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Because He Lives: the Reason for Our Hope

Tom Pennington 1 Corinthians 15:12-20


Well, this morning, of course, Rocky and Sue's family, our entire church family, are mourning the loss of our beloved friend, Sue Wyatt. The grief of her family, as is perfectly normal, is, of course, profound. And we all grieve deeply with them as well. And it's right that we should. Our Lord wept over the reality of death and the pain and the suffering that it causes as He came to the funeral of His friend Lazarus, even though He knew he was going to raise him from the dead. And so, it's right that we grieve, that we weep today, with them.

But it's also important that we remember that, as Paul said, "Even though we grieve, we do not grieve as the rest, who have no hope." Because Sue is still alive. Her perfected soul is fully conscious this very moment in the presence of the Lord she loved. And in a future resurrection, that is guaranteed to come, she will receive a new body that will be like our Lord's glorified body. A body that will never again know the ravages of rheumatoid arthritis. All of that is possible because our Savior lives. His resurrection is the reason for our hope.

Now, I have to confess to you that even after I became a Christian, many years ago now, of course I believed in the resurrection of Christ, I believed it to be true, but I also have to confess to you that it never really, the reality of it, the ramifications of it, the consequence of it, never really gripped my soul. But all of that changed on April 21, 1984. It was the night before Easter and I was in seminary, and Sheila and I had already begun to date, but for reasons I don't remember, we couldn't go out that evening. And so, I was at home in my apartment alone, and I, in preparation for Easter, decided to read through that magnificent fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians.

And, it was one of those times, if you're a Christian, and if you've been a Christian for any length of time at all, you've had this experience, where something that you know, something that you understood cognitively, you read it and the Holy Spirit grants illumination and you just begin to understand it in a way you never did before, and it grips your soul, and it changes your whole perspective. And you're really never really the same as a result of understanding that truth in that way. It's a work of the Spirit of God.

And that night, that happened to me in 1 Corinthians 15. My heart was gripped by the truth I read there. I took more than an hour, hour and a half, I don't know, reading and re-reading, and meditating on, and praying back to the Lord the truths of that magnificent chapter. The moment that I set my Bible down, the phone rang. It was my brother. My oldest brother calling me to tell me that our dad had just had a massive heart-attack and had died. As I stood in front of his casket just a few days later down in Mobile, the words of 1 Corinthians 15 came flooding back into my soul.

It was so obvious as I looked at that body there in the casket in front of me, that that wasn't my dad, that wasn't the man I loved, that was merely the tent in which he had lived out his earthly life. And I knew with my heart and with conviction what I'd always known with my mind, and that was, Paul was right, I would see my father again. And Friday night as we gathered at the hospital with Sue's family, I found confidence and hope in that same great truth. You see, what makes the future resurrection of those we love, and frankly everything else that we hold dear as believers possible, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Nowhere is that message clearer or more profound than in 1 Corinthians 15, where I invite you to turn with me this morning. Lord willing, we will return in coming weeks to our on-going study of the Sermon on the Mount. But this morning I just want to encourage our hearts as a church family, with the great truth that's found here in this passage.

Now Paul's purpose in writing 1 Corinthians 15 was to respond to something that he had heard about the Corinthians. Notice in verse 12, "how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" The Corinthian church was made up mostly of Greeks. The Greeks for the most part believed in the immortality of the soul. But they found the idea of a resurrected physical body to be absolutely ridiculous. In fact, you remember, in Athens when Paul taught there at Mars Hill, the philosophers of that day listened intently until he spoke of the resurrection and then Luke says they began to sneer. That was the response of the Greeks. And there were a lot of Greeks in this church.

Paul had even heard that there were influential men in the Corinthian church who denied that the bodies of believers would ever be raised. They were apparently teaching that once the believer's body dies, he continues to exist, but only as a spirit. That's the false teaching that Paul is addressing in this chapter.

Now notice the flow of his argument. The first eleven verses of this chapter is all about the gospel. Paul wants us to know that the resurrection is the central event in Christianity, and it is at the core of the gospel. He says in verse 3, "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received." Here's the gospel, the kerygma, the basic message of the truth about Christ, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scripture," and then that He appeared to many. That's the gospel. And at the core of the gospel message is the resurrection.

