Pastor David B. Curtis

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The Promise of Life

John 5:24

Delivered 03/31/2002

It was June 18, 1815, the Battle of Waterloo. The French, under the command of Napoleon, were fighting the allied forces of the British, Dutch, and Germans under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of signals to find out how the battle was going. One of these signals was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral.

Late in the day it flashed the signal: "W - E - L - L - I - N - G - T - O - N - - - D - E - F - E - A - T - E - D - - -." Just at that moment a fog cloud made it impossible to read the message. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war. Suddenly, the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The message had four words, not two. The complete message was: "W - E - L - L - I - N - G - T - O - N - - - D - E - F - E - A - T - E - D - - - T - H - E - - - E - N - E - M - Y!" It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow was turned into joy, defeat was turned into victory!

So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb. Hope had died in the hearts of Jesus' most loyal friends. After the frightful crucifixion, the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding had crept in on the friends of Jesus. They had read only part of the message. "Christ defeated" was all they knew. But then on the third day the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding lifted, and the world received the complete message: "Christ defeated death!"

Matthew 28:1-6 (NKJV) Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

That is our message to the world- He is risen!

Jesus not only defeated death himself, but he promises eternal life to all who trust in Him:

John 5:24 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

That is an incredible promise! Jesus is promising "everlasting life" to all who believe in Him. Is victory over death a big deal? You bet it is! Death is something no one wants to face. No one wants to think about it. For years even the medical community has been uncertain of how to deal with death. Humanity has come a long way in their technological advances; we can transplant hearts, do brain surgery, extend a person's life considerably, but there's one thing that human beings still do not have the ultimate power over, and that's death.

Ponce de Leon came to our continent searching for the Fountain of Youth, why? Because he wanted to live forever, as we all do. Man's desire to live forever is clearly seen in this news article that recently appeared on the ABC News website:

Freezing the Dead With the Hope of Reviving Them Later

Clinton Township, Mich., Feb. 8 -- Instead of racing toward the emergency room, sirens blaring, a special type of ambulance transports patients away from hospitals. In fact, in this ambulance the "patient" is already dead. The urgency is to limit the damage dying does to the brain and the body so that someone, someday, can reverse it.

Ninety people in America have been frozen, hoping to be brought back to life when medicine can cure them. At least half of the new cases have been frozen in the past three years. To the handful of companies that charge $28,000 or more to freeze the bodies, these cadavers are optimistically called "patients."

The Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township currently has 37 people, 10 cats, and six dogs frozen in its facility. Its most recent patient came in three days before ABC NEWS' interview with David Ettinger whose father, Robert, founded the Cryonics Institute.

The elder Ettinger began researching life-extending possibilities when he had a brush with his own mortality as a soldier in World War II. He eventually came to believe in the future of cryonics and opened the Cryonics Institute in 1976. The institute froze its first person in 1977.

The newest patient was - or is - a 90-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack and is now inside a box cooling to negative 40 degrees with the help of ice and chemicals injected to minimize damage. After a week, she'll be moved into another chamber and cooled with liquid nitrogen to negative 320-Fahrenheit degrees. A week later, she'll join others inside sealed vacuum chambers.

There are currently several facilities in the United States that will freeze people after they die. Starting at $28,000 plus any additional transportation costs, the Cryonics Institute is the least expensive of the bunch.

Interested parties must first pay $1,250 to become a lifetime member of the Cryonics Institute, and they then sign a detailed contract. After death, the following steps are taken:

1. The person should be cooled as soon as possible after they are legally pronounced dead. The hospital or funeral director packs the body in ice and sends it to the Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, Mich.

2. At the institute, a process called "wash out and perfusion" is performed. In this five-step procedure the blood is replaced with a glycerin-based solution that helps minimize the freezing damage.

3. The body is placed in a sleeping bag and then in an insulated box made of wood on the outside and fiberglass on the inside for one week. Dry ice is placed on a fabric platform above the box, and the cold vapors descend upon and cool the body. The amount of dry ice is increased each day until the body reaches minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. The body is then moved to an insulated container that has liquid nitrogen at the bottom. Every day for a week, the body is slowly lowered into the liquid nitrogen until it is completely submerged. When the process is complete, the body temperature is minus-196 degrees Celsius, or minus-320 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Finally, the body (still in the same sleeping bag) is placed in a long-term storage container called a cryostat.

The liquid nitrogen level is checked every day. Relatives can visit at any time, though the bodies cannot be seen through the cryostat. (Daria Hirsch, ABCNEWS.com)

Although we may think these folks are kind of strange, we certainly can't blame them for wanting to live forever. As we have already said, we all want to live forever. And I believe that this is a God-given desire. The Bible says:

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (GWT) It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time. He has put a sense of eternity in people's minds. Yet, mortals still can't grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end, of time.

