Evil and death are conquered!

As we approach the time of year when Christians focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we stand in awe of the way God chose for victory over evil and death. 

Take time to reflect on this great quote and the Scriptures and song of worship below:

“Evil is conquered as evil because God turns it back upon itself. He makes the supreme crime, the murder of the only righteous person, the very operation that abolishes sin. The maneuver is utterly unprecedented” (Henri Blocher).

  • “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21, NLT).
  • Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25, NLT).

Two versions of reality

I. Reality without God

If there is no personal Creator, our existence is most certainly a cosmic accident. We exist by chance, not by design or purpose. If this is an accurate accounting for our existence, several facts follow:

  1. All our notions of ultimate meaning and purpose are based on wishful thinking and irrational fantasy.
  2. There is no final morality; no right or wrong; no transcendent morality. Morals are simply matters of personal or societal opinion or preference. The so-called problem of evil cannot be addressed and cannot (on rational grounds) really be called a problem.
  3. Death is both the irreversible cessation of organismic functioning and the irreversible loss of personhood. There is no hope of anything outside of this life. Apart from the existence of a Creator, we exist by chance in a deterministic universe governed by raw natural selection.

If this is the true version of reality, I guess we just need to get on with it until it’s over — doing our best to reduce the misery and increase the pleasure. But why then do humans everywhere throughout all of history intuitively sense that this is not the case? Why do we have this pervasive longing for meaning, morality and destiny?

II. Reality with God

If, on the other hand, there is a Creator, a personal God who made us male and female in His image, then at least three truths follow:

  1. Life has value, meaning and dignity beyond the limitation of human opinion.
  2. Personal identity, human freedom and responsibility become genuine markers of our daily existence. We have been endowed by our Creator with these qualities.
  3. The transcendent (which we intuitively sense) elevates us out of the despair of human relativism and the limitations of human inquiry.

“Where is there a hope large enough truly to overcome death? Where is there hope sufficiently encompassing to enable us to know that all our pain and suffering has not been in vain? How do we bring together the contrary oracles (raised in Ecclesiastes) concerning both the vanity of everything and the eternity that God has placed in our hearts?”

“Human beings need to orient their lives by means of some sort of comprehensive perspective that helps them comprehend life’s particulars. Our profound yearning can be met only by a spacious narrative, personal enough to help us find our particular place in it and enduring enough to make that place significant.”

“The Biblical chronicle of the Triune God is the perfect narrative to empower us to envision the meaning of our lives. The Scriptures enable us to discern our most profound longings expressed or not, to name who human beings are and what we want to do, to fathom even more clearly who God is, and to perceive how all these things connect. It is a meta-narrative large enough, thorough enough, and promising enough to give us the hope we need to live courageously in the midst of an unbalanced, technologically driven, co-modification-distorted world.”

“The Bible offers a grandly sweeping meta-narrative. That is one of the thrills of reading Scriptures, for they paint an account of God’s action on our behalf from the beginning of the world to the culmination of God’s purposes in the recapitulation of the cosmos.” (Marva J. Dawn, Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an affluent Society)

See: Why I follow a Christian worldview

Steve Cornell

Christ appears in Heaven for us!

When the apostle encouraged us to “set our affections on the realities of heaven,” he specifically identified it as the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.” 

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands… he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Hebrews 9:24).

 What makes heaven so desirable is not the absence of anguish and suffering (as great as this will be), nor the presence of angels and fellow believers. Heaven is so desirable because it is the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.”

The apostle Paul spoke about his death with this perspective. “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

After Jesus finished His mission of bearing our sins and being raised from the dead, He returned to heaven and took the seat of highest honor to appear before God “for us.” These two words “for us” are amazing!

In the highest court, those who know Christ as their Savior are represented. Let these words settle deeply into your heart: “Christ went into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us.”

In Colossians 3:3-4, the apostle reinforced his call to focus on heaven by writing: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

Reflection

“The Christian’s whole and only status before God is in Christ. True and wonderful though this is, however, the sphere of the Christian’s existence is still here on earth. He is still beset by temptations; he is hampered by weakness and frustrated by failings; he falls short of ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13); the perfection for which he longs is not yet. He needs a holiness not his own, made available to him by the Lamb of God who has made atonement for his sins and who now interposes himself as his representative in the heavenly sanctuary. And this is the representation which Christ fulfills as he appears in the presence of God for us” (Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 349).

