Allen Jackson - The Resurrection Of The Dead - Part 1
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It's good to be with you again. We're looking at some foundational teachings to help us make our faith more stable in the midst of a rather tumultuous world. You know, we talk about our faith a lot, but we don't always take the time to get the foundation in place. I know Jesus is the cornerstone, but on top of that cornerstone we need a solid foundation. Well, in this session we're going to talk about the resurrection of the dead. That may not seem exciting to you, but there's a day in front of us when millions of people will be brought back to life at the same time. That's our God, and that's his power. Enjoy the lesson.
We've been walking through this series about thriving in the midst of big trouble. Big trouble is just the plain language for the biblical word tribulation. And the New Testament concludes with this great tribulation, but the run-up to that, and we don't really have an exact timeline. We all have some opinions, but no one knows with specificity. But the description of the things that will precede the great tribulation is big trouble. And it was introduced to us in a new way with a global pandemic that disrupted our lives and routines and our habits, from which we haven't recovered, but I think we recognize at this point that the challenges are far greater than a virus from Wuhan, China. But we're not finished with the trouble yet, and as much as we would like to click our heels together and say we're back in Kansas where we were before 2020 our reality is different.
Deception is flourished. Propaganda seems is exploding. Censorship is commonplace. Truth as Isaiah described, it truly has stumbled in the streets. And the question is, what do we do? Well, the Bible hasn't left us without answers. In fact, the things I've been sharing with you for the past few months we put into a book which will be released in a few weeks, but I've been doing interviews with radio stations across the country for the last few weeks talking with Christian leaders about that in city after city after city. What are we going to do? And it's really not that complicated. The question is, do we have the heart to honor the Lord? And so I went back to Hebrews chapter 6. It's a passage by now I hope you're familiar with.
The author of Hebrews says, "Let's leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity". That's the goal, folks. We don't want to just get saved and camp; we want to grow up in the Lord, and I would humbly submit to you it's time to grow. See, we want everybody else to change. We want the media to have a different perspective. We want somebody to have a different idea. We want something somewhere else to be different. But we have a very small imagination that we're a part of that equation, and the privilege I have is saying to you that the most critical component of change in the entire system is us. If we will humble ourselves and seek the Lord, we will see his deliverance. The Philistines didn't have the power to defeat the Israelites, nor to the Midianites or the Canaanites or any of the other -ites that occupied the region.
If the Israelites's hearts were in the right place, God could deliver them, whether he did it with an individual with goofy strength or Gideon who was terrified and had nothing but a clay pot, a candle, and a trumpet. God knows how to deliver his people, and we have wanted to look through the windows and point our fingers. "It's time for us to leave the elementary teachings and go on to maturity, not laying again". And now he's going to list six foundational doctrines. We said that Jesus is the foundation, but upon that personal foundation, your faith and mine begins with a person. His name is Jesus, not a church, not a denomination, not a translation. If Jesus isn't Lord of your life, you're not a Christ follower. You can be churched, you can be religious, you can be moral, you can be kind, you can be many things, but to be a Christ follower Jesus is Lord of your life.
The whole thing, you cannot segment it. But once we have come past that cornerstone, there are some foundational teachings that are necessary for you to be stable in times of turmoil. We haven't had to pay any attention to these. Because there's been enough stability in the systems around us, we didn't have to understand them. Never imagined churches could be closed. Never imagined that censorship would flourish. Never imagined if you didn't agree with an idea that was in the public sphere they'd try to stop you and make you silent. It's a new day, not a bad day. There's opportunities we've never seen. Six foundational doctrines: "Not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death," that's one, "of faith in God," two, "instruction about baptisms," three, "the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so".
I think it's worth noting that of that listing of six things two of them in total and more than that if you let me parse it out a little more carefully, but at least a third of them deal with eternity, with something beyond time. How many of you would say you spend 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 got to 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 going to 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. 'Cause 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, it's 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 heated, "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 going to follow God because I didn't get what I wanted on that grain of sand, and God's inviting us towards a little bigger perspective. Because we're so invested in time, sometimes it's pretty easy to fall into the trap in our thoughts and our emotions of trying to time the market. You know, you want to sell at the right time and buy at the right time, and how you manage the clock. You want to maximize every moment. I mean, there's libraries filled with stuff about that. And I'm all for being prudent with how we use our time, but from a biblical perspective there's something I think we need to acknowledge and that there's just a lot we don't know. And I say that as a pastor and I teach the Bible professionally, and, folks, there's a lot we don't know.