Now, when you come to verses 12 through 19, Paul gets to the heart of his argument. He sets out to show the contradiction in the Corinthians' thinking. It was illogical for them to believe in Christ's resurrection on the one hand, and to deny their own on the other. Notice what he says in verse 12,

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.

Paul is going, for the sake of argument, to say for a moment, let's assume that there is no resurrection of those who have physically died. He says, listen, if you deny the concept of a physical resurrection for believers, then logically you have also denied that there's ever been a physical resurrection. And that means Christ hasn't been raised, and the results of that are absolutely staggering.

In verses 14 to 19, Paul catalogues several frightening consequences of their theological position. He wants to show them and to show us the absolute centrality of the resurrection of our Lord. If Christ has not been raised, then everything is lost. If this stone is removed, then Christianity collapses into rubble and it's fit only for the trash bin of history's dead religions. If Jesus is still dead, then the consequences are beyond calculation, beyond our imagination.

So, in this passage, Paul records for us five tragic consequences if Christ has not been raised. Now stay with me, the news is at first bad, but it gets really good. First of all, the first consequence without Christ's resurrection is that there is no legitimate gospel. Verse 14, "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain." He's not talking here about his proclamation, his verbally speaking. He's talking about the content of his preaching.

Paul has already defined the content of his preaching in the verses we read, verses 3 through 5, it's the gospel, it's the good news. He says, listen if Christ hasn't been raised, then the message of the gospel that Christ died for our sins, he was buried, he rose again, he was seen by witnesses, is "vain." The word "vain," the Greek word, simply means empty, without substance, absolutely void. If Christ has not been raised, the gospel is a worthless message. And the very foundation of the Christian faith is built on sinking sand.

When I lived in California, just a few miles north of my home there in Los Angeles was a monument, a monument that marked the second worst disaster in California history. On March 1, 1926, the Saint Francis Dam was completed in that canyon. It was some 600 feet wide and 180 feet high. Two years after it was completed, almost two years to the day, on March 12, 1928, that massive dam failed, and it sent a 60-yard-high wall of water coursing through that canyon. And by the time the flood waters reached the Pacific Ocean some five and a half hours later, in its path it had left nearly 500 dead.

The constructor of that dam, the designer and constructor of the dam, was Mulholland, the famous LA engineer. When he learned of the disaster he was completely devastated. In fact, he never really recovered, nor did his career. How did it happen? Well, as they've looked back and investigated, they discovered that the dam itself was well built. The dam was structurally sound, but it was doomed from the beginning because, unknown to Mulholland with the instruments and devices that were available to him at the time, the ground beneath the dam, the ground on which he had built it, was fatally flawed.

In the same way, the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the gospel. If you remove it, the entire structure collapses, just like Mulholland's dam. Do you really understand how crucial the resurrection is to our faith? You see, you have, if you're in Christ, you believe the gospel, you believe the good news. That good news that's summarized by Paul in what I think is my favorite verse in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 5:21, where he says, "He," that is, God, "made Him," that is Christ, "to be sin" for us. You see, on the cross God credited to Jesus Christ every sin of every sinner who would ever believe. And for those hours God poured out His full justice, His full wrath, on every single one of those sins, until His wrath was completely exhausted, and the debt was paid.

But Paul goes on to say, not only does Christ get our sins, but he says, "so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." We get Jesus's righteousness. We get His perfect life. As you've heard me recount it countless times before, on the cross God treated Jesus as if He had lived your sinful life, so that forever He could treat you as if you had lived Jesus's perfect life. That's the gospel. But if Christ's body has not been raised, Paul says, if it remains in some obscure Jewish grave, the good news that he and the apostles preached is nothing more than fiction. If there is no resurrection, there is no legitimate gospel.

That brings us to a second tragic consequence if Christ has not been raised, and that is, there is no reasonable faith. Verse 14 goes on to say, "if Christ has not been raised," then "your faith also is vain." Paul says to the Corinthians, listen, you heard the gospel I preached, you believed that gospel, but if Christ isn't raised, not only is that gospel worthless, so is your faith. It's vain, it's empty. It's without reality. You may believe it, but it's worthless. Why is that? Because the resurrection is a crucial part of the gospel message. It's what we believe, Romans chapter 10, verse 9 says "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord." This is how you become a Christian, you confess Jesus as your Lord, your master, your sovereign, and you "believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead." Only then will you be saved, or spiritually rescued, from God's justice against your sins.