For deeper meditation on Christ’s representation, see: Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:23-27; John 2:1-2. The apostle John said those who confess their sin (I John 1:9), have an “advocate” with the heavenly father (I John 2:2). The N.I.V. translates advocate as, “one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” It pictures a legal setting with Christ as counsel for the defense. And His position as advocate is based on His redeeming work (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

“Our advocate doesn’t plead that we are innocent…He acknowledges our guilt and presents His vicarious work as the ground for our acquittal” (John R. W. Stott, I John, TNTC, pp. 81-82).

We must guard against misguided understandings of representation. We should not picture a dualistic situation where a well-pleasing son is trying to persuade a hostile father to look on us with favor. God was the one who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (II Corinthians 5:18-21).  God “spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32; cf. 1 John 4:9-10).

Reflection

“The intercession of the Son, then, is in no sense a pleading with the Father to change his attitude toward us. Nor does the Father have to be reminded of the full redemption that he himself has provided for us in his Son—the very thought is preposterous! The presence in heaven of the Lamb bearing the marks of his passion is itself the perpetual guarantee of our acceptance with God, who gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. In ourselves, however, though we have the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ and though we are united to him in love and trust, we are unworthy because Christ has not yet been fully formed within us (cf. Gal. 4:19) and we still sinfully fall short of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 3:23). This consideration explains our continuing need of the advocacy and intercession of him who alone is accounted worthy before God (cf. Rev. 5:1-10). It is in his worthiness that even now we rejoice in the blessings of the divine favor, for by the grace of God his merit has been reckoned to us as our merit, his heaven has become our heaven, and his eternal glory our eternal glory” (Philip Hughes, Hebrews).

 Do we need the assistance of saints or angels to bring us to God?

“To imagine that saints or angels can be influenced to intercede for us is not only delusion; it is to cast doubt on the perfect adequacy of the intercession of Christ on our behalf and thus to deprive ourselves of the fulness of the security which is available to us only in Christ. Our Lord clearly taught that no man can come to the Father except by him (John 14:6) and that our requests to God are to be made in his name (John 14:13f.; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26), precisely because there is no other name which avails and prevails with God (cf. Acts 4:12) (Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 353).

Christ alone is our mediator, advocate, intercessor, high priest, and way of access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; John 14:6). “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He (Jesus Christ) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2; cf. Hebrews 7:26-27). “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:18). 

Let your heart dwell on these great words: “Christ went into heaven to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24).

Steve Cornell 

 

Top 5 Arguments against eternal punishment

Along with great emphasis on God’s love and mercy, Scripture presents God as the Judge who sends some people into hell.

Jesus warned his followers not to “… fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus referred to hell as a place where God sends people (Matthew 25:41,46).

The Bible doesn’t describe a pleasant end for those who reject God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. But what type of judgment falls on them?

Is it eternal suffering or eternal annihilation? Eternal in consequence or in duration? Part of the debate centers on whether ‘eternal’ is meant as a consequence (i.e. eternal punishment– not eternal punishing; the result being eternal destruction,) or as a duration (i.e. never ending, on going punishing).

Five arguments against eternal punishing

1. The fire is metaphoric

The late John R. W. Stott (a teacher I hold in highest regard on most subjects) suggested that, “The fire itself is termed ‘eternal’ and ‘unquenchable’ but it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proves indestructible. Our expectation would be the opposite: it would be consumed forever, not tormented forever. Hence it is the smoke (evidence that the fire has done its work) which ‘rises forever and ever’ (Rev. 14:11; cf. 19:3)” (Evangelical Essentials, David Edwards, p. 316).

But how does this same approach apply to the burning bush of Exodus 3:2-3 which “burned with fire yet was not consumed”? Consistency of metaphor would lead one to think that smoke rising forever and ever indicates something is burning in the fire.

2. The matter of justice:

Sins committed in a finite realm should not suffer an eternal consequence. Justice demands punishment in proportion to the crime. This argument may sound appealing on the surface but it fails at the Cross of Christ. Why did the infinite, eternal God have to come and die for the sins of finite creatures? Sin against an infinite God is infinite in consequence. Are we implying that people can sufficiently pay the consequence of sin against God? I am sure we are incompetent judges of the penalty sin deserves.

