R. L. WYSER
I Corinthians 15:20-24
We all know that a day is a twenty-four hour period of light and dark, the time it takes the Earth to spin completely around once. Yet, most of us think in terms of a day being just the period of light, about twelve hours, when we are active. We say our day begins when we roll out of bed and ends when we turn off the news and go to bed. Our lives pretty much revolve around those active periods of light which we call days. They are the days of our life. We label our days according to our activity. In the old days, the days of Auld Lang Syne, it was wash day or some other kind of work day. Today it might be a day at the zoo, a shopping day or a day at the playground. Days are also noted by weather: a rainy day, a windy day, a clear day, a beautiful sunny day. Days are also totaled up in terms of accomplishment. We have all had what we considered a wasted day when we didn’t seem to get much of anything done; but also we’ve had our days when we fell like a log into bed with a feeling of accomplishment. Days are also measured by the excitement that they generate or fail to generate. We have all had dull, boring days when nothing much seemed to happen and the hours dragged by. We’ve also had the festive days, birthdays and holidays, which flew by all to swiftly. In short, we’ve had good days and bad days, much preferring the good days. That is why we always wish one another a good day. Then there are the momentous days of history, a day in October of 1929, the day the stock market crashed, December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy. Jim Bishop, the author, capitalized on some of the history changing days in the series of books, The Day Christ Was Born, The Day Christ Died, The Day Lincoln Was Shot, The Day Kennedy Was Shot.
For Christians, the day of days is Easter. It is not Christmas, as wonderful a day as that is. It is not the day Christ died, as significant a day as Good Friday is. It is Easter, the day of resurrection, that is the pivotal day in the life of a Christian believer. All other days fall after that. Early Christians abandoned the Sabbath, or worship on the seventh day, in favor of Sunday, the first day of the week, also called the Lord’s Day, commemorating His resurrection. All considered Easter a fundamental fact of faith. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain.” (I Corinthians 15:17) Easter to the early Christians was known as the Great Day and the Day of Days. It was the day that changed all of the other days. It was the day new hope dawned in their hearts, the day evil was conquered, the day the sting of death was taken away forever. It was the day that the Lord made for them and they rejoiced and were glad in it. Easter has been doing that for centuries and it is still doing it today. Easter is the great day in the history of the world. We, today, examine as of old, that this is the day that the Lord has made. We, with the saints before us, are glad and rejoice in it. Paul tells us what this day of days means. He gives us three dimensions of the Easter message.
THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST (In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.)
First, let us be sure that we understand what the word resurrection means as we read it in our Bibles. It is not to be confused with immortality which is a much more general and less controversial term. The New Testament does not settle for the immortality of our Lord, that His soul lived on after death, and that His name will always be inscribed in memory as that of a mighty prophet and teacher. The resurrection applies specifically to His coming up out of the tomb bodily, thus leaving the tomb empty, except for His grave clothes. That was His body, transformed with strange and wonderful powers, apparently new. Still, it was the body of Christ. He could ask Thomas to touch His wound prints. He could eat the fish that Peter had caught. His voice vibrated in the ears, not only for a tantalizing moment, but for days that lengthened into weeks as He instructed them in the scriptures. To talk about the resurrection of our Lord as if it simply meant that His soul lived on, is to use language inaccurately. His empty tomb and His frequent unmistakable appearances cleared up completely any doubts the disciples had entertained about His earlier predictions that He would be crucified and would rise from the dead. On that first Easter day, they knew that they had seen the Lord, not His ghost but Himself.
So much for definition. Let’s go on to declaration. The introduction of Paul’s letter to Rome tells us that Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. In the Greek, this word power may often be translated as authority. His resurrection convinced His disciples of His authority. If His body had remained in the tomb, they might still have believed in His immortality, but little more so than with any prophet or teacher of their past history. They might have continued to believe in the coming kingdom of God which earlier prophets had been foretelling from the remotest times, but they would have had no real assurance that it was the King Himself who had visited and redeemed His people. “We thought that it was He that should have redeemed Israel.” (Luke 24:21) Another prophet, another postponement. A prophet indeed, but no redeemer. So the two Emmaus travelers feel on the afternoon of the first Easter day. But Jesus first convinces them from scripture that the Messiah King had to suffer and die. Then as He breaks bread with them at the supper table, He shows them the unique outcome of that predicted death. He is not merely another seer; He is the only Savior. He is not a martyr, but their Master. When He spoke from the cross, “It is finished,” He was not announcing defeat, but triumph.
