Summary: In death, life is changed, not ended.
“I Believe” –a sermon series on the Apostles’ Creed
“Life Everlasting” -Responsive Reading #644, “Christ & Immortality” (I Cor 15) -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
An elderly couple died in an accident and found themselves standing before the Pearly Gates of Heaven. St Peter was there to welcome them and took them inside. First Peter showed them their new, heavenly mansion. The man, awed by the sheer luxury of it all asked, "How much does this place cost per night?" St Peter replied, "Sir, this is Heaven, it doesn’t cost anything." Then Peter took them to the dining room where table upon table was piled high with the most superb, delicious foods you could imagine. Again overwhelmed by the lavishness of it all the man asked, "How much for the meals?" St Peter said, "You forget, this is Heaven; it’s free." St Peter then took them out back where they saw the very finest professional golf course. As the man stood there open-mouthed St Peter said, "Now before you ask, there are no greens fees; this is Heaven; everything is free." The man turned to his wife and said, "If it hadn’t been for your bran muffins, we could’ve gotten here ten years ago!”
Is death “THE END”, or is it “TO BE CONTINUED”? Is there life after death? Some people view death as the very worst consequence possible, while others see it as the “final stage of growth” (Kübler-Ross). The Apostles Creed concluded by proclaiming, “We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
One day we will die and our bodies will return to dust; they were not made to live forever. But through Christ we have hope for a life that goes beyond death. We will be with Christ. This first resurrection is spiritual; our souls--the immaterial part of who we are--will travel beyond death’s door. This assurance was a great comfort to Job, who suffered greatly. God never explains to Job why he suffered, yet he declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes…how my heart yearns within me!” (19:25-27). Paul explains in II Corinthians 5 that to be absent from our bodies means to be at home with the Lord.
Scripture also speaks of a 2nd, physical, bodily resurrection. Jesus will one day appear and by miraculous means raise, reshape and transform our mortal bodies back to life. The One who brought about the miracle of birth will from dust and decay reconstruct and reanimate that which is dead. Ezekiel was given a glimpse of this in his vision in the Valley of the Dry Bones. God asked the prophet, “Can these bones live?” He then directed Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, which he did. Some ministers feel like they’re preaching to dry bones! God put flesh and skin on these bones and put the breath of in them (chapter 37).
The most detailed description of this miraculous process is in our text, I Corinthians 15, the “resurrection chapter” of the Bible. Chapter 13’s the “love chapter” of the Bible; Ch 15’s the “Resurrection Chapter”. Paul says that our resurrection bodies will be perfect, and specially suited for eternal life—an existence with no more death, pain, sickness, fatigue, hunger, or thirst. Gone and forever absent in Heaven will be the stresses and human weaknesses that are the result of sin and the Fall of humankind. Our bodies will be like the body of our risen Savior--immortal, imperishable, incorruptible. Paul states in Philippians that Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (3:21). Nothing is yet in its true form. (C.S. Lewis). In death life is changed, not ended.
Will I be the “same me” in Heaven? Will I be able to recognize family and friends, and will they recognize me? People didn’t immediately recognize Jesus in His resurrection body; somehow He was different. I’m not sure exactly how we will know one another; maybe we’ll wear nametags! I also fully expect that in a glorified body I’ll have a full head of hair! When I get to heaven, I don’t want a harp--I want to be handed a comb! But I speak of heavenly things, of which we’re given only a glimpse, a mere fragment of information. What the Bible says about eternal life is brief and couched in symbols; yet one day we will experience the full reality of life everlasting.
This miraculous resurrection will happen to both believers and unbelievers. Believers will enjoy eternal life in God’s holy presence…and for those who by their own choice have rejected God’s mercy, they will suffer eternal separation from God. They’d rather be miserable away from God than in His blessed presence. C.S. Lewis observed, “There are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever.” Everyone will live forever; the question is, where will they live?