Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—“their bodies will rise”

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Over the last several Sunday evenings, I have been preaching from a section of Isaiah known as Isaiah's Little Apocalypse which includes chapters 24, 25, 26 and 27. In using this title, scholars and students of the prophecy of Isaiah mean that these chapters remind us of the apocalyptic type of writing that we find in the Book of Daniel and The Revelation. In other words, there is an unveiling of the future in a tremendously significant way. So this is the little apocalypse and in this little apocalypse we saw last time that Isaiah especially draws our attention to a coming Tribulation of truly ‘biblical proportions’, the overthrow of the kingdoms of this world, and the establishment of God’s rule on earth. Tonight we look at the most significant event that will take place at the end of the age—the resurrection of believers.

A more contemporary version of this passage—the New Century Version—gives us a good sense of what the prophet is saying:

“Your people have died, but they will live again; their bodies will rise from death. You who lie in the ground, wake up and be happy! The dew covering you is like the dew of a new day; the ground will give birth to the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19, NCV)

As Christians we often see the resurrection as a New Testament doctrine. Like many biblical doctrines, the theology of resurrection finds its fullest explanation in the New Testament. However, like all Biblical doctrines, it finds its antecedents in the Old Testament. Isaiah was confident that Israel’s believing dead will be resurrected. Other prophets, like Daniel, teach us that the resurrection of Old Testament saints will someday be a reality.

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2, ESV)

For a nation that has experienced the discipline of God through the aggression of her neighbors, this verse thus constitutes a glorious declaration of triumph for the Jews. Those who have died are His; for that reason they shall live.

This is the great promise of God to His people—we shall live again. To more fully understand the doctrine of the resurrection, let me ask you to turn to the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians.


            1. Christianity rises or falls upon the validity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ
                1. this is why two thirds of the Gospels are devoted to that event
            2. if Christ is not risen, then our faith is futile
                1. the apostle Paul says it best when he writes:
                  • “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19, ESV)
                  • ILLUS. One commentator writes: “To reject the resurrection eviscerates the gospel. It disembowels the gospel and makes our faith in vain – literally without success – because we have put our hope in an unworthy object.”
                2. believing in the gospel includes holding firmly to believe in Christ’s resurrection


            1. there were evidently some believers in the church at Corinth who denied the validity of the resurrection—both Jesus’ and ours
              • “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12, ESV)
              • ILLUS. In a world dominated by Greek thought and philosophy, the doctrine of the resurrection was often received with skepticism. Most Greek philosophers and intellectuals considered the human body a prison, and they actually welcomed death as a deliverance of the soul from it’s earthly bondage. Remember when the Apostle Paul went to Athens his message of the Gospel was received with interest until he got to the part of the resurrection of Jesus. At that point some actually laughed at Paul.
            2. nor was the doctrine of the resurrection universally held by the Jews of antiquity
                1. most believed in it; some did not
                2. both the bible and contemporary historians of the New Testament era tell us that the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection of the body
                  • “There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,” (Luke 20:27, ESV)
                    1. the Sadducees were the political conservatives of their day, they were aristocratic and the social group from whom the Jewish High Priest was chosen
            3. interestingly to me, some of today’s greatest skeptics of the resurrection profess to be Christians
              • ILLUS. One of the most influential figures in New Testament Scholarship today is John Dominic Crossan. He is closely connected with the ‘Jesus Seminar’—a theological think tank that over the last decade have spent their time debunking the New Testament. Crossan’s blunt assessment of the resurrection? "I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time brings dead people back to life." Thomas Sheehan, another fellow of the Seminar, put it even more directly: "Jesus, regardless of where his corpse ended up, is dead and remains dead."
                1. sadly, these are the men writing the books used by many of America’s
                    1. these are the men delivering the lectures at schools of religion and influencing the faith of a generation of Mainline Protestant denominations
                2. they believe that the resurrection needs to be debunked and that Christ’s resurrection appearances were simply the pious of visions of believers who saw “with eyes of faith” what they wanted to see
                3. they have “spiritualized” the resurrection
                    1. they claim that when we are saved we are “raised” or “resurrected” to a “new life” – a new way of living
                    2. the physical resurrection, they maintain, is absurd and that belief in Jesus' resurrection did not depend on what happened to his body
                    3. after all, intelligent, thinking people know that the dead cannot come back to life
                      • ILLUS. Rudolf Bultmann, the godfather of modern theological skepticism, wrote: “It is impossible to use electric light and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries and at the same time believe in the New Testament world of demons and spirits.”
                4. folks, all I can say to that is leave me alone in my ignorance and faith in God’s word!
            4. there will always be doubters and skeptics


            1. the Scriptures teach that we will all take part in a bodily resurrection, and if God’s word says it I believe it whether-or-not it can explain scientifically, philosophically or theologically
                1. Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion
                    1. the scandal of the empty tomb is at the heart of our faith
                    2. the claim that Jesus actually rose from the dead on the third day is perhaps the greatest scandal of authentic Christianity in the face of modern secularism
            2. the doctrine is hinted at in the Old Testament
                1. Old Testament saints looked beyond this life, but for the most part they trusted in God without clear information about His ultimate plan for them
                    1. but every once in a while we see a snippet of the doctrine
                    2. in the book of job, a statement which is familiar to most of us: ‘For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me’ (Job 19:25–27)
                    3. Psalms 16 and 17 give clear evidence of belief in the resurrection and for that reason they were quoted by Peter and Paul in their preaching in the early days of the Christian Church
                2. thirteen hundred years after Abraham, Isaiah revealed that God would “swallow up death forever” (Is. 25:8), and that at some point “your dead shall live;… [their bodies] shall rise” (26:19)
                3. nevertheless, the doctrine of the resurrection, while taught, is not developed fully in the Old Testament
            3. the doctrine of the resurrection is, however, clearly taught in the New Testament
                1. Jesus preached the resurrection
                  • “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out ... ” (John 5:28, ESV)
                2. the apostle Peter based his Pentecost sermon on the resurrection of Jesus Christ
                  • “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— ... God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22, 24, ESV)
                3. the apostle Paul affirms the resurrection in the strongest of terms
                  • “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep ... For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, ESV)