Some of us, I’m afraid, think of God as we think of a minister, as a person to be respected but not taken seriously, a rather pathetic symbol of the way things might be if life were not so strenuous. At times we ministers contribute to such an impression by representing God in an apologetic fashion. In our sermons we say, What a wonderful world this would be if everyone were a Christian. How much better things would be if Christians would give God a little more time, a little more money, a little more attention.” Such plaintive, pessimistic pleadings with people to do God a few favors indicates that we ministers often raise the sort of questions that recently came from a teenage girl during a class on religion, “Are we supposed to believe that Christianity is the way God wishes things were or the way they are? Was Jesus only an idealist who ran into the brutal facts of life and showed us once again how impractical it is to be a saint or even a non-conformist?” If He had remained in the tomb we might still wonder. But since He did not, since His body did not remain there after Easter morning, since He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, we can accept Christianity as the realism of God.
You recall an incident early in our Lord’s ministry. Facing a man who was paralyzed, He said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then His critics whispered one to another. “Words are cheap,” they sneered. Reading their thoughts, Jesus answered, “That you may know that the Son of Man has the authority on Earth to forgive sin, rise, take up your bed and walk.” That was no stroke of luck, no feat of magic. That miracle showed the kind of authority He then had and He still has. Or like when He said to the sea in the midst of the storm, “Peace be still.” Whether or not we recognize His divine authority makes all of the difference in the way we respond to the various words that He speaks to us through the New Testament, whether words of comfort or of command. Do His words merely tell us the way that God wishes things were? No, they announce to us how things are. Christianity is God’s realism.
Do you accept Jesus Christ as your final authority in this world and in the next? Nikita Khrushchev once boasted that he would exhibit the last Soviet Christian on television by 1965. Khrushchev has since gone to give an account of himself to the judge of all mankind and his deadline for the extinction of Christianity in Russia also has passed. Throughout history, so-called big men and little men have strutted across the stages of life defying God, but as the song promises, “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” If I were to ask any congregation, “Do you believe in the lordship of Jesus Christ?” I would get an instant reply in the affirmative. But, if I were to ask each individual in that congregation, “Is He Lord of all you are and all you have?” we might have a very disturbing and revealing service. Any church gathering can sing, “Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all,” but not all who are willing to crown Him with their lips will make Him Lord of their lives. The lordship of Jesus Christ is the authentic confession of the Christian. “Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” (I Corinthians 12:3) Calling Jesus Lord is the authentic work of the Holy Ghost, for the old Adam never bows to the lordship of Christ. Nowadays we have created an artificial distinction between trusting the Lord as Savior and confessing Him as Lord. We have made two experiences out of it when it really is one. So we have a host who have been saved in order to miss Hell and reach Heaven who seem not at all concerned about making Him Lord of their lives. Salvation is not a cafeteria line where we can take the saviorhood of Christ and pass up His lordship, take what we want and leave the rest. We cannot get saved on the installment plan with fingers crossed and enter reservations as though one could take the Lord on approval. To be sure, one may not understand all that is involved in conversion, but no man knowingly and willfully can take Jesus Christ as Savior and reject Him as Lord, and be saved. Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” He presented all three names of our Lord as Master, Mediator and Messiah. He would not have the jailer take Christ as Savior and think over His lordship until some later time. We have only one option: We can receive the Lord or reject Him. But, once we receive Him, our option ends. We are then no longer our own but bought with a price. We belong to Him. He has the first word and the last word. He demands absolute loyalty beyond that of any earthly dictator, but He has a right to do it. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. How foolish to say, “Nobody is going to tell me how much to give or what to do.” We have already been told. We are His, and His word is final. Is He your Lord? Is He Lord of your body, your thoughts, your tongue, your temper, your spare time, your life plans, your pocketbook, your church life, your recreation, what you listen to on the radio or on the CD or look at on the video? His lordship covers everything from eating and drinking to world problems. But it is not bondage, it is freedom. For where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. We are free to do everything that is good and right in our relationship to God, ourselves, and everybody else.
