The Hope of the Resurrection

I invite you to turn with me in your bibles to Philippians 3. Philippians 3.*

I had planned to continue preaching into 1 Corinthians 14, but after prayer I reconsidered. The passing of one of our beloved brothers on Friday morning, a former pastor of our body, is a significant moment for our church.

And as I just preached from 1 Corinthians 13, Love both hopes and it endures, and one of the ways that God enables our love to endure is through reminding us of his promises, especially when we are at our weakest.

That’s what I aim to do tonight, to simply remind us of what he has promised to us, what he has promised for us, in hopes that we would be encouraged in our grief, and strengthened in our suffering. Let’s turn to God’s word in Philippians 3, verses 20 and 21:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

This evening I’d like for us to begin by thinking for a while on our heavenly citizenship, mentioned by Paul in verse 20. Our heavenly citizenship.

To be citizens of heaven necessarily means that we are not citizens of this earth. Our ultimate nationality is not in the United States, or Alabama, or Montgomery. Our most permanent passport, as believers, is stamped with the emblem of heaven.

This world is not our home, even though we often forget that. We get distracted with all sorts of things. We fix our minds on things that don’t really matter. Most of the things that occupy our minds won’t matter at all in 10 years, and they certainly won’t matter in 1,000. But we let them dominate our minds, tempt us worry, let us distract from the more important things in life.

We can claim that our citizenship is in heaven, all the while fixing our mind on earthly concerns.

But reminding ourselves of our celestial heritage helps us remember that our loyalties don’t lie in this age, and neither should our hearts. We can overlook sins against us when we know that Heaven awaits. We can suffer through trials in this life, knowing that God’s presence is our ultimate destination. And we can persevere in hope through our grief when we know that our home above will be a realm of no more tears, no more sadness, and no more separation.

And the fact that our citizenship is in heaven also reminds us that this life is brief. This life is brief. The brevity of this age ought to be ever in front of our eyes.

As the psalmist says in Psalm 90:

The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.

70 years and then the grave, followed by eternity, makes this age not even a blip on the chronological timeline.

And if that is true, then we need to often be reminded to use this time well. None of us is promised another day, much less another 10 years.

That means that if you’re not trusting in Jesus, then your citizenship is not in heaven, and you need to repent today. Your passport is instead stamped with eternal perdition, judgement in hell for your sins.

But if you instead trust in Christ, you can have your nationality transferred, you can spiritually naturalized if you will, and have your citizenship planted firmly and immediately in the heavenly places. And you can join us all in the heavenly journey home.

In fact, before we leave this topic of heavenly citizenship, I want to make explicit another very comforting reality, especially for those grieving the loss of a beloved saint.

Paul doesn’t just say that HIS citizenship is in heaven. Many people think of heaven in very individualistic terms where they get whatever they want, and sit on some ethereal cloud and play some silly harp.

But look what Paul says instead. Paul says OUR citizenship is in heaven. There is a necessarily communal aspect to our heavenly destination. It won’t just be me and God when I get there. It won’t be a private tea party between you and Jesus. It’s going to be a gathering. It’s going to be a celebration.

Scripture of heaven in speaks in terms of a festival, or even a party, in this heavenly place. Hold your fingers here in Philippians 3, and turn with me for a moment to Hebrews 12. Hebrews chapter 12.

In Hebrews 12, starting in verse 18 the author is describing the realities of Mount Sinai. These were scary, dark, threatening death. The old covenant and the law, as pictured by Mount Sinai were terrifying.

But that’s not the case for believers today, those that trust in Christ. We’ve been made, by virtue of our union with Christ, citizens of a better kingdom, as pictured by another mountain. Verse 22:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,”

Faith in Christ and union with him puts us as entering into the heavenly realm, the celestial promised land. And it is described as a festal gathering, which means a party. It is a celebration, a glorious worship experience.

But notice also, we’re not alone when we get there:

“you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven”

Who is that in verse 23? Who are the people who are already there? Those are the people who have already died in Christ, the saints who have passed on before us. That’s the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. They are the saints already at the heavenly celebration. And here is a wonderful source of comfort for those who are grieving.

It means that when the church gathers every Lord’s day, all around the world, you’re not merely worshipping with your brothers and sisters here at Morningview, you are joining in in the heavenly worship of Christ at every congregation around this world, in Kenya and China, and Columbia and Spain, but you’re also joining in the celestial worship of Christ at the heavenly festal gathering.

That means also when you worship Christ here, you’re also worshipping with our dear brothers and sisters who have gone before us to the grave. They are absent from us in the body, but they are before us in the presence of God on Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. You share in celebration with them.

And what awaits us if the fulfillment of that. We have a taste of it now, by the presence of the holy spirit.

But when we get to heaven we not only get to see our savior and worship him, we get to see our savior and worship him alongside our beloved departed saints. Our citizenship will be fulfilled. Our passport will be stamped for the final time. And our heavenly destination will finally be reached.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Doesn’t that bring comfort to us as we grief, and consolation as we mourn? I know it sure does to me.

But what will this heavenly experience be like?

Let’s go back to Philippians 3 now, and think for a bit about the transformation that will take place. The transformation of our bodies. Philippians 3, again at verse 20:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Paul is very clear that this savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, mentioned in verse 20 will transform our lowly body, our we might say our humble body.

A transformation awaits all those who trust in Jesus.

Why is that transformation needed? Well our current state necessitates it. Man was made from the dust. Adam was formed out of the earth, and we share that same dustly frame.

We are naturally weak, and were so before the fall. There is an inherent perishability. Adam was, even prior to the fall, potentially fallible. He was mortal. He was capable of sin and of death, even without the presence of sin.

