“There Is Hope”
April 4, 2007
What Happens When Christ Returns?
The Resurrection of Christ and the Resurrection of the Body
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
Today we have somewhat of a blended topic. The next time we’re together we’re going to be looking at the Judgment Day and the issues related to that. We’ll cross into that territory just a little bit today, because our focus is going to be asking how Jesus’ resurrection affects us in this life, and how it affects us at His Second Coming. And we will be looking at the positive side of that today: How does Christ’s resurrection affect us as Christians while we are living, and what does it show us about the nature of our own resurrection following death, and Christ’s return.
There are a number of issues that we want to touch on today. We want to look at the implications of each stage of Christ’s death. There’s no way that I can look at all the implications of each stage of Christ’s death, so I’m going to try and give you a hint by looking at the significance of His resurrection, and then perhaps a few words about His ascension oand His heavenly session, or His sitting down at the right hand of God the Father. We will address issues relating to the timing of the resurrection, but here’s basically what we’re going to do. This outline with all these numbers really breaks down into two parts. We’re going to address the issue of why is the resurrection important for us now, and we’re going to address the issue of what does Christ’s resurrection mean for us when He returns. I’ve tried to put as many of the Scriptures as possible in the outline, knowing that some of you don’t have your Bibles with you and aren’t close enough to look over someone’s shoulders. But if you have your Bibles, it’s obviously always a blessing for you to have it open and following along.
So let’s begin with prayer today.
Heavenly Father, we thank You that You have provided again in Your concern for Your people a time for us to meditate on what is to come and the glorious reality of Christ’s resurrection. We ask that You open our eyes to behold wonderful things in Your word, and that You would give us by the grace of Your Holy Spirit to believe them, to embrace them, and to live according to them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What happens when Christ returns? What are the implications of His resurrection for us when He returns? What are the implications now for us of Christ’s resurrection? How does His resurrection affect us while we’re living, and what does it show us about the nature of our resurrection following death and His return?
I. Why is the resurrection important for us now?
Reasons the resurrection should be believed.
I want to begin with the first question, which is simply, “Why is the resurrection so important to us now?” And I want to start by just taking you to I Corinthians 15:1-11, because in that passage the Apostle Paul gives four arguments for why the resurrection ought to be believed, and they’re very straightforward arguments.
1. The resurrection is part of the Gospel and necessary for our salvation (1-2)
First of all, if you look at verses 1 and 2, Paul makes it clear that the resurrection is part of the gospel, and therefore necessary for salvation. As far as the Apostle Paul is concerned, the physical, the bodily, resurrection—and by the way, that’s the only kind of resurrection that the Apostle Paul ever talked about, was a physical resurrection. This idea that floats around in some circles of a non-physical resurrection is an utter anomaly. The Apostle Paul goes out of his way in I Corinthians 15 to say that if we are not raised again in the flesh, then we are of all men most miserable. So he’s deadly serious about the bodily resurrection, not only of Christ, but of believers. At any rate, he makes it clear that the resurrection is part of the gospel. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t have the gospel without the resurrection. There’s no gospel without a bodily resurrection. This is what he says:
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
And then, this is what he says in verse 4:
[That it was delivered to you as of first importance that Christ] “…raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….”
So just having said that the message that he has preached was of first importance—was that by which we are saved, and was that if we did not embrace the realities that were contained in the gospel we are not saved—he concludes in that gospel [verse 4] “the resurrection of Christ on the third day according to the Scriptures.” So the Apostle Paul says ‘Christian, why is it you should believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ? Because it’s part of the gospel, and thus it is necessary for our salvation.’
2. The resurrection was not a doctrine
Paul made up, he himself “received” it and we should too.
Secondly, he makes it clear to us that he did not invent the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. He received the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. Look at verses 3 and 4:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
And so what the Apostle Paul is saying to these Corinthian Christians and to you and me is, ‘I am not the originator of the Christian (of the biblical) idea of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was the thing that was delivered to me, and I’m delivering it to you. I received that when I first became a Christian.’
