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April 9, 2023
Not Without Hope
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Scripture: 
Topics: 

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In the Easter series Not Without Hope, Pastor Philip reminds believers that they have hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This hope breathes purpose and meaning into the Christian’s life, allowing them to face life and death with confidence. Those who trust in Christ are no longer without hope because they have encountered the risen Savior, who has given them a living hope that transcends all circumstances. Hope equips believers with the strength to face each day, and believe in the gift of eternal life granted in Christ.

More From This Series

Transcript

We come to rejoice in the fact that Christianity has no skeletons in its cupboard, that the Lord Jesus Christ has risen. We serve a risen savior and He’s in the world today and He’s changed you and He’s changed me and He continues to change people all across the world. That’s what I love about the Sunrise Service, just the symbolism of beginning in the darkness and emerging into the morning light just as Jesus started His work in the darkness of Friday afternoon but emerged on the Sunday morning out of the grave declaring victory over sin, the devil and death itself, and we come to rejoice that fact.

H.B. Charles one said at a Shepherd’s conference at Grace Community Church that Christianity is the only religion in the world where it’s adherence go to the grave of its founder to make sure he is not there. That’s because without the resurrection, Christianity is a house of cards. It’s upon his resurrection. We believe our sins have been forgiven, atoned for. It’s upon his resurrection we believe in our own future resurrection. It’s upon his resurrection that he resurrects us each and every day to live life with purpose. And so we’re glad you’re here.

Thank you for singing. It reminds me of an old story of a great preacher, William Sangster, who pastored a Methodist church in London and towards the end of his life, he lost his ability to speak. It was pretty weakened body. And Easter Sunday rolled on and he wrote a note to his daughter. He said, “It’s a horrible thing not to have a voice and be able to shout He has risen. Much more horrible to have a voice and not one to shout He has risen.” So thank you for giving voice to your confession, your belief that Jesus Christ indeed is risen.

Let’s take our Bibles and turn to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. I want to speak today on the subject Not Without Hope. Maybe you have come today without hope. You’re in a dark place, you’re despairing of life itself. You wonder if God loves you. You wonder if there’s a purpose and plan for your life. You’ve got no answer to the thought of death and the approaching grave. My friend, we want you to leave not in a state of despair, but in a state of hope, a hope rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins and who conquered the grave. And that hope is being worked out here in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, follow along, so remain seated and we’ll read God’s word together.

Here’s what Paul says, “But I do not want you to be ignorant brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” You see, there are two categories of people here today. All around us today, across the world today, there are those who have no hope and there are those who have abundant hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope you’re in the latter category and.

I hope that indeed what we are reading here is true for you. He says this, “For if we believe,” verse 14, “that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this, we say to you by the word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means proceed those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of anarch angel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first and we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”

That’s what I want to do today. I want to comfort you. I want to encourage you through the words of 1 Thessalonians 4. An examination was being hailed in little Emma’s class at school and the question on the exam paper was this, upon what do the hibernating animals subsist during the winter? Emma thought for a few minutes and then she wrote this down. It’s very insightful. She said this, “All winter long, hibernating animals subsist on the hope of a coming spring.” I like that answer. Hope does indeed sustain. And what is true of hibernating animals through the long winter months is true of human beings during life. We must subsist and be sustained by hope. Hope is food for the soul. Hope is medicine for the heart. It’s been well said that a man can live three weeks without food, but he can’t live three minutes without hope, without an expectation of something better. Hope keeps us alive. Hope drives us forward. Hope allows us to believe in a better day.

In fact, if you think about this for a second, hope is at the center of life. Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer said, and I think he’s right, “Everything that is done in this world is done in hope.” That’s true. The farmer plants his seeds in hope. The bride and groom exchange their vows in hope. The immigrant makes the long and hard journey to a new country in hope. The patient takes the medicine the doctor prescribes in hope. Everything we do is based on hope. For human beings, hope is as indispensable as oxygen. For without it, we cease to live. Hope is animating. We’ll take it almost in any form.

