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Our proclamation this morning will be taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24. As usual, we’ll make it personal. Where Paul says you, we say we. Now, this is particularly appropriate because we’re going to be dealing with the events connected with the coming of the Lord and these Scriptures refer particularly to our being ready for His coming.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify us completely and may our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls us is faithful, who also will do it.”
Now I think it would be good if you were to say that, all of you, make it your own special prayer and proclamation after us. We’ll say it, you say it after us.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify us completely and may our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls us is faithful who also will do it.”
Now we’ve come to the last two of the great foundation doctrines, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. In this present session I will be dealing with the resurrection of the dead and then in the following session I’ll be dealing with eternal judgment.
We need to understand the meaning of the word resurrection. The Greek word that’s translated means “to stand up out of.” So resurrection is standing up out of death and out of the grave. In the Scripture we just quoted we saw that man consists of three elements: spirit, soul and body. It’s important to understand that it’s the body that dies and it’s the body that will be resurrected. The spirit and the soul never need to be resurrected because they’ve never passed into death. So we are talking about the resurrection of the body. This is very important.
Now, I want to deal a little bit this morning with what the Bible shows about what happens to people after they die. I’ve discovered that this is a matter of universal interest. It doesn’t really matter what nationality or what culture you belong to, everybody is interested to know what happens after death. The Bible gives a pretty clear picture and I’m going to try to outline this picture and then show how it will affect the resurrection.
In Luke 16:22–26 Jesus gives us His picture of what happens. I want to point out that this is never called a parable. Because the word “parable” is not used in connection with this. We’ll start with Luke 16:19.
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously [or lived luxuriously] every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus full of sores who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hades he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this place.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and, likewise, Lazarus evil things. But now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, Father Abraham, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them lest they also come to this place of torment.’ And Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’”
And how true that proved in experience. Even when Jesus rose from the dead, those who did not believe Moses and the prophets did not recognize what had happened. That’s a very solemn thought. Sometimes we expect some tremendous supernatural visitation and say if that happens we’ll be convinced. But God says, “You have my Word, that’s all you need. If you believe it and obey it, it will take you through.”
Now I want to point out certain features that are indicated by this story of the rich man and Lazarus. There are five features.
First of all, there was persistence of personality after death. The rich man was still the rich man and Lazarus was still Lazarus. Neither of them lost their identities. Now, some people teach us that after death everything just fades away and there’s nothing left. That’s not scriptural. We continue in the same personality after death as we lived in in life.
Secondly, there was recognition of persons. The rich man recognized Lazarus and he recognized Abraham. And Lazarus recognized the rich man.
Third, there was recollection of life on earth. Both the rich man and Lazarus could recall the circumstances of their lives before they died.
Fourth, there was a consciousness of their present condition. The rich man was in torment, his tongue burning with fire; Lazarus was in comfort and peace in the bosom of Abraham.
And fifthly, there was a complete separation between the righteous and the unrighteous. Each of them had an appointed place and neither could cross from one to the other.
Let me say those five things again because they’re very, very important and they contradict a lot of theories that are being put around today.
Number one, there was persistence of personality—no loss of identity.
Number two, there was recognition of persons.
Number three, there was recollection of life on earth.
Number four, there was a consciousness of present conditions after death.
And number five, there was a complete separation between the righteous and the unrighteous.
Now, what happened to those who died before Jesus Himself died and rose from the dead? Because that event bisected human history and the destiny of souls before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus is not the same. The death and resurrection of Jesus produced a change, actually, in the whole universe. It was the most decisive event in the history of the universe and it affected what happened to those who died.
Let’s deal now with what happened before the death of Jesus. We’ve seen already in this story of the rich man and Lazarus that all departing souls pass into a place which is called in Hebrew, Sheol and in Greek, Hades. The Greek word Hades means the unseen world. So all alike, whether righteous or unrighteous, passed into this unseen realm called Hades or Sheol. This was a place of departed souls but there were two completely separate areas for the righteous and the unrighteous. And notice everybody was either righteous or unrighteous, as I was saying yesterday, there’s nothing in between. You can’t be halfway righteous and halfway unrighteous. You’ve got to end up in one or other of those two places.
The area for the righteous is called “Abraham’s bosom” meaning, I suppose, that Abraham, who’s the father of all who believe, welcomed them there and comforted them. That’s my understanding.
Now, what happened to Jesus when He died? Jesus was a perfect man. He too had spirit, soul and body. And there’s a different statement made about each of those three elements in Jesus’ personality. In Luke 23:46 we find out what happened to the spirit of Jesus when He died. Luke 23:46: It says,
“When Jesus had cried out with a loud voice...”