So the first dimension of the Easter message is the declaration of Christ’s authority. But we need to also notice:
THE DIGNITY OF MAN (Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming, those who belong to Christ)
It is clear from our text, and clearer still from the chapter as a whole, that in the thinking of Paul, the resurrection of our Lord was inseparable from the later resurrection of Christian believers. “Christ the firstfruits,” a characteristically Hebrew figure of speech. In Hebrew worship, a farmer would bring to the temple the first ripening stalks of grain as a thankful forecast of the total harvest yet to come. In this passage, the apostle’s reasoning is not about the question of whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Because of firsthand experience, that was an indisputable conviction of the New Testament. Paul wrote this chapter primarily to counter the influence of Greek speculative philosophy which said that the body is unimportant, at death, like a husk, it is going to be discarded; the Lord’s resurrection is only a parable about the transmutation of man’s soul. “Wait a minute,” says Paul, “Of course it is kind of a parable, but it is also a glorious prophecy of what shall be when Christ returns.” The Lord cares about this body. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. What is a man? Man is a self-balanced, twenty-eight jointed, adapter-base biped with the following: millions of warning signals, railroad and conveyer systems, crushers and cranes at which the arms are a magnificent twenty-three jointed affair with self-surfacing and lubricating systems, a universally distributed telephone system needing no service for seventy years if well-managed, an electromagnetic reduction plant integral with segregated stowages of special energy extracts in storage batteries for substance actuation of thousands of pumps with motors attached, sixty-two thousand miles of capillaries; and the whole extraordinarily complex mechanism is guided with exquisite precision from a turret in which are located telescope and microscope, self-registering and recording range finders, a spectroscope, etc., and the turret control being closely allied with an air-conditioning intake and exhaust with a main fuel intake. Within a few cubic inches which house the turret mechanism, there is room also for a two sound wave and sound direction-finder recording diaphragms, an expertly devised and analytic laboratory large enough not only to contain minute records of every last and continual event of up to seventy years experience or more, but can extend by computation and abstract fabrication this experience with relative accuracy into all corners of the observed universe, a forecasting and tactical plotting department for the reduction of future possibilities and probabilities to generally successful specific choices. A man indeed, dismissed with the appellation, Mr. Jones. But, as great as this body is, we will change this body for a better one.
Jesus’ natural body had been changed to a spiritual body. His mortal body had put on immortality. That which is sown in humiliation had been raised in glory. So shall all of the redeemed be changed in the resurrection. There are also celestial bodies and the bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun and another glory of the stars, for one star differeth from another star in glory; so also is the resurrection of the dead. It 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. It is sown a natural body. It is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:40-44) Thus we see something of the nature of the resurrection body being different from the body that now is, in that it will be freed from the limitations to which our earthly bodies are subject. Yet, the resurrection body will have a real identity to the earthly body. Thus, do we have assurance of the permanence of personality and individuality. And this new body will be a habitable instrument for the soul under the new conditions of the eternal world. In the eternal world, I shall remain me and you will remain you. Thus, God guarantees us the comfort of recognition and assures us that Heaven is not the abiding place of viewless and disembodied spirits, but a place where everyone has his body. By the truth and love of God, we can rest assured that the resurrection body will be a body, not something vague and misty and intangible. Though the resurrection body will be a spiritual body, a body designed for the life of the spirit, a body subject to spiritual rather than natural laws, it will be a real body, no ghost-like body, but a body as real as that of the Lord Jesus who could be seen, could be handled, could share food with others. And the resurrection body will be a body that can occupy space and yet pass through natural obstacles such as doors or walls or space without the slightest difficulty. And the resurrection body of every Christian will be immortal, never subject to the touch of death. Forever will it be free from any possibility of sin, of disease, of death, being a replica of the glorified body of the Lord Jesus. There will be none of the taint of Adam’s fall in the resurrection body. The eradication of the carnal nature will then be the reality for every child of God. