2/8/2020 [Thematic Message 111] www.lifechurchmissions.com
Resurrection, Victory, Standing Firm <1 Co 15:35-58; 1 Th 4:15-18>
Prelude: Sometimes, because our life on earth is too easy and comfortable, our whole mentality becomes complacent, such that we gradually forget that we are foreigners in this world who will soon go back to meet the Lord. In addition, we also live in a very pragmatic world. The pace of our lives is getting faster and faster, and everything seems to be based on what we see. Therefore, when we talk about life, death and eternal life, these issues are not only impractical or unrealistic to an unbelieving world, but even believers often avoid talking about it. In fact, although the resurrection is a mystery, the Bible does not hide it from us. God wants us to understand the resurrection very clearly so that we can live a fruitful life on earth. Sometimes, we are inevitably discouraged because we face much trials and temptations on earth. But once we know that all of these have an end, our hearts will be strengthened. In particular, when our desires and thoughts are heading towards the end, we will not place much emphasis on our light and momentary troubles. Therefore, the most powerful faith living is one that constantly sets us on the matter of resurrection, such that we do not focus on what is on earth. A pastor who preached prosperity theology said, “Only 10% of the contents in the Bible talks about the coming resurrection, but 90% of the contents talks about things on earth.” Therefore, he used this idea to turn believers’ eyes to earthly matters, and talk specifically about how believers should achieve success, prosperity, and excellence, etc. on earth. This has no root and foundation, but is a random generalization. This is because all the teachings and rules of living on earth given to believers by the Bible contain the meaning of resurrection. So, why do we live godly lives, strike a blow to our body and endure temptations today? It is because we are people who eventually have to be accountable to God and receive our heavenly crowns. In fact, we have to ask ourselves why are we sometimes so extremely miserable because of momentary suffering on earth? Why can't we forget past hurts? Why do we let out voices of discontentment when undesirable things continue to happen to us now? That is because we have forgotten the truth regarding the coming resurrection, such that we are only driven by our desires or affected by momentary gains or losses. At such time, our agony will increase! Of course, sometimes God allows some suffering on earth so that we come before God for His grace and experience His faithful help, but God's help absolutely does not avoid pointing us to the eternal glory that far outweighs them all <2 Co 4:17>. Sometimes, when we live in this secular world, our hearts and minds are suddenly led on by our temporary senses. Perhaps sometimes when we see our children being so lovable, there is a moment when our heart will say, “I only have one wish, that is, I am content to see them grown up, settle down at work and get married”, or some couples who are in a blessed relationship will say in their hearts, “It's good as long as we can grow old together”; or some people say, “I want to live ten years more so that I can do something for the Lord.” Or sometimes we suddenly feel that there is no purpose in going back to heaven, but we can do more on earth. Of course, the blessings on earth are God's grace, and He is also willing to give us these blessings so that in the enjoyment of the flesh we may give Him the glory, and all the more give ourselves fully to complete the earthly mission that the Lord has entrusted us. But if all these make us feel that returning to heaven means “losing the taste”, that is when we have actually lost the watchful heart. We must know that this world is constantly providing us with various experiences and understanding in order to conceal the glory of the resurrection. But in fact, God gives us all kinds of wonderful experiences and understanding on earth, so that by faith we can look forward to the future eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Therefore, we must not be ignorant about the matter of resurrection. Actually, after we clearly know the truth relating to the resurrection, our next lesson in this lifetime is through prayer, not to let ourselves be led on by the illusion of temporary vanity. On the contrary, we should give ourselves fully to the work of God, place less emphasis on the suffering on this earth, share the gospel in our limited time, and shepherd the Lord's sheep, so that the Lord's church will be revived through knowing the gospel. In our remaining time on earth, we must leave behind the most important beliefs and testimonies for the world, so that the later generations can know the gospel that saves the world and be true to the word of God.
1. The mystery of the resurrection of saints <1 Co 15:35-49>
1) Someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”
A person who does not believe in resurrection especially like to ask difficult questions. He questions principles beyond science based on natural scientific theories, thus revealing his foolishness toward spiritual matters. Think about it, if we believe in the God who can create something out of nothing, is it difficult for Him to raise the dead? This is like what Paul said in <Ac 26:8>, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” As for what kind of body they will come with, because this is not what the natural world can see, Paul used the analogies of the seed, living things, as well as, heavenly bodies to explain. Before this, Paul particularly addressed such a person as “foolish person!” Perhaps, only such rebuke can awaken a hardened heart.
