God of the Living

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
November 10, 2013, Pentecost XXV – Veterans Sunday

Job 19:23-27a, Psalm 17:1-9, II Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38

From the Prophet Job:
“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were given in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God…”

From the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. We want to honor and esteem all veterans and especially those veterans who are with us in the worship service today. In doing so, we want to take a look at what is required to become a true veteran of the cross of Christ.

If you were to look up and in back of you, there are two flags hanging from the balcony. The American Flag, and the Christian Flag. One represents our country, and the other represents our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. To serve either of these flags (and the kingdoms they represent) faithfully and effectively, one must meet certain requirements.
Before one can become a veteran, they must first be a good soldier. What are the characteristics of a good soldier? First he needs to volunteer; to give of himself willingly for the cause. Second he needs to have complete faith; Faith in the one who called him to serve. And the third characteristic is that one needs to have complete commitment; Commitment to the one who called him and to serve faithfully without hesitation. And fourth, is complete obedience; to “follow orders” no matter the cost. And last: complete devotion; to be devoted and dedicated to the one who called you. Are you that soldier?

Jesus had already told His twelve disciples to expect conflict and suffering when they arrived in the Holy City. “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22). Jesus knew fully what was coming, and He was not afraid.

In the 20th chapter of Luke, we meet three groups of religious leaders (Luke 20:1) and witness their conflict with Jesus. They challenged Him because He had cleansed the temple and called them “thieves.” They tried to catch Him in His words so they could trump up some charges against Him and have Him arrested as an enemy of the state.

These religious leaders of the Jewish people – the establishment – were sure of their ability to rule. They enjoyed the power they had and saw Jesus as the brash young challenger to their authority and power; so they were always trying to trap Him and make Him say something that would make Him lose His credibility with the crowds. Jesus, however, was like a rubber band that always snapped back in their faces.

It was required that the Jews carefully examine the Passover lambs from the tenth day to the fourteenth day to make sure they had no blemishes (Ex. 12:1-6). Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), was watched and tested by His enemies during that final week; and yet in spite of what they saw and listened, they rejected Him.

However, Jesus was also examining them! For as they questioned Him, He questioned them, and their responses revealed the ignorance, hatred, and unbelief of their hearts.

The Sadducees asked Jesus a hypothetical question based on the Jewish law of “levirate marriage” (Gen. 38; Deut. 25:5-10). The word levirate comes from the Latin levir, which means “a husband’s brother.” The Sadducees only accepted what was written in the Torah – also known as the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible. If something was not specifically referred to or mentioned in the Torah, then, in their estimation, it was not to be believed.

For example, the first five books of the Bible say nothing about angels, spirits, eternal life, resurrection or immortality – so the Sadducees did not believe in these things, and thought that no one else should either. They also did not believe in Heaven or Hell. They claimed that Moses did not write about any of these doctrines. They did not believe such writings as the book of Job which contains this witness:

“Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him…” (Job 19:23-27).

The priestly party in Israel was composed of Sadducees, which explains why the priests opposed the Apostles’ preaching of the Resurrection (Acts 4:1-2) and why they wanted to kill Lazarus, who was raised from the dead (John 12:10-11).

According to the Sadducees, there was no such thing as life beyond the grave, so the question they posed to Jesus is really quite surprising.

“Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman dies too. Now then,” they asked, “at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

The Sadducees had no interest in the intricacies of life after death. They didn’t even believe in such a thing. They simply wanted to get Jesus in trouble with the people. But Jesus was accustomed to scholars attempting to trip Him up. Jesus knew the Scriptures better than they did, and believed in all the Old Testament scriptures – not just the first five books, Jesus replied to them:

“The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Jesus pointed out that His opponents were wrong and that their question revealed assumptions that limited God’s power and denied God’s Word. Resurrection is not reconstruction; it is the miraculous granting of a new body that has continuity with the old body but not identity. Paul compared our present body to a planted seed and the future resurrection body to the glorious flower and fruit (1 Cor. 15:35-50). Our Lord’s resurrection body was the same as before His death and yet different!