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2) In Romans chapter eight and verse twenty-three we find these words, “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” So the resurrection body is a redeemed body, redeemed from itself, from the results of sin, from the death of sin, as well as the tendency and bent to sin. Nor will weariness ever beset the glorious and incorruptible, resurrection body. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” Phillipians 3:20-21) Therein is the promise of redemption from the grave: our bodies that shall be. All corruption gone. All mortality gone. All weakness gone. All dishonor removed. All carnal appetites destroyed. A woeful sense of inadequacy oppresses when one attempts to imagine the glory and beauty of such a body. But take heed to these words. Earthly bodies were victims of the curse of sin. They were mortal, deemed to whither and die, subject to disease, suffering and pain. Resurrection bodies will be free from the curse of sin; and therefore, will be free from all pain and death. Earthly bodies were instruments of sin and temptations; and the flesh was enemy of spiritual perfection and growth. The resurrection bodies will be agents of spiritual growth, freed from sin’s attacks, aiding spiritual growth and attainment. Earthly bodies are physical, adapted to a physical environment, serving as a medium between man and the physical world. The resurrection body will be spiritual, and will serve as a medium of man’s fellowship with God and a heavenly environment. The earthly body was like that of the first Adam and was of the animal order. The resurrection body will be like Christ, the second Adam, freed from all animal appetites and passions. There will be marks of identity between the earthly and the resurrected bodies. We shall know each other, and we shall know even as we are known. We are going to exchange this body for a better one. “His resurrection body,” Paul is saying, “serves as a guarantee of the resurrection of our bodies.”
A few years ago, a young man in the metropolitan New York area took a step before his death at twenty-four which he thought would safeguard his future. Upon his death, Steven arranged to have himself frozen solid until a medical cure was found for the intestinal infection which had made him a chronic invalid. Steven was a passable poet, photographer, guitarist, a student on the Dean’s List at New York University, and an avid reader of science fiction. A friend remarked, “He wanted to be in the forefront where science fiction turns into science fact. When Steven’s infection stubbornly refused to respond to medical treatment, he followed up an intriguing ad placed in a science fiction magazine by the Cryonics Society of New York, a movement with the motto, “Never say die.” This society had been founded on the premise that bodies of the clinically dead can be put in a deep freeze and later brought back to life. Seven months before his death, Steven made out a five dollar check to join the Cryonics Society and then he instructed his mother to make sure that once he was pronounced legally dead his body would be neither buried nor cremated, but frozen. When he died, five members of the Cryonics Society promptly took charge, helping a Long Island funeral director pack Steven’s corpse in ice cubes for the two hour drive to the funeral home. There it was drained of its bodily fluids and infused with an antifreeze solution to help preserve the body tissues. Then it was packed with dry ice preparatory to placement in a cryonics suspension in a crypt capsule, a giant bottle filled with liquid nitrogen. In that state Steven will remain indefinitely maintaining a cost of $200 per year, an expense paid out of a cryonics trust fund set up by Steven before his death. One magazine titled the story Soul On Ice. His mother said that shortly before his death Steven made a tape to be placed in the capsule for he realized that he might suffer some brain damage. She commented that his death was easier for her to bare because there wasn’t the same finality of putting someone away under the earth. She said, “I had talked about it with Steven, not morbidly, just ordinary conversation, and I came to accept the idea.” When asked if she expected Steven to be raised from his cryonics capsule, she made this tragically significant comment, “I have only a remote hope for my boy’s resurrection.”
What a contrast to this remote and unlikely hope is the absolute assurance which the Bible teaches concerning the bodies of those who die trusting the Lord, filled with His spirit. Because Jesus Christ conquered death and rose from the grave, He will someday bring back to life all of those who have put their faith in Him and have been filled with His spirit, and He will give them perfect bodies, just like His own resurrected, glorified body. John said in I John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” And we know that if that same spirit which raised Christ from the dead be in us, it will quicken our mortal body on the day of resurrection. “His resurrection body,” Paul is saying, “serves as a guarantee of the resurrection of our bodies.”