“The Bible does not present us with a God who chances upon neutral men and women and arbitrarily consigns some to heaven and some to hell. He takes guilty men and women, all of whom deserve his wrath, and in his great mercy and love he saves vast numbers of them. Had he saved only one, it would have been an act of grace; that he saves a vast host affirms still more unmistakably the uncharted reaches of that grace. Hell stands as a horrible witness to human defiance in the face of great grace” (How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, p. 92).

“Unless we come to grips with this terrible doctrine (of hell), we will never even begin to understand the depths of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body was being destroyed in the worst possible way, but that was a flea bite compared to what was happening to his soul. When he cried out that his God had forsaken him, he was experiencing hell itself” (Tim Keller).

3. Conditional immortality of the soul:

This is argued by the late Philip Hughes in The Image Restored, pp. 398-407. He taught that immortality belongs to God in the purest sense and to believers only through Christ (I Tim. 6:15-17; II Tim. 1:9f). This seems to be based on a limited understanding of death as total extinction of existence. But, if spiritual and physical death do not result in cessation of existence, why would the second death? (Eph. 2:1-3; Heb. 9:27; Rev. 20:6; 14:21:8). Scripture does not equate death with non-existence. The evidence points in the opposite direction.

4. Luke 16:19-31 is a parable (and should not be considered a literal source of information)

This text is not identified as a parable, but even if it is parabolic in nature, treating it as an unreliable source ignores the one who is telling the story. Should we believe that Jesus Christ would use speculative imagery on such a serious matter? If this refers only to a temporary intermediate state ending in a judgment of annihilation, the judgment seems like it would be a welcomed end. This is clearly not the point Jesus is making.

5. The problem of eternal dualism:

Philip Hughes wrote: “With the restoration of all things in the new heaven and the new earth, which involves God’s reconciliation to himself of all things, whether on earth or in heaven (Acts 3:21; Col. 1:20), there will be no place for a second kingdom of darkness and death” (p. 406, The Image Restored).

The lake of fire is certainly not a Kingdom. Ongoing punishment itself would be a continuous testimony to the defeat of evil. The reality of victory over death secured by Christ is not threatened by hell (Heb. 2:14-16; I Cor. 15:54-55; Rev. 20:14; 21:4).

What does Scripture teach?

All humans will be resurrected (Jn. 5:28-29; Dan. 12:2; Acts 24:15); all will be judged by God (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 2:4-10; 14:10-12; Rev. 20:11-15), and all will be separated between two distinct eternal destinies (Mt. 25:32,41,36; Jn. 3:36; 14:1-3; Rev. 21:3-8).

Where people go after death

Theologian Millard Erickson offers a six-point answer to the question of where people go after death. His points are worthy of careful reflection.

  1. All humans are sinners, by nature and by choice; they are therefore guilty and under divine condemnation.
  2. Salvation is only through Christ and his atoning work.
  3. In order to obtain the salvation achieved by Christ, one must believe in Him; therefore Christians and the church have a responsibility to tell unbelievers the good news about Him.
  4. The adherents of other faiths, no matter how sincere their belief or how intense their religious activity, are spiritually lost apart from Christ.
  5. Physical death brings an end to the opportunity to exercise saving faith and accept Jesus Christ. The decisions made in this life are irrevocably fixed at death.
  6. At the great final judgment all humans will be separated on the basis of their relationship to Christ during this life. Those who have believed in Him will spend eternity in heaven, where they will experience everlasting joy and reward in God’s presence. Those who have not accepted Christ will experience hell, a place of unending suffering and separation from God (The Evangelical Mind and Heart).

Steve Cornell

See: Hell bound?

Open letter to a new Christian

What should you expect now that you’ve become a Christian?

Becoming a Christian is a personal response to a loving Creator. Instead of leaving you in your sin, God lovingly made a way for you to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with Him. This is what we mean by salvation.

  • Salvation is a gift of God’s undeserved grace (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9) through Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-6) and not based on our works (Titus 3:4-7). 
  • Salvation is eternally secure in Jesus (John 6:37-40; 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 1:6). 
  • Salvation received by God’s grace is the motive for living in a way that pleases God. 
  • Salvation is what God did by grace, not what I do to keep myself worthy of grace. Faith itself is a gift from God (Philippians 1:29). Rehearse these truths often.

