September 2016

Evidence of the Afterlife, 25 September 2016

Evidence of the Afterlife
What Happens To You When You Die?
Romans 8:22-25

Series Overview

Heaven is for real and the Bible says more—and less—about it than we might recognize.

Big Idea

Heaven is for real…and followers of Jesus will experience sin-free life in our new bodies.


After years of avoiding it, I recently finished a sermon series on the book of Revelation. Actually, we only covered the beginning of Revelation, Jesus’ letters to the seven churches. I learned a lot about the historical roots of our faith and life 2000 years ago.

Today we begin a new series that’s going to look at the end of Revelation. It’s entitled, “What Happens to You When You Die?” This is a timeless question that seems to be particularly popular at the moment. Our culture is fascinated with life after death. Books like “90 Minutes in Heaven” and “Heaven Is for Real” have been best-sellers describing near-death experiences. Movies are constantly exploring the subject. This past week a new prime-time television show, “The Good Place,” offered a rather interesting (not biblical) take on it.

Someone said you’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. That may sound morbid, but it’s true. Of course, a small minority of people don’t believe in an afterlife, but for thousands of years many if not most cultures have believed there’s more than this life.

For the next several weeks we’re going to heaven—or heavens. We’ll examine the alternative, and see what the Bible—not Left Behind novels or church tradition—says about the afterlife.

This series will hopefully answer some of your questions. It will undoubtedly raise some new questions. When we’re done, I’m quite sure you will be frustrated by my inability to provide certainty about every details concerning the future. My boyhood pastor used to say, “The Bible is silent about some things and we should be, too.” There’s simply so much we don’t know about the afterlife—but we know a lot!

The Hope of Heaven

Why should we discuss heaven? After all, it has been said that some Christians are so heavenly minded, they’re not earthly good! Shouldn’t we focus on the here and now instead of daydreaming about an uncertain future?

C.S. Lewis wrote in
Mere Christianity, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

Heaven provides us with hope. If this world is all there is, what’s the point? Mick Jagger has had everything the world says brings happiness, yet he famously sings, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” Is it any wonder the suicide rate is so high in our nation? The more we deny the existence of an afterlife, the more miserable this one becomes. But followers of Jesus have a real hope that this world is preparation for something so much more.

Jerry Walls said, “A good God would not create us with the kind of aspirations we have and then leave those aspirations unsatisfied.”

The reality is this world is messed up. Sure, God created it good, but satan has been at work stealing, killing, and destroying it since the third chapter of the Bible (Genesis 3).

Think about this world, this earth, these bodies…without sin. No broken relationships, betrayal, theft, lies, or anxiety. No graffiti, poverty, injustice, hatred, or violence. No envy or jealousy. No divorce, abuse, bankruptcy, politics…or at least corrupt politics!!! That sounds like heaven to me.

The author of the book of Romans wrote,

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21)

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? There’s great hope in those three verses alone. Are you suffering today? We all are, in one way or another. Sometimes it seems like this world is just one storm after another, striving to celebrate those precious moments of sunshine.

Heaven is for real…and it provides us with great hope knowing the best is yet to come. Wrongs will be made right. Justice will come for all. Peace and reconciliation will be everywhere. Love will win.

The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote that “a book on suffering which says nothing of heaven, is leaving out almost the whole of one side of the account. Scripture and tradition habitually put the joys of heaven into the scale against the sufferings of earth, and no solution of the problem of pain which does not do so can be called a Christian one”

I want to encourage you through this series. This world is hard…but I promise you if you are a follower of Jesus, it will be worth it. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18)

If you’re unfamiliar with Paul’s “light momentary affliction,” here’s an excerpt:

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)

Paul continues to offer glimpses of the future to the people in Corinth:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

As we get into passages from the book of Revelation, remember it was written to the early church, many or most of whom faced ISIS-like persecution for their faith, including impaling, burning, and being fed to lions in the Coliseum. Virtually all of us have it relatively easy compared to the millions of our brothers and sisters who have been martyred.

Let’s go back to Romans (our scripture-reading text):

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:22-25)

I said this life would be great if we could just get rid of sin, but there’s more. There’s so much more to come. We will get new bodies. Are you ready for that? I am!

