Life Beyond Death
May 27th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 15:12-49
LIFE BEYOND DEATH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:12-
5-27-84 10:50 a.m.
It is an ineffable joy for us to share this hour with the uncounted multitudes of you who are watching on television and listening on the radio. This is the pastor, bringing the message entitled Life Beyond Death. It is prepared for this Memorial Day.
A young neophyte – a young theologue – was visiting in the home of an old, old couple, and they would talk about heaven and talk about death. And, when they broached the subject, the young neophyte would change it. He didn’t want to talk about death, and he didn’t want to talk about heaven. It was lugubrious to him.
So, after the visit was made, an old preacher happened to be present and heard and listened. And, he said to the young neophyte – he said to him, "Son, if you were going on a long journey, wouldn’t you like to talk about it? Wouldn’t you like to think of the things that you were going to see and the experiences you were going to share? This old couple is going on a long, long journey and they want to talk about it and they want to think about it and they want to know about it. So, Son, don’t change the subject. Let them talk to you and you talk to them."
That has been an everlasting remembrance in my own life. It’s wonderful to talk about heaven, about seeing Jesus, about our new and beautiful home, about all the rich things God hath prepared for those who love His appearing.
And, that’s the sermon today. The very heart of the Christian message, its soul, its thrust, its deep significance, is in this very area. For example, Paul will write in 1 Corinthians 15 – which many biblical scholars say is the high water mark of all revelation: the resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 – Paul will write in 1 Corinthians 15, verse 12, "If Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?" Verse 19: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." That’s an unusual thing, isn’t it, for the Apostle to write? If this is all, out of all of the miserable, hopeless people who ever lived, we are the most hopeless, the most forlorn, the most forgotten, the most despairing, and the most miserable. But, the heart of the Christian faith is this: there is a glorious life beyond the grave, and it carries with it a full-orbed existence with body and soul, the redemption of the whole purchased possession.
World without end have there been philosophies and religions and moral teachers who have explained to us how we ought to live, how we ought to do, how we ought to be governed. All philosophies and all political systems and all religions have those same worthy ends. But, there’s only one that brings to mankind the hope of a resurrection, of a glorious life yet to come. And, that is the Christian faith. And, this is the heart of that faith.
Now, I’m going to read, phrase by phrase, "the Apostles’ Creed." This is the oldest confession of faith in Christendom. Nobody knows where it came from. It goes back and back and back and back as far as the Christian faith in history is recorded. That’s why it is called "the Apostles’ Creed." I’m going to read it a phrase at a time and I want you to repeat it. After I’ve read the phrase, you repeat the phrase. Then, when we come down to the end of it, I want to expatiate upon its meaning to us and its doctrinal significance in the Christian faith.
Now, let’s begin. "The Apostle’s Creed": I’ll read the phrase and then you repeat it.
CRISWELL: I believe in God the Father Almighty,
CONGREGATION: I believe in God the Father Almighty,
CRISWELL: Maker of heaven and earth.
CONGREGATION: Maker of heaven and earth.
CRISWELL: And in Jesus Christ,
CONGREGATION: And in Jesus Christ,
CRISWELL: His only begotten Son,
CONGREGATION: His only begotten Son,
CRISWELL: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
CONGREGATION: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
CRISWELL: Born of the Virgin Mary,
CONGREGATION: Born of the Virgin Mary,
CRISWELL: Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
CONGREGATION: Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
CRISWELL: Was crucified, dead, and buried.
CONGREGATION: Was crucified, dead, and buried.
CRISWELL: He descended into Hades.
CONGREGATION: He descended into Hades.
CRISWELL: The third day He arose from the dead.
CONGREGATION: The third day He arose from the dead.
CRISWELL: He ascended into heaven.
CONGREGATION: He ascended into heaven.
CRISWELL: He sitteth at the right hand of God.
CONGREGATION: He sitteth at the right hand of God.
CRISWELL: From thence shall He come.
CONGREGATION: From thence shall He come.
CRISWELL: To judge the quick and the dead.
CONGREGATION: To judge the quick and the dead.
CRISWELL: I believe in the Holy Spirit.
CONGREGATION: I believe in the Holy Spirit.
CRISWELL: The holy universal church.
CONGREGATION: The holy universal church.
CRISWELL: The communion of saints.
CONGREGATION: The communion of saints.
CRISWELL: The forgiveness of sins.
CONGREGATION: The forgiveness of sins.
CRISWELL: The resurrection of the body.
CONGREGATION: The resurrection of the body.
