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"What Happens When You Die?", a sermon by Joshua L.F. Bower

"What Happens When You Die?", a sermon by Joshua L.F. Bower

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Published by Joshua Bower
This sermon was preached 3/10/13 at First Presbyterian Church of Whiteville, NC as part of our sermon series "The Story." This is from chapter 27: "The Resurrection."
This sermon was preached 3/10/13 at First Presbyterian Church of Whiteville, NC as part of our sermon series "The Story." This is from chapter 27: "The Resurrection."

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Joshua Bower on Mar 11, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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“What Happens When You Die?” Joshua L.F. Bower  Delivered March 10, 2013 First Presbyterian Church, Whiteville, NC 
Is there a stranger place than a cemetery? There is no place in the world that’sfull of such
: gorgeous grounds with green grass and blooming, fragrant flowers.And that’s what makes it so strange: these beautiful places are full of reminders— reminders etched in cold, hard, unyielding stone—that this mortal life is just that: mortal.Standing in front of the grave of one you love can be inexplicably joyful and unspeakably painful…all at the same time. It’s like opening up an old photo album: you laugh and cryover the great memories you shared, and cry some more over the ones you never got to.In those moments you’d give anything to have one more day, one more hour, one moresmile, one more hug. And even though you may hate standing there, somehow it’s hardto leave. But you do…with the full knowledge that you yourself will someday be visitedthere as well. In the past 6 months or so it seems like we’ve lost a lot of good folks, a lotof brothers and sisters in Christ…a lot of people we loved. This, along with therealization of our own mortality, often leads us to ask: “What happens when you die?”Or, what we’re really asking: “What’s happened to the one I love? What happened toMama, to Daddy, to my daughter, son, sister, brother, friend?” And, ultimately, “What’sgoing to happen to
?” Today’s Scripture points us to the answer. But…it may not bethe answer you think you know. It’s not what most Christians believe. It also happens to be better— 
better—than what we’ve been taught.Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, mocked, slapped, spat on, tortured, stripped,crucified, and placed in a stone tomb. You just heard the conclusion of that story: “
 Hehas risen from the dead!
Those are the 6 most important words you’ll ever hear: “
 Hehas risen from the dead!
The truth of those 6 words sets us on the path to answering our question—“What happens when you die?” These words give us our identity asChristians and as the church. They are the foundation for our future hope and our presentmission.So…what happens when you die? I asked a friend this past week that question.She’s a dedicated, lifelong Christian. She said what most Christians, I think would say:“If you’re right with God when you die you go to heaven to live forever.” She could tell
 by the look on my face that I was setting her up. “That’s not right, is it?” Actually…
. Not exactly. That’s what I was
, that may be what
were taught, that’s whatgets preached at most of the funerals I go to, it’s what’s in the books I’ve bought on howto teach your children about death. But no…that’s not the full and final truth. At least,that’s not what the Bible says.But if we don’t just go straight to heaven and live there forever, what does theBible say will ultimately happen to believers? What is our final destination? Here’s asampling. Romans 6:4-5—“
 Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a deathlike his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his
.” Revelationand John
: “
 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and thelast. I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever; Because I live, you also will live
.” 1 Thessalonians:
The Lord himself will come down from heaven…and the dead inChrist will rise first.
Philippians 3:10—“
 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in hisdeath, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Romans 8:11—“
 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ  from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
In John 5 Jesus says, “
 A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear [the Son of God’s] voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise tolive, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
Do you hear the promise God has in store for you? You’ve got a new body on the way! You’re notwaiting to throw off this nasty body so God can take your soul up into the sky! No, your whole self—mind, body, soul—will be redeemed. Because Jesus was raised from thedead—mind, body, soul,
 —you will be, too.
And just like Jesus, you’ll beraised in a body that looks like the body you have now, but is no longer subject to diseaseand decay—it’s incorruptible, imperishable, a spiritual body.
At the resurrection you
will be you—but
transformed, fulfilled,
It seems to me this answers one of thequestions I’ve been asked a million times: “Will we recognize each other in heaven?”Well, the disciples recognized the risen Christ. So, yes, assuming the people you want torecognize are in God’s kingdom, yes, you will absolutely recognize them. Sadly, thatmeans you will also recognize those people you had hoped wouldn’t make it.
will you live in this new body? Right here! Your final home—the place whereyou will spend eternity forever and ever with God if you’ve put your trust in Jesus Christis not heaven…it’s
right here
. Revelation 21 and 22 gives us the picture of the end of theage and it’s not all the redeemed floating on clouds and playing harps. It’s a new heavenand a new earth. It’s God’s original intentions way back in Genesis 1 being fulfilled and perfected. It’s creation and human beings and animals and nature restored andtransformed into what they were intended to be. It’s the Garden of Eden restored and yettransformed into a city where all God’s people live together in peace and love and justice…just the way God created us to be. And together you will enjoy this world asGod intended it to be enjoyed—unbroken, not twisted, beautiful, and whole—with Godhimself as your light. I can’t explain it. Neither could the biblical writers; just know thatit’s
this world 
without sin and corruption.
The Bible scholars here will now raise 2 questions. The first: “What about all the people
in Christ?” Put another way, what about hell? There isn’t enough time togive a full answer to that in this sermon. Right now it’s enough to say that I believe it’simpossible, reading the New Testament in one hand with a newspaper or iPad in theother, to believe that there won’t be some kind of ultimate judgment of evil. Auschwitz,Darfur, Sandy Hook and a million other evils cry out for justice, and God would not begood if he didn’t answer. There will be human beings who resist God to the point thatGod says to them, as C.S. Lewis put it, “
will be done.”
But I will never know whothose people are and will live my life believing that ever sinner is redeemable…because

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