Listen: Christian Growth with Simon Manchester. (Airs 8am Sundays on Hope 103.2 & Inspire Digital.)
Let’s pray. Father as we come to a wonderful subject we pray that you would give to us the ear, the heart, the will and the joy to respond as we should. And we pray that what we know not you would teach us, what we have not you would give to us and what we are not you would make us. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
Well this morning is our last look at the famous Apostles Creed and the series has been called “Confident Theology” and this is No.10 of ten. And we have come to the final words which are in the Creed. You know the Creed that I am talking about that begins with the words “I believe in God the Father Almighty” and when you get to the very end you say these nine words –
“We believe in the Resurrection of the body and the Life Everlasting”
Now there is a certain logic to what we did last week which was “forgiveness of sins” which means that you are qualified by Jesus to stand in the presence of God and then to come to the resurrection which is to be in the presence of God and how long will that be for? Life everlasting. But it is a mind boggling subject and it’s difficult for us to picture the resurrection body (although the Gospels describe Jesus with the resurrection body) and it’s similar but different and real and physical and it’s a body but it’s still difficult for us to picture what the resurrection body that we will have will look like. And we also can’t get our head around ‘everlasting’.
And there must be many times, I imagine, where you have said the Creed and you’ve either tuned out completely (and I have done that as well) or you find yourself as you say the last words thinking ‘this is a big leap and I sure hope this is true’.
I am so glad that sensible person across the aisle is saying this confidently because I am not quite so sure about it! And I remember a guy in the UK who said to me that he wasn’t sure he believed anything. He said, ‘if my Minister does I will too’. And I just want to say to you, don’t fall into that trap. Don’t believe because somebody else does. Be able to say ‘I believe’.
Those Who Don’t Believe in the Resurrection
I thought we would begin therefore by thinking about the possibility of not believing in the resurrection and the life everlasting.
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There must be some people who have been told that there is a resurrection and a life everlasting. There must be some people who have been told but find it hard to believe and therefore don’t believe. And there must be some people who don’t want to believe, they refuse to believe. And there must be some people who did believe but they no longer do believe.
And I imagine that the person who does not believe in the resurrection and the life everlasting must feel that they are on a journey that has no significant beginning and no significant end. It’s like being on a travelator which has got no real start and no real finish. The person may say to themselves ‘well there could be a maker behind this, I don’t really like the idea of there being a Judge at the end of this and basically I am just on a journey and what’s the most sensible thing to do if I am on a journey with no beginning and no finish, I might as well just do my best to enjoy myself’. That’s exactly what the Book of Ecclesiastes says if there is no beginning and there’s no end and you are just here and there’s nobody above and there’s no God and you are just alone in the universe, you might as well in the words of Ecclesiastes ‘do nothing better than eat and drink’.
Paul says exactly the same in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 “if there is no resurrection, let’s eat and drink because tomorrow we die.” And at its best that would be a pleasure. You may have a great time doing that on the lower North Shore but at it’s worst it will be bleak and terrible.
Now it’s not good enough for us to go to a person who does not believe and say ‘listen your life will be so much happier if you do believe’. It’s a feeble argument for us to say to somebody who does not believe in the resurrection or the eternal life. ‘But listen your life is so empty without a resurrection and so meaningless without life everlasting’. That’s a feeble argument as if the emptiness of the person forces there to be a Paradise, that’s just not going to happen.
But what we could do if we are talking to a person about this particular subject is we could talk to them about the very real longing that people have for “more”. And I think this is the way Jesus occasionally would deal with people. He said to the woman at the well ‘you are thirsty, you will always be thirsty, you need a water which is forever’. Or to the people who are hungry “you are hungry and you need a bread which is forever”.
“People all over the world are religious, and they are inventing lots of possibilities for the future – so we have a longing.”
We could speak to people about their longing. We may want to say to people, you know that life is short, you know that eternity is long and there is a deep desire in your heart for something beyond this world. Think of funerals that are being taken even by non Christians. They do long for something the person who has died to keep going and we still think of death as wrong and unfair and a great intruder into our world. People all over the world are religious and they are inventing lots of possibilities for the future so we have a longing.
And then it might be helpful to ask the person the question – Is there anything real that fits belonging? Not guess work, not speculation, not something mystical but real. Something that confronts us.
I don’t know if you know the story of Alexander Fleming. He was a Scottish Physician back in the 1920’s and he went on holidays and he left all his washing up undone in the house. And when he came back, there on the kitchen table was a dish of bacteria which had been pretty well wiped out by a mysterious fungus. And this of course began the process of Penicillin.
And so the question we might ask is ‘is there anything which is a surprise in the world which is able to take away the disease of death?’ And I would suggest to you that there is something that stares the world in the face and that is the claims of people that there is more. And one of the people who is worth listening to is Jesus Christ who says again and again ‘if you come to me I will raise you up. If you believe in me I will raise you up. If you receive me I will raise you up’.
