If you have allergies like me, you probably know it is spring. Ironically, my hay fever gave me a great exegetical insight into the Scriptures this week.
Part of my study this week involved a word study on the term “woe.” As this word is used at least 6 times in this chapter, I thought I ought to check my sources to see if there was anything significant about it. So the first thing I did was look at the original language. And the word we have translated “Woe” is the Hebrew word “Hoy.” I can honestly say, that my books didn’t provide a lot of new insight from there out. Basically the word has to do with feelings of extreme distress. Of course, you didn’t need a Bible scholar to tell you that. You could glean that by yourself simply by reading the passage.
But then, as I was about to give up on this in-depth word study, I got hit with a violent sneezing spell. It was one of those where you sneeze a couple of times in a row and you can’t really catch your breath in between sneezes. And you know how much force is involved with a single sneeze. It makes your whole body lurch. I once was reading about sneezing and it said that a sneeze was a “convulsive explosion”! That’s quite an apt description. But when you have a whole bunch of convulsive explosions in a row, it is even more wrenching.
Well, as soon as this fit of convulsive explosions subsided I gasped for air. And because my body had convulsed so much I let out a groan from the physical duress of it all. The sound that was made as I heaved this sigh of agony went like this: “hoy!”
Suddenly I had a deeper understanding of the term’s meaning and origin! It is onomatopoeia. That is, it is a word that sounds like what it is. Kind of like spit. When you spit you make a spppt noise. When you are in extreme pain like when you get hit in the gut you grunt or moan. And as you mutter that noise it comes out as hoi.
And in our passage this morning we recognize that God is saying you are going to get hit, and you will be hit hard. In a real sense he is saying, “I’m going to make you “hoi!” because you will experience the full brunt of my wrath.”
Hopefully that will give you some background into what a woe is. And hopefully it will make you want to avoid experiencing this woe. To that end, let’s examine who experiences this woe.
I. To whom does the woe come? [11-12]
If you look at verses 11-12 you can see that it is applied to those who indulge in various forms of sensuality. Two types of sensuality are mentioned here. Verse 11 mentions those who run after strong drink in order to get drunk. Then verse 12 mentions musical instruments.
Now we know that there is nothing wrong with alcohol as such, so long as it is used in moderation. The same is true for music. There is nothing inherently wrong with a guitar or any particular form of music. These are all part of God’s good creation. What is condemned here is the excessive use of these things. There is no moderation. These people’s lives are lived solely for the pursuit of pleasure.
You might say that these people live by the motto, “Party on, dude.” They live for the feasts where the drinking and music is prolific. They can’t wait for the next party. They can’t wait for work to be over so that they can crank up the stereo and hit the dance floor. Then again, they won’t even wait for work to be over. The passage says in verse 13 that their honored men go hungry and the multitude is parched with thirst. That may indicate that they are neglecting their work for the partying. They are taking an excessive amount of days off so that they can get out there and go carousing. As a result of not working, they are finding themselves short of food.
Of course, we shouldn’t limit the passages’ scope to these two forms of sensuality alone. By implication and extension we can easily expand this notion though to include many other forms of sensuality. For instance, what typically is associated with a drinking party? Usually these things are co-ed, right? We might include here the idea of sexual promiscuity. We could also throw in there the use of vulgar language as that is part and parcel with those whose lives are sensual. The idea is that these people are completely debauched with a fun-loving, pleasure seeking spirit.
Calvin puts it well. He says that Isaiah limits himself to two particular examples because there would be no end to the vices that could be listed in this category of pleasure seeking.
Hopefully you recognize though that this well characterizes the age in which we live. We live in a very sensual time. As a matter of fact, the whole notion of higher education is often thought of in terms of a sensualistic extravaganza. What is said here is descriptive of many college campus. The college years, for many, are known to be the biggest and most expensive party ever.
Why is it that these colleges and universities have this reputation? It is because we live in a time where Christ does not reign supreme. Our culture is debauched and it is only logical that these kids who have no accountability will manifest the strongest symptoms of sensuality.
This is all sort of a side though. What is most important to notice though is that this mindset can (and has) infiltrated the church. You might not be out carousing at the local pub, but your life may be characterized by sensuality. You’ll notice that the end of verse 12 says, “They do not regard the deeds of the Lord or see the work of his hands.”
