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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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 Free Reformed Churches of Australia - FRCA
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
Title:The blessed hope of complete salvation
Text:LD 22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Death Defeated

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Old Book of Praise (1984)

Ps. 96: 1, 8

Ps. 125: 1, 3, 4

Hymn 51: 4, 6, 8

Ps. 49: 2 – 4

Ps. 16: 3, 5


Scripture reading:       1 Cor. 15: 35 – 58

Reading from BC:       BC Art. 37

Text:                          LD 22

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

The Resurrection and eternal Life    8/12/2013

Ps. 96: 1, 8

Ps. 125: 1, 3, 4

Hymn 51: 4, 6, 8

Ps. 49: 2 – 4

Ps. 16: 3, 5


Scripture reading:       1 Cor. 15: 35 – 58

Reading from BC:       BC Art. 37

Text:                          LD 22


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,


When God gave us His own Son, He gave us in Him every blessing in heaven and on earth!  

God gave us exceedingly great promises (2 Peter 1: 4).  

When God promised us salvation in His Son Jesus Christ, He did not leave out one blessing.   The salvation that He gives us in Christ is truly full and complete, filled to the brim.  

Or, to be more precise: the cup of salvation overflows!

It is an unending stream proceeding from the throne of God.


Dear congregation, we live in the hope of the resurrection and in the hope of eternal life.

The gospel of our Lord Jesus is a reality that determines our whole outlook on life.  

Our whole life, here and now, is governed and directed by the hope of eternal life.


In the passage that we read this afternoon, 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the apostle speaks about this hope.  

Why does he defend the resurrection of the dead with so much zeal?   

Because: without this hope we have no hope.   If there is no resurrection, there is no gospel.  

I we live only for this life we are of all men the most pitiable.


Our hope is fixed and focused on the life that God has promised us – the life after this life.

This expectation changes our whole life.

And thus, when the apostle speaks about the resurrection of the dead, he concludes saying:


Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” – 1 Cor. 15: 58


There shall be a resurrection of the dead.   We shall be raised, because Christ, our Head, has risen.  We shall live because He, our Head and Mediator, lives.    And thus we have a sure hope of eternal life.   Therefore – for this very reason – be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain.


You see then how he connects our daily life and our daily labour with this expectation.

The command to be steadfast and immovable and always to abound in the work of the Lord is connected to the sure hope of eternal life.    Because we have this hope we are able to persevere in the work of the Lord.   It is this expectation that spurs us on in our daily life.


On that day when the dead will rise we will receive an eternal reward, each one according to his works (Rom. 2: 6), each one according to what he has done, whether good or bad – 2 Cor. 5: 10.  

Your labour in the Lord is not for nothing; it is not in vain.   You will reap the fruit in eternal bliss.   We are gathering riches in heaven, and we do so with determination, for our heart is where our treasure is.   Yes, our hope is completely focussed and fixed on that great day when the trumpet will sound and the dead be raised.   It is then that we will enter the fullness of the promised life.


And thus our catechism deals with these two matters together: the resurrection of the body and eternal life.   The two goes together.   The fullness of all that has been promised us will not be received in perfection until the day of the resurrection.  

The consummation of our salvation waits for the day of the resurrection.  

It is then that the last enemy, death, will finally be swallowed up by life.


I proclaim God’s word to you with the theme:

The blessed hope of complete salvation

We will note…

  1. What it means to be with Christ
  2. The gospel of the resurrection
  3. The gospel of eternal life

In the first place we note…

What it means to be with Christ

When a brother or sister in the Lord passes away, we comfort each other saying, “He is with the Lord.”   Or: “She is with the Lord.”

It is a great comfort.   The brother or sister knows no sorrow or pain anymore.   He or she is with Christ, and that is the best place to be.


That is the first part of our confession here in Lord’s Day 22: after this life my soul shall immediately be taken up to Christ, my Head.

When we die we are with the Lord.


But what exactly does it mean that our soul will be with Christ?

Will our soul be sleeping?   Will we be aware of the glory we enter, or will our soul be unconscious until the day of the resurrection?   And where exactly will our soul be – in Hades, or in Paradise?


Let us start with this last question.    Where exactly will our soul be until the day of the resurrection?

Our Lord Jesus said to the robber on the cross:


            “…Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” – Luke 23: 43


The word Paradise, both in Hebrew and in Greek, refers to a royal garden.   But in the New Testament the word Paradise is exclusively used in a symbolic way to refer to the heavenly Garden of Eden.    

The word Paradise is used only three times in the New Testament.   The first place is where Christ says to the robber: today you will be with Me in Paradise.

