Father, as we look into Your word now, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would be the teacher; you would work through me, and work through all of us as we look at the passage and as we talk about it. We want it more than in our mind; we want it in our heart and in our life, we want to live this out. Father, make this a great Bible study that will glorify Your Son. We pray this in Jesus's name, amen.
Okay guys we are in Romans four; we are going to wrap up Romans four today. Romans four and we have the last three verses to look at, Romans 4:23-25. I want to begin by reading the passage.
And for those of you who are curious what translation I use, I am a New American Standard guy. So beginning in Verse 23, "Now" – and there is a real summation feel as he begins with the word ‘now.’ He is bringing this whole chapter down to a summation, based on everything that he has said.
"Now not for his sake only" – referring to Abraham – "was it written that it was credited to him" – and the 'it' refers to the righteousness of God in Christ. Verse 24, "but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." Verse 25, "He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification."
There is a lot of theology in these verses, and therefore a lot of application as well. There are different ways to look at these verses, but the angle that I want us to look at is to see that God the Father is so actively involved in our salvation. When we think of our salvation, we normally think of the Lord Jesus Christ, who John 4:42 says is the Savior of the world.
The very name Jesus means Jehovah saves. Jesus is the Savior, but we need to also understand that God the Father is the Savior and God the Holy Spirit is the Savior. All three persons of the Trinity are the Savior. That is why when we baptize, we baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That is not just to make a Trinitarian confession. It is to acknowledge that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are all three involved in our salvation. To truly understand the work of grace in our life that delivered us from eternal destruction, we really have to think about it on three different levels: the work of God the Father, the work of God the Son, and the work of God the Holy Spirit.
In this particular text, what really captures my attention is the activity of God the Father. As we look at this today, rather than just coming up with a grammatical outline, I want to have a theological outline as we walk through these three verses. There are six truths about God the Father that I want you to see as it relates to our salvation. To make it more personal, as it relates to your salvation.
Now I am going to give you a point of application on the front end before we even look at this. Why this is so important: as we worship, we need to give praise not just for God the Son, but we need to worship God the Father, and we need to ascribe honor and glory to God the Father. Because God the Father is so vitally at work in our salvation.
Before we look at these verses, and I give you these six things, if you would just turn back to Romans 8 for a moment. This will set the parameters for this. In Romans 8, these verses with which you are very familiar, verse 29 and verse 30, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined." And in verse 30, "and those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified." Here is the million dollar question, "Who is He?" The He is none other than God the Father.
He is the one who foreknew us. He is the one who predestined us. He is the one who called us. He is the one who justified us. He is the one who will glorify us one day. That is very clear, because in verse 29, the He is distinguished from His Son. In verse 32, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all."
The He is distinguished from God the Holy Spirit in verse 26, and 27 and verse 28 when he says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good." God refers to God the Father in this text, so what we see in verse 29 and 30 is how everything is flowing out of God the Father. It is God the Father who is the author of the Gospel. God the Father is the architect of the plan of salvation. God the Father is the one who has sent His Son in to this world to be our Savior.
God the Father is the one who has sent the Holy Spirit in to this world in order to convict us of sin and call us to faith in Christ. Everything is flowing out of God the Father. And so as we look at this passage in Romans four, I want us to always have a God centered focus as it relates to our salvation.
Not just God the Son, but also God the Father. It is really impossible to believe in Jesus Christ without also believing in the Father. There is no way to come to the Father, except by believing in the Son.
They are inseparable. Having said that, come back now to Romans four, and we want to look at the end of this chapter, and I want to give you six things that God the Father does in your salvation. If you want to put a title on this Bible study, it would just simply be, "The God Who Saves."
I. GOD CREDITS RIGHTEOUSNESS
The first thing that we see in this text that God the Father does is that God credits righteousness to believers. In the act of justification, it is God the Father who imputes the righteousness of His own Son to us. So we see that in verse 23 and the beginning of verse 24, "Not for his sake only" – referring to Abraham – "was it written that it was credited to him."
Now the word 'credited' is a Greek word from which we derive the English word logarithms (logizomai) and it means to count to our account; to impute to our account; to reckon to our account. So the question is, "How does this righteousness come to be deposited to our account, posted to our account?" Verse 24, "but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited."