CRISWELL: And the life everlasting.
CONGREGATION: And the life everlasting.
The foundation of that Creed are the last two avowals: "I believe in the resurrection of the body," and "I believe in the life everlasting." Without that foundation, the other is ultimately meaningless. What is there any meaning in saying "I believe in God the Father Almighty," if there is no life beyond the grave? What would there be any meaning in "I believe in Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate," if there’s no life beyond the grave?
The whole Creed, the whole faith, is like a vast cathedral. And, without these last avowals – "I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life to come" – without those avowals, that great cathedral is dark as midnight and it is filled with hopelessness and despair. But, if the Creed is founded upon, "I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting," then the whole cathedral is filled with the light of the glory and presence and omnipotent ableness of Almighty God.
The Christian faith is founded upon the resurrection of our Lord and the promise that we, who find refuge in Him, shall also be raised from the dead and shall live and reign with Him forever. Now, such an avowal of faith is ridiculous to those who do not believe. For example, the late Lord Bertrand Russell, a mathematician and a philosopher, a materialist and a secularist in Great Britain – in England. The late Bertrand Russell said, "When I die, I shall rot and that’s all." That is the logical conclusion of his materialistic, secularistic philosophy, "When I die, I shall rot and that’s the end of it."
Paul anticipated that philosophy when he said, in the second chapter of Ephesians, that they are "without God and therefore without hope in the world." There is no life. There’s no resurrection. There’s no hope. There’s no anything, but the despair of midnight darkness, in secular, materialistic philosophy. Those who renounce and refuse the Christian faith look upon the doctrine with disdain and contempt.
For example, Trajan, who was the Roman Emperor a little after and about 100 AD – Trajan seized seven Christian girls – seven Christian virgins – and, he burned them alive. Then he mixed their ashes with molten glass and configurated them, molded them, into statues and placed them in the eternal city of Rome, saying, "that it might appear to the world the truth, that it is I that raised them from the dead and not their God."
In this last century, there was a famous American lecturer, the infidel and atheist Robert Ingersoll. And, in ridiculing Christianity, he loved to speak of the doctrine of the faith “We believe in the resurrection from the dead and the life everlasting.” And, in his sardonic sarcasm, he would speak of a man who was buried by the fence in the cemetery. Next to it was an apple orchard. And, an apple seed fell on the grave of this man. And, it grew and it sent roots down into his corrupting frame. And, gaining sustenance and strength from the ground and from the decaying body of this saint, why, it grew apples. And, a man came and ate of those apples.
Then, Robert Ingersoll, the infidel, used to scoff and scorn, saying, "In the resurrection, will they be Siamese twins, for they both partook of the same life and the same substance? Ha, ha, ha." Well, Paul anticipated that screwball, inane, nutty philosophy. He said, "Some will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" [1 Corinthians 15:35] "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him," [1 Corinthians 15:38] And, to everyone as the Lord chooses. He does that, Paul writes, in the world. He does it in the world of animal life. And, He does it with us, he says. When you think of that, the apparent reality of it is its own defense.
I have one continuing body. I was born with it and it has continued through the days and the years since. Yet, part of my body is changed every few months. And, the rest of my body, all except the enamel on my teeth, is changed every few years. I have been here forty years. You have been looking at a good ten different preachers up here in me. Yet, I am the same somebody, and I am the same physical anatomy. I have a continuing body, even though it is changing all through the days. That’s what Paul says about your resurrected body. It will be you. You will be you, as Christ was Christ. You will be you, but it will be a continuing body. It will be you. It may be changed. It may be framed according to the omnipotence of God. But, it still will be you, just as I am still I, even though my body has changed and changed and changed.
The New Testament doctrine of that raising from the dead, of that continuing life into the world to come, is an amazing doctrine. One of the facets of it is this. The New Testament, the Christian faith has "an abhorrence of nakedness," they call it, of "unclothedness," they call it, of disembodiment. It has a horror of that as nature has an abhorrence of a vacuum.
When we die, we enter an intermediate state. The time between the day that I die and the day that I am raised from the dead – there is a time in there when my body is decaying in the earth and my spirit is with the Lord. The New Testament looks upon that as being an incomplete, unhappy state. In the fifth seal, in the sixth chapter of the Revelation, they cry, those disembodied spirits: "O Lord, how long? How long?" And, in the fifth chapter of the 2 Corinthian letter, Paul expatiates on that and he calls it, as I mentioned a moment ago – he calls it a "nakedness." He calls it an "unclothedness." It’s the disembodied spirit.
