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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Perfect and Eternal Blessedness
Text:LD 22 2 Cor. 5:1-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-05-10
Updated:2021-05-10
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Selections from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal:
 
159 - Abide with Me
403 - Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
468 - Jerusalem the Golden
512 - Jesus Lives and So Shall I
 
 
 
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


05/09/2021
Community URC
 
“Perfect and Eternal Blessedness”
2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Lord’s Day 22
 
When I was six years old my family lived in Germany for eleven months. I didn’t know much German and there were no English schools. I had a bicycle and my parents, perhaps feeling sorry for me, did something that my wife and I would have never done. They allowed me to skip school and ride my bicycle for most of the day.
 
I was fascinated by the German countryside. Rural Germany was still rebuilding after World War Two. Carts were pulled by oxen, horses still plowed in the fields, and ladies were in fields working. But above all, in the distance, high on the crest of the hills, I could see castles. They were magnificent! Through the eyes of a truant first grader, nothing could be more impressive than a castle on a hill in Germany!
 
Yet the greatest earthly castles cannot begin to compare to our heavenly home. Those who have saving faith in Christ alone will live with Him eternally. And the home in which we will live is so spectacular that it cannot be fully described this side of heaven. Although the Holy Spirit gives us a glimpse of eternal glory throughout Scripture, the fullness of that glory will be revealed in eternity. As the answer to question 58 puts it:
 
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.
 
What makes our eternal home in heaven so special? What makes it so special that it cannot be described? So special that we will have perfect blessedness in which to praise God eternally?
 
One reason it is so special, is that it is designed by the ultimate Architect, an Architect who knows how to design a home perfectly. Have you ever gone into a house, maybe an extraordinary house, almost a mansion perhaps, yet noticed that there were flaws in the design? Maybe the kitchen wasn’t exactly right. Or perhaps the windows weren’t placed to give the best view and to let in more natural light. A hallway or closet could have been wider or deeper.
 
Those little quirks, those after thoughts and regrets, will never happen to those who have an eternal home in heaven. Why?  Because our eternal home has been planned by the ultimate architect, the ultimate designer, God Himself. Hebrews 11 describes God's gift of saving faith in the lives of Old Testament believers. Among the believers was Abraham, who was looking forward to his eternal home. Hebrews 11:10 says, “he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect (designer ESV) and builder is God.” One whole chapter of the Bible, Revelation 21, describes in symbolic language the great care and detail that God, as the architect and designer, has put into the plans for our eternal home.
 
Not only is our heavenly home designed by the only perfect architect, but it is built by the only perfect carpenter. Many years ago, friends of ours built their “dream home.” They built on a nice plot of ground, with five acres of land. They hired the best architect they knew, though, as they were to find out later, he was not perfect. There were design flaws.
 
But the real problem they had was with the builders. The builders didn’t stick to their schedule; their materials were of low quality at times, as was their workmanship. Our friends were greatly concerned with the builders of their dream house. But that will ever happen with your eternal home. God is not only the perfect architect and designer; He is also the perfect builder of our heavenly home.
 
In Hebrews 11:10, the author of Hebrews describes God not only as the Architect of our eternal home. He also describes Him as the builder: “(Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” In other words, God not only designs our eternal home, but He also builds it, ensuring that there are no flaws, only perfection as we experience an eternal blessedness in which to praise God forever.
 
In John 14 Jesus makes this remarkable statement: “In my Father’s house are many rooms” – (in the King James Version, “many mansions”). Jesus said, “If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”
 
You see, Jesus is not only our Savior from sin, not only the Lord of our life, not only the One who ever lives to intercede on our behalf. He is also preparing that perfect place in heaven for those who, by His grace, have saving faith in Him alone.
  
This eternal home, perfectly designed and built, is also protected with an eternal guarantee. Verse 5 assures us, “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
 
When our neighbors sold their house many years ago, they sold it with a homeowner’s guarantee. After all, they had put on a new roof. The compressor for the central air had been replaced. And the furnace, electrical circuits and wires were all in good shape, so why not sell it with a guarantee?
 
