Happy Easter everyone! When you think about the future, how do you feel?
For most of us, when we think about the future, it brings all sorts of feelings—worry, anxiety, or hopelessness. There are lots of good reasons to feel that way. A global pandemic, wars, sickness, death, and so on.
Events and thoughts like this make us ask ourselves some scary questions. Questions like: Do we have any real security in this life? What does the future truly hold for us? Can we find freedom from fear, anxiety, and worry?
What if I told you, because of Easter weekend, the future is full of hope? We are going to look at a short passage from the Book of Colossians. In it, the author, Apostle Paul, is going to tell us three reasons the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us a hopeful future.
(Read Col. 3:1-4)
The future is hopeful because …
Our Body Will Be Made New—We’ll Experience a Resurrection Too
I don’t know about you, but as I get older, I am looking forward to an upgrade of my body. I fight hard NOT to get a dad bod. Some of us spend hundreds of dollars fighting the inevitable. Paul says, “Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection too!”
But what does resurrection really mean? Christianity is all about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we talk about resurrection we mean something specific. Jesus rose bodily from the tomb, not just his spirit. After the crucifixion, when people saw Jesus’ risen body, they touched him, flesh and blood, scars and all. People talked with Jesus and even ate with him. It was his same body but new and different. Our resurrection bodies will be the same. They will be real.
Theologically, the resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons.
First, it confirms his deity—Jesus was not only a man, he was God. Jesus was God incarnate, God in the flesh. Christians have always believed that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man at the very same time. Lots of religious figures in history claimed to be God but only Jesus proved he was God by rising bodily from the grave.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus was the public display of God’s victory and triumph over three great enemies: Sin, Satan, and Death. Because of the resurrection, sin no longer has any power over you! Satan, the enemy of our souls, has been defeated. Death does not and will not get the final word. That’s why we call the message of Jesus, good news.
Over two billion people in the world celebrate Easter because we all believe that we will experience a resurrection too. Actually, everyone will experience a resurrection, but not everyone will go to be with Jesus forever. God will not force people who don’t believe in Jesus into a relationship with him. Instead, God will give them what they want. That’s why C.S. Lewis said so famously, “Hell is locked from the inside.”
Christians believe that there’s a day coming, when Jesus will return to this earth again. On that day, all Christians, from all ages, will be united together with our resurrected bodies, new bodies without sin, disease, or sickness. Not only will we receive a new resurrected body in the future, Paul tells us a second hopeful reality about our future.
Our Future Is Secure—Heaven Is Real
What happens after Jesus returns and we are resurrected? The answer is, we’ll go to heaven. Heavenly bodies will go to a heavenly place.
How do you picture heaven? Science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov says, “I don’t believe in the afterlife, so I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.” Isaac Asimov is wrong, heaven will not be boring. Heaven is nothing like the show The Good Place either. Heaven is more real, more beautiful, and more exciting than you ever dared to imagine. More real, in fact, even than this present world.
The best description of heaven is found in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Let me summarize some of what’s said about heaven:
Heaven Is a Real Place
Some people think of heaven as a state of mind or a non-physical realm. But just as God made humans as physical beings, heaven is a physical reality as well. Heaven is a real place where our real resurrected bodies will go. There are walls, gates, stones, gems, and streets of gold filling the city. There are even fruit trees, animals, and a river.
If heaven is real, then where is it? Heaven will come down to Earth. The Earth we currently live on will be completely renewed, restored, and put back into its original condition before things unraveled. Imagine the oceans with no pollution. Forests with no fires or clear cutting. No natural disasters ever. All the animals of the world and none of them will attack us. Heaven is a real place that will come to Earth as the new heavens and the new earth.
Heaven Is a Holy Place
Heaven is a holy place because God is there. The dominant description of heaven is the presence of God. God himself will live with his people. We will forever be in his presence. So, if you don’t want anything to do with God now and if worshipping and discovering more of him annoys you now, you’ll actually hate heaven.
Heaven Is a Safe Place
All of us live with a certain amount of fear knowing anything can happen to us at any time. But in heaven there will be no more tears, no death, no mourning, no crying, and no pain. Why will that be true? Because there will be no more sin or crime, no environmental disasters, no sickness or disease, and no more heartache.
Heaven will be Multi-Ethnic
Heaven will be filled with people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. All different people groups of the world will be represented there. Heaven will be big enough for the full range of the world’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Those cultural distinctions won’t divide us the way they do today, instead each ethnic and cultural distinction will bring God glory in a unique way.
