RESURRECTION 2022: THE ONLY REAL HOPE

When we are faced with the death of a loved one, or our own death, we have to reckon with the reliability of what we hope for. Do we have a real hope? Do we have a hope that offers true comfort? The Christian hope is built upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is very different from any other hope offered by skeptics, or by other religions. It is the hope of LIFE.

To listen to the sermon, click the play button: To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Resurrection 2022

RESURRECTION 2022. 1 CORINTHIANS 15:12-23; 48-58

When I was in seminary, Kari and I met Paul and Becky Hagen, and their kids. I was there for my master’s degree, and Paul was studying for his doctorate. They were about fifteen, or so, years older than us. We became dear friends, and we have remained so for the past twenty-five years. We had the pleasure of watching their children grow up. They watched our children be born and grow. Paul & Becky are godparents for our daughter, Alana. Their family feels like part of our extended family, and we theirs (I also went to college with one of Becky’s younger brothers). Paul and Becky, or their kids, or Becky’s mother or brother, and other family, have often stayed at our house. Their son Tim married Gerte, a woman from Albania. We stayed with Tim and Gerte in Albania in 2013. They had their third child just a few months ago.

This was just after Tim was diagnosed with cancer.

Tim died this past Wednesday, four days before Easter Sunday. His youngest child will never know him. His wife is a widow. His parents have lost a son. His siblings have lost a brother.

As I think about this, I am filled with grief for my friends, Paul & Becky. No parent should have to watch the death of a child. I’m overwhelmed with sorrow for Gerte who has lost the love of her life, and for their three young children, who have been deprived of their father. I am so deeply sad for Tim’s sisters, and his brother. I am so sad myself. I stopped and wept while I was writing this.

Sometimes, I think we are almost unaware of how much the Bible influences our way of looking at the world. In order to better appreciate the wonderful gift that Jesus brought to the world, I want us to think about things – temporarily – from other points of view.

Just for a moment, imagine the death of this fine young man, but consider it as if you had no Christian faith. It seems so tragic that a young man who had a loving wife and three young children who need him, should die. His parents have outlived him. It feels so wrong. If we looked at Tim’s death without the eyes of faith, it would be an unmitigated tragedy. Everyone who loved Tim should be inconsolable. If this life is all there is, then nothing could ever balance out the tragedy of his death for his wife, his kids, his parents. It’s appalling, heart-breaking, and that’s all there is to say.

But wait. If this life is all there is, why should death be appalling to us? If the atheists are right, the universe arose by accident from nothing. It has no meaning, no purpose, which logically means that life has no meaning or purpose. Things simply are what they are. Life is what it is, and death is what it is. Neither death nor life has any significance. In such a universe, death is simply natural – no different, for example, from any other natural thing, like digestion, or breathing, or the color of the sky. If death has no more significance than a burp, why should it upset us? I’ve not heard any atheists address this issue.

One of the arguments made by skeptics is that religion was developed in order to help human beings cope with the tragedy and fear associated with death. But the atheists are not thinking deeply enough. Why, in the first place, should we even think of death as a tragedy? Why should we fear it, if it is as natural and normal as blue sky?

I think the logical answer is this: death is unnatural. When we encounter death, something inside us says, “It should not be this way.” It is as if we have some kind of ancient instinct that knows death is wrong. Deep within us, our hearts tell us that the world was supposed to be a different kind of place than it actually is. I suspect that even most committed atheists cannot actually make themselves feel indifferent about the death of those they love, and about their own death. That’s extremely strange, and very difficult to explain, unless it happens to be true that death was not originally part of what it means to be human.

A lot of people believe that all religions are more or less the same. I’ve already mentioned the religion that is called atheism (and atheism is based upon blind faith, whatever people say). Atheism is very different from Christianity in this matter of death – as I say, it is meaningless, and there is nothing afterwards.

