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The Day of Christ - Part 1
The Resurrection of the Dead

Jesus raises widow's son

by Dennis Pollock

Writing to the Philippians, the apostle Paul declares his confidence that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ." This Day of Jesus Christ is referred to often in the New Testament under various names. It is called the day of our Lord, the appearing of our God and Savior, the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and sometimes Paul simply calls it “that Day.” It will be a day unlike any other, and is the unique day on which all believers are to constantly fix their hope. This amazing day will be so identified with our Savior that it is considered His Day – the Day of Jesus Christ.

There will be three great events of this Day, any one of which would make this Day the most unique ever in earth’s history. In this brief teaching we shall consider the first awesome event on Christ’s itinerary – the resurrection of the dead. Before we give consideration to the specific nature of this resurrection we must first answer a basic question that arises in the hearts of many Christians: “Why should there need to be a resurrection? After all, when a Christian dies, does he not go immediately to heaven? And if he is already in heaven, why should he need to be resurrected?”

Far Better

Those who die in Jesus Christ do indeed go immediately into the presence of Christ in heaven upon their death. The Bible could not make this any plainer. Paul writes to the Philippians, “For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:23). Not only are we told that the believer goes straight to heaven to be with Christ, but Paul assures us that this is far better than our life on earth  - not just a bit of an improvement, but far better! When we lose a loved one to death it is natural to cry at funerals, and there is nothing wrong with this. We mourn our loss, we are sad that we will no longer enjoy their company. We think of how much they meant to us, and how they are now gone and we weep. But if they died in Jesus Christ, we should know that our weeping must be for our own sakes. We are at a loss for their absence. But it should never be for their sakes. They are now happier than we are, they are healthier than we are, they are experiencing a peace they have never known before, their lives are immensely improved in every possible way. We dare not weep for their sake!

As Peter began to feel that his demise was near, he wrote these words, “… knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me” (2 Peter 1:14). He compared death to the taking off of a tent. And the tent he would soon take off was his body. Contrary to what secular psychology would tell us, we are not our body. We are a spirit living in a body. At the time of our death we shall shed this body, this covering that we wear as we go to the store, play with our children, and work at our jobs. The body shall be left behind as our spirit joins the Savior in that place where there are no thieves that steal or rust that destroys.

Many years ago I made what was perhaps the biggest automotive mistake in my life – I bought a tiny car made in Yugoslavia known as a Yugo. We had little money at the time and I could buy this nearly new car for a very cheap price. I soon found out why I had gotten such a “great deal.” The car was a disaster! It broke down constantly and was utterly and entirely unreliable. It followed a version of Murphy’s Law – everything that could break down would break down. Finally after a year or so an elderly lady did me a great favor – she ran into the back of me while in that car. I was able to get a new vehicle which was about a 1,000 percent improvement! The Yugo went to the junkyard, but I did not go with it. I did not sit in my Yugo day after day in the junkyard. I simply got out of the car, and started driving my new, improved vehicle around. So shall it be with believer. Upon death we shall shed this worn out body with its unattractive wrinkles, its propensity for sickness and weakness, its headaches and joint pains, its balding head and sagging skin. That which has weighed us down shall hold us no longer. Our body shall be placed in the ground, or cremated into ashes, while our spirit soars into the heavens to be with the One who has loved us and died to grant us access into His presence in heaven.

Clothed with our bodies

All of this brings us back to the question, “So why a resurrection? It sounds like we will have it pretty good without our body!” This is true, but the process is incomplete. At present the believers in heaven are there in spirit bodies without a physical "shell." But this is only temporary. On the day of Christ the bodies of the believers shall be raised from their graves, drawn from the oceans, and recreated from the ashes to once again clothe the spirits of the believers. God has determined that we shall live in eternity as three part beings: spirit, soul, and body. You will get your body back! Now some of you may be thinking, “I’m not so sure I will want my body back! It has given me a lot of problems.” The good news is that this resurrected body shall be perfected – no longer susceptible to sickness, weakness, or aging. Your body will be in perfect condition and it will stay that way!