I’ve told you the story of the passenger on a cruise liner who got rather seasick. The waves had come up and the sea was heaving up and down and his stomach with it and so he went out onto the deck for some fresh air and he was hanging over the rail and he looked awful. One of the bursters on the ship came by and noticed this and put his arm around him and said, “I know how you feel. I’ve seen this a thousand times, but I want you to know, no one has ever died of seasickness.” The man looked at him and said, “Don’t tell me that. It’s the hope of dying that’s keeping me alive.” We’ll take hope almost in any form because hope is at the heart of a profitable and meaningful human experience.

And that’s why it’s a beautiful thing to be a Christian. That’s the beauty of the Christian faith because it offers us abundant hope. The Christian is, or the Christian ought to be the most hopeful person on planet earth. The Christian ought to be an era pressable soul because according to Romans 8, verse 24, “For in hope you have been saved.” That’s an amazing statement. Paul is telling us that the Christian is someone who is saved being given the gift of eternal life by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and that immediately places them in the sphere of hope. They live in the sphere of hope.

Tom quoted 1 Peter 1, verse 3, “The Christian is someone who is alive to the fact that Christ is alive. And they’ve been born again onto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I love that. It’s a living hope. And with it and the possession of it, you and I enjoy it and it breathes purpose and meaning and hope and to everything we do, whether in life or in death. Christians are alive to the fact that Christ is alive.

I had an old man in my church in Belfast in Northern Ireland, he used to pray, “Lord, keep me alive until I’m dead.” I think he understood the joy of knowing Jesus. He wanted to live his life for Jesus down to the last drop until he was indeed promoted to heaven. The Christian is someone who once was without hope. Ephesians 2:2 says that we were once in this world without God and without hope. Those two things go together. Eradicate God as we’re doing in western society today and you will see hope plummet. You will see hopelessness and suicide and despair rise and that’s what we’re witnessing. Don’t take the cocktail they’re selling you. It’s despairing. It leads you in a state of hopelessness. It pins you into a black and dark corner. But not the Christian. The Christian once experienced that in the world without God, without hope, but now they’ve encountered the risen savior and He has given them a living hope that allows them to face life and death, not without hope. That describes the Christian.

I want to show this for a few minutes in the passage we just read, 1 Thessalonians 4, verse 13 to 18, because embedded in that passage Paul says to them about loved ones that have passed and their grief concerning their loved ones, “Sorrow not as those without hope.” Because you have hope and that hope helps you live victoriously and that hope allows you to die triumphantly.

So let’s come and look at this passage. We’re going to look at a few things. Number one, what I call the contrast. Number two, the creed. And number three, the comfort. Let’s look at the contrast beginning in verse 13, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep.” That’s just a euphemism for those who have died. “I don’t want you to sorrow as others who have no hope.” He draws a contrast between the way a Christian dies and a non-Christian dies, between how a Christian grieves and how a non-Christian graves.

Now let’s paint in the background quickly, “concerning those who have fallen asleep.” That was a question that they had raised with Paul. He had been with them for a period of time. He had taught them as we see in this letter, the doctrine of Jesus return for his church called the rapture, and that could happen at any moment. It could happen in their lifetime. And so they were living in the expectation that they might see Jesus return before they die. But some of their loved ones had died and they had all kinds of questions about where they were and when Jesus comes, will they lose out? Will they be second class Christians. And Paul says, no, they’ll be at the head of the honor list. The dead in Christ will rise first. They’re not at a disadvantage.

I want to answer that question. I want to turn your question mark into an exclamation mark. I want you to know that your loved ones who have fallen asleep, their spirit has departed to be with the Lord and their bodies lie in rest until that body is awakened out of sleep in the resurrection morning. Now, take these words and comfort one another. Your loved ones are safe and they’re certainly not at a disadvantage in that they have died before Jesus has returned. And in the middle of that, he draws the contrast, the contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian, the contrast between worldly philosophy that offers nothing beyond the grave and the Christian gospel that promises everlasting life.

Now, there are two things I want us to see quickly what I call the depiction and what I call the distinction. Just notice the depiction. What do I mean by that? Look at the picture or the depiction Paul gives of death. It’s very encouraging. Paul describes death like falling asleep. He describes their loved ones as those who have fallen asleep in Christ. They died in a state of belief in Jesus and that makes all the difference because Jesus said, didn’t he, John 11:25, “I’m the resurrection and the life. And though a man, die yet shall he live.” I love this depiction. It’s a familiar image.