Buddhism is also not remotely like the Christian faith when it comes to death, and the possibilities of life after death. To a Buddhist, life after death is a bad thing. The whole point of Buddhism is to cease to exist altogether. They do believe in reincarnation, but reincarnation is a negative thing for a Buddhist. It means that they failed to end their existence and become nothing, and now they have to try again, possibly adding more suffering to the world as a result. The great hope of Buddhism is not life, but rather absolute nothingness, a complete cessation of being.

Hinduism is also very different from Christianity. Hindus, like Buddhists, believe in reincarnation – they suggest that the average soul is reincarnated about 8.3 million times before reaching nirvana. However, the ultimate goal (nirvana) is to cease to exist as an individual and be absorbed into the all-encompassing oneness that is the Brahman. In other words, in “heaven” you will no longer be a conscious self. For all intents and purposes, this too, as in Buddhism, is the destruction of your soul, the end of your “you-ness.”

Islam believes in a paradise that is somewhat like the Christian one, but it sounds a lot nicer for men than it does for women. Paradise is also divided into classes, with the more pleasant areas being reserved for the men, and for those who were the best Muslims. Even so, no Muslim can know whether or not they will actually go to paradise. It is based entirely on how you lived, and no one knows how much is good enough.

Judaism today is very different from the religion that began with just the Old Testament. It is very diverse, and many Jews either don’t believe in life after death, or simply assume it is some kind of mystery. Some Jews believe in a spiritual heaven and spiritual place of the dead (Sheol) but it would be inaccurate to say that modern Judaism’s view of life after death is similar to that of Christianity.

My point is this: All religions are not the same when it comes to life after death. The Christian view of resurrection after death is unique. To the small extent that Judaism and Islam are similar, it is because they were influenced by Christianity.

Before you start thinking this is all so theoretical, let’s apply this to the death of my friend, Tim. If he was Buddhist, what hope would we have, what hope would his wife and kids have? Well, one thing that is certain is that they will never again see him, certainly not to recognize him as the person they have known. The best case scenario is that he has ceased to exist forever. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t bring me much hope or encouragement. It leaves me with nothing useful or kind to say to his family.

An atheist/skeptic/agnostic might say that Tim will live on in the memories of those who loved him. In the first place, that doesn’t help his wife Gerte when she wants Tim to hold her. It doesn’t help his son when he wants to play catch with his dad. Also, let me ask you this: how many of you have memories of your great-grandparents? I remember one of my eight great-grandparents. I have no memories of the other seven, and certainly none of the generation before that. Even my memories of great-grandma are few and fuzzy. So, if Tim lives on in the memories of those who knew him and loved him, seeing as Tim died young, the best case scenario is that he “lives on,” for another seventy years or so. Then his memory will be lost to this world. Not much of an afterlife.

If Tim was Hindu, one might say, “perhaps he will be reincarnated as someone you will meet.” Of course, he will now be younger than his own infant child, so it’s not like his wife will be able to remarry his new, reincarnated self. And obviously, if he is reincarnated, he will appear to everyone, including himself, as an entirely different person. Also, it is unlikely that in this world of billions, his family will happen to run into the reincarnated Tim. Once again, there is no hope that his family will ever again see him or know him as the person they loved. And again, the best-case Hindu scenario for Tim would be that he loses all personhood, and becomes indistinguishable from the all-encompassing oneness that is called the Brahman. (Although, because Tim was not the proper Hindu Caste, he would not be eligible for that “ultimate salvation,” anyway.)

Let’s try the Islamic hope. Well, Tim was not a Muslim, so it would be automatic hell for him. But even if he was a good Muslim, the only way to actually know for sure that you will be in paradise is to die in the cause of Islam – to be martyred. Apart from martyrs, everyone’s salvation is always in doubt, no matter how hard you have tried to be a good Muslim. So, for Tim’s family, there would be no substantial way to offer them hope. And if Tim was a particularly good Muslim, and he did make it to paradise, he may have earned more women for himself, which would not be an encouraging thought for his wife, Gerte.