In other words, they are so caught up in their pleasure seeking that they do not take time to reflect on what God is doing and has done. These people are not going to hear God’s word on the Lord’s Day. They are not taking it up on their own in their homes. There is no room for God in their lives because they are too busy with their pleasures.
Today we might not have the drinking parties. But we do have people who are too busy with their fun to think about the Lord. They are out there hitting the malls, surfing the net, or indulging in whatever else may please their carnal passions.
So, for all practical purposes, many people who claim to be Christians are nothing more than atheists at heart. They are living for the moment. They are tending to every fleshly notion. Sure there are the extreme ones who will justify their lewdness. But there are many others who are involved in subtler forms of pleasure. But those are just as deadly. For their physical yearnings not only take precedence over the things of the Lord, but they completely negate them.
And these are the people who need to wake up. Because these are the people to whom the woe comes. But what is the woe that they experience?
II. What is the woe that they experience? [13-15]
The woe that comes upon them is threefold. And we have already mentioned one of them. It is that of deprivation. The passage says in verse 13 that the people are hungry and thirsty. To put it another way, they are being deprived of some of the most basic provisions.
When you indulge your appetites, you will find that your appetites will eventually get the best of you. That is to say, the party spirit (or the sensual spirit) cannot be sustained. It ends up coming back on you. And again, like we saw last week, your carnal desires will end up becoming your own little hell as they are not satisfied.
But not only do you have deprivation, you also have degradation. Verse 15 says that they will be “brought low.” That is to say they will be publicly humiliated or degraded. Part and parcel with a party, free living spirit is the idea of pomp and pageantry. You know, you have all the fancy clothes that you put on so that you can parade around. There is the splendor of the gala or the fanfare associated with the party. Well, all that is taken away. Instead of flying high on life, they are abased.
John Gill says that the Scribes and the Pharisees are a good example of this. They enjoyed the high society life. They liked to boast and the applause of men. But eventually, they were brought low. Christ stripped them of their conceit, and eventually they were degraded completely by the Romans army that crushed them in 70 AD.
What a good example of how sensual people are humiliated.
Then, on top of the deprivation and degradation, there is damnation. Look at verse 14. It is so descriptive. It says, “Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure.” And then it says that the people go down into this seemingly bottomless pit.
Sheol is the Hebrew way of talking about the grave. It represents the realm of the dead. And this verse is saying that everyone who practices this kind of sensual lifestyle will find themselves losing their lives. The only thing they have to look forward to is death.
I hope that you see the play on words here. It is quite good. Their mouths were opened wide to drink. Their appetites that were left unchecked grew and grew. But now the grave opens wide its mouth. Its appetite cannot be quenched. It only devours more and more souls with an insatiable hunger.
The point is that those who were sensual, and cared only for their bodies’ desires, will find that their bodies will be deprived of everything that makes for physical pleasure.
This of course is pointing to the greatest physical pleasure that one can ever experience: the resurrection. Sure, they will be resurrected on the day that Christ comes. But it will be a resurrection to judgment and condemnation. They will not experience the renewal of their flesh. Nor will they be permitted the opportunity to enjoy all the delights that are stored up for the righteous in heaven.
Admittedly, the Bible doesn’t tell us much about the resurrection of the wicked. The Scriptures are eerily silent on the matter. But one thing we do know: These people will not be renewed and purged of these sensual desires. Only the redeemed will because of the renewal that comes through glorification. As a result, the yearnings and desires that the wicked had during this life will remain. Perhaps they will even be inflamed all the more. And so, for their eternal torment, they will be eaten by their own sensual appetites.
Those are the consequences of sensuality though. If you follow the desires of the flesh and seek not God, then you will be deprived, degraded and damned.
Now, I want you to pay particular attention to verses 16-17. That’s because these verses tell us why this woe comes upon them.
III. Why does this woe come upon them? [16-17]
If you look at verses 16-17 it makes it clear that this woe is for the glory of God. It says, “The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.”
We’ve talked about this before, but since it is so prevalent in our day, we should talk about it again. We live in an age where people cannot stand the idea of judgment. God is a God of love, they say. So how can he subject people to eternal ruin? But this verse reminds us that God loves his own honor and glory first and foremost. And we should never compromise this doctrine of the future judgment because the judgment of sinners will be for his eternal praise.