In John 11 verses 11 to 13, we read that Lazarus fell asleep. When the first Christian martyr Stephen dies, it says he fell asleep and the leaders carried him away in great lamentation. So the spirit departs to be with the Lord. The body sleeps in the ground until the great day of resurrection. So from a Christian perspective, in the light of the gospel, dying is like sleeping. That’s lovely, because most people are imprisoned by the fear of death. Hebrews 2 tells us that, “And Jesus came to release us from the imprisonment of the fear of death.”

My friend, there’s nothing to fear in sleeping. It’s actually a beautiful thing. Just as sleep holds no terror for anyone, neither need death hold any terror for those who believe. For one day they will wake up to new life in God’s near presence. I like the way one writer put this, “Listen, I have tried to imagine that feeling of being exhausted and dreamed after a long and grueling day, and then at the last my head touches that soft pillow and all I have to do is give way to sleep. I know I’m safe, secure , and protected in my home.”

Falling asleep is not something strange or terrifying. It is an experience that our heavenly Father gives us in advance so that we need not fear death. I love that thought. See, Psalm 1:27 says that God gives his beloved sleep. It’s a gift. Bone tired and weary at the end of the day. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it, to plop into a nice clean, warm bed and just given to sleep, and not off. Nothing terrifying about that. In fact, it’s a delightful experience. Jesus in His death and resurrection has removed the fear of death for those who trust Him. And we can look at death like just falling asleep. And when our time comes, we should yield to it knowing that we’re about to wake in His presence while our body sleeps until the resurrection morning. Amen?

I saw this, August 2020, in the passing of my own mother. Some of you know the story, we’re in the middle of COVID. My family informed me that mom was not in a good place. She had been growing old, she had a touch of dementia. Her body would kind of been feeding away over the months and last year. And so we had a sense that the end was near. And so through the kindness of a pilot in our church, he got me booked onto a flight into Newark and into Dublin. I left on a Monday. My sister told my mom that Philip’s coming, the rest of the family were there. And so I got onto that plane, get into Dublin on the Tuesday, get up into Belfast at nine o’clock.

My mother had been waiting. It was like she was fighting sleep. She wanted to go asleep, she wanted to die. She wanted to yield up the spirit and go to be with Jesus, but she was fighting sleep so that she could see her son from America. She had asked my sister the night before, “When is Philip coming? When is Philip coming?” I get in at nine o’clock. I read, I prayed, we cried. I told her I loved her, told her how much I enjoyed her cream cakes and [inaudible 00:17:46] stew.

More than that, the fact from I was a young boy, I was nursed in the gospel in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And by about one o’clock, she didn’t fight the sleep anymore. She gave up the ghost and when to be with Christ. She’d seen her son. There was closure. There wasn’t much weeping in our home that hour. It was too beautiful. Plus, we had cried enough before. But I kind of saw that, that image of sleep. She didn’t surrender to death until she’d seen her son. And then she surrendered to death like you and I putting our head on the pillow.

My friend, I hope you’ve got that hope. Jesus offers you that hope, that you need not fear death. It’s like falling asleep, waking up to new life. But there’s not only a depiction, there’s a distinction. Paul doesn’t want the Thessalonians to be ignorant, and secondly, doesn’t want them grieving like unbelievers. Read it again. I want to talk to you about those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. I know you’re sorrowing but don’t sorrow, don’t grieve like those without hope. You’ve got the gospel, and the gospel makes a difference.

Sorrow was an appropriate response. Paul didn’t tell him not to sorrow. He just told him not to sorrow like others sorrow, as if the gospel isn’t real, as if the gospel doesn’t make a difference, as if Jesus isn’t alive. My friend, when your loved one dies in Christ, mourn and live in a way that tells others Jesus is alive and they’re alive in Him. And while we sorrow, we don’t sorrow as always without hope.

In John 11:35, Jesus wept. I made reference to the fact in actually at verse 2, the leaders of the early church took Stephen and lamented over him. My friend, if you love someone and they’re taken in death, there’s growings for grief. Death is unnatural. Death is a result of man’s rebellion. Death is an invader, an intruder, a disturber. Jesus wept. The early church lamented. And if you love someone, it’ll be the case you’ll grieve. Not so long ago, a community not far from us lost two BRI of officers in a shooting incident at Nail Monte. The thing that struck me was the commanding officer who addressed the media following the death of those two police officers. He talked about the grief the department was bearing and the heartache they were carrying. And he said something I wrote down. He said this, “If you want to take the sting and grief out of death, you’ll need to take the love out of life.” He’s right.

