Our house has made a few appearances in sermons before. We really LIKE it, but it’s getting OLD.
At the moment, the brick piers seem to be going up and down like yoyo’s. And so, there are appearing all over the place. Some walls look like they’re leaning in towards other walls. Doors aren’t shutting.
We keep blowing the power circuit breaker when we put on too many appliances. The hot water system’s just blown up. I’ve just re-grouted the shower, and re-siliconed the hob.
And now, there’s a funny damp smell somewhere in one of the bedrooms we can’t identify.
My guess is the brand new home they’ve just finished building down the street doesn’t have ANY of those problems. Big clean rooms, fresh paintwork, lots of living areas. Nice straight walls and doors. Up to date appliances and electrics. Water tight wet areas. No strange smells.
It’s an attractive thought. Get rid of the OLD home. And REPLACE it with a BRAND NEW ONE.
And, I don’t know whether you’re like me, but MY BODY is starting to feel a bit like my HOUSE. A few more appearing. Things not working as well as they used to. Bits breaking down, and having to be repaired. Other bits looking tired, and needing a freshen up. Gravity taking its toll.
And I’m not saying anything at all about a funny damp smell I can’t identify.
But it’s frustrating not being able to do what you USED to. Slowing up, breaking down, wearing out.
And, unfortunately, it’s a sad fact of life. And nothing will change it… until Jesus returns. When he promises to do a knock-down rebuild on our broken down bodies, as well as on the whole creation. And give us brand new, perfected, glorious bodies.
It’s the distinctive Christian hope. Jesus doesn’t just save our SOULS. He’s redeemed our BODIES as well. Eternity won’t be about LEAVING BEHIND the physical world, and our bodies. And floating about like angels on clouds.
But there’ll be a RESTORATION. Jesus promises NEW ETERNAL BODIES. Still physical – made of STUFF. But with none of the pain and broken-ness we put up with NOW.
It says, at the same time, that God’s physical world, the world we live in NOW – that we’re PART of, is both GOOD, and BROKEN.
It’s GOOD, since that’s the way God made it to BEGIN with. With physical things God wants us to enjoy. And his plan for eternity still involves A PHYSICAL WORLD. With much the same sorts of good physical things to be enjoyed.
But the world NOW – it’s also BROKEN. And needs MENDING and TRANSFORMING and RESTORING. Messed up by SIN. Our rebellion against God.
This is the fourth week in the series. And we’re following the timeline towards Eternity. First, we DIE, then our souls will either be with Christ, or in a place of punishment until Jesus’ return. Then Jesus will return, and set things right.
And ONE of those things is that everyone will receive an eternal, resurrected body. Either for JUDGMENT and ETERNAL SEPARATION from God. Or for LIFE and an eternal HOME with God.
(We’re going to stick mostly to two passages 1 Cor 15 (p815), and 1 Thess 4 (p836). So, stick your finger in one, and keep the OTHER ONE open.)
We’ll start in 1 Thessalonians. And here was THE ISSUE for Paul’s readers. Why he addresses the topic of what will happen when Jesus returns. Because when you’ve lost someone, what you want to know is that ISN’T THE END. It’s not all over. But that there’s HOPE.
But the attitude we see so often in the face of from people is DIFFERENT. For SOME, there’s HOPELESS DESPAIR. is just too big, and too dark, and too powerful and too final to be argued with. That’s the HONEST ones.
Then there’s THE OSTRICHES. Those who want to put their heads in the sand. With some vague, uninformed, wishful thinking about . “I’m just trying to think positive thoughts.” “I’d like to think he’s up there looking down on me.”
But neither reaction is what Jesus offers us. Neither reaction is the right response to the promises of the one who defeats . And who’s been RAISED FIRST as the guarantee of OUR resurrection.
Have a look at how Paul begins his teaching on Jesus’ return. THIS is his motivation. 1 Thess 4:13
13 Brothers, we do not want you to be IGNORANT about those who fall asleep, or to GRIEVE like the rest of men, who have NO HOPE.
Christians needn’t be UNINFORMED about what’s on the other side of . Nor are we to MOURN hopelessly, like the rest.
