FAITH FOR RESURRECTION - Dr. Russell Metcalfe - March 17, 1991

  FAITH FOR RESURRECTION - Dr. Russell Metcalfe - March 17, 1991
Today is

 
Jesus said, I AM the resurrection and the life!
                                      - John 11:25

Revelation  20:4-6  

". . . And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of
the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who
had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the
mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life
and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did
not come to life until the thousand years was completed.  This is the
first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the
first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they
will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a
thousand years.

      11-15 " And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it,
from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found
for them.  And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing
before the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was
opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged, every one
of them according to their deeds.  And death and Hades were thrown
into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And
if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was
thrown into the lake of fire.

INTRODUCTION

      Come Easter, we celebrate the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ
over sin and death and the grave, and particularly, His resurrection
in power and glory. The theme of life and death is central to our
understanding of salvation.  For some light on "resurrection" I have
turned to this seemingly esoteric passage in Revelation 20.

I. A DIFFICULT PASSAGE, REVELATION 20

  A.  The entire prophetic statement of the Book of Revelation is
difficult to understand, and this passage is no exception.  You can be
sure that there are plenty of willing interpreters around, but the
only problem is that very few of them agree with each other. The only
thing of which we may be certain is that there is genuine mystery
involved here.

  B.  MYSTERY

      Whenever we have the meeting of a holy, infinite God with the
history of sinful and finite mortal men and women, we have more than
we can fully comprehend or understand. It is foolish to outline and
predict the exact order of events of end times.  The element of
"prediction" is not necessary to salvation, and should never become a
major concern when reading the scripture.

     But just because there is a strong component of mystery here does
not mean that we cannot say that God does not speak through such
passages.  By the Holy Spirit we may receive and understand a clear,
factual message.

  C. FACT

      In this sobering passage that one day we shall all understand
much more clearly, first-hand, there are some lessons that are not up
for interpretation, at least not to my understanding.

      (1) There is the fact of human accountability before God.  John
said, "I saw (all) the dead, the great along with the small, standing
before God. And the books were opened, and another book which is the
Book of Life. And the dead were judged every one of them according to
their deeds."

      (2) This makes it plain that death as we know it is NOT the end
of human existence. There is something for every man, woman, boy and
girl that lies beyond the grave.

      (3) But another fact this passage from Revelation tells us is
that immortality is not the same as eternal life. Just being raised
from the dead to judgment is not the same as being free from what the
scriptures term "the second death."

     [TRANSITION TO II. - This raises two pointed questions:

      (1) What IS eternal life?

      And,

      (2) How may I be sure to take part in the resurrection of the
          holy?

      For answers we leave the Book of the Revelation and turn to the
One Who came to interpret God to us, to the Living Word Himself.  (In
the 11th Chapter of the Gospel of John:)]

II. A COMPANION PASSAGE, JOHN 11: THE SIGN OF LAZARUS

  A. In the Gospel of John (11: 1 - 44 ) is the CLIMACTIC MIRACLE of
the Gospels, the account of the raising from the dead of one of Jesus'
friends, Lazarus.

      (1) The simple story is one we all know, or certainly ought to
know: Jesus loved (agapeo) Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They had made
their home His home. He and they were friends.  They cared for each
other.

      (2) Then while Jesus was away across the Jordan Lazarus took
sick.  Evidently right from the start the sisters knew it was a
serious illness. They sent word to their great Friend. Jesus got the
message.  And as far as they were concerned He did nothing about it
until it was too late.

       (3) But then what took place became a galvanizing DEMONSTRATION
OF THE MASTERY OF JESUS OVER DEATH.  It was not something Jesus merely
did to "play games" with his friends' lives.  No one simply "uses"
Jesus, and I believe that we can trust Him not to simply use our
friendship callously. This is a complicated story. John doesn't try to
hide it. Jesus wept.  He cared.  He sorrowed. He shared in
suffering. He wasn't a showman, playing games with people's
life-drama; using Lazarus like some laboratory experiment.

       (4) But what did transpire there has served across the
centuries as a witness of Christ's mastery over life and death.  He
stepped to the tomb, and with a loud voice called Lazarus back from
the realm of the dead into the land of the living.

