Illustration: Professional golfer Paul Azinger was diagnosed with cancer at age 33. He had just won a PGA championship and had 10 tournament victories to his credit. He wrote, "A genuine feeling of fear came over me. I could die from cancer. Then another reality hit me even harder. I'm going to die eventually anyway, whether from cancer or something else. It's just a question of when. Everything I had accomplished in golf became meaningless to me. All I wanted to do was live."
Then he remembered something that Larry Moody, who teaches a Bible study on the tour, had said to him. "Zinger, we're not in the land of the living going to the land of the dying. We're in the land of the dying trying to get to the land of the living."
Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own life?" If it's really possible to live forever, there's no more relevant issue than the one we're dealing with this morning—if a man dies, shall he live again? The Bible says, "If only in this life we have hope, then we are of all people to be pitied." The more you live, the more you realize that life is coming to a dead end. It is futile if there is not hope beyond the grave.
1 Corinthians 15. 1-8
Is there life after death?
The answer is yes. Jesus' resurrection proved it.
The Old Testament had predicted that the Messiah was going to die. Jesus' death was not an accidental death. It was the deliberate death of a person who offered his life as a sacrifice. God laid all of our sins upon him; he became our substitute on the cross.
A woman wrote J. Vernon McGee: "Our preacher said that on Easter, Jesus just became unconscious on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?" McGee replied, "Dear Sister, whip your preacher 39 times. Nail him to a cross. Hang him in the sun for six hours. Run a spear through his heart. Embalm him. Put him in an airless tomb for three days. Then see what happens."
Jesus Christ died and was buried. He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. He was then laid in a borrowed tomb.
Illustration: A little boy had brought his friend to church one Easter Sunday and they were watching a video of the crucifixion and resurrection. The visiting little boy had this look of sadness when Jesus died. The friend saw his discontent and said, “Don’t worry he’s dead but he’ll be back!”
1 Corinthians 15.12-19
Jesus Christ demonstrated that there is life after death. In verse 12, Paul seems perplexed as to why people even asked the question. "If it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?" Now, we cannot prove that Jesus came back from the grave. We can't put our faith in a test tube or show a video to provide evidence. If only there would have been cell phones! It would have been on You Tube!
BUT… We have the eyewitness testimony in Scripture. We have the testimony of millions of people whose lives have been changed by Christ over the centuries. We have the calendar and the church. We have the Holy Spirit convicting us in our hearts today that he's alive. So you have the option to examine the evidence and believe it or to disbelieve it.
I love the life of Winston Churchill. Churchill arranged his own funeral. There were stately hymns in St. Paul's Cathedral and an impressive liturgy. But at the end of the service, Churchill had an unusual event planned. When they said the benediction, a bugler high in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on one side played Taps, the universal signal that the day is over. There was a long pause. Then a bugler on the other side played Reveille, the military call.
This was Churchill's way of communicating that while we say "Good night" down here, it's "Good morning" up there. Now why would he do that? Because he believed in Jesus Christ, who said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live." When a man steps out of his own grave, he is anything that he says that he is, and he can do anything that he says he can do.
What is life after death like?
1 Corinthians 15.20
Paul teaches that Jesus demonstrated what life after death was like. First fruit means an example of that which is to come. In other words, if you want to know what it's like to die and live again, look at Jesus' experience.
First, there was a separation from the body. Just before Jesus died, he said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Jesus' body was buried in a tomb, but his spirit went to be with the Father. He said to the thief on the cross, "This day you're going to be with me in paradise." When we die, our spirits go immediately to be with God while our body goes to the grave. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."
ILLUSTRATION: Hand (Spirit) Glove (body) When the spirit departs, the body is put aside like a lifeless glove. We don't return to a number of other bodies like reincarnation teaches, and we don't go to a place where we're purged of our sin for years. We go directly to be with God when we die.
There's a departure of the spirit from the body, then there is a resurrection of the body. After three days, Jesus returned to the tomb to the same body. He left the grave clothes behind. He showed them the scars in his hands and feet. In John 5:28, Jesus said, "Now don't be amazed at this. But the time is coming when all that are in the grave will hear his voice and come out."
If God has the power to make matter out of energy, and to make Adam out of the dust of the ground, then he has the power to recreate our decomposed bodies. The Bible says, "Nothing is impossible with God."