In the larger context, we will note that it is God the Father who takes the perfect righteousness of His Son and credits it to our account. God the Father is actively involved in our justification. Verses five and six earlier in the chapter make this clear, especially verse six.
Look at verse six, "just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness." We do not credit it to ourselves, obviously. The guilty do not impute Christ's righteousness to themselves. In this larger sense, even Jesus is not the one who is crediting His perfect righteousness to us. It is God the Father who takes the righteousness of His Son and credits it to us.
So therefore, as we worship, we need to give praise not only to Jesus, who accomplished our righteousness, but we must also give honor and glory to God the Father, who is active in crediting the righteousness of Christ to our account. That is the first thing that we note in verse 23 and the beginning of verse 24.
II. GOD MUST BE BELIEVED AS THE AUTHOR OF SALVATION
It is not directly stated there, but it is implied, and it is stated in the larger context earlier in the chapter. Now the second thing I want you to note, not only does God credit righteousness to believers, but second, God must be believed as the author of salvation. In verse 24 it continues to read, "to whom it will be credited, as those" – now watch these next four words – "who believe in Him."
The ‘Him’ is distinguished from three words later, "Jesus our Lord." The Him refers to God the Father, and so please note it is not just that we believe in Jesus Christ; we believe in God the Father who sent Jesus Christ. God the Father who delivered Jesus over to die on our behalf. God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead.
God the Father who has seated Jesus at His right hand. It is impossible to believe in Jesus Christ apart from believing in God the Father. It is very clear here in verse 24. You'll note in verse five earlier in the chapter, Paul has already said this, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him" – you see the ‘Him’ – "who justifies the ungodly." That Him, H-I-M refers to God the Father.
So it is a package deal. You cannot believe in Jesus Christ without believing in God the Father. And you cannot believe in God the Father without believing in His Son, Jesus Christ. The two in that sense are one, as John 10:30 says, Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." Not one in person but one in mission, and one in enterprise. That is the second activity of the Father. He too is the object of our faith.
III. GOD RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD
Number three, in verse 24 also, God raised Jesus from the dead. In verse 24, as we continue to read, "but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead."
God the Father actively, powerfully, dynamically raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus also raised Himself from the dead. John 10:17-18, "I have authority to lay my life down; I have authority to raise it back up again. This commandment I received from the Father."
God the Holy Spirit also raised Jesus from the dead, and we saw that in Romans 1:4. It says, "Jesus was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of Holiness." Which is a Hebraism for the Holy Spirit. The resurrection is really a Trinitarian resurrection. All three persons of the Godhead were involved in the resurrection.
In that sense, all three persons of the Godhead were involved in creation; the virgin birth; the crucifixion; the resurrection; the ascension; the enthronement. All three persons of the Godhead are vitally at work in every aspect of, not only creation, but recreation or salvation. We should give praise to God the Father for raising His Son powerfully from the dead.
IV. GOD DELIEVERED JESUS TO THE CROSS
Now let's continue to walk through this. Number four, God delivered Jesus unto death. As we look at verse 25 it says, "He" – referring to Jesus – "who was delivered over because of our transgressions." That is what we call a passive verb; Jesus was delivered over.
Now there was also the sense that He laid His own life down, and He took it back up again. Jesus did deliver Himself over to death. But greater than that was, it was the will of the Father. It was the Father who delivered Jesus over to death.
So often it is easy for us to have a limited perspective of the cross that it was the Romans who delivered Jesus over to death. It was the Jewish leadership who delivered Jesus over to death. It was the crowd that cried out, "Barabbas, Barabbas," and, "Crucify, crucify Jesus."
They were but really secondary causes; the primary actor at Calvary was the invisible hand of God. As God the Father was delivering over His Son to the cross that Jesus would die for us. It was the Holy Spirit who was strengthening Jesus as He went to the cross. As He hung upon the cross, it was the Holy Spirit who empowered Jesus in His humanity to fight through the conflict of the cross and to remain steadfast to give up His life for us.
Verse 25 is very clear that Jesus was delivered over. In that sense He was passive, it is a passive verb. The ultimate one who delivered Jesus over was none other than God the Father. We should give praise and thanks to God that God the Father took my sins and transferred them to the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father is the One who delivered His Son over to die for our sins.
