|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Two Resurrections|
|Text||John ch.5 vv.25-29 |
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"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgement also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5, 25-29).
This chapter begins with a miracle - the healing of a sick man at the pool of Bethesda. This man had been ill a very long time and it appears that there was a regular miracle occurred at the pool. An angel troubled the waters and whoever, of the sick people sitting round, could get into the water first after that, was healed. The poor man who is referred to here wasn't able enough to get out of his chair and into the water to get this benefit; somebody always got there first. So there he was, poor man, with his problem and his predicament. But then the Lord Jesus Christ came, and He said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" And our Lord performed the miracle and healed him on the spot: "Take up your bed and go your way." The man immediately sprang up and took his bed and went, healed.
This chapter is like several other chapters in the Gospel of John. It has the same form as other chapters: they have a miracle, followed by a sermon. This is one of the ways in which Christ made the Gospel known. He first does a miracle and then He gives them a sermon. You can understand why He did that. The miracle, of course, draws attention to who He is and what He can do for us poor sinners. But then the sermon is necessary in order to explain to us how we can benefit from His gracious power. We have the same kind of outline in John 6, where Jesus feeds the five thousand with a few loaves and fish and then He preaches on the subject of the Bread of Life. You get it again in John 9, where you have a blind man who is healed, and it's not so much a sermon there but at least it is partially a sermon which goes into John 10. Jesus explains that He has come for judgement into this world and that they that do not see may see, and that those who think they do see may be made judicially blind. Again you get the same thing very much in John 11, where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead, you remember, four days. Jesus says, "Lazarus, come out, come forth." The dead man comes, bound with his grave clothes, hand and foot, and Jesus tells the people - or tells some of the people at any rate - "I am the resurrection, and the life." There's something of the same kind right here; our Lord performs this miracle.
What is a miracle? A miracle is an event, in this world, which can be seen and verified with people's eyes and ears, and which can only be explained as a work of God. That's what a miracle is and that's what this particular miracle is, it is a work of God. Conversion is supernatural, but it is not a miracle, because you cannot verify conversion with your eyes and ears. In other words, you cannot see people's hearts; you don't yet know whether their profession of faith is genuine or whether it is hypocritical. Many people claim to be Christians who aren't Christians; we can't read one another's hearts as God can read our hearts. We say that conversion and the new birth are supernatural, because indeed they are an act of God and a work of God, but they are not miracles, technically, because you cannot see them, you cannot see the change in people's hearts. If we could see people's hearts then it would be a miracle, but we can see when people are blind, and then their eyes are opened; we can see when people are deaf, and then suddenly they hear; or dumb; or lame, and suddenly leap up and walk; that is miracle. What we have here in this chapter then is miracle.
Miracles were done by Christ out of love and out of kindness and they are expressions of his great goodness. If you study the miracles of Christ you will see with gratitude, He never did a mean miracle, He never did a spiteful miracle, He never performed miracles on His enemies so as to do them any kind of harm. The nearest kind of thing we have to that is when, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the soldiers and those with them came to arrest Christ, and our Lord said, "Who are you looking for?" "Jesus of Nazareth!" they shouted. Then our Lord simply said, "I am he," and they all fell backwards, and the reason for that is because our Lord performed, if you like, a little miracle - if I may use that phrase - or a little supernatural power. He put forth just a whisper of His power, and they all fell back. Our Lord of course could have made them turn to dust, the whole lot of them, but He never performed an unkind miracle of any sort. That judgemental miracle, to call it that, was hopefully to bring these people to recognise who He was. But sadly, as far as we know, it did not have that effect.