As a new Christian, you will begin to experience significant changes. Inwardly, you will feel joy because your sins have been forgiven and you are right with God. Your joy increases as you realize that forgiveness is a free and undeserved gift from God (see: Ephesians 1:7, 13-14; 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

Along with a sense of forgiveness, acceptance and joy, you will experience several new desires. 

  1. First, there will be a desire to please God. You will begin to be concerned about whether or not your decisions, actions, and attitudes please God (see: 2 Corinthians 5:9). Sometimes this desire is accompanied by feelings of guilt because you become convinced that much of your life doesn’t please God (see: 1 John 1:9).
  2. Secondly, there is a desire to be with other followers of Jesus Christ. People whose company he would not previously have chosen become important to us. You will feel a special kinship with fellow-members of God’s family (see: 1 Thessalonians 4:9). This usually leads to a new habit of attending church.
  3. Thirdly, there is a desire to know more about God. This leads to an intense interest in the Bible—God’s word—the place where we learn about the character and works of God. You will begin to read and study the Scriptures and desire to listen to those who teach the Bible.

What might others think about these changes?

When these changes take place in someone’s life, well-intentioned (and some not so well-intentioned) friends often see it as nothing more than an unusual new interest in God and religion.

They sometimes consider it a phase that you’re going through—one that will pass with time. Yet the person who has experienced God’s saving grace knows that his or her experience is much more than a passing interest in God. Something decisive has taken place in your life.

Although the new Christian cannot completely articulate what has happened, the Scriptures speak clearly of this change. In Colossians 1:13 we learn that, “God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son.”

At the time of salvation, the Holy Spirit of God comes to live in the new believer and opens up a whole new dimension of existence in the kingdom of God’s dear Son (see: 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14).

It’s a spiritual dimension in which you begin to experience spiritual realities. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit explains the new desires. It is not a matter of getting religion. It is not a phase someone goes through. It is an encounter with the living God in which He reconciles you to Himself, brings you into His kingdom and gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit (see: Romans 8:9).

Expect change

As a believer in Jesus Christ, God is now actively and progressively changing you into His image. Although new believers commonly look for changes in their circumstances, God is far more concerned about changing you than He is about changing your circumstances.

The really great thing is that God uses our circumstances (especially our trials) to transform us into His image! God’s changes are aimed at every part of our being—our thoughts, attitudes, values and actions.

Our past, present and future must come under the gracious and compelling influences of God’s Spirit. God requires every key to every room of our lives. Perhaps you thought you only needed to give Him a key to the front door, but be prepared for His active interest in each room of your life.

God’s primary focus for transformation is on what the Bible calls the inner person. Our bodies continue to age and succumb to their fallen condition – ultimately returning to the dust from which we came. Yet inwardly we experience renewal in this life. And then our salvation will one day include a renewed body (see: Philippians 3:20-21).

What about you…..? 

If you desire to receive God’s gift of salvation, you need to recognize that Jesus Christ died for your sins and that salvation only comes through Jesus (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Admit to God that you have sinned against Him and that you need His forgiveness. Ask God to forgive you and to give you His free gift of salvation (Romans 3:23; 5:8, 12; 6:23; 10:9-11).

God promised to save those who call on Him. Now talk to a trusted friend about your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. 

Steve Cornell

Meeting the God of all comfort

In a couple of weeks, I will speak at a conference on the theme “Meeting the God of all comfort in our trials.” My text will be the book of II Corinthians.

In the opening verses, we find an invitation to praise the God of all comfort.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4).

I realize that trials take many forms, but when it comes to physical and emotional suffering, it’s easy to become accustom to faster solutions than previous generations experienced. Amazing advancements in science and medicine have strengthened our expectations for quick resolution to our pain.

But how do we respond when doctors are unable to accurately diagnose our condition? Do we become more impatient when we believe that technology and medicine should be able to get to the root of our needs?

What happens to us when we have unrealistic expectation for health and emotional happiness? Are we more easily disappointed and discouraged? And do our expectations of technology and science sometimes cloud our engagement with the God of all comfort? 

This kind of disposition toward suffering could also cause us lose touch with the considerable emphasis in Scripture on the role of sadness and suffering in life with God.

These are not theoretical issues for me. When my father (who recently passed away) came down with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis in his mid-thirties, I learned what it meant to carry a burden for a suffering loved one. I was only about 12 years old but it profoundly shaped my life. I learned so much about God’s sustaining grace and His redeeming power to bring good out of pain and suffering.