The Christian faith does not look upon that as being the finished work of the Lord. It is not to be looked forward to. It is not to be devoutly expected or waited for. When Christ died, He died to redeem the whole purchased possession. He died to save my soul. He also died to resurrect my body and I am incomplete, according to the Christian faith, until my body is redeemed, until it is resurrected and joined to my converted and redeemed spirit. I am to be a whole somebody, not a part somebody, in the great purpose of God in the world to come.
Now, of that resurrection our Lord had so much to say. Do you remember, in the twenty-second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Sadducees? They are the materialists and the secularists of that day. They don’t believe in anything. They just believe in money. They got the revenues from the Temple. They believed in prestige. They loved to look upon themselves as the rulers among the people. They had all of the charge of all of the things that made the Temple worship regnant. It was theirs. The Sadducees – they didn’t believe in the resurrection. They didn’t believe in anything. They were secularists. They were materialists. They were worldlings.
Well, the opposite of that faith and belief was the Pharisee. The doctrine of the Pharisees is what lives today in Judaism. They were a great, greatly committed people. They studied the Word of God. It’s just too bad that in their overweening devotion to the Word of God, they became hypocritical. Anyway, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead and in the life of heaven to come. And, the Sadducees, being materialists, didn’t believe any of it.
So, the Sadducees, for years and years and years, had simply pulverized – annihilated the Pharisees with this story. According to the Levirate law, if a man died and he left no son, no seed – in order for his family name not to perish, the Levirate law said that his brother must take his widow and raise up seed to him. Now, the conundrum of the Sadducees: there were seven brethren. The first one married and he died and left no seed, no offspring. Then the second brother took her, according to the Levirate marriage law, and he died, leaving no seed. And, the third one took her and he died, also, leaving no issue and, the fourth and the fifth and the sixth and the seventh, until all seven had her, all seven of them.
Then, the Sadducees asked the Lord Jesus, "Now, in the resurrection, whose wife is she going to be? Ha, ha, ha, ha. Whose wife is she going to be? All seven had her. Ha, ha, ha." They’d been telling that story for generations, and the poor Pharisees had no way to answer. They just believed in it, but couldn’t defend it.
When they asked the Lord, they asked the wrong person. Our Lord looked at them and said: "You do exceedingly err not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God." [Matthew 22:29] "Have you never read… I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." [Matthew 22:31, 32] And, He said, "In the resurrection and in the life to come, we shall be as angels." [from Mark 12:25] We shall be as angels. We will not procreate. We won’t be in heaven, as a man and a woman in a procreative exercise, looking forward toward the birth of an issue. But, we’ll be holy and sanctified and in perfect love. Now, you think about that a moment. Could it be – could it be that a man could love a woman and it not be that intimacy that issues in a child? Could he love her like that?
Indelicately, let me turn it around. Let’s take the opposite of that. Here is a man, and he’s married to this woman, and all he’s interested in, in her is the satisfaction of his animal passion. That’s all. All he wants out of her is what he’d get out of a common harlot, a low-down prostitute. That’s all he’s interested in. That’s all he wants out of her. You tell me – anybody tell me – you tell me, wouldn’t a woman feel used, if her husband treated her like that? You tell me, isn’t what she wants, is for the man to love her, love her heart, love her soul, love her life, love her being, love her presence? Isn’t what she wants of him: that he be tender and kind and thoughtful and full of remembrance?
And, tell me, after maybe they’ve lived together sixty years, seventy years, and they’ve entered a stage in life when age has brought its decrepitude and maybe inability – tell me, don’t you think they still could love and honor and revere and respect one another? Couldn’t they? When youth ripened into old age, and the love that they knew grew stronger and deeper and sweeter with the passing years, could they still love one another? God says it will be that kind of love that we shall have in glory, and that kind of love I see everywhere.
I love my mother. Did I feel drawn to commit incest with her? The thought slays me. Such a thing is unthinkable. Yet I love my mother. I loved my father. I love you. I love, in a tender, sweet, and precious way, these for whom I pray and intercede every day. It’s that kind of a love, and it is so oft spoken of the in the Bible. There are sixteen chapters in the Book of Romans, and it closes with "Greet one another with a holy kiss." There are sixteen chapters in the 1 Corinthian letter, out of which I’ve read. It closes: "Greet one another with a holy kiss." There are thirteen chapters in 2 Corinthians. It closes with "Greet one another with an holy kiss." There are five chapters in 1 Thessalonians. It closes: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” There are five chapters in 1 Peter. It closes: "Greet one another with a kiss of love, with a kiss of charity."