2) The seed analogy
A resurrected body is just like a seed which is sown in the soil, it dies, its outer shell falls away, and after that it produces a plant (new body). Perhaps it is very unpleasant for us to think of a living person who dies, then become a cold, lifeless body. Indeed, every time we see people die, our heart cannot help but despair. Yet, think about it, when a farmer sows seeds in the soil, those seeds die not long later, this scene is not only not painful and depressing to the farmer, but it is instead a hopeful thing. That is like awaiting the coming of newly produced plants. What he receives will be more than what he loses. Thus, the Bible says here that the resurrection of humans is like how a seed dies and produces new body; we who dies in the Lord will receive a new body. We should not imagine this body is similar to our original body, or is just improved a little from our current body. That is a completely new body without sinful nature, and it is not confined to space. This is like the resurrected Lord Jesus. Think about it, how could He appear among the disciples when they were locked in Mark’s house? Or how did he appear to two disciples on their way to Emmaus without them knowing, and greatly comfort them? Indeed, that resurrected body is very amazing, and it transcends the body we currently have. Sometimes, during funerals, we seem to lose a loved one in the Lord, but we must not just be sad, because in future, we will get back what is infinitely more beautiful and better than the current. Not only will that person’s nature be better, even our relationship with him will also be more beautiful. Some people will mock this principle of resurrection, thinking that it is incredible? They say this body had been cremated and had become ashes, even scattered in the sea, or some which were buried in the ground had already decomposed, and had been eaten by animals, or been absorbed by plants. How can that same person reappear again? Not just so, but that body will also be even more glorious! This is our Creator Lord, He can make all things come from nothing, and can re-create our resurrected new body from one atom of our body, and this new body will truly be like the resurrection of Christ <Ro 6:5>, it still retains the mind, emotions and will which are unique to us, yet they are totally sinless!
3) The analogies of living things and heavenly bodies
We must first understand that earthly bodies are created for earth, heavenly bodies are created for heaven, our resurrected lives are created for the future heavenly environment and eternal times. It is hard for our sinful world to imagine that imperishable, non-aging body which no longer sins in eternity. Because this is unseen on earth. Furthermore, this scripture also mentions that all the things God created have differing levels of glory. First, not all flesh is the same. There are humans, animals, birds, fish. Humans are the most glorious. Next, among the living things, which are most glorious? The next most glorious among the living things are the animals which walk with humans on earth. This is followed by the birds that fly in the air, then the fish in the sea. Moreover, only humans have an eternal soul among all living things. This is what all animals do not have, thus the soul of animals perishes when their flesh perishes. However, the human spirit rises upward, to face judgment before the throne of God, and to receive the everlasting body based on the judgment. In the midst of this, there are those who are punished eternally, and those who receive eternal glory. Furthermore, heavenly bodies are also mentioned here. It talks about sun, moon, stars, highlighting that even the glory of these heavenly bodies is different, illustrating that there are huge differences between the crowns we will receive in future. The greatest star is Red Supergiant star, reportedly bigger than the sun by 1700 times, and the smallest is the White Dwarf, which is almost the size of Earth. Thus, the crowns (glory) of we saints are hugely different. This calls us not to be self-satisfied no matter where we have arrived at in our faith journey, but we should learn from Paul to forget what is behind, strain toward what is ahead, press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus <Phil 3:14>. Also, over here it talks about the moon. The moon does not give out light, but reflects light from the sun. This may tell us that in future, there may be those who enter the heavenly kingdom as barely saved citizens. Perhaps they have no crown, but in eternity, they can see the glory of the Lord through the light reflected by brethren surrounding them.
