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Entries in Death (3)


A Song of Salvation II

Isaiah 26:16-21; 27:1.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 7, 2016.

As this song of chapter 26 comes to a close, it focuses on a problem that is universal for people who put their trust in God.  People who trust God live with great promises that are future within a context that often seems like those promises will never come true.  Countless millions have died waiting for the complete promises of God.  Yet, God has incorporated this into His plan.  His people must simply wait for His deliverance and the time of jubilation that will follow, even in death.  This sets up the key idea that this life is not all there is.  There will come a day when all the Righteous of all times will be resurrected and see the completion of God’s promises together.  Thus, we will all experience this jubilation as a family of the Redeemed at the same time.

At the same time, this life is still incredibly important.  It is the testing ground of where we will stand in the day to come.  Will I be swept away by judgment, or will I be singing with the Righteous after the judgment has gone by?  The Resurrection is God’s plan to set everything on its head and then set all things in order.

The Dependency of the Righteous

Verse 16 continues the theme of how the righteous are dependent upon God.  In verse 13 Isaiah had mentioned that other masters had ruled over Israel.  We pointed out then that this was God’s discipline for their disobedience.  Here in verse 16 the theme of discipline is picked up again.  In the midst of “trouble” (their discipline) they turned towards the Lord in prayer.  The word “visited” here is interesting because normally the Scriptures talk about God visiting us.  Sometimes He visits in the sense He is showing up to help us (like Israel being delivered from Egypt).  Other times, He visits in the sense of bringing discipline.  You could say that though God had visited them in discipline, they were visiting God with prayers of mercy.  It is easy to get angry and retreat from God in the times of our discipline.  But that will not lead to healing and deliverance.  We need delivered from our sins and God’s discipline is intended to point us in His direction.  Thus the righteous humble themselves and seek God even in times of discipline.  They know that they are completely dependent upon Him.

Verse 17 compares their times of “chastening” to labor pains.  Israel felt like all their labor pains had been for nothing and had accomplished nothing.  In a way this is true.  If it was only up to Israel (or us for that matter) nothing would be accomplished.  But God always intervenes and does through us what we cannot do on our own, if we will trust Him.  Israel had been through many times of not trusting God, being disciplined, repenting, and turning back to God.  This cycle seemed to never end.  Imagine a woman going through 9 months of pregnancy, a day or more of labor, and then the doctor says, “I’m sorry ma’am but there isn’t a baby.  You’ve just given birth to wind.”  That is the feeling Isaiah is describing into verse 18.  In our attempts at God’s things we are unable to produce any deliverance in the earth without God.  Also, the “earth dwellers” are still ruling over the earth.  Remember they are those who live without thought for God. 

The thing to keep in mind in the midst of all this is that we are not alone.  God is with us and He is also for us.  Even when it looks like the enemy has completely won, God has promised to stand up on our behalf.  The New Testament connects this idea of labor pains to how the earth will be in the Last Days leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.  Things will become increasingly painful and the pains will come faster and faster.  This may make us feel like serving God is for nothing.  But that is not true.  God has not abandoned us.  How can we know this?

Verse 19 is the answer.  All of this emotion and fear will be overturned by the Resurrection.  Those who have perished without seeing God’s ultimate deliverance will be resurrected.  Also, that resurrection is not just a spiritual thing; it is a physical thing (“with my dead body”).  You can read “my dead body” as referring to Isaiah, which would be true.  Isaiah could be saying that they should take comfort because they will all be resurrected.  However, all prophets speak what God tells them to speak.  Thus the “my dead body” could be a reference to God Himself.  This would be pointing forward to a time when God Himself would take on human flesh and die, only to be resurrected.  So this could be a reference to what Jesus would later do.  He told us that He was the resurrection and the life.  Ultimately the resurrection of Jesus gives us the proof of this coming reality and strengthens our faith so that we will never give up even in the face of death.

The phrase “you who dwell in the dust” refers to those who are in the grave.  Just as a physical grave is made in the dry ground, the Hebrews pictured the spiritual side of the grave as a dry and dusty place.  So we have a poetic picture of the resurrection.  The dead will awaken out of a dry and dusty place to sing in the midst of the dew of a new morning.  He is basically saying you were dead and your bones were dry.  But you will rise with green bones and sing to the Lord.  Thus the earth will cast out the dead.  Daniel 12 also points to this by saying, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the heavens and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  All has been recorded in the earth, none will be lost.

