Sermon on “The General Resurrection”

Sermon on “The General Resurrection”

Sermon for Sunday, January 23rd, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament Reading: [1Ki 17:17-24 ESV] 17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” 19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

New Testament Reading: [1Co 15:35-49 ESV] 35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Gospel Reading: [Luk 8:40-56 ESV] 40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” 49 While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51 And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.


What does the Bible teach about the Resurrection of the dead?

On Easter Sunday the subject of preaching is commonly on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But today I want to discuss not so much Jesus’s resurrection but rather the General Resurrection of the dead. This is the resurrection at the end of the world.

And, I do believe it is a single resurrection. There are those who contend that there will be one resurrection for those who believe in Jesus Christ and a separate resurrection a thousand years later for those who do not so believe. I think this view is mistaken. Rather, the Bible teaches that there will be one resurrection, but with the distinction that some will rise to everlasting life and others to judgment.

Jesus says this in John’s Gospel:

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)

Note that Jesus says there that “an hour” is coming. “An hour.” It is all upon one short occasion of time that Christ returns, and all the dead shall be raised.

And this is another important point – ALL the dead shall indeed rise. Not just the believers, but unbelievers as well shall rise from the grave, and then comes the judgment.

But believers need not fret, for we are not to be judged. Or rather, we are not to be judged guilty. Instead, because of Jesus Christ, believers are declared righteous, and there is therefore now no condemnation for those who believe in Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:1)

[Jhn 5:24 ESV] 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

The resurrection and consequent judgment are not to be terrifying to the Christian, but these events are even presented as something to look forward to. We indeed hope in the resurrection of the dead.

I. The Resurrection, an Ancient and Orthodox Teaching

The general resurrection of the dead has been considered an essential teaching from the earliest days of the Christian church.

The Apostle’s creed says, “I believe in … the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

The Nicene creed says not only that such is the belief of the church, but that “WE LOOK FORWARD to the resurrection of the dead and to life in the world to come.”

There are hints of the idea of a General Resurrection of the Dead all the way back in the Old Testament.

Most interesting of Old Testament references is perhaps Job’s comment:

Job 19:25-26 – “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

Though he will die, he will live again, IN THE FLESH.

And this is what so distinguishes the Biblical view of Resurrection from any Pagan view. The Greeks always talked about the immortality of the soul, NEVER the resurrection of the body. The idea that the body would come back to life was ludicrous to them, and presented a major obstacles to the Gospel in Greek lands. Robert Strimple says “The doctrine of the resurrection was the Christin teaching most violently rejected by the pagan mind.” But by God’s grace the Gospel did conquer the Greek world, and within a few centuries the worship of Zeus and the rest of the Greek pantheon was completed ended and the Christian church was preeminent in those lands.

The doctrine of the resurrection of he body is almost forgotten at times in popular Christian culture. The afterlife is often portrayed a spiritual existence, floating on the clouds. But that is not the Biblical view. Eternal life is both body and soul. Granted, it is a changed body, but it is still a body.

For the Pagan greeks the body – the physical – was always bad. They wanted to be rid of the body, and so they hoped for the immortality of the soul. The Christian view however, held that ALL THINGS – both physical and spiritual – were made by God who declared after he made man that his creation was “very good.” The physical is not evil in its essence. But, then man fell into sin. And when man fell it was both body AND soul. Our bodies are now corrupted in sin, but so are our souls. We need God to work in us for the redemption of our whole selves, body and soul.

II. Biblical Resuscitations

There are a number of times in the Bible where a person comes back to life.

In 1 Kings 17:17-24 Elijah raises to life a widow’s son.

In 2 Kings 4:18-33 Elisha raises to life a Shunamite’s son.

In 2 Kings 13:20-21 a man is revived upon touching the bones of Elisha.

Then in the ministry of Jesus we find

A girl (the daughter of Jairus) is restored to life. (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56)

A son of a widow in the town called Nain is raised. (Luke 7:11-17)

And most well-known is the account of Lazarus, who was dead for 4 days and in a tomb. And when Jesus said “Lazarus, come out,” Lazarus indeed came out of the tomb alive.