The house sold quite quickly, but that was years ago. That guarantee is meaningless now. If the roof leaks, the furnace fails, or the air compressor seizes, it is the responsibility of the new owners. But problems like that will never happen in our eternal home in heaven. Our eternal home has an eternal guarantee, brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit.
 
While the work of our triune God overlaps, there is a sense in which God the Father is the architect, Jesus, the Son, is the builder, and God the Holy Spirit serves as the guarantee, not only of our entrance into heaven, but also of the perfection of our eternal home. No wonder, the catechism, as it follows Scripture points out:
 
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 Resurrected Body
 
But suppose that you were to come to this place of perfect blessedness, this mansion, but were not in good enough shape to make it up the steps. What if you were just too weak and tired to walk down the streets of gold? What if you wanted to walk over to the garden where the Tree of Life is planted, but knew you would run out of breath trying to do so? That will never happen! Those who have saving faith in Christ alone will live in this eternal home with resurrected bodies that will bear a likeness to the resurrected body of Jesus Christ.
 
The answer to Question 57, “How does ‘the resurrection of the body’ comfort you?” assures us “Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but also my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ, will be reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body.”
 
That is what we read about in 2 Corinthians 5. In that passage, the Apostle Paul, who was a tentmaker himself, uses a metaphor for our frail bodies. He compares our bodies here on earth to a tent. Just as a tent gets worn by the weather, develops rips and tears, and eventually wears out altogether and needs to be replaced, so too our earthly bodies wear out. And when our earthly “tent” – our body – wears out and dies, we receive – at the second coming of Christ – a resurrected body.
 
In other words, we have a double blessing. We have an eternal home in heaven – the “many mansions” of John 14. But we also have an eternal home in resurrected bodies which will have a likeness to the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. Writing to the Philippians, in chapter 3:20-21, the Apostle assures us, “…Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”
 
Although Jesus is now in heaven, He is there with a truly human body. He is in heaven with a body of flesh, gloriously resurrected. And the promise of Scripture is that one day our body will bear a likeness to His.
 
Yet that body, although bearing a likeness to the body of Jesus, will still be our own body. It will be the very same body you were born with and lived in on earth, but gloriously transformed. In Job 19:25-27 we read this remarkable statement by a man who suffered excruciating pain. Yet he exclaimed: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
 
And that body, which bears a likeness to the body of Jesus – this selfsame body gloriously resurrected – will never again experience suffering. In Revelation 21 the Apostle John describes the new heavens and the new earth as he writes: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God’s 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.’” (Rev. 21:3-4).
 
The temporary nature of our present bodies is likened to living in a tent (v. 1, 4). Living in a tent can be a fun experience for a while. But as time goes by the tent gets worn. It gets ripped and torn; the fabric weakens, the tent develops leaks. Sometimes the tent gets cold, other times it seems to catch a fever because it gets so hot. Even you children who love to go camping would not want to live in a tent all your life, would you?
 
And the same is true for us. The body God has given us is very good for the time that we are on earth. After all, if Adam and Eve had not sinned, they would have lived forever in the physical bodies which God gave them. Sin brought disease and death, but when Jesus comes back we will receive resurrected bodies, bodies that are so much better to live in than our present bodies that the Bible compares it to living in a house – living in a mansion – as opposed to living in a tent.
 
Eternal Comfort
 
And these two truths – that our bodies will be gloriously resurrected and that we will live eternally in the glory of heaven brings great comfort. Did you notice that in Lord's Day 22 both questions and answers focus on comfort?
 
    Question 57 - How does “the resurrection of the body” comfort you?
 
    Question 58 - How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?
 
We are comforted in knowing that our frail bodies of dust will be gloriously resurrected, bearing a likeness to the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. And we are also comforted by knowing that in the life to come we will have in the words of the catechism, as it quotes from 1 Corinthians 2:9, “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.”
 
