EASTER: Dead or alive!
Bible reading: I Corinthians 15: 3-8
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
What’s it like to be dead? Really dead…
- I know what it is like to be alive… but what is it like to be dead?
I know that I’m alive because I can breathe, talk, move, understand situations, laugh, get emotional…
- But what happens when I’m dead?
What do we think was happening when we say that Jesus died on Good Friday (or was it on Thursday?) and on the 3rd day was raised from the dead?
- As Jesus died he said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”… What spirit is this? (It’s the thing that makes you the person you are)
And when Jesus spoke to Thomas he said, “Look my hands and feet; my wounded side”… so he had his earthly body back… but now glorified!
- In other words, Jesus’ body had human attributes… but was now indestructible
What does this mean for you and me?
- One day we shall die and our spirit will be released… (but where will it go… or to whom will it go?)
- One day we shall have our bodies back! But they will be bodies fit for eternity?
- So that we will live forever
The events in Jesus’ life at Easter didn’t catch him or God the Father by surprise
Many times Jesus told his disciples what was going to happen… For example:
Near Caesarea Philippi in Matthew 16: 21… From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
In Galilee… Mark 9: 30-32… They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”
In Peraea (east of the Jordan)… Luke 9: 43-45… “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant.”
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was no surprise to God because it was part of his eternal plan…
Sometimes life takes strange twists and turns… not all of them welcome… but if we have committed our lives to God, we need have no fear about what is happening… NOTE: if we have committed our lives to God, as Jesus did
- So… have you committed your life to God through Jesus Christ?
Not everyone was convinced that there even was a resurrection! The Sadducees did not believe it… even the disciples were a bit doubtful
My neighbour was dying from cancer. He told me that when you die the candle is blown out and that’s the end of everything! Oblivion!
What do you believe?
- Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?
- The Bible is quite clear that our future destinies depend on having this belief
- In Romans 10: 8-10… But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”; that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
People who say that there is no resurrection are denying what God has said is the case… reported by on-the-spot witnesses
I Corinthians 15: 14… If Christ be not risen, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is also in vain.
And Jesus promised that because he lives, we will live…
John 14: 18-20… I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you.
So what’s it like to be dead?
- We continue to exist… initially in spirit-form
- It appears that we stay in a “holding place” where we wait until the return of Christ to the earth
- We receive new bodies that will rise from the earth
- We stand before God to receive reward or rebuke
- We live eternally in the presence of God
However, these things do not happen automatically…
- When Jesus died it was for the sins of the whole world… but that does not mean that everyone will have a resurrection like Jesus
- When Jesus was raised it was so that we could be brought close to God…but that doesn’t guarantee a resurrection like Jesus had
We need to do 4 things:
(a) Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the way to God the Father
(b) Believe that he was resurrected from the dead
(c) Turn to God
(d) Eagerly await Jesus’ coming again
To BELIEVE is an ACTIVE word… I can believe something but do nothing about it!
We can also be physically alive but spiritually dead…not connected to God through Jesus Christ
No doubt lots of horrible people believe in Jesus in a general sort of way… but they don’t believe that Christ is coming again… and certainly wouldn’t look forward to it!
BUT WHY NOT?
Because without Jesus Christ we must live alone and stand alone before God when we die
Jesus said in John 5 that when he comes everyone will rise to meet him… but their eternal futures will be very different
AN EQUALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION TO “What is it like to be dead?” is “What is it like to LIVE?”
At Easter we remember in a special way that Christ is ALIVE because he rose bodily from the dead…but it’s much more than a chance to shout a big “hooray” and eat chocolate eggs!
The resurrection means at least 4 things for us in our lives…
- We can be confident that God has everything in hand… even when life seems to be going wrong
- Just as Jesus’ spirit went safely to God after death, so shall our spirits… we have nothing to fear
- Just as Jesus rose bodily, so shall we
- Just as Jesus went to be with God the Father, so shall we be with Him for ever
But the resurrection is much more than looking forward to when we die!
- It’s about how we use our lives while we LIVE!
We can be obsessed with the hereafter and neglect to celebrate and cherish life now
In fact, most of the Bible and Jesus’ teaching is about how we should live TODAY… and not about what the future holds
BUT HOW WE LIVE NOW WILL DETERMINE WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS!
- With Christ… or without him
- With the Spirit of God within us… or emptiness
- Relying on our own strength… or His
- Pleasing ourselves… or pleasing Him
- Looking forward to his coming again…or dreading it
I said at the start of this message that I knew what it was like to be alive but didn’t know what it felt like to be dead…
- But in some ways that isn’t true!
- Because the Bible says that without Christ we are still “dead” in our sins
- Which means that we are spiritually dead… because we don’t have the life of God’s Spirit active within us
I’m a member of a Preservation Railway Association…
- There’s an old steam engine that looks ready for action… outwardly, it’s perfectly formed… but in reality it’s ‘dead’
- It needs a new boiler and can’t produce steam
- In the same way, we may appear alive (we can eat, drink, speak and think)… but in God’s sight we may be dead… a terrible thought!
So let’s make sure we are alive in the Risen Christ as He lives in each one of us. As someone has said:
Live as if Jesus died yesterday…being deeply thankful what he has done for us
Live as if Jesus rose today…with joy and a desire to share the good news with others
Live as if Jesus is coming tomorrow… expectantly; staying close to him; being his disciple and witness
Eternal life spent with God can begin today!
So don’t delay in making your response.