As far as the Jewish hope – and I say this with a smile on my face, and love in my heart for my Jewish friends – there would more likely be a lively argument about the various possibilities for life after death than any substantial and firm hope for Tim’s family. That’s not to say that Jewish people lack compassion; rather it is that they lack a substantial hope of resurrection.

For most of my life I have had friends from all of these religious traditions. I love those friends, and I respect their freedom to make their own religious choices. In the event of a person’s death, they have great compassion, and many kind words. But all of these traditions are very different from Christianity, different in ways that mean everything when we are confronted with the reality of death.

The Bible says that the resurrection of Jesus proves that he has conquered death on behalf of all who trust him:

20 But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. 22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22, CSB)

Here we have the clue we started with: death was not part of God’s original plan for humanity. Death came into the human race through Adam. Human beings were not created to die. Death is not the way it is supposed to be. Here we also have this amazing hope: through Christ, though we all must die, resurrection to eternal, joyful life is now possible. Death came through Adam, but resurrection comes through Jesus Christ. Peter writes about this hope:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5, ESV)

The hope of resurrection comes through Jesus Christ alone, through his resurrection. When we belong to Him, His resurrection shows us our future:

1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. (1 John 3:1-2, NLT)

We will be like Jesus. His resurrection is the beginning. Ours is assured through him, because of him, and one day we will be like him. Jesus once spoke to another grieving family:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? ” (John 11:25-26, CSB)

And so, Christian salvation is not earned (as in all other religions). It is not based upon the doubtful performance of imperfect human beings. It is based upon the performance of just one Person, who was perfect in every way. The way to receive it is to entrust ourselves, mind, body, soul and strength – to Jesus Christ.

What happened to Tim is a great tragedy. It is important for those who loved him to acknowledge that, and to grieve. But death will come to each one of us eventually. Sooner or later we have to face it, and when we do, the great question is the same as it is for us today: “Where is your hope? Do you have Jesus Christ?”

Having Jesus Christ means putting all of our trust and hope in him. It means that through faith, we trust in him each day. It doesn’t mean we are perfect. It doesn’t mean we never struggle. But we cling to Jesus every day as our only hope. Here is more of the hope that is promised to us in Jesus:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He himself will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.

Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”  (Rev 21:1-5, HCSB)

This is our future in Jesus Christ. It isn’t today. Today, we live in a world where a young husband and father dies, leaving behind a grief-stricken family. But we have a promise that someday, no more! Someday, no death, no crying or grief. So what about today? There is hope for today also. Listen:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.

Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!  (Rom 8:31-39, HCSB)

My hope for Tim – the only reasonable hope for him, and for his family – is in Jesus. Our hope for ourselves is Jesus. Our hope for just getting through the rest of today is Jesus. He is hope for us, right now, and forever. Trust him! Cling to him! These bible verses that I have read are his promises for everyone who trusts him. Look at them as his own words to you.

Meditate on these words about the resurrection:

48 Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. 49 Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.
50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:48-58, NLT)

He has risen!

He has risen indeed.

HOPE CHANGES EVERYTHING

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One of our hopes through Jesus is a physical world created new, and fresh and perfect.

Hope is a surprisingly powerful thing. That is why it is one of the three foundations of the Christian faith. By and large, I think that we Christians do not spend nearly enough time thinking about and talking about our amazing hope. We have only to look at our behavior for evidence of our lack of hope. But when we focus on some of the astounding hopes we have through the resurrection of Jesus, our lives can be profoundly shaped in beautiful ways.

To listen to the sermon, click the play button: To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Resurrection Hopes

In first Corinthians chapter 13, Paul talks a great deal about love. Near the end of the chapter he says this:

13 Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love ​— ​but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians 13:13, CSB)

I hear Christians speaking about love quite frequently. I also hear a great deal about faith. Hope is also one of the three great pillars of Christianity, however, we seem to ignore it most of the time. I think Easter Sunday is a wonderful time to meditate on some of our hope.

