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What Resurrection Means for You

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
May 26, 2023 4:00 am

What Resurrection Means for You

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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The sting of death for the Christian, gone. Christ has taken that sting for us, and death is now a welcome friend. Death is disarmed. Death is defanged. Death just takes us into the presence of Christ.

Watch the internet for the term anti-aging, and you'll find countless medicines and creams and treatments, each of them essentially promising vigor and well-being that will last and last. Eventually, though, we all will die. So how can you face death with confidence and encourage those you love when they're dealing with life-threatening illness or injury? Find out today on Grace To You as John MacArthur begins a compelling study titled, The End Is Not The End.

And now, a point as we get started. I think it's fair to say that people, Christians included, avoid this topic. And that's understandable. After all, death separates loved ones and usually includes physical suffering. And yet, John, there are profound, life-changing benefits in knowing exactly what death is like and what comes after it for believers and for non-believers. Yeah, well, it's pretty ridiculous to avoid death to the point that you don't ask what comes next.

Right. I mean, you can say, you know, death is a hard thing to look at. Death is a hard thing to consider.

But you better consider it. You better take a look at what's coming after death. And while the culture might say that, well, we don't know, or maybe it's just peace and there's a bright light at the end of the tunnel and all that kind of stuff, if you want an authoritative declaration of what's coming after death, you have to go to the author of life, God himself, who has defined both life and death.

And there's only one place to go, and that's the Bible. And the Bible explains that death is a reality, that every one of us will die, and that we have two alternative options. After death, you're either in hell forever in conscious punishment or in heaven forever in conscious joy and bliss and peace.

And that's the reality. You cannot avoid death, the Bible says, and after this, the judgment. And by the way, it is God who blesses people in heaven, and it is God who punishes people in hell. God is the executioner in hell. That's why the Bible says, don't fear those who destroy the body, but fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. So because death is not the end, because death is not sleep, because death is not going out of existence, because every human being is eternal, you will live forever in the presence of God in joy and peace, or you will live forever in hell in pain and torment.

And that's the reality. And God has told us that the end is not the end, not the end for Christians and not the end for non-Christians. This series is very, very important. I don't know that this is a series that everybody's going to run up and say, oh, I really want to know about that, because death is ominous. But the end is not the end, and that's the message we're trying to communicate. So this is a series that you need to listen to carefully, not only for your own sake, but this is profound truth.

Let me say it again. Everyone lives forever, either in heaven or hell. The end is not the end. For the Christian, we have glorious things coming.

For the non-Christian, horrific things. Stay with us through this series. Yes, do stay with us, friend. Nothing is more sobering than the thought of entering eternity. To make sure you're ready for what's ahead, be here for each day of John's study.

The end is not the end. And now with the first lesson, here is John. We are returning to the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and I want to read you verses 29 to 34 as the setting for the Word of God. Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?

Why are we also in danger every hour? I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals. Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning, for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame." That is a fascinating little section, a number of questions, and a very serious warning and indictment.

Just exactly what is going on here? For twenty-eight verses since the beginning of this chapter, we've been learning about resurrection, that we're all going to be raised in glorified bodies. All believers, all people who die will be raised. But this is about believers and all of us will be raised in glorified bodies. We will be gathered into heaven in our final glorified form, eternal spirits, eternal souls, but with eternal bodies fit for heaven. This is the plan of God. This is what God is working out in redemptive history, and someday it'll all come to its culmination. When everybody is finally gathered into heaven in that final form in our resurrection bodies, we're all gathered in Christ, and Christ gives Himself and all of us to the Father so that God may be all in all.

That's a kind of culminating moment in the middle of this chapter, and it's been clearly indicating to us that there is a real resurrection. We will rise. And what that says is we will be who we are in the life to come. We aren't going to buy into the philosophies of the Greeks, as Paul addresses them here, that we all sort of fade into the eternal being. We all kind of disappear and dissolve into the ultimate deity. We will be who we are forever. We will be ourselves forever.

God has a plan for us, not in some blurred mass, but as individual persons. We will all rise in glorified bodies to be forever who we are. That is clear throughout the Scripture. Now this has some serious implications. The fact that you will be you forever in heaven, that I will be me forever in heaven in a perfected form, both soul and body, that has some very serious implications.

Those implications can be seen in this text. But sort of coming up to the text, I would just remind you that this was the confidence of the saints throughout the Scripture. Job, who suffered so greatly, endured that suffering, never had his faith disappear. He even said, though he slay me, yet will I trust him. But he said this, I know that in my flesh I will see God.

