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TEXT: I Corinthians 15:51-58
SUBJECT: The Passion of Christ #42: Secure our Resurrection
THE CAUSE OF DEATH
Where does death come from?
Most people would have to say they don't know where death comes from, and those who say they do, for the most part, don't.
If you took a semester of science in college (which I had to take, otherwise I wouldn't have), you heard the high sounding words, The Second Law of Thermodynamics or The Law of Entropy, which says, in effect: things wear out. But of course they do. Every wave takes a grain of sand from the beach, and given enough time, the beach won't be there anymore, or-to be more exact-the beach will be farther inland than it is now. We all know this. The new car you bought in 1994 is now an old junker; the roof you put on your house in 1987 now leaks like a sieve. Things fall apart.
Including people. Our vital organs wear out with time and we die of old age. Or, our immune system wears out and we die before reaching old age. In either event, we die because it's the nature of things to wear out. To this way of thinking, death is natural.
Whatever we make of physics, this is not the Bible's view of death. The Word of God does not say death is natural, normal, or that we were designed to wear out with time. We were not-neither our souls nor our bodies were created mortal.
So, why do we die?
The word we're looking for is sin. Some people die as a direct result of a particular sin, such as the man who gets drunk on New Year's Eve, and rams his car into the embankment at ninety miles an hour.
This is true, and common enough, but it's not what I'm getting at here. Most people do not die this way, yet we all die and all because of sin.
God created Adam and Eve alive and immortal. But when they fell into sin, He imposed a punishment on them, and on all their descendants as well-including you and me. This is what Paul said so crisply in Romans 5:12,
As through one man sin entered the world and death through sin.
The death that came on the whole human race was a double-death, because we die both spiritually and physically. The Bible says our souls are still-born--dead in trespasses and sin. And, we all know, given enough time, our bodies will die too.
Where does death come from? It comes from God, but not because He loves it or doesn't care one way or the other, but because He is just, and death is the punishment sin fully deserves-
The wages of sin is death.
THE CURE OF DEATH
This means if we're going to eliminate death, we've got to take away its cause. We know some of the secondary causes of death, and some of them have been effectively countered. Penicillin, for example, saves thousands every year who would otherwise die from the flu. Even now scientists are working on new drugs that will one day (we hope) make heart disease or cancer or AIDS no more dangerous than the flu.
Whatever medical science can offer us, however, it cannot offer a cure for death for the cause of death is deeper than anything it can treat. If you want to cure the world of death, you've got to take away its sin.
And only God can do that.
Not only can He do it, but He is doing it as we speak. The death His Son in our place has taken away our guilt; the Gift of His Holy Spirit is now making us less sinful than we used to be. Our death will free our souls from all sin, and the Second Coming of Christ will finish the job by making us perfectly sinless and saintly in body and soul forever.
This brings us to Chapter 41 in our study of John Piper's book, The Passion of Jesus Christ. Our Lord died to save us-not part of us, but all of us; not so that we can be less than we used to be, but everything God made us to be! Here's the title,
Christ suffered and died to secure our resurrection from the dead.
What is the Resurrection? In a formal way, most Christians know what it is-it is the body rising from the dead, and for believers, rising to a new life and an undreamed of glory.
Most of us don't think of the Resurrection, or, at least, we don't give it the thought it deserves. Our dreams of heaven (if any) are all about dying and going to Christ. This is a wonderful thing in itself-far better-than the life we now have. But 'better' is not the same as 'best'. There is one thing better than dying and going to heaven. That one thing is the resurrection.
And that's just what our Lord died to obtain for us! Not to get us out of our bodies and out of the world, but to get us the bodies we ought to have in the world as it ought to be.
When will the Resurrection occur? The Bible says it takes place at the end of the world. Some have reinterpreted the words to put them in the past (!), but I see no reason to do that. Paul says we are saved in hope, and the hope we're hoping for is still a hope-and that means it's still in the future.
What will happen at the Resurrection? Christian bodies will be raised from the dead, reunited with the souls of the blessed, and live forever with the Lord in perfect happiness.
I want to emphasize the words, the whole person, because they are often ignored, and sometimes denied, by people who think they're being 'spiritual'.
Some Christians think spirits are good and bodies are bad; or perhaps immaterial things are better than material things. While this may sound deeply devout to some ears, what it really is is the old heresy called Gnosticism!