There are many reasons why following Jesus in this world is difficult. However, sometimes we make it harder on ourselves by ignoring the astounding hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Trying to be a Christian without a real and living hope is like trying to canoe up river without a paddle. If we are not deeply connected to a powerful, vibrant hope, it is no wonder that we have difficulty reading the Bible every day. If hope is not front and center in our lives, no wonder we struggle to pray regularly.

Let me give you an illustration. A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to take a sabbatical. I had been in ministry for more than twenty years. Several difficult things had happened during the past ten or so years of ministry. I was battling severe, intense chronic pain, at that time, it had been for two years. I was worn out, and close to burned out. One autumn, Kari and I began praying for the chance to take a sabbatical. Many of our friends and colleagues in ministry had sabbaticals every seven years, and I had not even had one. I felt a desperate need, however, I did not have much hope that it could happen.

During that initial period I prayed, but I didn’t expect much. I certainly made no plans for traveling, and no plans to help the church during my absence, because I really could not even hope that I would actually get a sabbatical.

However, people in our ministry network began to send us contributions toward the sabbatical. More and more came in. We got a large tax refund during the early part of that year. Then, in March, I received a nerve block injection that seem to have potential to reduce my pain for a month or two. Finally, we found astoundingly inexpensive airplane tickets to Europe. Hope began to bloom in my heart.

Once I had hope, my behavior changed. I began to spend a great deal of time looking online at places to go and things to do on the sabbatical. I spent some money on travel gear. Kari and I and the kids spent many evenings dreaming and talking about our upcoming trip. I brushed up on my German language skills. I reached out to old friends who lived in Europe. I made plans with the church for what would happen in my absence. Suddenly the burdens I was bearing seemed less heavy, less important. I began to experience a lightness and joy, even in my everyday life.

Long before the sabbatical actually happened, my attitude was changed by hope. My plans were changed by hope. And finally, my behavior was changed by the hope that I had. I engaged in different activities, than I had before. I even spent my money in a different way once I had hope.

Hope is a surprisingly powerful thing. That is why it is one of the three foundations of the Christian faith. By and large, I think that we Christians do not spend nearly enough time thinking about and talking about our amazing hope. We have only to look at our behavior for evidence of our lack of hope.

When our hope is only for this life, then we spend our money on the things of this life. We spend our time, our energy, our passion on things that will ultimately be useless and pointless. We are not interested in spiritual things because we don’t really have any concrete hope connected with those spiritual things. If we truly had hope in Jesus we would spend our time thinking about Jesus, talking about him, dreaming about our future with him. We would naturally be spending our time reading our Bibles, finding out more about him, and what we will experience with him in eternity.

There are many aspects to the hope that we have in Christ, but since it is Easter, after all, I want to spend the remainder of our time focusing on the main thing: eternal life in the New Creation. I want to focus on just a few of the many aspects of that glorious future. That future is ours only because Jesus makes it possible through the resurrection.

Hope #1: Nothing that is good will be lost. All things will be renewed, restored, or made new.

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, in the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:28-30, CSB)

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5, ESV)

19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. 21 For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets (Acts 3:19-21, NLT)

I love reading. Sometimes I will recommend a series of books to someone, and I am almost jealous to imagine them reading it for the very first time. I am often sad to realize I will never again have the delightful experience of “discovering” those books. I think there is something about this hope of renewal that is a bit like being able to experience those wonderful “first time experiences” once again. Everything will be renewed and refreshed in the full Kingdom of God.

