Allen Jackson - The Resurrection of the Dead
It's good to be with you again. We're continuing our study on thriving in the midst of big trouble. You know, the last chapter of the last book of the Bible deals with tribulation, this great trouble that's coming to the earth. I don't think we're there yet, but I think we're walking through some of the precursors to that. We're seeing things happen in our world that will continue to escalate in intensity and in frequency. It's an unsettling time, but in the midst of that, we can flourish. We're looking into the Word of God to understand the pathway God has put before us, so that no matter the turmoil around us, we not only live in peace and tranquility, we live with tremendous hope. I promise you that's a possibility. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most of all, open your heart.
How many of you would say you spent at least a third of your time in reflection and meditation thinking about your relationship with the Lord beyond time? No, I bet 98%, 99% of our thought around our faith is how to get what we want sooner than later. And yet, when the author of Hebrews is talking to us about foundational doctrines, essential principles for stabilizing your faith, a third of it at a minimum deals with eternity. So, there's a change of thought we've gotta make. Remember, we're the ones that God's trying to change.
So, what I want you to know in this session and the next one, our topic is gonna deal with eternity. And typically we invest very little thought there. Our effort and thoughts are almost completely dominated by issues of time. We're mad at the news, we're mad at the latest conspiracy theory, we're mad at the boss, we're mad at somebody. Our dreams, our aspirations, our ambitions are rooted in this present world order. Very little of our imagination, very little of our ambition is directed beyond time. The Bible invites us to something else. It says that's a childish, immature perspective to be almost totally focused in time. I did not call you childish yet.
1 Corinthians 7, verse 31, says this present world, "In its present form is passing away," it's temporary. You say, "Well, it's pretty relevant to me right now". I understand, I'm not saying it isn't relevant or significant, your faith has an impact in time, but it has a far-greater impact beyond time. 1 John 2, verse 17, "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever". So, we have a little bit of a shift to make in how we start to build our insight and our understanding, our ambition, our dreams. We want to begin to contemplate eternity. Because when you think about your journey under the sun, your days under the sun, that little portion of your existence that's lived in time is just a speck compared to your existence in eternity.
It's just a tiny, little speck. It's like a grain of sand on the shore of the ocean. And we get all headed, this is the whole thing right here, this one grain, this is it. No, sorry Obi-Wan, the beach is bigger. But we've almost totally missed it. We get mad at God, we threaten God, we withdraw from God, we're not gonna follow God, because I didn't get what I wanted on that grain of sand.
So, I wanna spend the balance of our minutes with this question. What happens after death? What's gonna happen to you and me? Death is a part of the journey. When you got your birth certificate, you pre-registered for a death certificate. I know we don't like to think about it, it's unpleasant, we don't want it to come early. We all wanna go to heaven, just not today. I think there's a country song. If there's not, there should be. You put a dog in a pickup truck and it'll be a hit. But what happens after we die? Well, in Luke 16, Jesus pulls back a curtain a little bit. We get a little bit of a window into it. It's kind of a lengthy passage, but I think it's worth reading.
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, he was in torment. He looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue because I am in agony in this fire.' Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received good things while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over there to us.' And he answered, 'Well, then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers and let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' Then Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them.' 'No, father Abraham, if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' And he said to them, 'If the don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Now, I just wanna make quickly some observations. You can think on it and reflect on it at your leisure, but the first thing, there's no language used around that story that refers to it as a parable, so I don't believe it's intended simply to be a word picture suggesting some other reality.
And then I would add to that secondly that the conclusion of it is noteworthy in verse 31. The response is that God's Word is sufficient. That even if someone rose from the dead, that those who are reluctant to believe wouldn't believe. I wanna encourage you not to be a reluctant believer. Don't champion skepticism. I don't want you to be gullible or naive, or simpleminded, folks, you don't have to check your brain at the door to be a Christ follower. In fact, you're gonna need every bit of intellectual capacity that God has given you. But I promise you God can stand the inquires from your towering intellect. I mean, it's taken me a few years to figure that out. I thought he was kind of intimated by university settings, until you really start listening to what's pouring out of those places.
So, God said his word is sufficient. I would submit to you that the habit of daily reading your Bible, of submitting yourself to the authority of God's Word in a systematic, routine way, I think it's even more valuable in community, but you don't have to read it with us. I think there's an opportunity in that. It is a very profound part of stabilizing your life in seasons of instability. But now there's some observations from that passage about what happens to us after we die that are worth noting. The characters that we're introduced to had persistence of personality. Neither person, either the rich man nor Lazarus lost their identity. They recognized one another.