Who did the Apostle Paul meet? The resurrected
Jesus Christ. The resurrected Jesus Christ met him on the road to Damascus.
The Apostle Paul from this time on did not have to have complex arguments given
to him about the reality of the resurrection of Christ. He met Jesus. He was a
firm believer in that resurrection, and so he’s stressing, ‘Look, I didn’t
invent this. This was something I received, and I’ve delivered it to you.’ And
so the Apostle Paul is wanting you to make sure that you understand that the
resurrection is not something that he made up. He received it, and we should
receive it as he received it, too.
3. The resurrection is copiously attested as an historical event by people of the highest integrity
Thirdly, look at verses 5-10 in I Corinthians 15. Paul goes out of his way to point out that the resurrection is copiously attested as a historical event by people of the highest integrity. The Apostle Paul names people to the Corinthians who had personally seen the resurrected Christ, many of whom were known to the Corinthians. They could have literally said, ‘Well, OK, I want to ask them…’ and the Apostle Paul would have said, ‘Fine. Go ahead. Ask So-and-So. You know them.’ Look at what he says:
“…He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve.” [Verse 6]: “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at the same time.”
Do you realize what an astounding claim that is? If that was an untruth that he was uttering, he was giving five hundred people – alive – the opportunity to refute his assertion that Jesus had been resurrected.
“He appeared to five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom [he says] remain until now.”
In other words, ‘Corinthians, most of these five hundred that He appeared to are still alive now. You can ask them.’
“Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
Of course, he’s referring to that day on the road to Damascus.
“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God, but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
And so he’s saying ‘Look, Corinthians. This is not wish fulfillment. This is not the crazy idea of one man, or two men, or three men. This is something copiously attested by people of the highest integrity.
4. The resurrection is part of the core teaching of the Apostles and the apostolic church (11)
And fourth, he says in verse 11 that this resurrection is part of the core teaching of the apostles, and thus characterizes any church that is truly apostolic. [And you understand, when you drive around town today and you see a church that says Apostolic, it usually means that they don’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. That’s a code word for a church that doesn’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. By the way, that’s an evidence that they’re not apostolic! But that’s another story for another day!] But when the Apostle Paul uses that word apostolic, he means a church that is in accord with the teaching of the apostles. Paul knows that the apostles’ teaching is normative for Christians. That’s a concept that a number of Christians (especially who have lived in the English-speaking world over the last 200 years) could well afford to learn more about, because there are a lot of Christians, even professors of theology and ministers and others, who think that they have the right to invent Christianity in their own imaginations… to make it up as they go along. As far as the Apostle Paul is concerned, a truly Christian church follows the teachings of the apostles, and what he’s saying in verse 11 is:
“Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
And what he’s saying is ‘I, and all the apostles, preached the resurrection—the physical, bodily resurrection—of Jesus Christ, and we have preached it as essential to and part of the gospel of grace.’
So the resurrection is part of the core teaching of the apostles and of a truly apostolic church. So what? So what? Paul makes this argument as to why we ought to believe the resurrection. So what?
Paul then (in 1 Corinthians 15:12ff, Romans and elsewhere) tells us why the resurrection is so important
Well, now, not only in I Corinthians 15:12ff, but also in Romans and elsewhere in Paul’s writings, Paul tells us why the resurrection is so important. I don’t have time to go through all of Paul’s arguments as to why it’s so important, let me just point to five reasons why he says the resurrection is so important.
First, Paul stresses that the resurrection bears witness to the veracity - that is, to the truthfulness - of the claims of the church regarding the person and work of Christ. In other words, the resurrection vindicates the truth-claims that the church has made about who Jesus is and what He came to do, and in fact accomplished, in His life, ministry, and death. The resurrection validates - bears witness to, shows the truthfulness of - the claims that the church in its preaching makes about the person and work of Christ. In Romans 1 (if you have your Bibles you can turn there), Paul says that Jesus was declared the Son of God with power—how? “…By the resurrection from the dead.” How was it that Jesus was publicly declared and vindicated as the Son of God? By the resurrection.
