Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sermon for January 26, 2014

And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it.  The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide.  I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne.  And the books were opened, including the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead.  And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire.  This lake of fire is the second death.  And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.   Revelation 20:11 - 15[1]
At most funeral services you hear something about the resurrection.  It is almost without exception that the second resurrection was left out of the sermon.  Did you realize that there are two resurrections?   
The Second Resurrection is Different from the First      

The first resurrection

The first resurrection is the Body of Christ.  That is a good news event!  This is the next great event that Bible prophecy says is going to happen.  God will begin the end of time by opening all the graves of Jesus believers who have previously died.  Immediately following, God will take all the living Christians in something of a massive teleportation to meet Jesus in the air.  The whole Christian family is with their Christ in the air! 

The second resurrection

The second resurrection is for those who are unsaved.  This is bad news.  Who are the unsaved?  Anyone who has not trusted in Christ for salvation.  The Bible says that all the people of all times will stand before the judge. 
…each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, Hebrews 9:27
Of course the choice is up to each individual to believe or disbelieve.  However, it is unbelief that will bring you to the second resurrection of judgment, and not the first resurrection of rewards.  And, in that day the Scripture declares, we will all stand before the judge.  This indicates there will be no place to hide; stand with Him or before Him. 

Do you want to be Judged by law…

Some folks imagine that simply being good is all it takes to make God happy – going to church, paying tithes, not kicking dogs, and helping little old ladies across the street.  Now, being good isn't bad (I even recommend it); but if you are going to count on your obedience, you'd better make certain you are perfect
The Bible says that offending only one of God's laws makes you a sinner.  If you choose to be judged on the merit of your behavior, you had better make certain you can stand in front of God perfect, sinless! 
Some folks imagine there will be some kind of scale approach to the judgment.  If you have done some good things in life they will be placed on the positive side.  The bad things you have done are placed on the other side of the scale.  The theory is, if the good outweighs the bad, God is convinced you're not so bad, and He lets you in heaven.  That, my friend, is about as plausible as the Mother Teresa shooting a man down in cold blood, and then standing before the judge with a list of the orphanages and hospitals.  Don't you believe they wouldn't strap her in the chair! 
Being judged by the law doesn't take into account anything good you've done, only the bad!  That's a dilemma none of us can deal with and overcome.  That's why God made the other judgment possibility available:

…Or Judged by Grace?

When you cannot stand in your own perfection, you can stand covered by the grace of Jesus.  He said that there is no one who comes to the Father, except through Him.  When you humbly confess your sinful condition (your inability to be perfect before God), and you ask Jesus to forgive you, He does just that!  And then when you stand before the Father, it is Jesus who stands in front of you.  The Father sees the perfection of His son, not your sin.
Which do you prefer; law or grace?
Remember if you choose to be judged by the law, the Ten Commandments -- everything you've ever said, done, or thought is written down in God's book of life (Rev 20:12).  Also, everything in that book is going to be revealed in that last day (Luke 12.2,3)
God will execute only one judgment at the second resurrection for all those who have refused to accept Jesus Christ as Savior – death! 
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Rom 6:23 (NIV)
A second reality about the second resurrection and its judgment...
The Second Death is Worse than the First
According to the Bible, the first death is temporary.  It begins, for the unsaved person, at Hell; and ends at the Great White Throne Judgment of God after the second resurrection.  That is bad enough.  However, the second death – judgment sentence of the second resurrection – is much worse than the first death.  It is:


Matthew's gospel account (25.41-46) gives this reality from the lips of Jesus himself:  "eternal fire...eternal punishment."  There is no end to the torment -- it is eternal.


In earlier chapters of The Revelation, John describes just how gruesome is the torment of unbelievers in the everlasting fire. 
The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.”     Revelation 14:11
I recently read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti.  It is a novel of the struggle between demons and angels, worked out in a small town.  Knowing something about the outcome of all struggles between good and evil, I found myself shaking my head each time some demon alluded to their "victories."  I'd think to myself, If you only knew what I know, you wouldn't be acting that way, fella! 
The second death is going to be eternal, extreme, and...


Some sins incur a greater degree of punishment.  At the time of his earthly trial, Jesus told Pilate that the sin of Judas' betrayal was greater than most.
Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.  So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”   John 19:11
In some way the balance sheets of God have got to be reconciled.  While one sin makes you a sinner, and guilty of all sin; there is some way in which God will repay every evil according to the degree of wickedness that accompanies the sin.  Judgment will be equitable, fair – and that's what makes it awesome and scary!
Now, if the second resurrection is so awful, and the second death something to be avoided at all costs, what can we do?  What should we do?  Notice the answer found in the third difference: 
The Second Birth is All That Can Prevent the Second Death
So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’  John 3:7
The first birth is natural; it comes to all of us in the natural order of things; we are human beings, children of Adam's race.  The first birth ends in death.  The second birth is spiritual...
For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.  The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.”  But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit.  1 Corinthians 15:44 - 45
Notice Paul says that the last Adam (Jesus) is a "life-giving spirit"?  The first birth ends in the first death.  The second birth ends in eternal life.  What does it mean? 

Renewal Now

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!   2 Corinthians 5:17
The one true mark of conversion from death to life is a changed life.  And it isn't just the outward things we do.  It is the inward life.  Do you love more?  Do you hate and gossip less?  Are you more willing to see others' point of view?  Is your inner life changed?  Renewal Now; and...

Reversal Then

Jesus told his followers a story about a self-centered, uncaring rich man, and a poor beggar who lay at the rich man's porch.  The rich man cared nothing for God, or what God would have him do.  He was born just once.  The poor man had little of this world's goods, he was sick and no one cared for him.  Yet he loved God and was born twice. 
Both men eventually died and were judged.  The rich man wound up in torment, the poor man in paradise.  The rich man now called out to God and asked for a little relief.  God's answer:
…‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing.  So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish.   Luke 16:25
The second death is a place of knowing, remembering, feeling and suffering.  It is eternal, and worse than what we now call death.  There is only one thing in the universe than can prevent the second death – a second birth! 
Do you remember the recent Academy Award winning picture, Schindler's List?  It's a true story of a German manufacturer who literally spent his fortune bribing German officials to save the lives of people destined to die in the Holocaust of World War II. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been one of those people assigned to one of those camps?  You've heard all the rumors about what happens there. Now, you're marched in the gates, and you see those smokestacks with the ashes polluting the air, and you're chilled by the knowledge that you're literally breathing the ashes of fellow human beings. 
There was no way out of that except one way.  There was no hope except one thing.  There was a list – Schindler's list.  A fortune had been spent to buy the lives of some 500 people. Those who were on that list did not have a special talent, did not have a special reason for being there, nothing exceptional or unexceptional about them.  It was just that their names were on the list.  And that list literally saved them from the fiery inferno[2]   
There is another list. 
Beloved, Jesus offers you the new birth, a spiritual birth, an escape from everlasting torment.  All it takes is the application of His blood.  He is willing.  The only question is:
Will you have it?
Will you accept Him now, and serve only Him?
There will come a time when all of history and destiny will be reduced to a list.  You are on Satan's death list – we are all sinners, and condemned by our sin.  Are you on Jesus' list of life?  Has the blood cleansed and made you whiter than snow?
Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.  For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.    Revelation 20:6
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
Watch the sermon video here

[1] All Scripture quotations from New Living Translation
[2]From a sermon by Dr. Frank Pollard, Jackson, Miss, broadcast on The Baptist Hour, (BH16-94TV)

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