The Resurrection from the Dead
May 27th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 11: 21-25
5-27-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing a Memorial Day sermon on The Resurrection from the Dead. One of the strangest things that I cannot understand is why in the twenty-nine years, and this is the twenty-ninth May that I have been pastor of this church, I have never conducted as such a Memorial Day service. As I look back over the years, they are positively inexpressible to me that I would not do that. Out in the country, Memorial Day was the day where we cleaned the cemetery and reshaped the graves of our lost and beloved dead. I preached out in the country for ten years. Yet this is the first Sunday that we have conducted as such a service in memory of our beloved dead.
How come it to be impressed upon my heart was the appeal that is being made for our Christian Education building. All through the church people are beginning to respond to the invitation to dedicate something in the building to someone dear to our hearts. So I came to the office, our church office, and I said, "I would like for you to print for us the names of all the people who have been translated to be with the Lord in this last year, from May to this May." And I said, "I’m sure you would not have enough names for just one year, so take the last two years." Can you imagine, can you imagine my illimitable, immeasurable surprise when I look at this printed list? This is just one year; within just one year these are the numbers of our sweet, precious members who have been called to be with Jesus.
Now, if you have a kinsman, if you belong to a family in this circle, if there is someone listed here that belongs to your family, in the circle of your home or family, if there is someone here that belongs to you who is in heaven, would you stand up, all over the house? Would you stand up? Someone here, dear to you: now remain standing, just for the moment.
Our Lord, as we see these stand, it brings back to heart and memory the days sometimes of long illness and finally the tears of separation. Lord, bless these homes. Some of them so precious and dear who have gone away and left the home so empty and broken, and speak to our hearts this day words of comfort, words of encouragement. And we will thank Thee, Master, for Thy presence and for strength for the days of the pilgrimage that remain to us, in Thy blessed name, amen.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of John:
Then Martha said unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. . .
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall live again, rise again.
Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never, never die.
When I first was studying Greek under a most illustrious professor, he said to us, "Young gentlemen, that is the most significant and the profoundest word that was ever uttered by the lips of men, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: and he that believeth in Me, though he die, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die’" [John 11:25-26]. Just what kind of immortality is that to which Jesus refers? There is an immortality for example, of the human race: it goes on and on and continues on.
I so well remember standing by the side of the Coliseum in Rome, and looking directly in front of me was the ruins of the ancient Forum. And on those ruins children were playing. And as I looked at the children playing in those ruins, the columns of marble and porphyry, and the stones so apparently enduring, now broken up and weather worn away, yet those children playing there, as full of life as though death never existed and time never eroded. There’s an immortality of the human race. The great Roman Empire, its golden city, and its beautiful Forum in ruins; but the children still playing and growing.
There is an immortality of the nation. For example, the Lord said, "If you can change My ordinances of the sun by day, and the moon by night, then will it be changed that Israel will never be a nation before Me" [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. As long as the sun shines, just so long will the nation Israel be a people. And standing at the wall of Jerusalem, looking down at the excavation at the Damascus Gate, and standing at the wall of Jerusalem and looking down at the excavation at the southwestern wall, the corner there, I thought of the ages and the ages of that people Israel. There is an immortality of a nation; it continues on and on.
But is there an immortality of the human soul and the human body? Is there a personal immortality? Do I live, I as such, or am I dissolved away into the great unknown limbos of the ages, and the generations, and the centuries? Is there any personal immortality where I live? I, not someone else, but I? It was that faith that Job gave himself to when he said:
I know that my goel –
translated, Redeemer –
I know that He liveth, and that at the latter day He shall stand upon the earth –
Now listen to it –
And though worms, through my skin destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God –
Now look how he will emphasize it –
Whom mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
The emphasis of the Christian faith and the revelation of the Word of God on our personal immortality, that it is I who shall live again, it is I who shall be resurrected, the emphasis upon that is endless. It is not circumscribed or bound. "Jesus saith unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life; and he that believeth in Me, though he die, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never, ever die" [John 11:25-26].
Now, we look at that, just for the moment. There is an immortality in creation itself. Somebody says that we’re not bodies who have spirits, but we are rather spirits who have bodies. And the scientist will say that existence, matter, creation is immortal; it is indestructible, it is not capable of annihilation; that matter, existence, cannot be destroyed. When I look at the human frame, made of body and soul – and when the soul is disembodied from the body it’s called spirit; when it’s in the body it’s soul – when I look at us, how we are made, I think first of the spirit. There are intimations of its immortality in the mind. My body sleeps at night. My mind never sleeps; that’s where dreams come from, my mind just continues on. That’s where the subconscious comes in. These psychologists will say, "If you want to do good, then go to bed at night with a problem on your mind, and while you’re asleep your mind will be working on it." Every Saturday night I go to bed with my message, I always have, ever since I’ve been preaching; and my subconscious mind turns it over and learns it, memorizes it, thinks about it. Your mind never stops; it goes on and on, though the body is asleep. I refer to that as an intimation of the immortality of the soul that is inside of us. It goes on and on and on, even though the body sleeps.