And I believe what He cried out was “It is finished.”
“He said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ And having said this He breathed His last [He died, He expired].”
So, His spirit was commended to the Father. There are some things that I can’t explain. I can make these statements but there may be areas in which I cannot give you a further explanation.
What happened to the soul of Jesus? In Acts 2 when speaking on the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted Psalm 16 as an experience of Jesus and not of David the psalmist. And he says, David spoke in Psalm 16 concerning Jesus these words:
“I foresaw the Lord always before my face for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue was glad because moreover, my flesh will also rest in hope because you will not leave my soul in Hades.”
So the soul of Jesus went down into that realm of departed spirits. It’s also stated in 1 Peter 3:18–19.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit [or in the Spirit] by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah.”
So Jesus went down into Hades and there are details of this which I cannot explain to you but I can tell you what the Bible says. He made a proclamation. This translation says He preached but it’s the word “to proclaim.” It does not mean necessarily that He preached the gospel but He made a proclamation. My guess is He said, “From now on I’m the ruler in this place. I have the keys of death and of Hades. And you are answerable to me for everything that goes on from now on.” That’s just my theory, it may not be right.
Now, meanwhile, Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb. In John 19:40 and following we read what happened after He died on the cross. John 19:40 and 42:
“Then they took the body of Jesus and bound it in strips of linen with spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.”
They would wrap a body in strips of linen but they would include a great quantity of spices because the body would be expected to decompose and give out a stench.
“Now the place where he was crucified there was a garden. In the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus...”
And we don’t need to go any further with that.
We also read the account of how after the resurrection of Jesus the apostles and the women went to the tomb, they all knew where His body had been buried but they didn’t find Him there. Praise God!
So, what happened to the total personality of Jesus? He committed His spirit to the Father, His soul descended into Hades and He made a proclamation there and probably did a lot of other things, and His body was laid in the tomb. But when He rose, His total personality was again united, He was a complete person: spirit, soul and body.
Now, what happened through the death and resurrection of Jesus affected the universe. It also determined the destiny of souls at death. From that time onwards since the resurrection of Jesus the destiny of the righteous is not to go into Hades—it has a different and a much more glorious destiny. Let me give you two examples. When they stoned Stephen and he was at the point of death in Acts 7:57 and following:
“Then they cried out with a loud voice, ‘Stop their ears,’ and ran at him [that’s Stephen] with one accord. They cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul and they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’”
He knew that his spirit was to go directly to Jesus. This is the change that has taken place because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’”
And because Stephen prayed that, Saul of Tarsus could be saved. If Stephen had not released him from his guilt, he could never have been saved. That’s a wonderful thought.
But I want to emphasize that for the true believer who has been cleansed in the blood of Jesus and lives faithfully for God, the destiny at death is that the spirit ascends directly to Jesus. Paul also refers to this in Philippians 1. He says he doesn’t know which to choose. Shall he continue to live here or shall he go and be with Jesus? This is what he says, Philippians 1:23:
“For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better; nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”
So Paul was absolutely confident that if at that time he died he would be with Christ. That is one great change effected by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Another thing that happened, and there are some things that I can tell you but I can’t fill in all the details because I don’t know them, is that the departed souls of the righteous who were in the bosom of Abraham were released. Let’s look at that in Ephesians 4. This is quoting Psalm 68 and it’s speaking about the resurrection of Jesus.
Therefore, when he ascended on high he led captivity captive and gave gifts to men.
Now, my understanding, and many Bible commentators understand, that “He led captivity captive” was He released the souls of the departed righteous and took them with Him up to heaven. You see, they could not be released until the penalty for sin had actually been paid. God accepted them as righteous because they had put their faith in a sacrifice that had not yet taken place. They were looking forward to the promised sacrifice. But until the sacrifice had actually been offered, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, they could not be released. But after He had sacrificed Himself He went down into Hades and at some point and some way He took them with Him. That’s how I believe. They had been the captives of death, but He took captivity captive. They became the captives of Jesus and of righteousness. Which, to me, is exciting.
Now, the next thing that’s very, very important is this, the resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of our resurrection; that is, if we are totally committed to Jesus. In Colossians 1:18, speaking again about the resurrection of Jesus, Paul says:
“He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church.”
So Jesus is the head, we believers are the body. He’s also the beginning:
“...the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence [or the first place].”
So he is the firstborn from death, He’s the head of a totally new creation. He’s the head of a new race, the God/man race in which the nature of God and man are combined in one person.