Heaven will be a Deeply Satisfying Place
Tonight, millions of people around the world will go to bed hungry. All over the world people are struggling with their purpose in life. They hate their job and are totally unsatisfied with the life they are living. These things will not be true in heaven.
Heaven will be a place of life and fullness; there will be no lack, no longings, and no have-nots. We think the pleasures of this world, its luxuries and comforts can ultimately satisfy us, but deep down we know they don’t. All will be satisfied in heaven. You’ll be satisfied with the presence of God himself. Every need and desire you have will be met in heaven.
For all these reasons and more, Paul tells us in our passage to:
“Yearn for all that is above”
“Feast on all the treasures of the heavenly realm”
“Fill your thoughts with heavenly realities”
If you want to have hope for the future, then orient your entire life around the reality of heaven. Your future is secure and hopeful because you’ll have a new resurrected body and heaven will be your home. Then Paul tells us one more thing, not about our future, but about our present reality.
Our True Life Is Revealed—We’re Hidden with God in Christ
It’s one thing to think about the future, it’s another thing to deal with life in the present. Some of you are going through some hard things and you are wondering how you are going to get through any of it. Our church is full of wonderful people who are far from perfect and are dealing with all sorts of hard stuff. We’re all messed up here. Welcome to our church. No perfect people are allowed.
The Apostle Paul wants to speak into our lives and into our identity. We think true life is found in a successful career, a meaningful marriage, in kids who make a great life for themselves, and in traveling all over the world. None of those things are inherently wrong. But, Jesus wants more for your life. He wants you to discover who you really are. He wants you to know your purpose in life. He wants you to make an impact in this life and create a lasting legacy. He wants your life to be about more than you.
Paul says that your heavenly identity is real, but it’s also hidden. If you are a follower of Jesus, Paul means several things here:
If our life is hidden with Jesus, we’re safe. Things that are hidden are not lost. Things that are hidden are out of sight and out of danger. In Jesus, we are safe.
If our life is hidden with Jesus, we have an identity. This world says our identity is found in who you want to be and what you do. As soon as you meet someone, after you learn their name, what is the first question you ask or they ask you? “What do you do for a living?” The mantra of today is to go and find yourself. Culture says, we find our identity by discovering your sexuality, your career, and by making your mark in this life.
Yet Jesus says, something completely different. Your identity is not found in who you are but in whose you are!
When Jesus was baptized by John, as he was coming out of the water, God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” God the Father said that long before Jesus did anything. God says the same to you and me. You are his son. You are his daughter. He loves you right now, just as you are, no matter what you do or don’t do. He is pleased with you. Yes, right now.
But, he wants you to be in a relationship with him. It’s not what you do that defines you. It’s not your job. It’s not who you marry. Or where you go to school. It’s not your hobby. Or even your sexuality. What defines you, where you find your true life, is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s not who you are but whose you are.
I love to travel to other countries. But no matter how bad or wonderful the place is, my passport says, I belong to the United States of America. That’s what Paul is getting at. You live in this world, but your passport says you belong to Jesus Christ. Heaven is your home. Because of the resurrection your future is secure. You’ll get a new body. You’ll be in a wonderful place called heaven. You know who you are. You’re hidden with God in Christ.
I want to end by taking a few minutes to clearly explain what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus.
The good news of Christianity, what we call the gospel, is this, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Tim Keller). No one has lived up to his or her own personal standards of morality yet alone God’s holy standard. We’ve all missed the mark, and the penalty for our sin is eternal death and separation from God.
But God, in his love and mercy provided a way out, a rescue plan. He sent his one and only Son, to die in our place and for our sin. Jesus was the perfect and final sacrifice for sin, fully paying the spiritual debt we owed to God. He was then buried in a tomb and three days later he rose from the grave. The tomb was empty, his body was gone. We celebrate Easter because the resurrection means absolutely everything to the followers of Jesus. Without the resurrection, the Apostle Paul says that we have no hope and no faith.
If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, there are four things God wants from you this Easter:
First, accept his love for you. Put down your guard and accept what Jesus did for you.
Second, believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead. That is what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ.
Third, turn away from your sin (repentance).
Fourth, commit your life to following Jesus Christ. I am not talking about becoming more religious or a better person. I am talking about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Rob Hall is the Lead Pastor at New North Church, located in the San Francisco Bay Area.