I do not want us to have the concept that Jesus is the good guy and the Father is the bad guy. Or that Jesus the Son had to save us from God the Father. Or that Jesus had to step in and intervene. Yes He did, but it was the Father who sent Jesus. It was the Father who delivered Jesus over, and it is the Father who raised Jesus. We must remember the centrality of the Father, even in our salvation.
V. GOD DEISNGED THAT JESUS DIE FOR OUR SINS
Now there is one more aspect that I want you to note. Number five, in verse 25 God designed that Jesus would die for our sins. In the middle of the verse it says, "because of our transgressions." It is not directly or explicitly stated, but it nevertheless is implied from the larger context of Scripture, how did Jesus become sin for us? It was God the Father who took all of our transgressions and transferred them to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is also a sense in which Jesus took them to Himself. But in a greater sense, it was God the Father who gathered up all of our iniquities and all of our transgressions and laid that heavy burden upon His Son. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God, "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf." That is God the Father who made the Son to be sin for us. What I want us to see is the driving activity, the initiative, of God the Father in our salvation, and it comes through loud and clear in this text.
VI. GOD WAS SATISFIED WITH JESUS’S DEATH FOR OUR SINS
Now there is one more aspect that I want you to note. In number six, God was satisfied with Jesus's death for our sins. We see that in the last seven words of verse 25, "and was raised because of our justification." Let me tell you what this is not saying and what this is saying. This is not saying that we are justified by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are justified by the life and the death of Christ. What this is saying is that the life and death of Christ, the sinless life and the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ provided the righteousness that is imputed to us in justification.
This says we were raised, not in order to have justification. This says we are raised because of our justification. The resurrection of Christ from the dead becomes the Father's validation that the life of Christ and the death of Christ was a perfect righteousness that has been imputed to us. If Jesus had remained in the grave, it would have told us that His life and His death was an insufficient provision of righteousness. But the fact that the Father raised Jesus from the dead is the Father's authentication, stamp of approval, that the death of Christ made a perfect atonement for our sin. Jesus's life perfectly fulfilled all of the demands of the law on our behalf.
Look at it again, at the end of verse 25, the wording of it, "He was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification." We are justified by the life and death of Christ. The resurrection validates the success of that mission. So the Father was – to use a theological word – propitiated, and we saw that word in Romans 3:25. The Father was satisfied; He was appeased; He was placated; those are all synonyms for the satisfaction that Jesus accomplished to satisfy the wrath of God towards us. Jesus, in taking our sin, stood in our place in the judgment at the cross, and Jesus bore the wrath of God in His body upon the cross. The physical suffering, in reality, was nothing compared to the spiritual suffering of Jesus bearing our sins and being crushed by the wrath and the judgment of God upon Him for our sins.
It has been well said that only the damned in hell, this very moment, can even begin to scratch the surface of understanding what Jesus suffered upon the cross. There were thousands who were crucified upon crosses. That is not the uniqueness of the death of Christ. The real suffering was not the physical torment. It was Jesus bearing the curse on our behalf and suffering the damnation that was due us. The full fury of the wrath of God was unleashed upon Jesus Christ, and what we would suffer in an eternity in hell was compressed down to three hours upon the cross. It was so concentrated and so intense that at high noon the sky became pitch black.
It was at that moment that our sins were transferred to Jesus. It was at 3:00 in the afternoon that He said, "It is finished." It was from high noon to 3:00 that our sins were laid upon Him and the wrath of God came down hard upon His Son. The Father held back nothing; He – as I said – unleashed the vengeance of His holy character upon His Son as He bore our sins upon the cross. He was taken down from that cross, He was buried in a barred tomb, and because the Father was fully satisfied with the sufficiency of that death, therefore the Father raised Him from the dead.
These are six things that the Father does as it relates to our salvation. Now in the time that we have that remains, I want to walk us through some verses that speak to this resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Go back to the book of Acts. When we study the book of Acts, we see the prominence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Christ needs to be very prominent in our thinking.
Matt, one of the last sermons I heard your dad preach at Grace Community was on a Sunday night several months ago on the resurrection. As I came to church that Sunday night, I thought, "Oh I know exactly what your dad's going to say. I know his sermon on 1 Corinthians 15." I am clicked in for automatic pilot on this like I am going to finish the sentences for him. I know this message.