When you grasp what Jesus PROMISES, then doesn’t hold that mind-numbing threat anymore. You can move from ignorance to knowledge. And from hopeless grief. To CONFIDENT HOPE of a SURE FUTURE.
But where does that come from? What are the GROUNDS for being so sure? It’s in THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. Paul continues. V14.
14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and SO we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
A historical event. Testified to by eyewitnesses. It might go against human reasoning. After all, we all know people don’t rise! But it’s as solidly verifiable as ANY historical event CAN be.
That’s where the Christian confidence comes from. The confidence that if Jesus has been raised, then he has the power to ALSO raise those who belong to him.
In the OTHER passage we’re focussing on, 1 Cor 15, Paul uses an image from FARMING to make the same point. FIRSTFRUITS.
When the first box of cherries hits the markets, it’s auctioned for charity. And there’s lots of attention. Media coverage. A huge crowd. It’s the firstfruits. And it signals the start of summer fruit. Where there’s ONE box of cherries, there’s the expectation of many more to come.
And Jesus is the firstfruits of people who rise from the . Look at 1 Cor 15:20-23.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the , the FIRSTFRUITS of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since came through a man, the RESURRECTION OF THE COMES ALSO THROUGH A MAN. 22 For as in Adam all die, SO IN CHRIST ALL WILL BE MADE ALIVE. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, THOSE WHO BELONG TO HIM.
There it is, plain as anything. Christ has been raised FIRST. And then, when he returns, those who belong to him will ALSO be raised. Guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection.
Let’s think a little more about what the Bible says will happen on that day.
Last week we had a look at Christ’s return IN GENERAL. But this week we’re thinking IN PARTICULAR about OUR RESURRECTION.
Flip back over to the 1 Thess 4 passage. Let’s look at some specifics about what will happen for Christians. There in v15. Talking about two groups of people – Christians who DIED before Christ came back. And Christians who happen to be ALIVE when he returns. And Jesus will do a renovation rescue on BOTH groups. V15.
15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that WE WHO ARE STILL ALIVE, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP.
That’s the two groups. And here’s what will happen to them.
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the in Christ will rise first.
That’s the . They’ll be RESURRECTED. They won’t miss out. (That was the reason Paul wrote this bit in the first place. Some people thought that the had missed out. That was that. But when Jesus returns, v15, he’ll BRING with HIM THOSE WHO’VE FALLEN ASLEEP. And then their bodies will be raised. And, far from missing out, they’ll be FIRST IN LINE.)
And THEN those Christians who are still alive. V17.
17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
That’s the ORDER. The first, then the LIVING. But what about what happens to that SECOND group? Those who are still alive? They don’t NEED to be raised.
Flip over to 1 Cor 15 again. V51.
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: WE WILL NOT ALL SLEEP, BUT WE WILL ALL BE CHANGED- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the will be raised imperishable (that’s the FIRST group), and WE WILL BE CHANGED (that’s the SECOND group). 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: % has been swallowed up in victory.”
We can SORT of get our heads around the idea of resurrection. Of God assembling somehow a perfected heavenly body. But for those who are still living, Paul says they’ll be CHANGED. Some sort of transformation. V53 seems to describe it something like putting on a new jacket over the top of the existing clothes you’re wearing. Mortality being CLOTHED in immortality.
Or perhaps like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. Or one of those time lapse films of a plant growing. Changing from a seed to a full grown plant within a few seconds. (show movie)
The resurrection body
And it’s THIS image of a seed changing to a plant that Paul uses in 1 Cor 15. It helps us get our heads around the difference between the body we have at the moment, and the body we’ll have THEN.
He’s heard the question being asked, “What will the resurrected body be like?” (v35). Listen to his answer (v36)
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant THE BODY THAT WILL BE, but just a SEED, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.
In other words, a new plant GROWS only because the seed is CAME FROM / DIES. And the new plant is nothing like the seed, but at the same time, there’s a CONNECTION. They’re made from the same stuff. There’s a discontinuity, and there’s continuity.
And it’s the same with our BODY. Our OLD body has to DIE / for the NEW body to come alive.
What will it be like? There’ll be SOME similiarity, but also some DISSIMILARITY. If Jesus’ resurrected body is anything to go by, our new bodies will LOOK SIMILAR to our old ones.