My friend, when death takes our loved ones out of life, we grieve. But we don’t grieve without hope. The Christians tears are not all salt. They’re sweetened by the thought of Jesus return and the future resurrection of our loved ones. Our tears are not all salt. They’re sweetened because we know to be with the Lord is far better. When our loved ones die in Jesus, it’s far better for them. It’s not a happy experience for us. The grieving is actually not for them, it’s for us and their absence. But there are others who don’t have this hope and they grieve painlessly. Death to them robs them of everything, and that was the ancient world in which Paul is living and in which Paul is writing.

The ancient world, the pre-Christian world was a prisoner of despair. Listen to the Greek playwright Achilles. One unending night of sleep, that is what death is. The Roman poet Catullus said, “The sun can set and rise again, but once our brief light sets, there is one unending night to be slapped through.” If you went to some of the graveyards of that day, you’d see inscriptions like this, “We are nothing. See, reader, how quickly we mortals return from nothing to nothing.” You’d read statements like this, “If you want to know who I am, the answer is ash and burnt embers.” One inscription said this, “I was not, I was, I am not, I care not.” There was hope for the living. There was no hope for the dying. That was the world in which Paul wrote. That’s why he says don’t sorrow as those who have no hope.

Greek mythology, Roman idolatry left people in despair and hopeless. And what was true about pre-Christian world is now becoming true about post-Christian world. Remember what I said earlier? When you’re without God, you’re without hope. And we are expunging God from public life in America. We’re removing his commandments. We’re forbidding prayers in his name. Where’s it taking our culture? To despair.

Have you not noticed in recent years the epidemic of hopelessness? An existential gloom and doom that has accompanied the secular rising of our culture. Life has become meaningless in the denial of the eternal and the transcendent. Look at the rise in suicide. It’s shocking. Boys and girls, teenagers that find no reason to live. Look at the alcohol abuse. Look at the drug taking as people try to escape a life they cannot tolerate because all hope is being removed. Listen to the lyrics of our songs, listen to the storylines of our movies and you’ll be confronted by cold nihilism, emptiness, life without redemption. Our writers are thinkers are like their ancient counterparts.

Let me just give you two examples. Bertrand Russell is a very famous and renowned philosopher, an avid atheist who continues to shape the thinking of philosophers and atheist today. Here’s what he wrote concerning man, “His origin, his growth, his hopes, his fears, his loves, his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collations of atoms. You are an accident. Life is no purpose. I was, I am not, I care not.” He goes on to say, “No fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve individual life beyond the grave. All the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system. The whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.” That’ll get you up in the morning. No it won’t. That’s hopeless. That’ll burst every bubble you blow.

I like what Woody Allen says, a little bit of humor. The actor, director Hollywood. “More than any other time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. May we make a wise choice.” But that’s all the choice the world offers, despair, extinction, helplessness, hopelessness. But thank God for the gospel. That takes us to the creed. Go back here. We’ll speed up. Don’t worry. That’s just one verse you’re saying to yourself. He’s got another seven or eight to go. We’re going to speed up.

But look at verse 14, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” We’re talking about the dead, but if you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, well that’s a game changer. That’s why I said thank God for the gospel. I love being a minister of the gospel. I can go to anybody, I can go into any situation and bring hope because we have a creed that gives us hope. And the Christian creed is this, that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins according to the scriptures and following his atoning death where he substituted himself for us, for the unjust. He was buried. He told us it’s finished. “I’ve paid the price. I’ve died in your place. Put your trust where God has put your sin in me.” Then He was buried and on the third day, He rose again according to the scriptures.

Moses is dead, Mohammed is dead, Buddha is dead, but Christianity teaches that Christ is alive. There are no skeletons in Christianity’s cupboard. Christian hope is resurrection hope. My friend, if you deny that Jesus is bodily and physically risen, you are not a Christian. In fact, you can’t be a Christian. There can’t be Christianity without a belief in the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus. Christian hope is resurrection hope, and we have it. Listen, hope is something we have as Christians because our hope is tied to the past before it’s tied to the future.