Now we have to ask ourselves whether that kind of claim has got anything to back it up and then when Jesus is raised up at the resurrection and the whole Christian faith begins to explode around the world, we might bring together the longing and some of this reasonable evidence. It becomes kind of like the Penicillin of the Gospel. So we are natural doubters. We have to agree that Jesus pinned his integrity to the resurrection. If the resurrection didn’t take place, he becomes a complete imposter or a crazy man because he kept talking about it and talking about it and then historically it happened.
Taking Jesus Seriously
I’ve noticed that people who dismiss the resurrection will not take Jesus seriously. And I’ve noticed that people who grasp the resurrection are more likely to take Jesus seriously. So with that long introduction we are going to think for a minute about the resurrection of the body and then the life everlasting. These things are not easy to visualise. Let’s not pretend they ever will be. Packer says in his little book on the Creed – “I am content to wait and see”. It’s not easy for us to visualise. We have to walk by the promises.
We are like people who have been promised a holiday. Have you ever been promised a holiday? I met with a man this week who has decided to take his whole family on holiday and he hasn’t told them yet but when he tells them (and since he is going to pay for it) all they have to do is say “this is wonderful and day by day we are going to move closer and closer to the holiday because it has been promised by a reliable person and it’s been paid for by a generous person”. That’s the way we live in the light of the resurrection.
It’s also not easy to prioritise especially where we are in this country because our eyes deceive us and we think that what we see is everything. And when we have plenty (and we do have plenty in this part of the world), it becomes even more difficult to take eternity seriously. And therefore I like the words of Johnathon Edwards who said that “nothing on this earth can paint the glory that is to come”. “Nothing on this earth can paint the glory that is to come.”
The Resurrection of the Body
Now let’s think about The Resurrection of the Body which is what Paul is explaining very carefully in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. You might like to look this up in your Bibles on Page 1140. The whole idea was a joke to the Corinthians that there would be a resurrection of the body and you remember in Jesus’ day the Sadducees thought it was a joke as well, the whole idea that you would rise from this world.
And you remember in Paul’s day the Athenians mocked him when he talked about the resurrection and here in 1 Corinthians, Paul is facing unbelief and he is facing unbelief from the church. Why are the Corinthians so slow to believe in the resurrection? Well I suppose part of the reason is because they are soaked in the philosophy of the Greeks where they live. Part of the reason is they are confused about when everything will actually happen. Some of them think that’s it’s already happened. And there are some in the Corinthian church who no doubt just have so many questions they just don’t even know where to begin.
And one of the questions comes up in verse 35, somebody says “how are the dead raised and what kind of body? And the Apostle Paul responds in verse 36 by saying “how foolish or literally foolish person”. Now he is not being unkind because they are very good questions. What he is saying is ‘you would be a foolish person if you allow these questions to make you an unbeliever because God is able to do things that you and I are not able to do’.
I think you know the Greek view of the soul that it was an indestructible something inside us which could never be destroyed and the body was a kind of a prison in which we lived and we longed to get out of it because it was such a handicap to us. You know it’s weak and it’s sinful and it’s selfish and it gets injured and then eventually it collapses and so the Greek idea was how does the soul get out of the body? The whole idea of being given another body was a complete anathema because the Greek would think – well why would I want another body and one forever, that would be the last straw!
Now the biblical view of the soul is that it is created by God and dependent on God and the body is a gift from God for the place in which he has put you. Obviously the body that we have in this world now is affected by sin and death and obviously the Christian is going to have the present body replaced by a new body but to the Corinthians it seemed ridiculous.
Have you noticed, incidentally, that the Greek view lingers today? Go to a modern funeral, a modern funeral of an unbeliever and you will see that the people want the person who has died to have some kind of future very often but they of course don’t believe in the resurrection so that have to come up with something in the middle that’s kind of vague, floaty and mystical because that’s really all that can be invented.
Five Things That Must Happen
Now the Apostle Paul has something much more wonderful to say and it’s in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verses 35-44. And he tells us that there are some things that must happen. I have listed five of them and I will give them to you in one minute each.
1 – Sowing Must Happen
The first thing that must happen (verse 36) is that sowing must happen. In other words, there has to be a burial of a seed (verse 36). You don’t get a flower without a seed. The seed has to be sown to get the flower. You don’t get a resurrection body without a death. You cannot go from seed to flower. Tell me if I am wrong friends, this morning friends, but is your garden dependent on sowing for flowers or do flowers just come up naturally all over your back garden? Does the Botanical Gardens just spring up naturally? Somebody puts in the work of sowing in order that there might be the growth. And the Apostle Paul says in verse 36 “you cannot go from here to a resurrection without a sowing of the old body”. It’s a must.