Four, there was a recognition of persons. They recognized one another. Not only were they still intact, they recognized other people.
Number five, there was a recollection of life on earth. Both of them recalled the circumstances of their life in time.
Number six, there's a consciousness of their present condition. The rich man is tormented and Lazarus is in a place of comfort. And they're conscious of that and how it was differentiated from their previous existence.
Number seven, there's a complete separation between the righteous and the unrighteous. As we walk through this study on the resurrection of the dead and then eternal judgement, one of the things that will be repetitive is that there's really those two choices, the righteous and the unrighteous. We've created, like, 11 choices, but in God's sight, there's those two.
Now, let's walk this a little further around death and resurrection. In Acts chapter 7 and verse 57 this was Stephen. He's been recruited by the apostles in Jerusalem to serve the church and he has been engaged in a debate that's gonna result in him being murdered in the streets of Jerusalem. It says, "As they covered their ears, and yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And while they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'"
Now, this is a change, and I don't have the time in this session to walk you through this fully, but Jesus's death and resurrection changed the destiny of our person after death. And what I wanted you to see was that the promise of the New Covenant and what Jesus changed, that the most decisive event in all of human history was the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. I mean, I earned a degree in history and there's a lot of things that have happened that changed the course of nations, and peoples, and groups, and the destiny of humanity, but nothing has been as significant as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
And again, we just haven't paid much attention. I was overwhelmed when I started pulling the Scriptures together and looking at them. We could spend session, after session, after session just walking through the Scriptures, and for the most part we're just unaware. But Stephen says as he's being murdered, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit". "Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, don't hold this sin against them.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep". I believe when Stephen's body ceased to function that his spirit and soul went into the presence of the Lord.
Look in Philippians chapter 1, Paul says something. Different context, but very similar. "If I am to go on living in the body," you see, your life isn't over when your body ceases to function. You are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in your body. Your body, I've often told you, to me is just your earth suit. You know, if you're gonna flourish underwater, you better take some equipment. If you're gonna live outside the atmosphere of earth, you'd better take some equipment. Well, the equipment God has given you to flourish in your journey through time is your earth suit. It gives you authority in this world. And you can use that to honor God or to dishonor God, those are the two options.
Paul says, "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I don't know. I'm torn between the two. I desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is by far better, but it's more necessary for you that I remain in the body". So he said there's something better for me outside of time, but for the time being, he said there's an assignment for me that requires me to stay present. You know, the Hebrew word, or the biblical words for our destination after death in Hebrew is "sheol," and in Greek is "hades". But again, Jesus's death and resurrection changed that. So, it's a bit beyond the scope of this particular presentation, but we'll look at it in some more detail. The resurrection of Jesus is our guarantee of our resurrection.
Colossians chapter 1 and verse 18 says, "He is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy". Jesus is the head of the church, you know that, right, not pastor, not the board, not the presbytery, not the denominational executives, not the bishops, I mean, all of those offices are fine with me, I'm not saying they're wrong or evil, but ultimately, Jesus is the head of the church. In Matthew 16, Jesus said, "I will build my church". He's coming back to the earth for his church. You wanna be an advocate for the church. Not perfect, because it's filled with people. The only way to have a perfect church would be to get rid of all the people.
The importance of the resurrection, we're gonna do this, hang on. Again, it's the most decisive event in the history of the universe. It changed everything. It really did. I'm sorry we haven't thought about it more, we should have talked about it more, we will, I promise. Jesus's resurrection is the basis of our justification. If Jesus hadn't been raised to life again, we got no hope. I tell you that because that's not widely embraced across the spectrum of the church. You can find many voices of authority, and influence, and power, and significant education, but it will not embrace the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. I'm very difficult to engage in a theological argument. You can disagree with me and I'm happy for you, we're all entitled to an opinion, God's given you the ability.
If someone has a sincere question I will sometimes have that discussion, but I'm truly just not interested in a lot of debate. But I'm telling you what you believe about the resurrection will determine your destiny. Romans chapter 4 verse 25 says, "He, Jesus, was delivered over to death for our sins". I usually like to take the pronouns and make them personal. "He was delivered over to death for my sins and he was raised to life for my justification". So, if he wasn't raised to life again, I have no justification in God's sight. It's a big religious word, to be justified means to be just as if I'd never sinned. How do you stand before God without guilt, shame, or fear? Only through faith in a resurrected Christ. There is no other way. There is no plan B. It's why the uniqueness of Jesus is essential to our story.