You see, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the substitutionary death of Christ are inextricably linked. They stand or fall together. Both of them must be believed in order to be a Christian. And both are historical events that either happened the way the apostles described, and our faith is reasonable, or they are fabrications, and our faith is illogical and unreasonable.

You know, we live in a day when people want to have it both ways. We live with the post-modernists. Post-modernism insists that there is no absolute objective truth. And so, to the post-modernists reality is whatever you want it to be. Whatever is truth for you. If it helps you, great. You know, we hear people say things like, "You know if Christianity helps you, then that's wonderful. I'm glad it's good for you." Folks, that's ridiculous. Frankly, it's stupid. Alright? I know I shouldn't use that word with your kids in here, but it is, it's just stupid. There is objective truth and what you believe matters, and whether or not what you believe is really objectively true, matters.

As you know, I struggle with allergies as many of you do here in Texas. Let's just say, for a moment, that I had a major lapse of my thinking capacities, and I chose to believe something that I read on the internet. And specifically, and specifically, you know it's true, I mean, right? I read a site, you know, this sort of, self-made medicine site, that says, look, you can help your allergies, I know this sounds crazy, but you can help your allergies if you will take a little bit of this that is technically poison. It'll help your allergies. And they have all the testimonials of the people who have done it and been helped, and they have, you know they found some doctor somewhere that would put his name on it, and, you know, it's all there. And I believe that. I really believe it. And I decide I'm sick and tired of my allergies and so I'm going to try this. I'm going to take this poison to help with my allergies. Now, you tell me what will happen. It'll relieve my allergies. Just not exactly as I'd hoped.

You see no amount of believing is going to help me if the object of my faith is wrong. And if our faith is in a risen savior and He's still dead then our faith is absolutely worthless. Our confidence in the gospel is completely indefensible and unreasonable. It is illogical. Ludicrous. If Christ has not been raised, there has been no legitimate gospel, there is no reasonable faith.

And thirdly, there is no reliable revelation. Verse 15, "Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised." It's interesting, that verb that's translated "we are found," the Greek verb, is often used of discovering the true nature of someone's character. In this case, Paul says, if the Corinthians are right, and the dead aren't raised, and Christ hasn't been raised, then all of those who have taught that there is a resurrection are false witnesses of God. Paul says we're all liars. We have falsely accused God of doing something He didn't do if, in fact, He didn't raise Christ from the dead. Notice he says there, not only is their witness or testimony false, but it is "against God."

It is a very serious thing to claim to speak for God when God hasn't sent you and He hasn't spoken. Again and again in the Old Testament God confronts those false prophets. You remember in Jeremiah's time, Jeremiah 23, God says this,

I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people.

Jeremiah goes on in Jeremiah 23 to announce God's judgment on those prophets.

Listen, if Christ hasn't been raised, then all of those who have taught that God raises the dead are just like those prophets in Jeremiah's day. They are liars. They are false prophets. They are not to be trusted. Now whom does that include in this context? Well, clearly it includes the 500 plus eyewitnesses of the resurrection back up in verses 5 to 7. They're liars because they say they saw the risen Christ, and they didn't. It includes Paul, notice in verse 8, "last of all . . . He appeared to me." It includes the apostles, verse 5, Jesus appeared to Peter and the twelve. Verse 7, to James and to all the apostles. In fact, according to verse 11, they all preached the same message Paul did, centered in the resurrection. If there's no resurrection, they're all liars. None of them can be trusted.

But it's worse than that. Notice in verse 4 it says, "He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." What is he talking about? What we call the Old Testament. That means if Christ hasn't been raised and the Old Testament said He would, you can't trust the Old Testament either. In Isaiah 53 it talks about the messiah being raised. You can't trust it. It's all lies. But it's even worse than that. Christ himself would be a liar if there's no resurrection.

Turn with me to John chapter 2. This is the very beginning of His ministry. In fact, this is probably within the first week of His earthly ministry beginning. John chapter 2, you remember He cleansed the temple for the first time, beginning of His ministry, He'll do it again at the end of His ministry. And in response to that, verse 18 of John 2, the Jews said to him,

"What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

Of course, the Jews misunderstood. They looked at Herod's temple and they said, look it's already been under construction for 46 years and it's still not finished, "will You raise it up in three days?" But, John says, "He was speaking of the temple of His body." Jesus says, you want to know My authority? You want to know the source of my authority? It's my resurrection. If I am not raised from the dead, then I have no authority. That was at the beginning of His ministry. Let's look at the end of His ministry.