2 – A New Body Must Appear
Secondly, (verse 37) a new body must then appear. Do you notice in verse 37 he says ‘you don’t sow the body that will be’ – obviously not. You don’t sow the flower, you sow the seed to get the flower. And the seed leads to the flower and the earthly body leads to the resurrection body. So the present body that we are in will soon be finished and the new body must come – it must come – as surely as a seed turns into a flower, so the body of a believer will turn into a resurrection body. That’s the second must.
3 – The New Body Must Fit the New World
The third thing that must happen (verse 38) is that the new body must fit the new world. So God fits bodies to their place. A human has a place to live, the animal has a place to live, the bird has a place to live, the fish has a place to live and the body fits the place. So, says Paul, the sun, the moon and the stars have their place. And therefore God must provide a body that fits a place. And if he has promised a resurrection (and he has) he must provide a resurrection body to fit the resurrection place. That’s the third must.
4 – The New Body Must be Better Than the Old
The fourth must is in (verses 42-44). These are really lovely these verses, that the body must be better than the old. If you go to a funeral, the body that is in the coffin and sometimes you go to a funeral and there is a very confronting open coffin, the body which is in the coffin is perishable. It is unimpressive. It’s weak and it’s natural. But the new body, says Paul, is going to be imperishable, impressive, powerful and supernatural.
When I was a young preacher, I used to make the terrible and feeble joke that it would be difficult for you as a congregation to understand the resurrection body will come later because you are facing somebody now with a body that is so impressive and you would be tempted to think that I have the impressive, imperishable, delightful and powerful body. You know this will confuse you. But now I am exhibit “A” that I definitely need a new body and you have watched the deterioration. There is no doubt that I need a new body. And can I say (as nicely as I can) some of you need a new body as well! In fact if you are under fifteen you are looking OK for a while but if you are over fifteen you are just on a downhill road and some of you are closer than others.
Jim Packer says in his little book on the Creed “we are like old cars and we wear out”. But God who has planned a resurrection and has begun the resurrection spiritually will finish the resurrection physically by giving to us a body to fit.
5 – The New Body Must be Supernatural
Now the fifth thing is the new body must be supernatural, must be supernatural (see in verse 44) we live in a natural body, tomorrow we will live in a supernatural body. The body we are in will actually turn to dust. It’s from the dust. The body that we will receive because of Jesus is going to be from heaven (verse 48).
So friends let me urge you to look forward to this. Keep reminding yourself.
You may be feeling very well, that’s wonderful,
but you are going to get a resurrection body if you belong to Christ.
You may be feeling very sick,
you are going to get a resurrection body if you belong to Christ.
You may be walking well, good, you will get a resurrection body.
You may be unable to move, you will get a resurrection body.
You may be young, you will get a resurrection body if you belong to Jesus.
You may be old, you will get a resurrection body if you belong to Jesus.
Have you heard me say ‘you will get a resurrection body’? Because I said this at the morning service and a lady came up to me and said “I believe that we will get a resurrection which will be spiritual – am I right?” I said I have just spent 20 minutes saying to you ‘you will get a resurrection body’. I grieved that she heard so little. The believer in a body will get a resurrection body. We believe in the resurrection of the body.
The Life Everlasting
Second and briefly – The Life Everlasting. What we might call ‘eternal life’. This is a little phrase which interestingly was added to the Creed a little bit later. It’s a huge theme in Jesus’ ministry, eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, eternal life …. Jesus kept on saying in the Gospel of John. And I want to say to you that the first thing to say about eternal life is that it is not just a quantity but a quality. It’s relational, it isn’t just endless. In John chapter 17 verse 3 Jesus said “this is eternal life to know God and to know Jesus” and that is the greatest life you can have.
Because some people have hated the idea of eternal life. They have said ‘my life is so terrible I want it to finish, I don’t want it to go forever’. But eternal life in the New Testament is a quality. It means you have a relationship with the Lord Jesus, you have the best marriage in the universe with Christ and it’s going to begin by faith in this world with struggles and it’s going to finish face to face with him without struggles. Because everything in this world wears thin. Have you noticed that?
You know you buy a CD or get some music and you play a song and you love it and you play it a second time and a third time and a fourth time and by the fourth time your family hate it and by the tenth time you hate it. And you don’t want to hear that song again for a long time. To get the same meal every night wears thin. Look out the same window everyday, the view loses its impact. Have the same Pastor for 30 years, it’s terrible, terrible! everything wears thin, everything.