As your dad preached that night, it was a blockbuster sermon, and he began by saying, "Christianity is a religion of the resurrection." We are a religion of the resurrection. He went through a litany of verses, and it just blew me out of the water how powerful it was that God will raise everyone from the dead. God will have the last say in human history.
Everyone will be raised to stand before God, and there will be no escaping God. That is a powerful truth of Christianity – we are a religion of resurrection. In Acts 2:22, "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God" – that refers to God the Father – "with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him." The greatest miracle God performed in and through Jesus Christ is found in verse 24, it is the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Verse 22, "you nailed Him to a cross," Verse 24, "But God raised Him from the dead." God had the last word. You nailed Him to a cross; God raised Him from the dead. Now we know that it was ultimately God the Father who delivered Him over to the cross. But God worked through human instrumentality. God worked even through reprobates to carry out His eternal purpose and plan as He worked through those Roman soldiers who drove the nails in to His hands.
He worked through the Jewish leaders who delivered Him over to death. It was God the Father who did this, but verse 24 says it was God who raised Him from the dead. The ultimate purpose of that is in verse 22: He was "a man attested to you by God."
The resurrection is the attestation from God the Father that this is my Son; you must believe in Him. It is a far greater attesting by the Father than even the voice that spoke at His baptism, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." It is an even greater attesting than on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus was on the Mount with Peter, James and John, and the voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son; listen to Him."
Even greater attesting by the Father than “this is My Son,” is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the ultimate validation that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be. Every other religious leader, their body is still dead and in the grave. Mohammed is dead and in the grave. Buddha is dead and in the grave. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, their bodies are dead and in the grave. There is only one who has been raised from the dead, He is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, look at verses 31 and 32 – David looked ahead in verse 31, "and spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay." This resurrection of Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament, in Psalms 16. This is not just a New Testament truth, this is an Old Testament truth as well. Then in verse 32, "This Jesus God raised up again." It was the resurrection that put steel in to the backbone of the disciples. They scattered at the cross, but they rallied in the upper room because they saw the resurrected Christ.
Now look at Acts 3:15, you “put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead." Then at the end of the chapter, in verse 26, "For you first, God raised up His Servant." All of this really begins in verse 13, "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus."
What the resurrection does is it validates that God the Father is the God of the Bible. He is the true God of heaven and earth, because He raised His Son from the dead. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He is the One who raised His Son from the dead. Now Acts 4:10, "let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands here before you in good health."
The resurrection validates that God is the God of salvation. That God has raised His Son from the dead. A dead savior is no one's savior; a dead savior cannot even save himself. A dead savior has no power to save. But a risen savior has power and eternal life to give to all those who believe in him. It is the resurrection that demonstrates that God has the power to save. If He has power to raise His Son from the dead, He also has power to take our sins away from us and bury them in the sea of His forgetfulness.
Come to Acts 5:30, this repeated emphasis upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Here the resurrection demonstrates that we must obey God and not men. Look at verse 29, "But Peter and the apostles answered" – well let me begin in verse 28. "We gave you strict orders" – this is the Sanhedrin speaking to Peter and John – "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'" In other words, you can tell us to stop preaching, but we will not stop preaching because God has commanded that we be His witnesses in the whole world.
Now verse 30 follows up verse 29, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross." The resurrection means we must obey God and not men. Our greatest allegiance and loyalty is to the God who raised His Son from the dead. Even if the world tells us that we cannot witness in the name of Christ, we must obey God who raised His Son from the dead.
It is the resurrection of Christ that makes obedience to the Father binding upon our lives. Now come to Acts 13:30, and we are just cherry picking these verses on the resurrection in the book of Acts. This was a dominant theme in the preaching of the apostles. It was a reoccurring note.
Let's start in verse 29, but verses 30, 33, 34, and 37 are what I want you to see. Verse 29, "When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him" – and isn't that an interesting statement, as they executed Jesus Christ they were simply fulfilling what had already been prophesied and written in Scripture – "they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God" – and I love how Martin Lloyd Jones says, "Praise God for the buts in the Bible."
