“Life After Life After Death”
April 1, 2018 A.D.
by Pastor Ben Willis

April 19th, 2018 by mdevita

1 CORINTHIANS 15:121-20 [NLTse]

Since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.


“If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into heaven?” I asked the children in my Sunday school class. “NO!” the children all answered.

“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?” Again the answer was, “NO!”

“Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my wife, would that get me into heaven?” I asked them again. Once more they all answered,“NO!”

“Well,” I continued, thinking they were a good bit more theologically sophisticated than I had given them credit for, “then how can I get into heaven?”

A five-year-old boy shouted out, “You gotta be dead!”

Circumstances have gotten me asking recently, is the Christian hope just about Heaven: Fluffy clouds, harp-playing cherubs, sunrises, and rainbows? Is our excitement on this special Sunday simply because of peaceful gardens and restful places that we’ve been

promised, and the Lord Jesus waiting to welcome us there?

I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, I’m sure it’s not. Salvation is not being rescued from this world of space, time, and matter into some disembodied state. That’s not salvation. That’s death. And salvation is rescue from death, isn’t it?

It’s like vacation or retirement, right? That is, it’s nice to have a break, to get some rest, to put your feet up and be free of the pressures for a while, right? But God made us for work, Before sin came into the world, God had made “work” good, and He had set human beings to it! So, yeah, it’s nice to get some rest, but sooner or later the vacation gets too long, retirement gets boring, and we’re ready to get back to work, right?

Yeah. Heaven, this place of resting in peace is not our ultimate destination; it is not God’s ultimate promise. Heaven is just a waiting place, an “intermediate state” (theologians call it), the state in-between: In-between this fallen, sinful, mortal life and the glorious, righteous, eternal life to come.

When the Bible talks about “Heaven” the Lord Jesus speaks about it as “Paradise”. He promises the rebel dying on the cross next to His, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” As you may know, “paradise” is an old Persian word for garden. Now, a “paradise” wasn’t just any garden. It was the best of gardens, the lush-est of gardens, filled with the greatest variety of trees and flowers and shrubs and plants, the greatest variety of smells and colors and wonders to behold. “Paradise” was the king’s garden, a place where he could rest and get away from the pressures and stresses of ruling and decision-making and the pressures of politics and be at peace and be refreshed so that he could then go back to the good work he’d been called to.

And that is the Lord Jesus’ picture to the rebel, as well: Jesus is not promising the man a nice, peaceful eternity. That’s not even what the man asked Him for. (The man asked Jesus to not forget him when Jesus came into His Kingdom.) So, no, the Lord is not promising the man eternity, He’s promising the man a place to rest and wait for that time when Jesus’ would come into His Kingdom!

In another place, Jesus was encouraging His Twelve apostles to trust Him in the same ways that they trusted God the Father. He said to them (and I’ll use the most familiar translation), “In My Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you… that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3, KJV) In more modern translations we hear Him say, “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” (NRSV) And, in our New Living Translation, here, He simply says, “There is more than enough room in My Father’s home.”

Now, a “mansion” sounds like a place you’d live and stay forever. And so does a “dwelling place”. But the picture the Lord Jesus is giving the Twelve isn’t that of a home with bedrooms, it’s of a hotel or a motel with comfy and cozy guest rooms: An inn, where those who die can wait as long as is needed, but then move on to the final permanent home once the Savior’s made all things new.

No, Heaven is not the end; is not our end. Resurrection is our hope. Resurrection is to follow!

Why is the idea of a resurrection so important? Why must we believe in a resurrection of the dead at the end of this world? (Other than because Jesus was Himself raised from the dead and has told us to believe it?) The Old Testament tells us that God cannot truly be good, and His creation cannot truly be good, unless there is a resurrection. You see, the Bible says (almost) countless times that God is good. And God Himself says, at the very beginning of things, that His creation is good. (And concerning human beings – men and women, alike – that we are “very good”.)

And yet, if that’s true then something horrible has happened, because the creation is not entirely good anymore, is it? Yes, there’s lots of beauty and wonder and goodness around, but there’s also lots of danger and darkness and horror and death all mixed together with it. And people, too: Lots of evil, wicked, selfish, and deady all mixed in with the kind, generous, friendly, and loving… It must be the work of the Evil One.

That being said, if the Evil One can ruin God’s good creation, and there’s nothing God can do about it, then the Evil One is mightier than God. But since we know that God is all-mighty, not the Devil, then things must be just the way God wants them to be, or at least, the way God is allowing them to be for the time being.