I continued to learn about the role of trials in a more personal way when I prepared for pastoral ministry. At the beginning of the journey, a pastor reminded me that those whom God uses greatly, He tests greatly. I had no idea at the time what this meant but now I understand. Further, as a pastor with almost 30 years in ministry, I have walked with many people through all kinds of trials and suffering. 

Some key Scriptures that have carried me: II Corinthians 1:3-114:16-18;12:1-10;James 1:2-9Psalm 62:8Proverbs 3:5-6

When faced with difficult and unexplainable trials, I look to the God of all comfort who comforts us in our troubles. I’ve learned to trust that suffering has a greater purpose even when I cannot see it. I pray with one eye on the back-story of human depravity and another (by faith) on our hope-filled expectation of the glorious end-story for forgiven sinners like me (see: Colossians 3:1-4). 

Normal Christian living involves groaning inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).

When God’s loved ones enter the place He has prepared for them, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-6; John 14:1-3).

I find myself longing more and more for this day; for this place and for our God.

Steve Cornell

(See: The danger of hot tub religion)

Encouragement from Jonathan Edwards

“Now, it is for the abundant comfort of believers, that their own Redeemer is appointed to be their judge. That the same person who spilled his blood for them has the determination of their state left with him, so that they need not doubt but that they shall have what he was at so much cost to procure.”

“What matter of joy to them will it be at the last day, to lift up their eyes, and behold the person in whom they have trusted for salvation, to whom they have fled for refuge, upon whom they have built as their foundation for eternity, and whose voice they have often heard, inviting them to himself for protection and safety, coming to judge them (Adapted from: “The World Judged Righteously by Jesus Christ” Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)).

_____________________________________________________

Remind yourself often that the one before whom you will stand is your advocate with the father, “Jesus Christ the righteous one” (I John 2:1-2). He is your “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17) and “not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). He “…is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Identify with this prayer

“O God of Grace, You have imputed my sin to my substitute, and imputed His righteousness to my soul.” If Jesus had not been made sin for me and I had not been made righteous in him, where would my hope be placed? (see: II Corinthians 5:21).

Steve Cornell

How should we understand death?

10 truths about death

  1. Death is a curse - Death is the result of a curse on humanity because of our rejection of the rule of our Creator (Genesis 2:16-17). God declared that humans must “return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). All people from the time it was announced have returned to dust. 
  2. Death is a penalty – “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23)
  3. Death is an inheritance - “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
  4. Death is an enemy - Death is an enemy and a thief –not a welcomed friend. Death is a separator. It brings things to an end and removes loved ones from our presence. But gratefully, our Creator did not allow death to have the final word. Jeremiah the prophet animated death when he wrote: “Death has climbed through the windows and has entered our fortress; it has cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.” Death is an enemy that stalks and threatens us  (Jer. 9:21). But death is “The last enemy to be destroyed is death”  (1 Cor. 15:26). 
  5. Death is agony and a cause for sadness – “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24). Jesus wept and we grieve (see: John 11:32-36; I Thessalonians 4:13)
  6. Death is a spiritual and a physical reality – “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live …. We were dead in transgressions…” (Eph. 2:1-2, 5); “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). 
  7. Death occurs twice for unbelievers – “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8).
  8. Death has been conquered by Jesus Christ – “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:17-18).
  9. Death will not hold those who believe in Christ – “Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25). “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57).
  10. Death will be defeated and banished –  ”when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (I Corinthians 15:54). “Christianity is, among other things, the wonderfully good news that this life is not our whole story” (Robert Roberts).

Two final questions

1. Should we expect to live after our earthly lives end?

The story of Jesus didn’t end with death because, “God raised him up putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24).

And because Jesus broke the power of death, those who trust him as their Savior rest confidently in his promise, “my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).

Based on this promise, I expect to be resurrected one day. But when I say I expect to be resurrected, I am not merely saying I expect to live after the death of my physical body.

Resurrection is more than life after death. Resurrection is life after life after death. Yes, you read that correctly. Resurrection is bodily life after life after death. It’s postmortem existence stage two. I expect to return to identifiable bodily existence just as Jesus returned (see: Philippians 3:20).

2. Is the body is important to God?

Six events of history support the importance of the body.