"But God" – whenever you see a ‘but God,’ you know whatever follows is turning in the right direction. Momentum just changed jersey's. So in verse 30, "But God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm" – and now he quotes Psalms 2 – "'You are my Son; today I have begotten you.'"
Verse 34, "As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead" – he won't let it go. Then down to verse 37, "but He whom God raised did not undergo decay." What that means is God raised Him on the third day, before the decaying process could even begin.
In our Christian faith and in our Christian witness, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a chief cornerstone. As we talk to people about Jesus – that Jesus died for our sins – we must also then follow that up with, "But God raised Him from the dead, and He is alive, and He is seated at the right hand of God the Father. And whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
The resurrection gives strength to our witnessing, to our teaching and to our preaching. Now I have a great verse you must come to.
All this was a warm-up, okay, this was pre-game. Now is kick off. Acts 17:31, this is a killer verse on the resurrection. Now look at this, "He" – referring to God the Father – "has fixed a day" – there is a day that is fixed on God's calendar. It is written in indelible ink. It cannot be removed. It cannot be erased. “He has fixed a day” – a point in time in the future – “in which He” – God the Father – “will judge the world in righteousness” – there is a payday coming, there is a final judgment for the world – "through a Man" – and we know who that Man is, capital M, none other than the God Man, the Lord Jesus Christ – “whom He has appointed” – God the Father has appointed His Son to carry out the judgment – “having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” You know what this means? There will be a final judgment, because God has raised the judge from the dead.
The irony is every Easter there are so many CEOs in church, Christmas and Easter only. Many of them do not know the Lord, and they are coming to celebrate Easter and coming to celebrate their own judgment that God has raised the judge from the dead. Now today, if you want to escape standing in court, you can actually escape standing in court. You can catch an airplane and go to South America and never be found. You can take an airplane and go to Africa and we will never hear from you again. You can go to the Florida Everglades and go find some snake-infested place and you can escape your day in court.
But this day in court is inescapable for two reasons: 1) God has raised the judge from the dead and He has fixed a day in which this judge will preside in judgment over the world. And 2) God will raise every living soul from the dead to appear in court, the supreme court of heaven and earth on the last day.
The judgment is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is a powerful truth, the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ guarantees the resurrection of every lesser person who has ever lived on this earth. My body will be resurrected unless I am alive when Jesus comes back. Your body will be raised from the dead.
Every funeral grave site that I have ever performed, that coffin is going to be blown open and that body is going to be raised from the dead. Every lost person's body will be raised from the dead and reunited with their soul and spirit. For our body in heaven, we will be given a body perfectly suited for our new environment in heaven. It is a body that will never grow tired and never grow weary in our worship of God, in our praise to God, in serving God.
No need for sleep, no need for rest, we will have glorified eyes to behold the Lord Jesus Christ, a glorified tongue to sing His praises, a glorified knee to continually bow before Him, glorified feet and hands to carry out service for Him. It will be a body perfectly suited for our new environment in heaven. We will eat from the Tree of Life. We will drink from the River of Life in a glorified body that will never grow tired.
We will have an intensified capacity to enjoy pleasure in heaven and to rejoice in heaven in this glorified body. On the other hand, souls in hell will have a new body in which they will feel the suffering of the torment of the damned with even greater capacity to suffer and a greater feeling of the inflicted pain in hell.
There will be a resurrection at the end of the age. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the trumpet of God and the voice of the archangel, and the dead in Christ shall be raised first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
It is this resurrection that Paul emphasizes at the end of Romans four that is a cornerstone and a hallmark of our Christian faith. I think every so often we need to have this solidified in our understanding, that it is by this resurrection that Jesus Christ is alive. He is alive today. He is alive this moment. We can know the risen Christ. We can follow and serve the risen Christ. And on the last day even, we will stand before the risen Christ and give an account to Him at the judgment seat of Christ. We talked about that last time.
Also those without Christ will be raised for their day in court, and every sin will be exposed, and every sin will bring a just punishment. Then they will be cast down into the bowels of hell to suffer eternally in the lake of fire and brimstone. It is the resurrection that guarantees that all of this will take place.
These are great verses that we have looked at today, and I trust that they will elevate your faith and your walk with the Lord. So let me just throw it open – give me your insight, give me your thoughts. What strikes you about what we have looked at today? Whatever that is will be a source of encouragement for the rest of us.
