Sermon for November 14, 2021, Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Daniel 12:1-3 (Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 28—Series B)

“I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 14, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text is the Old Testament Reading from Daniel 12:

1And at that time, Michael, the great prince who has charge over the sons of your people, will arise, and there will be a time of distress which has not been since there was a nation until that time. But at that time your people will be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. 2Many of those who sleep in the dusty earth will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to contempt, to everlasting abhorrence. 3And those who have insight will shine like the brightness of the sky and those who bring many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.

          In the Third Article of the Creed Christians confess, “I believe . . . in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” With those simple words, Christians acknowledge that there is much more to the Christian faith than the goal of simply “dying and going to heaven.” The goal of the Christian faith is resurrection and life everlasting, an eternal life lived in a whole new creation that the Lord will make, a new heaven and earth where God’s people in Christ will “shine like the brightness of the sky . . . and like the stars forever and ever.”

What a thrilling promise we confess of resurrection from the grave and its sequel, everlasting life. But alongside that Gospel promise is also the acknowledgment of the terrible consequence of sin—death. In order to confess the resurrection from the dead we must first confess the doctrine of death. The Bible’s teaching about death is usually studied under the topic of eschatology, the study of Last Things. Seems a natural topic as death is the last thing of this mortal life. When we breathe our last, we die. That is our physical death.

Physical death is not a total destruction or annihilation of a person. It is the loss of physical life caused by the separation of the soul from the body. Consider Matthew’s record of the death of Jesus, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matt. 27:50 ESV). All people, unless the Lord Jesus comes again beforehand, will die. Their breath will cease; their heart will stop. Soul and body will be separated. In the moment of death, the souls of the believers in Christ enter the joy of heaven. Jesus promised the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 ESV). This separate existence of the soul continues in heaven with the Lord, in the case of believers, or in hell without the Lord, in the case of unbelievers.

But this is not forever. Soul and body were not created to be separated. The punishment of death because of sin is what undoes God’s creation. Should death, then, have the final word? Is that the hope of the Christian faith, to “die and go to heaven”? No! Our hope as Christians is the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting! Believers dying and their souls going to heaven is good, to be sure. They are with the Lord in Paradise. It is a place of joy and blessing without the sins and troubles of this mortal life. But as good as it is, God said that it is not good enough. He could not let death have its way and have the last word.

As we know from Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. It’s what we deserve as humans who have fallen short of the glory of God. It’s the just and right punishment for people who have failed to love God and their neighbors, for people who are not perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). But our perfect heavenly Father sent His beloved Son in order to save the whole world from sin and from death. Jesus took to Himself a true human body and soul in His conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. He shared in our flesh and blood. We read in Hebrews 2 that “he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14–15 ESV). Jesus, true God and true Man, suffered on the cross and died to pay the penalty for our sin. He breathed His last and gave up His soul into death, experiencing physical death after having suffered the pangs of hell itself while He hung on the cross.

Just as Jesus promised the unnamed thief, Jesus’ soul was on that very Good Friday with that man’s soul in the paradise of God. Jesus died and His soul went to heaven. Good? Yes! He died to pay for our sins. We have forgiveness by grace through the gift of saving faith in Jesus’ blood poured out for us on the tree of the cross. But there’s more that’s needed. Death must meet its defeat, and it has. “Christ Jesus . . . abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10 ESV). On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. Soul and body were reunited in the God-Man Jesus, just as they will be united in the resurrection of our bodies. 1 Corinthians 15, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20 ESV).

If Christ is the firstfruits risen from the dead, there must be second fruits. That’s us, believers in Jesus who have received by God’s grace the forgiveness of sins through the Gospel of our Lord Christ who suffered, died, and rose for us. He has defeated sin. He has conquered death. Since we believe and confess that Jesus has defeated sin and death, this faith carries with it the hope of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. The promise of Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26 ESV).

How can we be certain of this? Our faith is directed by the Holy Spirit to the words of Scripture in Daniel 12: “But at that time your people will be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dusty earth will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to contempt, to everlasting abhorrence. And those who have insight will shine like the brightness of the sky and those who bring many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” This is the clearest Old Testament teaching on the resurrection. Daniel has the assurance that those who believe in God and are heirs of His kingdom through faith “will be delivered.” The promise is extended to “everyone who is found written in the book.” This refers to God’s book of life. Jesus, speaking to the seventy-two who returned from their mission trip, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20 ESV). God has a record of His people. You can be certain that you will not be eternally lost. Your names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. They are inscribed in the blood Jesus shed for you on the cross, the blood that purchased your forgiveness from sin and your rescue from the power of death. Through Holy Baptism and the gift of saving faith in Christ, the Lamb slain for the forgiveness of sins, your name is written in this book. Jesus promises that the name of everyone who conquers will remain written in this book of life and that He will give us this resurrection victory. 1 Corinthians 15, “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54–57 ESV).

On the Last Day, at the return of the Lord Christ in power and great glory, all the dead will rise—believers in Christ by grace alone through faith alone will rise in body and soul to everlasting life and non-believers will rise in body and soul to everlasting contempt. On that day, death will meet its final defeat and be swallowed up forever in the resurrection victory of the Risen Christ. Then, in a new creation, you will shine like the brightness of the sky and like the stars as you reflect the divine glory of God with whom you will live in body and soul forever and ever. St. John describes it this way, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. . . . The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 21:22–26; 22:3–5 ESV).

In the Third Article of the Creed we confess, “I believe . . . in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” With those simple words, you and I acknowledge that there is much more to the Christian faith than the goal of simply “dying and going to heaven.” Our goal in faith is resurrection and life everlasting, an eternal life lived in the new creation, the new heaven and earth, where you and I will live in body and soul. Reflecting the glory of the Triune God, we will “shine like the brightness of the sky . . . and like the stars forever and ever.” As we ever look forward to that day we pray with the whole Church, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.” Amen.

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