Before we begin, let us pray:
“Father, our Father in heaven, compel us all simply to take you at your Word. Touch us with the Holy Spirit, we pray, and do not let us get away from your Word without being caught by its promises and powerful joy. We pray this for our sake, Father, and for those whom we love, in the name of Jesus. Amen.”
Lord’s Day 22 ends the exposition of the Apostle’s creed with the last two articles namely, the resurrection of the body and eternal life.
Again these are articles of faith we are called to believe in so this means it belongs to the Grace section of the catechism and by way of application, we are called to believe and receive comfort from believing in them.
We believe in the resurrection of body because we know Jesus our Savior who died for our sins, was also raised from the dead and now lives in glory there in the heavens. This is what Scripture testifies and this comes with the assurance from the Spirit. Eternal life is granted to those who believes because Jesus promised it to them and he is true to his promised. He promised to resurrect from the dead and he did so and so we too at the appointed day of judgment will resurrect with our bodies.
These are the sermon points we will hear preaching this afternoon. They are divided into two points: 1) The Resurrection of the Body; 2) Eternal Life
Resurrection of the Body
Q#57 How does “the resurrection of the body” comfort you?
Answer: Not only my soul will be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but even my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ, will be reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body.
This answer from the catechism assumes for us that we believe our souls when we die, we will continue our existence and join Christ in heaven. Paul confirms this for us when he testified in his letter to the church in Philippi. It reads “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain [Christ]…My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better…(Philippians 1:21-23)“.
This means we are expecting a sense of continuity from this age and the age to come and this is the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. However there is also a sense of discontinuity between the two ages and it is the separation of our body with our soul. This is by definition, physical death.
So between this creation and new creation in Christ, there is an intermediate period where our souls awaits its reunion with the body. This is the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. As to when it will happen we know from Scripture that is during the time of Christ’s second coming. By then, our souls will receive new glorious body and this permanent state will be our state in the new heavens and the new earth.
The state of blessedness between this life and life to come, of course, assumes will happen only to an elect regenerate believer. Because primarily speaking only those who are in union with Christ through faith receives the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and this guarantees the beginning of their spiritual life. Peter declares in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Then Paul states in Colossians 1:13-14, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Finally, Jesus exclaims: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Life and light that Jesus himself bring means regeneration and conversion. This happens when an elect regenerate converts to faith and repentance. We will pick this up later in our second point regarding eternal life but it is suffice for now to say that our spiritual life begins at new birth and continues until conversion.
This is what we mean when say that that spiritual life conquered our state of spiritual death. Of course, spiritual death means our separation from the blessed communion of God since the Fall and the death and resurrection of Christ, and the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit overcame all these by regeneration and conversion.
This means a believer here on earth transformed by the Spirit now begins eternal life here and now. Jesus emphasized this reality for believers in John 5:24 and it reads, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
However, we all (regardless of whether they elect or reprobates) still need to die physically and this comes with appointment from God that after which judgment comes. This comes from Hebrews 9:27: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…”
So what is the difference between the death of an elect and a reprobate? Ursinus in our Heidelberg Catechism answers it this way:
Lord’s Day 16
Q#42 Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?
A. Our death is not a payment for our sins, but only a dying to sins and an entering into eternal life.
The physical death of a believer is no longer a payment for sin since Christ died for him and its penalty were paid by him. However, sin remains in this body and the physical body must be sown and they transformed in glory. This is why the death of believer, as concluded by the catechism, is simply a passage way to eternal life.
So it begs the question, when are we going to receive this new and glorious body? This is the pressing question by the those in Thessalonica as some have concluded that the resurrection of the body has occurred already and some have missed them. So to instruct them in the faith, Paul wrote to them these words from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17:
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Those asleep simply means who already died and Paul informs the believers in Thessalonica about the general resurrection that will happen in the second coming of Christ. So this affirms for us the connection between the consummation of the kingdom of God, the end of this age and destruction of this creation, then the succession of the world to come in new creation. These events will coincide with the future resurrection of all believers.
What comfort does this article of faith gives us believers here on earth? Simply put, it gives us hope. It makes us look forward to the end of this world knowing our labor in the kingdom are not in vain . Paul exhorts,“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)”
This is also gives us grounds for rejoicing in the midst of suffering. Paul wrote these words to those in Thessalonica, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).”
As Christian pilgrims of this world we know our journey towards Celestial city is long and hard. We have learned to understand providence and how to live in contentment. Nothing is easy in the Christian life. We are called to deny ourselves, and lead watchful and prayerful lives.
None of these come easy and yet we know that our lives here on earth as Christians comes with accompanying graces from God himself and as WSC#36 states, “The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience , joy in the Holy Ghost , increase of grace , and perseverance therein to the end.”
Let us encourage one another with these words.
Q#58 How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?
Answer: Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.
The catechism answer assumes eternal life to begin in this life upon our regeneration and conversion. We mention this briefly in our first point and we can expound them here now.
The word “zoe” here which is translated “life” in English does not mean we are going to be having a divine existence. No, that is not the case for us since we are dependent and created beings. So eternal for us means an existence beyond “bio” or life on this creation order. Simply put, it is a kind of life is communion with God uninterrupted by sin and death. Eternal life means life in new creation.
This life begins in union with God in Christ through faith by the Spirit. It happens in our regeneration and upon conversion. It begins with peace from God pardoning our sins because of Christ’s atoning work. Then continues in love and joy in the Spirit and hope for the resurrection of our bodies.
Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).” This means eternal life is found in Christ and what is that kind of life? It is found in Christ!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
And if asked what is new creation in Christ means?
Simply put, it is wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and glory in Christ. It is our glorified state as prophet, priest, and king in Christ. And while these realities goes beyond our imagination, we rejoice in anticipation. Paul exclaims, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Believing in eternal life encourages us to forward to our glorification in Christ. It comforts us during adversities by informing us our eternal dwelling in Christ. God is making everything new!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
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. 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 21:1-4)
Let us encourage again one another with these words.
ZCRC(Imus), God will soon bring us to new creation in Christ. He will glorify our bodies and grant us the eternal life. This life of peace, joy, love, and hope comes to us by our union with God in Christ and by the Spirit. Let us continue to profess our faith on these important eschatological realities. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.