About two months ago my jogging routine was interrupted after I messed up my right quad water skiing. For many weeks it was difficult to walk, sit, or even lie down. I finally resumed jogging on Friday…and every day that passes I long for “the redemption of my body!” I want one without an expiration date!

The Resurrection

Followers of Jesus, someday you will receive a new body…like Jesus.

Throughout my life I’ve loved Easter. As a kid, I loved looking for my Easter basket and biting the heads off the chocolate bunnies. I looked forward to singing joyful songs like, “Christ the LORD is Risen Today” and celebrating the empty tomb. I rejoiced at the risen Christ who died for my sins and rose again and is alive. But I missed an important element of the resurrection—Jesus’ resurrected body.

Everybody wants to go to heaven…but nobody wants to die!

The truth is our present bodies will die. The death rate in our nation—and world—is 100% (there have been at least a couple of exceptions, but they were thousands of years ago). Remember, you’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you?

The Physical

We were created by God both physical and spiritual. Many have wrongfully believed the physical is bad and only the spiritual matters. Jesus had a physical body. God became flesh and dwelt among us. We’ll celebrate that in a few months. But His physical body was not bad or evil. Although Jesus never sinned, he did struggle with the limitations of his body. He got sick. He experienced pain. He died.

His death was the most beautiful, scandalous moment in human history. We commemorate the day Good Friday because it was his death for us and our sins which made forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father possible. He atoned for our wrongdoings. Jesus paid it all, washing us white as snow with his crimson blood. His body was beaten and pierced…for you and me. It’s a gift we all chose to receive or reject. Have you received the gift?

Some believe Jesus was a ghost, merely a spirit. Some believe he never died. Our faith depends upon his death. If Jesus didn’t die, we’re wasting our time…and our lives. Countless eyewitnesses saw him die a brutal death. They saw him butchered and crucified. His side was pierced in front of them as blood and water poured out. Like us someday, his physical body died.

But praise God that’s not the end of the story! Jesus conquered sin and death and the grave. He rose from the dead, but unlike Lazarus, he came out of the tomb with a new body, a resurrected body. Marketers might call it “new and improved.” Jesus’ resurrected body gives us tremendous insight into the future.

After the resurrection Jesus was still Jesus. He still had flesh. He was not a ghost. He was not a spirit that hovered six inches above the ground. He did not have wings and a harp and his own cloud.

People touched him. He ate food. His resurrected body was compatible with life on this planet as he spent forty days here before ascending into…heaven (Hebrews 4:14). Jesus’ followers saw his physical body at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem ascend into heaven.

One of my professors wrote, “The Bible does not teach that the soul is trapped by the body. (In fact, that is an ancient Greek but not biblical theory.) Jesus’s resurrected body was the transformation of his earthly body, not the eradication or annihilation of that body.” (Scot McKnight,
The Heaven Promise).

Followers of Jesus will receive new bodies like Jesus received. We will eat. We will work. We will see and know one another. It will be like this life…but so much better. Randy Alcorn writes,
“To be in resurrected bodies on a resurrected Earth in resurrected friendships, enjoying a resurrected culture with the resurrected Jesus—now that will be the ultimate party! Everybody will be who God made them to be—and none of us will ever suffer or die again. As a Christian, the day I die will be the best day I’ve ever lived. But it won’t be the best day I ever will live. Resurrection day will be far better.”

Relationships in Heaven

Followers of Jesus will receive new, physical, resurrected bodies. That also means we’ll have relationships. After Jesus received his new body, he ate and drank with his friends. Our future will be filled with rich fellowship and deep friendships, the most wonderful family imaginable. Remember, without sin we’ll have no strife, envy, or hatred. Heaven will be a place of complete peace and reconciliation where everyone will be, as MLK dreamed, “free at last.” We will love God and others in our glorified bodies, feasting (without the need to count calories) and partying with music and joy. Imagine eternity with your best friend(s) in the most incredible place, a place we’ll discuss next Sunday.


There are many great reasons to believe in heaven. No sin. New bodies. And that’s just the beginning!