The Promise of the Lord to the Righteous

Verse 20 picks up the idea of the resurrection and gives an instruction and a promise to God’s people.  First there is the call to enter your chambers.  In the context this must be referring to the death that they fear will rob them of victory.  God is in a sense saying, “Don’t see death as a failure.  Rather, see it as a time of rest and peace from the struggle.  Let Me rise up and struggle for you.”  Of course this is not an excuse for suicide.  At the proper time, we will all come to the end of our life.  We need to be faithful to God in how we live this life.  But when the day of death comes, we can enter into it with peace instead of fear.  Is it true that death can actually be a “grace” to the believer?  Yes.  First, death keeps us from living forever in bodies that have been damaged by sin (both ours and others).  Second, death gives us rest from the oppression of a world bent on rebellion (imagine how Adam would feel if he were still alive).  Third, death was designed to be overcome by God.  It is only a temporary condition of a person.  Of course the resurrection is connected to the Rapture in the New Testament because when the dead are raised there will still be some believers alive.  They too will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye into glorified bodies and caught up to be at the Lord’s side.  So death is the refuge of the righteous until the day of deliverance.

Notice the phrase “the indignation.”  This is another way of referring to the Wrath of God.  Verse 21 makes it clear that there will be a final day of judgment for the whole earth.  God Himself will come out of the heavens and judge the earth.  In the New Testament it is revealed that this is Jesus.  Yes, Jesus loves us and died for us.  But He will also come back to judge those who have rejected His offer of grace and mercy.  The wrath of God will be poured out on all the earth.  Thus the righteous are protected not just from the wicked, but also from the wrath of God.  It says that God will “punish the earth dwellers for their iniquity.”  The word “punish” is the idea of settling accounts.  It reminds me of King Belshazzar in Daniel 5.  He is in the middle of throwing a party and using the holy cups and bowls from the Jerusalem Temple.  God tells Him, “You have been weighed in the balances and found lacking.  Your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”  Thus God will remove the kings and the armies of the earth.  They are lacking in any ability to support godliness and righteousness on the earth.  Their kingdoms will be taken away and given to the Righteous.

The last phrase is that the Earth will disclose her blood and will no more cover her slain.  We are told in the book of Revelation that the raising of the righteous will happen before Christ comes back (or at the same time.  It isn’t quite clear).  After 1,000 years of reigning with Jesus on this earth, the wicked dead will be raised up for a final judgment.  At this point God will create a new heavens and a new earth where no wickedness will ever be.  This is God’s promise to those who put their trust in Him.

I believe that the first verse of chapter 27 should really go with this chapter.  Regardless, let’s finish with looking at that verse.  We are told that the ancient serpent, Satan, will be slain.  He is called Leviathan because this is a sea creature the ancients were familiar with.  In fact many of the religions had mythologies about a sea creature that ruled the seas.  Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 tell us that the ancient serpent that the Bible references is in fact the Devil or Satan.  He is pictured as being in the sea because the sea was a metaphor for all the peoples of the earth (thrashing and tossing to and fro).  Satan has ruled the seas of mankind like a great sea serpent throughout history.  But God will come down and slay Him.  Though he is an immortal being, he will be slain as if he were mortal.  But the righteous that are mortal, will be raised up with immortal bodies.  This is the ultimate victory that God has planned for us all.  So let’s trust in God.  He will slay our enemy and redeem us from our own frailty because He loves us.

Song Salvation Audio


The True Jesus: Authority Over Death

Last week we saw how Jesus had authority over a terminal sickness.  The next section in Luke 7:11-17, shows that even if someone dies, Jesus still has authority over even death.

The story takes place about 12 miles up into the hills from the Sea of Galilee near Nazareth at the city of Nain.  Jesus and his disciples had left Capernaum and walked up to this city.  They were also followed by a large crowd that wanted to see what Jesus would do and hear what He would teach.

His Authority Over Death

As Jesus, disciples, and crowd approach the town of Nain, they are met by a funeral procession coming out of the city.  This tragic scene would be sad enough.  But, we are told that the situation gets worse.  The woman was a widow.  So she had already dealt with a tragedy of losing her husband.  Now she has the increased tragedy of losing her son and having to bury him.  Yet, even worse, this was her only son.  That means the woman would also be worrying about how she is going to live.  Who will take care of her?  Like Naomi in the book of Ruth, she has suffered great bitterness and yet we do not know if this woman has a Ruth like Naomi did.

It is in this moment that we are told that Jesus had compassion on the woman.  Now compassion is sometimes referring to the act of helping someone without regard to the emotions behind it.  But, here it is describing an inner emotion of love and pity that Jesus feels towards her.  This emotion leads Him to decide to do an act of compassion.  Jesus was not an unfeeling being that mysteriously did miracles.  Rather, he had compassion upon those who were bound by sin and sickness.  You might recall that when Jesus hears that Lazarus, His friend, had died that He wept.  So Jesus tells the woman to not weep.  Weeping and grieving is normal and God is not against it.   However, Jesus is about to turn her weeping into Joy.  He is giving her hope.  When the miracle worker says don’t cry, you begin to hope that He means He is going to help you.