    • “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5, ESV)
    • “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–23, ESV)
            1. all the dead will one day appear before God to be judged (Rev. 20:11–15)
            2. this “recall,” however, is not what the Bible means by resurrection
                1. resurrection is a transformation to a new state of being, and it is reserved for believers
            3. Our Resurrection Is Not in Doubt


            1. the Christians at Corinth had questioned the apostle Paul, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they appear?”


            1. now how’s that for theological “doublespeak”
            2. 1st, in our spiritual body is the seed for our resurrection body
                1. Paul uses a horticultural illustration of a seed being sown into the ground
                  • ILLUS. As a plant which sprouts from a seed is directly linked to it but remarkably different from it, so too is the relationship between a natural body and a resurrection body.
                2. just as a seed has to “die” before it can produce, so too (for most of us) we will also die before we become what God has destined for us to be
                3. when the seed begins to sprout it does not reproduce itself exactly, but does produce something similar
                4. Paul does not mean that if you plant a dead body it will grow in turn into a resurrection body
                    1. he is using an earthly illustration to demonstrate a spiritual process accomplished by God
                    2. at the resurrection, God will take the dust of what we were and form it into our spiritual bodies
                    3. it will look like us, and it will talk like us, and it will have all of memories intact, but it will be different than what we are now
            3. 2nd, it will be an imperishable body and an immortal body
                1. this body we’re in now is subject to decay
                  • ILLUS. Somebody once said that the moment we are born we begin to die
                    1. though the body is constantly replenishing itself, it cannot keep up with the aging process
                    2. we are all, in a sense, decaying day-by-day
                    3. death only hastens that decay (isn’t this a lovely thought?)
                2. The old body
                    1. It is sown a perishable body (15:42a, 45a, 47a)
                    2. It is sown in dishonor (15:43a)
                    3. It is sown in weakness (15:43c)
                    4. It is sown a natural body (15:44a, 46a, 48a)
                    5. It is sown bearing the likeness of the first Adam (15:49a)
                3. The new body
                    1. It will be raised imperishable (15:42b)
                    2. It will be raised in glory (15:43b)
                    3. It will be raised in power (15:43d)
                    4. It will be raised a spiritual body (15:44b, 46b, 48b)
                    5. It will be raised giving life (15:45b)
                    6. It will come from heaven (15:47b)
                    7. It will be raised bearing the likeness of Christ (15:49b)
                4. here is the paradox of the resurrection body
                    1. the Bible says it’s a body--that implies mass, weight, and something that can be felt and seen
                    2. the Bible says it’s spiritual--spirit implies no mass, no weight, and something that cannot be seen or felt
                    3. consequently, the phrase spiritual body is a paradox – that is, something that is seemingly contradictory, but at the same time, absolutely true
            4. 3rd, our resurrection body will be like Christ’s
              • “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:49, ESV)
              • “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1–2, ESV)
                1. to gain some idea of what the resurrection body will be like we need turn only to the Gospels to see what Jesus is resurrected body was like
                    1. it was recognizable
                    2. it was touchable, i.e. implying physicality
                    3. it was usable, i.e. he ate, he spoke, he interacted with the disciples
                    4. it was supernatural – he could appear and disappear at will and enter a room through closed doors, and shuttered windows
            5. Our Resurrection Body Will Be a Spiritual Body but with Physical Characteristics


            1. the resurrection is not a long, drawn out process
                1. unlike a seed that takes days to germinate and months to produce fruit ...
            2. the apostle Paul tells us that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, it will happen


            1. the Bible clearly points to two resurrections
                1. the one that the apostle Paul has been referring to is the resurrection of the just, or God’s elect – the saints of all ages
                2. there is a second resurrection, the resurrection of the lost
                    1. it is a resurrection that does not take place until 1000 years after the resurrection of the just
                      • “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. 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 were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4–6, ESV)
            2. what will the bodies of the resurrected loss to be like?
                1. the Bible does not tell us, but we can make some assumptions
                    1. they will not be glorified bodies
                    2. they will not be honorable bodies
                    3. I believe they will be raised just as they were before the moment of death arrived
                    4. the only similarity they will have the bodies of the saints is that they will be immortal, but that immortality will be spent in the Lake of Fire
                2. This is why you need to be saved today if you are not
                    1. so that you can have the hope of the glorious resurrection and not the anxiety of a fearful resurrection
                    2. all men or immortal. The only question is where we spend that eternity?


            1. because of Christ’s resurrection and the assurance of the Saints resurrection. Death will be “swallowed up in victory”
            2. because of the hope of the resurrection, death is only a slight “sting” for the Christian
                1. It hurts for only a moment and then it is gone and remembered no more


            1. we are to stand firm in the hope of the resurrection
            2. we are to give ourselves fully to the Lords work while we wait for the resurrection
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