The Resurrection of the Dead


Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 15:12-26

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Main Points:
I. Resurrection of the dead is inevitable
II. Resurrection spiritualised
III. Resurrection realised in believer’s daily living

Easter is two weeks away, and as our preparation of this blessed Christian day of celebration, we’ll consider the subject of resurrection over two Lord’s Days – that is, today and next Lord’s Day. We begin today with ‘resurrection of the dead’ and next week, we’ll focus on ‘the resurrection of our body.’ Then, on the Easter Sunday, the message for us will be ‘the resurrection of Jesus Christ.’

What comes to your mind when Easter approaches? Does it excite you? Or you feel not much special? If it’s excitement, what of Easter – do you think – thrills you? I pray that all of you gathered together here would say that the hope and joy of Jesus’ resurrection excite you. The fact that He rose from the dead, triumphing over Satan, leaving the tomb He’d been laid empty excite you. I truly pray that all of you here are thrilled with the glory of the risen Lord Jesus displayed to all in His creation and especially to the eyes of the apostles and believers on that day of His resurrection.

For all who know what I mean through faith in Jesus, this subject of resurrection will be a great joy to their soul. But if anyone who is not sure of the joy of Easter, this will be a good opportunity to see why the teaching of believer’s resurrection delights the believing heart, and, by seeing this reason, he/she might seek and find the same joy through the grace of the risen Lord Jesus.

So, we commit this time to our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-gracious Lord, seeking His favour upon us, and begin with the point that the resurrection of the dead is inevitable.

The section we’ve read from 1 Cor. 15 teaches us this truth that ‘resurrection of the dead is inevitable.’ In other words, resurrection is true – it will happen – and there’s no doubt about it. Following the Apostle Paul’s argument, if there’s no resurrection, then, our faith in Jesus Christ would be futile and all we do in faith would be in vain, and you and I and all who believe in Jesus would be the most pitiful among all peoples. But because Jesus has been raised from the dead, resurrection of the dead, most specifically, of the believing dead is true and will surely take place.

When will it happen? As 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thess. 4:16 tell us, at the very moment of Jesus’ coming to us from heaven “with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” Like the most exalted greeting and salute from below to the Lord Jesus who descends from heaven, the earth will open it up and the dead will be raised. The dead will rise when the voice of Jesus Christ resounds throughout the universe at His return to us.

Yes, that day of the Lord’s return is a future event – a day that is to come – not now at this very moment, but sometime in the future. However, as the Scripture clearly teaches, this ‘future’ is in an unknown time frame. I mean, it could be any moment – it could be in a minute or in an hour or a day or month … or a decade or century or millennium. This day of the Lord’s return will come like a ‘thief in the night’ and Jesus Himself confirmed that as true in Rev. 16:15, saying, “Behold, I am coming like a thief!” The emphasis is on the unpredictability of this day. No one will be able to know exactly when Jesus will come. But, never has the resurrection of the dead been doubted. Whenever Jesus returns to us, the dead will be raised.

By the way, when the Bible says the dead will rise, it means the bodies of the dead people will be raised. No matter how long a body has been buried underground, no matter how far the process of decomposition has gone, no matter whether a body was even dissolved by being eaten by a predatory animal, the bodies of all dead people will be raised. ‘How?’ is not the right question to ask because it is God’s plan and He who in the beginning created all things that exist with the power of His word is going to do it.

The raised bodies will be reunited with their souls that have been separated through death. As the bodies and their souls are reunited, people will be ready for their dwelling in eternity. I mean, the believers in their reunited body and soul are ready to sit next to the Lord Jesus Christ to judge the world, and after that, enter into the glorious eternal kingdom of God which is described in the Bible as ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ to live in it forever with the Father and the Son. Meanwhile, the unbelievers in their reunited body and soul will be ready to be thrown into hell alongside the devil who is their father, and tormented forever.

What a glorious hope resurrection is for us who believe! It is a pure joy of the believing heart. Consider the universal truth that we’ll all die as no one escapes death. But that’s not the end; a day of rising from each one’s graveyard awaits us Christians and that day will be the most excitingly glorious day, that day will be the first day of our eternal dwelling in the true ‘garden’ of God.

So, Job of the OT rejoiced in this hope, and listen to his words that convey his joy as found in Job. 19:25-27 in these words, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” As you know, the Book of Job is regarded as the oldest book in the OT, estimated to be recorded in the time of Abraham. If it is so, his skin and bones have turned into dust at least four millennia ago, but the words still speak to us how thorough and deep and genuine his joy was. In faith, his joy is still valid and his hope gets closer to its glorious completion!

The prophet Daniel held the same joy of resurrection in his heart and soul, as recorded in Dan. 12:2, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Another prophet, Hosea, exclaims in Hos. 6:1-3: “Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Hosea’s joy of resurrection is amazingly specific as his words directly point Jesus’ resurrection and its benefit for believers like us. He rejoicingly says, ‘after two days, God will revive us,’ pointing out Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. But that is not it; he sees the resurrection of his body and of all believers who die in the Lord Jesus. So he says in v. 2, “[God] will revive us … He will raise us up that we may live before Him.” What a glorious joy this is!