Next Jesus steps up to the open coffin and simply speaks to the dead corpse.  This resurrection scene demonstrates the power of Jesus.  He does not require great build up and multiple attempts.  When you contrast this simple action to Elisha’s resurrection of the young boy in 2 Kings 4, you see the tremendous command that Jesus has over death.  This is not to put down Elisha, but rather to lift up the Truth about Jesus.  Jesus simply commands the young man to rise up.  This amazing power of speaking a word and flesh coming to life is parallel with God in the creation of Adam.  There he forms the man and then breathes life into the form.  The words of Jesus cause life to enter this dead body and further more heals the original problem that led to a death in the first place.  Thus God not only has the power to create, but also to recreate. 

Like the resurrection of Lazarus, this young man is brought back to life in a mortal body.  He is not immortal like Jesus was after his resurrection, but rather, restored to normal life.  He will eventually grow old and die of something else and at that point Jesus won’t be there.  The power of this story is not the hope that we can escape death if we have enough faith.  God does not show up in miraculous power in most of the sorrows of our life.  Even this woman could wonder where Jesus was when her husband died.  Yet, we see here that despite all of that Jesus does care.  God does care about the sorrow of mankind.  Part of the work of Jesus is to give man the evidence he needs to believe that God will overcome all those sorrows, even death.

In John 11 Jesus promises that a greater day of Resurrection is coming on the Last Day of this Age.  This is a day when Christ will command all the righteous to be raised from the dead and have eternal, spiritual bodies.  They are called spiritual because they are created by the Spirit of God.  But don’t be confused.  They are material bodies.

The apostles also pointed to this great promise as the Great Hope of all believers:  that we will be resurrected by Christ on the last day.  It is what makes all our sacrifices and difficulties in this life bearable.  Paul gives the most description of this event in 1 Corinthians 15 if you want to understand it more.  Let me just list some of these apostolic encouragements.  “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.  “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. 

The People Are Amazed

There is a part of us all that longs to have been there or to see something as dramatic as this.  But the reality is that our faith is not made better or worse for having not seen it.  Many in the Bible who saw the miraculous went on to not believe God.  Thus God gives us evidence, but don’t fool yourself that it isn’t real just because you didn’t see it.

It says that fear came upon them.  In general this is a fear of realizing that this is no mere man.  Who is he?  What is he?  Yet, it also points to a fear of the Lord because the people began to give the glory and honor of this event to God.  His power and ability was so far beyond them that they were humbled in reverence and respect.  This was not a man to be trifled with.

They glorified God.  To whom do we give glory of all the amazing things that are happening in our day?  Don’t we glorify ourselves?  Even our technology is made possible by the glories of God’s creative genius.  Yet, we do not praise Him for His wisdom.  Instead we laugh at such quaint notions as a God, and praise ourselves.  The generation that doesn’t stand in awe at the greatness of God expressed through His creation, brings judgment upon itself.

They also declared Jesus a true prophet and a visitation from God.  Prophet is meant here in that most of the prophets did miracles to help the nation believe that what they said was from God.  But the emphasis was on the fact that they spoke for God.  Through this resurrection the people of Nain recognize Jesus as a prophet.  One who is truly sent by God to speak to His people and direct them.  However, we are warned in Scripture not to accept miracles as proof of the Truth.  So how do we know?  First the miraculous gets our attention.  Next we take the teaching of the “prophet” and we compare it to the teachings of the Bible.  If they do not match then we don’t listen to the prophet because they are not from God.  Lastly, if they predict something and it doesn’t come to pass then we know for sure that they are not a true prophet.  Was the teaching of Jesus true to the Old Testament?  The New Testament makes the case that He was the ultimate prophet of God.

Lastly, the “visitation from God” is a reference to the fact that God doesn’t always seem to be active in our life.  From time to time, however, He shows up.  These visitations can be good or bad, it depends on us.  Israel had been suffering under one empire after another and were longing for deliverance from God.  It seemed like He was not showing up.  They longed for a visitation of deliverance.  However, if we are not living right and crucify the deliverer when He shows up, then we are going to have a visitation of judgment.  The good news is that Jesus took the Judgment of God upon Himself so that those who put their faith in Him could avoid it.  That truly is amazing.  The amazing grace of God can be ours by picking up our cross (the things we have to die to) and following Jesus in faith.  God promises us eternal life in glorified bodies, but in His time.  Can you trust Him?  Turn to Jesus today.