Now, before we’re done this morning, we’re going to focus the hope of Jesus’ return and the resurrection of the dead and the translation of the living and the rapture of the church. That’s in the future. It could happen at any moment. That’s our hope. The blessed hope of the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior. But our hope, first of all, is tied to the past. That allows us to possess hope now and live in hope for the future because we look back to what Jesus did and we believe in the Christ who appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, the Christ who conquered death. And that gives us a present hope. Christianity rises and falls on this belief. Without it, Christianity is a house of cards. This is a standalone doctrine that elevates Christianity above other religions.

To remove the doctrine of the physical resurrection of Jesus would be to play theological Jenga. In Jenga, you can pull something out. And as you pull it out and remove it, what you’ve built collapses. And the denial of the resurrection of Jesus is theological Jenga. But we believe that Jesus died and was rose again. We don’t have time to argue that. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. We haven’t hitched our wagon to a star. And we have reason to believe the Bible promised his resurrection. Jesus promised his resurrection. We have the vacant tomb. We have the eyewitness reports. We have the extraordinary bravery of his disciples after they saw Him, that same disciples who locked themselves behind closed doors out of fear. Explain that. And they all went to their death, are you telling me for a lie? The scriptures promise that the tomb is empty. Eyewitness reports that bravery of his apostles.

And my friend, those of us here who are Christians have experienced a new birth. The living Christ has brought new life to us and He lives within through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Then you have the spread of the early church. Of course, the spread of Christianity numerically and geographically doesn’t prove that Jesus rose again. But you explain this, high a man, born in a subjugated ethnic group in an obscure Roman province who lived poor, died young, who never wrote a book, never raised an army, never sat on a throne has come to be the most impactful human in all human history. Explain that. My friend, the phenomena of the resurrection explains that. It’s a wonderful thing to believe that Jesus died and was raised again. For them, it told them that their loved ones were saved. It told them that their loved ones were not at a disadvantage, that Jesus was returning and that the dead in Christ would rise first. And that’s only one of the benefits.

Because he lives, God has accepted his death for us. Because he lives, death is a door, not a wall. Because he lives, we will be given a new body. Because he lives, heaven is being made ready. Because he lives, suffering is not the final word. Because he lives, everything done is significant because it echoes out into eternity. Because he lives, our prayers never die. Because he lives, the spirit lives in us. Because he lives, we can face tomorrow without fear.

My friend, do you believe? Everybody believes in something. The Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, come in human form to enter a world that had been broken because of man’s sin and mismanagement and rebellion. And He had come to reconcile man to God through his death. And he had come to show us that there’s something beyond death. There’s a life to be had that’s eternal and joyful. That’s what we believe.

My friend, it gets you up in the morning. It brings purpose to your life. It gives you hope in the face of death. It helps you endure suffering in the belief of a better world. I think we’re all still trying to assimilate the events of a few weeks ago in Tennessee, the murder of three Christian teachers and three Christian children by a transgender nihilistic terrorist. Have we entered a new day when Christians are fair game in America? That’s certainly a question worth pondering. But in the light of that tragedy, the Pastor Chad Scruggs whose own daughter, Healy, was killed, made a statement. He said this, “We are heartbroken. Can you imagine? We are heartbroken. She was such a gift. Through tears, we trust she’s in the arms of Jesus who will raise her to life once again.” What’s he saying? We believe that Jesus died and rose again and we sorrow but not as those without hope.

Let’s come to the last thought. The contrast, don’t sorrow like those who don’t have the gospel. The creed that allows us to sorrow and hope is the fact that Jesus died and rose again. It’s an historical reality and experience in the presence day, so that’s our comfort. In fact, if you go to the end of this chapter, look at verse 18, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” All the words that preceded that, Paul wants them to take and comfort themselves with. And for a few minutes, I want to talk to you about the four Rs of Christian hope. It’s centered on the return of the Lord Jesus for His people. So what is commonly known as the rapture, and we have it explained for us here.