However, we see here that the Lord Jesus Christ received no thanks for this miracle that He performed on this man. The religious leaders tried instead to put our Lord to death. They hated Him for His miracle on two accounts: first, it was done on the Sabbath day. My dear friends, God commands us to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, but there is no breaking of the Sabbath commandment by performing a miracle of healing. It is not a sin for a doctor to attend to a sick patient on the Sabbath day - indeed it is his duty to do so. It is our duty to do good on the Sabbath day, and our Lord was doing nothing but good. But the Pharisees are an example of those who go too far in strictness. You know it's possible to do that. The Bible says, "Be not righteous over much" (Ecclesiastes 7, 16) - you'll find those words in the writings of Solomon in the Old Testament - "Be not righteous over much." That's exactly what these Pharisees were, they were righteous over much. They took the Sabbath commandment and stretched it so you couldn't do anything, as it were, on the Sabbath day, you could hardly breathe on the Sabbath day. They made all kinds of laws. You mustn't boil kettles on the Sabbath day because the steam will go into the atmosphere and it may wash some of the dirt off the walls, you see? You mustn't have hobnail boots walking across the grass; if you do you may be mowing the lawn. They had these sort-of petty regulations on the Sabbath day. It shows that there is nothing so dead as dead religion. Oh my friends, the essence of true religion is love and kindness, and our Lord is the very embodiment of all that love and kindness - and what thanks did he get for it? They tried to kill Him, because He broke the Sabbath day according to their rotten reckoning; and also, a little later on, because he claimed to be the Son of God. So on these two counts they sought to put Him to death.
Our Lord here gives this wonderful sermon, and I am going to look now at two things that He talks about in this sermon. They are indeed two resurrections. Could I bring your attention again to part of the text: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (text - v.25/28-29). My headings are these: The first resurrection, What is it?. Then The second resurrection, What is that? The third thing is: The importance of having this spiritual resurrection in our own lives - your life and my life.
So then, the first resurrection at verse 25. Jesus tells us that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall live. What our Lord is talking about here is the resurrection of the soul. Man has two parts to him: he has a body and he has a soul. We cannot see the soul because it lives in the body, but what happens at death is this: that your soul leaves the body and it goes into the immediate presence of God. That's what death is, it is the soul leaving the body. That's why James says that the body without the spirit is dead, and that is what constitutes death for a human being. When the soul leaves the body then death has occurred. Our Lord here is talking about the resurrection of the soul in this life. "As people living in this life," He says. Their soul will be brought into a resurrected state. What He means is that they will hear Christ's voice speaking in the Gospel. The Gospel is where Christ speaks, and as men and woman and young people hear the Gospel preached, there is going to be something happening, says Christ. As they hear My voice speaking in the Gospel, they are going to come to a state of spiritual resurrection. Their soul is going to be brought out of a state of spiritual death and into a state of spiritual life. It's obvious then, that if that's the case, then all of us are by nature born dead, in our souls - that is what the Bible teaches - we are all of us by nature dead in trespasses and sins. We can see that. Every time you turn the pages of a newspaper you can see that what you read in the newspaper is nothing more nor less than a commentary on what the Bible says, that people's souls are dead in sins. That's why they do the things they do. That's why they get hold of young girls and strangle them - some poor young woman has to be late at work and gets a taxi; she's walking the 200 yards home, and then some wretched men set on her and kill her - it's happening every day, or every week at any rate. That's why these cruel, and lying, and deceitful and nasty things happen; that's why people make war against one another; that's why people are doing the things they are doing - planting bombs and blowing up one another and themselves in fanatical activities, for fanatical reasons - because the soul of every one of us, by nature, is dead to God. This death cannot be changed, in you or in me, without the voice of the Son of God speaking through the Gospel to give us new life. That's what our Lord is talking about - new life - and it is wonderful.
We even have the necessity for this in churches. Many a time people hear the Gospel message and it never makes the slightest impression in their lives. The Gospel is very, very simple. It says to us we're all sinners; we need to believe in Jesus and we need to repent. Repentance and faith are the way to forgiveness. Many, many people hear that message, over and over and over again, but it makes no difference to them, does it? They hear it, and then they go home and they forget it. They hear it next week, and again they forget it. Why should that be? Why do they not act upon it? Why do they never seek God or ask Him to give them the new birth that they need? The answer is, because their souls are dead and they don't hear the voice of the Son of God because they are spiritually dead, they don't have ears to hear - that's what our Lord Jesus Christ means when on several occasions in the Gospels He said, "he that hath ears to hear, let him hear" - we cannot even hear the message of the Gospel until we have this spiritual resurrection. Every faculty of the soul is dead - our mind, our conscience, our affections, our will - everything is dead within us until we hear this voice of the Son of God.