We know that. We know that when Jesus appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, He appeared there with Moses and Elijah, who were Moses and Elijah. We know that Jesus said, I am the God of Abraham and Isaac. It was a declaration by God about those men after they had died physically, but God was still their God because they were still alive in His presence. It is nothing short of that resurrection reality, that resurrection hope and confidence that caused Stephen, for example, to offer himself, as it were, under the bloody stones and die as a martyr, realizing that he would, in his own person, in glorified form, enter immediately into the presence of the Lord. It was that confidence that caused Paul to say, for to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Far better to depart and be with Christ. It was nothing less than that resurrection hope that must have allowed Andrew to confidently be martyred by being tied to a cross and left for days to die, or Peter being crucified upside down, or James being beheaded. Nothing but resurrection hope could have caused the apostle Paul to lay his head on a block and have it severed from his body in the confidence that that was not the end of him, that was really the beginning of a perfect and eternal apostle.

This is precisely Paul's point here. Now religion promises life after death. The truth is, only in Christ will you rise to heavenly glory, and it will be nothing base. It will be Christ-likeness and the very righteousness which He possesses will belong to us. We live our lives in anticipation of resurrection. We know that we are promised rewards, personal rewards. We know that there is an inheritance waiting for us, waiting for you, waiting for me.

We know there is a crown of life, a crown of righteousness, a crown of rejoicing that will be granted to us personally. This reality of our eternal personhood in glorified form, spirit and body, is essential to the Christian faith. Now Paul looks at that reality in the verses that I read to you, and we find that he sees this as an incentive on three levels, an incentive, a compelling incentive on three levels. Very fascinating portion of Scripture.

Let me help you to see what those levels are. First of all, I think Paul is saying here that the fact that we will be who we are in glorified forms, we will be eternally ourselves, but in perfected reality in heaven, both soul and body, is a motivation to salvation. That's the first point that I want you to see. It's a motivation to salvation. Now you might be struggling to see that, but let me just help you with verse 29, one of the most difficult verses in all of Scripture.

And I confess at this point that I cannot be absolutely dogmatic, I can't even be dogmatic. But I can give you what I think is the best and simplest understanding of this verse. Verse 29, as if to say, if there is no resurrection, which he's been affirming for the first 28 verses, if there's no resurrection, without the resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for the dead?

What in the world is this talking about? What is the baptism for the dead? If you have been confused by that, welcome to the club. I remember a friend of mine who did a dissertation in graduate school on the views of that verse, and he covered forty of them.

There may be a hundred. This particular verse has been for many people a kind of maze. But I want to give you what I think is the best and simplest way that I can understand what the apostle Paul is saying. And I don't think he's trying to be obscure or oblique.

As always, I think he's trying to give us something that is very practical. But let me back up from the truth and let you know about some of the error. I don't want to give you too much of it, but Serenth and Marcion, who Marcion was kind of an ancient Gnostic. He had lots of heresy. He believed Jesus was a spirit without a body. But he also believed in a proxy baptism for someone who was dead. This view claims that Paul is teaching that a Christian who has been baptized allows himself to be baptized again, and maybe again, and again, and again, for persons who have died without baptism. And that would be categorically unsaved people who can't get into heaven, so that the baptism of that believer by proxy is credited to the dead person, and the dead person then has access to heaven.

Now obviously Scripture doesn't teach that. In fact, your own baptism didn't save you, and there can't be a baptism of you that saves somebody else. Your baptism didn't save you. There's no such thing as being saved by any baptism, whether for you or for someone else. There's no such thing as vicarious salvation. This is the grave error of infant baptism, the idea that the child is baptized in complete ignorance of the gospel, but is placed into the covenant in some kind of a secure place where some say you can even presume regeneration on the proxy faith of the parents who brought the baby to be baptized. That's a salvation again by proxy, by someone else. Baptism doesn't save anyone any time ever, not babies and not adults. And baptism certainly doesn't save dead unbelievers. But what is he talking about here? Well, let's look at it a little more closely. He recognizes that there are people being baptized with some reference to dead people. What could that possibly mean? Well, let's start and take it apart. He says, what will those do who are baptized?

Stop right there. He's got to be talking about Christian baptism, Christian baptism, the act of proclaiming one's union with Christ done in response to saving faith. The believer who has put his trust in Christ goes through an immersion as a symbol of his death, burial, and resurrection in Christ. This is so synonymous with Christianity that baptism actually became a synonym for salvation. In the Great Commission at the end of the gospel of Matthew, our Lord says this, go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

That is the evangelistic effort. It assumes faith in Christ. Baptism was so inseparable from saving faith that it is spoken of in its place. The same thing happens in Ephesians 4 where you have the statement, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and that baptism is the water baptism.

That was so connected, so universally connected in the early church with saving faith that it is spoken of as if it were the very saving faith itself. So we're talking about Christian baptism here, the baptism of believers. Then what does it mean that believers are baptized for the dead? Well, we know what dead means. What about for the dead?

Let me help you with that. The preposition here translated for in your English Bible is huper, from which we get hyper in English. But it's huper. It can be translated many, many ways. It is a very, very flexible preposition. It can mean over, above, across, beyond. It can mean instead of, in the name of. It can mean in behalf of, or it can have causal meaning, and it can mean because of, because of.

