I read a news article about a British teenager named George Garrett who changed his name to thirteen words--thirteen names--this is what he called himself; he legally changed his name: Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined. That's his name. Now the news article said that he's been getting beat up a lot lately by his peers. Now when I read that I said, duh! I mean kids react to anything that is strange or different. Besides that, when anybody makes outlandish claims about themselves that aren't really true, you can expect controversy. Jesus made some pretty outlandish claims about Himself. He said, as we have already seen last week, He said that He had the same nature as God the Father. He claimed that, as God, He should be honored in the same way as God the Father. And He said that He would judge the world and raise the dead. He said all of those things about Himself--outlandish claims. At least that's what His enemies thought they were. They would accuse Him for blasphemy and that would lead to His crucifixion ultimately. But there's a big difference between George Garrett of England and Jesus Christ. You see, George Garrett just pulled all those names out of a hat and decided to call himself those things. What Jesus, however, claimed to be, He proved that He was by healing people, by walking on water, turning water into wine, by raising dead people, and by His own personal resurrection.
Now what He does in the paragraph we're about to read is He looks toward the future. Keep something in mind. All of this is a response to the leaders who have gathered around Him and are accusing Him because, in their view, He has broken the Sabbath. He didn't break God's Sabbath. He broke their petty little traditional regulations that they added on to the Sabbath. But He didn't break it at all. So what He does is He launches into a monologue about who He is and He continues on that vein. He now turns toward the future and He looks at things that will be common to every single person. And there's three basic things. You may not have an outline in your bulletin, but the outline is simple. Here it is: everyone dies, everyone is evaluated, and everyone rises.
That's what Jesus says. Everyone dies, everyone is evaluated, and everyone rises. Now I want you to think about this. A lot of people this blows their mind. Every single person who has ever been born is gonna live forever--ever. In one sense, every single person has eternal life, in the sense that they continue consciously to live forever. So the big issue isn't will I live forever, will I have eternal life, the issue is where will I live forever? How will I spend everlasting life? And once again Jesus has this way of taking every single human being and putting them in one of two camps. And we notice that as we look at verse 25 through 29. Let's look at it together: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation."
Rutgers University in New Jersey decided to host a class in their college. It was called "Death and the Afterlife". What kind of interest do you think they would have in a class called "Death and the Afterlife"? Well they were surprised because they had to cap it off at 100 when 400 people almost immediately signed up to find out what happens after death. 400 people immediately, first semester, but they had to limit it to 100. Now in the verses that we read you'll notice that Jesus talks about two possibilities ultimately. The resurrection to life and the resurrection to condemnation. He, in effect, speaks about heaven and the other place that nobody likes to talk about. It's fascinating to me how loosely people will play with that word hell and not really give it so much thought. In fact, even playfully. You've heard it every day. One author, John Braun, writes this: It's not unlikely that within the last 24 hours you have heard someone say what in the hell are you doing or I sure as hell will or who in the hell do you think you are. The word hell, writes this author, has become a controversial byword in our day. Good friends even dare to say playfully to one another: go to hell. They surely don't mean go to the place of punishment for the wicked after death, though that is how the dictionary defines the word hell. But why use the word hell? Why not instead say what the jail are you doing or well I sure as school will or why not say go to Chicago? Huh. I heard that. If hell really is the place for eternal punishment for the wicked after death, how come it's used so lively millions and millions of times each day? Why is there such an apparent lack of seriousness about that word? Why is a word so heavy with meaning used so indifferently? Why do people pretend that the place doesn't exist? Well you need to know Jesus didn't pretend it didn't exist. In fact, Jesus Christ spoke more about hell than any other person in all of the Bible. And why did He speak so much about it? He must've seen its existence and knew exactly what was going on there. And so as to warn people, He brings this up. Now keep in mind this is a confrontation He's having with these religious elite of Jerusalem and, with every word, with every sentence, He presses further who He claims He is. But there's three great facts of life I want us to consider this morning based on the words of Jesus. Number one, everyone dies. Number two, everyone will be evaluated. And number three, everyone will rise. The first we don't need the Bible to tell us everyone dies. We can look around and we can figure that out. But just notice in our text verse 25 the word dead. "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live." The word dead is necros. We get the medical term necrosis, when blood starves a tissue, when cells in an organ are damaged; there is a necrotic tissue that develops. The death of a tissue. It speaks of physical death and then verse 28 notice the word graves: "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice". And that word is the very specific word for the place, like a tomb or sepulcher, where people are buried. We would say a cemetery. A cemetery is where dead people are buried. Or as I used to say when I was a kid, look mom, there's the cemetery! It's where all the dead people live! Everyone dies. Two people per second die. 102 people a minute. 