Again, a lot of people have a real problem with this. But it is common to any human court. When a judge delivers a sentence upon a flagrant criminal, no one in their right mind looks upon him with disgust. Of course not. Everyone holds him in high esteem. He did what was right. He did what was best for their welfare. He is praised because his decision was in accord with justice.
In Romans 9 the Apostle Paul deals with this subject, and he says basically the same thing. He points us back to Pharaoh and says that Pharaoh was raised up for this very purpose. All the woe came upon Pharaoh and his land was to the praise and glory of God. The Israelites were made to rejoice in God because of it. If you don’t believe me, then just think about what happened after the Red Sea collapsed on the Egyptian army after the Israelites had gone through. What did Israel do? They began to worship God. They sang songs and danced. “The horse and rider were thrown into the sea.” God was praised because in his judgment of the ungodly.
The bottom line is that in judgment God displays his holiness and righteousness in a fuller and more public way. And in putting these attributes on display he gives his people all the more cause for exaltation.
I might add that this is what makes the cross of Jesus Christ so great. For it is there that the woe is meted out for those of us who believe. We know that Christ went to the cross to die for our sins. However, that was the secondary purpose. Christ went to the cross primarily for the glory of God. It was so that God might be glorified in judgment. And the wounds that Christ continues to bear in his flesh are indications that we have reason for praise. For all eternity they will be reminders that God never once compromised his holiness and justice. He glorified himself by exacting the punishment that was due to us for sin.
Yes, that is where this passage comes to its ultimate fulfillment. It ought to drive us to Christ. For it is in him that we are able to have all the sensual pleasures that are associated with the resurrection to life. Christ went to the cross. And there He experienced the “hoy” on behalf of sinners like us. He was deprived, degraded, and damned. And it is through faith in him that we may be set free from the woe.
Moreover, through him we can be released from the sensuality that enslaves us. Paul urges us to “put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” That is to say, the way you get rid of sensuality is by putting your faith in him and allowing him to take over in your life.
When your life is wrapped up in drug abuse, immorality, or any other form of sensuality, you know you can’t get free from it on your own. Just something as small as cleaning up your language is seemingly impossible. Sensuality is enslaving. But Christ overcame the flesh. He was not led by a sensual life. And so he is able to free those who are enslaved to it.
In the 18th century, Archibald Boyle was the leading member of an association of wild and wicked men known as “The Hell Club” in Glasgow, Scotland. After one night of carousing at the Club’s notorious annual meeting, Boyle dreamed he was riding home on his black horse. In the darkness, someone seized the reins, shouting, “You must go with me!” As Boyle desperately tried to force the reins from the hands of the unknown guide, the horse reared. Boyle fell down, down, down with increasing speed. “Where are you taking me?” The cold voice replied, “To hell!” The echoes of the groans and yells of frantic revelry assaulted their ears.
At the entrance to hell, Boyle saw the inmates chasing the same pleasures they had pursued in life. There was a lady he’d known playing her favorite vulgar game. Boyle relaxed, thinking hell must be a pleasurable place after all. When he asked her to rest a moment and show him through the pleasures of hell, she shrieked. “There is no rest in hell!” She unclasped the vest of her robe and displayed a coil of living snakes writhing about her midsection. Others revealed different forms of pain in their hearts.
“Take me from this place!” Boyle demanded. “By the living God whose name I have so often outraged, I beg you, let me go!” His guide replied, “Go then—but in a year and a day we meet to part no more.” At this, Boyle awoke, feeling that these last words were as letters of fire burned into his heart. Despite a resolution never to attend the Hell Club again, he soon was drawn back. He found no comfort there. He grew haggard and gray under the weight of his conscience and fear of the future. He dreaded attending the Club’s annual meeting, but his companions forced him to attend. Every nerve of his body writhed in agony at the first sentence of the president’s opening address: “Gentlemen, this is leap year; therefore it is a year and a day since our last annual meeting.”
After the meeting, he mounted his house to ride home. Next morning, his horse was found grazing quietly by the roadside. A few yards away lay the corpse of Archibald Boyle. The strange guide had claimed him at the appointed time.