4) Compare the existing body and the future body (the great difference between the first and second Adam)
It’s not easy to describe how superior the resurrected body will be. We can only illustrate it through comparison. Our existing body is perishable, subjected to shame, weakness, flesh, but in a moment, it will become imperishable, glorious, strong and spiritual. Indeed, when we look at our own temperament, we are young for a moment, and old the next moment; beautiful for a moment, but is full of wrinkles in the blink of an eye; strong for a while, but weak in the next moment; we praise God for a while, but grumble later on. However, all these will end in the moment we are resurrected. The Bible uses the gap between the first and second Adam to illustrate this. The first Adam is a living being, but he belongs to the earth and comes from the earth. Therefore, from him, we obtain our earthly image. The second Adam came from heaven (Son of God – Jesus Christ), and by faith, we will obtain our heavenly image in the future. The best example is Christ, who is the firstborn from the dead <Rev 1:5>.
2) Final victory over death <1 Co 15:50-57>
1) Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God
The “flesh and blood” mentioned here refers to our current body. This body cannot enter the heavenly kingdom because it is perishable. The “perishable” term does not merely mean sinful, but because of sin, it is also subject to injury, deterioration, and attack by all kinds of viruses, and in the end, it will take its last breath and return to dust and therefore it cannot enter that eternal kingdom. This is like how virus cannot live outside the human body, our perishable body cannot survive in an eternal and sinless environment. Therefore, God wants to give us a resurrected, sinless and eternal new body. After Lord Jesus resurrected, He ever briefly described this resurrected body, saying, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” <Lk 24:39>. This new body with bones and flesh is indeed a body but it is imperishable.
2) The mystery of man’s resurrection will happen in the last moment of the history of mankind.
Paul described this as a “mystery”. Since it is a mystery, it is a spiritual incident, and cannot be explained by scientific inquiry or human logic. In the whole history of mankind, there are only a few unexplainable mysteries, because they only occurred once. These are like the creation of all things from nothingness, incarnation of the Word, resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the last one will be the resurrection of the saints. Here it tells us that saints will not all sleep (death of the body). Believers in the last age will hear the sounding of the last trumpet in a flash, they will not see the death of their body but will be changed suddenly. The perishable body will become imperishable, and the mortal will clothe itself with immortality. This is the moment described in <1 Th 4:15-18>, where with the trumpet call of God, the dead in Christ will rise first. 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. This is the rapture of the saints and the end of the history of mankind. Here, we know that resurrection is the ultimate ending for believers.
3) “Death has been swallowed up in victory” will come true
Death is the enemy that Christ has defeated in His completed work of redemption. It is also the final enemy that we who are followers of Christ must overcome. The sting of death is sin, therefore all who have sinned have been stung, and they must die. The power of sin is the law. Under the requirements of the law, no one can say he is sinless. Indeed, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death <Ro 6:23>. However, on the day of the resurrection of the saints, the victory over death will be revealed. On that day, the new life of the saints will put on a newly created imperishable body. Death is swallowed up in victory this way. The believers’ victory over death is not the same as other victories, because that is winning over our last and final enemy. After our every victory on earth, there will always be another new battle. However, the victory over death is the ultimate victory, and we reign with the Lord forever after that. This is like destroying the last enemy forces in the battlefield or reaching the finishing line in a marathon.
3. Stand firm today <1 Co 15:58>
1) The heart of following the Lord today: Stand firm, let nothing move you, always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord
What can move us today? Is it a lack of material possessions? Is it physical illness? Is it people’s comments or threats? Is it tough serving? In fact, when we look to the ultimate resurrection, we will know that every moment on earth is an opportunity given by the Lord for us to fight the good fight. If we encounter very difficult trials and temptations, think a bit about our resurrection, and we will be brought to the truth. As we serve, we will also not gratify ourselves and only think of offering the second best, but we will strive to give our best to the Lord. (Testimony: Look at how pastor and elders serve the Lord, then will know how much we value each preaching opportunity and each service).
2) The hope we carry today: Our labor in the Lord is not in vain
Even as we love the Lord with all our heart and give ourselves fully to serve, we need not do it in a miserable way. On the contrary, our hearts are full of the Lord’s grace. Because the Bible tells us that God not only co-works with us, but He is also the God who rewards us. His rewards are not only for the day of resurrection in future, but even today. Whenever we give ourselves fully to the good work of the Lord, God will accumulate the effects of that serving, and bless generations after generations through what we did. In this present life, we sometimes get a glimpse of how He establishes the work of our hands, and bless people around us through what we have done. Even though we are joyful, it is nothing compared to the rewards that are to come. The one who serves must know how to confirm God’s faithful rewards, so that he will not grow weary and disheartened in the course of serving.