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Resurrection Promises

The resurrection of Christ clearly demonstrates our own hope for the future.

Illustration: Professional golfer Paul Azinger was diagnosed with cancer at age 33. He had just won a PGA championship and had 10 tournament victories to his credit.

He wrote, "A genuine feeling of fear came over me. I could die from cancer. Then another reality hit me even harder. I'm going to die eventually anyway, whether from cancer or something else. It's just a question of when. Everything I had accomplished in golf became meaningless to me. All I wanted to do was live."

Then he remembered something that Larry Moody, who teaches a Bible study on the tour, had said to him. "Zinger, we're not in the land of the living going to the land of the dying. We're in the land of the dying trying to get to the land of the living."

Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own life?" If it's really possible to live forever, there's no more relevant issue than the one we're dealing with tonight—if a man dies, shall he live again? The Bible says, "If only in this life we have hope, then we are of all people to be pitied." The more you live, the more you realize that life is coming to a dead end. It is futile if there is not hope beyond the grave.

Illustration: Vance Havner said, "The hope of dying is the only thing that keeps me alive."

In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul deals with this question in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The word gospel means good news. The good news is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides positive answers to the three most important questions about life after death.

Is there life after death?

The answer is yes. Jesus' resurrection proved it. Verses 35 contain the essence of the Christian's belief.

The Old Testament had predicted that the Messiah was going to die. It said that he would be led like a sheep to the slaughter. Jesus' death was not an accidental death of a martyr. It was the deliberate death of a person who offered his life as a sacrifice. God laid all of our sins upon him; he became our substitute on the cross.

Illustration: A woman wrote J. Vernon McGee: "Our preacher said that on Easter, Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?" McGee replied, "Dear Sister, whip your preacher 39 times with heavy strokes. Nail him to a cross. Hang him in the sun for six hours. Run a spear through his heart. Embalm him. Put him in an airless tomb for three days. Then see what happens."

Jesus Christ died and was buried. He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. He was then laid in a borrowed tomb. When you borrow something, you're just going to use it temporarily.

Illustration: I loved our Easter pageant this year. One of the nights I sat behind a 5 boy who was enthralled. When the crucifixion scene took place, he got quiet. But when Jesus came back from the grave, and there was a song of celebration, his eyes lit up. He looked at his mother and said, "He's alive, Mom. He's alive!" and began to clap. He hugged her around the neck. It was fun to see somebody understand the resurrection for the first time.

I told this story to a youth minister from another church. He said, "I want to tell you what happened in our church. We showed a cartoon video of the crucifixion and resurrection to our kindergarten students. When Jesus was buried, one little boy who knew the story pretty well turned to a buddy and said, 'He's dead now, but he'll be back.' "

Jesus Christ came back. He strolled out of that tomb very much alive. When the women went to the tomb to anoint his body, they discovered the tomb was empty. The angel said, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen just the way he said that he would."

Now, Paul says emphatically, "We know Jesus is alive because we have seen him." Peter saw him alive. He ate breakfast with him and had discussions with him. The 12 disciples saw him alive. They were in the Upper Room when suddenly Jesus appeared and said, "See the nail prints in my hands." He appeared to 500 people at once and to the apostle James, who was beheaded for the belief that he was alive. Paul said, "Last of all, he appeared to me too." So the resurrection verifies that there is life after death.

Illustration: When I was in grade school, we used to have questions and discussions about whether man would ever make it to the moon. We said, "Well, it's so far, and there's no oxygen on the moon. The gravitational pull is supposed to be that of the earth. How do we get there and get back into the atmosphere?" Then on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the face of the moon. We don't ask that question any more because the demonstration eliminates the discussion.

Jesus Christ demonstrated that there is life after death. In verse 12, Paul seems perplexed as to why people even asked the question. "If it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?" Now, we cannot prove that Jesus came back from the grave. We can't put our faith in a test tube or show a video to provide evidence. Jesus won't come physically and preach from our pulpit so that we can see him visibly. But there is ample evidence to believe.

We have the eyewitness testimony in Scripture. We have the testimony of millions of people whose lives have been changed by Christ over the centuries. We have the calendar and the church. We have the Holy Spirit convicting us in our hearts today that he's alive. So you have the option to examine the evidence and believe it or to disbelieve it.

Illustration: Winston Churchill chose to believe. Churchill arranged his own funeral. There were stately hymns in St. Paul's Cathedral and an impressive liturgy. But at the end of the service, Churchill had an unusual event planned. When they said the benediction, a bugler high in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on one side played Taps, the universal signal that the day is over. There was a long pause. Then a bugler on the other side played Reveille, the military call.

This was Churchill's way of communicating that while we say "Good night" down here, it's "Good morning" up there. Now why would he do that? Because he believed in Jesus Christ, who said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live." When a man steps out of his own grave, he is anything that he says that he is, and he can do anything that he says he can do.

What is life after death like?

In verse 20, Paul teaches that Jesus demonstrated what life after death was like. "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." First fruit means an example of that which is to come. In other words, if you want to know what it's like to die and live again, look at Jesus' experience.