He’s the head of the body, He’s the firstborn from the dead. And the resurrection is compared to a birth out of death. And this is such a beautiful picture. In a natural birth, normally what part of the body emerges first? The head, that’s right. And when the head emerges what do you know? You know the rest of the body is going to follow. And so, the resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee that His body will follow Him in resurrection.
Now, also the resurrection of Jesus in His body is a pattern for ours. I hope you’re getting excited about this. If you’re not I’m really not communicating. You see, Paul says in Philippians 3:20–21:
“For our citizenship is in heaven...”
That’s those of us who’ve been born again, committed to live for Jesus, we live on earth, we’re citizens of a country here on earth but our real citizenship is in heaven. If you are a citizen of a country you have to have a passport, did you know that? So we have a passport, it’s the blood of Jesus.
“Our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ...”
Notice a mark of true Christians is that we are eagerly waiting for the Savior. And then it says:
“...who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
Now, that’s the translation but it’s not literal. If I may give you a literal translation it makes something very vivid.
“He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of His glory...”
You see, you may not realize it but you and I live in a body of humiliation. We’ve been humiliated because of sin. And I point out that no matter how wealthy or how healthy you may be, there are certain facts about the body in which you live which continually remind you you’re a sinner. You may eat the most sumptuous food and drink all the wine you want but sooner or later, and generally sooner, you have to go to the toilet and empty your bladder and your bowels. No matter how wealthy you are, no matter how dignified, no matter how high your place in life, this is a body of humiliation. You may also wear the finest clothes but when you get a little bit active and begin to do something energetic, do you know what happens? You perspire. Or, in a more vulgar language, you sweat. That’s a body of humiliation. You see, God has ordained that every one of us should be continually reminded by our body that we are in a state of humiliation because of our sin. But, Jesus is going to change this body of humiliation into the likeness of the body of His glory. Isn’t that exciting? This body is going to change. We’ll look a little later at some of the details of the change.
But let me just point out one very relevant fact. In 1 John 3 John says this in verses 2–3:
“Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be...”
In other words, we haven’t yet seen the kind of body we’re going to have.
“...but we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.”
When He is revealed and we see Him, our bodies will be changed into the likeness of His body.
But I want you to notice the next verse because it’s very important.
“And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.”
Now you may tell me that you’re hoping for the resurrection and it’s not my business to argue with you. But if you are really hoping there’s something you’re doing, you’re purifying yourself. What is the standard of purity? Jesus. Just as He is pure. And if you tell me that you’re looking forward to the resurrection but I see no evidence that you’re purifying yourself, that you’re seeking to make yourself more pure and more holy, I say you’re probably self-deceived. You aren’t really looking forward, you’re just using religious language. Because this is the mark of everyone who is truly looking forward to this exchange from the body of humiliation to the body of glory. Let me read those words again.
“Everyone who has this hope in Him [Jesus] purifies himself just as He is pure.”
Do you have that mark? Is that evidence in your life that you’re really expecting the return of Jesus?
Now, our body will be like His and we observed in the record of the gospels that He was not limited by time or space. He could ascend to heaven and down again, He could enter a room with all the doors closed, He could appear in one form to one person and another form to another person. He had, shall we say, a flexible body. I believe we’ll have a similar kind of body.
People say, “Well, what will that body be like?” Paul deals with that question in 1 Corinthians 15:35–38.
“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up and with what body do they come?’”
I’m sure most of us have felt like asking that.
“Foolish one... [Paul says. Paul is saying it, not me.]... what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.”
And then he goes on with this example of the seed.
“And what you sow, you do not sow the body that shall be but mere grain [or mere seed, perhaps wheat or some other grain], but God gives it a body as He pleases and to each seed its own body.”
Now, there are two things combined there: there’s continuity and there’s change. If you sow an apple pit into the ground you don’t get an orange. The nature of the seed determines the nature of the life that will come out of the seed. So there’s continuity but there’s also change. The apple tree that comes out of the apple pit is not really very like the pit. So there will be continuity. You’ll be the same but there’ll be a tremendous supernatural change. What you sow determines what comes up but nevertheless what comes up is totally different from what was sown. So our body is sown in burial into the ground as a seed—the same body will come forth but a totally different kind of body. I think that’s so vivid.
I always marvel when I think about a seed. I think about that little thing, whatever color it is, I always think of a watermelon. That black seed and you put it in the ground and who could ever believe that that gorgeous, round melon would come out of it. It’s a continuing miracle. Every time we sow a seed we plant a miracle. And the miracle is designed to remind us of our resurrection.