But if God removes from the new world what is painful you can be absolutely sure he will remove what is in decline. Paul says in Ephesians chapter 3 that the love of Christ is something that we will never get to the end of. We are going to be exploring the love of Christ, it’s height, its depth, its length, it’s breadth for the whole of eternity. We are going to be (if I might put this as cheesily as this) like kids in Disney Land discovering a new ride every half hour. And I am not just saying this to you because I am being imaginative (although I am at that moment being imaginative) that the Scriptures indicate that the move from here to there is to move from what will decline to what will not. So this eternal life is quality.
Secondly, it’s actual. It’s not an invention. It’s not something that we thought up. It’s something that Jesus brought down. We don’t need mystics who run television shows getting messages for us from ‘the other side’ so that we can get excited. Some Christians just fall for anything. Sometimes I mix with Christians and they believe the wackiest stories in the world, that’s all that interests them. And then you wonder why their non Christian friends are not taking their Christianity seriously because they believe such silly things. I don’t know if you have noticed that the people that bring the messages from ‘the other side’ the messages are normally so trivial and inconsequential and self absorbed and have nothing to do with what’s important and nothing to do with Jesus.
But the message which Jesus has brought to us is very foundational and it’s very vital and it answers all the big questions.
You think of how Jesus at the Last Supper was sitting there with Peter and Thomas and Philip and Peter said to him “I understand you are leaving, this is going to be a big confronting battle, I will fix it for us”.
And Jesus said “No, I will”.
And then Thomas said “I don’t think anything is going to work”.
And Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
And then Philip said “we need more information, you haven’t given us enough information”.
And Jesus said “stand on the words I have given you, stand on the works I have done for you”.
And he prepares them for the big future, he gives them enough information and this information can have a very big impact at the time of need.
The great missionary, Stanley Jones tells the story of a missionary lady who was in Japan and she was captured for her faith and she was condemned for her faith and she was to be beheaded for her faith. And they took her out to a hill and she was to climb the hill and to be beheaded on the top of the hill. And she began to laugh at the foot of the hill. And they asked her what she was laughing at. This is a brutal illustration, but she laughed at the bottom of the hill because she said this – ‘As my head rolls down the hill, my real self will rise to my Saviour’ and she laughed. And they were so affected by this they took her back to her cell and she was released and returned to the United States.
So this eternal life is a reality, not a mystical subject.
And finally eternal life is a gift, you get paid for your sin (you know this) you get paid for your sin, I get paid for my sin, my sin gets paid with death. Your sin gets paid with death but the free gift of God (Romans chapter 6) is eternal life and it’s when you receive Jesus, you receive eternal life – he is the Life. And this is the life which he died to secure for you and s when you receive him you receive this eternal life.
And you don’t receive eternal life one day, one day it will come, on the other side of the river it will come. You receive eternal life the minute you receive Jesus. That’s why 1 John chapter 5 says “If you have the Son you have the life, if you don’t have the Son you don’t have the life”. And how interesting that Jesus said when he was raising Lazarus from the dead in John chapter 11 “I am the Resurrection and the Life”. Get the resurrection and the life will flow out of it. He didn’t say ‘live your life and hope one day there is a resurrection’. He said ‘face Jesus NOW and you are facing the resurrection NOW. Get Jesus and you get the resurrection and you get the life, and the eternal life begins to flow.
So this Creed that we have been looking at for 10 Sunday mornings which speaks to us of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit tells us that it’s in the Son we find forgiveness of sins and when we find forgiveness of our sins we are ready for the resurrection and we are ready for life which is everlasting. And therefore friends you must continue to preach this to yourself. You must think like somebody who has been promised a holiday which is beyond literally this world. And it has been promised by somebody who is very reliable and very generous and you are just walking closer and closer and closer to a holiday which outstrips this world. You are not on a road going nowhere.
Now friends, just as I close think how important this is for the people in the world who just walk on a travelator. They say to themselves ‘I hope things would be good, I haven’t really come from anywhere, I am really not going anywhere, I just hope the present will be good’. They say ‘this is the only body I have, I hope it will be healthy and attractive’ and there is the decline. They say ‘this is the only life I have so I must collect as much as I can and have as much pleasure as I can’ and it declines. And they say ‘this is the only planet and therefore we must do everything because this is it’ and it declines. And that’s why this message, what we have been looking at in the Creed is so important. That a person would understand the Maker, the Saviour and the Welcomer, that a person might have eternal life.
No wonder you see the things we have been thinking about are not just things for us to be confident about but also things that are vital. We are not playing games when we say the Creed, we are not dealing with fairy stories, we are standing up to say something which the world desperately needs and we have been privileged to get, so may the Lord help us with our privileges and help us with our mission.
Let’s pray –
Our heavenly Father we thank you for bringing to us the message of the Lord Jesus. We thank you for bringing to us the new life of the Lord Jesus and we pray that this message and this life would enter into the soul of every person who is here and listening and we pray that this message, this life would spill out into joy and gratitude and witness and usefulness to the changing of many people and to the praise of your name.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name, Amen.