6,136 an hour die. Rich, poor, young, old, male, female, famous, obscure--everyone will die. The only exception to that will be at the Rapture of the church when those who are alive and remain will be caught up and instantly transformed. Other than that, everyone dies. And our death rate is a problem to the governments of this world because the more people we get on earth, governments, especially in big cities, realize we're running out of space to bury the dead. I read about an article in Brazil where the government there, the local government, hired an architect to help solve this problem and the architect designed a 39-story skyscraper--a necropolis--that would be able to house 147,000 corpses. That's the place where all the dead people live, honey. Can you imagine seeing that in your town? But we also know something about life and death from a biblical perspective. When the Bible uses those terms, it doesn't always mean literally, physically. It sometimes means spiritually. In fact, sometimes those terms, spiritual life, spiritual death, spiritual birth, and physical death, physical life, are intermeshed together. Sometimes in the same conversation or paragraph. So it is here in verse 24 Jesus says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes," that can only be in a live person, only people alive can believe, "in Him who sent Me has," present tense, "everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." Now those are spiritual conditions because the New Testament describes people born into this world as being spiritually dead in need of life being imparted to them. Ephesians chapter 2 verse 1: And you He has made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins. So when you come to Jesus Christ, there is sort of a spiritual resurrection that happens as God imparts life to a dead soul. It's that spiritual resurrection that ensures the physical resurrection of verse 29, what Jesus calls the resurrection of life. Now I know you've heard the old saying that there's two things that are inevitable: death and taxes. Death and taxes. I heard one person say, well, that may be true that death and taxes are inevitable, but death doesn't seem to get worse every time Congress meets--taxes do. Well that may be so but death can be worse. Death can be worse if, after death, you meet a holy God and you are unprepared to do so because you have no spiritual life within you. That would be worse than just dying. Everyone dies. That's implicit in the text. Number two, everyone is evaluated. The word judgment comes up. Go back to verse 22; this is where Jesus first introduced this in the monologue: "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son". See the word judgment? It's the Greek word cresis. We get the word crisis from it. There is a coming crisis, Jesus would say. Now what a crisis that will be, the coming judgment. Now look at verse 27, same thought, He picks it up again and amplifies it: "and has given Him," that is, the Father, God the Father, has given Him, God the Son, "authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man." So contrary to what most people think in the world, death does not end it all. I know that's how people sort of live. Well you know you live and then you die and then after death, there's nothing. T'aint so. After you die, there is an evaluation. There's a ruling. There's a verdict that is rendered by the God of this universe. As it says in Hebrews chapter 9 verse 27: it is appointed for men to die once, but after this comes the judgment. Now you know what? I think I can say this and I think I'm right; I'm safe to say it. The doctrine of divine judgment is probably the most neglected teaching there is, both outside the church and inside the church. Outside the church, nobody believes it. Inside the church, it's pretty much just ignored. Now if I were to talk about God as Father and God as friend and God as helper, the one who forgives us of our failures and our failings and our sins, which is true, you see smiles come on the faces and heads nod up and down and people light up, Yeah! But if one dares to speak about God as the final Judge who will evaluate every life and render an eternal verdict and God is the Judge to whom we are all accountable, you see a very different reaction. You see brows furrow, lips pucker, heads wag this way, because, to many people, it is repelling and unacceptable to view God as such. Here's the problem: if you don't think God is a judge, you got to throw away a good portion of the Bible, because God's judgment is seen as a thread throughout the Bible. In fact, just a quick rendering of it as I studied this week, the word judgment occurs 190 times in Scripture and all of its forms, judge, judgment, judging, when applied to God 450 times. Here's a thumbnail sketch: God judged Adam and Eve after they fell in the Garden, kicking them out of the Garden and