Now, Jesus Himself had made explicit truth-claims to be the Son of God, and the apostles had declared that they accepted Him as the Son of God. You remember the exchange at Caesarea Philippi when the apostles are talking amongst themselves about who people in the crowds that are following Jesus…what they’re saying about Jesus. And Jesus says ‘Well, what are people saying about me?’ And you know, they say, ‘Well, Lord, some of them say You’re John the Baptist, risen again from the dead. And some people say that You’re Elijah.’ And then you remember what Jesus says: ‘Well, I want to know who you think I am.’ And they all sort of look around at one another, and finally Peter blurts out, as he likes to do, ‘Well, Lord, You are the Christ. You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And you remember Jesus’ response: ‘You’re exactly right, Peter. But flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.’
And so the disciples have recognized that claim, Jesus has attested to that claim, but now there has been a demonstration of that claim in His resurrection. Death could not hold Him, and His resurrection vindicates His claim to be the very Son of God. So the resurrection is evidential. It is part of the proof of Jesus’ person and the effectiveness of His atoning work. The resurrection distinguishes Jesus from all the other leaders of the world’s religions. And of course, it gives us confidence to receive His teaching.
Secondly, the resurrection, the Apostle Paul says, is important because it is at the heart of the apostolic preaching, and it is connected to the gospel of redemption and justification. Look at Romans 4:25:
“[Jesus] who was delivered over because of our transgression, was raised for the sake of our justification.”
So the Apostle Paul is telling us there that our justification—our being declared right with God, our being pardoned of our sins, forgiven of our sins and declared to be accepted as righteous in God’s sight not for anything in us, but for Jesus Christ’s blood alone—this is something that the resurrection has done. He was raised for our justification, so the resurrection is part and parcel of the gospel, the good news, the evangel. So the primitive gospel, the gospel preached by the apostles, included testimony to the resurrection as one of its characteristic features. If you do a study of the preaching of the apostles in Romans, Acts, I Corinthians, and elsewhere, what you will find is that over and over as the gospel is preached, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is emphasized. It gives assurance to us that Christ’s work is complete, and that redemption is accomplished.
Thirdly, the Apostle Paul says…why is the resurrection so important for us now? Because the resurrection is the source of the new life of the believer, and hence it is the fountainhead of our growing in grace and godliness, or what theologians call sanctification. Romans 6:4:
“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
So we’ve been raised with Christ so that – what? So that we would walk in newness of life. So that we would live a new way. His resurrection has the effect of providing the source of the Christian life from beginning to end. The resurrection is the source of the new life of the believer, and hence it is the very fountainhead of our growing in grace and living in godliness.
Fourth, the Apostle Paul (in Romans 8:11) tells us that the resurrection is the source, the example, and the guarantee of our future resurrection. Paul says in Romans 8:11:
“If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
And so the Apostle Paul is reminding us there that the resurrection of Christ is of tremendous importance to the believer as we anticipate the future. The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee and the model of our resurrection.
One of the interesting stories that Matthew tells you (in Matthew 27:52) is that on the day of Jesus’ resurrection there were many believers who were also resurrected and went into Jerusalem. They came up out of the tombs, and they went into Jerusalem and they knocked on the doors of their family members. It’s a fascinating passage. Go read the passage in its context sometime. One of the things that Matthew is telling you is that Jesus’ resurrection is that which accomplishes the resurrection which was spoken of in Ezekiel 37. You might go study that passage sometime. That’s the story of the valley of the dry bones.
But another thing that Matthew is saying there by telling you about those believers who were actually raised out of their tombs is that this is a foretaste of our resurrection on the Last Day. As His body was quickened, so will ours be. As His body was glorified, so will ours be. And so all of these things are an important part of the believer’s expectation of rising from the dead of rising from the dead ourselves.
Now one last thing: In the final analysis, the resurrection is the vindication of Christ. It is the vindication of Christ. It proved that He was the Son of God; it proved that He had offered the perfect sacrifice for sin; it proved that He had been found spotless; it proved that God declared Him to be righteous in full. And in that sense, the resurrection could not have not happened.