As soon as people hear the voice of the Son of God their soul comes alive, and this is the explanation for what you read about on the Day of Pentecost when Peter was preaching in Jerusalem. Do you remember his great sermon in Acts 2? When he had finished his sermon the people cried out saying, "Men and brethren, what must we do?" You see, that's what happens when you hear the voice of the Son of God. You don't just go back home and make another cup of tea. You cry out, "What must I do?" When people hear the voice of God speaking to them in the Gospel, that's what they do, they cry out, "What must I do? How can I be saved? What's the answer to my problem?" When they ask these questions, it is a hopeful sign that they are now, at last, hearing the voice of the Son of God, this inward voice which Christ alone can give.
You may know a very famous example of this. In Bristol, many years ago, there was a young preacher preaching to the miners in Bristol. His name was George Whitefield. He wasn't yet very well known, but he became very quickly famous all over the world as an outstanding, wonderful preacher. He was a young man at this stage, and he went into the open air and preached to these miners, with their blackened faces, covered in coal dust and soot and so on. The miners were standing in rows listening to this young preacher telling them they needed to become Christians and to believe in Christ. The very first indication he had - as the miners were listening to him as a preacher - was when suddenly he saw white channels down their faces; tears began to wash away the coal dust from their cheeks, and that proved to the preacher they were hearing the message and they were being moved by the Gospel. Many of them were asking afterwards, "Sir, how can a poor sinner like me find peace with God?" Well when you get to that stage it's because you are alive. The Son of God has spoken to you and you begin to ask "What must I do?"
Let me put it to you. Here we are my very dear friends. You are sitting there and I am standing here, and I am speaking about the need to believe in Christ. I want to ask you, each one, to consider this question as you are answerable to God Almighty in the Day of Judgement: Have you heard the voice of the Son of God speaking to you? Have you heard it? If you have, rejoice! It is the best sound in the world. Oh, the blessed sound of the Son of God speaking through his Word! I know that numbers of you could say, Thank God, I remember five years ago, or ten years ago, or whatever, maybe fifty years ago, I heard the voice of Jesus speaking to my heart. But then, if you haven't heard it, then what are you to do? Well, I can give you advice on that: you must say, "Lord, you have said in your Word that you will speak to sinners in their hearts. I never heard it Lord! Speak to me!" and He will. If you want Him to speak to you, He will. Go home, into your bedroom, kneel down and say, "Oh blessed Lord, speak to me." Indeed, don't waste time but do it right here as we are talking now, together, one to another in your heart. Silently say, "Oh Lord, I pray that I might hear the voice of the Son of God - that voice which quickens the dead and makes their souls to come into a state of resurrection - that's what I want - to be lifted out of my dead state, my cold state, my worldly state, my unspiritual frame of mind. Make me godly, that I may serve thee."