Moses appeared to the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration [Luke 9:28-33]; he had been dead over 1300 years. The witch of Endor supposedly brought up Samuel from the dead that he might speak to Saul the king of Israel. She was terrified when Samuel appeared, which shows you that she never thought of being able to do that – nor does any witch or medium – they cannot do it. The work of the necromancer is always charlatan, it’s quack. The arising of Samuel from the dead, speaking to Saul of Israel, shows that Samuel was still alive; he was living though the body was in the grave [1 Samuel 28:11-20]. The Lord Jesus said to the thief who was dying by His side, "Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:43]. In the story of Dives and Lazarus, they are alive, though both of them have died and their bodies are in the grave [Luke 16:22-24]. The apostle Paul wrote, "We are absent from the body, but present with the Lord" [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And I asked those who publish our little paper, the Reminder, not to put there an obituary or our dead; but to put that there, "Absent from the body, and present with the Lord."
Dwight L. Moody always made the headlines in the papers; he was always newspaper copy. He was interesting to the world. He was a layman, he was a businessman, he was never an ordained minister. In a railroad station in Chicago, in his age, Moody was talking to a newspaper reporter, and he said, "One of these days," and it was not far off then, "one of these days you are going to read in the paper where Dwight L. Moody is dead. Don’t you believe it," he said, "Don’t you believe it." He said, "When you read that, you just remember that Dwight L. Moody will be more alive than he ever was before." That is Christian. The soul just finds another place, another home; absent from the body, present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8].
Now, I want to take the other part of us. What about the body that sleeps? That is a Christian word, and it is a Christian nomenclature, and it is a Christian reference that we sleep. The body sleeps, and it will be awakened. These things said the Lord, and then plainly said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of his sleep. " The disciples said, "Lord, if he is asleep he does well" [John 11:11-12]. It was rest for Lazarus, who was seriously ill. Then Jesus spake plainly saying, "Lazarus is dead" [John 11:14]. But that word "sleep" is a New Testament word; the body sleeps. And the story in the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, when they stoned Stephen, Stephen kneeled down, and said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep" [Acts 7:60]. Isn’t that a beautiful Christian imagery? "When he said that, he fell asleep."
Take again, in the thirteenth chapter from the Book of Acts, and from Paul’s sermon, "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers" [Acts 13:36]. Koimeterion is a Greek word for "a sleeping place," and when you take the word and spell it out in English, it comes out in English "cemetery," koimeterion, "cemetery." That is a Christian word; it is a sleeping place. The very nomenclature implies awakening, resurrection. Could it be, can it be that these bodies that sleep, that they also shall know an immortality? Could it be? "If a man die, shall he live again?" [Job 14:14]. If the body turns back into the dust from whence it is made, will God gather those particles and those very molecules and put them back together again, and the man lives? Is it possible?
This occasion, one of the most startling of all of the revelations that God gave to the apostle Paul, he calls it a musterion in your reading a moment ago. "This I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" [1 Corinthians 15:50]. That is, as long as we are in this present body, the kingdom of God does not come in outward, glorious, triumphant manifestation for us. "But," he says, "I show you a musterion, a mystery, a secret kept in the heart of God until He revealed it unto His apostles." What is that musterion? That the Lord is coming back, Christ is returning, "and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; these that sleep shall be awakened, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed" [1 Corinthians 15:50-52].
Now Paul expatiated on that to the church at Thessalonica; for they were expecting the return of the Lord in their lifetime. And as the days passed and the Lord delayed His coming, some of the members of the church in Thessalonica fell asleep in Jesus. That has happened to us. The Lord delays His coming, and while the Lord tarries, some of our beloved members have fallen asleep in Jesus. What of them? That’s what the church at Thessalonica did; they sent to the apostle Paul and said, "We have been expecting the return of the Lord, we have been watching the skies, we have been looking for Him, and He has not come. And while we were waiting, some of our beloved have fallen asleep. What of them? What of them?" [1 Thessalonians 4:13] And by inspiration, the apostle Paul wrote back, "I would not have you without knowledge, my brethren, concerning them which are asleep"; there is that Christian word again, "Concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" [1 Thessalonians 4:13-14]. Now isn’t that a remarkable thing? "Will God bring with Him"; when Jesus comes back, they are coming with Him, with the Lord. Well, that means that they have gone to be with the Lord. They could not come back with Him unless they have gone to Him.