As I grow older, loss becomes more and more real. I have lost touch with people who were once dear to me. I have lost a certain amount of physical strength, and athletic ability. I have lost opportunities. In the very business of living, we are often forced to make choices that will include losing something either way. But the promise of God is that he will make all things new. Yes he will make new things. But these promises are also applied to old things that are good and will be renewed. Relationships will be renewed. Part of this promise, of course, is that we will see our loved ones again, all of those who died in faith. There is no need for regret. Whatever you have lost that was good and right will be restored. Even the entire physical earth will be restored and made new.

Hope #2: The end of suffering and sorrow, and the beginning of eternal joy.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 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.” (Revelation 21:3-4, ESV)

11 And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee. 12 I — I am the one who comforts you. (Isaiah 51:11-12, CSB)

17 “For I will create a new heaven and a new earth; the past events will not be remembered or come to mind. 18 Then be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I will create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people. The sound of weeping and crying will no longer be heard in her. Isaiah 65:17-19

We are promised a world renewed without sin or defect, and bodies that also have no sin or defect. In the resurrection there will be no more grief, no more pain! Oh if you only knew what that particular one means to me! No more disappointment, no more fear, no anxiety, no loss. No separation from those we love.

Hope #3: Reward for the suffering, hardship and work that we have endured during this mortal life.

A lot of Christians don’t like to talk about this. They say, “Just being there is enough of a reward.” I think that such an attitude should be examined very carefully. The Bible is filled with references to rewards. Salvation, and the Eternal life that goes with it, of course, are not rewards for anything. We can’t earn it. It is the free gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-10). So, any time the Bible speaks of rewards in the New Creation, it cannot mean salvation, or eternal life. But the New Testament does speak of rewards frequently. This is not an obscure, disputed issue. It is a major teaching of Jesus himself.

Here are just some of the many passages that talk about rewards: Matt 19:28-29; Luke 19:12-19; Matt 5:12; Matt 6:1-4; Matt 6:20; Matt 10:41; Matt 16:27; 1 Corinthians 3:10-14; 1 Corinthians  9:7; Eph 6:7-8; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 10:35; Hebrews 11:24-26; Revelation 22:12.

That’s fourteen Bible passages right there, and I could probably dig up a few more. The rewards are there for a reason. There are there to motivate us, and encourage us, and to give us hope.

Spiritual things are often hidden. A woman may be diligent in prayer, but no one else sees it. However, God sees it, and he will reward it (Matthew 6:6). Perhaps a certain man deals with deep temptations, and he battles faithfully to remain true to Jesus. No one on earth knows what it costs that man, but Jesus does, and he will reward it. A lot of what we think and do as we follow Christ is hidden. But it is not forgotten, and the scriptures promises rewards for those things. Some people give up opportunities, or relationships, or money or status in order to follow Jesus faithfully. None of that will be forgotten. All of it will be rewarded. The insults you have endured, the times others have treated you unjustly; the times you have held back when you might have retaliated – all of the sacrifices we make – will be used as occasions for the Lord to heap more blessings upon us once we reach resurrection life.

Personally, I think one reason why many Christians are so worldly is that they think it doesn’t matter how they live once they have received Jesus. They don’t realize that even more undeserved blessing is available to us when we trust the Holy Spirit and live the way he leads us to through the scriptures, and through his immediate promptings.

But it does matter. Listen to what Paul says. The foundation he refers to is salvation in Jesus Christ:

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. (1 Corinthians 3:12-19, NLT)

He is writing to people who are being saved. But some of them, on judgment day, though they are saved, they will “suffer great loss,” and, essentially, barely be saved. Others will be richly rewarded. If you are content to be “barely saved,” Listen to the text: “Stop deceiving yourselves. You are foolish in God’s eyes.”

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. (1 Corinthians 9:24-26, ESV)

God piles grace upon grace. Even though we don’t deserve salvation, let alone anything else, he allows us to store up even more blessing and heavenly treasure. Don’t be so foolish as to waste that opportunity. Certainly, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can obey the Lord in our day to day life. But we have a certain hope that when we allow the Spirit to work in us that way, he will pile on the rewards.