If we take that very normal meaning for the word, we would read it this way. What will those do who are baptized because of the dead? What does that mean, being baptized because of the dead? Why would anybody be baptized because of a dead person? Well, we know that baptism is connected to salvation so some people have been saved and baptized because of people who are dead.

That's not too far away, is it? There are plenty of people who came to faith in Christ by reading something written by someone who is dead, or by recalling a testimony given by someone who is now dead, a parent, a friend, or even by the influence of the testimony of someone dying who is now dead. Baptism refers to salvation. Some people are being saved and baptized, coming to salvation, entering the family of God, the body of Christ, because of the influence of believers who are dead.

That could mean three things. That could mean, number one, because of the testimony of believers who've gone before, the testimony of believers that we know who face death, secondly. And thirdly, because of, and this is a very key one, the promise of a reunion. Inevitably, when you go to the funeral of a believer, the folks are going to say that we will all be united together again. When someone loses a child, or someone loses a spouse, or someone loses a very good friend, a loved one who is a believer, we have the hope of reunion.

That's always brought out at a memorial service. The hope of the resurrection and the reunion that follows resurrection is an incentive to salvation. It would make sense then to read this verse that there are those who are baptized, they come to faith in Christ and go through Christian baptism because of the influence of dead people whose testimony they heard and read, and now they're gone, or because of being there and watching how people face death and how they died.

Or thirdly, because of the hope of reunion with those people who are dead. A good place to see this kind of unfold is in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Let me invite you to go to the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.

This is a chapter that essentially does exactly what I've just said. The writer of Hebrews is wanting us to have faith, faith in the gospel. All through Hebrews he's saying, don't shrink back, don't fall away, don't turn away, come all the way to truth, come all the way to the gospel, come all the way to Christ. Verse 39, which ends chapter 10, says, we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

Move forward in saving faith. And then in order to provide impetus for that, or motivation, he launches into chapter 11, and chapter 11 is full of a whole lot of dead people whose testimony is a motive to faith in Christ, faith in God. He talks about, verse 4 talks about Abel, talks about Enoch, talks about Noah. Verse 8, he's into Abraham.

Verse 11, Sarah. Verse 13 sums it up, they all died in faith. They all died in faith. The testimony of their faith in the face of death is record in the Old Testament. And then he comes to Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses in verse 23.

Then he comes down to Rahab the harlot in verse 30. And then in verse 32, it's Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed act of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection and others were tortured, not accepting their release so that they might obtain a better resurrection. These people are dead.

They're all dead. They all lived a life of faith looking for a resurrection. They experienced mockings and scourgings, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn in two. They were tempted. They were put to death with a sword. They went about in sheepskin, goatskin, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

Why did they do this? They did this all the way to death because they knew there was a better resurrection. They are examples of a life of faith. They are the dead who give us a picture of the life of faith. In chapter 12, verse 22 of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews says, you have come to Mount Zion when you've come to Christ. You've come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant. He says, when you come to Christ, you have come into the communion of the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.

You will be gathered one day to the righteous who are now made perfect in heaven, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant. The beginning of chapter 12, he says, even Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. How Jesus faced death is how many saints faced death looking for a better life, an afterlife, resurrection life.

Paul's point is this. If the dead don't rise, then what's the point of all these testimonies? What is the point of looking at saints who have gone on and left us their testimony, or having seen how they died in faith, even when they were sawn in half or had their heads cut off or were killed in some other way? Paul's point is if the dead don't rise, if these people just go out of existence and blend into the amorphous fog of some impersonal deity, then what is the point of the reunion promises? Reunion is a strong, strong incentive to salvation. There's hope for a reunion. There's hope for those who are part of the general assembly, the firstborn, the spirits of just men made perfect, and those that are raised together at the coming of Christ to be gathered around the throne again. If there's no resurrection, if there's no reunion, if we don't go there to meet the people we know and love and who have gone before us and given us the testimony of a life of faith, what's the point?

What's the point? This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us. Today John showed you that in Christ there is no reason to fear death. John calls the study he launched today The End is Not the End. Now keep in mind, this series is available for free. Perhaps you want to encourage a Christian loved one who is approaching death or someone who has questions about what's ahead.

This series can be a great help. The title again, The End is Not the End. Download it today. Our web address? gty.org. Or if you'd like these messages on CD, you can order them when you call 800-55-GRACE. But again, every lesson from John's series, The End is Not the End, is free to download at our website. In fact, all of John's sermons from more than 50 years of pulpit ministry are free to download at gty.org. And friend, thank you for remembering that your support helps keep Bible teaching like you heard today on the air. You help us encourage people around the globe with hopeful messages about facing eternity and honoring the Lord in your daily life and life-changing truth of the gospel. To partner with us, make a tax-deductible donation when you call during weekday business hours 800-55-GRACE or mail your gift to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. You can also give online at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson reminding you that Grace To You television airs this Sunday and then be here Monday when John looks at what the resurrection means for Christians and what it means for unbelievers. Don't miss the next 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Monday's Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-26 05:42:08 / 2023-05-26 05:51:32 / 9

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