Isaiah 9:6–7 ESV For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…
You’ve probably heard of this prophecy. Sung about it in a song at Christmas time. It is a prophecy of the Coming of Jesus Christ to earth. The Incarnation. God becoming man. Jesus Christ, while not yielding his Deity, became a man. Some religions, like Islam, are repulsed by such a thought. Isn’t that blasphemous? How could the Almighty, All-powerful, All-knowing, Eternal God become something so small and limited? By asking that question, it shows they understand the gravity of this prophecy.When we give earnest thought to the truth of the Incarnation, it truly is mind-blowing. Heaven has invaded earth. God has come down and become one of us. The Christian faith hinges on this glorious event.
What does the rest of the prophecy say in Isaiah?
…and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
This, too, is about the Coming of Jesus Christ. But not his FIRST Coming. Rather, his Second. And he is coming again to deliver his people and to establish a Kingdom on earth….an Eternal Kingdom. Our Gospel starts at Christmas, but it doesn’t end there. Nor does it end at Easter, the resurrection. Nor does it end when Jesus literally ascended in the heaven. There is another key component to the Gospel: that Jesus Christ is coming to earth again. And he’s coming to Set up a Kingdom. An Eternal, glorious Kingdom.
We’re in a series on the Kingdom of Heaven. We are looking each week at future events. Real events. The Lord has told us many of the events that will happen. Why did he tell us? So that we will anticipate them. So that we will live differently because we know the future. So that we will not lose heart in life but have hope. Real hope.
This morning we’re going to zero in on one key event that will happen when Christ returns: The resurrection of the bodies of every believer in him. New bodies. Immortal bodies. The truth of our resurrected bodies is not merely to satisfy our curiosity. It is intended to give us hope for the day of His return.
Last week, Paul spoke at length of how and why the future world motivates us in the here and now.
1 Peter 1:13 ESV Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Knowing Christ is coming back prepares our minds. We are made sober-minded. All other things in life seem pale in comparison to this One Day. So we set our hope FULLY on the grace of God we will receive when Jesus is revealed. We typically set our Hope on so many frail, temporal things. The Lord calls us to a greater, eternal hope.
The Future Kingdom
Similar to Isaiah’s prophecy, John in Revelation tells us this:
Revelation 11:15 ESV Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
The Father and Son will reign forever and ever.
“The Hallelujah Chorus” is from George Handel’s famous Messiah from 1741. (based in part on this verse in Revelation)
“Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord,
and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”
From my understanding, one of the first events in establishing this kingdom is the literal, physical return of Christ and the resurrection of his people.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ESV The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first… and so we will always be with the Lord.
This day will be thrilling—absolutely thrilling—for all who know and love Jesus. Finally we will see him in all his Beauty and Majesty and Splendor. We will be stunned and amazed and afraid and bursting with joy….all at the same time. And when he comes, he will raise from the dead all the bodies of those who loved him.
My thinking for years has been, “Sure the resurrection of our bodies is important, for the Bible tells us so—although I’m really not sure why.” I’ve had a difficult time grasping why the resurrection of the body is so important. I have had the subtle thinking, “What matters most is that my soul is with God in heaven. A resurrected body, while far less important, is a nice benefit, I guess.”
What I’ve been missing is seeing that body, soul, and spirit all make up our very essence as human beings, and we're not whole without all three. Three weeks ago, Dave spoke about the influence that the philosopher Plato has had on Western culture, including Christianity. And he has certainly had an influence on this topic of the resurrection of the body.
One author said this:
“The Greeks, and Greek philosophy in general, had little respect for the body, considering it to be a hindrance, and taught only the immortality of the soul.”
But the very essence of being created by God in his image with body, soul, and spirit is the biblical issue at stake here. Perhaps we could say that we are not fully “us” unless or until we have body, soul, and spirit united.
So if we die today, our souls will be with Christ. And that is absolutely wonderful and our great hope. I spoke about this 2 weeks ago. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1 that to die today would mean to be in the Lord’s presence. But our bodies will not be with the Lord. Not yet. We will be incomplete, for our bodies will still be “asleep” in the grave. But when Christ returns to earth and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers, we will be made whole once again and forever, and this time glorified.
Romans 8:18–23 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Since Genesis 3, all of Creation is under a curse. It is Broken and Dying. And Creation itself is longing for redemption, to be “set free from its bondage to corruption.” What else is it longing for? The “freedom of the glory of the children of God.” i.e., the resurrection of the body.
Continuing in Romans 8:
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
And until that day, we all groan. Every ache. Every pain. Every limitation. Every disease. Every sleepless night. All of these things remind us of the Curse on all mankind and all creation. And so we GROAN, longing to be set free! Longing for Christ and the Complete Resurrected Life he brings.
Note that last phrase: the redemption of our bodies. You see, Jesus did not die and rise from the dead just to redeem your souls. He came also to redeem your bodies. The whole you. This is part of the gospel message. Only then can we enjoy him in Fullness and Forever and Completeness.
Jesus said to Martha after her brother, Lazarus, died:
John 11:25–26 ESV “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
The entire passage of 1 Corinthians 15:12-58 is relevant. Here are portions:
1 Corinthians 15:12–15 ESV Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
Some in the Corinthians church didn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ.
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
The resurrection of the body is far more important than we realize. The heart of the gospel message is the resurrection. Christ is Immanuel. He came as a man. He died as a man. He rose gloriously as a man. He ascended as a man. And now his resurrected manhood means resurrected life for us. We are simply incomplete and somewhat “unhuman” without a body. God formed the body first, and then breathed life into Adam.