The Gnostics believed spirits are good and bodies are bad, and thus, salvation consists of getting out of the body and into the world of spirits. Both the Bible and the Church rightly condemned the Gnostics, for the moment you say, 'material things are bad', you run into a spider web of heresies-and I mean big ones!
In Adam, both our bodies and our souls have fallen away from God, are polluted by sin, and are subject to damnation. Our Lord said, Fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Why should both be punished? Because both are guilty.
But in Christ both body and soul are saved. We've heard a million sermons on the salvation of the soul; what we don't hear so often is the salvation of the body! This is precisely what the Resurrection is!
Paul says we're getting spiritual bodies at the Resurrection, and some take this to mean our bodies won't be bodies at all, but spirits. This, however, goes right back to the Gnostic heresy, and gets us into all kinds of trouble. It is better to take 'spiritual bodies' for 'bodies fully possessed and under the control of the Holy Spirit'. And so, it means, bodies and souls entirely devoted to God.
Knowing how hard it is to get our minds around the staggering thought of Resurrection, Paul helps us to get a feel for it by comparing it to something else.
What you sow is not made alive unless it dies.So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
The comparison is between a seed and a full-grown plant. The two are obviously connected: watermelon seeds don't spring up as tomato vines. The seed is not impressive for size or taste or nutritional value. But if the seed is buried (like a dead body), it's going to turn into something far bigger and better than itself. It's going to grow into a watermelon vine, and before you know it, you're going to have watermelons coming out of your ears!
In the same way, our bodies, at the moment, are not very impressive (and I don't care how good looking you are!). The best human body is mortal, weak, and corruptible. The healthiest man cannot hold back the effects of aging for long. His body is dying every day, and after it dies, it will return to the dust from which it was taken. No matter how many push ups he does!
At the Resurrection, however, his body will become immortal, incorruptible, and powerful. By 'powerful' Paul means it can do things it cannot do now. What things may be hinted at by the miracles our Savior performed (Walking on water, perhaps, or passing through locked doors without opening them-- but I'm speculating here).
More to the point, the bodies of the Resurrection will be immortal and incorruptible. They do not wear out with use, and even better, they cannot die!
THE RESURRECTED MAN
A number of people have come back from the dead. Lazarus was one of them, and others are named in the Bible as well. Since the Bible is not a complete record of God's Work, I suspect a great many others have risen of whom we know nothing at all. But as wonderful as these 'resurrections' were, they fell short of the real thing.
The Resurrection is not coming back to the life you once lived, but entering a new life. People often say they believe in life after death, but when you pin them down, it's usually less than the life we now have! The Resurrection is the opposite! It is more than the life we now have. It is the life Christ had on the third day-and still has. In short, it is the life of heaven.on earth.
What Jesus Christ got two thousand years ago, every believer will get on the Last Day, and that's a Resurrected Body!
Most of us would be happy with a far lesser body-a healthier body, a thinner body, a younger body would satisfy us, but this is not what we're in for. We're getting Resurrection Bodies. Why do we need them? It's very simple: Because we're going to live in a Resurrected world, and it's the kind of body that belongs there!
Remember, when Man fell into sin, God put him under the judgment, but not only him. He put the whole world under judgment-thorns and thistles Adam would have to deal with all his life. And Paul says the whole creation groans because of its bondage. When the curse is removed from the world, we'll need bodies to live in it. This is what our Lord has for us!
THE SUFFERING AND DEATH
This body will come to us in the future because of what Christ did for us in the past. At the cross, He took away the very thing that ruined our bodies in the first place. He took away our sin. And, in time, every effect of sin will be taken away with it.
Thus, even though you can separate, let's say the forgiveness of your sins from the Resurrection, they're both parts of the same work, the work Christ did for you on the cross.
If our Lord has already done this for us, why doesn't He give us Resurrection bodies now? Why do we have to live in mortal bodies, bodies sprinting to the grave?
The answer may not satisfy you, but it's the only one I can give you: the will of God. The Lord knows why we have to wait, and while we're waiting we have to trust His wisdom and love.
In the meantime, let's meditate on our future. We don't know what the near future holds for us, but the distant future could not be happier or more sure.
This mortal must put on immortality.
Let's wear out our bodies in the service of God. They're going to wear out one way of the other. So why not wear them out in the best of ways?
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