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Friday, July 26, 2013

 

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CONTENTS | LETTER 23

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How Are The Dead Raised Up?

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How are the dead raised up? With what body do they come? These questions were asked two thousand years ago and are still asked by men and women in our own day. What answers can we give?

Let us look at the scene on the day when Jesus returns to earth. There will be three classes of dead people: those who through ignorance of the way of God will remain in the grave and never be roused; those who have known the way of life but have not been obedient to it; and those who have been faithful servants of God. There will be three similar classes of living people.

As we established in our last letter all those who have known the way of life, whether obedient or not, whether alive or not, will be gathered to the judgment seat of Jesus Christ:

"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The first work performed by Christ when he returns to earth will be to awaken the dead who are to be judged. They will come bodily from their graves:

"Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake ..." (Daniel 12:2).

"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." (John 5:28-29).

We can be sure therefore that all who are to be judged -- both the ones who are dead and those who are alive -- will appear bodily before the Lord Jesus Christ. This is as it should be because all sins have been committed in the body: therefore judgment should take place in the body. What kind of body will those possess who stand before Jesus to be judged? Quite clearly those who are alive when Jesus Christ comes back will have an ordinary mortal body. And the dead who are raised? Quite clearly they too will have a mortal body because it is not until after the judgment that they receive their reward or their punishment:

"And these (after judgment) shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:46).

Both reward and punishment will be received in the body. What will the blessing of eternal life be like? What difference will it make to the ordinary mortal body which we now possess? The change is almost too wonderful to describe, but this is how the Bible tells us about it:

"The Lord Jesus Christ (who) shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Philippians 3:21).

"We shall be like him ..." (1 John 3:2).

"This mortal shall put on immortality ... then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Our human bodies which though capable of many pleasures are finally overcome by pain, disease and death, will be changed, transformed by the life-giving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. All weakness, all suffering, all the changes of growing old and of decay -- all will be taken away. Listen to the truth as declared throughout the Bible:

"He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord shall wipe away tears from off all faces . . . " (Isa. 25:8).

"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah 35:10).

"And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain . . . " (Revelation 21:4).

Is not this a wonderful prospect held out for men of faith to see? How much more wonderful to inherit such a life. Jesus Christ himself received such a blessing from God after his own resurrection from the dead, and the Bible tells us about it in these words:

"Thou wilt shew me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psalm 16:11).

"He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him: even length of days for ever and ever." (Psalm 21:4).

Immortality is the word used to describe the blessedness of possessing an undying and perfect body. What then is the difference between this happiness and the bodily perfection which the Greeks admired and portrayed in the magnificent statues which have remained down to our own time? The perfect body, the perfect beauty wag the object of their worship. Is immortality the achievement of what the ancient Greeks admired and sought for? Indeed, no! There is something far more wonderful behind the ideas of immortality and eternal life than mere bodily perfection. Let us listen to the word of God and discover the real beauty which will belong to the saints of God:

"I shall be satisfied -- when I awake -- with thy likeness." (Psalm 17:15).

This was the hope of David the shepherd-king. He was looking forward to reflecting the likeness of God. Did that mean he was expecting a bodily likeness, a likeness of feature? or had he something else in mind. Listen again:

"As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied -- when I awake -- with thy likeness."

David was longing for a likeness which he expressed in the word "righteousness." This is the true joy which is described throughout the Bible in glowing words:

"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness." (Isaiah 61:10).

Everyone of the faithful saints who stands on the right hand of Jesus in the day of judgment will be like Jesus. Like him by being clothed in righteousness, like him by possessing a glorious, immortal body. This is the joy. Not the mere worship of external beauty in which the Greeks found pleasure, but the beauty of everlasting holiness, perfect fellowship with God:

"Exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4).

This is the destiny of men and women, who having believed the teaching of God and being baptised, have received the forgiveness of sins in Jesus, and have waited for the day when Jesus would return and they would be like unto him in mind and body:

"Now unto him that is able to keep you from failing, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." (Jude 24,25).

Could there be a more fitting end? Adam and Eve brought disfigurement and death into the world when they first sinned. All their children have inherited their weakness. Jesus by the complete perfection of his life and death has "brought life and immortality to light." [2Timothy 1:10]. All who are faithful to him will receive the blessing of complete happiness in him -- life for evermore in joyful holiness. Surely nothing else can ever satisfy those who have heard this message of hope and promise.

If this is the glory which awaits the saints of God what awaits the unfaithful. These stand in shame on the left hand of Jesus and listen to the words pronouncing their doom:

"Verily I say unto you, I know you not." (Mat. 25:12).

"Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25:30).

"I know you not whence ye are; depart from me all ye workers of iniquity . . . ye shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and ye yourselves thrust out." (Luke 13:27-28).

Driven from the presence of Jesus Christ because they have not longed to be with him and have not served him, these wretched, unfaithful servants will go out with tears to lament their folly, to suffer for their unrighteousness, and then to die for ever. Oblivion. Eternal oblivion.

We cannot escape the pressing exhortation of God when these things are opened to us. Where shall we stand in that day? On the left hand? Or on the right?

"I call heaven and earth to record against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing -- therefore choose life." (Deuteronomy 30:19).

 


Questions on Letter 22 (answers)

1. What will be the first work performed by Christ when he returns?

2. What kind of body will those raised up to judgment have when they come out of the grave?

3. What kind of body will Jesus give those who are accepted at the judgment seat?

4. What does the Bible say that immortality will be like?

5. Who will the faithful saints be like?

6. What did Adam and Eve bring into the world?

7. What did Jesus bring?

8. What punishment awaits the unfaithful?

CONTENTS | LETTER 23

 

 

 


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