It is also an illustration of what our own resurrection life will be. The Bible does not tell us much in detail about our future life, doubtless for the same reason that one does not inform a little child about international diplomacy, or brief him about the ways of business, or delineate for him the bliss of married life. But, there are two things that the New Testament does clearly affirm for our comfort. One is that, for the Christian, the life to come will mean to be with Him. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3) The other affirmation is that, for a Christian, the life to come will mean to be like Him. “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2) These promises all clearly assume that in the final day, I shall be me and that you will be you. Not reincarnation, but resurrection, is ours to expect. “For we know that if the earthly tabernacle that we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tabernacle, we sigh with anxiety, not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (II Corinthians 5:1-4)
Let us freely grant that there are obvious difficulties in using the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an example of what will be our future experience. The most obvious, perhaps, is the fact that only a scant three days passed between the time He died on the cross and the hour when His body left the tomb. According to the common reckoning, only about forty hours elapsed. With Him, it was the identical body that was transformed and came triumphantly out of the place where it had been laid. For us, it is not to be the literal rising from the coffins; else what would be the plight of those that had been cremated or lost at sea? An interesting observation about the New Testament miracles comes from George McDonald. “The miracles of Jesus,” he writes, “were the ordinary works of His Father wrought small and swift that we might take them in.”And that is very well said. In five minutes the miracles of the loaves accomplished what the farmers and the miller now take a year to do. In forty hours, the miracle of our Lord’s resurrection demonstrated what will occur for us at the end of history. The resurrection telescoped time in order to show us what God intends to do for us when time issues into eternity.
The real problem about the resurrection of our bodies is not, I feel convinced, one of mechanics. The problem is in our own minds, in our own perverse prejudice against the Bible teaching that our bodies are to be temples, not prisons. Sometimes we have a like-prejudice against the home church, even a very beautiful place where we worship. On the very brightest morning of spring we may grumble, “Do we have to go to church?” To our confused mind, the very church attendance that is meant by God to give us wings, may seem like a weight to hold us down. The trouble, of course, is sin. Sin is the rebellious, self-centeredness that perverts so many of God’s noblest gifts.
In one of his great books, C. S. Lewis has a striking allegory about a man on earth as he appears to those in Heaven. This man’s spirit carries, perched on his shoulder, an ugly leech-like lizard which represents his body, burdensome and degrading. Then, by a supreme and terrific act of will, he lets the Lord’s good angel get his hands on that lizard. It screams and dies. Immediately in its place there is a tremendous, white-winged horse upon which the man leaps and rides out over the universe. This allegory also telescopes things. The surrendering of our wills to Christ may come through a life-long process. The transferring of our bodies from dead-weights to soaring wings is likewise a process that begins when we are born again, and will not be completed until we are resurrected, either as we that are alive and remain, or the dead in Christ that shall rise. Such is this prospect: a body like unto Christ’s own glorious body, with wonderful enhanced powers, and all with complete responsiveness to the command of our spirits. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us an inkling of what we shall be, spirit and body, perfectly wedded, gloriously partnered. So instead of hating our bodies and looking on them as enemies, we may cherish for them the loftiest hopes. Like the little boy striding along beside his older brother, a star athlete, we are in close relation with the living Lord. The little fellow may seem to be mostly head and stomach with narrow shoulders and rubbery legs, but still he muses as he looks at his brother, “That’s what I will be someday.” So he squares his shoulders and starts to attain his dreams. The ancient Greeks who seemed to gloat in the beautiful physique, inwardly despised their bodies. The early Christians, who are other worldly in outlook, often felt that godliness was more important than bodily exercise. Nonetheless, they believed in nobility and the preciousness of the entire human person. The Greeks saw only the temporal; but the Christian also had a glimpse of the eternal. They longed, not to be unclothed, but to be clothed upon. Here is the good news for the infirm, the cripple, the unattractive, and even those of us well-equipped physically who wish they could be much more skillful and versatile with body and brain. Some day we shall be, for we shall share with Christ in the bodily benefits of the resurrection such as the potential dignity of man, with sinless spirit and flawless body, indivisible, according to the designs of God, as He has shown in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also need to note:
THE DESTINY OF THE WORLD
Then comes the end when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. In English, as in Greek, we have two quite different ways of using this word end. It may mean the termination, the finish, the ceasing of existence; or it may mean the object, the purpose, the goal toward which we aim as when a worldly man says, “The end justifies the means.” “To this end was I born,” says Jesus, speaking of His life purpose. The end, everlasting life, is Paul’s way of describing the destiny of God’s children. There are the same two ways of thinking about the end of the world. For some it is the cessation of all life and meaning in our planet with the world ending up either scorched or else deeply frozen, a grim outcome that scientist tell us may be after a million or two years more. But for Christians, as per the Bible, the end of the world means the one divine event to which the whole creation moves, the commencement exercises when our adolescent world will be graduated to a higher level of constructive maturity.