Jesus was very careful to emphasize that when He rose it was the same body that had been crucified. We’ll look in Luke 24. The disciples were all scared, very much so, when He first appeared. They couldn’t really believe what had happened. But Jesus said to them in Luke 24:38–39 after His resurrection appearance:
“Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your heart? Behold my hands and my side that it is I myself.”
In His hands and His side He showed them the evidence of crucifixion. He wanted to make very plain that it was the same body but transformed.
And then in John 20 there’s a further record of the resurrection of Jesus. It says:
“He stood in the midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
That’s the traditional Middle East greeting.
“Now when He had said this He showed them His hands and His side.”
Why did He do that? To show them it was the same body that they’d seen crucified. Well, you remember Thomas wasn’t there and Thomas said, “Well, I will not believe unless I can see His hands and side and put my hand into His side.” So a week later Jesus appeared again and in verse 27 He said to Thomas:
“Reach your finger here and look at my hands, and reach your hand here and put it into my side.”
In other words, the wound was still such that Thomas could put his hand in. So this is very important because when you get resurrected you’re not going to have a new body, you’re going to have a different body but it will be the same body changed.
Now, Paul tells us of five specific changes that will take place in our resurrection body. And he speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 and verses 52 and 53. So we’ll read those verses. 42–44 and 52 and 53. Paul says:
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.”
You know what corruption is? It’s decay. Anything that decays is corrupt.
“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, there is a spiritual body. Now, that’s hard to understand. Unfortunately, the translation doesn’t help very much. This is one of the problems of the English translation and every translation seems to have the same problem. The Greek word is psuchekos which is directly derived from the Greek word for a soul which is psuche. There’s only one reasonable translation which is soulish. It is sown a soulish body, it is raised a spiritual body. You see there the distinction between spirit and soul. Now some languages, for instance, Swedish, has a word for soulish. So does Danish. And really, English has got to have that word rightly to represent what the Bible teaches.
For instance, in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 Paul says:
“The soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God.”
But the translations all say “the natural man,” “the carnal man,” et cetera. It all obscures this tremendously important distinction between the soulish and the spiritual. So it’s sown, it’s buried a soulish body, it’s raised a spiritual body.
Now, ask me to explain that and I’m not sure I can. But I know what it says. But I suggest to you that in our present body the soul makes the decisions. If I want to go through the door my soul says we’ll go through the door and my feet obey. And so, in a sense, our spirit is dependent upon our soul. You remember what David said to his soul, “Soul, praise the Lord.” Come on, get moving. The spirit, you see, wanted to praise the Lord but the soul was sluggish in response. That’s apparently the way it was. We have to stir up our souls from our spirits to do the right thing. We know we should be praising the Lord but our souls are sluggish and so we have to stir them up. This may not satisfy you but it’s the best I can do.
When it’s raised it will be a spiritual body. In other words, the spirit will control the body direct. How? I don’t know. There was a man years ago, a barber in Denmark where my first wife was living, he was a rather simpleminded man but he said one day, “I had a dream.” And he said, “I was in a sort of body and I just pointed to where I wanted to go. If I wanted to go up I pointed up and I went up. If I wanted to go to the right I pointed to the right, if I wanted to go to the left I pointed to the left. Wherever I pointed my body went.” Well I think that’s a spiritual body, you see. It’s a little preview of what it will be like. You won’t have to work through the soul to get the body to do what you want it to do, your spirit will make the decisions.
Now, you can accept that or not, it’s the best I can offer you.
Now let’s look on also in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 52 and 53. It says:
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet, the trumpet will sound. The dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Corruptible is that which is subject to decay, mortal is that which is subject to death. So if you take those two passages together there are five specific changes that take place in our bodies.
From corruptible to incorruptible, subject to decay no longer subject to decay; from mortal to immortal, subject to death no longer subject to death; from dishonor to glory where anybody that’s been buried, in a sense, is a rather pitiable thing, that’s how we go down. When we come up we come up with glory. It’s in weakness that it’s sown but it’s in power that it’s raised. And it’s sown, as we’ve already said, a soulish body but comes forth a spiritual body. Let me just give you those five changes again.
From corruptible to incorruptible
From mortal to immortal
From dishonor to glory
From weakness to power
And from soulish to spiritual.
Now, the resurrection of Jesus is an absolutely key element of Christian doctrine. We cannot set it aside and call ourselves Christians. In 1 Corinthians 15:14 Paul says:
“If Christ is not risen from the dead then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain.”
And in verse 17:
“If Christ is not risen your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.”