The second place where we read of Paradise is where the apostle Paul says that he was caught up to Paradise in the third heaven.   The third heaven refers to the highest heaven where God is seated on His throne.   The first heaven is the sky above us in which the birds of heaven fly and in which the clouds of heaven floats.   The second heaven refers to the space beyond the sky – the heavens in which God has placed the stars.   The third heaven refers to the highest heaven – the dwelling place of God.   And thus, when the apostle says that was caught up into the third heaven, into Paradise, it means that he entered God’s glorious presence in heaven.   He does not know whether this happened while he was in the body, or whether he was out of the body – 2 Cor. 12: 2 – 4.


And then we read once more of Paradise in Rev. 2: 7:


“…To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”


And then, without repeating the word Paradise, this Paradise of God with the tree of life in the middle, is again described to us in Rev. 22.   There in Paradise stands the throne of God and of the Lamb, and from His throne flows a pure river of water, clear as crystal, and on either side of the river grows the tree of life.  

It is a description of God dwelling in the midst of His people in heavenly glory with abundance of life flowing from His throne.


That is where that man on the cross entered when he died.   That same day he was in Paradise.


We also know for sure where Christ is at this moment.   He is seated at God’s right hand on the throne of God in His heavenly temple.   And if our soul will be with Him, that is where our soul shall be: with Christ where He is seated on the throne.

After this life my soul shall immediately be taken up to Christ to be with Him in Paradise.


That is why the apostle Paul said that he has “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” – Phil. 1: 23.

In that context he speaks about departing from this world.   Death will be gain to him.  He longs to depart and be with Christ, for that is the very best place to be!   It will be the fulfilment of his desire.


Dear congregation, when we breathe out our last breath here on this earth, our soul is immediately taken up to Christ, to be with Him where He is, seated at the right hand of God; and there we will reign with Christ until He comes again.

We read that in Rev. 20: 4 where the apostle John says that he saw the souls of the saints living and reigning with Christ for a thousand years.   The “thousand years” is a symbolic number for the whole period of the New Testament; the period from Christ’s ascension up to His second coming.   It is the time period in which we are living.   The souls of the saints who passed away in Christ are now, at this moment, actively reigning with Christ – Rev.20:4.  


When Christ returns on the clouds of heaven He will bring them with Him – 1 Thess. 4: 14


So then, there are no sleeping souls in heaven.  

Whenever Scripture speaks of the dead as sleeping it is a description of the body.   The body sleeps in the grave.  


“…many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” – Dan. 12: 2


There the dead are described as sleeping in the dust of the earth.   It refers to our bodies.   Our bodies return to dust, not our souls.   Our bodies are buried, not our souls.   And it is our bodies that will be raised from the dust of the earth, not our souls.

Yes, our dust will be sleeping in the dust of the earth until it is time for our bodies to rise again. 

Let no one object to this saying that the reference is to people and not to their bodies, for Scripture speaks in this way.   Scripture does not say that Christ’s body died, but that He died.   And it does not say that only His body was buried, but that He was buried.   And it does not say that His body was raised, but that He was raised.   When it is said that He was in Paradise, He is identified with His soul; when it is said that He was in the grave, He is identified with His body.

When our body is in the grave we are in the grave, but at the same time we are also not in the grave but in heaven.


There are no sleeping souls in the grave, and there are no sleeping souls in heaven.

Also, where the apostle Paul speaks of “those who have fallen asleep”, who “sleep in Jesus” – 1 Thess. 4: 13, 14 – it is a description of the state of the body in the grave.   We are buried in the hope of the resurrection.   That means our bodies do not stop to exist altogether.   Our body may be burned with fire, or be scattered by explosions in war, or be dissolved in the depth of the ocean, but when Christ return our very own dust will rise again – by the almighty power of Christ!


Dear congregation, when the apostle Paul proclaimed the gospel to the people of Athens, they listened to him until he spoke of the resurrection, but when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, they mocked (Acts 17: 32).   That was just too much to believe.

Jesus said to the Sadducees who did not believe the resurrection of the dead:


“You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” – Mt. 22: 29


If we know the almighty power of God, who created all things out of nothing, then it is not too hard to believe that the same almighty God is able to gather our dust and to restore our bodies to life.


When someone is asleep, he is not gone.   If someone sleeps, you expect him to rise again.  And therefore this image of “sleep” is used for the dead, because their bodies are not gone, our bodies do not disappear forever.   Our bodies will only sleep until it is time to rise from the grave, whatever our grave may be, for even the sea will have to give back the dead who are in it – Rev. 20: 13.   Yes, the dust of your body will be kept safe in the hands of Christ.    He who counted the hair on your head will also gather your dust.


But to come back to our souls – we read that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead; they live.   And they live unto God.

