On this day, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ celebrates the victory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “But now is Christ risen from the dead.” That is the declaration of the Scriptures, the Word of God, which cannot lie.
We want to look at that glorious truth of the resurrection of our Savior from the viewpoint of the hope that it gives to us of eternal life, when we shall one day be brought to be with Him.
Is that your hope? Do you live your life with one hope, one goal, held before you, to be with Christ in glory and to see Him face to face? Or are you a misdirected Christian? You do not resist the temptations that come upon your heart to cleave to the things of this life? You experience anxiety and a lack of peace? Then you must hear the Word of God today. There is one, and only one, hope; there is one, and only one, goal upon which a child of God must focus. That goal is determined by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because Christ is risen, now, with all the intensity that God gives us by His grace, we must long to be with Him in eternal glory. The psalmist speaks of this in Psalm 17:15: “As for me (and there David is contrasting himself with men of the world whose portion is in this life), I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”
The goal of all of our faith in the risen Savior is that we shall be taken to be with Him in glory. This will happen at the moment of death. At that very moment the soul of a believer goes to be with Christ in conscious glory. Death is so final. It is so shattering. It removes us forever from this life. But it is, for the Christian, the moment when the soul goes to be with Christ – waiting for the final day of the resurrection of the body. But it is the end of this present life. We stand by the graveside of our dear one who dies in the Lord and we say, “He is no more on this earth. He is in heaven. He can never be with us again on this earth.” By faith we confess that, immediately and instantly, as soon as we close our eyes in death, our souls take leave of the body and go to glory, while those who remain behind weep. Nevertheless, eternal joy becomes my portion when I die in Jesus Christ.
This is the Scripture, Ecclesiastes 12:7: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” At the moment of death the souls of all men, women, and children go to stand before God. He is the God of all souls, for He has made them. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). All who believe not this gospel; all who do not, by grace through faith, belong to Jesus Christ; all the unbelieving shall then perish. Their souls ( Rev. 20) shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. But all who, by a wonder of God’s love, and by the work of the Holy Spirit in them, belong to Jesus Christ and who now, by faith, say: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” these, every one, shall be taken to be with Christ in glory. “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 14:3). And, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory…” (John 17:24). That means that death is no mystery for a child of God who lives by faith in the risen Christ.
Apart from faith, everything is a mystery. Everything is a big question mark. Where did the world come from? What am I doing on it? What is truth? What happens at death? Faith knows the answer, the truth. Faith does not guess. To have faith in Jesus Christ does not mean to say, “Well, I would like to believe. I have a strong suspicion. I hope.” No! Faith knows. In death I will go to be with Jesus, my Head. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 5:1). By faith we do not wonder what is hid behind death’s door. We know what is behind that door because our Head, Jesus Christ, our representative who was given of the grace of God for us, has been there. He died and was buried, and He arose. That means that the way is opened. Death’s power to crush and to destroy and to hold us is broken. I believe in God. I believe in His only begotten Son. Therefore I know that this risen Savior shall save me at the moment of death. And at that moment He shall open the door Himself, that I may go in into glory, the place of beauty and life where Christ is. I shall be with Him.
That means that there is no purgatory. There is no place where souls are first purified and must first suffer before going on to heaven. That is the foolish imagination of men. It is worse than that. That is the terror that some would bring upon the souls of men. There is no floating of souls over the earth, souls unable to rest, haunting houses and making appearances. It is not so. Death does not bring a sleep of the soul, so that when one does so sleep he becomes unconscious until at last Christ appears at the end of the world. No! The answers are plain for the believer. He is taken to be with Christ immediately in glory. Angels are sent to carry that soul along unto the halls of glory. And for the unbeliever who rejects Christ, who continues on in the way of sin, the answer is plain too. They shall awake in everlasting burnings of God’s just wrath.
“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:22, 23). Jesus speaks there of a beggar, one who belonged to Him, who ate crumbs, and dogs licked his sores. When he died, angels carried him up to his Father’s presence. No funeral does the Lord mention. But, for Christ’s sake, the beggar is brought to glory. The rich man, Jesus said, died also and was buried. That rich man had everything in this life, every earthly possession. But he had nothing in his soul except himself and his own pride. He had, perhaps, a long funeral procession, and many eulogies were pronounced over his corpse. Perhaps a memorial stone was erected over his tomb. But he lifted up his eyes in hell.
“Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Those were Jesus’ words to the repentant thief upon the cross. Could more beautiful words be spoken? The thief at that moment did not know much. His body was filled with pain. He had many memories which were burning in his heart at his sinful follies. He was brought to repentance and trust in Jesus Christ by the sovereign love of God. He cried out, by God’s grace, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. Bear me in Your eternal thoughts.” And the Lord’s answer was, “Today shalt thou be with Me in glory. You shall be with Me in eternal perfection. No more sin, no more trials, no more sorrow. But face to face, basking in the love of God, surrounded by all the beauties of the living God.”
But by faith today we also know that our bodies will be raised by the power of Christ and shall be reunited with our souls and made like unto the glorious body of Christ. That will happen when Jesus Christ returns to the earth at the end of the world. He is coming once more. When He comes, He comes for judgment. And He comes to take to Himself His church.
