that I neglected prayer, and chose a life of comfort.  It was because of you that I denied Christ and forsook His cause in the world.

 

When my conscience was awakened, I thought about my sins—you distracted me.  You found a thousand things to do.  Wretched flesh!  It was the cords of your lust that drew me down into our destruction.

What a picture that is—the unbelieving soul and body, locked in an unending conflict of mutual blame.

Jesus says, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28).  What do you think He meant by that?  The sinner, who is outside of Christ, hates himself eternally.  The unbelieving woman is in conflict with herself forever and ever.  “There is no rest for the wicked,” says the Lord.

I would never say this, if it weren’t painfully clear from Jesus’ teachings.

Whatever is on your mind today…  

…nothing can be more important than this

Life is short and eternity is long: Think about the future for your soul and for your body at the resurrection.  The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, and a triple triumph is offered to you in Jesus Christ today, if you will lay hold of Him by faith now.

Some of you in high school are choosing not to follow Christ.  Stop and think about what you’re doing.  Think about where you’re heading.  Some of you are older.  You’ve gotten used to being in church.  Your life is filled with all that you are doing, but somehow Christ is on the outside.  If Christ is outside of you, you will be outside of Christ in eternity.

Stop turning away; stop running.  Come with me in faith and repentance to God: Confess your sins and look to Christ to save you.  Submit your life, body and soul, to Christ as your Master and Lord today.  Ask Him to lead you into a new life on earth that will end in a glorious life in heaven.

Whatever you have done, come to Him today.  However long you have waited, come to Him today.  Hear His promise: Whoever comes to me, I will never turn away.

My greatest concern is for those who hear the Gospel regularly.  Every time you push Him away, your heart is hardened.  The Savior has come, not so you would be condemned, but that you would be saved.  His arms are outstretched and I invite you to come to Him today.

 

[1] Adapted from Andrew Symington in “Precious Seed,” p. 215, Solid Ground, 2007

[2] Thomas Boston, “Human Nature in its Four-fold State,” p. 258, Sovereign Grace, 2000

[3] Donald MacLeod, “A Faith to Live By,” p. 274, Christian Focus, 2010

[4] Ibid., p. 277

[5] J. A Motyer, “After Death,” page 86, Christian Focus, 1996

[6] Thomas Boston, “Human Nature in its Four-fold State,” p. 252-254, (Much of the language is taken from Boston, but has been rewritten for today’s audience)

 

© Colin S. Smith

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