Turn over a few pages, just a few pages, back to Luke. Luke chapter 18. And notice verse 31. This is right at the very end. They are on their way to Jerusalem for the final Passover where Jesus will be slain. Verse 31,

Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again."

These are Jesus's own words about Himself. Do you understand that if there is no resurrection nothing Christ said or did can be trusted? I say this respectfully, but if He wasn't raised from the dead, He was a liar. Paul and the apostles, who together wrote or supervised the writing of the entire New Testament, it's all lies. They're all liars. The Old Testament, it's a lie. It can't be trusted. If Christ has not been raised, the Bible you hold in your hand has no more value than the writings of Confucius, or Muhammad, or Joseph Smith. There is no trustworthy message from God. There is no reliable revelation.

The fourth tragic consequence if Christ has not been raised, is found in verses 16 and 17: There is no real forgiveness. Paul, in verse 16, recounts the flow of his argument, he says, "For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless."

The word "worthless" here speaks of that which produces no results. And then he goes on to tell us what results our faith doesn't produce if there's no resurrection, and that's real forgiveness. He says, the end of verse 17, "you are still in your sins." In other words, the death of Christ accomplished nothing in regard to sin.

Why is that? It's because the New Testament connects everywhere, the resurrection of Christ with the death of Christ as how forgiveness is purchased for us. One example is Romans chapter 4 verse 25, where Paul says, He was "delivered over." There's His death, for "our transgressions," and He was raised up for "our justification." You see, it's a package, the resurrection, listen carefully, the resurrection proved that God had accepted the sacrificial death of His Son.

If I were to ask you this morning to pull out your wallets. You can relax, I'm not about to take an offering or something. If I were to ask you to pull out your wallets and pull out a dollar bill, or any piece of paper currency in your wallet, you would discover that on each of those pieces of currency there is an official seal. It is the official seal of the US Department of the Treasury. That seal has been on every piece of currency that has ever been produced by our government.

In fact, the government began printing money back in in 1862 when greenback currency was issued to finance the Civil War. There have always been seals on that money. It's interesting, at the very first, back in 1862, there were actually five guys who were stuck in the attic of the main Treasury building and their sole job was to put a seal on every piece of money that was printed. Why? Because that seal showed that the money was real. It showed that the government would accept it as legal tender.

In the same way, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was God's own seal on His redemptive work. It was His seal of approval that He had accepted His sacrifice for sin as a payment for our debt. It was God's way of saying that He had accepted the payment of the debt that we owed Him. So, the resurrection is crucial, because without that we have no certainty that Christ's sacrifice was real. That it accomplished anything.

Charles Spurgeon wrote of the importance of the resurrection in some words that I first read when I was in seminary many years ago. I've read them many times since, and they are a great source of encouragement. Listen to what Spurgeon wrote:

God cannot—and here we speak with reverence too—the everlasting God cannot reject a sinner who pleads the blood of Christ: for if He did so, it were to deny Himself. He never can revoke that divine acceptance that is the resurrection; and if you go to God, my hearer, pleading simply and only the blood of Him that did hang upon the tree, God must un-God Himself before He can reject you, or reject that blood.

It was accepted and the resurrection proved it. But if Christ was not raised then the sacrifice that He made was not accepted by God and we remain in our sins. There is no real forgiveness. So, if Christ has not been raised, there is no legitimate gospel. No reasonable faith. No reliable revelation. No real forgiveness.

And finally, there's no eternal life. Look at verse 18, "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." Now understand, this is where Paul has been driving. He's going to spend the rest of the chapter talking about the resurrection of believers. This was the problem. This was the point. Everything builds to this. The word "then" that begins verse 18 implies that this is the inevitable conclusion of what he has just said. Because we are still in our sins the same must be true of those who have fallen asleep, or died, in Christ. If the Corinthians were right about resurrection, then those who have died in Christ, that is who died confessing and believing in Christ, died still in their sins and now they have perished.