Yeah, it seems we have three options: (1) Either God is not truly good, and this sinful, selfish, and (so-often) heart-aching world is the best we’re going to get, or, (2)

God lied when He said the creation was good (and “very good”), and this sinful, selfish, and (so-often) heart-aching world is the best we’re going to get, or (3) there’s something more. That, somehow, after persevering through this sinful, selfish, and (so-often) heart-aching world, and, after trusting God even in the midst of all the sinfulness, selfishness, and (so-often) heart-aches, and, having been filled by God’s Own Spirit and fulfilling all the good works He planned for us to do here so long ago (see Ephesians 2:10); after all this… He has a new creation where the wrongness of this creation will be made right, where the injustices of this creation will be find justice, and, where God’s goodness, and the goodness of creation, will be obvious to all!

Yes, Heaven is a part of God’s promises to us. We need a break – a rest in peace – from the battle and all the pressures of sin and self. But resurrection – a new life, a “right” life, a “very good” life – is our salvation!

And the Bible shows us that we’re going to see that salvation – that resurrection – in three ways: Ways that, since Jesus has come and begun the end, all have begun now.

First, in the Lord Jesus’ Own resurrected body we see the promise of our own personal resurrection. Each of us who trust Jesus to save us from sin and are repenting and following Him will be resurrected. And I say that such things have begun now because the Lord’s body was recognizable by those who knew Him. That is, it wasn’t a brand new face and hair and body from scratch. No, the disciples recognized Him, so His resurrected body must have been related to, a continuation of, His mortal body. His resurrected body still bore the nail-wounds from the cross and the spear-wound in His side, so, again, we see the continuation of His mortal flesh. And ours will be likewise. Whatever our appearance apart from sin and selfishness and heart-ache – our fullest, “very good” self – that will be our appearance after resting in peace in Heaven, when we’re back in our bodies at the resurrection!

We also know that the entire cosmos will experience a resurrection like Jesus’. In Romans we read of a day when the entire creation will “join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” (8:21) But it won’t be a creation we recognize. For instance, what will society be like when the kings and congresses and

judges who rule the nations of the Earth do so with perfect justice in Christ’s name? What will daily life be like when all humanity lives out our abilities, talents, and what we’ve learned and practiced fully, without jealousy and competition, as a part of one harmonious whole? What will our relationships be like without greed or fear or insecurities or pride or envy or malice of any kind toward others? It’s not just that the beauty of rivers and mountains and gorges and waterfalls and human beings will be more breath-taking than even the most jaw-dropping vistas here and now. In all of creation, what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no mind has ever been able to imagine: That is what God has in-store – not in Heaven, but in the new creation, the resurrection of creation – for those who love Him!

Lastly, what we do (and don’t do) out of love for Christ, what we do (or don’t do) out of faith, what we do (or don’t do) on account of obedience to the Father and surrender to the Holy Spirit and because of His calling on our lives, all of that will be purified and completed and fulfilled in the life-after-Heaven, as well: The resurrection of our good works.

When we reach out in the love of Christ to help rebuild after a nor’easter or a hurricane, what we do builds the Kingdom of Heaven. (I don’t mean that if we all work hard enough that we can build Christ’s Kingdom among us. I mean that, the bodies we bind up, the hope we share, the relationships we help reconcile, the security we are a part of re-establishing all plant Kingdom seeds in the souls and spirits of people around us.

James argues, “What good does it do if you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing?” (2:16) The Lord calls us to act on our faith and hope and love. And He assures us that those actions will not be bulldozed-over and lost in the renovation – the resurrection – of the world. No. Our deeds are kept track of in God’s books. And all that we have done to minister eternal life into the lives of those around us – to exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven in our relationships, our studies, our work, our play, and our lives out-and-about – will be remembered, will be completed, will be

fulfilled when God renovates and renews Heaven and Earth at the resurrection…

I’d like to close by reading a prophecy about these things from the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 11. Now, the picture of a stump is a picture of a tree that’s been cut down. The stump Isaiah tells us about is the stump of King David’s family line. Except that King David had a rich and full family line with many generations of offspring and “branches”, Joseph and Mary and Jesus only being the fulfilling branches of it all. So, we know that the tree of David’s family wasn’t cut down, at least not until it came to Jesus: When Jesus was crucified, murdered, unjustly sentenced to death, “cut down”, ended; only a “stump” remaining… So, keep that in mind.

And, later, at the end of the passage, we hear about people “knowing” the Lord. And when we get to that, let’s remember that “knowing” in the Bible is talking about intimacy, being sexual. Because it was only after Adam “knew” Eve that then Cain and Abel and Seth were born. “Knowing” another is as close as one can be with another.

So, here we go, Isaiah 11…

“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of His Word, and one breath from His mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.

“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.” (Vv. 1-9)

Comments are closed.