In other words, the forgiveness of our sins is absolutely linked to the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus has not been raised, the gospel is false, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. And you see, there are many eminent theologians and other people like that who have denied the reality of the resurrection of the body of Jesus. They are still in their sins, they are not saved. You cannot be saved unless you believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus.
Now let’s go on to the attestation of the resurrection of Jesus. What evidence is given us in the Bible to the resurrection of Jesus? And it’s an interesting fact, the primary evidence is not the evidence of eyewitnesses. The primary evidence is the evidence of Scripture, that takes priority over human witnesses.
Let’s look at some of the passages in the Old Testament that predict the resurrection of Jesus. This is a very, very interesting subject and I wish I had more time to deal with it. But let’s look at one statement in 1 Peter 1:10–12.
“Of this salvation [which Peter is talking about], the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow. To them it was revealed that not to themselves but to us they were ministering the things which have now been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you.”
So, the Old Testament prophets had a real dilemma. I wonder if you can understand it because it’s an amazing dilemma. Peter says the Spirit of Christ was in them, the Spirit of the Messiah. So, under that inspiration they spoke in the first person of things that would happen to Jesus that never happened to them. And that must have been difficult. I don’t know whether you’ve ever put yourself in the place of those Old Testament prophets. But they said the most extraordinary things about themselves which never happened. Let me give you just two examples. In Psalm 22:16, this is what they call a Messianic psalm. In other words, it’s an unfolding of the revelation of the Messiah. Psalm 22:16, David is speaking in the first person and he says:
“Dogs have surrounded me, the assembly of the wicked has enclosed me, they pierce my hands and my feet.”
It never happened to David. How do you think he felt when he said those words? I have no idea, but he was inspired by the Spirit of Christ that was in him. So he spoke in the first person of things that would happen to the Messiah that never happened to him.
And then we can look in Isaiah 50. There are countless other examples; I’m just giving you two very clear examples. Isaiah 50:6:
“I gave my back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard. I did not hide my face from shame and spitting.”
It never happened in the life is Isaiah, it happened in the ministry of Jesus. But, it was written in the first person. Can you understand what I’m saying? It was the Spirit of Messiah in them through the Holy Spirit that predicted what would happen to the Messiah, to Jesus, but never happened to them. And so no wonder they searched what manner of time they were speaking about. I marvel at the faith of those men that they had the faith to receive it. I thank God for them because this is the first confirmation of the resurrection of Christ that are predicted in the Scriptures.
In Psalm 16, which is quoted by the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, we have a very amazing outline of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Psalm 16, beginning at verse 8:
“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”
Now that could have been true of David but it was also true of the Messiah. So, what happens is they say certain things which are true in their experience, then they move beyond their experience into something that never actually happened to them. He goes on:
“Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices.”
And if you want to turn to Acts 2:26 you’ll find out what your glory is. Peter says “my tongue rejoices.” Understand? I’ve told you that before. Your tongue is your glory because it’s the one member that was put in your mouth to enable you to glorify God. So he says:
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices, my flesh also will rest in hope...”
In other words, though I will be buried I will have the hope of resurrection.
“...for you will not leave my soul in Sheol...”
So that indicates that his soul went down to Sheol.
“...nor will you allow your Holy One to see corruption.”
His body never suffered corruption although it was a considerable time in the grave. Because He had never committed sin and sin is the sting that admits corruption to the body. Then it says in the final verse:
“You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
That was fulfilled when Jesus was resurrected. He returned to the Father’s presence and there was fullness of joy. So that’s one example.
Another is in Psalm 71:20–21. This is an amazing psalm. It doesn’t tell us who the psalmist was. You can look into the background if you want to but he’s addressing God and he says:
“You have shown me great and severe troubles shall revive me again [bring me back to life] and bring me up again from the depths of the earth.”
That never happened to any psalmist.
“You shall increase my greatness and comfort me on every side.”
So that only applies to Jesus. He was buried, He was brought back to life, He was raised up and His greatness was increased. He became the owner of the name that’s exalted above every name. See? It never happened to the psalmist, it happened to Jesus. That’s the Spirit of Messiah in them testifying beforehand the things that would follow. When you begin to absorb this truth it is the most powerful attestation of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.
And then there’s one more interesting passage. Paul said in 1 Corinthians, he said the gospel consists of three facts. We looked at that the other day. Jesus died according to the Scriptures, He was buried and He was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures. Have you ever asked yourself what Scripture says He would be raised on the third day? I’ve only been able to find one and it’s extremely interesting because it goes far beyond the context. In Hosea 6:1–2:
“Come and let us return to the Lord, for He is torn but He will heal us, He is stricken but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us [bring us back to life]. On the third day He will raise us up that we may live in His sight.”
