************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 22 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 26, 2017
Lord's Day 22
"Resurrection and Life Everlasting"
Someone younger was talking about someone who was 89 and their difficulties and health problems and the decline that comes with age. He asked, "Who would ever want to be 89?" Are you ready for the answer he was given? "Who would ever want to be 89?" "Someone who is 88."
The same thing happens with the two articles of the Apostles' Creed in front of us this morning. Whoever wants to hear about the resurrection of the body and life everlasting? I can tell you that the older you get the more you love hearing about this and the more you want to hear about this.
Let me remind you, again, that we continue our study of sound doctrine this morning. In other words, this is not something made up by the minds of man -- like the reincarnation taught by Hindus. This is not something made up to satisfy the itching ears of man. This is sound doctrine, doctrine you can believe and trust and depend on, because it is based upon the Bible.
I The Intermediate State
A I ask my Catechism students what is the moment of death? Different answers that are given: when breathing stops, when the heart no longer beats, when there is no brain activity. The Biblical answer: when the soul leaves the body. Death occurs when the soul leaves the body.
God created us to live. God did not create us to die. So death is something that should not happen. Death, as you know, is the result of mankind's fall into sin. Death is God's judgment upon the human race.
Not only did God create us to live but God also created us to live as body and soul. Body and soul are meant to be together. The body is never meant to be without the soul and the soul is never meant to be without the body. The separation of body and soul is something unnatural and dreadful, something that should not happen, something that will happen to each and every one of us unless the Lord Jesus comes first.
Body and soul were created to be together. So we must not make the mistake of the Greek philosophers who say the body is the prison house of the soul, who say the body is a vile and contemptible thing, who say death means freedom for the soul. Both body and soul are good creations of God and both body and soul are redeemed by Christ.
B What happens when someone dies?
The body is put into the ground where it crumbles and disintegrates. The body ceases to exist and to function. The body loses all consciousness. As we say at the graveside, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
The soul of the believer is taken immediately after this life to Christ its head. The soul is not taken to purgatory, as is said by the Roman Catholics, where it awaits a purging of remaining sin. The soul does not fall asleep, as is taught by the Seventh-Day Adventists and others. Nor is the soul annihilated, as is taught by the JW's. Rather, the soul is fully conscious and goes to be with the Lord.
In this life, on this earth, in this body our fellowship with Christ is imperfect because it is often hindered by sin. After death the soul is free from sin and our fellowship with Christ is better than anything we can possibly have in this life.
In this life we cannot see Christ. He seems distant at times; we know Him from afar. But when we die we shall be in His immediate presence.
What I am saying is what we have right now is the beginning of eternal joy. But when we die our fellowship with Christ is richer and deeper than before. Death does not end a believer's relationship with Christ: death is merely a servant in Christ's hand to bring us into a deeper relationship with Himself.
All of this depends upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. Our sins exclude us from heaven and the presence of God. Our sins make us unworthy to have fellowship with Christ. Our sins qualify us only for death and hell's destruction. But Christ died in our place, took our curse, and bore our guilt and shame. So when we die we can be taken immediately to Christ in heaven.
We know this as the intermediate state. It is the state of the believer between death and the coming again of the Lord. During the intermediate state the bliss of the soul is better than this life but not as good as the final state.
C The Catechism says nothing about the souls of the wicked and unbelieving after death. But we know their souls, too, are separated from the body. Their souls, too, do not experience purgatory, soul-sleep, or annihilation. The souls of the wicked and unbelieving go straight to hell. There they are fully conscious of the wrath of God. There they await the final judgment and the lake of fire.
D Our souls are taken to Christ our "head." Remember, we belong to Him, body and soul, in life and in death. And, because we belong to Him, He claims our soul at death.
Now, note carefully what the Catechism -- based upon the Bible -- says about how Christ claims our souls. We are told our souls are "taken" to Christ. Many people have the mistaken notion that our souls simply rise into heaven like a balloon or maybe fly into heaven like a bird. But this is not true. Sinful souls cannot lift themselves into heaven. They need to be taken.
(Jn 14:3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.How does Jesus take us into heaven? In Luke 16 we read that the angels carried the poor man, Lazarus, to Abraham's side. The angels are the servants of Christ and do His bidding.
Because our souls are "taken" they can't get lost on the way to heaven; they can't be blown off course like a balloon; they can't go in another direction like a bird or a plane. In other words, our destination is sure and will surely be reached. Every lost and sinful soul belonging to Jesus is taken into heaven.
Sound doctrine believes death is not the end. Sound doctrine believes the souls of the believing dead are taken to be with Christ. And, sound doctrine believes the souls of the unbelieving are taken to the fires of hell.
Where will your soul end up? No one knows the day or the hour. No one knows the day or hour of their own death. No one knows the day or hour of Christ's return. I plead with you, go to Christ before it is too late. Believe in His name. Accept Him as Savior. And I tell you, if you do, then -- by grace -- your soul will be taken to be with the Lord when you die.
II The Resurrection of the Body
A During the intermediate state our souls are separated from our bodies. Sound doctrine declares this is a temporary separation. It is a temporary separation because someday, says the Catechism, "my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ, will be reunited with my soul." The Bible goes further and teaches all men will be raised from the dead -- both the believing and the unbelieving.
