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Author:Rev. George van Popta
 send email...
 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
 www.ancasterchurch.on.ca
 
Title:Life with Christ after death
Text:LD 22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2003-06-22
Added:2004-01-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading of Scripture: 1 Cor. 2:6-10; 15:35-58

Reading of text (Heidelberg Catechism): LD 22

Singing: Ps. 16:1,3,5; Hy. 51:2,4,5; Hy. 50:1,5; Hy. 50:7; Ps. 73:8,9
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

What will happen to you when you die? Where will you go? Where do people go when they die? There are different ideas. People wonder.

Some say that you will be reincarnated to be another person, or even animal. Some Eastern pantheistic religions. New Age Movement (NAM).

Others: Nothing happens. When you die, that's it. You end up in a grave, and that's the end.

Yet others: When you die, you enter a state of suspended animation. Soul sleep. Your soul exists in an unconscious state until the day of the resurrection.

Well, what does happen when you die? LD 22 answers that question for us. The believer's soul goes to be with the Lord Jesus Christ.

LD 22 also answers the question as to what will eventually happen to our bodies. What will happen? Our bodies will not lie in the grave forever. One day they will be reunited with our souls.

And then it answers questions about a future life. Is there life beyond the grave? What happens after the resurrection? What will our existence be like after the grave and after the resurrection?

In LD 22, we confess what we believe about the future - - about what happens when we die; - what will happen to our bodies; - how we will live into eternity.

I proclaim to you:

OUR CONTINUING LIFE WITH CHRIST

1. At death; 2. At the resurrection; 3. And forever.

1. What happens at death. What happens when we die? What do you expect will happen to you when you die? You know that you will not live forever. Perhaps it is something you don't think much about. Perhaps you don't like to think about it. But it is reality. Unless the Lord Jesus Christ comes back before you die, you will one day die. You will die of a disease, or an accident, or you will grow very old and die of old age. What will happen after that?

In North America there is a movement which, for the past 20 or 30 years, has been growing stronger and becoming more influential. It's been working its way into the mainstream of North American culture. That movement is called the New Age movement.

One of the NAM's central ideas is the teaching of reincarnation. The doctrine of reincarnation says that when a person dies, his/her soul enters a new body. Your soul is reborn in the shell of a new person.

This idea is not new. It is ancient. Buddhism, Hinduism, Sihkism-these and many other religions which come from the East teach this notion of reincarnation. For example, the Hindu religion of India teaches that each person, upon dying, is reborn. And then, if you were good in this life, you will advance to a higher standing (rank) in your next life. However, if you were bad, you will be demoted - perhaps even to the body of an animal, even an insect.

The goal is the salvation of the soul. And Hinduism considers salvation to be the escape from the body into "Atman", which means "All-Soul". The body is, supposedly, bad. It is basically evil. Only the soul is good. And so the ultimate goal, salvation itself which everyone desires, is the escape from the body.

The New Age movement of the western world has taken over much of this. It teaches that we are ever advancing upward. We are constantly in a process of evolving into something greater and higher. Every time you die and are reincarnated, you go a step higher.

They say that the soul is part of the godhead. You are god. God is you. You never die. Your body might fall to the ground. But your soul keeps on reaching for a higher state of perfection.

And so the New Age movement promotes transcendental meditation (TM). You blank out everything, and commune with nothing but your own soul. I'm told that TM is being introduced into some public school programs. As well, New Agers are running programs for corporations in order to increase employee performance. Employees are taught how to tap that "reservoir of magnificence" within them. They are taught "consciousness-raising" or "human potential" techniques to improve their productivity.

All of this is based upon the notion that the soul is divine - is part of the great godhead. And it is an attempt to fill the vacuum left by the rejection of Christianity. People have rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, and now, perhaps quite a number of years later, perhaps a generation later, they realize that their lives are empty. There's nothing there. It's a sad attempt to find some meaning to life.

Sad, because it does not reckon with reality. It denies the reality of death. People are scared to die, and so they come with this notion of reincarnation: "You don't really die. Your soul enters another body. And it evolves ever upward."

It also denies the judgment of God. People are scared of judgment, and so they say that there is no judgment.