Unfortunately for Boyle, he did not respond appropriately to the dreadful scene that he did witness in his dreams. It was obvious that the Lord was trying to get his attention. The Lord was seeking to sound an alarm and call him to reform. But while his conscience was deeply affected, he chose not to seek the Lord.
What we find in that illustration is something of what we see in the passage that is before us this morning. In this section of Scripture God is sounding an alarm for sinners who have become thoroughly ensconced in their wickedness. With these “Pronouncements of Woe” Christ paints for us a dreadful picture of a hellish end.
Yet while these pronouncements of woe are supposed to be chilling to us, they should be a comfort to us. For these are words of warning, indicating that there is a chance to escape. This is why Charles Spurgeon once said, “God’s woes are better than the devil’s welcomes.” The words before us are here to urge us to go to Christ and make amends with him so that no harm may befall us on the day he has appointed.
So that we do not experience the same fatal havoc that Archibald Boyle experienced, it behooves us then, to take note of what is said in each of these woes. We are going to begin by examining the first of these woes today. And that is found in verses 8-10. And it is important that we start by identifying who is being addressed in this woe.
I. To whom does the woe come?
Verse 8 makes it clear that the woe comes to those who are greedy. It says, “Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.”
What is happening here is that people are buying up all the land they can. They are accumulating for themselves an exorbitant amount of property, and they are turning their houses into mansions because they are not satisfied with the midsized house that they have.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with purchasing your neighbor’s property or putting an addition on your house if you have a productive use for it. For instance, if you have a large family, then you are going to need the extra space.
That is not what is going on there though. Isaiah here condemns the covetous spirit that had come to consume the people of his day. These people were not adding fields and houses because their families were growing. (The passage makes it clear that they dwelt alone in the midst of the land.) These people were simply feeding their materialistic spirits. They were seeking to acquire large amounts of land so that they could have sprawling estates and luxurious homes. In the process what most likely was happening is that they were forcing poorer, weaker people off their land by dubious methods.
I think that Calvin sums up well what is under scrutiny here. He says, “He now reproves their insatiable avarice and covetousness, from which the acts of cheating, injustice, and violence are [prone] to arise.”
Let me give you a modern example of what most likely was happening. My father-in-law recently wrote an article that has been published entitled, “Bulldozed in New London: The latest in Kelo and Eminent Domain.” The article recounts how the major drug company Pfizer went about building a rather large research complex in the city of New London, CT. In order to build this plant they had to acquire many homes that would then be razed to make way for the construction site. With the aid of the city’s officials, who were salivating at the prospects of increased tax revenue, Pfizer sought to obtain the land by the process known as “eminent domain.” (Eminent domain is the inherent power of the state to seize a citizen's private property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent.)
The people who lived in the community objected to this land grab though. One of the citizens, whose name was Kelo, sought to protect her home through litigation. Her case ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately for her, the Court voted in favor of the City and Pfizer.
Outrage quickly spread across the country. And, as a result of this appalling injustice, many states tightened up their eminent domain regulations so that the same would not happen in their area.
But that is the essence of what you find in this passage. Those who are in positions of power roll over any who get in their way in order to satisfy their incurable thirst for more space, more luxury, more money, and more power.
This is the nature of a covetous spirit though. No amount of wealth will satisfy the greedy person. No matter how much you have, the desire is like a fire that just thirsts after more and more to consume.
The other day a friend of mine was asking a bunch of us for a good definition of wealth. I wanted to say, “Just a little more.” While that might not fit in Webster’s dictionary, that is the intent of many people’s hearts. “If I could only get a little more.”
And we see this sumptuous spirit all over the place today. As a matter of fact, we have whole shows dedicated to it! When we look at the some of the most popular shows on TV today, we see things like Extreme Make-over and House Hunters. I think it goes without saying that these shows are not built on the premise of contentment. They are designed around the whole notion of bigger is better, and they feed on your base yearnings for opulence. I might even suggest that their purpose is to rouse those covetous hungers within you. They don’t want you to be satisfied with the quaint little space that you have. Ultimately they want you to get out there shop at their sponsors.
What is important is that we be on guard against having this kind of gluttonous, materialistic spirit. We are just as susceptible to fall into this sin because our hearts have the same, insatiable appetites. Because of our sinful nature, we have the same propensity to lust after the bigger and better when there is absolutely no reason to do so.