If the resurrection had not happened, the universe would have ceased to exist, because what had happened on the cross? God had poured out the fullness of His wrath—the wrath that ought to have rested on a multitude of men and women and boys and girls justly because of their sin—He had poured out His wrath—where? On His Son, who was sinless.
Now, we’ve heard this so often in our lives that we have ceased to feel the wonder of that. How is it possible that it is just for God to pour out His wrath for sin on someone who is sinless? Well, there are several ways that the New Testament answers that question. One of the ways the New Testament answers that question is that Jesus Himself voluntarily accepted that. He said ‘Lord, I’ll stand in the place of My people. That’s what I want to do, for Your glory and for their everlasting good. I want to stand in the place of Your people.’ And so those beautiful phrases for us…in our place, that you find all through the New Testament, that’s part of the way that the New Testament explains that. How could it be that the Father would pour out His wrath for sin on someone who hadn’t sinned?
But the other way that the New Testament addresses that is that the Father vindicated Jesus by raising Him up from the dead, and thus showing to the watching world—what? ‘He did not deserve to die, because He was perfect. But He did deserve to be raised again from the dead. And in fact, had I not raised Him from the dead, My justice would have been called into question.’
But you see the blessing of that for the believer. If it is true that God’s justice would have been compromised if He had not raised Jesus from the dead (and it is), then it is also true that God’s justice would be compromised if He did not raise all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ from the dead, because Jesus died in their place. And so this is part of your firm and certain hope of future resurrection, as you rest and trust in Jesus Christ alone. It is no less possible for you not to be raised from the dead than it was possible for Jesus not to be raised from the dead.
All of those things are true for us now about the resurrection, and make the resurrection exceedingly comforting to us as believers.
II. What does Christ’s resurrection mean for us when he returns?
But now let’s turn to the second question: “What does Christ’s resurrection mean for us when He returns?” And I’ve quoted for you The Shorter Catechism. It’s No. 38. It has such a beautiful outline of this that I thought we’d start there:
Q. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A. At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.
That is not only a mouthful, it is a heart full.
Let me point you to the four things that The Catechism has summarized, and all it’s doing is summarizing Bible teaching about what the resurrection of Jesus means for you on the Last Day. Look at the four things here: You will be changed to glory; you will be acknowledged by Christ; you will be acquitted by Christ; you will be made completely happy in fellowship with God. Let’s look at each of these four things.
First, changed to glory.
First, every believer will at the final resurrection be raised, or changed, in glory. The Catechism puts it this way: “At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory….” Now, where does that idea come from? Well, it comes from a number of places. Let me point you to one place—that’s I Corinthians 15:42, 43:
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.”
Now, there are two very important things for you to understand that the Apostle Paul is saying there. One is he is saying that as you are buried in your body, so you will be raised in your body. As Job would say, “Yet in my flesh, I will see God.” But the Apostle Paul says you need to know something about your flesh. When that flesh, weak though it is in this world…decaying as it is in this world…is raised, it will not be raised in weakness. It will be raised in beauty and immortality, and perfection. So it’s comforting to realize that just as we experience oppression in the flesh, so also we will see God in the flesh; but it is comforting to know also, as Thomas Vincent says, that when we are raised our bodies will be most healthful, strong, spiritual, incorruptible, immortal, most beautiful, and glorious.
I love to think about this in lots of circumstances, but my two most favorite times to think of this is when I am watching a dear saint who has trusted in Jesus Christ all his life, all her life, going through the final battle with some debilitating illness which has robbed the once robust capacities of his or her body, and that body has been ravaged and is descending slowly, losing all of the wonderful glorious capacities that it once had in this life, I love to be able to think that God is going to…the next time I see that saint (in glory), none of that physical incapacity, none of that physical infirmity will be there. I will see that saint…I will see him, I will see her… in heaven, in the fullness of what it is and means to be a human being.