What does the Bible say? Heb. 9:27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment." We all die. We all die once. We are not caught up in a never ending cycle of death and rebirth. We are born once. We die once.

Listen to the comforting and very scriptural words of LD 22: My soul, after this life, will immediately be taken up to Christ, my Head. That's what happens to believers when they die. Their bodies fall to the ground, but the Lord Jesus Christ takes their souls up to himself. We die, but we continue living with Christ, our Head.

As Paul wrote to the Philippians, to live is Christ and to die is gain. It is gain because, for the believer, to die is to go to be with Christ.

It happens immediately. When the Lord Jesus was on the cross, then the one criminal who was crucified with him said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

That very day! The criminal repented. He confessed faith in Jesus Christ. And so Christ covered all of his sins with his death. He died also for that criminal. And so the soul of that criminal was immediately gathered up to Christ, his Head.

All those who repent are redeemed. When they die, they go to be with Christ. The New Agers try to hide from the need to repent and from the need for redemption by grace. They don't want to know anything about the demand to repent for sin. And so they say that the soul is divine. They believe in self-redemption, in self-salvation by evolving through death and rebirth into a higher and higher state of perfection.

Scripture calls us to repent from our sins and accept the freely granted redemption which is in Jesus Christ. Accept that free grace, beloved. And know that when you die, you will continue living with Christ. You will be taken up to Christ, your Head.

Faith in Christ and repentance for sin is necessary. It is only those who have Christ as their Head now, in this life, who will be taken up to him.

It is urgent, beloved. None of us knows when he or she will die. Don't put off till tomorrow what God calls you to do today. Today God calls you to repent from sin. Today God calls you to start believing in Christ. Today God calls you to place all your trust in Christ and to love him and serve him with your body and soul. And then if you die today, then today you will be with Christ in Paradise.

2. On the last day, Christ will raise our bodies.

LD 22 also says that " ... this my flesh, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul and made like Christ's glorious body."

We have the promise of the resurrection of our bodies. When we die, then our family and friends bury our bodies. They place our bodies into the ground. And our souls go to be with Christ. But that's not the end of everything. Our bodies do not stay in the ground forever. On the last day of this present earth, the angels will blow the trumpets, and our bodies will rise up out of the ground. The hinges will fall off of the coffins. The gravestones will fall over. The ground will open up, and we will step out of our graves. Our souls and our bodies will be reunited.

This just might be one of the most faith demanding aspects of the Christian religion. How can God raise the very same bodies which were buried? I don't have to describe to you what happens to our bodies after they have been buried. And what about those bodies which were burnt by fire or eaten by wild animals?

And yet, beloved, the promise of the gospel is that the very same bodies which once lived, which died, which were buried, will live again. And LD 22 underlines that when it says, "This my flesh". This is what Christ will raise by his power and reunite with our souls which he kept safe.

And again we can see how the religion of the New Agers contrasts with the Christian faith. The New Agers say that only the soul is good while the body is bad. The ultimate goal is to escape the body.

No, says the Christian religion. The body is good. The body is a gift of God which we are to use to worship God and to serve God. With our bodies, we are to glorify God in all we do. The body is so good, that Christ will raise it up at the last day, so that our bodies, together with our souls, might praise God into eternity.

In fact, our souls are incomplete without our bodies. Man is not made up of two separate entities: body plus soul. Rather he is a unified whole: body-and-soul. When God had formed Adam from the dust of the ground, then He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being, or, a living soul. He was not body plus soul. Adam was a living soul. Man is only complete when he is unified - when body and soul are together.

Death introduces something very unnatural into the existence of man. Soul and body are ripped apart. That which belongs together is torn asunder. And that is, of course, a product of the sin of man.

But God, who is rich in mercy, who remembers the eternal covenant of grace he established with us, takes our souls up to Christ our Head. However, that is not the final goal. The final goal is the resurrection of our bodies and the reunification of our souls with our bodies.

The catechism says that this our flesh will be raised by the power of Christ. It will be your present body that Christ will raise. However, your body will have undergone a transformation. As LD 22 says, our flesh will be made like Christ's glorious body.

You know that the body of the resurrected Christ had undergone some sort of a change. It was glorified. E.g., although he was able to eat and drink and his disciples were able to touch him, yet he could enter a room to which the doors were closed and locked.