So when we go to purchase a new car, we need to think about what is proper for our needs. Purchasing an SUV might not be what is most glorifying to God. If you don’t have kids to tote around or you are not going to be hauling anything, then an SUV might not be what God wants you to have. If you are buying an SUV simply because it feeds your craving for the bigger and more luxurious, or if you are buying it because it you think it will increase your prestige, then your most likely buying a car that will not please the Lord.
I know that this might not sit well with many in our day. I can just hear people making an outcry, “How can you tell people what kind of car to buy? You are an overzealous (uptight!?) preacher! Nobody is being hurt with an SUV. You make it sound like someone who drives and SUV is involved with extortion!”
But think about it. It may be that God wants you to downsize a bit so you are not dumping a ton of money into your gas tank. With the money you save with a mid-size care, think of all the money you would have left over. Instead of spending it all on yourself, you have the opportunity to save up an inheritance for your children or help people who may be in need.
That is the real issue at hand in this denunciation. Isaiah was against people who were running amuck with their selfish inclination. And someone purchasing a bigger car or a bigger house or a bigger and better TV when they don’t need it may be fraught with the exact same disease.
And if you are in such a position where your heart is plagued with covetousness, then you are a person who whom this expression of woe comes. Those who need to fear this woe are those who are overly infatuated with their own personal gain.
But what exactly do they need to fear? What is the woe that this kind of person will experience?
II. What is the woe that they experience?
This passage goes on to tell us that such a person will experience a shortfall in his/her life. Interesting isn’t it? The people who made it their highest intention to get are people who will be left wanting. But if you look at what is said here you’ll notice that the shortfall isn’t in just one area of their lives. Their losses will be across the board, touching every part of their lives.
You can start in verse 9. It says, “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.” What happened here? The housing market crashed in on them, didn’t it? How contemporary is that?
Someone was telling me a while ago that they were in Florida and it was rather eerie in some places because there were so many houses for sale. All these luxurious housing developments went up overnight as people sought to fulfill their infatuation with dry wall. The Lord then came alone and evicted them. Now you have what seem like ghost towns because so many houses have been left desolate. What is happening is that people are experiencing the woe that God speaks of here in verse 9.
The shortage that befalls them can also be seen in verse 10. Here you see that they experience scarcity in their crops. It says, “For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”
You don’t have to be an expert in Hebrew measurements to know that the harvest was not all that plentiful. Yet this is such an apt judgment. They accumulated all this land, but it ends up infertile, spoiling their lustful cravings.
I mentioned a few minutes ago the article that my father in law wrote about the misuse of the eminent domain regulation by the city of New London and Pfizer. I didn’t tell you all about the article though. My father-in-law wrote it because there had been a development in the story in recent months. After Pfizer had built their research facility and had enjoyed 10 years of tax abatement, the company decided to pack up and leave. They ended up consolidating and relocating to another town not too far away. As a result, all the tax revenue the city thought they were going to pull in is gone. What’s more is that the whole neighborhood that used to be called home by many people is gone. The only thing they are left with is a huge empty building and a soiled name.
This is a beautiful illustration of the kind of famine that God can cause. Anybody who is obsessed with economic extravagance and hordes all kinds of stuff in their greed, will find that their financial dreams will be cut short.
Perhaps the worst shortage that such a person will experience though, is found in the last part of verse 8. It says that they are “made to dwell alone.”
They say it is lonely at the top. You work all your life to get success. You spend yourself silly trying to achieve all that you ever wanted. But then, once you get there, you look around and you wonder, “Where is everybody?” You are all by yourself.
What a punishment this is! In Romans 1 it says that God punishes people by giving them over to their own desires. This is exactly what you see here. The greedy person pushed everyone out of his way. He stepped on everyone and anything to get to the place where he was, then after he got there nobody else was around to witness it. His whole life he said, “Me, me, me, mine, mine, mine.” Then he looked around and it was only “me.”
Ultimately though, these pains that they experience are pointing to a greater reality—an eternal reality. It is what Jesus meant when he told the parable about the man who built bigger barns for all his goods so that he could live a life of ease. God came to him in the night and said, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you!”