Next week we’re going to take a deeper look at what the Bible reveals to us about heaven—or heavens—and how it may differ from what you’ve been led to believe by non-biblical sources.

Leading theologian Scot McKnight says, “What many believe about heaven has little (or nothing) to do with Jesus’s resurrection, and as a result they have overactive imaginations that color their thinking about heaven.”

Heaven is where God is, pure and simple. We exist as a church to prepare heaven-dwellers. We are following God’s mission to make disciples in Toledo and beyond, disciples who love God, who follow God, who help others to know and follow God, and who want to spend eternity with God. Will you join me?


Some ideas from
The Heaven Promise by Scot McKnight and Heaven by Randy Alcorn.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Who's the Boss? 4 September 2016

    Who’s The Boss?
    Colossians 3:23-24

    Big Idea

    God created us to work…for His glory.


    Labor Day weekend is summer’s last hurrah, even though we technically have 17 days until autumn begins. In Michigan, schools start after Labor Day, though in Ohio most students have already returned to the classroom.

    In the spirit of Labor Day—and being in between our series on Revelation and our upcoming series on the Afterlife—we’re going to look at the subject of labor, of work.

    How many of you work?
    How many of you are retired?
    How many of you wish you were retired?
    How many retirees wish you worked?

    Most—if not all—of us are influenced by our culture far more than by God’s Word. The Bible is filled with instructions and wisdom regarding finances, family, spirituality, health,…and work.

    Do you ever feel overworked, over-regulated, under-leisured, under-benefited? Take heart. This notice was found in the ruins of a London office building. It was dated 1852.

    1. This firm has reduced the hours of work, and the clerical staff will now only have to be present between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays.
    2. Clothing must be of a sober nature. The clerical staff will not disport themselves in raiment of bright colors, nor will they wear hose unless in good repair.
    3. Overshoes and topcoats may not be worn in the office, but neck scarves and headwear may be worn in inclement weather.
    4. A stove is provided for the benefit of the clerical staff. Coal and wood must be kept in the locker. It is recommended that each member of the clerical staff bring four pounds of coal each day during the cold weather.
    5. No member of the clerical staff may leave the room without permission from the supervisor.
    6. No talking is allowed during business hours.
    7. The craving for tobacco, wine, or spirits is a human weakness, and as such is forbidden to all members of the clerical staff.
    8. Now that the hours of business have been drastically reduced, the partaking of food is allowed between 11:30 and noon, but work will not on any account cease.
    9. Members of the clerical staff will provide their own pens. A new sharpener is available on application to the supervisor.
    10. The supervisor will nominate a senior clerk to be responsible for the cleanliness of the main office and the private office. All boys and juniors will report to him 40 minutes before prayers and will remain after closing hours for similar work. Brushes, brooms, scrubber, and soap are provided by the owners.
    11. The owners recognize the generosity of the new labor laws, but will expect a great rise in output of work to compensate for these near Utopian conditions.

    If that’s the rulebook, imagine the boss!

    On this Labor Day Eve I want to share with you three thoughts about work.

    Work is God’s Idea

    Many people of work as a bad thing, a necessary evil. The book of Genesis paints a different picture in Paradise, the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world. Adam was called to be a gardener.

    The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)

    The word “work” here is “avad” in the original Hebrew. It means to serve or to work.

    How many of you have ever gardened?
    How many of you like to garden?
    How many of you find gardening to be a chore?

    I like gardening…well, parts of it. I love harvesting vegetables, picking fruit off of plants, and even planting seeds in fresh soil.

    I don’t like thorns, bee stings, pruning, sunburns, and most of all weeds. I hate weeds!

    We’ll come back to that in a moment. Suffice it to say, there are aspects of most work we may find enjoyable and others we’d rather not do.

    Would you enjoy gardening if you could simply plant and pick fresh fruits and vegetables in perfect weather free from bugs and weeds? Perhaps.
    Adam had more than just a garden to cultivate. He was also a zookeeper!

    Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. (Genesis 2:19-20a)

    I can only assume the animals were tame and friendly. There was no fear in paradise. There was no death. All was well…until the Fall. Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit and were punished.