Audience: So do you believe at our physical death here on earth we will be immediately in heaven?
Dr. Lawson: Absolutely.
Audience: Then you talk about the body reuniting with this soul, with the spirit. So how is heaven different, I guess, before and after for us?
Dr. Lawson: That is a great question. 2 Corinthians 5, beginning in verse 1 addresses that. At the moment of our death, our body is placed in the grave – or a day later. But at the moment of our death, for the believer, our soul goes immediately into the presence of the Lord.
Our soul will be in heaven before our loved ones even know we are dead. Our body will be placed in the grave. At the end of the age there will be a resurrection, and our body will be raised to become like Christ's resurrection body. So the question is, what kind of a body will we have in heaven before the resurrection?
It is represented in a metaphorical way as an earthly tent, that we live in an earthly tent. Now an earthly tent is a temporal housing until the permanent body – or building that we move in to. It is somewhat veiled to us exactly what it will be like.
2 Corinthians 5:1-3 says, "For we know if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down" – well that is our present body – "we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked." When we get to heaven we are not going to be a ghost or a spirit, and in that sense, naked. God will clothe us with a temporal – and the best we can say is "body" – whatever that is, we are not completely told. Verse 4, "For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan" – referring to our present body – "being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a pledge."
We have the Spirit in us. The word ‘pledge’ there can mean either like a down payment or an engagement ring. We have the Holy Spirit given to us as a pledge of what is to come. Verse 6, "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord." Right now we are at home in this body. We are absent from the Lord. Verse 7, "for we walk by faith, not by sight" – verse 8 – "we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." So it is the moment I am absent from this body, I will be home with the Lord.
Verse 9, "Therefore, we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him." To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord immediately, and I believe we will recognize one another. Spurgeon said, “we know one another down here, will we be bigger fools up there?” The answer is no, we will really know one another up there. It will be more than just a recognition on the outside, we will know one another even on the inside, as far as there will be no misunderstandings.
At the end of the age will be the resurrection. It is somewhat veiled as to what our spirit will be in, but it will be some kind of a temporal body. That is the best we can say on this, but that is a great question.
I will say this, God does all things well. Whatever that is going to be, it is going to be extraordinary. It is going to be great. It is going to phenomenal. In a sense, we will be glad to finally get rid of this old decaying tent and finally upgrade and move into something better. It is certainly going to be a better neighborhood and a better house that we live in.
Great question. Someone else, what strikes you? Help us with application. How should this change our life?
Audience: I know that a lot about heaven is unknown, and there are a lot of different theories. But you were talking about how we would have no need for rest. Equate that with how God rested on the seventh day.
Dr. Lawson: Well first of all, God did not need to rest. God is eternal strength, and so the fact that God rested is really just an example for us that we should rest one day out of seven. It is not that God needed to rest, like God got tired or God needed to recharge His batteries. It was simply an example to us that we would have a Sabbath rest.
In this life, I think the Sabbath principle is still in effect, yet without the ceremonial and civil requirements of the Old Testament. I think you can eat in a restaurant on Sunday. I think you can mow your yard on Sunday. I do not think we have all of the Mosaic requirements attached to the Sabbath.
And the Sabbath was Saturday, and we, as Christians, worship the Lord on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. Having said that, salvation is entering into the rest of the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. In heaven there is a sense in which we will rest from having to work in this world by the sweat of our brow, under the curse in Genesis 3, "Working in a world in which there are thorns and thistles."
We will enter in to the new Jerusalem, the new heavens and the new earth. There will be no curse in that world. I believe we will work and serve the Lord there and derive great fulfillment and satisfaction from that work. But we will not be taking off one out of every seven days in heaven, because there is no curse in the world to come from which we need to rest.
We will have turbo-empowered bodies that will just worship and worship and worship, and fellowship and fellowship and fellowship, and serve and serve and serve. What that is, I have no idea what that will be. But it is a part of being made in the image of God that we work. We don’t want to get out of work. I don’t understand people who want to retire and not do any work. You were made to work. Now you just have to transfer that work, maybe from your career to the church or to ministry. But as long as you are on planet earth, there is work for you to do.