We can build our charts and we can elaborate on our opinions and we can pound the podium, but oftentimes I think we miss the opportunities in front of us because we have focused more on the clock than on the opportunity of the season. Look in Acts chapter 1. Acts chapter 1 is, Luke wrote this, the Gospel that bears his name, but the Book of Acts is about Jesus's disciples after his resurrection. In Acts chapter 1, Jesus has had 40 days with the disciples. He's going to go back to heaven at the end of this chapter. He's had 40 days with them to talk about the kingdom of God. So you got to think they had three years with Jesus watching him minister. Peter walked on the water, announced he was the Christ. They watched water turned into wine. They've seen blind eyes open, dead people raised to life. On more than one occasion they fed a multitude, fed a multitude with just a little bit of food. They were in for the ride of their lives.
And then they watched Jesus be arrested, betrayed by one of their own; and then they watched him go through a sham of a trial and then be tortured to death. It was unthinkable that the man who could raise the dead and walk on the water could be tortured to death. They were brokenhearted, and then a resurrected Christ stepped into the room with them. I'm thinking there was a little emotion. And so at this point now they've had several days, weeks with Jesus. So this is the, I mean, a tremendous amount of confidence, faith. Nobody like him. Never met anybody like him, and they're going to ask him, it's the only question that we have recorded that they ask him, so you know it's uppermost in their minds. I mean, they've argued about who's the greatest and told him. They've come to him and said, "We want to sit on the thrones next to you". I mean, they were pretty brazen. But this is post-resurrection. They have one question for Jesus. It's in your notes.
Acts 1, "When they met together, they said, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'" "Are you going to kick the Romans out? Is it time? Huh"? You see, the hope in the heart of the 1st century Jewish community was that the Messiah would restore autonomy and independence to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. "We've heard your kingdom stuff, we got the resurrection thing, but is it time"? And watch Jesus answer. Said, "It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority". Good old Middle Tennessee plain English: "That would just be none of your business". "But you will receive power when the holy". "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Power, witnesses, whatever. But are you going to kick out the Romans"? And Jesus said, "That's not really your business".
It occurs to me that two millennia later we spend a lot more time trying to talk about the time when he's coming back than we do being empowered to be witnesses. I know that's true. If I announced a topic and it's going to be about the timing of the end of the age or the timeline for the book of Revelation and where all that's going to happen, I know what the attendance numbers do as compared to if we're going to talk about how we're going to be better advocates for Jesus. I didn't call you childish yet. John chapter 21. This is post-resurrection, too. It's actually engaged with the reinstatement of Peter after denying Jesus multiple times. Jesus gives him kind of a personal pathway forward again, and at the end of that discussion he tells Peter something about the end of his life.
And after he says that to Peter, Peter has another question for Jesus. You got to love him. He can walk with both feet in his mouth. He's my friend. "When Peter saw him," and that's John, "he asked, 'Lord, what about him?'" He's just told him something about the end of his life, and so he says, "Well, what about John"? "And Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?'" In good old Middle Tennessee English, what did Jesus say? "It's none of your business. You just follow me". So I want to suggest to you that when we talk about our journey through time, that it's so easy to become preoccupied with foretelling that we miss the opportunity in the moment; and I think the greatest challenges are the courage to say yes to the Lord in the moment.
So I want to spend the balance of our minutes with this question: What happens after death? What's going to 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 want to 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 pick-up truck and it will 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'm 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's comforted here and you're in agony. 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.' And 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 him, 'If they don't listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Now, I just want to make quickly some observations. You can think on it and reflect on it at your leisure; but first, 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, 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 want to encourage you not to be a reluctant believer. Don't champion skepticism. I don't want you to be gullible or naive or simple-minded.
Folks, you don't have to check your brain at the door to be a Christ follower. In fact, you're going to need every bit of intellectual capacity that God has given you, but I promise you God can stand the inquiries from your towering intellect. It's taken me a few years to figure that out. I thought he was kind of intimidated 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's 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, neither 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 they were 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 judgment, 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 2.
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 and then the debate is going to result in him being martyred 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.'"
This has changed 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. You know, 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's the head of the body, the church; he's 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 want to 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. I didn't call your name yet. Okay. But Jesus is the head of the church, and then it says to us he's the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
You know, my father was a veterinarian. Most of you know that at this point. But I got to participate in the birth of a lot of things. And you know the first part of the body to present at the birth if it's a healthy delivery? The head, and the head is the promise that the rest of the body is coming. And I assure you that when the head was raised to life again, it's the assurance that our bodies are going to be raised to life again.
Before we go, I want to pray that God will give us an understanding heart. We don't read the Bible to assimilate facts. We want to understand how to take that truth and help us lead lives that will cause God to be pleased with us. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you for the truth of your Word, for the authority and the power that it brings into our hearts; and I pray today that you will give us the courage to say yes to you, to accept that truth that we might walk before you in a way that will cause you to say well done when we have spent our days under the sun. Thank you for your faithfulness and your goodness and your mercy. In Jesus's name, amen.