First, there was a separation from the body. Just before Jesus died, he said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Jesus' body was buried in a tomb, but his spirit went to be with the Father. He said to the thief on the cross, "This day you're going to be with me in paradise." When we die, our spirits go immediately to be with God while our body goes to the grave. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

Just as it's the hand that animates a glove, so the spirit energizes a body. When the spirit departs, the body is put aside like a lifeless glove. We don't return to a number of other bodies like reincarnation teaches, and we don't go to a place where we're purged of our sin for years. We go directly to be with God when we die.

Illustration: When my father died, there was too much snow at our home in Pennsylvania to have a funeral procession. At the end of the funeral, the funeral director said, "I'll take your dad's body to the grave." I said, "I just feel like I'm leaving something undone. I want to go with you."

So I got my two sons and my brother and his son and another grandson, and the six of us piled into a drive vehicle and plowed through 10 inches of snow to the cemetery and got about 50 yards from my dad's grave. The wind was blowing fiercely. The six of us lugged the casket down to the gravesite and lowered it into the grave.

As we turned to leave, I said, "I'd like for us to have prayer." I prayed, "Lord, this is such a cold, lonely place." I choked up and battled to gain composure. Finally I whispered, "But I thank you that to be absent from the body is to be present in your warm arms. Amen."

There's a departure of the spirit from the body, then there is a resurrection of the body. After three days, Jesus returned to the tomb to the same body. He left the grave clothes behind. He showed them the scars in his hands and feet. In John 5:28, Jesus said, "Now don't be amazed at this. But the time is coming when all that are in the grave will hear his voice and come out."

If God has the power to make matter out of energy, and to make Adam out of the dust of the ground, then he has the power to recreate our decomposed bodies. The Bible says, "Nothing is impossible with God."

When Jesus suggested that he was going to open up the tomb of Lazarus, Lazarus's sister Martha objected. "Oh no. He's been dead four days. There's already a bad odor. His body's already beginning to decompose." Jesus said, "Martha, you're going to see the glory of God." He rolled the stone away, and he called out, "Lazarus, come forth." And this man who had been dead for four days came out of the grave. It doesn't matter if you've been dead four days or four centuries or four millennia. When Christ commands it, there will be a resurrection of the body. Thessalonians 4:16 says the Lord will come down from heaven with the spirits of those who have fallen asleep, there will be a loud command, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

The believers insisted on being buried facing east because they believed that Jesus Christ was going to return in the eastern sky. When they came up out of the grave, they wanted to be facing Jesus! Today with our carnal mindset, we want an airtight crypt and a watertight casket. I want one with a box. I will want to get out of there as fast as I can!

Illustration: Now some skeptic may say, "Aw, that's too fanciful to believe." Let me ask you a question: If you didn't know about conception and had never seen a birth, and I tried to describe it to you, would you believe it?

A tiny, unseen little sperm from a man is combined with a tiny, unseen little egg from a woman, and they form a cell, and those cells begin to multiply, and nine months later, out comes this baby with pumping arms and legs, and he starts to scream. You'd say, "No way. You've got to be kidding me." This a miracle we observe over and over again, but we take it for granted because it is so common. It is no more difficult for God to raise the dead than it is for him to create life.

Our resurrected body will be a physical one. I learned something in Luke 24:38 this past week that I had never thought about prior to that moment. Jesus appeared in the Upper Room with the disciples, and they thought he was a ghost. "He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your minds? 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.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. While they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, 'Do you have anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ... ate it in their presence."

Jesus ate after he rose from the dead. I never thought about eating in heaven. Can you imagine it? We will no longer have to worry about fat grams and high blood pressure and cholesterol. There will be no need for Jenny Craig in heaven. The Bible says we will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

First Corinthians 15:35 reads: "Someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised?' With what kind of body will they come?" How foolish. Jesus said God has demonstrated with plants what happens. You take a kernel of corn, and put it in the ground. It decomposes, and in two weeks a green shoot comes up. It becomes a corn stalk and then produces an ear of corn.

So now, take a petrified, body and put it in the ground. It decomposes, but one day, by the power of God, it is going to come up a glorified body. He says here, it is sown a natural body; it's going to be reaped a spiritual body. It is sown a perishable body; it's going to be raised an imperishable body. It is sown a weak body; it's going to be raised in power.

In verses 3841, Paul says you just trust God. He's able to create a body that will perfectly fit into its intended environment. He created fish with scales so that they could survive under water. He created birds with feathers so they could fly through the air. He has created us with immortal bodies that will never perish, spoil, or fade.

In verse 52 Paul says, "The dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." Now that's good news. If you were 80 years old with arthritis and a hearing aid, you won't want to pick up where you left off. Instead, you'll have a glorified body.

He says the perishable will clothe itself with the imperishable and then the saying that is written will come true: "Death will be swallowed up in victory."

We read in the Gospel of John that Jesus was on the shore and he made a campfire. He had caught some fish, and he cooked them, and then walked with the disciples on the shore. Heaven is going to be a place full of activities. Jesus said, "In my Father's house there are many rooms."

