I want to share yesterday’s sermon from church with you in this article. I was asked by our senior pastor Vasile, to preach on the resurrection of the dead. He has been preaching through the Gospel of Mark for the past 2 years (if you know his traveling schedule then you know why it has been over 2 years). He was supposed to preach the message this past Sunday. He prepared everything and posted invitations to hear the sermon on all the social networks. Then, on Saturday, while visiting the southern part of Moldova, he got snowed in. He called me and asked me to prepare the same message and preach it the next day since he had already made all the announcements. I agreed and then spent the rest of my Saturday with my nose in the Bible. I was so thrilled to see what was there. I have studied aspects of the resurrection in the different Bible studies that I have studied but I had never studied the topic as thorough. As I studied I began to see 2 sermons and prayed about how to combine the 2, still having everything make sense in the 40 minute sermon. I told the church that we could stay the rest of the day and study the topic verse by verse, but I figured everybody had already planned other things. I decided to focus on the first part of the message, giving attention to the attitude of the Sadducees and then with the second half of the sermon, giving a general overview of the resurrection. I will attempt the same here.
As you know, the concept of resurrection from the dead is a hot topic, and has been throughout the ages. Some say there is no such thing while others say that there is. Still others say that it is impossible to know “who knows” is their response. I would like to share 3 quotes with you from 3 very different people on the topic of the resurrection of the dead.
I was raised with the notion that it was OK to ask questions, and it was OK to say, I’m not sure. I believe, but I’m not quite so certain about the resurrection. (Peter Jennings)
“According to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.” (Dr. Simon Greenleaf (a very famous Harvard University professor of Law))
Dr. Frank Morrison (a rationalistic lawyer) decided to take three years off from his law practice in order to try to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After three years of intense study, he found that the sheer weight of the evidence compelled him to conclude that Jesus Christ actually did rise from the dead. As a consequence he wrote the famous book entitled “Who Moved the Stone?”
Let’s take a look and see what the Bible, the plumb line of Truth, teaches on the subject of the resurrection. First we turn to Mark 12:18-27:
Then the Sadducees came to Him, who say there is no resurrection. And they asked Him, saying, Teacher, Moses wrote to us, If a man’s brother die and leaves his wife, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up seed to his brother. And there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died; neither did he leave any seed. And the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as a wife. And answering Jesus said to them, Do you not err because of this, not knowing Scriptures, nor the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are as the angels in Heaven. And as regards the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses how God spoke to him in the Bush, saying, “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?” He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. Therefore you greatly err.
In order to understand this discussion that the Sadducees had with Jesus we need to understand a bit of the context. The Sadducees were a sect of the Jewish religion during the time of Jesus Christ. They were opposite the Pharisees and were almost like enemies, each calling the other heretics. The Pharisees believed strictly in the written Word of God while the Sadducees believed in the written Word when it was convenient and the oral traditions when it was convenient. Their motto was “the Word of God and . . . ” very similar to the Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons of today. Both the Pharisees and Sadducees had common ground though because they both hated Jesus with a passion because He told them the Truth and showed them where they were wrong (even though He also offered them the solution they desperately needed). The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection so one of their teachings was no eternal punishment for the way that you live on this earth. Knowing this, let’s take a look at the question that they ask Jesus and see what we can discover about their motives and about ourselves.
In verse 18 we learn that they do not believe in the resurrection and they say that openly. Everyone knows their beliefs because they share them with others. They come to Jesus with a hypothetical question that really does not matter to them because they already have the answer.
The attitude of their hearts is revealed through their scenario and actions. They are looking to test Jesus, that is to tempt Him into making a mistake so that they can argue with Him and demonstrate that He is wrong and that they are right (like little children on the playground). They claim to be great students of the Word of God yet when the Word of God in flesh stands before them, they do not humbly seek answers to their question but instead they try to prove that they know more than God Himself. Their intentions are evil and they try to use the Scriptures (incorrectly of course) to justify themselves and trip up Jesus. If you have read Matthew 4:1-11 and Genesis 3:1-6 then you will know that Satan uses those same tactics. In John chapter 8 Jesus says that the Pharisees and Sadducees have Satan as their father because they act like him. He is correct in doing that and has the proof right here from Mark 12.
What about you dear friend? Do you come to God to learn something new or do you come with your preconceived ideas (your mind already made up)? Why do you study the Scriptures, so that you can put others down by beating them in an argument? What do you do with the wisdom that you have gained from the Word of God? Do you use it to build others up or tear them down? What kind of attitude do you have toward the Word of God and others? Are you like the Sadducees or are you humble, willing to learn so that you can help others?
Let’s see what truths we can learn about the resurrection from the brief conversation with the Sadducees. First of all, Jesus does not deny the resurrection. In fact He confirms it. As Christians, followers of Jesus, we believe every word that proceeds from His mouth and therefore, we must believe that the resurrection is true. We have even more proof in our times than the Pharisees and Sadducees had back then because this scenario took place before the physical resurrection of Christ. The Sadducees used the Scriptures incorrectly to justify their false views and Jesus responds with the Scriptures to show them why they do not understand the concept of the resurrection from the Bible. They have a spiritual problem and Jesus uses the conversation to address their problem (similar to what He did with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well). He tells them the reason that they do not understand the resurrection is because they do not understand the God of the resurrection. IN other Words, God is not their God, or like He claims in the Gospel of John, God is not their Father because their father is the devil. God is the God of the living (spiritually speaking) and not the God of the dead (dead in their sins). The Bible clearly states that we are all dead in our sins from birth, separated from God and the only way that we can come to life spiritually, is through Jesus Christ.
And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience; among whom we also had our way of life in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), (Eph 2:1-5)
What about you my friend, have you passed from spiritual death to spiritual life through faith in Jesus Christ? Have you repented of your sins and been born again? If not, then now is the time to resurrect spiritually, moving from the devil’s team to God’s. It is very simple. Turn away from your sins and dedicate your life to God, choosing to live a life of obedience on a daily basis.
Now I want to give you a general overview of the resurrection from a Biblical perspective. I will give the verses and recommend that you study these truths on your own. I want to give a short guide to help you in your study. There are 3 main passages that you need to study carefully: 1Corinthians 15:35-58, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, Revelation 20:1-15. The Bible teaches that there are 2 resurrections from the dead. The first resurrection is for Christians, who died after:
- believing in the Gospel
- repenting of their sins
- being born again
- living a life of faithfulness to God
At the rapture, when Jesus comes to take the church home and reward those who were faithful, those who believed and then died before His return will be resurrected and changed. The rest of the believers who are alive when Christ returns will be transformed and also will meet Christ in the sky. This is known as the first resurrection and it is only for believers. The believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, not to be judged for their sins (their sins were already judged on the cross) but instead they will give an account of how they lived their lives after being born again, what they did with the talents that God gave to them.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive the things done through the body, according to that which he has done, whether good or bad. (2Co 5:10)
The second resurrection will take place just before the Great White Throne Judgment where God Himself will sit and judge all the people who have died without believing in the Gospel, repenting of their sins, and being born again. They will be judged for every single sin that they ever committed.
And I saw a great white throne, and Him sitting on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And a place was not found for them. And I saw the dead, the small and the great, stand before God. And books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead in it. And death and hell delivered up the dead in them. And each one of them was judged according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire. (Rev 20:11-15)
As you can see, all people will resurrect. Which resurrection will you take part in; the first (for reward) or the second (for judgment)? The choice is yours to make. You cannot choose to resurrect or not but you can choose at which resurrection you will be present. Do not wait until it is too late. Choose repentance and faith now and guarantee yourself a spot at the first resurrection. May God bless you.