To be sure, there are in every school, some for whom the entire course seems to be purposeless. Dad, bless his heart, is paying the bills, and since he contributes generously to the alumni fund, I am not likely to be expelled. Let us eat, drink and be merry now, because after commencement the picnic will be over, and at best there will be nothing ahead but the gloomy necessity of earning a living. We have, I am afraid, a host of people whose balancing of time and eternity is like that. Heaven, if there is such a place, sounds frightfully dull. The kingdom of God, if it ever arrives on Earth, is going to be a sort of endless, puritan Sabbath when the blue laws that Christians have been trying to foist upon other people will be enforced. For many persons, the end of the world, if not the end of existence as we know it, means the end of life as we like it.
But the message of the resurrection as Paul here applies it to the destiny of the world, is exactly the opposite. Listen again to the words that conclude our text, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all of His enemies under His feet.” The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Listen, also, to the cosmic expectation in Romans. (Romans 8:19-21) “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subject to futility, not of its own will, but the will of him who subjected it in hope, Because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage of decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” When by man sin entered the world, a monkey wrench was thrown into the machinery of the world. When Jesus died upon the cross, the whole creation was shaken to its foundation. Men saw, and almost felt, the gross darkness. They paled as the earth shook. There were strange tales about the aberrations of dead men and of angels. The curtain of the temple was ripped from top to bottom. The Christian conviction was that the death of Christ meant cosmic tragedy. Contrariwise, His resurrection meant a cosmic triumph. From one end of the universe to the other, there were shouts of joy, and symphonies of praise, a sort-of exaltation that John heard in his vision on the isle of Patmos and wrote down in the book of Revelation. “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, the voice of many angels, numbering myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who is slain to receive power, and wealth, and might, and glory, and blessing. And I heard every creature in Heaven, and on Earth, and under the Earth, and in the sea, and all therein saying, To Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing, and honor, and glory, and might, forever and ever.”” (Revelation 5:11-13) The echoes of Patmos sound forth in the mighty music of Handel’s Messiah with its Hallelujah upon Hallelujah, like bank upon bank of cloud-like majesty. Write all of this off as ecstatic speech and poetic fancy if you will, but to me it is the best answer, in fact the only answer, to the scary headlines of our atomic age. From beginning to end, the Bible talks about God’s plan for His universe. “Behold, I create a new Heaven and a new Earth in which dwelleth righteousness,” says the Lord. The new Heaven and the new Earth will be much better than the old, as a resurrection body is better than the old one that we now wear. There is no need to fear the annihilation of mankind, no need to worry when evil strides rampant over the Earth and flashes through the air. The resurrection of Christ foretells God’s final triumph in which His own shall have a glorious part.
A minister was called on to pray before the opening of the session of the Senate and he prayed, “Bless, O Lord, our great nation, and grant that we may ever share in the fulfillment of the prayer of the ancient prophet, that justice may roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Correct us, O Lord, where we are wrong. Confirm us wherever we may be right. Grant us wisdom to distinguish thy will, and courage to do it. Give to each of us a steadfast heart which no unworthy affection may drag down, a clear vision which cannot be warped away from truth, a firm loyalty which cannot be tempted aside. As we have mastered nature so that we might gain wealth, help us now to master the social relations of mankind that we may gain justice, peace, and a spirit of brotherhood. Remind us that only the humble may house thee, only the pure in heart can see thee, only the merciful may know thee, only the brave can experience thee, and only the patient may serve the truly. Grant us a vision of the world that is not yet, but ought to be, and then the loyal devotion to its appearing. Grant us the peace of those who strive for it in spirit and truth. Amen.”