Jesus speaks of the resurrection in our Bible reading from John 5. Jesus speaks about four different resurrections.
The first resurrection mentioned in our Bible reading is the resurrection of lost sinners into eternal life. Jesus claims to be the one whose voice will bring life to those who are dead:
(Jn 5:24-25) 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 death to life. (25) I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.Jesus is talking about regeneration, new life, being born again. The lost sinner is as lifeless and helpless as a corpse. No matter how an undertaker may prepare a corpse, it is still dead. The lost sinner is totally helpless to save himself and he certainly cannot give himself life.
How are dead sinners raised from the dead? Those who hear God’s Word and believe in God’s Son are given eternal life. Jesus healed the paralyzed man at the pool by His Word (John 5:8). Each time He raised somebody from the dead, He spoke the Word (Lk 7:11–17; 8:49–56; Jn 11:41–44). His Word is "living and active" (Heb 4:12) and raises sinners from spiritual death.
Jesus gives dead sinners "eternal life." Think of what this means: that they can never die spiritually again, nor can they ever be condemned. To hear His Word and believe means salvation; to reject His Word means condemnation (Jn 12:48).
B The second resurrection mentioned in our Bible reading is the resurrection of our Lord Himself.
(Jn 5:26) For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself."In himself" reminds us, as we read at the start of John's gospel, that "in Him was life" (Jn 1:4). "In himself" reminds us the grave could not hold Him because He is the "author of life" (Acts 2:24; 3:15). "In himself" reminds us Jesus laid down His life and then took it up again (Jn 10:17–18). Because He has life in Himself, He can share that life with all who will trust Him.
C The third resurrection mentioned in our Bible reading is the future resurrection of the body, when believers are raised from the dead.
(Jn 5:28-29) "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 ...We see a picture of this resurrection when Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave. The same voice that gives life to dead sinners summons Lazarus. It is a powerful voice, an irresistible voice. Do you know why Jesus said the name of "Lazarus"? Because if Jesus simply said, "Come out!" every dead body for miles around would have come out of the grave!
The resurrection is further explained for us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 and 1 Corinthians 15. We are told the resurrection body is a new body, a glorified body, a body suited for the new heaven and new earth. The Catechism sums this up by saying "my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ, will be reunited with my soul and made like Christ's glorious body."
Perhaps you do not like your body as it is today. Perhaps it has many weaknesses: illness, disability, heart problems, cancer, problems with breathing. Perhaps you think it has many imperfections: too thin, too wide, too high, too short, too many wrinkles, too big a nose, not enough hair, not the right shape, not the right kind of smile, not enough muscles or curves. Perhaps you want a different body. If so, I have good news for you: someday your flesh will be "made like Christ's glorious body." Believe in the power of Christ. He can raise your body from the dust and transform it and make it beautiful and glorious.
D The fourth resurrection mentioned in our Bible reading is the resurrection of condemnation.
(Jn 5:29) ... those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.This resurrection involves only the lost, and it will take place just before Jesus Christ ushers in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev 20:11–15). What a terrifying event that will be, when the unbelieving dead shall be resurrected and stand before Jesus Christ! They will not want to arise. They will want to stay in the dust. But they cannot resist the Word of Christ when He summons them from the grave. Their body needs to rise because they have sinned in both body and soul and both body and soul needs to be punished in the everlasting fires of hell.
E You may not realize this, but Jesus was speaking against the beliefs of the Sadducees. The Sadducees did not believe in angels, spirits, souls, or bodily resurrections. That is because the Sadducees were basically liberals influenced by Greek philosophy.
Sound doctrine, however, believes in the resurrection of the body -- for both believers and unbelievers. Will your body be raised to be with Christ? Or, will your body be raised to spend eternity in hell? It depends upon your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you recognize this: floating on clouds and plucking harps? That is the picture of the future depicted by cartoonists. This is not the eternal blessedness we read of in the Bible.
Our future life involves a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1). But unlike today, heaven and earth will be one unified whole.
The inhabitants of the new earth are the holy trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; the angels; and, the holy catholic church -- that is, true believers from all times and places.
The Catechism describes the future as perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined. This future life will be blessed for several reasons. First, and most important, because we will have fellowship with God. Unbroken fellowship. Sweet fellowship. At that time we will know God and enjoy God and serve God forever.
Second, the future life will be blessed because it is perfect: there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev 21:4). There will be no sin. There will not be any of the effects of sin. Instead, it will have all the perfection and beauty and glory of God and of the Lamb.
How do you know if this will be your experience? How do you know that your experience will not be hell instead? The answer the Catechism gives is that if you are headed for heaven, then already you experience in your heart the beginning of eternal joy.
Do you believe in Jesus now? Is He the One your heart loves and craves? Is His cross your only confidence and joy? Do you know the forgiveness of sins now? Do you feel sorrow over your sins now? Do you seek to live the new life now in gratitude for what Christ has done? If your answer is "YES" then you know that heaven is your home and where you belong.
On the other hand, if Christ and the cross does not appeal to you, if you love your sins, if you have no desire to lead a holy life, if you do not pray and worship and read the Bible, if you live in hostility towards your neighbor, then I can say only one thing to you: Sound doctrine tells you to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ before it is too late.
In which direction are you headed? I pray you and I and all our loved ones are headed for a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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