I also love to think of this as I see the children of believers who have been born with congenital and permanent disabilities of mind or of body, and to think that when I see that child in glory, I will see her – I will see him – as I never was able to see him, to see her, in this world: in the fullness of what a human being can be.
But I want to say one last thing before I move from this. What a hopeful thing it is to realize that our bodies will be perfected in the resurrection. When Christ comes again and we are raised, our bodies will be raised in perfection – totally perfect, even as Jesus’ body was glorified. You will not have one single physical deformity. You’ll never struggle with being fat again! (Boy, am I looking forward to that!) There will never be that shoulder that gives you trouble again…that lower back, that arthritis, that cancer. Never again. Your bodies will be like Jesus’ glorious resurrected body.
But I want to remind you that there’s one very interesting thing. Though there will not be a scintilla of imperfection in you, it is interesting that we are told in the Scriptures that there will be one mark that you will still see upon the body of your glorified Lord: the wounds that He bore for you He has kept even in His glorified body. So for all eternity in your perfected body, you will be able to look at the body which the Lord has chosen to bear for everlasting time, at the marks which He bore for you, so that you could inhabit a perfected body. It is a glorious thought, my friends, to think of what your Savior has done for you in that regard.
Second, acknowledged by Christ.
There’s a second thing. Every believer will in the final resurrection be acknowledged, or owned, by Jesus Christ. Again, as The Catechism says:
“At the resurrection, believers…shall be openly acknowledged in the Day of Judgment….”
In Matthew 25:34, Jesus is telling His disciples what it’s going to be like on that great Day, and he says:
“The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
In other words, he is saying that on the Last Day He is going to stand up and He is going to acknowledge you publicly and personally as His friend. As His joint heir. As His brother or sister. He’s going to stand up before the nations and say ‘That’s My friend. I died for him. Everything that is Mine belongs to him…belongs to her.’ You’re going to be publicly acknowledged, you’re going to be publicly embraced, you’re going to be publicly recognized, you’re going to be publicly owned, you’re going to be publicly acquitted by Christ.
And the blessing of this will be several-fold. We’re told in the Bible, for instance in Matthew 24:31, that believers will be gathered from all the corners of the earth by angels. Won’t that be a sight to see? That having been gathered by the angels (Matthew 24:31), you will be placed at the right hand of Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:33). At that point, we’re told (Matthew 10:32) that you will be openly acknowledged by Jesus Christ to belong to Him. Fourth, we’re told that you will then be entertained by Christ and invited by Him to take possession of His Father’s inheritance, which He has purchased for you and given to you freely in His love (Matthew 25:34).
And then the Apostle Paul adds that the Lord Jesus Christ will invite you to join Him in judging the world. The Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 6:2,3, that you will sit with Christ in judgment over wicked angels and wicked human beings, and you will administer judgment with Him. Can you imagine that? The Lord Jesus saying ‘What will be the just judgment that is meted out on this angel who rebelled against My Father eons ago, at the beginning of time? What will it be, My friend? What will the punishment be that we mete out on these who so wickedly abused and oppressed men in this world? What will it be, My friend? What will the judgment and justice of God call for?’ You will administer justice with Christ. You’ll be publicly acknowledged by Him, acquitted by Him, owned by Him, embraced by Him, recognized by Him.
Third, acquitted by Christ.
Thirdly, you will be pardoned, exonerated, by Christ. You will be acquitted by Him. Every believer will in the final resurrection be pardoned and exonerated by Christ. Again, the Catechism question says:
“At the resurrection, believers…shall be openly…acquitted in the Day of Judgment.”
Again, Matthew 10:32 tells us that Jesus promises that:
“Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”
And so there will be a public, absolute, universal, eternal acquittal of all those who rest and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel by Christ before the watching world on the Day of Judgment. And this means, among other things, that believers will be acquitted from false aspersions which had been cast upon them in this life, and from the real guilt of all sins which had been committed by them in this life, because of the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Jesus Christ alone. So that every false charge that has ever been made against you, or that ever will be made against you in this life, you’ll be exonerated from it. And every true charge that has been or ever will be brought against you in this life, you will be exonerated of. Jesus Christ will publicly avow you as His.