The word "perish" is Paul's word to describe the condition of those who are forever separated from God. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 he says, "the word," or the message, "of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." 2 Corinthians 4:3, "if our gospel is veiled," or hidden, "it is veiled to those who are perishing." They don't see it; they don't get it. 2 Thessalonians 2:10 describes those who perish as those who, "did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved."

You see, Paul and the rest of Scriptures reject entirely the idea of annihilation. That is, the idea that a person dies and with his or her death ceases to exist altogether. In fact, our Lord Himself, in Matthew 25 describes an eternal existence for all people, either eternal life or, He uses exactly the same Greek, eternal suffering. That's it. Those are the choices.

So, Paul is not saying here that those who died believing in Christ have ceased to exist. Rather he's saying that if Christ has not been raised, then their sins weren't really forgiven. They are lost for good. They will be forever separated from God. And then Paul concludes his argument in verse 19, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." Here he's summarizing the tragic consequences if Christ had not been raised: The gospel has no substance; Faith in Christ is worthless; God's Word is a lie; We live still under the penalty of our sins.

And again, here's where he was driving: all the believers who have died are irretrievably lost and we too will be forever separated from God at the moment of our death. Therefore, we are of all men most deserving of pity and compassion. That's the bad news. But notice verse 20, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead." The word "now" is not a chronological word; it's a logical word. You see, for the last few verses, for the sake of argument Paul has assumed for just a moment that Christ has not been raised. "Now" brings us back to reality.

I don't often recall my dreams. I'm very seldom aware that I dream. I know I do as we all do, but I'm just unaware of it. But occasionally I have a recurring nightmare. May not be a nightmare for you, it's a nightmare for me. The nightmare is that I arrive at a large, packed auditorium 10 minutes before the event is supposed to begin and I learn on arriving that I'm supposed to speak, and I am completely unprepared. That's a nightmare. Maybe you have a different kind of recurring nightmare that is more ominous, has more serious overtones and repercussions.

But you know that feeling when you wake up from the nightmare, when you begin, it begins to dawn on you that it's all been a dream? That it's not true. That's the feeling you should have when you get to verse 20—It's not true. It's not true at all. "But now Christ has been raised." Welcome back to reality. You see here's Paul's point: because Christ has been raised from the dead, all of those terrible consequences aren't true at all. In fact, exactly the opposite is true.

The gospel is a trustworthy message of hope. Your faith is reasonable. And your confidence in that gospel message is thoroughly and completely justified. Everybody who's taught about the resurrection can be believed and trusted. That means that Christ, and Paul, and the eyewitnesses, and the Old Testament, the Scripture is God's reliable revelation. Christ's death really does produce genuine and permanent forgiveness.

Believer, your sins are gone forever in Jesus Christ. And again, here's where Paul was driving. No Christian ever really experiences death in the sense of separation from God, because all who have died are now in the presence of Jesus Christ and will someday experience the resurrection of their bodies just like Jesus did. Look at 1 Corinthians 15 verse 21,

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all who believe in Him will be made alive.

It's like Jesus our Lord said, I love it, in John 14, when He said, "because I live, you will live also." You see we have great confidence in those five realities. Why is that? Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That's the reason for our hope in every way.

Now if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, if there has been a moment in your life when you have understood your utter sinfulness before God and you have repented of those sins and that rebellion against Him. You've put your faith in Jesus Christ. You have confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord. How are you to apply this passage this morning? Well, Paul doesn't leave it a mystery. He tells us exactly how you are to apply it. Because in the rest of chapter 15, Paul explains what our resurrection, and our resurrection bodies will be like. And when he comes to the end of the chapter, he applies not only the truth of our future resurrection, but Sue's future resurrection, and the resurrection of all of those who have died in Christ.

You see, we have to live with the reality that death still is, and what do we do, what do we do now? How do we live with the reality that while, yes, the resurrection is coming, here and now our loved ones die? What do we do with that? Well, he explains in 1 Corinthians 15 verse 55,

O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

In other words, God's law tells us what we ought to do, we sin and violate that law because we are by nature sinners, and with that comes death. Death's a reality for everyone because all have sinned, and therefore all die—spiritually and eventually physically. Verse 57, "but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus has removed the sting of death from us by taking its sting Himself.

