Ron Thomke - The Resurrection - Silverdale II, Australia Convention

John 5:28-29, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."

 

The resurrection - I don't know of any theme in the Bible that I find more beautiful or more inspiring. I am always glad when a verse appeals to me in such a way that it makes the resurrection seem more real. It is possible to believe in something and yet that thing not seem very important to you, because it doesn't seem real. It is so possible to be that way in regard to the resurrection. It seems like something far away. Mysterious and unreal, and we avoid thinking about it. I am always glad when something brings it to me and makes it stand out.

 

The resurrection was very real to the apostles in the early chapters of the book of Acts, because they had witnessed Jesus in His resurrection body, "by many infallible proofs" moving among them, meeting with them.  His resurrection was so real and very important to them, because they had seen Jesus in His resurrection body. Over and over again, the apostles referred to the resurrection. It gave a tremendous witness and power to their message. Speaking about the resurrection really gave power to their message.

 

I Peter 1:3, God has "begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Hope had been born again in their hearts by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, because they had passed through the very dark days when He was treated as a criminal, crucified, and put in the grave. If the resurrection could be anywhere near as real to us as it was to them, it would give us a lively hope (living hope).

 

There are plenty of people in the world who have hope, but it is a dead or artificial hope. When we have a clear picture of the resurrection, it will give us a living hope.  Artificial things can be made to look very real. There are religious people who have a hope that seems almost real. Something that is artificial may look real, but it will gradually deteriorate and lose its beauty, and eventually it will become evident that this is not a living hope.

 

My parents have an artificial tree inside their house; an artificial tree - it won't grow. Artificial hope won't grow either. True hope is a hope that will grow. Something that is living, it will heal itself. We want to have hope living in our hearts. If you have a tree living in your house and if a limb gets crushed, it will heal itself. An artificial tree can't heal itself.

 

Living things produce seeds. Living hope will produce seeds that can be planted in the heart of another person - seed-thoughts in the hearts of other people that would produce hope in their hearts too. If you want to make the resurrection real to you, read all you can about the resurrection. Why is it very important to make the resurrection seem real? If we have a real vision of the resurrection it will affect our lives, our choices, our steps. Many experiences in life seem very different if you can approach them with the thought of the resurrection in mind.

 

Hebrews 11:17 tells of Abraham being asked to offer Isaac and verse 19 of him accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him - in a figure. That definitely gives the impression that when Abraham was facing that experience, Isaac being put to death, Isaac - from whom nations were to arise - to put him to death would seem to cut off all hope of that promise being fulfilled. He was looking at that experience from the standpoint of the resurrection.

 

Good to evaluate our different experiences with respect to the resurrection. Very often, a person receives this message: you have a terminal illness. How would we cope with that in reality? Knowing that you have a terminal illness, if you could think of it in connection with the resurrection... There are people who live under very unhappy circumstances, heavy burdens of the soul to bear. I believe that when something overwhelm us - a lot of those things - if we could look at them with respect to the resurrection, it would completely change many things in life for us. Before we can do that, we have to have a certain feeling that the resurrection is real, not a far off, mysterious thing.

 

Acts 2:24, God raised Him up, "loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that He should holden of it." Death is like a fierce, cruel monster that reaches down with its ugly head and again and again, snatches life away. Man cannot resist that hand of death. Man could not do anything when death reached down, in its cruel way, and painfully took Jesus out of the world. God said, by the power of the resurrection - let Him go; that is quite a picture of death, the irresistible power of death. Man's wisdom cannot resist it, men in multitudes cannot resist it.

 

Sometime it comes very unexpectedly and takes away a victim, the cruel hand of death. Sometimes, it hovers and casts its shadow over many lives. A fine brother worker - 40 years old - became very ill a little over a year ago. He had an inoperable brain tumor. The shadow of that hand of death is over the state. Everyone suffers because of it, because he has meant so much to all of us. The power of the resurrection just means that, when God says let them go... The hand of death will not be able to hold on to any of its victims. The power of the resurrection is greater than the hand of death.

 

Daniel 12:2-3, Psalm 17:15, and many of them shall awake. "I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness." The resurrection is like waking up in the morning. Isn't it often referred to as the resurrection morn? If the resurrection is just like waking up, then couldn't you say that death is like falling asleep? That is often used in the Bible. Death is not a permanent thing, there will be waking up afterwards. When you are asleep you are removed from your activities, from your company. Death and sleeping both separate us from the things we have been doing and the things we love to do.

 

You know why it is so hard to get a child to go to bed at night? He knows he is going to miss something. Often you will tell a child there will be another day. I wonder if God wouldn't like to say that? It's just like going to sleep, there will be another day. Maybe we resist the thought of death, maybe the same way a child resists the thought of going to bed. That night of death is what must precede the resurrection morn. There is nothing so dreadful about spending a night asleep. There is going to be a morning afterwards. When we are asleep, we are not conscious of time and what happened in that time. The time from death until the resurrection morn will pass quickly, without the need of fretting and worrying about what is happening.