We too will have glorified bodies. We don't know exactly what that means. But we can be sure that our bodies will no longer be affected by the misery of disease and imperfection.

The apostle Paul, in 1 Cor 15, compares it to planting a seed. You place the seed into the ground. The seed dies. However, from that seed grows a beautiful plant. There is continuity. The seed becomes the plant. But the plant is much more glorious than the seed.

As Paul says, it is the same with the resurrection of the dead. The body which is sown, which is placed in the grave, is perishable; however, what is raised is 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 physical body; it is raised a spiritual body.

That our resurrected bodies will be spiritual bodies does not mean: non-material. Spiritual does not, first of all, mean the opposite of material. Spiritual is, first, the opposite of weak and sinful. That's what Paul brings out by these different comparisons. A spiritual body is still a body. But it is a body which is completely governed and controlled by the Spirit of God. No more and never again will sin control our bodies. No disease. No handicaps. No need for medical insurance or extended health benefits. They will be perfect. They will be like the body of Christ. No longer will we bear the image of the man of the dust (Adam). We will bear the image of the man of heaven (Christ).

3. We will live with Christ forever.

After the Lord Christ resurrects us and reunites our souls and bodies, he will make us share in perfect blessedness, such as no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived - a blessedness in which to praise God forever.

LD 22 quotes that from 1 Cor. 2:9. God has not described to us exactly what blessed eternal life with him will be like. He has not described it because our limited human minds would not be able to handle such knowledge. But we have this promise from Scripture that it will be an existence such as has never been seen, nor heard, nor thought of.

Human investigation and philosophy cannot discover this fulfilment of salvation. However, the Holy Spirit has revealed it to us. As Paul adds in 1 Cor. 2:10, God has revealed this salvation and this blessedness to us through the Spirit. Only those who love God know this mystery, and they know it only because God has revealed it to them.

And, as LD 22 says, we feel the beginning of eternal joy in our hearts already. The new life and the new world will be vastly different from the present life and world. But there is also going to be a continuation from the present to the future, from here to there. Just as our bodies after the resurrection will be different although they are the same bodies, so life after the return of Christ will be different-it will be a totally glorified life-and yet there will be continuity. That's because eternal life begins here and now. The future will be the completion of what God has already begun in us.

The Lord Christ redeems us for eternal joy, and today he gives us the beginning of that joy. We participate in the joy already, because we have already received eternal life.

John 3:36 says, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life." This does not say that the believer "will have" eternal life or that the believer "might get" eternal life. No, it says that he or she already has it.

What is eternal life? It is that new life we receive from God through the Holy Spirit when we believe in Christ. And because this life is a gift of the living God, it endures forever. It is impossible for it ever to come to an end.

What is life? It is believing in Christ. If you believe in Christ, you have life. If you do not believe in Christ, you are dead. 1 John 5:11 and 12 say, "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life."

The message is pretty clear, isn't it. The message is: Jesus is life. He is the difference between life and death. With him, you have life. Without him, you have nothing but death.

Do you have life? Do you have the true life, the eternal life from God? You might ask, "I'm not sure ... How can I tell?" Well, ask yourself, "What place does God occupy in my life? Do I have my priorities straight? Am I seeking first the kingdom of God and its righteousness? Do I have my eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus? Am I seeking to follow him? Am I, in the midst of sin, weakness, and failure, seeking him and following him? Do I serve him with my soul and with my body? Is he seated upon the throne of my heart? Have I given myself to him completely?"

Go to him, all the way! Go to Jesus Christ who is the Tree of Life. If you go to him, you will never die. You will never experience the horror, the loneliness, the eternal separation from God in hell which is death upon death.

Go to him for life, beloved - for eternal life which starts today. And then when your body falls to the ground, he will immediately take your soul to be with him. And on the day that he comes riding upon the clouds of heaven on his great white horse, with his hosts of angels blasting on their trumpets, then he will call your body out of the grave. And by his power he will glorify your body. He will perfect you. And you, with all the believers who ever lived, will follow him into the presence of God, into eternal blessedness-a blessedness in which to praise and worship God forever.

AMEN



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.ancasterchurch.on.ca/sermons/june2203pm.html

(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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