50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’
6 He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’
“I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
If we were to sum up this final phrase in the Apostles’ Creed in just one word, we would use the word ‘hope.’
Hope is important in the Bible, and it’s important in life.
Every human heart literally yearns for hope, and for the Christian, there is a clear connection between hope and faith.
What is hope in the Christian faith? In the Scriptures, it is a kind of confidence in the future that lifts your spirits right now. That's the Biblical picture of hope. Hope is what lifts our eyes above the here and now, and which reminds us of the certainty of God’s promises.
The promise of Christian hope is the promise of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
In John 6:40 Jesus says “My Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The best way to understand the promise of the Christian hope is to look at the whole picture of what the Bible tells us about life beyond this world for believers in Jesus Christ. God’s Word promises us that when we die as a Christian, our spirit – our inner person, the real you and me – leaves our physical bodies and enters the presence of God.
But before we get into the mystery of eternal life, it’s necessary for us to talk about our biggest fear first – death.
Death is the one thing in this life which we cannot avoid, but we will do whatever it takes and go to the most extraordinary lengths to deny it.
If you want to spoil a conversation, talk about death.
I heard of a true story of an aeroplane full of tourists returning from a cruise in Florida. The holiday mood and the party continued as they took off, and there was much excitement on the flight, except for one woman who was clearly in some difficulty.
One of the stewards noticed that she wasn’t well, and asked if there was a doctor on board. Two doctors immediately came forward and started attending to her, but after about 5 minutes she died, right there in her seat. Death suddenly came, and spoiled the after-cruise party.
As you can imagine the mood in the aeroplane changed in an instant.
The pilot made an emergency landing at the next major airport, and the body of the woman was taken away. After about ten minutes the flight continued, but the sense of shock remained.
There happened to be a Christian minister on board, and he went to the chief steward and introduced himself. He said if there was anything he could do to help, or if any of the passengers needed someone to talk to, he was available.
The chief steward said, “Oh I think everyone will be okay. The captain has told us to give them all free drinks. That’ll make them feel better.”
And that’s how the non-believing world deals with death. Let’s just give them all free drinks, and they’ll feel better.
Is that how Christians deal with death? No. Because we have a hope beyond the grave. We know and trust the promises of God, and we have nothing to fear.
This is not our home.
The promise of the resurrection is the promise that just as God has renewed our spirits so that at death we are sinless, He will renew our bodies at the Second Coming so that they are glorious. The Christian hope and confession is not just the immortality of the soul but also the resurrection of the body.
What that means is that the Christian hope is not just an ethereal, ghostlike experience in a distant and purely spiritual heaven. We’re not going to be sitting on our individual clouds strumming harps. The resurrection life is about the whole person raised to a whole new and complete existence in a powerfully transformed body.
Of course, the questions most often asked at this point is how? And what will we look like? Will we recognise each other?
The Bible does not give definitive answers to these questions, and Paul deals with some of them in 1 Corinthians 15: “Someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body.”
Paul says there is going to be a link between our present body and our resurrected body just as there is a link between a seed and the plant that grows from it. A huge, beautiful oak tree can grow from a small acorn. The whole tree is linked to the acorn, but it is dramatically different to the acorn. A tree is the result of a seed being transformed into something bigger and better, with greater capacities and qualities. In the same way the resurrection is the transformation of the body in which we now live into something better, with far greater qualities and capacities.
Paul continues by saying “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
We are reminded that our current bodies are weak, perishable, unglorified, and natural. But in a mysterious way which we do not fully understand, in the resurrection state our new bodies will be imperishable, powerful, spiritual, and glorious. Our resurrected bodies will be imperishable. They will not become sick or injured. They will not age or die. They will not be vulnerable to stress, fatigue, or weakness.
And they will be spiritual. They won't be natural, fragile bodies that are prone to physical needs and desires that can be exploited by sin and temptation. They will be instruments for the Spirit and fully responsive to the Spirit of God.
The Christian answer to all the so-called big questions of life is the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. This is the hope that is more optimistic than the greatest human optimism and more realistic than the greatest human pessimism.
Without God, without Jesus Christ we are lost forever, but the message of hope to us is that He died to pay for the sins of our spiritual brokenness. If you will accept that and receive Him, He will not only forgive your sins and renew your spirit through a new birth, but He will promise you resurrection and transformation of your body and life everlasting in the new heavens and the new earth.
That means that one day, through the redemption that He offers, you will not only rise and walk but also run and jump and dance with joy for ever and ever. We can say with absolute surety that we know God's love in Christ, we know that He hears our prayers, and that He will bring complete and total healing.
Physical healing in the here and now is only temporary. Sometimes He will bring healing in this life, and sometimes He won’t, but one thing we do know and believe: At the end of this life, if you have confessed Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, you will receive a totally new, transformed, glorified body which will last for all of eternity. Do you believe this? Do you believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting?