That is the first resurrection and I come quickly to the second: Jesus said, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (text - v.28/29). This is another resurrection. If you have read these words in my text at verse 25 and again at verse 28 quickly, if you have read these words hastily, you would say, "Our Lord is simply saying the same thing twice." Of course there would be no harm in that because we are all so stupid and deaf, we need things to be said to us a hundred times before we take any notice, so our Lord often says things twice and thrice, simply because we are so dull at hearing. But this is not, in fact, a repetition. He is not talking now at verses 28 and 29 about the resurrection of the soul, but the resurrection of the body. He is looking forward to a different hour. There are two hours mentioned here. The first hour in verse 25 - "the hour is coming" - refers to the Day of Pentecost, which was pretty close, just a few months ahead. On the Day of Pentecost, you remember, the Spirit of God came down and thousands were converted. Ever since that day, millions have been converted all over the world through hearing the voice of Jesus speaking to them and to their conscience. That's what is meant in verse 25. But now, in verses 28 and 29, the hour that's coming here is not Pentecost but that solemn, solemn day, my friends, which the Bible calls the Day of Judgement - doomsday - the doomsday of God: the day when every soul of man and every individual who has ever lived must appear before God for judgement. Now, Jesus says in verses 28 and 29, there is going to be another resurrection on that day - a resurrection not now of the soul, but of the body. How can I prove it's the body? Well, you look carefully. Always study the Bible carefully. We have this made very clear to us in verse 28. He says, "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, And shall come forth in the resurrection." He means everybody. My friends, you will be there, and I will be there, nobody can absent himself from the Resurrection Day. Oh yes, people can hide from God for a few short years. They can be off to their casinos, forgetting God; they can be staying at home, never hearing the Gospel; and they can bury themselves into their work, and bury themselves into their pleasures for a few short years, but believe me, all of these men and woman and young people will all appear before God in the end. Not one will be missing, not a single one. They will all come out of the ground like worms of the earth, they will come out, and they will go up, and they will appear before God. As sure as you are breathing now, you will be there, and so will we all.
Christ says there is going to be this resurrection - "all that are in the graves". Who is going to get them out of those graves? Well of course if we were to be talking to an atheist or a scoffer, we can imagine his mouth would be curling in amusement. He would say, "Look at this silly old-fashioned teaching!" Let's imagine, you say, a man on board ship, and he dies on board ship. Well, the usual thing is, you put him in a shroud or some sort of cloth, and then you have a little ceremony; there's the chaplain, he says a few nice words, and the body goes into the water. That body is going to be eaten of sharks, and then sharks will eat other sharks, and then more sharks will eat those sharks, and generations of sharks will eat one another. "Don't tell me," he'll say, "that that body is going to be all found and put together again - all those bits and pieces are all over the world in the oceans! How on earth can we all be reassembled into a body?" The answer is very simple, right here: the voice of the Son of God will raise them up again. All those atoms, wherever they are, they will all come together, and everybody's atoms will come together in one glorious resurrection. That's what Jesus Christ is telling us here. He is telling us this for a very good reason. It is that we must, all of us, prepare for this day.
My friends, when are you going to have a serious event in life, you prepare for it, whatever it is. Imagine now, next week - I hope not - but imagine now, next week your doctor tells you there is something very seriously wrong with your body. You have some condition which is exceedingly serious. You must go immediately into such a hospital to have an operation. Let's hope it doesn't happen, but it can, it's going to happen to many in the next few days, all over the country, because it's happening all the time for some people, as you know. If you doubt this, you go to Raigmore Hospital regularly and soon find out exactly what I am saying is true. If you know that in three days' time you are going to have a very serious operation, I imagine it would concentrate your mind very, very much. You will think hard about every aspect of life. Have I made my will? Have I attended to this serious duty? Who will inherit this, and who will inherit that if I should be taken in death? That's the way we have to think.
Well, my beloved friends, ought you not to prepare for the resurrection, when your body and soul will come out of the grave, when you will appear before your Judge? Ought you not to prepare now for that day? By listening to the voice of the Son of God speaking in the Gospel, and saying to you that it is high time you awoke out of your long sleep, high time you woke up to the gravity of your condition without God in the world? Without grace - living for the things of this life which are soon to pass away, as you are soon to pass away from this whole world. Is it not madness to live without this one thing necessary? The Bible doesn't tell you that you need a hundred things; it doesn't tell you to go from here to some river of India and bathe in the waters of it; it doesn't tell you to go on pilgrimage from here to some remote place where you bow down to a shrine; it doesn't tell you that. It tells you that here and now, in your own soul, you need to get right with God, and it begins by seeking the Lord, desiring his mercy and favour and kindness to you - right now - because, you see, in the real Gospel there is only one thing necessary, only one thing is needful, and that is that you should come to know Jesus Christ for yourself.
