THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-27-73 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are worshipping with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing a Memorial Day message entitled The Resurrection from the Dead. In the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John:
Martha said unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall 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 . . .
I had an illustrious professor teaching Greek. And when he read that to us in Greek, he said, “Young gentleman, this is the profoundest word ever spoken by human lips.” 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 die” [John 11:25-26].
I know that there is an immortality of the human race. It goes on and on and on. Standing one day by the Coliseum, I watched children playing on the ruins of the Roman Forum; the marble, the stone, wasting away, eroding under the passing of time. But the children, the generation of tomorrow, the children of the generation past going on and on. There is an immortality of the human race. There is an immortality of a nation. The Lord said, “As long as the ordinance of the sun by day and the moon by night shall stand before Me, just so long will Israel continue to be a nation in the earth” [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. There is an immortality of a nation. As I stood by the wall in Jerusalem and looked at the excavation of the Damascus Gate—stood at the wall of Jerusalem and looked at the excavation of the southwestern corner, I thought of the ages and the ages of that nation. There is an immortality of a nation. But is there also an immortality of an individual man? Are we immortal? Do we live forever? Can it be true what Job said that gave rise to this song just sung,
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth:
And though through my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see, mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
Is there a personal immortality for us? Someone said that we are not bodies that have spirits, but that we are spirits that have bodies. And the Christian faith avows that we are immortal in both. Immortal in soul, in the spirit that inhabits this physical frame, and we are also immortal in body—that this very body, these cells and molecules—this very frame, though it perish in the dust of the earth and is buried in the ground, shall someday awaken to live in the sight of God.
The immortality of the spirit is somehow intimated to us in several ways. The mind, for example, when your body goes to sleep, the mind doesn’t go to sleep. That’s why you dream. A psychologist will say, if you’d really like to think through a problem, you go to bed with it on your mind, and all through the night your subconscious mind will work on it. Intimations of the immortality of the mind—it continues on though the body sleeps. In the Scriptures, we have a direct revelation of the immortality—the continuous life of the spirit, of the soul. When Moses appeared to the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-3], he had been dead [Deuteronomy 34:5-6]. His body had been asleep for over a thousand three hundred years. When Samuel was brought up to speak to Saul, king of Israel, [Samuel] had been dead some time, yet he spoke to Saul [1 Samuel 28-11-19]. When Jesus told the story of Dives and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31], they are conscious and awake though their bodies slept in the dust of the ground [Luke16:22-31]. Jesus said to the thief that died with Him on the cross, “Today, this day, semēron, this day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:42-43]. The apostle Paul wrote when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8].
I asked the editors in days past of our Reminder, our little church paper, don’t write in there “Obituary” or “Our dead.” Write in there, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” And then list these who have been translated to be with Jesus. Dwight L. Moody always made newspaper copy. And standing in a railway station in Chicago, a newspaper reporter was talking to him, and Dwight L. Moody being old said to him, “One of these days—and it happened not long after that—one of these days you’re going to read in the paper that Dwight L. Moody is dead. Don’t you believe it. Don’t you believe it.” He said, “When Dwight L. Moody ceases to live in this life, he’ll be more alive than he has ever been before.” There is an immortality of the spirit and of the soul. When this body sleeps, we go to be with Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:8].
But is there also an immortality of the body? Does the body also live again? The nomenclature of the Holy Scriptures themselves bring that to our hearts, for the Bible says that our body sleeps; that is, it is at rest for a while, to be awaken in the morning, in the dawn of a glorious resurrection. The Lord said to His disciples:
Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
And the disciples said, Lord, if he is asleep—that is wonderful for he is sick. And if he rests and sleep—he does well.
Howbeit Jesus spake of his death; they thought that He had spoken of taking rest in sleep.
Then Jesus said plainly, Lazarus is dead.