The book of Revelation contains many deep mysteries, but it also gives us a beautiful picture of our hope. It's not just that we are taken out of the earth and into heaven but that there will be a complete and eternal change. The old passes away, and it's the beginning of a whole new order of existence in a real but radically renewed and glorified world.
The Bible is full of promises about what waits for us beyond physical death, and it is this hope which overcomes our biggest fear – death.
There is real power in hope, and the Bible speaks often about this hope.
1 Thessalonians 1:3 says “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” And in Hebrews 6:19 we find this wonderful verse of reassurance: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Even in our darkest moments – the times of our deepest despair, we have this hope ‘as an anchor for the soul.’
Look at Revelation 21:3-5 again. These verses are often quoted at memorial services, and with good reason, because when we are hurting, we need to be reminded of the hope we have in Christ: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
The book of Revelation has so often been studied as a revelation of mysteries that speak about the end times, but we sometimes forget that it was also written in history to actually help a particular group of people face huge hardships.
The Christians that it was written to were facing incredible persecution.
Look at verse 4 again: Tears, death, mourning, crying, pain.
The people to whom Revelation was written were about to face a time in history filled with more tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain than most of us will ever see.
So what did God give them as He inspired John to write this letter? Hope.
He gave them this hope that is at the heart of the promises of the book of Revelation, and in fact, at the heart of all Scripture - the hope of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, when every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.
One of the lessons of the entire Bible, and Revelation in particular, is that you can find strength and peace to face some incredibly testing times in this life, when you have a God-given hope for the future in which you truly believe.
It's a fact borne out through history that this future hope gave the early Christians the strength and courage to face great hardships and challenges.
The Christian hope is powerful because what we face in this life cannot compare with what God promises us. Of course this life is hard – there’s no denying that.
Sadness and tragedy has visited every one of us, and there are no guarantees that our times of sadness are over.
But listen to Paul’s words in Romans 8:18-21 – “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
On the one hand you've got suffering, frustration, bondage, decay, groaning, and pain. But on the other hand is the promise and the hope of glory, eager expectation, the revelation of the sons of God, hope, liberation, and glorious freedom. The Bible tells us that the future glory will far surpass in every way any suffering in this present life.
Tim Keller, a Presbyterian minister in New York gives an interesting illustration of this principle of future hope surpassing present sufferings.
Imagine two different people who have the exact same job. They work in the same place. They have the same job description, situation, and conditions.
It’s monotonous, boring work, with no possible chance of promotion. They are both in the same jobs until they retire.
However, the first person is told that at the end of his career he will be paid a bonus of $15,000. The second person is told that when he retires, his bonus will be $15,000,000.
So they both go to work, but what happens? They face the same situations very differently. They are basically the same people, but before long the first person is saying, “I can't bear this. It's too much.” The second person is saying, “I can take this, it's worth it. Boring, but I can handle it. Difficult people, no problem. It's worth it.” The first person says, “It's too much.” The second person says, “No problem.”
Why? It has nothing to do with the present. It has everything to do with the future. They are completely influenced by their future hope.
Now this is a very materialistic and earthy example, but the principle is still true. When you have great hope you can face huge hardships.
Do we have that hope? Do you have that hope?
Do you believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting?
Is that hope evident in our lives? Is it being applied?
God wants us not just to confess this hope as true but to actually bring this hope into the very centre of our lives so that it shapes, empowers and inspires us.
Some say they believe in Jesus, they believe the Bible and they believe in the reality of this Christian hope, but they act as if this life and the little bit they carve out of it is all they have or ever will have. They are afraid to obey God when it looks as if obeying might cost them.
So many Christians are afraid to endure hardships and stand firm in difficult situations.
Often people without a living hope don’t actually regard themselves as without hope. They just think of themselves as simply being practical and realistic. But what they are doing or refusing to do only seems practical and realistic, because they do not have a living hope that reaches beyond this world. We need this hope. It is this hope that inspires the endurance and commitment we need to follow Christ in this life.
And the good news is that this hope of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting is available to all.
“It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
The water of life is without cost because Christ paid the price. He died for our sins and rose from the dead for our redemption. All we have to do, all we can do, to experience the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting is receive Him as Lord and Saviour. What an incredible gift we are offered and given in Christ.
If you have already received this gift, let the power of your future hope inspire your endurance throughout your life. Look above the here and now, and remember that hope which is an anchor for your soul.
The testimony of the Bible, the witness of the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection of Jesus - all of these show us that we have a hope in which we can trust, but we have to choose to live in this hope.
If you haven't come to Him yet, it is not too late. God’s grace is available to you today. Don’t worry about what others will say or think. The only thing you have to worry about is what God says: “To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”