I mentioned George Whitefield a minute ago. Let me tell you something else about George Whitefield who was a very remarkable preacher and a great man. On one occasion he was staying in the home of a well-to-do gentleman who was very kind to him but not a Christian. George Whitefield stayed there for some days, and before he left, George Whitefield, being a preacher, felt he should say something to this gentleman about his need to believe in Christ. He didn't know how to do it in the most tactful way. People, you see, can react very badly to being told the things they most need to know. So this is what George Whitefield did - I think it's very interesting - he got a diamond ring, and with the diamond in the ring he went to the window of the bedroom where he was staying in this gentleman's house, and he wrote, scratching it on the glass, these words, which I will tell you in a moment. When he had written the words on the glass, he packed his bag, went downstairs and shook the gentleman by the hand, thanked him profusely for his hospitality and then he went on his way, on horseback or something. When he had gone, the host - the man who owned the house - did what we all do. He went to the bedroom where his guest had been staying, not to see everything was there, but to see that everything was in its proper place and the bed of course needed to be changed, and the clothes washed. He looked round to see everything was in its proper place, and then... "Wait a minute! I never saw these scratches before in the window," and he walked across and he read these words scratched on the glass: "One thing thou lackest" (Mark 10, 21) - one thing you don't have, one thing you lack, and of course it was a quotation from the Bible, one thing you lack. It went like a dart to this man's soul. He hadn't got Christ. He had money, and he was very kind to the Lord's people, and he was good in many ways, but one thing he lacked - he didn't have Christ. He felt the force of that word, you see, and he heard in that way the voice of the Son of God.
If, in the end of the world, when the resurrection takes place, the bodies and souls of everybody go to heaven, then there would be no need to worry about anything because you'll be already all right. But notice what Jesus tells us in verse 29, when he speaks about the end of the world, "They shall come forth," He says. Notice, "They that have done good". He means Christians, because nobody in the sight of God does good but Christians; you cannot do any good until you are a Christian for the simple reason that your motive is wrong; you may do something which is outwardly good, but your motive is not right, and until your motive is to glorify God and to honour Jesus Christ, nothing you do is good. Your whole life is rotten, it's like a bundle of worthlessness until you become a child of God. "All our righteousnesses", says the Bible, "are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64, 6). That's our righteousnesses! What about our unrighteousnesses? Well they are worse still. But even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags until we come to believe in Jesus Christ. Then we begin to begin to do things that are good in the sight of God. So, verse 29, Jesus says, "They shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
I have no pleasure, my friend, in telling you this but I must tell you because I would be a liar if I didn't tell you, and I am answerable to God for what I do and do not say to people in my preaching. I have to say to you with great sorrow, that if you die without getting Christ, you will be damned in the resurrection, and I shall weep for five minutes when I think of the seriousness of what I have said. If this was my knowledge alone, or if I said these things out of my own imagination, it would be shocking and terrible. But this is not what I say; I am simply repeating what the eternal Son of God - this loving, gracious Saviour - says to you, and to us all. In the resurrection, He says, if people have not had their souls resurrected in this life, then when their bodies are resurrected at the end, it's a resurrection of damnation. They will be eternally damned by God. Well, you say, that's very harsh. Yes, but then, that's because God is infinitely holy, and you and I are wicked sinners, and I have to confess, we all deserve this damnation. I deserve it as much as anyone who ever lived, and we all deserve it. But when you see that that is so, and when you turn to Christ by faith and trust in his blood shed on the cross - here is the wonderful thing - "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin". When we judge our own sins, God will forgive them. If we defend our own sins, God will condemn us. But that's what repentance is. Repentance is turning right round and saying to God, "I have been wrong."
My dear friend, as I close tonight, I have to say, you have been wrong in not giving your whole life to Christ. You should have done it long ago, but thank God it's not too late to do it now, right now. Do not say "I'm too young." Do not say "I'm too old." Do not say "I cannot do it because I am too busy." Consider, my friends, that Jesus Christ has all power. If you turn to Him and listen to His voice speaking in the Gospel, He will make you blessed above all that you could imagine or ask, or even think, and you will bless God Almighty for the day when you listened to His voice and said yes to the Gospel. Will you do so? May God bless you, every one.
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