The ultimate woe is that you go to hell. That’s the greatest shortfall of all because you miss out on the excellencies of heaven. But that is the lot of the person who prizes the creation over the Creator. Sure, all that has just been said may be avoided. There is a chance that you may never have lost your mansion or investment revenue. But, as the saying goes, he who dies with the most toys, still dies.
This is why I entitled this message “Take That.” The person to whom woe comes is a person who’s life is been dedicated to taking. They want this and they want that. Their lusts burn and blaze as they acquire more and more. His life has been dedicated to taking, taking, taking.
But in the end, God says, “Take that.” He comes and strips them of all they ever had and leaves them barren. Then, for the rest of eternity, he is left to be be eaten by their own ravenousness desires.
So may this be a lesson to you. May we be sure to focus our attention on a more prudent spirit. Never should our focus be on simply acquiring more for more’s sake. While there may be nothing wrong with an upgrade, we need to be sure that our acquisition of it is honorable.
The Bible makes it clear that our chief concern is to be our Lord, and not our land. It is not the pursuit of our own grandness that we are to be endeavoring after. It is the pursuit of the granger of God that is supposed to be our main concern.
This passage is most applicable to us because we live in an age where you are measured by what you have. But we must remember that there is only one thing that needs to be acquired. And that is Jesus. He is the pearl of great price. He is the most valuable possession that anyone can have. And everyone who is willing to sell all to have him will not have to fear this pronouncement of woe.
You might be sitting here today thinking, “I have a lot of stuff I don’t really need. My garage or my attic is stuffed full of evidence of my greed.” And you might be thinking, “Woe is me!” But whoever posses Jesus, possesses the remedy. Jesus came to earth for this very reason. He was stripped of everything on your behalf. There at the cross he lost his clothes, his dignity, and his friends. Everything was taken away from him. And it was taken from him so that you might be invested with the abundant riches of heaven.
And whoever is willing to cling to him above all earthly treasure, will inherit all the riches that are stored away there.
"God...raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God."
1 Peter 1:21
You may have noticed that the song that we just sang a moment ago (The Day of Resurrection) was written over 1300 years ago. It was written by a man whose name was John of Damascus. It is said that John of Damascus started his hymn-writing career with a funeral hymn for a fellow monk. The monk wasn’t dead yet, but everyone thought his death was imminent. So John prepared his song and was singing it loudly in his room in order to test it out. Suddenly the monk for whom it was written burst into the room and scolded John for raising such a racket.
Tradition has it that John was expelled from the monastery for a brief period for causing the disturbance. But the abbot realized that John would do great things with music, and, as a result, welcomed him back.
What is interesting is that this hymn embodies that very story in which it was written. The song reminds us that there will come a day when there will be loud peals bellowing forth from heaven. And those who are on their death beds (and all those who’ve already made their beds in the graves of death) will come rushing forth. There will be a day of resurrection!
When you read the Bible, you cannot help but notice that this truth is hammered home again and again. It is said that there are over 350 verses in the New Testament alone that deal with the theme of resurrection. Most of these deal particularly with the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Each of the gospels records for us an account of his resurrection. That he came up again from the grave is the main theme of every sermon that is recorded in the book of Acts. Then, through each of the epistles, you hear clear intonations of this truth. Our passage this morning is just one such example.
That this one episode receives such attention reminds us that the resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in all of history. At the very least it tells us that it is perhaps the most significant event for our faith. And because it is so central, it is always good to remind ourselves how great an event it is.
Certainly that is what the passage before is designed to do. Even though this verse is a subset of another sentence it teaches us some great things about the resurrection of Christ. The verse begins by saying that “God raised him from the dead.” This, I might say, may be just a reminder that the resurrection of Christ was a supernatural event.
I. It’s a supernatural event
This should come as no surprise to you. A resurrection by its very nature is miraculous. It is something that can occur only by the direct intervention of God. And while that may be obvious to you, I think we should take a moment and consider it.
We live in a time where the supernatural world is denied at every turn. As Christians we are looked down upon because, as some would say, we believe in “fanciful” ideas like the resurrection.
To the modern man this sounds like one of the most preposterous things in the world. That’s because most people today have embraced a godless or atheistic worldview. The most common worldview today is what you might call a materialistic worldview. The only things that exist, in their eyes, are material things or things of nature. That is to say, they only believe in things you can see, taste, smell and touch. In their eyes there isn’t room for things that are immaterial (like angels, a soul, or God). So it is no wonder that they deny the possibility of a resurrection. They say it can’t happen because they say that there is no spiritual realm.