Think of the eternal peace of conscience that will flow from this. You know, have you ever been so burdened by a false charge brought against you that you began to wonder whether it was true? And you couldn’t get it out of your heart and your mind? Or have you ever been so burdened by the reality of the guilt of what you actually have done, and that you know that you cannot undo, that you wonder if you’ll ever get out from under that guilt? And the answer that the Bible gives is, if you rest and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel, on the Last Day He will deal with both of those things definitively, so that you will never ever again lack peace of conscience.
Fourth, every believer will, in the final resurrection,
be made completely happy in fellowship with God.
The Catechism says:
“At the resurrection, believers…shall be …perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.”
Again, there are a number of beautiful Bible passages that speak of this. I John 3:2:
“Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.”
And John again in Revelation 21:4:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be any death, there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain. The first things have passed away.”
And I Thessalonians 4:17:
“So we shall always be with the Lord.”
Every believer will, in the final resurrection, be made completely happy in fellowship with God, and that blessing of happiness and fellowship with God has two parts to it. First of all, in perfect and final immunity from evil. In this world there is no immunity from evil…there is no immunity from evil. The most precious of God’s children suffer pain and trials and tribulations and torments in this world, but not then. That’s what John is saying in Revelation 21:4. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no longer be any death, no longer any mourning, or crying, or pain. These things have passed away. So the blessedness that we enjoy in fellowship with God on the one hand is because all of the things that mar that blessedness here will have been taken away permanently, finally, irreversibly.
Have you ever had one of those days that was so good that you began to fear…you know, it’s never going to be like this again? It’s never going to be like this again—because you knew that something was going to happen, something was going to change. And it did. Never again. Perfection following perfection…following perfection…following perfection…forever.
But not just that. Not just an immunity from that which mars our blessedness and happiness, but a perfect enjoyment of God. Don’t you love the way that John says it in I John 3:2:
“When he appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
For the first time in our lives…for the first time in our lives…we will see Jesus like He really is, and it will take our breath away. And our breath will be taken away by it for eternity, because here we have seen through a glass darkly, but there face to face. Here we have known Him through His word, but we have not been made like Him fully yet. Then we will be like Him, and so we will see Him as He is.
Don’t you love how the apostle exhorts those Christians at the end of the first century by saying that ‘you love Him, though you have not seen Him’? But on the Day of Judgment, that reality will completely pass away. There will be no one of Jesus’ children who has not seen Him, and seen Him as He is. Even the disciples’ breath is taken away at the sight of Him with whom they dwelt in this life and saw in His glorified body, because they will have been fully made like Him.
And there will be no one that we love more than Him. William Guthrie, the great Scottish pastor, said of Christ and the believer’s sight of Him: “Less would not satisfy, but more could not be desired.” Nothing less than Christ in His fullness can satisfy what God has made us for. After all, He made us to do what? To glorify and enjoy Him forever. And nothing less than that would enable us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever; but having seen Him, the mind will not be able to bring to pass the thought of something greater that we could desire.
You know, one of the old arguments for the existence of God was that “God is that than which nothing greater could be conceived.” It’s a complex argument. I won’t go into it now, but the point is simply this: When we see Christ, all of us together will say, “There is nothing greater than I could conceive than Him. Nothing greater to delight in. Nothing greater to be satisfied in.” And so we will have a perfect enjoyment of God in Him because we will see Him just as He is.
That’s what the resurrection means for us as believers. That’s what the resurrection of Christ means for us as believers. On this coming Sunday, I’ll spend our focus of attention from the book of I Peter on the issue of the life that the resurrection of Christ produces in us now, but today we’ve thought both about what Christ’s resurrection means for us now, and what it means for us then.
What will the resurrected body be like? It will be like His body. It will be glorious. It will be perfect.
When will the resurrection of our bodies occur? When He comes again.