Note how these words of our Lord Jesus are recorded in Luke chapter 20.   First Jesus reminds the Sadducees of the fact that God revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and then He says:


            “…God is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him” – Luke 20: 38


He says: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead.   They live.   But then He also adds that they are living unto God.   To live unto God means to direct your life unto His glory.   Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are presently seeking God’s glory by their walk of life.

They live to Him.


God has made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be their God; therefore they are not dead but alive.   For the covenant which He made with them is that they may live in covenant communion with Him; and that covenant communion is life itself.   That covenant communion, that living and intimate relationship with the Lord, is the very essence of the covenant.  If God has a covenant with them, then He is by definition in covenant communion with them, and they with Him, living with Him and unto Him.

Thus Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead, nor asleep, nor unconscious, but in true covenant communion with God.  


Christ said, “…whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…” – John 11: 26

When the believer dies he continues to live.  

Dear congregation, when we breathe out our last breath and our body is carried to the grave, our soul is with Christ.   We saw what that means.   We are immediately in Paradise in the very presence of God’s glory and actively reigning with Christ, living unto God, until the day of the resurrection.  


Christ Himself has become the guarantee of this living communion with God; He sealed the covenant with His own blood.   He, the Living One, is Himself the resurrection and the life.   Whoever believes in Him shall never die, but shall continue to live with God unto God.


It is a great comfort to know that we will immediately after this life enter Christ’s glory and see His face.   And yet, it will not yet be the consummation of our salvation.   The consummation comes with Christ’s return on the clouds of heaven.   On that day the last enemy, death, will be swallowed up in victory.


We note that in the second place…

The gospel of the resurrection


All of history is moving towards the climax of Christ’s coming.   On that day all the covenant promises of God will reach their complete and perfect fulfilment.   This is the one great event on which our hope is fixed: the day of Christ’s coming.

He will come on the clouds of heaven, visibly, publicly, in great power.   On that day the fullness of Christ’s glory will be revealed.   And therefore the day of His coming is also called the day of His revelation.

We are “eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” – 1 Cor. 1: 7

On that day His glory will be revealed – 1 Peter 4: 13


It means that we will not know the fullness of Christ’s glory until that day.   Then it will be revealed.   Then we will see Him as He is in His infinite greatness and majesty.   On that day His glory will be revealed to the full.

And therefore we long for that day, first of all for His sake because we seek His glory, but in the second place we long for that day also for our own sake, because on that day when Christ’s glory will be revealed in full we will also share in His glory.


On that day – the day of His coming – He will raise the dead.  

Then He will sit as the Judge of the living and the dead.  

It is then that each one will receive a reward according to his works.  

It is then that He will crush all His enemies under His feet, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.   

And it is then, on that great day when Christ will appear in glory, that the last enemy, death, will be swallowed up in victory. 


Although we are immediately after this life taken up to be with Christ, the final and full glory waits for the day of Christ’s coming.  

The separation of body and soul is not good.   It is the result of sin and death.   Our perfect state is not in the soul without a body, but when our soul will be united to a glorified body. 


Yes, the consummation of our salvation waits for the day of the resurrection.


We confess here in LD 22 that “this my flesh” shall be raised by the power of Christ.

We will be raised with the very same body in which we lived here on earth, and then, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, our bodies – yes, this very flesh of mine – will be changed and become incorruptable and immortal and be made like Christ’s glorious body.


“…The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.   It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory.   It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” (1 Cor. 15: 42, 43)


Note the continuity.   It is the same body which is sown in corruption which becomes incurruptable.   It is the same body which is sown in dishonour that will be raised in glory.   And it is the same body which was sown in weakness that will be raised in power.


At the same time there is also change.   The corruptible body becomes incorruptable.   The disgraced body is made glorious.   What is weak becomes strong.


So then, it will be this, my very own flesh, but: glorified!  

We read this also in Phil. 3: 21.  Our Saviour Jesus Christ will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.

If you want to have an idea of the glory of Christ’s glorified body, consider the vision which the apostle John had of Christ in heaven.  Of course it is a vision described in symbolic language, but the glory of Christ was so great and overwhelming that John, when he saw Christ, fell at His feet as dead – Rev. 1: 17.

Christ is no longer the humiliated man of Gethsemane.   He ascended to the right hand of God and is clothed with all power in heaven and on earth.   He knows no weakness of a humiliated body anymore, no thirst or tiredness, no illness or pain.   He received a body that radiates the glory of God.


Yes, He was raised with the very same body that hang on the cross.   The marks of the nails and of the spear were still visible in His body after His resurrection.   And yet it was at the same time a body that became incurruptable and immortal.

And we will be raised after the pattern of Christ.   As we read in 1 Cor. 15 we will be like the heavenly man Christ (verses 48, 49).