God has created us to desire immortality. We are wired for the eternal! So it is not wrong to desire to live forever. The thing that we must understand is that the "eternal life" which Jesus promises to those who believe in Him is not PHYSICAL. All men will die physically. The Bible says:

Hebrews 9:27 (NKJV) And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

We can draw several points from this verse: One is that all of us have an appointment with death... - "It is appointed for men to die.".. Who made this appointment with death? I surely didn't. I make some appointments that I don't like to make, like with the dentist or with the doctor. But I would never make this appointment if it were up to me. Who made it for me? God did! This is referring to physical death.

There is another key word here besides the word "appointed," it is the word "once." This means that you can stop dreaming right now about being thawed out and living physically again. This also rules out reincarnation. We are not coming back to die again. We are not coming back in any form at all. The Greek word used here is hapax, which means: "once for all." The point of the word "once" here is to stress the finality of death. We die once. And that is the end of our experience of earthly dying.

Let me say a few words here about death. These people who are freezing themselves don't understand what happens at physical death. There is more to man than just a body. We are spiritual beings who dwell in physical bodies:

1 Corinthians 6:20 (NKJV) For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

Death is always a separation from something, and it has several different meanings in the Bible. For our study this morning, let's look at three uses of the word death: Spiritual death, Physical death, and the Second death. Let's examine these three deaths and see if we can better understand death.

Spiritual death is by far the most important, and the one that people need to be concerned with. Spiritual death is separation from God. It is the inability to respond to God our creator. Everyone is born in this condition:

Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;

Verse 12 starts out "Therefore, just as...." the "just as" suggests a comparison, but we notice that verse 12 does not complete the comparison, there is no "even so." He only gives us half of the comparison - Adam. Verses 13-17 are a parentheses for clarification. Verses 18 and 19 complete the comparison started in verse 12.

Let's read it that way, skipping verses 13-18a: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned; 18b even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life."

One man did one thing resulting in sin and death; the other man did something else, resulting in justification and life.

Because of our sin, we are separated from God, we are spiritually dead. The only cure for spiritual death is to receive the free gift of life offered to us through Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 2:5-9 (NKJV) even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

When a person trusts in Jesus Christ for his salvation, he receives spiritual life, and this new life means he never has to fear physical death.

Physical death is the most obvious type of death, but do you know what happens at physical death?

James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

When the spirit leaves the body - this is physical death. When a believer dies physically his body goes back to dust from which it came:

Ecclesiastes 3:20 (NKJV) All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.

And their spirit is united to their spiritual body and goes to be with the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:35-38 (NKJV) But someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, YOU DO NOT SOW THAT BODY THAT SHALL BE, but mere grain; perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But GOD GIVES IT A BODY as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.

We get the same kind of body Christ has, but we do not get it the same way He got His, nor do we get our same physical body back like Christ did. We get a new spiritual body which arises out of the inner man. God gives us a spiritual body!

1 Corinthians 15:44-46 (NKJV) It is sown a natural body, it is RAISED A SPIRITUAL BODY. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.

This affirms two different kinds of bodies. Our natural body dies, and we receive a spiritual body. Paul says, "IT IS RAISED A SPIRITUAL BODY."

Those of us who have trusted Christ in the New Covenant age have life and do not need to be resurrected.

John 11:25-26 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

Jesus is saying, "He who believes in me shall live (spiritually), even if he dies (physically), and everyone who lives (physically) and believes in Me shall never die (spiritually)."

Two categories of believers are discussed: those who would die before the resurrection and those who would not. For those who died under the Old Covenant, He was the Resurrection, but for those who lived into the days of the New Covenant, He is the Life.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NKJV) So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

When a believer dies physically he is immediately with Christ. He doesn't go to purgatory, he is not reincarnated, he does not go to soul sleep, he goes to be with Christ. A believer's spirit goes to be with Christ, and his body goes to dust. The body is your tent, your dwelling place. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body.

When an unbeliever experiences physical death, his body goes to dust, but his spirit goes to the Lake of fire:

Luke 16:22-24 (NKJV) "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'

This torment in hell, more properly the Lake of fire, is called the Second Death; it is the perpetuation of spiritual death into eternity, and it is for unbelievers only:

Revelation 20:11-15 (NKJV) Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

If a person is spiritually dead, separated from God by his sin, when he dies physically he will experience the second death, which is eternal hell. A person can escape the second death, or hell, ONLY by trusting in Christ's sacrificial death for their sins.

We want to continue to live, because we're afraid of what happens when we stop living. What will happen when it comes our turn to be taken away to the undertaker? It's frightening! And it should be if you have not trusted Christ. To die physically in a state of spiritual death is to face the judgement of God:

Hebrews 9:27 (NKJV) And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

Notice again what Jesus promised:

John 5:24 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Everlasting life is not to live physically forever, it is to escape the judgement of God.