Now, that’s a very clear prediction of resurrection on the third day. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t speak about Him in the singular; it speaks about us in the plural.
This is a revelation. If you turn to Ephesians 2 you’ll find how Paul applies this revelation. You see, prophecy does not merely predict future events but it predicts them in such a way as to show their real significance. It interprets them as well as predicts them. This is a perfect example. Ephesians 2, beginning at verse 4, and this is written about all true believers. Ephesians 2, beginning at verse 4:
“But God who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses...”
That’s wonderful. He loved us even when we were dead. How many people can love a corpse? Now what did He do? Three things:
“...He made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ.”
All that is in the past tense. So, because of our identification with Jesus we’re made alive, we’re resurrected and, don’t stop there, we are enthroned. That’s our destiny. And Paul doesn’t put it in the future. In essence, he says if you can receive it, you’re sharing the throne with Jesus right now. But this is the outworking of Hosea 6:1B2. See how marvelously the Scripture interprets itself.
Then Paul gives a list of human witnesses. That is not irrelevant but it secondary. We’ll just look at that briefly. 1 Corinthians 15:5–8. Verse 4 says:
“He was buried, He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
“...that He was seen by Cephas [that’s Peter], then by the twelve apostles. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to this present and some have fallen asleep...”
Most of them are still alive which indicates they were probably pretty young when they saw him.
After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as one born out of due time.
That’s a list of the people that were eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. Now according to Jewish law the testimony of any two reliable men was sufficient to establish something at law. But God has given far more than two testimonies for the resurrection of Jesus.
Incidentally, and this I’ll just say because it interests me, Paul says he saw Jesus as one born out of due time—as a premature birth. I’ve pondered on that for a long while but I really believe Paul was a foreshadowing of the ultimate salvation of Israel when they see the Messiah. But Paul was two thousand years in advance, he was born out of due time. You can disagree with me about that and still be saved.
Now I want to speak about the importance of the resurrection. We cannot overestimate the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. It is the decisive fact of the history of the universe. The whole history of the universe, not just the human race, revolves around the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. First of all, it was God’s vindication of Jesus. Remember, two courts had condemned Him to death: a secular Roman court, a religious Jewish court. And when He was buried He was under that condemnation but when He rose God vindicated His Son. This is expressed in Romans 1:3–4:
“Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord who came of the seed of David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness...”
And that’s a Jewish phrase of saying the Holy Spirit because actually the Hebrew for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Holiness. Some translators don’t realize that Paul was writing in Greek but thinking in Hebrew.
“...declared to be the Son of God with power by the Holy Spirit by the resurrection of the dead.”
So when Jesus came forth out of the tomb God said, “I’ve reversed those unjust decisions. I’ve vindicated my Son. He never sinned, there’s no cause for death in Him and by my Holy Spirit I’ve raised Him up.”
You know, it’s interesting, I shouldn’t go into this too long, but all the vital crises of the redemption involve all three persons of the Godhead. The conception of Jesus was by the Father through the Spirit to bring forth the Son. The ministry of Jesus, Peter says, “God the Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power.” The Father anointed the Son with the Spirit. The death of Jesus, it says “He through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God.” The Son through the Spirit to the Father. The resurrection of Jesus, “the Father by the Spirit raised the Son.” And the final statement at Pentecost, “Jesus received from the Father the gift of the Holy Spirit and poured it out on His disciples.” You see how totally the tri-unity of the Godhead is involved in every major stage of redemption. If I may say it reverently, it was like no one of the persons of the Godhead wanted to be left out in this glorious visitation of the human race. God is much more interested in us than we realize. To me that speaks volumes. The whole Godhead was totally involved in every major phase of the process of redemption.
All right. Now then, the resurrection of Jesus is the basis for our justification. If He wasn’t raised we’d still be in our sins. Paul says in Romans 4:25–26:
“Jesus was delivered up to death for our offenses and was raised for our justification.”
If He hadn’t been raised we could not be justified, we’d still be in our sins.
And then he says about salvation in Romans 10:9–10:
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”
You understand, if you do not believe that God raised Jesus from the dead you cannot be saved. It is essential for salvation. Unfortunately there are multitudes of professing Christians who don’t believe in the physical resurrection. None of them can know the peace and joy of sins forgiven, no matter what position they may occupy in the church.
Then the resurrection is the guarantee of Christ’s power to save us. In Hebrews 7:25 it says this:
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him [Jesus] since He ever lives to make intercession for us.”