Jesus has led the way in this business of resurrection. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” To the Colossians he says, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). When Jesus was raised and appeared to His disciples, they were fearful, thinking they were seeing some kind of ghost. He responded, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). In fact he went one step further to convince the disciples that he was just as real and just as physical as before – He ate fish and honey in their presence. No ghost would do that!

Jesus has not only told us that if we will trust in Him we shall live forever; He demonstrated the very nature of this new body that we will be clothed with throughout eternity. He who could pass through walls could also eat fish. He who could be touched and clearly had bones and flesh, could also come and go at will, and ascend into the air to be with the Father in heaven. So why a physical body? God has prepared a physical home for us to inhabit throughout eternity. Many Christians have such wrong impressions about heaven. If they think about it at all they assume it will be some ethereal existence unlike anything we have known. We’ll probably be singing 24 / 7 throughout eternity (wouldn’t that be boring!) or maybe we’ll sit on a harp and play a cloud for all eternity. Hopefully someone will come and visit us on our cloud once in a while, and perhaps we’ll be allowed to visit one of our loved ones’ clouds occasionally. We can have harp duets. Wouldn’t that be exciting!

Reigning with Christ

earth

The Bible does not say that we will sing forever or that we will play harps forever. It declares that we will reign with Christ forever. When Adam was in the garden of Eden he was given responsibilities. In eternity we will be kept quite busy serving under Christ, and governing His created universe. We are even given specific details of our home base. We read of the city known as New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation. This city is made from beautiful gems and gold, and has streets, and rivers. Anthony Hoekema writes: “Resurrected bodies are not intended just to float in space, or to flit from cloud to cloud. They call for a new earth on which to live and to work, glorifying God. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body, in fact, makes no sense whatever apart from the doctrine of the new earth.” And this is precisely what God has promised those who trust in Christ.  Peter writes, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

Jesus stated: “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear (My) voice and come "forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28,29). While Jesus walked this earth His friends Mary and Martha sent Him an urgent message: “He whom You love is sick” (their brother Lazarus). The Master made no attempt to immediately come and heal Lazarus, telling the disciples that the situation was “for the glory of God.” Finally after two days He began the journey to Bethany where the family lived. By the time He arrived it appeared He was much too late. Lazarus had been dead now for four days. But in truth, though God may not appear when we want Him to, He is never late. The Son of God stood at the door of the tomb and called out to cold, dead Lazarus: “Lazarus, come forth!” There was an immediate response. The Scriptures tell us, “And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes...” In Proverbs we read that “where the word of a king is, there is power,” and when the King of kings speaks, even death itself cannot resist Him.

The Sting of Death Removed

The Scriptures tell us that there is a Day coming when King Jesus shall once again command the dead to come forth. But this time it will not be spoken to a single man. On this amazing “Day of Christ” our Lord shall speak a word of command to all those who have died in Christ – believers from every race, every nation, and every language. Those who have drowned in the oceans, those burned in terrible fires, those buried with great ceremony and honor, and those hastily dumped into shallow graves – all those who have had that blessed privilege to die “in Christ” shall be raised. The bodies shall be restored, reconstituted, perfected, and glorified. Paul writes, “We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51,52).

As Paul continues to write he becomes so thrilled at the prospect of the resurrection, he begins to mock death: "So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" Thanks be to God death has no victory in the lives of those who have trusted in Christ. Jesus died a terrible death on the cross that we might live a wonderful life in His presence throughout all eternity. He became sin that we might be made righteous. He suffered God’s wrath that we might enjoy God’s favor. And after dying He was raised from the dead three days later and became the firstfruits of the resurrection, the firstborn from the dead. To receive Christ is to receive the gift of eternal life. And on that very special day, perhaps not too far off, the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, a trumpet shall be blown, and the dead in Christ shall rise. “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

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