Some of you may have taken a winter vacation in Florida (or other warm retreat). The weather was perfect. The sun was warm, the beaches beautiful, the ocean majestic, the palm trees stately beautiful. But the time flew by. The day came so quickly when you had to return home. You had to come back to the cold, snowy, overcast reality of life in your home state.
 
That will never happen in heaven. The Lord will never say, “Your time in Paradise is over. It is time to return to the reality of living in a sin-filled, fallen world.” The perfect blessedness that Scripture and the catechism describes is an eternal blessedness. If your faith and mine is truly in Jesus Christ alone, then we already have a taste of that blessedness. But we will experience the fullness of that blessedness throughout eternity. In the life to come we will have eternal blessedness in which to perfectly praise our God – forever.
 
And it is a blessing, incidentally, that the Lord does not give us a more specific description of heaven. Some Christians seem frustrated that God has not revealed the details of heaven to us to us. Our knowledge of heaven is put before us in symbolical portraits, especially in passages like Revelation 21 with its streets of gold. But many Christians are not satisfied with a symbolic picture; they want concrete facts and a full disclosure concerning every detail of our everlasting life in the new heavens and the new earth.
 
However, it is a great blessing that the Lord has not revealed more to us about our eternal home. If we truly knew all the details, we would be absolutely miserable here on earth. Vance Havner gave this analogy. He said, “If you are having spinach for supper and you want your young son to eat it, you certainly aren’t going to tell him that there is chocolate cake for dessert.”  In other words, we could never handle living in this fallen world if we knew all the details of the glory and greatness of our heavenly home. We would be looking forward to the “dessert” of heaven to such a degree that we would be miserable, and of no earthly good. Like a child, we would be focused on the cake, and not the spinach that is set before us.
   
Thus, it is an aspect of God’s grace that He tells us that the glory of heaven is so great that none of us can fathom its greatness in this life, but doesn’t give us the details.  He reveals enough for us to know that heaven will truly be great, but not enough that we are totally frustrated by living here on earth
 
In the analogy of an iceberg, our view of heaven is mostly hidden. We see the tip, and we know that heaven will be greater than what we can imagine, but the deep realities are kept from us in this life. We see the tip; as the catechism says, “already now (we) experience in (our) heart eternal joy.”  But we will experience the totality of that joy and blessedness in the life to come in the glory of the new heavens and the new earth for all eternity.
 
Living by Faith in Christ Alone
 
How are we to respond to such great and precious promises? How are we to respond to the promise that our bodies will be raised from the grave and bear a likeness to the glorious body of our resurrected Savior and Lord? How are we to respond to the promise that we have an eternal home in heaven in which to live forever?
 
Part of our response is in verse 7 which tells us, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” When we live by sight, what do we see all around us? We see death and decay. We see the impermanence of life, that life is like a wisp of smoke, a mist, like grass that withers. We see that our body grows old and worn. When we live by sight we see – and experience – the trials, temptations and heartbreaks of life.
 
Yet, when we live by faith in Jesus Christ, instead of looking to the sights of this fallen world, we experience what is written about in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 that “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
 
When we live by faith in Christ, instead of the sight of the world, we can exclaim with Paul, in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” When we live by faith in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, instead of living by sight, we can take great comfort in knowing that this life is but a brief span of time leading to an eternity of blessedness in the life to come.
 
Living by faith and not by sight, incidentally, doesn’t mean that we live with a blind faith, oblivious to the realities of the world in which we live. But it does mean that we live by faith in Christ alone, and we see the world and all of life through the lens of God’s Word, fully assured that God is true to all His promises.
  
And because God is true to all His promises, when we live by faith in Christ and not by sight, we need not fear death; instead, we can face death with confidence. After all, we have an eternal house in heaven waiting for us. We have the assurance that our bodies, sown in weakness, will be raised in power. We know that Jesus shed His blood to cover our sins, so there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We need not fear the final judgment that 2 Corinthians 5:10 describes, for the righteousness of Christ, and His perfect record of obedience is imputed – credited – to all who believe in Him.
 