Christ did not save only our souls, but also our bodies. It is not true that all that matters is what happens to your soul and that your body and what you do to your body are unimportant issues. Paul says, “Christ loved me.” Me, body and soul. The body of the Christian has been purchased with the blood of Christ as really as our souls. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own” (I Cor. 6:19)? Let us not view our bodies as a shell. We must not view our bodies as simply ballast. The Bible calls our bodies “the temple of the living God.”
And, therefore, to sin against the body is sacrilege, it is profaning God’s possession, God’s temple. That refers to abuse: failure to care for your body. It is very important that we care for our bodies, because our bodies are the property of the living God. It is very important how we dress that body, how we present that body (that we present it in the beauty of holiness). It is very important that we do not worship the body in a sinful way, in sexual sins, lusts. We must not view the body as simply that it exists to tantalize nerve endings. We may not be drunk. That is not funny. That is an awful and shameful thing.
The body is precious to God – the bodies of His children belong to Him. And they shall be raised. This my body, Job said in Job 19:26, “Though … worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” You see, nothing of God’s creation is going to be lost. And surely not one of the most beautiful of His creations – the human body. We must be content with that body now. We must not worship it. But we must not despise it. And when you see God’s little children with deformities and birth defects, and when you see someone different from you, do not laugh. Do not stare and giggle behind their back. And do not say, “Oh, how gross!” Defects in God’s creation? Deformity, you say? You say you are not tall enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough? So you think that God made a mistake then? Your body is now under sin and the curse, yes. And your body is subject to terrible diseases which break our hearts. But God is going to perfect those bodies. And one day He is going to show us why our body had to be just the way it is so that we could take up our place in glory and there we will fit.
In eternal glory there will not be duplication. Glorious bodies, glorified bodies in Jesus Christ are not cloned, they are not copy-machine alike. They are unique because everything that God does is unique and glorious and bears the signature of the artist. This same body shall be raised. We will not get a different body. It will be the same one glorified. Jesus arose in the same body that was put in the tomb. Even the wounds were still visible in His hands and feet. So, every time we go to the cemetery we see the grave of that loved one. Yet, we look in prayer for the Lord’s return, when that grave will be opened and the redemptive work of Christ will be shown in all of its glory. Every time we place the body of a believer in the grave we do so in the trust that God keeps watch over Israel and the trumpet shall sound. And though that body is decayed in the dust and mutilated upon a battlefield and burned, perhaps, to ashes, He will raise them up. He will gather them from the depths of the sea and from the uttermost parts of the earth.
Do not marvel at this in unbelief. For Jesus said, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the grave shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28, 29). Why would this seem to be a great thing, that is, an impossible thing to you? Is the miracle of birth any less? Can medicine tell you why the cells of father and mother unite and grow into a person? Does anyone see the work of God in creating a soul? The child of your joy in your arms, do you really think that you made this child? Of course not! God made man. And God is able, in Jesus Christ, to raise him from the dead.
Why would the resurrection of the body seem an impossible thing? Is it any less a miracle than the fact that we believe in Christ, by regeneration being born again, when Christ spoke and gave us life where death was? Do not marvel in doubt. Rejoice in faith. The same body, without any ravages of sin, made like unto the most glorious body of Jesus Christ. No weariness, no depression, no headaches, no aches, no disease, no need of transplants, no need of insulin, no need of medications. Raised to honor and glory and immortality. Raised to eternal live. Then we shall enjoy eternal life in the perfect heaven and earth.
I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy. But after this life I shall inherit eternal salvation which eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard. And there will I praise God forever!
The child of God, on this day and always, feels eternal life in his heart. The great change does not come at death. And the great change does not come at the return of Jesus Christ. The great change is now. The great change is when, by the grace of God, a dead sinner is born again by the mighty power of God and made like unto Christ. The great change is when, on earth, a sinner, dead in his sins, by the power of the love of God is made now to live in Christ and given a life which is from above. A Christian is one who has been born again, not by his own will, not by the will of man, but by the will of God, by the power of the Spirit, by Jesus Christ Himself. And this one has eternal life. He that believeth in Me, said Jesus, has eternal life. He has it right now, he shall have it in perfection then. But he has it now.
If you have not been given this new life in Jesus Christ then you cannot understand this. Then you know nothing of the new obedience. Then you have no hope for eternal life. Eternal life is the gift of God, given solely of His grace.
That is joy. That is eternal joy. Joy which now is found in doing the will of God. For the angels in heaven who are now before God rejoice in doing what? They rejoice in doing the will of the Father, in obeying the Father. Jesus, who is now in the presence of God, rejoices in what? He rejoices in doing the will of God! So also now, those who are born again in this resurrection life of Jesus Christ rejoice in doing the will of God.
But we do it now sinfully. We have yet our sins and the flesh which do not cease to trouble us. Each day we must go to God in repentance and we must cry out our own sins before God. But there is coming a day when we shall be perfect. There is coming a day when we shall be raised. Then, in glorified bodies, we shall praise God forever. And all of this because Jesus is risen from the dead. Then, in eternal glory, with one voice and heart and mind and hand and all of our being, we shall enjoy God forever and we shall worship before His throne. The new heaven and the new earth will be ours through all eternity.
Is this your faith? Do you believe these things? Blessed are you, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but the Father who is in heaven. Then you may say today and always: “As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness.”
Let us pray.
Father, thanks. Thanks be to God for the victory in Jesus Christ. Amen.