His friends recognized Him and even felt Him; He could eat food and yet He could also walk through closed doors, change His appearance, and vanish suddenly.
The future life with God is not a mere continuation of the present life only on “a higher scale.” We will maintain our identities and know each other, but there will be no more death – hence, no need for marriage and procreation. Christians do not become angels.
In heaven we will share the image of Jesus Christ and be much higher than the angels (1 John 3:2). Angels appear in Scripture as men, but they are spirit beings without sexuality. It is in this regard that we will be like them; there will be no marriage or childbearing in heaven.

Is not God powerful enough to raise the dead and give them new bodies suited to their new environment? If today He can give different bodies to the various things in creation, why can He not give people new bodies at the resurrection? (1 Cor. 15:35-44) In their attempt to be “rational,” the Sadducees denied the very power of God!

Jesus met the Sadducees where they were. The Sadducees were people of the Law, the Torah. If something wasn’t in the Torah, it could not be part of their faith. So Jesus answered them from the Torah. He turns to the third chapter of Exodus, the story of Moses and the burning bush. There God identified Himself with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and thus affirmed that these three patriarchs were very much alive. But if they were alive, then they were “out of the body,” for they had died (James 2:26). There must be a real world of spirit beings or Moses would not have written these words.

Here God tells Moses:

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Notice that God did not say, “I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

“God is not the God of the dead,” Jesus insists, “but of the living.”

Jesus taught not only the truth of life after death but also the reality of the resurrection. In what way? Not by direct statement but by inference. God is the God of the whole person – spirit, soul, and body (1 Thes. 5:23) – because He created the whole person. He does not simply “save our souls” and ignore the rest of our being. Inherent in the very nature of God’s creative act is His concern for the total person. Hence, He will not keep us disembodied spirits forever but will give us glorious bodies to match our heavenly perfection.

Another factor is God’s covenantal relationship with the patriarchs. He made promises of earthly blessing to them and their descendants, but He cannot fulfill these promises if His people are going to live forever only as disembodied spirits. Can there be a glorious new heaven and earth but no corporeal glory for the people of God?

Jesus affirmed what the Sadducees denied: the existence of angels, the reality of life after death, and the hope of a future resurrection – and he did it with only one passage from Moses!

The resurrection is a cornerstone of the Christian faith because on it hangs the three core issues of Christianity: accountability before God, judgment and eternal life. Without the resurrection, death would be the end and our accountability to God would be limited only to this life and judgment and eternal life would be meaningless.
The resurrection offers us a new existence where men and women would no longer be subject to suffering and death. Heaven is not a continuation of life, as we now know it since time, death and sin limit our relationships in this life. It will be different relationship to what we are used to but there will be one thing that will not change and that is worship. Worship will still be central in this new relationship and that should make us place a great value on worship here on earth.

God is love and he has gone to great lengths to make it possible for us to spend eternity in His presence. It cost Him the life of His Son Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life on earth and died a painful death to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead for our justification so that we could spend eternity with Him. This is only possible when we believe in Him as our Lord and Saviour. We can only do this in this life before our death. Accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour determines where we spend eternity.

Our relationship with Christ is the most important thing in life. If we learn to love and trust Christ now, we will be preparing for the age to come as our relationship with Christ results in godly attitudes and godly actions. This relationship should draw us to His Word, prayer, fellowship and service. It should make us sensitive to the real needs of people as we see them the way Jesus does. We must be sure of our relationship with Christ for it is this relationship that prepares us for the age to come and ensures our future. This relationship ensures that we experience the peace of God both in this life and in the life to come.

God is the God of the living and not the dead. Our hope and confidence in the resurrection rests upon the Word of God and His infinite power. To believe the Word of god and to trust in the power of God should change both our beliefs and our behavior and the way we live. This is what will decide where we spend eternity. Those who place their faith in God and His Son are declared righteous in the sight of God and thus are considered worthy. They will spend eternity in fellowship with God the Father, His Son, and all the saints from every generation. Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

Let us pray:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like Him in His eternal and glorious kingdom; where He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen!

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