pronouncing a curse on them and all of humanity. Then God judged the entire world at the time of Noah and sent a flood to destroy all of mankind. Then God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, engulfing them in a volcanic catastrophe. Then God judged Egypt with ten plagues to get the children of Israel to get out. And then God judged people among the children of Israel for worshiping the golden calf. And God judged people like Nadab and Ibihu and Dothan and Korah and Achan. And then eventually God judged the entire northern kingdom of Israel by sending them into Assyrian captivity, 722 BC, and a few years later, 586 BC, all of the southern kingdom of Judah in Babylonian captivity. I know some of you are thinking, yeah but that's just the God of the Old Testament not the God of the New Testament. Well keep reading. Read about Jesus who judged Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, those three cities around Galilee, saying it will be more tolerable for you in the day of judgment than for Sodom and Gomorrah because He had, essentially, been in their presence, in their midst, and they had seen His miracles and heard His words and did not repent. Then Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives and judges Jerusalem because they didn't recognize the time of the coming of their Messiah. And He predicted, with tears in His eyes, the coming destruction in 70 AD. And it doesn't end there. Turn to the book of Acts. There were two people in the church, believers, Ananias and Sapphira. They were judged by God, killed dead physically. They had to carry their bodies out because of their hypocrisy. And then in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, Paul seems to say that God judges those who are irreverent at the Lord's Supper, saying, some are sick and some have died, rendering that as a judgment of God. Now get this: all of those little examples that I just gave? Those are just intermediate examples of judgment. That's an intermediate judgment. It's not the big one. You know, in California they've had some earthquakes, but they always talk about the big one. Jesus here talks about the big one! The really big eternal, final judgment when He mentions this, this kind of judgment. Now I have a question. Why is Jesus the One who will judge? He says that twice. In fact, it's not the only time in the Bible this is brought up. But Jesus says very plainly, and I found it interesting, He wants us to know that the Father Himself won't be the eternal Judge. That He's committed all of that to Jesus Christ the Son. Why? Well I think we have the answer right here in the text. Look at verse 25. In verse 25 Jesus speaks of His power to give life and when He does so, He calls Himself what? John chapter 5 verse 25. That's where we're at. He calls Himself the Son of God. When He speaks about His power to give life, He refers to Himself as the Son of God. But look at verse 27. When He speaks of His power to judge, He refers to Himself as what? Son of Man. Isn't that interesting? It's as if, I believe, Jesus is saying, because I, as God, became Man, I now have the right and the authority to judge man. Something else I studied a little bit further. 83 times the term Son of Man is used in all four Gospels and it is usually used in reference to the cross, the place where God judged the sin of mankind. So perhaps it would be even better to say that Jesus was, in effect, saying, because I am the One who was judged for the sin of others, I'm the only One qualified to judge others. So all of the judgment has been committed by the Father to the Son. Judgment. Judgment? Skip, are you saying that I, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, will stand before God one day in judgment? Yes, I am. But--but listen very carefully. The judgment that you will face will not be the same kind that an unbeliever faces. In fact, I'll say it more plainly. You will never stand before God being judged for your sins because you have trusted that Jesus Christ died for your sins and that's once and for all. So if you have this picture that you're gonna stand before God and He's gonna say, ok, Gabriel, roll the video tape! And here comes the whole tape of your life and you go, oh my goodness, I said that and now everybody knows it. Not gonna happen! Not gonna happen. You trust in Jesus and so, because of that, you'll never face God for your sin. How do I know that? Verse 24 says it very plainly: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me," do you believe in Him who sent Him? If you do, then it says you have everlasting life. Now watch this: "and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." What does Romans chapter 8 verse 1 say? There is therefore now no? Condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. So believers will not be judged to determine their eternal salvation. That's already done. But you and I will be judged to determine our eternal status--our eternal status. We're gonna stand before Jesus one day, as believers, in what Paul calls twice, once in Romans and once in Corinthians, the judgment seat of Christ. Ever heard that term, the judgment seat of Christ? For we must all, Paul said, stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Now that judgment will be a judgment where we are evaluated by Christ, has nothing to do with our sins, but has everything to do with our service to Him. Our serving the Lord while on this earth. And we will stand before Him and receive a reward or the lack of a reward for the way we served the Lord, if we did it faithfully, we did it from our