For to refer to death as a sleep is a Christian nomenclature. You are talking Christian language when you say that we fall asleep in Jesus. The story of Stephen when they were stoning him to death [Acts 7:59], “He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice saying, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” [Acts 7: 60]. That’s Christian language—”He fell asleep.” This is from a Christian message: the sermon of Paul in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Acts talking about, “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]. That is Christian preaching; that when we die, we fall asleep in the Lord [Acts 7:60]. There is a word in the Greek language, koimētērion and it means “sleeping place,” koimētērion. When you take that word and spell it out in English, it comes out “cemetery.” Cemetery is a Christian word. You’re using Christian language when you say “cemetery.” It is koimētērion. It is a “sleeping place.”
Now these who fall asleep in the Lord; does the Lord awaken them? Do they live in His sight? That gave occasion to the writing of Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica. For when Paul was there preaching to the people at Thessalonica, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, there were many of them that turned to the Lord [Acts 17:1-4]. And Paul taught them that Jesus was coming again, that He had gone to heaven, but He was coming back to earth [1 Thessalonians 1:9-10]. And while the saints at Thessalonica waited for the Lord and watched for the Lord and searched the heavens, some of their beloved members died. So they sent to Paul, and said, “What shall it be? Do they have any hope, these who have fallen asleep in Jesus? Is there a resurrection for them? Do they live? For while we were waiting for the Lord, these have died” [1 Thessalonians 4:13]; and then Paul wrote by revelation and inspiration of God:
I would not have you, my brethren, without knowledge concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even 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.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not preceed them which are asleep.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ—these who sleep in Jesus—shall rise 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 ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
[1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]
These that sleep are to be awakened at the great sound of the trumpet of God, at the voice of the archangel, and at the return of the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Could that be? Is such a thing possible?
There was a tremendous scientist by the name of Michael Faraday. In the 1800s he was one of the great physicists of all time. He was also a tremendous Christian. And lecturing in his class at the university, he referred to the resurrection of the dead. And one of his students hearing Michael Faraday refer to the resurrection said to a fellow student how inane such a belief was, and he scoffed at it and scorned it. And the great physicist overheard the student. So upon a time, Michael Faraday brought before his class a beautiful silver cup. And he had before him a jar of sulfuric acid. He took the silver cup and dropped it in the jar of acid, and it was completely dissolved, it disappeared, and you could not see it in the fluid. Michael Faraday then took a handful of common salt and dropped it in the jar. And immediately acting as a catalytic agency, immediately the silver fell in a mass, coagulated down to the bottom of the jar. Michael Faraday then took the mass of silver out. The next day he took it to a silversmith and said, “Mold it into a beautiful chalice.” And he brought it back to his class and showed them the beautiful silver cup. Then the great physicist added, “My young friends, if I a human being, a mortal man—if I can take this beautiful cup and dissolve it away and then bring it back more beautiful than ever before, shall I stagger at the power of God to take this human body and it dissolves back into the dust, but He also has the power to bring it back more beautiful than ever before?”
This is the Christian faith. Though worms destroy this body, though a giant oak sends roots down through this frame, though the fish of the sea swallow it up, though it is mingled in the dust that blows before the wind, yet every particle God knows. God marks. God sees. And some triumphant resurrection day, God will bring back together again this very frame that has been dissolved in the dust of the ground, and we shall live in His sight [1 Thessalonians 4:14]. “He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never, ever die” [John 11:26].
Our spirits “absent from the body, present with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And then someday, some glorious resurrection day, the very house in which we live, re-created, glorified, immortalized, spirit and body reunited again, just like the life of our living Lord, for we shall be like Him, raised from the dead [Romans 6:3-5]. This is the Christian faith, and this is the Christian hope [Acts 23:6, 24:15].
To give your life to that persuasion, to look in faith to the blessed Jesus [Ephesians 2:8], to put your life with us here in this dear church, in a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, would you come and stand by me? In the balcony round, a family, or just one somebody you; in the press and throng of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Pastor, today I make that decision. I open my heart to the call of Christ, and here I come. Here I am.” Or, “We are here in this city, and in the love of God and in the grace of our Lord, we’re coming to put our lives with you, to pray, to work, to serve Jesus in this dear church.” Make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand coming down that stairway, or walking into this aisle. Do it now. Make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.