 

My grandparents heard the gospel in 1914, in Pennsylvania. Many people heard the gospel then. Two years later, sister workers came. The older of the sisters was Mary Macgregor, who has written several hymns. Years later when I had been in the work a few years, I was visiting my homeland at the same time Mary Macgregor was there. By this time, many of these people had gone on into eternity. One afternoon, she asked me to take her to several of the homes of these old timers and their children. After we had gone to all the homes we could go to, Mary felt very unsatisfied - it was because she was able to visit so few of the ones who meant so much to her. They had left this scene.

 

She then asked me to drive her up to the cemetery. We found several of the graves of God's faithful children. Both of us had been involved in those people's lives in such a different way. Before we got into the car, we looked back over that beautiful spot where so many of God's people were lying at rest. Mary said, "This will be a beautiful sight on the resurrection morn." That made the thought of awakening so real to me. We look at that with dim vision of course, because we cannot visualize physically what it will be like.

 

I Corinthians 15, that resurrection morn - Paul, in writing this chapter knows that there are many people who don't believe in the resurrection. One thought people will have is - how can there be a resurrection when you put a body in the grave and you know that it decays? Some bodies are completely destroyed. If there is not any body, how can there be a resurrection? Verses 35, 36-38, 42-44. Such a beautifully simple answer. It makes the resurrection very real to me.

 

The word dying would mean that when you put a seed into the ground, that seed is corrupted. If a farmer sowed a whole field of wheat and disaster happened. If the farmer would try to dig up the wheat he had planted a few days before and tried to cook it for food - you couldn't do it. It is corrupted, it is spoiled as far as what it was before. It dies, but that grain of wheat that you put in the earth that is spoiled will send up a little plant and that little plant that comes up is completely different from the grain you put in the earth. It is green and tender, it has leaves. What you put in the earth was a completely different body - a little seed, hard, brown, and small, but the body that comes up is a completely different body - like the resurrection body.

 

When a seed grows, it isn't the seed that comes up. That is what the resurrection is going to be like. What is buried is a body we are very familiar with. What is going to come forth in the resurrection will be a completely different body. Every seed produces its own plant. Every body will bring forth its own resurrection body. That seems so real and simple to me. What could be simpler or more real and what could be more inspiring?

 

Verse 51, "Behold, I show you a mystery." What he has been showing before is not that complicated. A mystery. Verse 51-52, "We shall be changed." Not everybody will be in the grave when He comes again. When that happens and the dead are raised with a new resurrection body, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye we shall be changed. Changed from this natural body to that same spiritual body that the others receive when they awaken from the grave. This being changed incidentally is a mystery. He doesn't try to explain how that will happen. It certainly would give you a feeling that you don't want to miss it.

 

Verse 55, Where is thy sting?  When you look at death and the grave in this light, there is no sting. Verse 54-55, to think about these things ought to help us to have a calm attitude about death; Verse 58, therefore means - with respect to all that we have said in this chapter about the resurrection - my beloved brethren be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. You cannot afford to miss it - the glory, the beauty, the power of the resurrection.

 

Steadfast and unmoveable seem to me to mean the same thing. Sometimes people are moved by storms, difficult experiences, temptations, false doctrine. Different things that come against people shake them and trouble them and move them. But if you could look at them thinking of the resurrection - don't let anything move you! You cannot afford to be swept away by anything - you don't need to.

 

He also says, "Be steadfast." Some people, even though they are not having storms, still just fall away. Be ye steadfast. We are tested by the length of the way as well as by the experiences of the way. Sometimes, even if we are not having difficult experiences, some lose their goal and fall - they are not steadfast. We need to be steadfast when it's calm and unmoveable, when it's stormy.

 

More ships are lost in calm weather than are lost in stormy seas. I have wondered about that. The worker that said it seemed to have a great knowledge of the sea. He explained, being a man of the sea, in a storm, it's all hands on deck and the very closest watch is kept and every precaution is taken, but of times in calm seas, precautions are relaxed and the crew become careless, and under those conditions, often the ships are lost.

 

We have seen some of our brethren go through terrific storms and they came through them stronger than they went into them. We have seen brethren make shipwreck and there didn't seem to be that much reason for it. Thinking of the resurrection ought to help us abound in the work the Lord.

 

When we awake on the resurrection morn, we are all going to say, "I wish I had put more into it." Therefore (Verse 58) we could all be putting more into it than we are.  In the end, we will wish we had. Some people can see so much to do and so many ways to serve, and other people just don't see it. I just don't see it; someone else picks up and does what I could have done. I didn't see it until they started to do it and then, it's too late. Be sure, there are many ways to serve, and many things you can do. We just have to have eyes to see it. There is plenty in the way of helping others. So many opportunities of service.

 

Sometimes we say we would like to serve, but God has not made it clear to me where I should serve or what I should do. I wonder is it because we have not made it clear that we would be willing for whatever He wishes? Not just if it happens to appeal to us. Verse 58, "Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that; your labour is not in vain in the Lord."