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TEXT: Philippians 3:20-21

SUBJECT: Life After Death #2

A couple of weeks ago we began to study Life After Death. For most Christians, this means 'going to heaven when they die'. Do believers go to heaven when they die? Of course the do: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

Which-Paul goes on to say-is far better than the life we now have. But if this life is far better than the one we now have, it is also far worse than the life we will have. What could be better than being absent from the body and present with the Lord? Only one thing: the Resurrection.

THE MEANING

For two thousand years Christians have stood up on Sunday morning and said I believe.in the resurrection of the body, by which many of them mean, 'I believe that, when I die, I will become an angel or a spirit of some kind, and live forever on a cloud'. This is not what the Creed affirms, and, and in fact, it is the kind of thinking it was meant to correct!

Resurrection means 'a rising from the dead'. And what 'rises from the dead' is the body. When you think of these bodies raised from the dead, don't think of zombies or skeletons or Frankenstein Monsters. Think of Christ raised from the dead. And with this picture in mind, you get some idea of what the Resurrection is--

Our lowly body will be transformed that it may be conformed to His glorious body.

LOWLY

Underline two words: lowly and glorious.

At the moment-Paul says-our bodies are lowly. This does not mean they're nothing-for they are something-and it does not mean they don't matter to God-because they do. What it means is: our bodies are subject to death and decay. In another place, he says they are mortal and corruptible.

'Mortal' means they die. We can see this mortality in sick people, and as we get older, we can feel it in ourselves. Things that used to stand up now hang down. This is part of the Curse. Adam was made from the dust of the ground. So long as he obeyed God, he would stay above it, but if he sinned, he would return to it. This is what aging looks like: our bodies don't sag up-toward heaven-they sag down-toward the earth.

'Corruptible' means they decay. In a word, it means you wear out. Some wear out more quickly than others, but no one in this world is immune to the eroding effects of time.

No matter how handsome or pretty or fit or healthy your body is it is also a lowly body. If you don't believe me now, it won't be long until you do.

GLORIOUS

The other word is glorious. Some day our lowly bodies will be made glorious. What does this mean?

In the first place, it means not lowly, and this means immortal and incorruptible. When we are raised from the dead, our bodies will no longer be subject to death or decay-or to any of the bad things that go with them. A loud voice from heaven listed some of the bad things that we'll be rid of-

And God Himself will wipe away ever tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

'No tears' points both ways. It means all of our regrets will be taken away. We won't feel guilty about the evil we have done or the good we have left undone. Or the harm they have caused other people or the dishonor they have done to God. No regrets! It also means no fear of the future. The Resurrected cannot sin, and this means we cannot dishonor the Lord, or hurt others, get sick or die. We cannot imagine what it would be to live without regrets and without fears. But one day, by God's grace, We will

All lowly things are passed away when our lowly body is made glorious.

This is not the whole meaning of glorious. There is also a positive side to it. In the Resurrection, our bodies will be fitted for heaven. Right now, they're not. This is what Paul means when he says-

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

Not that our bodies don't go to heaven, because they do. But our bodies, as they are now, cannot go to heaven! Why not? For the same reason they cannot live underwater (as the fish do). Because they're not made to live in heaven.

Yet!

In the Resurrection, they will be. Whatever else this means, it must mean: They will be fitted to live forever with God-and to enjoy every minute of it.

When God reveals Himself to a man, the experience is not altogether pleasant. This is especially true of bad men. Before the Fall Adam enjoyed the Lord's company, but when he ate the forbidden fruit, he hid from God and tried to cover up his nakedness with a fig leaf! Of course bad men feel this way. In the Book of Revelation, they are so appalled at His sight they cry-

To the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne'.

If bad men are uneasy in the Presence of God, good men are too. Moses was a man's man. As a young man, he led the armies of Pharaoh in war. Later, he kept sheep in a wilderness full of hungry and dangerous predators-both animal and human. Then he stared down a king and stood up to a people who sometimes wanted to stone him. But this brave man was not always brave. One thing scared him to death: God. When the Lord descended on Mount Sinai, Moses said-

I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.

He trembled, it seems, at His Majesty. The priests did the same when the glory of God filled the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple-

The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.

If God's Exaltedness frightens good men, His holiness is downright terrifying.

Isaiah was a holy man, but seeing True Holiness, he could only cry out-

Woe is me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!

Even when the Lord cloaked His majesty, He had the same effect on good men. Peter was one of them. After the miraculous draught of fish, he fell down before Christ, and begged-

Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

If we are going to enjoy the Presence of God forever, our capacities have to be greatly enlarged. In the Resurrection, they will be.

HIS BODY

What does an immortal, incorruptible body fitted for heaven look like? It looks like Christ. Before the Resurrection He was an average looking Man-if not below average. The prophet said-

He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

His body was then subject to the same weaknesses that yours and mine are. He knew weariness and hunger, thirst, pain and all the rest. These things dogged Him His whole life.

Except for one brief moment. One day He, Peter, James, and John hiked up a mountain where they could be alone. When they got to the summit, something happened to the Lord-something His friends had not seen before-

He was transfigured before them. His face shone as the sun and His clothing was whiter than any fuller could whiten them.

This was the Life of Heaven surging through Him, if only for a moment. The disciples, who knew the Lord well, were awe-struck at the change that came over Him. They had seen incredible things before, but never had they seen heaven. Until they saw it shining from His face and body.

This is the Life of the Resurrection, what the Lord entered a few weeks later, and what will one day be ours!