Ours is a world in which so many of our ideals are not yet realized, a world in which materialism and secularism seem to dominate. I thought the other day while flying over New York City, in the plane as I looked down on the Statue of Liberty. Any of you who have come by ship into New York, or have ridden the Stanton Island ferry by the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, know that that statue seems to dominate the whole landscape, that marble statue, with its promise of freedom and its welcome to the homeless and to the needy. But when you look down on it from several thousand feet, it seems just a speck, and it is dominated by the massive skyline that man has built. This is so often true of our ideals, and our hopes, and our dreams. They seem dwarfed and almost lost in the world of our day, in contrast with the material wealth and power of man. Yet, deep in our hearts, we know what the world ought to be when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord; and one day there will only be one kingdom.
Now, we need to talk a little bit about the destiny of the redeemed. What is the present temporary destiny of the soul and body of a Christian? The Bible seems to teach us that we do not enter into the fullness of glory until the second coming of Christ and the resurrection. We know that the body goes into the grave where it awaits His coming in the air. When He comes with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trump of God, the body will be raised to be joined to the soul; but will be raised a different body. It will be like Christ’s body, glorified and perfect in every detail. But the soul goes to paradise to be with Jesus at the time of death. In the Old Testament days, paradise was in the bosom of the Earth, and the souls of the redeemed rested there. But Bible scholars interpret the scriptures to say that Jesus ascended on high, and took paradise up with Him to remain with Him. So now the body rests in the grave, and the soul is in paradise with Jesus. It is a wonderful place because Jesus is there; but I think it will be more wonderful after He comes in the air, for then body and soul will be united, and at last we will enter into full glory and full joy.
Now, what is that eternal home like? I can give you only a few facts:
It is a place. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Therefore, I am assured that it is as much a place as any city on earth. The Bible speaks of a house, of mansions, of walls, of streets. It speaks of the people who are there. It would have to be a place to contain all of these things and people.
It is a perfect place. Men cannot build a perfect place here. You build a house of your dreams and later you notice many places where you could have done better, many things that you have left out. But Jesus could build a perfect place. Nothing wrong or hurtful will ever enter that wonderful city.
It is a place of beauty. The walls are jasper. The streets are pure gold. Foundations are made up of twelve precious stones and the gates are of pearl. Doesn’t all of that spell beauty?
(4) It is a place of rest. There we will never grow tired, for we will have a marvelous spiritual body.
(5) It is a place of rejoicing. In that land we shall all be able to sing, and we shall not sing of our own accomplishments, but of the King who was slain for our redemption; and this shall be our song, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.” (Revelation 5:12)
It is a place of fellowship and love. Our fellowship down here is often broken; but there will be no parting in Heaven and, oh, what sweet fellowship we will have with our loved ones and with Jesus. The question is often asked, “Shall we know each other in Heaven?” I am sure that we will. Paul, in writing to Christians, speaks of the whole family in Heaven and Earth. (Ephesians 3:15) It is one family, the
family of God’s children, some in Heaven and some on Earth. But then the whole family will be in Heaven. And you can’t imagine a family living together and not knowing one another. “For now we see
through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Corinthians 13:12) When Jesus was transfigured, three disciples were on the mountain
with Him, Peter, James, and John. When Moses and Elijah came down from Heaven to talk to Jesus, the disciples knew them by some spiritual intuition, although the two men had been dead for hundreds
of years. When Jesus came back in His resurrected body, His friends knew Him. And when He gives us a body like His own, I feel sure that we too shall know each other.
(7) It is a place of service. The most miserable people on Earth are the idle people; but there will be no idleness in Heaven. We shall serve Him with perfect joy and happiness. Sometimes today someone will
say, “I am going to give up my place of service. I am not happy in it. “But it will never be like that in Heaven.