That’s what Paul meant when he said, "Absent from the body, and present with the Lord" [2 Corinthians 5:8]. When the Lord comes back, these who have fallen asleep in Jesus will come back with Him. They are with the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:14]. When our beloved die, they go to be with Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And when the Lord comes back, they come back with Him. "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord" [1 Thessalonians 4:15], this is not a speculation, Paul says, this is a revelation from heaven:
This we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them that are asleep –
we shall not see the Lord first, they shall see Him first –
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: and these that sleep in the Lord, they shall be raised first; Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we all be, and forever, with the Lord.
[1 Thessalonians 4:15-17]
The old Anglo-Saxon word for that is, that is the "rapture"; that is, "the taking away, the taking away, the snatching away." As Lot was taken out of Sodom [Genesis 19:15-16, 22], and as Enoch was translated out of the world [Genesis 5:24], and as Noah was shut up in the ark [Genesis 7:16], so God shall take His people out of a world that faces indescribable judgment [1 Thessalonians 4:15-17]. And in that, these that are asleep are raised; and the immortal spirit and the immortal body are joined together once again at the great resurrection day of the Lord.
One word – bear with me, my time has gone – but just this word, "Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?" [John 11:26]. Is such a musterion possible? Is that something that could really be? That this body that falls into the ground and the dust of the earth, that it should live again, is that possible? Can I believe that? When Renan, the great French author, and essayist, and skeptic wrote, The Life Of Our Lord, a beautiful piece of literature, when he came to the death of Christ on the cross and told its story he wrote finis after it; f-i-n-i-s, "the end," "the end." Billy Bob, some of you are acquainted with Superstar, Jesus Christ Superstar; there is nobody that has heard that music but that knows that it ends with the cross, stops. It was written by Jewish authors. And when they came to the cross and the death of the Lord, the music stops, stops! Does that stop at death? Does it? "Believest thou this?" [John 11:26]. Can you believe that God can raise this body from the dead? Is it possible?
In my reading, I came across something that Michael Faraday did. Michael Faraday, as all the school children know, Michael Faraday was one of the great physicists and one of the great scientists of all time. He was also a marvelous Christian – Michael Faraday – and in his class he happened to refer incidentally to the resurrection of the body. And he overheard one of his students scorn, scoff, at such an idea as the resurrection of the body. The next day Michael Faraday came to his class and had in his hand a beautiful silver cup. In a container of sulfuric acid he placed the cup, he dropped the cup, and immediately, as you know, it dissolved in the fluid. You could see no trace of it. Then Michael Faraday took a handful of common salt, and he dropped it in the sulfuric acid, in which the cup had been dissolved. It acted, the salt did, as a catalytic agent; and the silver immediately reformed and fell down in a mass at the bottom of the jar. Michael Faraday took it to a silversmith and said to the silversmith, "Make this into a beautiful cup." And the silversmith took the mass of silver and reshaped it into a beautiful cup. And Michael Faraday brought the cup to his class and said, "Young gentlemen, if I, a human being, can take this beautiful cup and dissolve it out of sight, and then reshape it into the beautiful piece that I now hold in my hand, why should I stagger at the ableness of God to take this human body that dissolves into the dust of the ground and reshape it into a more beautiful house than it ever was before?"
This is the power of God. This is the faith of those who call upon the name of the Lord. And this is the evangel, the good news: that he that believeth in Jesus shall never, ever die [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. It is life now, it is life when we fall asleep, it is life when we are awakened from the dead, and it is life immortal, glorious, heavenly, in the world that is yet to come.
Oh, bless and glorify His wonderful, wonderful name!
In a moment, we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, in the balcony round, a family you, or just one somebody you, if you are on the back row of the topmost balcony there is time and to spare. Down one of these stairways, come and welcome. On the lower floor, into the aisle, and here to the front, "Pastor, today I have made the decision for God, and here I am, here I come." Do it now, make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
FROM THE DEAD
is an immortality of the human race
There is an immortality of a nation (Jeremiah
C. There is a personal
immortality of soul and body (Job 19:25-27)
II. The immortality of the spirit
A. Body sleeps; mind
B. Our souls continue
on (Matthew 17, 1 Samuel 28, Luke 16, 23:43, 2
III. The body
is nothing other than a longer night, awaiting the morning (John 11:11-14)
as a sleep a Christian nomenclature (Acts 7:59-60,
13:36, 1 Kings 2:10)
a. "Cemetery" a
B. To be awakened (John
1. Letter to the church
at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)