Do you believe in divine judgement? By that I mean, do you believe in a God who acts as our Judge? There are few things stressed more strongly in the Bible than the reality of God's work as Judge:

Genesis 18:25 (NKJV) "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?""
1 Samuel 2:3 (NKJV) ""Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed. 2:10 "The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; >>From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth."
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (NKJV) "and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,"

Judge is not merely a title; the reality of divine judgement is set forth on page after page of the Bible. As a judge, God not only pronounces the sentence, but he also carries out the punishment; God is His own executioner. God's wrath in the Bible is always judicial- that is, it is the wrath of the Judge administering justice. If you don't believe in a God who acts as a Judge, than you don't believe the Bible, because the Bible is filled with the record of God's judicial wrath.

In the flood God destroyed everyone except eight people:

Genesis 6:5-7 (NKJV) "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.""
Genesis 7:21-24 (NKJV) "And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. 23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days."

Now that's judgement!

Genesis 19:24-26 (NKJV) "Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt."
Leviticus 10:1-3 (NKJV) "Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace."
2 Samuel 6:6-7 (NKJV) "And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God."

All he did was touch the ark and God killed him.

Numbers 11:1 (NKJV) "Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp."

We could go on and on, but I think you get the point; God is a God who executes judgement. Jesus put it this way:

John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

God must punish sin; you can either accept Christ 's death on Calvary as payment for your sins, or you can pay them on your own by spending eternity in Hell.

Jesus died on the cross to pay our sin debt, and his resurrection was proof that God had accepted his payment on behalf of all who trust in him.

Now, we have been talking about life and death, and all I have been saying is based upon the Bible. So, you may be asking, "How do we know the Bible is reliable?"

Many years ago there lived a German scholar named F.C. Baur. He assumed that most of the New Testament scriptures were not written until late in the 2nd century AD. He concluded that these writings came from myths or legends that developed during the lengthy interval between the lifetime of Jesus and the actual time these accounts were set down in writing. His conclusions were shot down, however, in the 20th century. Archaeological discoveries of William Albright brought down the false conclusions. Albright wrote, "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after 80 AD." Why is that dating important? Simply put, it's important to have a written record of an event as close to the time of its occurrence as possible, because stories tend to grow over time.

If it can be supported by evidence that a record of Christ's life and ministry was written before the end of the first century, that's good reason to believe what is written is not fabricated tales. His story's record is reliable and trustworthy. No other famous literature or histories can make this claim.

So why don't more people believe the Bible's words about Jesus? Maybe I can illustrate the reason with this story. The Library of Congress in Washington DC contains more than 23 million volumes of information - the largest collection of human knowledge in the history of the world. Just across the street from the Library of Congress is a hotel with no 13th floor. Here's the irony. Although we are an extremely enlightened society, we still are given to superstitions and paganisms. In like manner, although the Bible is credible, and the evidence suggest that, people still refuse its message, because they desire darkness instead of light.

Simon Geenleaf is considered by many to be the greatest expert on evidence the world has ever known. Greenleaf was the Royal Professor of law at Harvard during the latter half of the 19th century. When it comes to the question of what constitutes evidence, Greenleaf's credentials are impeccable.

The professor had a cardinal rule in his classroom at Harvard. The rule stated that no one was to form a conclusion without first considering the evidence. One day the subject of religion came up. The class had been studying ethics in law, and the subject of religion came up. Greenleaf was not a Christian and told the class that the resurrection was a hoax. Hoping to move along, a student raised his hand, sheepishly, and asked, "Professor, have you considered the evidence?" Greenleaf was challenged by his own rule--consider the evidence before forming conclusions. Greenleaf decided to do an investigation.

He examined every thread of evidence he could find on Jesus Christ's resurrection. From his investigation came his book entitled, The Testimony of the Evangelists. His conclusion, having now considered the evidence stated, "If the evidence for Christ's resurrection were presented to any unbiased jury in the world, they would have to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead." With this investigation, Greenleaf became a Christian.

Hopefully, you can see the importance in the resurrection. If you dismiss the resurrection, you pull the very heart out of Christianity. You see, what happened on that Sunday morning almost 2000 years ago offers immortality. God became one of us, walked among us, died for us, and rose from the dead for us! Did you catch that? Jesus Christ rose from the dead so that we could have victory over death. We no longer need to be afraid of what will happen after death if we understand what Christ did for us.

Four friends were talking about death. One of them asked the other three, "When you are in your casket, and people are mourning you, what would you like to hear them say about you?" The first man said, "I'd like to hear them say that I was a fine physician in my time and a great family man." The second fellow said, "I'd like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and a school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow." The third man replied, "I'd like to hear them say, 'Look, he's moving!'" You know, I think most of us can relate to that last fellow, none of us want to think that it all ends in death. And you know what? If you believe in Jesus Christ, it doesn't!

John 5:24 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

That is quite a promise. Jesus is saying, "I guarantee eternal life to everyone who believes in me." But, remember, this promise is coming from a man who rose from the dead. Jesus not only conquered death himself, but he conquered death for everyone who comes to Him in faith. If you have never put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, I beg you to do it now.

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