HOPE #4: An eternal, perfect, physical body to enjoy in an eternal, perfect, physical universe.

Make no mistake: the bible teaches the resurrection of the body. The thing that made Christianity so unique, and (for some) so hard to swallow, is that the first Christians claimed that Jesus was physically raised from the dead. Many, many people during that time believed in some sort of soul or spirit, and there was widespread belief that souls or spirits carried on even after the death of their bodies. To claim that Jesus was a disembodied spirit who appeared to many people would not have made Christianity particularly controversial. But when the apostles said Jesus was raised from the dead, they meant physically. They said his body was resurrected. They claimed they had seen and touched not his spirit, but his body. In many ways, his resurrection body was like his previous one. He still had his scars. He could be physically touched and his voice was audible, like anyone else’s. He ate food, smiled, laughed and so on.

In some other ways, however, Jesus’ resurrection body was different. He could make it so that others didn’t recognize him until he allowed it. He could disappear from one place, and appear in another. And for those who wonder if we can fly in the New Creation, remember that Jesus left his disciples by going up into the clouds. I don’t know what that is, if it isn’t flying! We are told that our bodies will be like his. We will experience the joy and glory of God as we eat, drink, laugh, play, use our gifts and abilities and relate to one another. John Piper speaks to this great hope:

The Bible says we are to eat and drink and do everything in our physical bodies to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), which must mean that the pleasures of God or the pleasures that God has built into the taste of food are not designed primarily as competitors with God’s beauty, but designed as means of its communication. He’s communicating something of himself in the good creation that he has made. The creation becomes one of the ways that we “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Then the Bible makes it plain that this is not only true now, but will also be true in the resurrection. In fact, that’s why there is a resurrection of the body and not just the immortality of the soul.

(John Piper, “What’s the Appeal of Heavenly Rewards, other than Getting Christ?”. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/whats-the-appeal-of-heavenly-rewards-other-than-getting-christ.  Accessed 5/21/19.  Bold added for emphasis)

Even now we can eat, and as we savor the taste, experience the goodness of the Lord. We can see beautiful natural scenery, or listen to music that touches us, and each one of those experiences are intended by God to connect us to him in deep, meaningful ways, full of variety and interest. Of course, here and now, the connection gets marred by our sin. We eat more than we should, or we eat things that are bad for us. We listen to things that arouse our lusts or angers. Sometimes we are just too spiritually dull to receive these things as good gifts from God. But the time is coming when every bite of food, every note of music, every word spoken or written will be a means by which we are blessed by God and receive more of him. None of it will be touched by guilt or even the weakest remnant of evil. Through our physical bodies, we will receive pure joy, not mixed with anything bad or wrong. Again, this will happen not only spiritually, but also physically.

If we could fully delight in God without bodies, I doubt God would have created a physical universe in the first place. But part of the delight he gives us is physical, and so part of our hope is for a physical future when every physical experience contributes to our delight in God.

We must continue to think about the stunning hope that we have because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. We need to talk about it with each other. Just as we humans delight in sharing memories with loved ones, so too, we ought to delight in sharing our hopes of the New Creation, our hopes of Resurrection. I think it would be terrific if we often had conversations where we say: “I can’t wait for the day when I get to fly.” Or, “I am so excited about being pain-free.” Or, “I can’t wait to make music and delight in music as a vehicle for the joy of God.” Let us encourage one another. One thing is certain: the day is coming for each one us.

Often in this life we know that the presence of God is a good and wonderful thing, but we seldom feel it. In the resurrection we will have bodies and souls that can handle the presence of God. What we have now by faith, we will have then in its fullest reality. The hunger inside our souls will be fully satisfied, and our joy will overflow like a fountain.

Why don’t you set a timer right now for five minutes, and spend that time thinking about the four amazing hopes we’ve just considered. Or, is there another hope from the resurrection that captivates your heart? Ask the Lord to make these hopes real and present to you each day.