This is something that came about much because of the Enlightenment—or, as you have heard me say before, the “En-darken-ment.” During the latter half of the 17th century and into the 18th century people began to think differently about the world and about life. Up until this time, most people embraced the Christian world-view. That meant that they took the Bible seriously and believed all that it said. So they believed that there is a spiritual dimension to life. During the enlightenment though, there was a shift. Instead of relying upon revelation as their ultimate authority in life, they began to appeal their own reason.
With this humanistic (or man centered) view of things there came to be no room for the spiritual world. That’s why I call it the Endarkenment because, in leaving the Bible, their hearts were darkened and they were blinded to much that exists in life. But what happened is that people began to throw doubt on the possibility of the resurrection. And this was happening even in the church!
Karl Barth was a fellow who is an excellent example of this. He was once to speak at a conference and a reporter from Christianity Today went to interview him. As they talked the reporter began to catch a vibe that Barth didn’t really believe that really and physically Christ rose from the dead. So he asked him outright. He said, “If someone were there on the first Easter morning with a camera, could he have caught a picture of Christ?” Barth responded by saying, “I’m sorry. Did you say you were from Christianity Yesterday?” That was his way of saying, “Come on, man! Get with the times! We’ve moved beyond that! Science has proven that men don’t rise from the dead.”
Other people are not as blatant as Barth. While there are those, like Barth, who dismiss the resurrection altogether, others like to romanticize it or redefine it. G.I.Williamson once said that he saw a minister being interviewed on television and he was asked whether or not he believed in the resurrection. He said, “Yes, I absolutely do.” The reported knew enough to ask, “Do you believe in the resurrection of Karl Marx?” The guy who was being interviewed recognized that he had been backed into a corner. Fortunately he answered honestly and said, “Yes.” He said he believed in the resurrection of Jesus. But what he meant was something completely different than what you and I believe. He did not believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead. Rather he believed that Jesus was resurrected simply by living on in the hearts and minds of his followers.
Both of these were examples of men who had rejected what the Bible said. Having rejected Scripture, they had rejected God and all things spiritual. So the possibility of the resurrection is completely absurd to them.
This is not true for us though. We believe that it is a completely logical thing because we understand that there is more to life than what you can see and touch. We believe that there is an all powerful Being who controls the events of history—and we believe that He is able to tweak the laws of nature by his supernatural power. As a result, we believe that the resurrection is most definitely a possibility. It would be an easy thing for God to do.
So we have to remember that this is something that is going to be unique to us. We will be looked on as queer because we believe in God and his power to bring the dead back to life.
But as we think about the resurrection, we must remember that it was not just a supernatural event, it was also a monumental event.
II. It’s a monumental event
The resurrection of Christ is the most profound event in history. It was an event was of epic proportions for two reasons. It accomplishes our redemption and advances our nature.
A. It accomplishes our redemption
Most likely you already know that it accomplishes our redemption. 1 Corinthians tells us that if Christ were not raised from the dead, we would still be in our sins. To put it another way, to believe in a savior that did not rise from the dead, it would be worse than believing in no savior at all! The resurrection of Christ is what guarantees our place in heaven. It guarantees the redemption of our bodies because it is what confirms the notion that sin and death have been dealt the final and definitive blow.
As I said though, you are most likely all too familiar with this notion that the resurrection of Jesus accomplishes our redemption. What you might not have known is that Christ’s resurrection advances our nature.
B. It advances our nature
What do I mean by that? If you look at this passage you will notice that it says that God “raised him from the dead and gave him glory.”
Those last three words are the ones I want you to focus on. These words tell us that, when Christ rose from the grave, there was something qualitatively different about him. His body was not the same as it was a few days before. Yes, it was the same body that went into the tomb, but it was radically different from it was a few days before. It now had glory—a glory that it did not have before.
Now make sure you understand this. The substance was the same (that is to say, it was the same body and it was made out of the same stuff), but its status had changed. It had advanced into a new state because God had glorified it.
What I’m trying to say is that Jesus did not return to a normal mode of living. And the salvation that he brings is not just a restoration of our current human nature. It is an improvement of it.