When your work is finished, God will take you home. In Ephesians 2:10, God has foreordained good works for us to walk in, and we are to carry out those works as long as we are alive. So I think it would be an awful thing for me, and I think for you, just to sit at the beach and look at seashells in retirement. I mean, what kind of satisfaction is that? You will just have to do a honey-do list anyway when you get to that point.
We want to serve the Lord. We want to serve God. We want our life to count for time and eternity. We do not want to just twiddle our thumbs. And we are not going to just twiddle our thumbs in heaven either. Angels are not going to just be dropping grapes in our mouth while we are on a cloudbank. That does not sound like a good deal to me. Being made in the image of God means we do something with our life, and we derive enormous satisfaction. We glorify God with our service in what He has called us to do.
Right now for you men vocationally, it is your career, it is your work that you are glorifying God with. The integrity and honesty and with the provision that comes from your labor. I know I went beyond your question on that, but we are not just going to go to heaven and sit. It will not be a spectator game in heaven.
I don’t know that I would want to go there if that is it. We will be with God, but we want to do something throughout all eternity, and we will have a glorified body with which we can do it. There is still yet a lot unanswered, obviously.
Audience: Since the damned will be resurrected in physical bodies for eternal punishment, will the nature of the lake of fire be physical as well?
Dr. Lawson: Absolutely it will. I believe it is real – it is a real lake of fire. Here’s the deal, let's just play with this for a moment. If it is symbolic, the symbol never measures up to the reality. The picture of your wife never represents the full beauty of who your wife is. The symbol is always weaker than the reality. If it is only a symbol, you should hope it is only a symbol, because whatever it is representing is far worse.
So that is not an end run. Having said that, I take the Bible at that point at face value. I realize there are figures of speech that are used in the Bible. When Jesus says, "I am the door of the sheep," He does not mean He is a piece of wood, it represents something – that He is the door. I understand that. I am the light of the world – I understand that.
But having said that, we have no reason to believe that this is anything other than literal fire in a real place on God's map known as hell. I think the lava that comes spewing out from the center of the earth is about as close of a picture of the lake of fire and brimstone as there is.
Thank you for that question, and it gives us opportunity to answer that. I would take it as real until we find out otherwise. If we find out otherwise, it will be far worse than what is pictured.
Audience: And there is no annihilation.
Dr. Lawson: No, there is no annihilation.
Audience: Some would say there is annihilation. But there is a body that will not, cannot, be in annihilated.
Dr. Lawson: Yeah, it is a body that cannot be annihilated. It will be ever being burned, but never consumed. Hell will be as long as heaven will be. The very same words in the book of Revelation are used for the length of hell that are used for the length of heaven. If you want to argue annihilation in hell, then you are going to have to be consistent and argue for annihilation of saints in heaven as well.
That does not get you anywhere in the argument. It is forever and ever, the ages unto the ages to come without end. There is no annihilation. That is just a pagan myth.
Audience: Do you think in what we are talking about that we can say that God keeps the books, Jesus opens the scrolls, and it is all together that this judgment takes place?
Dr. Lawson: Yes and no. In John 5 Jesus said the Father has given all judgment to Him. So Jesus will be the executor of the Father's judgment. In Revelation 20:11-15 is the great white throne of judgment. One who sat upon a throne from whose presence heaven and earth fled away and there was no hiding place. The sea gave up the dead which were in them, and etc., etc. If Jesus will be that judge on the last day, as He will carry out on behalf of the Father the execution of the Father's judgment. And the Father is keeping impeccable books – every idle word, every thought, every deed, everything we should have done we did not do, everything we did we should not have done, every motive. The unsaved man will give an account for that on the last day. It is a terrifying scene in Revelation 20:11-15.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. We must be about the business of telling people about the Lord Jesus Christ, starting with our loved ones, starting with those who are closest to us at work, etc.
Well men, ours is a religion of the resurrection, and it is the resurrection that guarantees that the Father is pleased with the Son's sacrifice. It is the resurrection that validates Jesus is the Son of God.
Father, thank You for this study that we have had. Seal to our hearts now the truth that has been sown in to our hearts. Give us opportunities today to tell others about what we have looked at today. Thank You that You will give us a glorified body one day in heaven – never be sick, never be tired – with which we will be able to praise You forever. We long for that day and we groan for that day, even right now as we live in this earthly tent. In Jesus's name, amen.