heart, we didn't do it to be seen by people, we'll receive a reward. By the way, the term that I mentioned, once in Romans and once in 2 Corinthians 5, the judgment seat of Christ, is the Greek word bematis or bema, as we like to say--the bema seat. The bematis. It means a raised step. Every Greek city had a bematis or a bema seat. This raised step was a place in town where speeches were given, laws were handed down. Also, in the Greek Olympic games, when a runner ran the race or performed whatever function he did, if he won, he would stand on a platform. It's still done to this day because that's the bematis--the raised platform--the judgment seat. And there at the judgment seat they would be given a reward for the way they ran or performed their sport. So we'll stand before Jesus to be rewarded for what we've done. Now I don't want you to think that heaven's gonna be some spiritual competition where again, play the tape, and we're all gonna watch each other's works and this kind of stuff and it's kind of a competition. We go, oh really? You did that? Well, look what I just did! I heard about a preacher who died and he went to heaven and he noticed that in heaven there was a New York cab driver who had a higher reward and place in heaven than he did. He got all upset and he said, Peter, I've been a preacher, man, I've given my whole life to my congregation and to serve the Lord! And Peter smiled and he said, well, you know, up here we reward on results. Now preacher, whenever you would preach, face it, a lot of people fell asleep. But when people rode in that guy's taxi cab, they were always awake, not only that, they prayed the whole time! Well it's not gonna be like that. You will individually, and I will be individually, rewarded for what we did and how we did it in our service to Christ. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 6, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth or rust do not corrupt or destroy. Then also in Matthew 25, He gave a parable. The Parable of the Talents. Talents were bags of money. It was a parable on how we use our temporal resources to serve Him. And those who were faithful, Jesus said, I will say to them, well done good and faithful servant, you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. So here's how it works. When you die, you're going to heaven but, please listen, until you go there, there's a job that God wants you to do on the earth. Find out what that is and do it! As one person said, heaven will be for enjoyment but this is the time for employment. Serve Him. C.T. Studd was right when he said only one life 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last. That's the judgment we will face. Not a judgment for our sins--that's taken at the cross, but for our service. However, let's flip the coin. If you're not a Christian, then verse 24 doesn't apply to you because you don't believe in Him who was sent by the Father. And so you won't go from death into life. If you persist in your belief system as an unbeliever, you will go from death to death to death. You go from being spiritually dead; everybody's born that way, according to the Bible, spiritually dead and separated, to the second phase. You'll die physical death. To the final phase: eternal death. Not death to life but death to death. W.C. Fields was an actor back in the 1920s and 30s. he died before I was born. But I've watched his black and white flicks. He was the guy who talked like this all the time with a cigar. He'd always have that voice. Well, he was on his deathbed and he was not a believer, never really cared for Christ or the Bible, but he had a Bible on his deathbed. His friend came in the room and said, what are you doing reading a Bible? And W.C. Fields said, I'm looking for loopholes! There are no loopholes except one and His name is Jesus Christ. He's the only loophole God ever provided for the sin of the world. That's the only One you'll find. Everyone dies, everyone will be evaluated, and finally, everyone rises. Verse 28 and 29. This mystifies a lot of people because a lot of people don't think of both believers and non-believers being raised physically from the dead but the Bible teaches that. He says: "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." Wow. Everyone rises. I don't want to pressure understanding too much but this will help. Some mistakenly believe, because of this verse and the word hour in this verse, there's coming an hour, and the word is hora in Greek, very similar to Spanish, that there will be one general resurrection that will happen at exactly the same time. That's the picture that a lot of people have in their minds of every human being standing in a huge crowd, kind of waiting their turn, to be judged. But Jesus makes a delineation between the resurrection for believers, the resurrection to life, and the resurrection for non-believers, what He calls the resurrection to condemnation. In fact, in Revelation chapter 20, we see that there are 1,000 years between these two resurrections. That before the millennium there will be a resurrection of physical bodies for the righteous dead. then there's 1,000 years and after the 1,000 years are over, there is an evaluation and resurrection of the unrighteous dead. So contrary to what people believe, that after you die you just stop existing, there will be an evaluation and there will be a resurrection. Now whenever I read or study about the resurrection for the believer, I get pretty excited. I get excited. A lot of people will say, well Skip, why do we as believers need a physical resurrected