So, how now do we live? "Therefore," verse 58, "my beloved brethren." "Therefore," here's the application, "be steadfast." That is, be steadfast in your conviction of the truth of the gospel. Christ did die for our sins. He was raised from the dead. Be "immovable" in your confidence that just as He was raised, you too will be raised from the dead. And be "always abounding in the work of the Lord," because you know your labor is not "is not in vain in the Lord."

I'm reminded of Paul's words in a sermon in the book of Acts in which he makes this passing comment about David. He says, "David, after he had served" God's purpose "in his own generation, fell asleep." That's how it's true for all of us, all of those that we love who have died. It's true for Sue. She has served God's purpose in her own generation and God has taken her to Himself. But He's left us here. He's left us here because His purpose for us, in our generation, is not yet complete. And so, you and I must continue to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that that work isn't in vain, there's a future.

Maybe you're here this morning and you know in your heart that you don't know God. You know that you've never repented of your sin. You know you've never embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. How should you respond to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Well, Paul explains it very clearly at the end of a sermon he preached on Mars Hill in Acts 17. This is what he said. He said, "God is now declaring . . . that all people everywhere," that's you,

should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed.

God through the apostle Paul says, listen, God one day is going to stop this show that we're in. He's going to stop the life we're living. He's going to stop the world as we know it, and there's going to be a judgment. It's going to happen. And it's going to be through a man He's appointed. Who is that man? He goes on to say, He "furnished proof to all men," of who that would be, "by raising Him from the dead."

Listen, there's one very simple application of the reality of the resurrection for you and that is, repent. Turn from your sin and seek God's forgiveness in Christ. Because if you don't, someday Paul says, you will stand before Jesus not as Savior and Lord, but as judge and as executioner.

Now I want to end this morning for us who are in Christ with a very familiar passage. Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Here Paul brings everything we've learned together. Verse 13, 1 Thessalonians 4, "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope." We grieve, we just don't grieve as those who have no hope. Notice he says, "those who have fallen asleep." Don't misunderstand that. He's not talking about "soul sleep." He doesn't mean when a person dies, they are unconscious.

What he's talking about is death as we perceive it. We look at that person's body and it looks like they've fallen into a deep sleep. That's the reason for the imagery. But in other places the Scripture's very clear that to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord—to be thinking and worshipping. In fact, we see that in the Lord's story in Luke 16 about both the rich man and Lazarus. They're both fully conscious, fully alert, after the moment of death. And so, when he talks about having fallen asleep, he's talking more about how it looks to us when we look at their body.

So, he says, I don't want you to grieve like the rest who have no hope. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." In other words, when the rapture comes, when the return of Christ comes, they're already with Him. Their perfected spirits, their perfected souls, are already with Him, enjoying His presence. He will bring them with Him.

And then he says, "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord," if we happen to live until Christ returns, we're not going to "precede," or go before, in getting our glorified bodies, "those who have fallen asleep." "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." In other words, their redeemed spirits that come back with him from heaven will first be reunited with glorified bodies. And then it is our turn. Verse 17, "Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds." We get our glorified bodies, we join them, "to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord."

You notice those two expressions in verse 17? It doesn't get any better than this, "with them," meaning those who are in Christ, who've died before us, and with our Lord. The one we love supremely. He ends by saying in verse 18, "Therefore comfort one another with these words." Because He lives, death is not final. We have comfort and hope.

Let's pray together. Our Father, we bless You and thank You, for what You have revealed to us. Thank You, Father, for the resurrection. Thank You, that because our Lord lives everything matters, everything we believe is true. Your word is true. Our faith is real and reasonable. The gospel is the truth. And Father, we bless You and thank You that we have real forgiveness. And that those we love who die in Christ are with You now as perfected spirits and that You will bring them with You when You come, give them glorified bodies, and us as well. And we will forever be with them and with our Lord, whom we love most of all. Lord, may we comfort one another with these words. I pray for the Wyatt family. May they find great comfort in these truths. And for all of us as well.

Father, I pray for the person here this morning who has never acknowledged Jesus as Lord. Lord I pray that today would be the time when they understand the truth of the gospel. May your Spirit bring conviction of their sin. Help them see their guilt before you. Help them see the reality of impending judgment. And the wonderful beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And may they run to You for the forgiveness that only You can offer, in and through your Son, through His perfect life, through His substitutionary death, and through His resurrection. We pray it in Jesus's name, amen.