And that natural defect has been solidified through the fall of mankind into sin. The world was plunged into weakness and death because of the sin of Adam.

We’re morally corrupted, choosing foolishness and sin over righteousness. But as it relates specifically to our text, our bodies were also corrupted. Our natural weakness was compounded through the effects of sin in this age.

We get sick, sometimes through no fault of our own. We fall and get hurt. We get scrapes and bruises. Some are born with debilitating bodily afflictions, while others experience them over time. Some live to see old age, some don’t make it past infancy.

And every person, believer or not, knows deep down that this isn’t the way it is supposed to be. When we see the weak suffering, or the frail dying, or we see the young taken away in their youth, we recoil. It is like our souls have an allergic reaction to the reality of death, and that reaction is deeper than mere intellect. Our very nature despises death.

And even after physical death, these lowly bodies continue to decay. The very process of death and what follows further compounds the vile nature of death as a curse upon God’s creation. It all is repulsive, and a reminder of how creation has been corrupted and separated from the God of all life.

But the good news for God’s people is that all of this is temporary. Though it seems at times that death has won, we know that he has not. Christ has overcome death and the grave.

Paul speaks with assurance: the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who WILL transform our lowly body. There is no doubt, no ambiguity in Paul’s voice. Take comfort in that, especially you who are currently suffering on body. Your suffering is temporary.

Your future experience will be beyond even comparing to the sufferings you experience now. Let that be some fuel to sustain your soul as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Further, we would do well to notice a fact that seems a bit surprising at first glance. Paul highlights that our lowly body will be transformed. We might think that these bodies are so corrupted that they are no longer salvageable, and therefore Christ would grant us new bodies. But that’s not what the text says.

the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform OUR lowly body

It is not as if we will just get a new body. The old body will be transformed. There will be some measure of continuity between our body in this life and the transformed body in the next.

Exactly how much continuity, scripture speaks very little. There seems clearly to be enough continuity that we will be recognized, like Jesus’s glorified body is clearly recognized by the disciples once he reveals his identity to them.

But exactly what our transformed bodies will be like is a bit of a mystery for us. But it is worth noting the presence of some continuity. And this is instructive for us. If there were no continuity, and we simply left this body in the grave and picked up a new one on the way out, then we could easily justify sinning with and against this body.

Why not? If this body was simply destined to rot, then why does it matter what I do with this body. I could abuse it, run it ragged, destroy it, because I’ll get a new one anyway. We can be tempted to sin against our own bodies.

But, when we realize there is some measure of continuity between this body and the transformed body, then we can be helped in our holiness, and be kept from wrong conclusions about the goodness of our bodies.

For example, hear what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Sexual sin is sin against your own body, so don’t do it. Holiness, both now and after transformation is fitting, so don’t defile your body with sin.

Further, if your body is good enough for the Holy Spirit to use it as a temple, then there’s no reason why we wouldn’t expect continuity with that body in the next life.

We run into all sorts of problems when we over-emphasize the sinfulness of man and his body. We can sometimes emphasize the effects of sin and the fall to such an extent that people can be led to believe that the body itself is wicked and beyond salvage.

But Paul would balance such thinking by reminded us not only that the body is a fit temple for the Holy Spirit. And therefore, Paul says, the body should be kept holy. The Spirit dwells in you, remember that, as well as remembering that the body is to be transformed, rather than simply discarded, when Christ returns.

But our text in Philippians also makes very clear that while there is clear continuity with the transformed body, there will also be a great measure of discontinuity. That that’s where we can glean much hope in this age.

the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body

Our transformed bodies, and the bodies of all saints who have passed before us, will be like Jesus’s own glorious body.

In a real sense, Jesus doesn’t get something special simply because he’s the messiah. But He instead shares his special bodily experience with us. A transformed body, A body that will not wear out. A body that will not inevitably weaken over time. A body that won’t perish, but will instead be imperishable.

This is an especially sweet promise for all of us, but especially as we think about our dear brother Greg. I knew Greg for more than 15 years, and I never once new him to be without bodily suffering. But that’s not what awaits him any longer. When Christ returns, his body, and our bodies will be transformed.

Paul writes about that transformation in 1 Corinthians 15:

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality”

Imperishable. Immortality. We can’t die. That means that unlike Adam, who was created good and upright, but potentially mortal, we will be immortal. He was created sinless, but with the ability to sin.

But we will be transformed, unable to sin any more. Unable to experience death. Unable to experience weakness and decay. Unable to experience anything other than un-mediated and perfect communion with our heavenly father.

That’s what can encourage us as we suffer in this body in this life. And that is what can give us hope as we grieve the loss of dear saints in this age. Though they often suffered greatly, they now no nothing but bliss. They were buried perishable, but will raise imperishable.

They feel no more pain. The feel no more sadness. They are more alive and full of joy than they ever could have been in this age.

That’s the final experience of all believers: fullness of joy in resurrected and transformed bodies. That’s what we will all experience in the end, if we trust in Christ as our Lord and savior.

Let these thoughts still your heart as you grieve, and stir within you the hope of life, as we all await our final state, living forever in transformed bodies.

I’ll close by simply reading another description of that final state, using the words of the apostle John in Revelation 21:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, [Death shall be no more] neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

That’s what awaits all the people of God. Some taste it sooner, some later, but all believers have that as their destination, their celestial city, their heavenly home.

Benediction- John 6:

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

*NB: this sermon was preached following the sudden death of one of Morningview Baptist Church’s long time pastors, Greg Graham.


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