If Jesus was still in the tomb, how could He save us? But because He’s at the right hand of God, because He’s atoned for our sins, because all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him, He’s able to save us to the uttermost. I love that phrase. Somebody said from the guttermost to the uttermost. There’s no limit to the power of Jesus to save. He has all power.
Then, and this again is very important, the resurrection is the completion of our redemption. Listen, our destination ultimately is not heaven. It’s wonderful that we’ll be able to go to heaven but that’s just a stopping-off place because while our spirits are in heaven our bodies will still be moldering in the grave. That’s not a complete salvation. Jesus died for the whole person. His salvation includes spirit, soul and body. And that salvation is not complete until the resurrection. Paul was very clear of this. He says in Philippians 3:10 and following—he says the aim and purpose of his whole life is:
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
He wasn’t concerned about getting to heaven; his ambition was to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Thank God when we die our spirits will go to heaven but that’s not the completion of redemption because our bodies are still unredeemed. Paul set his sights on the resurrection and he said something very powerful. He said, “If by any means I may attain to the resurrection.” Paul didn’t take for granted that he would attain to the resurrection. Dear brother and sister, you will not drift into the resurrection. If you’re drifting you’ll end somewhere else. It requires a real solemn commitment and determination.
I’m sorry to say that I meet thousands of Christians who really don’t take this sufficiently serious. If Paul had to say, “If by any means I may attain to the resurrection,” who are you or I to say we’ll get there anyhow? Are we on the same spiritual level as Paul? Probably not. But even Paul didn’t take it for granted.
He said again in the next verse:
“Not that I’m already attained or am already perfected but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul was single-minded. He said, “I haven’t arrived, I haven’t attained,” at the time that he was speaking. But he said, “There’s one thing I do. I press toward the goal. I’ve got one supreme ambition and determination, to be there when the dead are raised in Christ.”
And when you think what that’s going to be like, brothers and sisters, it would be a shame to miss it! It really would. I mean, it’s not possible for our limited minds to conceive the glory and the power that will be released when these weak, corruptible bodies are suddenly and gloriously transformed into a body like that of Jesus. Isn’t that wonderful? It is to me. In fact, I just have to stop and ponder over it for a moment.
Romans 8:23 also says this. In other words, salvation isn’t complete until the resurrection. Romans 8:23, it says in verse 22:
“The whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now...”
Then it says:
“...not only they but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”
Now let me ask you, is that true of you? You have the firstfruits of the Spirit. Are you groaning within yourself? Are you eagerly waiting? What right do you or I have to suppose that God deals with us on a lesser level? The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not given just to have a good time; it’s given to prepare us for what lies ahead. I feel such a sense of solemnity right now.
The next thing I want to say about the resurrection is it’s the consummation of our union with Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says this:
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the dead who have been raised] in clouds to meet the Lord in the air...”
That’s very interesting because there are two Greek words for air. One describes the higher rarefied air, the other the air nearer the earth’s surface. The word that’s used here is the lower air. So we won’t go very far above the earth to meet the Lord.
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
After that, no more partings. We shall always be with the Lord and we shall always be with one another.
Now, I have a wife whom I love dearly who’s gone ahead of me. But one day we’ll be together forever. Dear brothers and sisters, don’t miss this. It’s the greatest tragedy of your life if you miss this. It’s earnest, it’s serious.
Finally, and I have to say this rapidly, the resurrection will be in three phases. 1 Corinthians 15:22:
“For as in Adam all died, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one of us in his own order...”
And here’s the order, three separate phases. First, Christ the firstfruits, then those who are Christ’s at His coming, and finally the end, the final resurrection of all the remaining dead. Whom is Jesus coming back? Those that are Christ’s. He’s not coming back... He’s not a thief, He’s not going to take anything or anybody that doesn’t belong to Him. Do you really belong to Him? It’s an important question. Those are the ones He’s coming back for.
He’s called the firstfruits. And here’s one final passage from the Bible that is really exciting. Leviticus 9, I think it is. Just one quick, brief ceremony. (Wait till I write that down in my outline.) Leviticus 23, sorry, bear with me. This is a ceremony under the Law of Moses.
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priests. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted on your behalf. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.’’”
What day is the Sabbath, what day of the week? Saturday. What’s the day after the Sabbath? Sunday. What day did Jesus rise? Sunday, that’s right. He was the sheaf and He was waved on our behalf that we might be accepted because of Him.