What we are talking about here is the doctrine of glorification. That is to say our bodies are made immortal, incorruptible, and endowed with new power and spiritual nature. We typically think about being made free from sin and returned to a state of wholeness (i.e. we have a new vigor and don’t have the aches and pains associated with age). But the Bible makes it clear that there is something more that happens. Our earth-i-ness is done away with and we become fit for the presence of God in the New Heavens and New Earth with glorified bodies.
The best way I can illustrate this is like this: Suppose you have an old Model T. Its condition is more than a little dilapidated. It is rusted out. It is beaten up. And if it happens to run (which it usually doesn’t), it doesn’t run right. Now you take that old, junky Model T to a foundry and say that you would like to have it melted down and then re-fabricated. So the company takes the thing, melts it down. Then, with the same metal, they fashion a supercharged Mustang GT fitted out with all the perks.
It is made of all the same stuff, but it has been radically improved. Now it has a power and beauty and grandeur that it did not have before.
This is what happens in the resurrection. The apostle Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:42-45, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
Paul is saying there that you become a supercharged Mustang GT! This is why I say that the resurrection of Christ is monumental. In his resurrection Christ progresses the work of creation. Adam was the handiwork of God. But Adam was earthy in his orientation because he was made out of the earth. Moreover he was corruptible because he was able to die. And Jesus came in the likeness of Adam and in the likeness of sinful man. But when he rose from the dead, all of that changed. He rose with a glorified body.
And one day, our bodies will be glorified too because of it!
Now that we’ve seen that something of how the resurrection of Christ is a supernatural and monumental event, let’s think about how it is an effectual event.
III. It’s a effectual event
The passage ends by reminding us that Christ’s resurrection does something for us. As a result of this supernatural, monumental event it says, “your faith and hope are in God.” In other words, because of Christ’s resurrection, we know that there is more to life. Sin and death will not have the final say. We know that there is more to come.
That is the essence of hope!
There are two kinds of hope. There is the kind of hope that a kid has on Christmas morning. It is a wishful thinking hope. It is a cross your fingers kind of hope. Leading up to Christmas a child can give all sorts of hints about what he wants to find under the Christmas tree. He can say, “Boy, this bike of mine is getting a little old.” He can leave the catalog open on the kitchen table on the page that has all the bikes on it. And he can circle the one he wants with a big fat Sharpie marker so it is sure to be seen. He can draw all sorts of pictures of the kind of bike that he wants. Then, on the night before Christmas, he can hope that he will find a new bike when he wakes up.
But that is not real hope. That is not Biblical hope. That is wishful thinking. That is nothing more than a strong desire.
Biblical hope is not like that. Biblical hope has to do with assurance. It is a confident expectation. It is the kind of hope that knows for certain that what is hoped for will come to be realized in a matter of time. That is the kind of hope that the Christian possesses as a result of the resurrection of Christ. Because Christ rose from the dead we know that there is more to life than what we now experience. We expect that a day will come when Christ will return. We know that, since Christ rose again, we too will rise in triumph to live forever. Our ultimate hope is the assurance we have that one day the whole world will be transformed.
It is a lot like having a foundation laid for a house. If you walk by a plot of land that has been dug out, has had block laid, and there are all sorts of construction materials and machinery sitting around, you recognize that a building is being constructed there. You know that if you come back past this plot of land in a few months, you will find the final product. You expect to see that some sort of structure will have been raised there.
That is what this passage is telling us. The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope in God. Because Christ initiated the work of salvation, we have the hope that he will bring it to completion. It is a guarantee that God will do away with sin and death completely. It is our guarantee that Christ will not only glorify his people, but he will glorify himself in the consummation of his redemptive work.
Really, the event that occurred on that first Easter morning is something that just whets our appetite. It is like an appetizer that you might find at a fancy restaurant. You take a bit of it and you are enthralled. It is so good. But if that is what the appetizer is like, just think what the main course will be like! The resurrection of Christ is great. Through it we come to have the resurrection of our own souls. But it points us to something greater. It points us to the fact that there is a main course still yet to come.
When that time comes, we shall have the full serving. Sin will be no more, and we shall be glorified. We will enter into the eternal kingdom and find ourselves radically renewed.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.