Now here’s the thing to bear in mind. According to 1 Corinthians 15:51 and 52, when that event takes place, it will happen quickly in the twinkling of an eye. Can you imagine how quick that is? They tell us that we blink at 1/50th of a second. In fact, the average person, I don’t know if you knew this, blinks 25 times a minute. You do it so fast, you do it so naturally you can hardly know you’re doing it. A little bit of trivia here. That means the fact that you blink 25 times a minute, that means that you’re in a 10-hour trip in a car at 55 miles an hour, you’re driving 33 miles with your eyes closed. That’s a frightening prospect. Don’t tell the CHP. But the blink is fast, and Paul says that’s what’s going to happen when Jesus returns for the church at the rapture. It’ll all happen so quickly. The dead will rise. Their departed spirits will be reunited with the resurrected bodies now in this perfect glorified state without crying, dying, sighing.

Those who are alive at that moment, the Christians who are alive, they’ll be translated, caught up, they’ll be glorified in an instant. Then together, they’ll be with the Lord forever. Would you like that to happen today? That’s our hope. There’s four things to that very quickly, the return. My friend, the world hasn’t seen the last of Jesus. It’s inconceivable that the last look the world will be given of him is hanging on a cross in seeming defeat. The world hasn’t seen the last of him.

My friend, you may run from him but you’ll never be able to hide from him. Jesus is coming back to redeem His people and judge the world. And here we see that He’s coming back for His people. We read here that the Lord Himself will descend. He doesn’t send a angel, He doesn’t send a deputy. He’s coming Himself. According to Acts 1:9-11, it’s to see Him, Jesus, that the disciples watched ascend into the heavens. That same Jesus will come in like manner. You’ll notice that he’s coming to the air, not coming to the Earth. I think the rapture is an event that takes place prior to the horrors of the judgment of God falling upon the world during the reign of the antichrist.

My old professor, Dr. Robert Thomas, whose daughter comes to our church and whose son-in-law’s on our staff, he said this, “A meeting in the air is pointless unless the sins continue to heaven with the Lord who comes to meet them.” See, when Jesus comes and raptures the church, we are going to the Father’s house, the third heaven where he’s been preparing the place for us.

Another thing I want you to notice, that Jesus return is marked by a trumpet signed and by the voice of an archangel, and the Lord himself will shout. Have you ever noticed what happens when Jesus shouts? The dead wake up. Remember in John 11, Lazarus is dead for over three days, he stinks. And it says that Jesus shouted, “Come forth!” And Lazarus came forth. He was all wrapped up so I’m guessing he bunny hopped out of there. And then they unwrapped him. But Jesus shouted and Lazarus was raised. When Jesus was on the cross, he said, “It is finished, paid for, the act of atonement has been completed. Men can be reconciled to God, have their sins forgiven by what I’ve done, not by what they do.” And then he gave up the ghost.

But it says in the Bible of Matthew when he shouted that it’s finish, he said, “And the graves were open and there’s going to come one more shout at the rapture.” When Jesus comes for His people, He’s going to shout as He descends and the dead in Christ will rise from their griefs. That’s the second thought, the resurrection. This is our hope. This is what we’ve got to look forward to, the dead in Christ will rise. That was something they wanted to hear, because remember, they were taught that Jesus could come at any moment. Paul had left them. Jesus hadn’t returned. Their loved ones had died, so they wanted to know what has happened to them. And Paul says, “Well, they’ve fallen asleep. Their body has been led to rest until that great resurrection morning and their spirit is now with the Lord. But when Jesus returns, He’ll bring that spirit with Him and reunited with that body that he has raised.”

My friend, that’s the Christian hope. You’re not going to be some disembodied spirit floating about heaven for all of eternity. C.S Lewis said that the Christian religion is the most materialistic of all the world religions. When all things are finished, we’ll be back on a material Earth. We’ll be back in a resurrected body and we’ll relive Eden. God’s going to zero the clocks and making you start. What a hope. What a program,. What a plan. And part of that will be the resurrection of the body.

If you have to go to a mortuary or you have to go to an undertaker to buy a plot, see if you can rent it because you won’t need it forever, because the dead in Christ will rise and they will rise in the resurrected body form of the Lord Jesus. Remember the Bible tells us he was the first fruits. He’s the prototype. When I worked in aerospace, we got involved in a project called the SD3-30. It was a little commuter aircraft, turbo proper, and I worked on the prototype, the first one that became the pattern of every other aircraft that we built. And Jesus is the first fruit. He’s the prototype. If you look at his resurrected body, it was recognizable by His disciples. It bore the scars of the cross. He was able to eat and walk with His disciples. It did all that it did before, but something more. It went through closed doors and it seemed to be able to appear and disappear. Just we’re given a little bit of a inkling to what our resurrected bodies will be like. It’s a wonderful thing to die in that hope.