Will non-believers be resurrected? Oh, yes! Oh, yes, they will. Everyone will be resurrected. But those who have been resurrected trusting in Christ will be resurrected to be like Him and with Him forever. Those who do not believe in Him will be resurrected never to be like Him and never to be with Him.
Our heavenly Father, it is hard for us to comprehend what Christ’s grave-robbing, hell-defeating conquest of the death that we deserve and His life-giving resurrection…what these things mean for us, for it is so glorious. Grant that we would appreciate the fullness of the implications of His resurrection for us now, and then; and that we would live in light of that reality, day by day anticipating it, tasting it as the sweetest nectar that our lips could ever touch. Grant, O God, that You would give us a corresponding burden for those who do not love our Lord Jesus Christ, and who have grieved His heart of love. Grant, O God that You would give us a corresponding burden for those who do not love our Lord Jesus Christ and have grieved His heart of love. O God, we would have Paul's heart for his own people to the extent that he would have wished himself accursed if they could only taste and see that the Lord is good, if they could only trust in Jesus Christ. Give us that kind of love for those who don't know Jesus and do not love Him. In this Easter season remind us that the resurrection is essential to the gospel, part and parcel of it, necessary, for without it we are of all men most miserable, and we ask these things in Jesus name, Amen.
What Happens When Christ Returns?
The Resurrection of Christ and the Resurrection of the Body
Death is Defeated: The Implications of Christ’s Resurrection
How does Christ’s resurrection effects us as Christians while we are living, and what does it show us about the nature of our own resurrection following death and Christ's return?
Christ robbed death of its sting—what are the implications of each stage of Christ’s death:His Death on the Cross, Descent into Hell, Resurrection of the Body, Ascension to Glory, Sitting Down at the Right Hand of God the Father.
What will the resurrected body be like? When will the resurrection of the body occur? Will non-believers be resurrected?
I. Why is the resurrection important for us now?
Paul first gives four arguments for why the resurrection ought to be believed
1. The resurrection is part of the Gospel and necessary for our salvation (1-2)
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
2. The resurrection was not a doctrine Paul made up, he himself “received” it and we should too (3-4)
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
3. The resurrection is copiously attested as an historical event by people of the highest integrity (5-10)
5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
4. The resurrection is part of the core teaching of the Apostles and the apostolic church (11) 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Paul then (in 1 Corinthians 15:12ff, Romans and elsewhere) tells us why the resurrection is so important
1. The resurrection bears witness to the veracity of the claims of the church regarding the person and work of Christ
Romans 1:4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
2. The resurrection is at the heart of the Apostolic preaching and connected to the Gospel of redemption and justification
Romans 4:25 [Jesus] who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised for the sake of our justification.
3. The resurrection is the source of the new life of the believer and hence the fountainhead of sanctification
Romans 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
4. The resurrection of Christ is the source, example and guarantee of the believer’s future resurrection
Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
5. In the final analysis, the Resurrection is the vindication of Christ and hence, the ground of all our hope. It proved that He was the Son of God (Romans 1:4; Acts 2:24-36). It declared that Christ had met all the requirements of the Covenant of Works, and had been found spotless. (Acts 2:24b; Heb 13:20-21) It was right. It could not not have happened. It is the vindication of the justice of God. A perfect made was punished and was raised because He was righteous.
II. What does Christ’s resurrection mean for us when he returns?
Shorter Catechism Q.38
What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A. At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.
Here are set forth four encouraging truths:
1. Changed to glory
(“At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory . . .”)
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;” (1 Corinthians 15:42-43)
2. Acknowledged by Christ
(“At the resurrection, believers...shall be openly acknowledged...in the day of judgment...”)
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” (Matthew 25:34)
3. Acquitted by Christ
(“At the resurrection, believers,...shall be openly...acquitted in the day of judgment . . .”)
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32)
4. Every Believer will, in the final resurrection, be made completely happy in fellowship with God (“At the resurrection, believers . . . shall be. . . made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.”)
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2); “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4); “. . . and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)