    To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

    Women were given a different kind of work we call labor.

    To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

    What once was a God-ordained task of caring for creation suddenly became “painful toil.” Work went from daily activity to the difficult pursuit of sustenance. Work, however, is not a curse. It’s what we were created to do—along with relationships. Obviously work has many practical purposes by God’s design, including provisions. Paul wrote,

    The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10b)

    Even when work is challenging, its absence can have dire consequences. Many studies have sown people who retire early tend to die early. One Oregon State University study concluded even people who described themselves as unhealthy were found likely to live longer if they kept working.

    For those of you who are retired, I urge you to remain active, volunteer here at First Alliance and/or with our home missions partners. I know most of you are already doing so and not only is that a benefit to those you serve, it is surely a benefit to you.

    Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, wrote, “God created human beings in His own image and part of being ‘in His image’ means that we are workers — like God Himself. That’s where that innate, inner drive for work comes from. Work is part of God’s nature.”

    Labor is God’s idea. Humans worked before sin entered the world, and we’ll work in heaven, too, though it will be free from pain and fear, instead fulfilling and filled with purpose.

    Follow Your Calling

    Many years ago a woman in our church praised me for being a pastor and spoke disparagingly about herself being “only a physical therapist.” I stopped her immediately, knowing her work and its fruit. I said, “Every day you get to be the hands and feet of Jesus, serving the broken and hurting, ministering to the needs, earning money for your family, and generously giving of your income to support the church.” Every day she encountered unchurched people I would never meet as I wrote sermons in my office or served parishioners in our congregation. But she’s not alone in her thinking. In fact, I once thought similarly.

    I’ll never forget the day I asked my dad for forgiveness. He was surprised and asked what I did wrong. I said, “For years I thought if you were a REAL Christian you’d be a pastor rather than a businessperson. Now I realize it would be as wrong for you to leave the marketplace for vocational ministry as it would be for me to leave my church job and work in the marketplace.” It’s an issue of calling.

    God calls some to be pastors and some to be business people.
    God calls some to be overseas missionaries and others to serve in American schools.
    God calls some to minister to the wealthy suburbs and others to the urban poor.

    God calls all of His children to make disciples.
    God calls all of His children to ministry.

    One of my favorite moments this year at First Alliance was introducing Phil Eikost for a Missions Moment segment. I think some wondered what was going on, if he was taking a trip overseas or something. Instead he announced he is a missionary at the House of Meats in Toledo. He sees his work as his calling, even when it’s hard and frustrating. He doesn’t always look forward to his long hours at the “office,” but he knows it’s what God has called him to do and looks for ways to love and serve customers and co-workers.

    We are all wired uniquely by God. He calls us to do different things in different places. The key is not what we do compared to others, but rather to be faithful to our calling. It is a sacred act of worship.

    Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10a)

    Which leads us to our attitude toward work. Zig Ziglar said

    Attitude, Not Aptitude, Determines Altitude

    The better your attitude, the more you will soar in life. What is your attitude toward your work? Your boss? Your co-workers? We all work or have worked in environments we would love to change, yet often the only thing we can change is our attitude. Often our approach to work radically impacts our outputs.

    In New Testament times, the Roman Empire ruled with the promise of security, prosperity, and order. Women, children, and slaves were essentially property to the men. They had no rights. Paul wrote multiple letters to early Christians, many (most?) of whom were abused. To those in Colossi he said,

    Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

    These laborers were not necessarily working for a paycheck but rather food, shelter, life. People became slaves not because of their race but rather because they were debt slaves who were bankrupt or the result of military conquest. Paul wrote similar words to the church in Ephesus:

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8)

    The context helps explain the verse which follows.

    And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Ephesians 6:9)

    The point is simple: God is watching. He’s the boss! We are ultimately to love, serve, and worship Him. Your human boss may give you a performance review, but God will someday give you a life review. He will right every wrong. He will bring eternal justice. This does not mean we are to be doormats and ignore injustice, but our attitude should always be focused on God and what He thinks. He knows all. One day He will judge and reward all. What will he say about you and your work?

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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