Robert Morgan came to Kindred not so long ago. He’s a Christian author. I commend his little book, Red Sea Rules and his latest book, Jordan River Rules. And in the Jordan River Rules, he tells us that he just lost his wife, Katrina, after 43 years, a battle with multiple sclerosis. She died on Veterans Day 2019. She died at 11:11 AM. Robert Morgan and his family were grieving, heartbroken. It had been a long and tiring journey. A friend said to them one day, “What a thought. Katrina went to heaven at 11:11 on 11/11 believing in 11:11.”

You want me to explain that? All right. She died at 11:11 in the morning. Veteran’s Day is the 11th of November, 11/11. And in John 11 verse 11, here’s what we read, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.” Wow, Katrina Morgan died at 11:11 AM on 11/11/2019 believing that someday soon Jesus would come and wake her up in the resurrection. That’s our hope. The hope is of the return, the resurrection, the rapture.

People get a little nervous with this word rapture. I don’t know why, because it’s a Latin term. It means to seize or to snatch. We use it to describe an event here that’s being described. Paul says, “Look, when Jesus returns, the dead will be raised, resurrected. The living will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air and together they’ll be with the Lord forever.” Notice the phrase in the Greek caught up, harpazo. It means to seize, to snatch, to carry away. That’s our hope. We must believe in the rapture. We’re looking forward to the rapture when Jesus will catch us away.

If you read your Bible, there are six raptures in the Bible. The first was Enoch. What does the Bible say? Enoch walked with God and was not for God took Him. That was the first rapture. Then there was Elijah who was carried up to heaven on a fiery chariot. Then there was Paul taken to the third heaven. Then there was Jesus who ascended into the clouds on the day of ascension, and there’s two more raptures to take place. There’s our rapture when Jesus comes for the church. And then during the great tribulation, the two witnesses also will be raptured.

My friend, we have the hope of rapture. And the implication is this, it’s quite an implication. I want you to think about this, think about it today sometime. The implication of that is there will be a generation of Christians alive when Jesus comes back, and they won’t die. I’m up for that. Do you fancy that? The dead in Christ will rise, and we, which are alive, will be caught up. The Hymn writer talks about going without dying. I’m not afraid to die, but I soon miss it. I’d love to be alive when Jesus comes and is coming as at any moment reality. And although the signs of Matthew 24 accompany His return in par and glory to the earth, we are seeing those signs today. Israel is in the land, globalism, persecution, famines, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, globalism, authoritarianism. We have watched global economics develop in our generation. We saw in Canada the truckers in Canada not able to buy or sale because the government shut their bank accounts down.

The signs are there, the stage is set, the antichrist could rise. But we’re not looking for the antichrist, we’re looking for the Christ who can come at any moment to rapture us into God’s presence. I hope you’re making yourself ready for that. That was the thing that drew me to faith in the Lord Jesus. I grew up in a Christian home. I knew the gospel. There were times that God moved in my heart and opened my eyes to the beauty of Christ and my need to repent and trust Him. God shook my soul about the dangers of heaven in hell and a life without Him forever. But I loved my sin. I was conscious of the pressure of the crowd and I resisted until one day I could resist no more.

The verse that God used was Matthew 24:44, “Be ready. For in such an hour, as you think not, the son of man comes. “I think at the back of my mind, I always thought, “You know what? I’ll play that card someday. I’ll get saved. I’ll trust Jesus, but I have a little bit more partying to do, a little bit more sin to enjoy.” But I was reminded that night that Jesus is coming back at any moment, and He could get back for His church without me before I would ever get to trust Him.

My friend, be ready. Be ready for the rapture. Be ready for the soon return of Jesus, I’m going to wrap this up, the reunion. On this Easter Sunday morning. Here’s our further hope, that Jesus will return, the dead will be raised, the dead and the living will be raptured, and the resurrected saint and the raptured saints will be reunited. That’s what it says in verse 17. Read it, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them and the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Isn’t that beautiful? Spare me.