THE IMPORTANCE

The importance of the Resurrection cannot be overstated. It was the central message of the Old Testament. Standing before Herod Agrippa, Paul summed up the Law and prophets-

And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers, to this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible to you that God should raise the dead?

Read one way, the Old Testament has many promises: a son for Abraham, a land for his people, a king to rule justly, a return from exile, a new temple, a new covenant, new hearts-promises galore. But taken together they all promise the same thing: Resurrection!

If Resurrection is the message of the Law and Prophets, it is also the heart of the Gospel. If you go through the evangelistic sermons in the Book of Acts, you'll be struck by two things: (1) how little is said about the death of Christ, and (2) how much is said about His Resurrection. Paul's ministry, in particular, is summed up in a word:

He preached Jesus and the Resurrection.

This was no mere tactic. He preached the Resurrection to the Pharisees who believed in it, to the Gentiles who laughed at it, and to the Sadducees who wanted to kill him for it.

The Early Church attached the same importance to the Resurrection as Paul did. Its two most important Confessions are the Apostles' Creed (AD 100 or earlier) and the Nicene Creed (AD 325).

I believe.in the resurrection of the body.

I look.for the resurrection of the dead.

The Creeds are short-the Apostles' has fewer than a hundred words, and the Nicene is a little more than twice as long. Thus, they leave out a good deal of important theology. Neither, for example, includes the Inspiration of the Bible or Justification by Faith, but they both spell out-in the clearest way possible-our belief in the Resurrection!

Why? Because they knew its supreme importance. Many true things can be neglected, and some can be denied. But not the Resurrection. Overlook it or say it isn't so, and you've got no salvation.

CHRIST THE FIRSTFRUITS

Why? Because there is either one Resurrection-or none. If there is no Resurrection, Christ is dead. But, if Christ is risen, there is a Resurrection, and everyone who believes in Him has a part in it. In I Corinthians 15, Paul calls Christ's Resurrection-

The firstfruits of those who sleep.

This is a term every farmer recognized, but especially Jewish farmers. Crops don't ripen all at once. If you've got tomatoes in your garden, some of them will be red and soft when others are still green and hard. The ones that ripen early are the firstfruits.

This had a special significance to the Jewish farmer because the firstfruits belonged to God. They were to be picked or cut and given to the Lord as a kind of 'thank you' for the harvest that would surely follow.

So, how does this apply to the Resurrection? Jesus Christ is the first one to rise from the dead and enter the life of heaven, but He won't be the last. In fact, His early ripening (you might say) promises a bumper crop to follow!

That crop is us, all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! What happened to Christ on that Sunday morning way back when, will also happen to us!

THE TIMING

When will it happen to us? Not when we die, but when the Lord comes again. On most End-Time matters preachers should be less dogmatic than they are. But on this one we can be confident-

For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

For Christ, the Resurrection is past; but for His people, it is still future. This would be worrisome if the Lord were not Sovereign. But He is Sovereign and thus: the future Resurrection of His people is as sure as the past Resurrection of His Son!

Because I live, you shall live also!

THE INKLING

For the believer-in-Christ the Resurrection is certain. We have God's Word on it, and more than His Word. We also have His Spirit. God raised our Lord from the dead through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is in us too. Making our Resurrection as sure as His.

This Spirit-Paul says-serves as a kind of earnest or a security deposit. For what? For the fullness of our salvation, which is another way of saying the Resurrection!

THE OBJECTIONS

Before we finish, I ought to respond to the two most common objections to the Resurrection.

The first is commonly heard from unbelievers: the Resurrection is simply impossible. Suppose you fall into the ocean and drown. A fish eats your body, I catch the fish, and eat it-part of which is you. Then I die, and I'm buried. My body decomposes and becomes fertilizer for an apple tree. Another Christian east an apple from the tree, which is also a part of me, and the fish I ate and the man he ate. Multiply this by billions of people living over many generations and, you see, raising the dead is harder than unscrambling an egg.

The second objection is often heard from believers. They say the Resurrection is unnecessary. If we can live with the Lord in our spirits (which we can) why should He raise our bodies?

Both challenges are decisively answered in first chapter in the Bible. What does Genesis One teach us about God and material things? It teaches us (1) they obey Him, and (2) they are good. The Lord did not separate the land and sea the way the Dutch did-by building dykes. He simply said, Let the dry land be separated from the waters below-and they were. At the end of the Creation Week, He looked over all He had made and declared it, Very good.

The Resurrection is possible because God is Almighty. The Resurrection is necessary because He loves us-body and soul.

CLOSING

Live in hope, for death is not the end-not of your soul and not of your body. God loves them both and He will save them both.

Don't fear death. Respect it because it is real and a real enemy. But don't live as though you have no hope. You have nothing but hope.

Don't fear sickness or age. Both will break your body, but the Resurrection will put it back together, forever, and better than ever.

Tell others about the Life they can have-now in part, and some day, in full. Don't make the Gospel into a list of does and (mostly) don'ts. Don't live as though the Gospel has drained the life out of you. Tell people what the Gospel is: Life from God and offered to all. And what it does: It brings us to life.

Pray for the Resurrection. It will come whether you pray for it or not, but of all the prayers God will answer, none will sweeter than this one. Pray, Thy Kingdom Come.

Look for the Second Coming, but don't stand like the Apostles gawking up into the sky, or others who pore over the Bible trying to find the day or hour which no man knows. But look for the Second Coming in the way our Lord told you do-by doing the Master's will, so you'll be ready whenever He comes.

Finally my brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. For you know your work is not in vain in the Lord.

Surely I come quickly. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

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