Now, there is one more occasion in the New Testament that is often overlooked.

It occurred after the death of Jesus, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two, and the earth shock and the rocks were split. Then, Matthew’s Gospel tells us “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” (Matthew 27:52-53)

But all of these accounts in a certain way do not measure up to being resurrections. Some theologians call these resuscitation, not resurrections. And there is a good reason for this. Or a couple good reasons.

First, the people who come back to life, then die again.

Then, second, their bodies are not changed.

III. The Resurrection and the changed body.

See in the resurrection, the body is changed.

This is both continuity and discontinuity with the resurrected body.

When Jesus arose, it was the same body. He had the scars from the crucifixion. But something had changed. He own disciples often didn’t recognize him. He could appear and disappear, walk through walls. His was a glorified body.

Paul tells us of the resurrected body:

[1Co 15:42-44 ESV] 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

And again,

[1Co 15:51-53 ESV] 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

Because those resuscitations in the Bible were not full resurrections, it is true that Jesus was indeed the first to be resurrection. So he is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

IV. The Intermediate State

And, as Jesus was raised, so shall all be raised in the end.

Until then, you might ask, where is the soul, where is the person until his body is raised?

Some theologians have claimed that the soul is asleep until the resurrection. They call this idea “soul sleep.” But that is not the teaching of the Reformed or Presbyterian churches.

Before the body is raised and the soul reunited with it, there is the time which has been called “the intermediate state.”

We find an explanation in the Westminster Confession:

Of the State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead
1. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.

2. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever.

3. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor: the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honor; and be made conformable to his own glorious body.

The Bible has greater emphasis on the resurrection to life than the resurrection to judgment.

In 1 Corinthians when Paul speaks about the resurrection he does not even mention the resurrection of the unjust unto judgment. He says:

[1Co 15:21-24 ESV] 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

But there are indeed places in the Scriptures that speak of even the unjust being resurrected, with that understanding that they are resurrection not unto glory, but unto damnation.

I earlier referenced John 5:28-29

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)

And there is also:

Acts 24:14-15 where Paul says:

14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

V. The Resurrection, Our Hope

If anyone tells you that they know when the end will occur, when the resurrection and judgment are to take place, don’t listen to them.

Listen to Christ. He says:

[Mat 24:35-36 ESV] 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

And Peter says:

[2Pe 3:10 ESV] 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

But for that day, even though it is the end of this world, and even though judgment is spoken of, yet Christians look forward to that day.

Peter continues saying

“But according to God’s promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11)

That is why the end is not terrifying to Christians. The end of this world is the beginning of a state in which there is no sin, a place in which righteousness dwells. This is the opposite of terror. It is a place where there is no more terror, no longer will evil surround us and trouble us. Satan will be forever defeated. We will be in the presence of Jesus Christ and reunited with all of those who have faith. There will be no more sickness, no more death, not more temptations of the flesh.

So Paul says that Christians in the present age are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

It was the hope of the resurrection that Paul said he was on trial for. He again said to the governor Felix, “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” (Acts 24:14-15)

Again, I want to emphasize, “A resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” I see no description of separate resurrections, but merely separate ends for those who believe and those who do not.

We hope in the resurrection, not in the betterment of this world nor in some earthly kingdom someday to be established. These things are less than the hope of the resurrection, the full answer, the culmination of the work of God.

Ultimately, we hope in the resurrection, because we are promised that this life is not all that there is.

Paul, critiques the alternative saying:

“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” – 1 Corinthians 15:32

If there is no resurrection, Paul is saying, why not be full-on hedonists, living only for the pleasure of the moment, having no care about the consequences.

But having hope in the resurrection, and in a God who has loved us and united us to Christ so that we will be raised as He has been raised, in this hope we look forward to eternity.

The word resurrection – anastasis in Greek – literally means to be standing against.

Though man has fallen into sin, God raises us up. It is by his grace that we will one day be standing again. So we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and to life in the world to come. Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.