body? Really? You're gonna ask that? I mean, no disrespect, but have you seen yourself lately? I mean, we're not going in the right direction. We're going from whatever we are to much worse and it will get worse as we get older and we degenerate and we slow down and we decay. We look in the mirror but the hope is we will be changed. We're gonna get a resurrected body. People say, well what will it look like? My answer: a lot better! The new model will be a lot better. It's what Jesus calls, in verse 29, the resurrection of life. So why do we need a resurrected body? It's pretty simple. Number one, to reverse the effect of original sin which we see every day in our lives, in our physical bodies. And number two, because the future environment demands it. There's gonna be a physically renewed earth called the millennial kingdom, the Bible teaches. That will require a physically resurrected body. After the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, there's what's called the eternal state. New heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem, and it's eternal. That will require, not this, but an eternal body. So because of that, there will be a resurrection to life. But notice that last phrase that we close with: "and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." Now that's for the unbeliever. And I want to close with a passage. Would you turn to Revelation chapter 20? We'll see how all this plays out as we close. Revelation chapter 20. I'm having you turn there, though it's not my favorite chapter, trust me, it is the most sobering scene in all of the Bible. It's a courtroom scene but it's very different from a human courtroom, an earthly courtroom, because here in Revelation 20 we have a Judge, that's Christ, according to Jesus, there's a Judge but there's no jury. He's the Judge and the jury. There is a sentence but there is no appeal. There is a punishment but there is no escape. It's a very, very sad scene. Revelation 20. Let's look at verse 4: "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." Verse 7: "Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison," go down to verse 11: "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." So the Bible teaches two events. They're separated by a thousand years--but two events. The resurrection of believers, the righteous dead, the resurrection of life, the resurrection of unbelievers, the unrighteous dead, the resurrection of condemnation. It's pretty sobering, isn't it? Now what I'm about to say is even more sobering. Here's a question and then I'll answer it: why do unbelievers need a physical resurrected body? I understand why believers need it, but why do unbelievers need it? Well it's very similar, actually, but with a twist. Just as believers require a physically resurrected body to enjoy all of eternal bliss, so the unbeliever will require a physical, resurrected body to endure all of the punishment of the future. It's a very sad and sobering thought. Now listen carefully. Here's the big point I want you to get. This is why churches exist and preach the gospel. This is why missionaries go overseas. This is why people have radio and television programs and books. This is why! To get the message of Jesus Christ out so that people will choose Him and enjoy the resurrection of life. That's why. I read a statistic the other day that I found shocking. I'm not quite sure I believe it but it was a poll that was taken so I believe at least in part what I'm about to tell you. According to one poll, 4 out of every 5 Americans, and I'm quoting, agree that we will all be called before God at Judgment Day to answer for our sins. Is that hard to believe? 4 out of 5 Americans believe that? Question: what are they doing about that? If they really believe that, as the poll says, what are they gonna answer Him? If they're gonna stand before God and answer Him, what are they gonna answer Him? Ahh… sorry? Oops? Or are they gonna say I'm confident because I trusted in Jesus Christ? C.S. Lewis wrote a fabulous set of books called The Chronicles of Narnia. There's seven volumes in it. The very last book is called The Last Battle and toward the end of the book, and I'll close with this, toward the end of the book, Aslan, the lion, representing Christ, tells Peter and Edmund and Lucy that there has been a railroad accident and that they are dead. now listen to how it ends: "And as Aslan spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion but the things that began to happen after that were so great, so beautiful, that I cannot even write about them. and for us this is the end of the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after, but for them it was only the beginning of the real story. Their life in this world, all of their adventures in Narnia, had only been the cover and the title page. Now at last they were beginning chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever and ever, in which every chapter is better than the one before." Isn't that great? Every chapter is better than the one before. This morning, if you're not saved, your best days are behind you. If you're saved, your best days are ahead of you. I know there's a book out called Your Best Life Now. It's wrong. This isn't it. The best is yet to come. The chapter, the unfolding, is yet to come. If you're an unbeliever, the best is behind you. The worst is yet to come. Doesn't have to happen that way. Doesn't have to end that way. That's why churches do what they do and missionaries and evangelists do what they do--to persuade men and women to commit their lives to Christ.