There’s a few reunions in that passage. Did you notice them? There’s the reunion of the departed soul with the resurrected body. There’s the reunion of the dead in Christ with those who are alive in Christ. And then there’s the reunion of the resurrected saints and the raptured saints with the Lord. But it’s that second one I just want to leave you with, that part of our hope is that we’ll see our Christian loved ones again.

I think it’s a wonderful thing to know that Christians never say goodbye, finally. That once we have looked to the Lord Jesus for salvation, we have the hope of seeing our loved ones again. There’s a great story in Luke 7 verse 15 of a widow who lost her son and they say, “We’re carrying his dead body to be in turn.” Jesus raised that boy. And there’s a beautiful phrase in that story that I think is a harbinger of what’s going to happen at the rapture because it says that Jesus raised him and Jesus brought him to her.

I like to think when Jesus returns that he’s going to bring me to my mother. He’s going to bring you to your loved ones. He’s going to reunite, friends with friends, mothers with children, children with parents. Oh, it’s a great thing to believe that. It makes all the difference as the casket is lowered and the benediction is sad. There’s nothing like the Christian gospel. It offers abundant hope.

I saw this as we close. [inaudible 00:50:55] died in the life of an elder in my church in Northern Ireland where he had lost his brother Ken. Eddie McCluskey was his name and I went with him to his brother’s funeral in a city calledPortadown and it was an open casket funeral. I don’t see that much anymore. It was the old way. And after Eddie got up and eulogized his brother, he came down off the pulp and he went over and he looked at his brother for a second as we looked at him and he kissed his brother on the [inaudible 00:51:25] and he said, “Ken, it’s not goodbye. It’s only good night. I’ll see you in the morning.” What’s he talking about? That great resurrection morning when the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more. Not mourning when the dead in Christ will rise and the living will be translated.

I hope that’s your hope today. I hope you’ll live living in that living hope. The world offers you no hope. It is no answers for death. It is no story for life. But the greatest story is God’s love for us in Jesus Christ and the greatest hope is eternal life beyond the death. I hope you’ll leave in that hope. I hope you’ll trust Jesus’ day if you haven’t done that.

I may have shared this story before, but I love it. I think it’s an appropriate story to finish with of a woman who called her pastor and said, “Pastor, I’m dying and I want you to do my funeral. I have a few requests. I’d like this song and I’d like this hymn and I’d like this person to take part in. I’d like you to do the sermon.” And she says, “I’ve got one last request. It’s going to kind of shock you, but here’s my final request. Can you make sure that when they close the casket on me that I’m holding a fork in my hand?” Well, the pastor had never heard that before in his life. No one had ever request that. He said, “Well, I’m happy to do what you asked, but I’m intrigued. Why do you want to be buried with a fork in your hand?”

“Well,” she says, “Pastor, you may not know this, but I work with the kitchen crew at the church and when we have a big event, I love being part of the festivity, the joy.” And she says, “I always love the moment when I come out of the kitchen or someone comes out of the kitchen and we tell everybody this, ‘Hold onto your fork. The best is yet to come. The desserts are on their way.’ That’s why I want to be buried with a fork in my hand, because I die as a follower of Jesus Christ and I believe the best is yet to come.”

My friend. Do you believe your life is done? That the best is over? That’s a lie of the devil. Don’t let the world without hope bully you into that place. The best is yet to come. There’s life beyond this life, resurrection after death. Enjoy forevermore in the presence of God.

Let’s pray. Father, we thank you for this hill, this sacred ground, this annual festival and celebration of the gospel. We thank you for this cross that lights up and sends a message to the people of Corona and Riverside and Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills, and any Californian that travels the 91 freeway, that there’s light in the darkness and there’s hope in an empty cross. Lord, I pray that we as your people would leave today living in the living hope of the gospel, that Jesus is returning and our loved ones will be raised and we might be alive to see him come, and together will be with the Lord forever.

For those of you do not have that hope, we pray that they would put their trust in your Son, that they would be mindful of the words of Jesus, this unique Christ who stands above and beyond all other leaders. “I am the resurrection and the life that he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Do you believe this? Lord, for those of us that do, we thank you. And we pray for those that don’t. And we pray it all in Jesus’ name, amen.