In a word, resurrection of the dead is inevitable – it’s a fact that is surer than the paths of the sun and the moon in the sky or the fact that you and I have breath on our nostrils, because Jesus has been raised from the dead and He will come to call us, believers, to Himself!

In spite of the certainty and joy of resurrection, there’s a pitfall some Christians fall into due to their misunderstanding of its future timing. And because of this pitfall, people spiritualise resurrection. What I means is that, because resurrection will take place at an unknown point in time in the future, not many believers realise its power, nor delight in the hope it brings.

Let me elaborate a couple of misconceptions of people on resurrection. Firstly, some believe that God will make resurrection happen, it’s His work, and He alone will work it out. So, they think that there’s no need for them to consider it serious. Rather, simply recognise it as true and leave all others of this doctrine to God.

Those people who follow this line of thought think not much of resurrection. Because they don’t think much of it, resurrection is one of the ‘secondary’ or ‘non-essential’ part of their faith. Furthermore, this thought brings down the scope of Easter, misleading them to consider Easter as a less important Christian celebration than Christmas. Of course, Jesus’ ‘incarnation,’ His becoming one of us to die for us, is an absolute blessing and we have a great reason to celebrate and give our thanks to God. But, the reason for our celebration of Easter weighs as much as that of Christmas. That is because Jesus came in flesh to give His eternal life to all believers and lead us to eternal rest. His birth points at His resurrection through which we’ll be raised to be with Him forever!

But, it is unfortunate for those who don’t think much of resurrection, who find it not much excited, that Easter is simply a Christian holiday.

Worse than that, some others consider resurrection as a reminder that says ‘love is stronger than hatred, hope stronger than despair, and life stronger than death.’ Simply put, to them, resurrection is a religious, if not philosophical, idea that comforts their sentiment and uplifts their ego. Resurrection to them has minimal power to change anyone’s mind, let alone their life. As they spiritualise resurrection in their mind, Jesus’ declaration, “I am the resurrection,” recorded in Jn. 11:25 means not much and it’s simply one of Jesus’ self-description of ‘I am’ – like ‘I am the bread of life’ or ‘I am the light of the world’ or ‘I am the good shepherd.’

Instead, all true believers of Jesus Christ must know the power of resurrection. It’s not a mere reminder of nobility of love over hatred and of hope over despair. Rather, resurrection is the power that drives all true Christians to walk and live and have our being on earth in the Lord. Jesus is the resurrection. So, believing Him is hoping in resurrection. Trusting Him, the Lord Jesus, is the thrust that carries us toward the day of our resurrection. Our faith in Jesus Christ is the faith in resurrection.

In this sense, resurrection is realised in believer’s daily living. We know and feel that we’re different from the unbelievers of the world. We cannot deny it because the indwelling Holy Spirit testifies to it. It’s not a discrimination against others; rather, it is a distinction of Christians. It’s not a self-pride; rather, it’s the Spirit’s proclamation of who we are in Jesus Christ. We know and feel that we’re heading toward a destiny – although sometimes it seems vague to our eyes. We know that we do not belong to this sinful world, but to another that is far better and greater because it’s the world without sin. This is the resurrection realised in your daily living and mine. This is the resurrection power that has planted in you when you first believed in Jesus, knowing that He is the Son of God, the Saviour and Lord, through whom alone forgiveness of sin is given to the penitent sinners alongside the blessing of salvation that enriches their believing heart and soul. Moreover, this resurrection power grows in you daily, deepening your hope in Jesus Christ, making your wait for the day of His return joyful and exciting. This is the resurrection realised in your daily living.

As you realise more of resurrection and its joy and power, you seek to travel light in this world. I mean, you prioritise your life to aim that glorious moment of resurrection. You start getting rid of sins in order to rid of its drag on your forward movement; you change your mind on various things of your life to focus more on that glorious moment of your rising in Jesus Christ. No longer is worldly possession the purpose of your life; rather, it becomes a means of your dwelling in Jesus. Your eyes are drawn less to sin and more to satisfaction of the faith in Jesus. Every day you get slimmer in both spiritual and material senses.

The slimer you get in this way, the more you desire to share this joy and power of resurrection with others. This desire draws you closer to the congregation of Jesus Christ first and, second, to the unbelievers around you. It’s a natural reaction of your heart and soul to the resurrection realised in your daily living.

My friends, my dear brothers and sisters in Jesus, as Hosea says in Hos. 6:3, let us know more of this joy and power of resurrection; let us press on to know Jesus the Lord who will return to us soon and, by His arrival, will raise us from sin, deliver us from death forever. Let us live every day of our life as Easter that continues and never ends until the day we all see our Lord coming in clouds from heaven and meet Him in our renewed body and soul.

I pray that this coming Easter may be the beginning of it all for you and for me in the grace of our risen Lord Jesus! ***

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