We have come to the end of our statement of faith, and I thought I would share it with you here. There is a lot of scripture here, and I probably could break it into bite-size pieces and use if for all of next week. But I am just going to give it to you here and now. For those of you who love to read – here you go. For those of you who like it short and sweet – there will be other posts on other days. [smile] Here is the last element in my home church’s statement of faith.
We believe in the bodily resurrection of the believers and the unbelievers, the everlasting blessedness of the saved, and the everlasting punishment of the lost. John 5:28-29; Revelation 20: 10-15
I like to break things down into bite size pieces, using questions and answers help me process. So here are my five questions:
Is everyone resurrected?
What kind of body does man get in the resurrection?
How is our eternal destiny determined?
What is ‘everlasting blessedness?’
What is 'everlasting punishment?'
Is everyone resurrected?
Let’s start with a simple question. Is the resurrection limited to only those in a covenant relationship with Jesus, or will all men live eternally?
John 5:28-29 NASB - "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
1 Corinthians 15:20, 23 NASB - But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. ... But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming,
It appears from most of the scripture we are going to look at today, that one of the first things that will happen after the resurrection of the dead is a time of judgment, so we are going to spend a fair amount of time talking about that today, but first a few details about your new body.
What kind of body does man get in the resurrection?
When Christ rose from the dead, he had a body of flesh and bone, but there were a few things that we can observe about His body that give us clues to the nature of resurrected flesh. He could be touched and held
John 20:17 NASB - Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'"
John 20:27 NASB - Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing."
Though the text does not say that He ate with them, He made breakfast on the beach. There is much talk of a wedding feast in heaven, so I am hoping we will be able to eat in our resurrected body.
John 21:13-14 NASB - Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
Though much will be similar, much will be different. Jesus shows up in locked rooms.
John 20:26 NASB - And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.”
The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is about resurrection from start to finish. First Paul talks about the resurrection of Jesus, then about what our resurrection will look like. Let’s take a look at that second part.
1 Corinthians 15:35-58 - NASB - But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
How is our eternal destiny determined?
There is much said about the judgment we will face on the last day. Some speak of the following as two different judgments – one for believers and one for unbelievers. I am not sure that is a required understanding. Paul speaks of a day when believers will be judged, at what is often called the ‘bema seat.’ The Greek word ‘bema’ simply means judgment seat or tribunal. Because the passage from Revelation below speaks of a great white throne, some make this out to be two different judgments, but I don’t see the necessity. I see in the Revelation account all men standing before the Lord.
Revelation 20:10-15 NASB - And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
It could certainly be true that these following accounts of the judgment of believers are after they are sent from the above judgment. Either way, it is important to understand that all men will be judged, and what we do in this life matters for eternity.
2 Corinthians 5:10-11 NASB - For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NASB - Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
What is ‘everlasting blessedness?’
There is not a huge amount in the Bible about what comes after this life. You hear all kinds of theories and ideas. At funerals people say things in order to comfort the grieving that have no real basis in biblical teaching.
Here are some things that are not true about life after death.
People become angels.
We will be doing nothing but going to church.
We will have wings and play harps (ok – I guess that is the same as the angel one)
We will spend the first 100 years sleeping then …
I am going to ask God about …
Here is a smattering of what the Bible teaches about life after the first death.
1 Corinthians 6:2-3 NASB - Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
This tells me we will not be sitting on clouds strumming harps.
Revelation 21:1-4 NASB - Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
John 14:2-4 NASB - "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. "And you know the way where I am going."
Ephesians 2:4-7 NASB - But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
What is everlasting punishment?
The fact is that Jesus referred to hell more than he did to heaven. Jesus spoke much about the kingdom of heaven, but the kingdom of heaven is not our future, but our present. We are now part of the kingdom of God, if we worship Jesus as Lord. Hell is a concept that might be hard to grasp in this day of tolerance, but Jesus spoke about it, not as an idle threat, but as a real fact. Some of His descriptions are fairly vivid.
Matthew 18:8 NASB - "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
Matthew 25:41, 46 NASB - "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; ... "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
It is significant to note that this word eternal is the same Greek word in both places, and is the same word as you find in John 3:16 for eternal or everlasting life.
2 Thessalonians 1:9 NASB - These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
2 Peter 2:4 NASB - For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
Revelation 19:20 NASB - And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
Revelation 20:10, 14-15 NASB - And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. ... Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:5-8 NASB - And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
This is a pretty sobering topic. As we look at the fact that we will follow Christ in the resurrection we also find that every man woman and child who walks this earth will one day stand before God. This is actually one of the most important things we can teach our children as they grow up. We need to teach them that they will one day give an account of their life. Not that we should teach them to live in fear.
There is no fear in love. What I mean by that, is as we walk in covenant with the Lord Jesus, and as we live our lives guided by His precepts and teachings, we have a confidence that comes from relationship. A healthy marriage is not based on suspicion and fear. I know that I know that I know that my wife loves me. I don’t suspect her of undermining me at every turn. I know she is on my side, and wants my best, and she knows the same about me. As we live in relationship with Christ, we know that He want our best, that He is on our side, and that He is not inspecting our every move, looking for a chance to inflict us with some disease or calamity. If you life in communion with Christ, you can face judgment knowing that He is the one who stands beside you as your lawyer, your advocate before the Father.
1 John 2:1 NASB - My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
And finally we know this:
Jude 24-25 NASB - Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jesus has the ability to present us to the Father without fault. There is no more comforting thing in the Bible than this when we study the judgment of the world. I pray this helps establish you in the word, and gives you at least some basic understanding of what is to come. I believe God intends for us to live in the present, but gives us these glimpses, not so we can spend our lives in speculation, but that we would not be hopeless like those who do not know Him.
Blessing as you follow Him.