We shall receive a body which will be conformed to His glorified body.


Now, when the apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 15 that we will receive a spiritual body – verse 44 – it does not mean that our bodies won’t be physical and material anymore.   Instead, he contrasts spiritual with natural.   The natural body is weak and disgraced; the spiritual body will be powerful and glorious – filled and controlled and empowered by the Spirit of God.


And when he says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God – verse 50 – then it does not mean that we will no longer have a physical body.   “Flesh and blood” refers in that context to our corruptible flesh and blood.   Our mortal flesh will not inherit the kingdom; it will first be changed.  

So then, this lowly and humble body in which we now live, which is sown in weakness, corruption and disgrace, will be raised a powerful, glorious and perfectly holy body.


Dear congregation, when you make a visit at Fair Haven and see how our body is run down by age and illness, when you observe the humiliation of such a body – what a comfort to know that these very same bodies will be raised in glory and perfection!

What a  comfort – when you stand at the graveside to bury a beloved – to know that the grave will open again; to know that your beloved will be raised in glory!


What a comfort to know – when you feel death working in your own body – to know that it is not the end!  

Brothers and sisters, our salvation in Christ includes the complete salvation and restoration also of our body.   Also our bodies belong to Christ and shall be made like His glorious body.  


The comfort extends also further into all eternity.

We note that in the last place…

The gospel of eternal life


The eternal glory which God has prepared for us transcends anything we can imagine.

We confess here in LD 22 that we will possess a perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived.  

In the words of 1 Cor. 2: 9:


“…Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”


We do not have a detailed description of the glory that awaits us, but we know enough to make us leap with joy.   

That the almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, adopted us in Jesus Christ to be His beloved children, and promised to be our God, and made us heirs of His eternal and glorious kingdom is such a glorious gospel that we cannot even measure the depth and the width and the height of the love and the grace we received.


What a glorious gospel!

How great are the riches of God’s mercy!


God will wipe every tear from our eyes.   There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.   There shall be no more pain.  

Yes, no sin and no curse.

There will be life in abundance flowing like a crystal stream from God’s throne.   There will be eternal joy and peace, harmony and love, on a new earth where righteousness dwells.

God Himself will make His dwelling with us and be our God.  


Brothers and sisters, it is no fairytale; it is no exaggeration, it is the gospel of truth.   It is the gospel of complete and everlasting salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.


And we possess this immeasurable treasure already now through faith in Jesus Christ.

We confess here in answer 58:


“Since I now already feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess perfect blessedness…”


Now, what does that mean?  

Do we now base our faith on a feeling in our heart?   Are we assured of eternal life because we have a feeling of joy in our heart?

No, it is the other way around.   The joy we feel and experience in our heart is the fruit of faith.  

Our faith rests on the revealed promises of God’s Word.


The joy which we feel in our heart is the joy of faith – the joy which we experience when we believe God’s promises.  

And through faith we do have a foretaste of heavenly joy.

God fills our hearts with joy and peace when He, by the power of His Spirit, works faith in our hearts to believe this gospel. 


When we believe this gospel we also rejoice.   And when we rejoice in Christ, we have a foretaste of the heavenly joy that awaits us.  


Let us not go in search for a feeling in our heart to find out whether we have eternal life.   Let us cling to the sure and revealed promises which God proclaims to us this afternoon.  

Believe the gospel, and rejoice in it!


We also have to note the words with which LD 22 closes.   We shall possess a perfect blessedness…


“…a blessedness in which to praise God forever.”


That is the purpose of our salvation: that we may praise God forever.

We are saved from sin that we may live unto God.

We are saved in order that we may glorify God by a new life of obedience, and praise Him with our whole life – for all eternity.


Also our salvation is not man-centered, but God-centered.  

We noted this many times in previous sermons, so that we have no need to repeat what has been said before.   We are saved for the sake of God’s glory.

He saves us “to the praise of the glory of His grace” – Eph. 1: 6

That we should be “to the praise of His glory” – Eph. 1: 12

Dear brothers and sisters, what is then the practical implication of this gospel?

When we believe these promises – which have been sealed by the blood of Christ – if you believe these promises of eternal life through Christ Jesus, then this gospel changes your whole life.  

By the powerful working of the Holy Spirit this gospel raises us up to a new life unto God.


Believing this gospel it is no longer possible to live for the fleeting pleasures of this world.   Our heart is now where our treasure is.  

By believing these promises we are set free from a life of vanity that ends in death.

By believing this gospel we are able to abound in the work of the Lord.

The dead shall be raised.   We shall live, because Christ lives.

And we shall reign forever, for Christ, our Head, reigns forever.


God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

And through our Lord Jesus Christ He has become our God.





* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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