When Jesus suggested that he was going to open up the tomb of Lazarus, Lazarus's sister Martha objected. "Oh no. He's been dead four days. There's already a bad odor. His body's already beginning to decompose." Jesus said, "Martha, you're going to see the glory of God." He rolled the stone away, and he called out, "Lazarus, come forth." And this man who had been dead for four days came out of the grave. It doesn't matter if you've been dead four days or four centuries or four millennia. When Christ commands it, there will be a resurrection of the body. Thessalonians 4:16 says the Lord will come down from heaven with the spirits of those who have fallen asleep, there will be a loud command, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Now some skeptic may say, "Aw, that's too fanciful to believe." Let me ask you a question: If you didn't know about conception and had never seen a birth, and I tried to describe it to you, would you believe it?
A tiny, unseen little sperm from a man is combined with a tiny, unseen little egg from a woman, and they form a cell, and those cells begin to multiply, and nine months later, out comes this baby with pumping arms and legs, and he starts to scream. You'd say, "No way. You've got to be kidding me." This a miracle we observe over and over again, but we take it for granted because it is so common. It is no more difficult for God to raise the dead than it is for him to create life.
First Corinthians 15:35 reads: "Someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised?' With what kind of body will they come?" How foolish. God has demonstrated with plants what happens. You take a kernel of corn, and put it in the ground. It decomposes, and in two weeks a green shoot comes up. It becomes a corn stalk and then produces an ear of corn.
So now, take a petrified, body and put it in the ground. It decomposes, but one day, by the power of God, it is going to come up a glorified body. He says here, it is sown a natural body; it's going to be reaped a spiritual body. It is sown a perishable body; it's going to be raised an imperishable body. It is sown a weak body; it's going to be raised in power.
Paul says you just trust God. He's able to create a body that will perfectly fit into its intended environment. He created fish with scales so that they could survive under water. He created birds with feathers so they could fly through the air. He has created us with immortal bodies that will never perish, spoil, or fade.
Now that's good news. If you were 80 years old with arthritis and a hearing aid, you won't want to pick up where you left off. Instead, you'll have a glorified body.
People ask me, “Do you think we will recognize people in heaven?” Yes! Look for me, My glorified body will look something like this: (Picture of George Clooney on screen)
Our bodies are going to be identifiable bodies. The Bible says we're going to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If we're going to know those guys we've never met, then we're going to be able to identify each other. To me, that's one of the warmest tugs of heaven—to be able to be with people we've loved on earth, to be reunited with no threat of disunity or separation again.
Every time I hug my Aunt good bye – there is a threat that it will be the last hug – Heaven is a place with no threats of separation!
How can we obtain eternal life?
Jesus purchased it. If life after death were for sale, how much would you pay for it? We can't afford eternal life. Heaven is a dwelling place of God, a place of perfection, and we have forfeited our right to be there because of our sin. The only purchase price is the blood of a perfect person, and you and I don't qualify.
We can't earn it; we don't deserve it. The good news is that Jesus Christ stepped in to pay the debt for us. First Corinthians 15:56 says, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord." When Jesus Christ died on that cross, he paid our sin debt in full.
So you can't earn it, but you have to receive it. I can think of two reasons why you might refuse such a fantastic offer. One is your love for sin. There is a sense in which eternal life doesn't cost you anything; there is another sense in which it costs you everything. We must receive Christ and live for him, saying, "I'm leaving the old world behind, and I'm going in to a new life with Christ."
You may be so in love with materialistic values or the party activities of this world that you can't give them up. You may rationalize and make excuses, but the bottom line is that you're too in love with this world to receive the hope of eternal life.
The second primary reason people reject the offer of Christ is because of personal pride. Maybe your greatest asset is your greatest liability like a brilliant mind. There's plenty of good evidence to verify the resurrection of Jesus, but it can't be proven; you just have to accept it like a humble child.
Golfer Paul Azinger recovered from chemotherapy and returned to the PGA tour. He's done pretty well. Last week he was averaging about $150,000 for every round of golf he plays. But that bout with cancer deepened his perspective. He wrote, "I've made a lot of money since I've been on the tour, and I've won a lot of tournaments, but that happiness is always temporary. The only way you will ever have true contentment is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I'm not saying that nothing ever bothers me and I don't have problems, but I feel like I've found the answer to the hole.
"I know I'll spend eternity with God and I have a promise—that as a child of God he'll help me deal with anything. He promises to offer me contentment regardless of what life brings—even cancer."
If a man dies, will he live again? Yes. Jesus proved it. Jesus demonstrated it. He purchased it for you. It is up to you to receive it, if you haven't already.