Why, my sweet friend, there is no preciousness like the preciousness we know in one another, in the Lord, in the house of the Lord. It is beautiful. And, the Lord loves like that. We are going to be like Him and we’re going to be with Him. One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is 1 John 3 and 2: ", It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."
And, the Lord loved in a beautiful and tender way. John, the sainted Apostle, always referred to himself in that way: "The disciple whom Jesus loved." And, we could say that of our Sunday School teachers: the Sunday School teachers whom Jesus loved. The deacons – These are the deacons whom Jesus loves. These are the choir members and the orchestra – These are they whom Jesus loved.
It’s a wonderful thing the Lord speaks.
O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love.
The streams on earth I’ve tasted.
More deep I’ll drink above.
There to an ocean of fullness,
His mercy doth expand.
And glory, glory, glory,
Dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.
The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear bridegroom’s face.
I will not gaze at my glory,
But on the King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His nail-pierced hand.
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.
["The sands of Time are Sinking," Anne Cousin]
That’s what Jesus says. Lose? Nay! Gain! We will not come into the fullness of all that love means until we share it with one another and with Him.
Now, I have just a little moment left, and let me say some of these things that the Bible certainly speaks of.
Number one: When we are raised from the dead, we shall live in a place.
In the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, in the sweetest of all passages in the Bible, the Lord said: "I go to prepare a topos for you. And if I go and prepare a topos for you, I will surely come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" [John 14:2, 3]. There’s no way in the world that you can translate topos but "place." A place! A place! A place for a body, a place for something material, substantive. "I go to prepare a place for you." A body has to have a place, and Christ is gone and is now preparing for us, a place. It is called the New Jerusalem. It is a city of pearl and of gold. It is a city of light and of glory. That’s our home, that’s our eternal home. That’s where we’re going to live. Our resurrected bodies must have a place, and that place is called heaven, the New Jerusalem.
In the millennium we are going to live in that heaven. The people in the millennium will live down here in the earth. There will be some intercourse between them and that is as far as I am able to say. When the Lord comes to establish the millennium, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, and He will rule the world out of Jerusalem. And when He comes, we’re going to come with Him, but our home will be in heaven, and the people who live in the millennium will live down here in the earth.
Now, the inter-commingling of the two, I don’t know? When Jesus was raised from the dead, these first fruits were raised with Him and they visited friends and relatives, the Bible says, in the holy city, in Jerusalem. When the Lord was raised from the dead, for forty days he met with His disciples. He won His own brothers to the Lord. How that is, I cannot explain; I’ve never seen it, I’ve never experienced it. It’s just that when the millennium is here in the earth for these who dwell in the nations, we are going to live in the holy city, the New Jerusalem, our eternal home.
Number two: we shall sit down at the table of the Lord and break bread together. We’re going to eat together. God invented eating and He likes it, and you do too, most evidently! You know I’m amazed sometimes at God’s people! They get so spiritual that you would get the impression that anything material or any materiality in the kingdom of God is an offense to the Lord. Who do you think made this world? Who do you think created this vast universe? Who made this, and that, and all the other substance and me and you? God did that! God must like substance. He must like materiality. He made it, and when He made it He made it enjoyable. There in the garden of Eden they ate out of all the trees of the garden; only one was interdicted. They ate together.
Our Lord said, in the twenty-sixth [chapter] of Matthew, when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, "This cup, I will not drink with you until I drink it anew, in the kingdom of God." He’s going to drink with us and eat with us. When He was raised from the dead, those disciples who saw Him, supposed they were looking upon a phantom, a spirit. They were terrified! And the Lord said, "It is I myself, do not be afraid. Handle me and see, for a spirit, a phantom, a ghost hath not flesh and bones, such as you see me have." Then He asked, "Do you have anything here to eat?" Andy they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb and He did eat before them" [Luke 24:37-43].
Now before you look aghast, and astonishment of that, you see that miracle every day of your life! When you eat, when you eat, you eat inert, dead matter. You eat a dead cow, or you eat a dead chicken, or you eat a dead fish or you eat a dead potato or a dead carrot, or a dead turnip, it’s all dead! But when you eat it, it is quickened, it is made viable, it comes to life in you! It breathes and it thinks and it loves, and sometimes it hates! That’s you! That’s you! You are nothing but the hamburgers and hot dogs and all the rest of the things that you’ve been eating. That’s what you are! And if you don’t believe that you just quite eating hamburgers and hot dogs and other things and see what happens to you.