Paul continues on using a analogy of a seed planted and the plant that spouts from that seed. The seed produces this amazing plant.
1 Corinthians 15:42–54 ESV 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. 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
This does not mean we will not have physical bodies, for that is the point of the chapter. He means that our bodies as they are—merely mortal and corrupted by sin—cannot inherit the kingdom. We must be changed.
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. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Our greatest and final enemy is death, and the resurrection of Christ conquers it thoroughly and eternally. All our hopes therefore rest on the reality of Christ rising from the dead into a glorified, immortal body.
“Body Life” in the Kingdom
What will these new bodies be like? What will we do in the new kingdom of God?
Philippians 3:20-21 ESV But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Jesus’ body after resurrection seems to be highly instructive. He walked, ate food (bread?), tended a fire, picked up fish, let the brothers touch him, had scars on his hands, rose into heaven, etc.
We will have no more sickness, death, sorrow or suffering
Revelation 21:4 ESV "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Our bodies will be whole and healthy and strong. That doesn’t mean we’ll be strong like Super-heroes. We will have limitations to our strength, for only the Lord is omnipotent….all-powerful. But imagine being whole in body, soul, and spirit with no more sorrow. Oh my, there is so much sorrow in this life. No more pain. No more worries about cancer or heart disease.
We will eat and drink
To his twelve disciples, Jesus said:
Luke 14:15 ESV When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
And The Lord Jesus ate food in his resurrected body. (Luke 24:42). Whether we have to eat in the new kingdom, I don’t know. It may be that it’s simply a pleasure the Lord has designed for us. Or it’s possible the Lord has designed our glorified bodies to still need food. If this is the case, no one will ever go hungry, like can happen today. We won’t need any campaigns to “Stamp out Hunger.” But in any case, we will eat.
We will judge and rule
Jesus told the Twelve:
Luke 22:29–30 ESV “I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
The Twelve Disciples will judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel. And they will sit on thrones!! Wow!
But what about us?
This passage may shock you:
1 Corinthians 6:1–3 ESV When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
Somehow and in some way, the Lord will ask us to serve him to judge men and angels. This is an awesome responsibility we will have. My first reaction to it is, “I can’t. I’m not worthy.” Very true. Yet the fact we will judge men and angels also shows how thorough and complete our righteousness is through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The judgment for our sins has fallen on Jesus Christ. And then he mercifully let the righteousness of his Son fall on us.
So in our case, justice has been done. Now we really do have the righteousness of God. This is not a self-righteousness. This is nothing we can boast in.
And any judging we do will be completely just and fair. No impartiality. No hypocrisy. In this world, we often see human authority tied up with sinfulness: abuse, greed, lying, injustice, selfish ambition. And even when human authority has a pure heart of justice, he doesn’t always have all the facts. But with the Lord’s judgment, there will be none of that. Justice will be pure and holy and right and fair. All facts and motives will be known. All of them.
In the end, we will share in bringing God’s righteous judgment on men and angels. And that is a humbling and glorifying thing.
We will be rewarded
We will experience our reward for faithful service in our earthly life. Someone asked a few questions about rewards, so Dave will address this very important topic next week. Also, several other questions have been submitted, and we have offered some answers. They will be posted on the SCC website within the next day or two.
Longing for Eternity
I want to step back for a minute now and ask how all this affects us today. Does the Return of Jesus Christ motivate you? Does it affect how you live? And do the promises about the next world, including our resurrected bodies, affect you now?
I find that often I’m not thinking about the future that much. And I’m not longing for Christ. Like Paul said in Philippians 1:23, “to die and be with Christ is by far better than remaining here.” Are you like me in that you don’t think that way nearly as often as you wish? Why don’t we? Often it’s because we simply don’t know well enough the beauty and majesty of God. We don’t know the love of Christ as well as we want.
My wife and I are empty-nesters now, but we miss our kids terribly. We love them deeply and look forward to seeing them. There is a longing. The more I know and love Jesus Christ, the more I will long for him.
Philippians 3:20–4:1 ESV But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. 1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Paul says, “My true home, my citizenship, is in the next world, not in this one.” And he was longing for Christ to return. One action step we can all take is to pray every day for a greater knowledge of and love for Christ.
I believe it was Rick Warren in Purpose Driven Life who said something like this: pray each morning, “Lord, today I want to know you a little better and to love you a little more.” I pray that many mornings. And not only are we to long for Christ himself, we are to long for all he has promised us. In this case, Paul was longing for a resurrected body like Christ’s.
Then note in verse 1 how all this longing affected Paul: “This is how you should stand firm in the Lord.” Stand strong. Be steadfast. Don’t quit.
Are you getting beat up by trials, and by the brokenness in this world? Perhaps it’s the brokenness within yourself. Or the brokenness around you. No matter what trials or persecution you are enduring, you can be strong. Why? Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. And he is coming back and will resurrect your body, and he will take you to your true and final home: The Kingdom of God. We need to meditate more on the coming King and his Kingdom. Read about it. Pray about it.
After telling them about the reality of Christ’s resurrection and his glorious defeat of our worst enemy, named DEATH, and about the believer’s future resurrection from the dead, he says:
1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Because of the promise of the resurrection, we can stand strong and immovable and know that everything we do for Christ matters. Everything matters. Nothing done for Christ is unimportant or insignificant.
C.S. Lewis wrote a masterful series of books called The Chronicles of Narnia. In the last chapter of the last book, the characters enter into their final world, and it’s representative of will happen to believers in Christ as they enter into the New Heaven and New Earth with their glorified, resurrected bodies.
"And for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say, that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."
(C.S. Lewis, “The Last Battle,” the last words in the last book)