We understand that when we die a physical death our soul goes immediately to be with the Lord and to rejoice in His glory and grace. On the last day, when Jesus returns, we know that our bodies will be raised from the grave and joined with our souls. And if we are still alive when Christ returns we will rise to meet Him in the air; we will be raptured and our bodies will be gloriously transformed in the twinkling of an eye. Thus, body and soul, we will be with the Lord forever.
 
Rather than fearing death, we can face life and death with confidence if our faith is in Christ alone. By God’s power He takes what we by our nature fear – death – and turns it into the entranceway to heaven for all who have true saving faith in Him alone. And because of that we have the same confidence in the face of death as the Psalmist, who wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4).
 
Dwight Moody, the founder of Moody Church and Bible Institute, beautifully summarized the confidence that those who trust in Christ have, even on their deathbed. He said to a friend who stopped by to visit: “You will read in the papers someday that D. L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don't you believe a word of it! At that moment I will be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that’s all. Out of this clay tenement house into a house that is immortal, a body sin cannot touch or taint, a body fashioned like His glorious body. …That which is born of the flesh may die, but that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
 
In the classic chapter on the resurrection of the body, 1 Corinthians 15, the Holy Spirit assures us that “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; 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,” (meaning our bodies will be in full harmony with the Holy Spirit, no longer struggling against the Spirit because of our sinful nature). Yet our bodies, like the physical body of Jesus, will be truly human.
 
In 1 Corinthians 15, after quoting Hosea’s question: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Paul concludes: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:55-57).
 
No wonder the catechism brings up comfort in both questions of Lord’s Day 22! What great comfort we have in the knowledge of the resurrection of our bodies and our everlasting life in the glory yet to be revealed!
 
But, in closing, if you and I are to be among that great multitude praising God in the glory yet to be revealed, we must have true saving faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is no entrance into heaven except by saving faith in Him who alone is “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). 
 
Shortly after World War 2 ended, John Peterson, a hymn writer of that era, brought a hymn about heaven entitled, “Beyond the Sunset Mountains” to his publisher. The editor at the publishing house looked it over.  “We would like to use it,” he said, “but I have one suggestion. Can you take out this reference to Jesus and expand a little more on heaven itself?”
 
“Heaven without Jesus?” exclaimed Peterson. “Never!”
 
As he brought the hymn to another publisher he was already forming in his thoughts the words to a new hymn entitled, “I Have No Song to Sing, But That of Christ my King.”
 
Can the same be said of you and me this evening?  Do you and I truly know Christ through saving faith in Him alone? If so, we have the beginning of eternal joy even now, in this life of many tribulations, sorrows and tears. And in the life to come we will have that perfect blessedness which “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.” Amen!
 
 
 - bulletin outline –
 
 
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a
building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
                                                                                                 2 Corinthians 5:1
 
                                     “Perfect and Eternal Blessedness”
                                     2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Lord’s Day 22
 
I. Those who have true saving faith in Jesus Christ are guaranteed an eternal home:
      1) Designed by the only perfect architect (Hebrews 11:10)
 
 
      2) Built by the master carpenter (John 14:2-3)
 
 
      3) Protected with an eternal guarantee (5, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
 
 
II. Those who by grace have saving faith in Jesus, will live in this eternal home
     with resurrected bodies (1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58) that will:
      1) Bear a likeness to the body of Jesus (Philippians 3:20-21)
 
 
      2) Be our own body, gloriously transformed (Job 19:25-27)
 
 
      3) Never again experience suffering (Revelation 21:1-4)
 
 
III. Our response: We face life and death with confidence as we live by faith,
      not by sight (7), seeking to praise and please our gracious God (9)
 
  

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Ted Gray

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