What is the miracle of assimilation? Nobody can explain; they just watch its process and write it down, but it is a miracle. It’s a miracle of life! Now when Jesus ate that piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb, it took the second step up. The first step, it was quickened into human life, and the second step – which is no more miraculous than the first one – it was quickened into that spiritual life that all of us shall enjoy in the world to come.
Why, doesn’t the Book say we’re going to sit down at the table of the Lord?
We’re going to enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb, all of us. And doesn’t the Bible say, in the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation, "that up there by the Tree of Life, there by the River of Life, there will grow the Tree of Life, and the tree bears twelve manner of fruits and it fruits every month. That’s one-hundred forty-four different kinds of fruit on that one tree. Dear me! We’re going to enjoy that and we’ll never have to worry about getting fat! Oh, it’s just going to be the most marvelous thing in the world! We’re going to eat together. We’re going to sit down at the table of our Lord. We have a song about that, "and the Lord Himself will gird Himself, the Lord will gird Himself, and feed us, with sweet manna all around." That’s a beautiful song!
We’re going to work up there, we’re going to work. Let me tell you a caricature that you see all the time. If somebody wants to draw a cartoon or something of heaven, why they’ll draw a cloud up there, and a fellow sitting on that cloud, with a halo over his head, wings on his back, thumping a harp! And that’s his idea of heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Lord likened the life to come, in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, as a nobleman who went away to come back. And when he went away he called his ten servants, and he gave to each one of them a pound. Then when he came back after his long journey, he called those servants before him. And they gave an accounting, and one man said, "Lord, your pound has gained ten pounds." And the Lord said to him, "You are going to be ruler over ten cities." And another one came and said, "Lord, your pound has gained five pounds." And the Lord said to him, "You are going to be ruler over five cities."
When we all gather before our Lord, before the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, there we’re going to have the rewards of what we’ve done; and some will be rulers over ten cities, and some will be rulers over five cities, and maybe some will be ruler over a thousand cities. Well, where are those cities? Why, my brother, when the Lord comes, it’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth. There’s going to be no more burned out stars and no more blasted planets. But the whole creation of God is going to be rejuvenated, regenerated, remade and we are going to live in it; the most marvelous prospect in the world. The word of Paul said, "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor hath the heart of man imagined what God hath prepared for those who love Him" [1 Corinthians 2:9].
My time has gone, and I close as I’ve closed a thousand times. When that glorious creation day comes, I’m going to get me a planet by myself, put a soapbox on it and preach ten thousand years, and not stop, just not going to stop. And if anybody wants to come to my planet and listen to the preacher preach ten thousand years without stopping, welcome, welcome.
Oh, I hate to close. It’s a wonderful thing to be a Christian. Dear me! I guess because I live in that kind of a world, I think of it so constantly. There’s hardly a day that goes by but that some word of sorrow is brought to me. Brother Poole, I said, "Bro. Poole, while I’m gone you be sure and stay here. Everyday there’ll be somebody who needs you." I live in that world; have for fifty-six years. Think what a dark, despairing, hopeless world, if all I saw were the tears and the heartache and the separation and the goodbyes and the age and the death, and nothing beyond. That’s why it’s so wonderful what Jesus has done for us. Raised Himself, by the Spirit of God, from the dead! Triumphant over sin and death and the grave and hell and the evil! And someday to bring us into that wonderful life He’s prepared in heaven. I don’t need to be afraid of death now; it’s just God’s open door into heaven. Oh, bless His name.
We’re going to stand now and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family, a couple, just you. "Pastor, today I want to give my heart to Jesus, I want to come into the fellowship of the church. I want to re-give my life to the wonderful Lord." As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The heart of the Christian message
life beyond death, the faith has no significance(1
II. Not just life of the soul, but the resurrection
of the body
Absurdity to the unbeliever
a. Without God,
therefore without hope(Ephesians 2:12)
Roman Emperor Trajan
a. God gives a body as
it pleased Him (1 Corinthians 15:35, 38)
III. The Bible teaching
intermediate state – an unclothed, naked existence(2
1. A body for
Jesus and the resurrection
challenged Jesus(Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:25)
a. We will be as angels
– holy and sanctified in perfect love
b. We will be like the
Lord (1 John 3:2)
shall sit down at the table of the Lord and break bread together(Matthew 26:29, Luke 24:36-43, Revelation 22:2)
will work(Luke 19:12-19, 1 Corinthians 2:9)