Let’s talk a little bit about the delights of the redeemed. Let me mention just a few of the delights of Heaven, the delights that the redeemed will enjoy forever.
They behold the Savior’s glory. With the exception of Peter, James and John who were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Him, no one on this earth has ever beheld the Savior’s glory. The men of this world saw Him shamed and humiliated, spat upon, beat with stripes, dying, covered with blood and sweat. In Heaven we shall see Him in the glory that was His before the world began. There is an old parable about a prince who disguised himself as a poor man and went out into the world, seeking a bride who would love him for himself alone. He secured a job as a common laborer with a farmer. He soon fell in love with the farmer’s daughter, and when he asked her father for permission to marry her, the father refused because he thought the man was just a common laborer. But the young people were deeply in love; so they ran away and were married. They decided to go to the royal city on their honeymoon. The prince’s father knew they were coming, so when they reached the city gates the king’s carriage came to meet them. The royal guard surrounded them; and the king’s musician played a musical welcome. The young bride was amazed and asked, “What does all of this mean?” and the prince answered, “I am the king’s son. You married me in obscurity which proves that you love me. Now all of the honors of the realm are yours.” Jesus came into the world in obscurity and sought to win us. Now He offers us a cross to bear, and in the world much tribulation. But we received His spirit and His name, and we became a part of His bride; and some day He will carry us up into the royal city where we will behold Him in all of His glory; and then we will rejoice that we are His and He is ours.
They share the Savior’s glory. The redeemed will not only behold the glory of Christ, they will share in it. We will be the heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, according to Romans 8:17. When I was a boy I knew a wealthy couple who lived in a big, fine house. Out in the country, a poor man and woman died and left a boy without anyone to care for him. The rich man brought the little boy into his home and legally adopted him. He gave the boy his name, brought him up in his fine home, and left part of his fortune to him when he died. Jesus is the richest of the rich. He finds us poor and needy. He adopts us into His family. He gives us His spirit. He gives us His name. And in Heaven, all of His glory will be shared with us.
They receive the Savior’s reward. He does not ask us to serve Him without reward. When we stand before Him after He takes us up, He will reward us for all that we have done for Him. If we have served for His glory, our works will shine like gold, silver and precious stones. If we have served for own glory, our works will be burned up like hay, wood and stubble. We will be saved, but as if by fire. There will be no reward for us. God grant that we shall serve only for His glory.
They sing the Savior’s praise. There will not be one discordant note in Heaven, not one person telling of the great things he did on Earth. All of the redeemed will be singing the praises of the Lamb that was slain. And what a choir! Revelation 5:11 tells us that there will be over one hundred million in that choir, and they will be singing the praises of the Lord. And somewhere I want my voice to be raised in that choir. I want my name to be called at that time.
A mother tells the following true story, “My little boy of six had been to church when the song had been sung, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder I’ll Be There. After returning home, he wanted to know what was meant by those words, so I explained it was like being at school with the teacher calling their names to see if all of the pupils were present. I asked him what he answered when they called his name, and he said, “Here.” Then I told him that I thought God would call out our names when we got to Heaven, and He will say, “Daddy So-and-so,” and Daddy will say, “Here.” And He will say, “Mother So-and-so,” and then I will say, “Here.” And He will call out another name and they will say, “Here.” Shortly after this time the boy was taken seriously ill and after having been unconscious for several hours with no verbal response, in a firm voice he suddenly called out, “Here,” and then he was gone. “When we understood his spirit had flown, we realized that he had answered the heavenly roll call.”I want to answer that roll in Heaven. I want to be able to say, “Here.” Jesus rose from the dead; now I can rise. It makes precious little difference whether it is with the dead in Christ or those who are alive and remain. I want to rise.
Bible Preaching Resource/Copyright 2000
By Richard L. Wyser. All rights reserved. This material may be used in preaching or teaching or in local church bulletins or hand-outs. No part of this material can be published or reproduced for any other reason. For information, address: Bible Preaching Resource, P. O. Box 846, Addison, IL 60101
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