But there’ll be DIFFERENCES as well. Paul goes on to talk about how there’s all different sorts of bodies. Even HEAVENLY bodies.
And he says there’s all different sorts of SPLENDOUR with the different bodies. V41.
41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
And it’s the same with OUR bodies. V42.
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the . The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a body, it is raised a spiritual body.
That will be ONE difference. A difference in SPLENDOUR. In MAGNIFICENCE. In GLORY. Like the difference between the splendour of the sun, and a tiny little speck of a star.
Your NEW body will be imperishable, and glorious, and powerful. Not perishable, and dishonourable, and weak.
If the OLD body was like Adam, the first EARTHLY man/ then your NEW body will be like JESUS, the first HEAVENLY man. See there in v49?
49 And just as we HAVE BORNE the likeness of the EARTHLY MAN, so SHALL we bear the likeness of THE MAN FROM HEAVEN.
Our bodies NOW bear all the marks of Adam. Sin, sickness, weaknesses, aging, heart attacks, strokes, knee replacements. Groaning to be set free.
But our NEW bodies will bear the likeness of Jesus. Bearing God’s image perfectly. In mind, and speech and desires and priorities and attitudes. Without weaknesses or frailties and pain.
Which is something to LONG for.
That’s the promise. The hope the Christian has for eternity. The promise guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection, to all who trust him.
So, what about the “so what?” question. What difference should that promise – that hope – make to you TODAY? What MOTIVATION does it give for how you live NOW?
Well, the most OBVIOUS motivation is to make sure you BELONG to Christ. So that his promise applies to YOU.
Have a listen to what Jesus himself says about our response to these things. Jn 5:24 (p754).
24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
The first thing we should be motivated to do by all of this stuff is make sure we HEAR what Jesus says, and BELIEVE it. That we TRUST Jesus. Trust that he has DEALT with sin and . BEATEN them. And can beat them for all who follow him too.
That’s how to make sure that when you die, and you hear the voice of the Son of God from the grave, you’ll be raised for an eternity with him.
Is that something you’re SURE ABOUT. You CAN be, if you’re trust is in the one who’s infinitely TRUSTWORTHY.
But Jesus continues, with something UNEXPECTED and SCARY. v28
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when ALL who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out-those who have done GOOD will rise to LIVE, and those who have done EVIL will rise to be CONDEMNED.
When Christ returns, there’ll be resurrection for ALL. Christians and non-Christians alike. For those who DON’T belong to Jesus, it’s literally ‘to a resurrection of judgment”. Which seems to suggest that when God judges them, and finds them guilty. That eternity WITHOUT God will ALSO be a physical existence. (But more on that when we look at the topic of HELL in a of weeks.)
So that’s our FIRST motivation – make sure you belong to Christ. And that you tell those who DON’T what they’re risking.
Second thing. Be courageous. That’s how it worked for Paul. Look at 1 Cor 15 v30.
30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day-I mean that, brothers-just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Do you catch what he’s saying? The reason Paul puts his life at risk. The reason he counts it as nothing. That he dies to his own desires and comforts every day. Is because he has a greater prize. And nothing else compares. Nothing else matters.
What risk is there when you’re risking a poor and broken body for the sure hope of a better pure glorified one? None! There’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain. So be courageous.
What’s the worst that can happen? People tease you, or you lose a job, or a friend, or you do without a few things? Or even if you’re KILLED for following Jesus. So what?
We look forward to a much greater treasure, and much greater JOY.
Thirdly, from the 1 Thess 4 passage. Be encouraged. 1 Thess 4:18.
17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore ENCOURAGE each other with these words.
We, and Christians who’ve died, have a SURE and glorious future. So encourage each other.
And finally, Stand firm! Phil 3:20
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
THIS is how you should stand firm. Remembering we’re our TRUE citizenship lies. That everything that lures us here will fade, or rust, or break down, or grow old. Nothing will last. But our future, our destiny, our eternity, what we were DESIGNED for will be glorious bodies, like that of Jesus himself, transformed by Jesus, the King of the Universe, who controls everything by his power. SO STAND FIRM IN THE LORD.