All faiths don't lead to the same place. All beliefs aren't the same in outcome. There's a tremendous reluctance in the American Christendom to talk about the uniqueness of Jesus. Look at Romans 10, familiar verses. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved". His resurrection matters. "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it's with your mouth that you confess and are saved". Jesus's resurrection is the basis of our justification. Now, let me add one more idea to that. His resurrection is the completion of our salvation. It closes the circle for us. Philippians chapter 3, this is the Apostle Paul. "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings".
Now, most of us, we can get a big amen in I want to know him and the power of his resurrection, we all want the resurrection power of Christ coursing through our veins. But fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, you can pray that for your neighbors. "Becoming like him in his death," I don't believe it's calling us to be martyrs, in his death he was fully yielded to the will of God. But it's the next phrase that intrigues me, "And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead". This is the Apostle Paul with this extraordinary revelation he's been giving of Jesus and his redemptive work. And he's well into his life and his ministry, he's not just an angry young man at this point.
And he's writing to the church at Philippi which he has shepherded into existence and has been coaching along in the midst of some predatory attitudes towards it. And he said I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, so that somehow, whatever means possible, I might attain to the resurrection of the dead. We have not lived with that attitude. That's not been the overwhelming attitude in American Christendom. We've lived far more presumptively. Do you believe you'll be resurrected? Oh, absolutely, absolutely, certainly, no question. Piece of cake. Well, how do you know? Well, I walk the aisle, I did that, I worked at two Ho-downs, I worshiped outside for a year during that pandemic thing.
Have you ever seen how long Pastor's outlines are? I've sat through hundreds of those. The font type is microfiche. Somehow, he said, but he's not done. He said, "Not that I've already obtained all of this," this is the Apostle Paul. "Not that I'm already—this is not like a done deal for me, Or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus".
Now, if we take that larger passage, somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead. This one thing I do, he said, I'm gonna forget what's behind, I'm gonna press on, I'm gonna strain towards that objective. Seems to me we've been a little passive, a little smug, maybe a little self-righteous, maybe a little critical of others or condemning of others. Thank God we're not like them. You know, Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who prayed in public, and the Pharisee said I thank you that I'm not like all these sinners. And the tax collector wouldn't even lift his eyes to him, remember the story? He said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner". Jesus said that the tax collector went home forgiven and the Pharisee didn't.
Again, in a season of shaking, we don't wanna be the group of people saying thank God we're the good ones. I don't want you to live in fear of your salvation. I do want you to live with the humility and the determination to give God your best. There is something ahead of us that is better than anything offered to us in time.
Now, what are you living for? What are you dreaming about? What are your ambitions linked to? And I know we're in church and the answer is Jesus, but I mean in the quiet places of your life. In the prayers that you're offering. I'll tell you how you unpack that and get to the root of it. What are the things that cause you to be agitated, aggravated, frustrated if they look like they're being delayed? That'll help you find the things that are the most valued in your priorities. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. That's the best solution for our world, it's the best promise for you, for me, that somehow we might attain to the resurrection of the dead. We're gonna get an upgrade, folks. It's not a burden being a Christ follower.
People say, you know, "What do you have to give up to serve Jesus"? Nothing, nothing, there's a joy in our faith, an anticipation in our faith. There's a promise in our faith. If you'll meditate on the resurrection of Jesus as the firstfruits of what is ahead for you and me, and it doesn't bring a new purpose and a new joy and a new hope to your heart, don't stop thinking about it until it does. It'll make it much easier to say no to ungodliness. It'll make it easier to make the determination to begin to purify yourself in places where you haven't been willing to. We've tolerated rebellion. We've tolerated too much. We've been a little passive. But God is awakening us. God is awakening us and we're not gonna stop.
You know, I think it's unfortunate that so often we imagine our faith only as a benefit in our journey through time. Now, there are things we want from God, things we want for our family, or ourselves or the people we love, and we lose sight of the benefit of being a Christ follower for all eternity. One of the most remarkable parts is the resurrection. We get a new body. We get earth suit 2.0 with none of the things that are weaknesses in our present body. That is something to anticipate with great joy. I wanna pray with you before we go.
Father, give us a vision of what is before us that is more real than the disappointment of today, that we might live with your joy in our hearts, in Jesus's name, amen.