Authority Over Death Audio


On The Journey

On this Sunday we celebrate the time that we have had with Dr. Caleb Tindano of Burkina Faso.  He will be going home on June 12 and we are going to miss him.  This brother has been on a journey both literally and metaphorically.  Similarly we are all on a journey through this life.  The Bible uses this same imagery in Hebrews 11 to teach us how to walk in this journey of life and how to do it well.

Believers Live By Faith

In Hebrews 11:8-12, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the life of Abraham and Sarah.  They were called to leave their home country and to travel to an unknown place.  There they would live in tents with a nomadic lifestyle.  They would also have kids at an extreme age (90 and 100).  Lastly they would be the source of multitudes.  These descendants are more than just the biological, but more importantly, include those who are children of Abraham by their faith in Jesus Christ.

Over and over again the passage states that they did all this by faith.  Now this is important because in Hebrews 10:38 it says that “the just shall live by faith.”  This is a quote from the Old Testament passage of Habakkuk 2:4.  It is similar to Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.”  Now what did they do by faith?  Several verbs are given to explain their actions of faith.  First is “obeyed.”  Obedience is something we naturally resist.  However, faith enabled them to go to a country that they didn’t necessarily want.  They also, “dwelt,” “waited,” and “bore.”  Each of these were things that were not easy to do.  They dwelt in a land in tents, as nomads, and among hostiles.  They waited when all of us would vote or now.  And, Sarah gave birth at 90 years old.  When do you say, “no thanks, but I changed my mind.”

Faith is that inner knowing and trust that God will do what he has said he will.  But far simpler than that, faith knows this: at the end of the day God is good.  The strange thing about believers is that they could look at all the stuff going on around them and quit trusting God.  But instead they continue to trust that God is what he says he is, he is good.

Believers Die in Faith

In Hebrews 11:13-15 we are reminded that Abraham, Sarah, and all other righteous people died while having faith in God.  To those who don’t believe in God this would probably be the strongest argument for walking away from this “God.”  The Spirit reminds us that though Abraham didn’t see all that was promised to him, it wasn’t because God wasn’t good or that he doesn’t really exist.  It does mean that the scope of his promises is far greater than our life.

There is a modern phenomenon that psychiatrists increasingly encounter called “Truman Show Delusion.”  The Truman Show was a movie in which a man’s whole life was secretly filmed and he eventually discovers that everyone in his life, even his wife, is an actor in a show in which he was the only real thing.  However absurd this may seem we sometimes act like this in regard to life.  God’s promises are greater than you and your life on this earth.  They encompass all believers of all time and all life, both this temporary life and the eternal life we have begun to enter.

Abraham didn’t see all the promises.  But he did see them by faith, “afar off.”  He was also assured of them.  This assurance can only really come from God himself.  When we assure ourselves it only works so long.  This is a supernatural assurance that is in the face of even death itself.  They “embraced” those promises as well.  They changed their lives and raised their kids in the environment of a full embrace of God’s promises.  “We want them and we will see them someday.”  By doing this they were confessing their true identity as nomads in this world.  God’s promises are about things that are beyond this life, which makes us nomads among those in this world who see this life as all there is.

By faith, believers are citizens of a heavenly kingdom (vs14).  Just like people who go to another culture experience a cultural dissonance, so believers feel that dissonance everywhere they go, even in their home town.  This world does not value true faith in the One True God.  Spiritually it is not our home and this makes us homesick for that place we have never been.  We know it by faith.  It is a country and a capital city that will be supplied by God himself.  No civilization or world of man will create them.

The reason I entitled this section, Believers Die in Faith, is because of the words of verse 13.  Believers not only live by faith, but when they come to the end of their life, that same faith continues.  It looks forward with the trust that God is good and it is not over yet.

God Rewards Our Faith

Ultimately our very salvation and eternal destiny is tied to our faith in God, specifically the Lord Jesus.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”

But another aspect of this in Hebrews 11:16, is that God is not ashamed to be called their God.  More than that, he is not ashamed to claim us in the life to come.  He walks into a room of the world’s rich and powerful, beautiful and strong, and picks up those whom the world looks upon as weak, poor, ugly, undesirable.  They are beautiful to God simply because of their faith in him; faith that endures through death.  You are beautiful to God to the degree you trust him.

Thus God has prepared this place for those who have trusted him in life and in death.  God’s kingdom will come down and not just be in our hearts.  Jesus will literally come through those clouds and establish a world of peace that operates on the basis of trust in God.

No matter where you are on this journey, your faith will be tried.  You are a stranger in a strange land and that is an uncomfortable feeling.  May you remain faithful to Him who is always faithful and in the end will be found to have been completely good.

On The Journey Audio