       (5) This miracle of miracles in John's gospel, the resurrection
of Lazarus, crystallized the opposition that had been growing against
the person and the mission of Jesus. Lazarus became a celebrity (John
12:9) as multitudes came to see this man who had been dead four days
and then brought back to life.  The Pharisees were disheartened; "the
world is gone after Him!"  was their complaint (John 12:19.)

      (6) You might think they would have admitted their error and
worshiped Jesus, too. But they decided to make on last-ditch effort
against Him. The human machinery for the crucifixion was set in
motion.

     [BUT HOW DOES THIS 'SHED LIGHT' ON THE PASSAGE?  Coming back to
the questions "What is LIFE?" and "How can I take part in the
resurrection of the holy?"]

III. OUR WORD FOR TODAY - OUR ASSURANCE IN LIFE AND DEATH

   A. The key of this story, and the place where the two passages
connect, are the words of Jesus just before He speaks the words of
power that brought the dead back to life. JESUS SAID, "I AM THE
RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE!"

      (1) These words were spoken as He responded to practical
Martha. Later when Mary says the same words, Jesus doesn't repeat
Himself, He weeps!  Martha said: "Lord, if You had been here You could
have DONE SOMETHING!"

      (2) Jesus said, in effect, "There is something more than being
able to DO something!  You haven't yet realized who I AM!  I AM
SOMETHING!"  "I AM LIFE!" "I AM RESURRECTION!"

  B. Inset:

     1. What IS life? Being able to relate, to correspond to
     the environment. Physical life is being able to breathe
     air,  to  eat food, to smell odors, to hear sounds,  to
     reach out and touch and feel.

     2.  But  what, then, is ETERNAL LIFE? Eternal  LIFE  is
     being  able to relate, to correspond with God  Himself!
     Being able to relate, to correspond with the Source  of
     Life!   Jesus  is the touch-stone, the connection,  the
     eternal Word, the Expression of God.

     3. Physical life is "threshold life" where, if we stand
     on  tiptoe, we can look into eternity. Physical life is
     discovering  that we are made in God's  image  and  yet
     that  the image is broken and empty and needs the touch
     of  the  Creator  God to make it whole again.  Physical
     life  as  we know it now is Paradise Lost, it  is  God-
     hunger.  St. Augustine said it perhaps more beautifully
     than  any other: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God,
     and  our hearts are restless 'til they find their  rest
     in Thee."

  C.  Jesus, Himself, IS ETERNAL LIFE! When we know Jesus and are IN
HIM we begin to share His LIFE, and we are even now alive unto
God. Eternal life is not just something which will happen in the
future after this "real world" ends; eternal life is the real world
dawning into our consciousness even now.

      (1) So this is what we understand that Jesus meant when He said:
He that is now alive, and believes in Me, shall never die!  If we know
Jesus, and are alive IN HIM, we will have no need to fear in the
unfolding of the apocalyptic mystery.

CONCLUSION

  A. THE PROMISE OF BLESSING

      (1) The beatitude "Blessed and holy is the one who has part in
the first resurrection."  Of whom is John speaking?

      (2) How may I be sure that John is including ME in this
beatitude?

      (3) To answer that satisfactorily we need to answer the question
Jesus asked at the grave of Lazarus: Do YOU believe that I AM the
resurrection and the Life?

  B. THE ASSURANCE WE MAY RECEIVE:

      (1) The assurance is divinely revealed. It is dangerous to
"assume" or "presume" or to be humanly "persuaded."

      (2) But you can be sure!  Jesus responds to the whosoever!
(John 3:16) But you MUST respond!

      (3) Our response is simply "Living FOR Jesus!" 

[Do I have to live at a certain intensity? How about the strong
feelings I felt last week during revival? I called Stephen Manley, and
he spoke to us all-- including me! I know that I do not have the same
intensity in my approach to living.  Can I be a true believer and
still be "me?"  The all-important thing, as Dr.  Manley said again and
again, is WHO is at the center!]

#335 Living for Jesus
Dr. Russell Metcalfe pastors the Wollaston Church of the Nazarene,in Quincy, MA USA. You can reach Dr. Metcalfe at eflactem@aol.com.- You can access Dr. Metcalfe's sermons by clicking HERE
Our Thanks to Dr. Russell Metcalfe for granting  his permission to present his sermons on our web site. Editor, A First News Source. 

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