But He wasn’t just one stalk, He was a sheaf. And if you read in Matthew 27 when Jesus died, there was an earthquake, the tombs were opened and many of the righteous dead came out into the city. I don’t believe they went back into the tombs, I believe they went up with Jesus. They became the sheaf that was waived before the Lord, saying there’s a great multitude to follow. Here we are, we’re the sheaf, we’re the firstfruits.
Now, I really can’t go any further. I am absolutely pressed in my spirit to challenge you as to whether you really are pressing toward the mark, whether you have got the right priorities in your life. In 1977, I think, I was at some meeting in the North Island somewhere here on intercession. I was teaching about the fact that there’s a strong man over every nation. They said to me, “What’s the strong man over New Zealand?” I said it’s not my job to tell you, you’re the New Zealand Christians, you’ve got to find out. But at that moment I felt the Lord said, “I’ll tell you the strong man.” So I came back and I told them but at that time Bill Subritzsky who is a close friend of ours was sitting way back with one of his daughters. He told me afterwards at the moment that I said this God said the same to him. What I said was this and it will surprise you, it’s a kind of anticlimax. The strongman over New Zealand is indifference. Now, I can’t talk like a Kiwi but Kiwis have said to me the typical statement of a New Zealander is, “She’ll be right, Jack.” In other words, it’ll take care of itself. If we leave it it’ll get all right. That is your number one problem in New Zealand and it’s the problem of some of you. And if you don’t deal with that problem you won’t be ready, because Jesus is not coming back for the indifferent, He’s coming back for those who are eagerly waiting for Him.
Now, I want to give you an opportunity, I wouldn’t be fair to you if I didn’t. If you really are aware, in the light of what I’ve been saying, that you are not living the way you should be living to wait for Jesus, it’s time for you to change. Remember what I said about repentance? It’s a decision followed by an action. If you need to repent, and I’m talking to each one of you individually. I don’t know most of you personally, but if you need to repent, this is the time to do it. You remember what I said? You can’t repent just when you want to, you can only repent when the Holy Spirit prompts you.
If there are those here this morning, you know the Holy Spirit is telling you you’re not living right, you’re not in the attitude that you should be if you’re expecting my return, but you want to put it right, I want to challenge you, I want to give you an opportunity. I want to invite you to get out of your seat and come down here to the front and pray. To do that you’ll have to humble yourself. If you don’t do it it’s not my responsibility. But if you know that you’re not ready to meet the Lord, you’re not living in a way that indicates you’re eagerly waiting His return and you want to put things right with God, now and here is the best time to do it. I’m going to give you an opportunity, I’m not going to prolong this appeal. If you want to get right with God here today, I’m inviting you to come forward and kneel.
Ruth will you come? Are there any pastors here? I always like to have the pastors of God’s people with me when I pray like this. If you’re a pastor and you’re here, please come up and join us on the platform. God bless you. Good to have you.
Now, you’ll just have to kneel where you are. It doesn’t matter where you kneel as long as you kneel in the right attitude. Kneeling is humbling ourselves, it’s bowing our knees before the Lord. That’s what we need to do.
I’m going to pray for all of you and I’m going to pray for New Zealand, too. When I’ve prayed this prayer and said amen, each one of you needs to cry out to God from your own heart. I’m not going to give you the words, you just speak to God from your heart. I feel an anointing to pray right now for those who’ve knelt before the Lord in humility and for this nation of New Zealand which I love, which at the present time is leading a very careless, self-indulgent kind of life. Is that right? It certainly is. I’m going to pray for you who that have knelt. I sense an anointing, I think something will begin to happen when I pray. And then I’m going to pray for New Zealand.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the author of our salvation. You are the firstfruits that rose from the dead. You’re in heaven as our intercessor, you’re at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us now. Because you live we shall live also. Lord, you see these dear people who’ve come to realize that they’re not living the way they should be living in the light of your soon coming. God, will you pour out your Spirit on them now in the name of Jesus? Will you pour out a spirit of grace and supplications that they’ll be able to cry to you from their hearts, Lord, that they’ll offer you sincere, humble, God-fearing prayer. Release that spirit upon them now in the name of Jesus. Release a spirit of intercession. Start them praying, Lord. Oh God, have mercy, Lord.
And Lord, we pray to for New Zealand, this nation that we love. Will you have mercy on this nation, Lord? Will you do something to turn the hearts of the people back to yourself, to turn them back from their godless, careless, sinful ways back to the living God who loves them, who’s blessed this nation above most nations. Lord, will you have mercy on New Zealand, we pray, in Jesus’ name.”
Amen, amen. Now you cry out to God and don’t you get off your knees till you know you’ve touched God.