Do you know what it's like to go to Disney World or to Universal Studios? You get these brochures, and there are all these things you want to do, and you try to squeeze them all into one day. In heaven this won't be necessary. Jesus said, "Now in my Father's house there are many rooms."

I picture one room filled with just worship. We will go into that room and worship the Lord. We will sing "Amazing Grace." We'll hear Jesus teach, and we'll listen to Paul. We'll hear some of the best singing groups perform.

I also picture an room where you will be able to go and relive any moment in history exactly as it transpired. There won't be any revisionist history. We will be able to see exactly what happened.

I picture a room where we can hear the Lord answering the tough questions that we've never been able to find answers to here.

I picture also an instructional room where you can learn how to do things you didn't have time to do on the earth. Heaven is described as a city. A city is a place that is abuzz with activity. In my Father's house there are many rooms, many activities. Listen, if Jesus fished after he arose from the dead, I sure should be able to play golf!

Our bodies are going to be identifiable bodies. Even though Jesus' body was changed somewhat, he was recognized by the disciples when he wanted to be. The Bible teaches us that once we are raised from the dead, we will retain our personalities and have fellowship with one another. The Bible says we're going to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If we're going to know those guys we've never met, then we're going to be able to identify each other. To me, that's one of the warmest tugs of heaven—to be able to be with people we've loved on earth, to be reunited with no threat of disunity or separation again.

My wife and I came home from a mission trip some time ago. We were so glad to get home. When we came in, there were about 75 people waiting to welcome us home. It was so good to be welcomed home. I think heaven is going to be like that. I think that they must have an arrival board up in heaven with a schedule of who's coming each day. All the friends gather inside the gate. After you meet Jesus Christ, he walks you through. There they will be, cheering as you come in.

We used to sing a song that went, "Friends will be there I have loved long ago, and joy like a river around me will flow. Yet just a smile from my Savior I know will through the ages be glory for me."

How can we obtain eternal life?

Well, Jesus purchased it. If life after death were for sale, how much would you pay for it?

Illustration: Almost 20 years ago, my family and I were in a serious automobile accident in Pennsylvania, and my wife was in the hospital for two weeks recovering. I was in a hospital 400 miles from home. I didn't know the personnel in the hospital and was frustrated. Dr. Russell Summy from our church flew up in a medical plane, picked us up, and brought us home to a hospital in Louisville where my wife could get personal attention. I was extremely grateful.

I said, "Russ, I want to pay for the plane. How much is it?" He said, "It is a gift; and believe me, you can't afford it." I did some investigation, and he was absolutely right!

We can't afford eternal life. Heaven is a dwelling place of God, a place of perfection, and we have forfeited our right to be there because of our sin. The only purchase price is the blood of a perfect person, and you and I don't qualify.

We can't earn it; we don't deserve it. The good news is that Jesus Christ stepped in to pay the debt for us. First Corinthians 15:56 says, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord." When Jesus Christ died on that cross, he paid our sin debt in full.

So you can't earn it, but you have to receive it. I can think of two reasons why you might refuse such a fantastic offer. One is your love for sin. There is a sense in which eternal life doesn't cost you anything; there is another sense in which it costs you everything. We must confess him and be baptized as a line of demarcation, saying, "I'm leaving the old world behind, and I'm going in to a new life with Christ."

You may be so in love with materialistic values or the party activities of this world that you can't give them up. You may rationalize and make excuses, but the bottom line is that you're too in love with this world to receive the hope of eternal life. For you, death will be Taps, not Reveille.

The second primary reason people reject the offer of Christ is because of personal pride. Maybe you have a keen mind, and your greatest asset is your greatest liability. There's plenty of good evidence to verify the resurrection of Jesus, but it can't be proven; you just have to accept it like a humble child.

Or maybe you've achieved a lot of status and money, and you realize that you have to come to Christ like a pauper. You find it hard to swallow your pride, when you realize that your new discoveries and personal achievements are not necessary to impress him.

Illustration: Golfer Paul Azinger recovered from chemotherapy and returned to the PGA tour. He's done pretty well. But that bout with cancer deepened his perspective. He wrote, "I've made a lot of money since I've been on the tour, and I've won a lot of tournaments, but that happiness is always temporary. The only way you will ever have true contentment is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I'm not saying that nothing ever bothers me and I don't have problems, but I feel like I've found the answer to the hole.

"I know I'll spend eternity with God and I have a promise—that as a child of God he'll help me deal with anything. He promises to offer me contentment regardless of what life brings—even cancer."

If a man dies, will he live again? Yes. Jesus proved it. Jesus demonstrated it. He purchased it for you. It is up to you to receive it, if you haven't already,.

Robert L. Russell has been pulpit minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, since 1966.

Robert Russell

Preaching Today Tape # 151


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Bob Russell is a speaker, chairman of the board of the Londen Institute, and author of When God Builds a Church (Howard).

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Sermon Outline:


The resurrection provides answers to the three most important questions about life after death.

I. Is there life after death?

II. What is life after death like?

III. How can we obtain eternal life?