  1. Creation: God fashions the body from the dust of the earth
  2. Incarnation: God enters the body prepared for him (Hebrews 10:5)
  3. Resurrection: (Christ’s and ours)
  4. Ascension: Jesus has bodily existence at the Father’s right hand
  5. Salvation: The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
  6. Glorification: Final redemption of the body (Romans 8 )

If we take Jesus Christ at his word, everyone should expect to be resurrected. Jesus said, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).

Steve Cornell


When faith causes doubts

Some struggle because they doubt; I sometimes struggle because I believe.

I believe in a God whose love is so great that He is love. I also believe in a God who is all-powerful. But sometimes my belief causes me to struggle.

When I see sad and desperate situations, compassion compels me to help and to pray. If I am completely honest, this is where faith can become a little confusing.

When I can’t do anything to alleviate the pain and suffering (especially of those whom I love), my faith is unwavering in the fact that God can do something to help. But when I pray and nothing changes to alleviate their suffering, or they become worse, I struggle to understand why God doesn’t seem to answer the cries of my heart for those in need.

I am not completely sure what role faith and prayer play in the painful and perplexing drama of human suffering.

An old tension

I realize that I am not the first to be conflicted between faith and suffering. I resonate with the psalmist,

“How long, O Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1-2).

“I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble. Come near and rescue me…” (Psalm 69:3, 16-18).

Like the psalmist, I have also struggled with an apparent uneven distribution of pain and suffering. This is the age-old question of why righteous people suffer and the wicked are healthy and prosperous (see: Psalm 73). But I maintain strong reservations about anyone being righteous enough to lay claim to a good life from God.

Needed perspective

I believe in the verdict “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I also believe that, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is such a horrible word and an even more horrible fact. But it is a just verdict pronounced over sinners like me. I am slowly experiencing it every day of my life.

I believe that there is a dark and sad back-story to our suffering and a glorious end-story for those whom God loves. Yet pain in this life is often hard to reconcile with God’s love and power.

The agonizing question we face is why God chooses to allow pain and suffering when I am praying so much for its relief. Why doesn’t He answer my agonizing prayers for those who suffer? I cannot endure superficial answers to this real-life question.

Skeptics offer answers ranging from atheism to deism. But for honest people, these alternatives only lead to deeper levels of despair. They also force a degree of thoughtless dishonesty which I cannot permit. If I must choose between “no God” or “a God who means well but either cannot or will not do much to help” I am left with even more perplexing questions on more levels than human suffering. In addition, these conclusions profoundly compromise basic intellectual integrity.

Other questions 

Let’s not ignore other questions equally worthy of reflection. Why does God choose to love and to forgive rebellious creatures? The back-story of human sin explains the source of human suffering better than any other explanation (and there are not many others). So why would I think we deserve to have it better?

Why do I feel that God should intervene? And what would intervention look like on a world scale?

If want God’s love and power to converge to rescue us from our misery, isn’t this exactly what happened when God entered our world of suffering in the person of Christ and suffered for us ? (see: II Corinthians 5:17-21).

Finally, why does God even provide such a glorious end-story for forgiven sinners?

Cultural conditioning

On a cultural level, I admit that I have become accustom to (and even impatient for) solutions to pain and suffering. Advancements in science and medicine have strengthened my expectations. Is it possible that I am conditioned to hold unrealistic expectation for health and gregariousness? Do I have a place for sadness and suffering in normal life?

These are not theoretical questions for me. They have been real for most of my life. When my father came down with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis in his mid-thirties, I learned what it was like to carry a prayerful burden for a suffering loved one. It profoundly shaped my life and, gratefully, did not lead to bitterness. I learned so much about God’s sustaining grace and His redeeming power to bring good out of pain and suffering.

I continued to learn when I entered pastoral ministry and chose to care about many others. Some key scriptures that carry me to better places include: II Corinthians 1:3-11; 4:16-18;12:1-10; James 1:2-9; Psalm 62:8; Proverbs 3:5-6.

I will continue to pray and trust that suffering has a purpose even when I cannot see it. I will pray with one eye on the back-story and a hope-filled focus on the end-story (see: Colossians 3:1-4).

When God’s loved ones enter the place He has prepared for them, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (see: Revelation 21:1-6; John 14:1-3). I find myself longing more and more for this day; for this place.

Reflect on these words:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10).

Steve Cornell

Good-bye for now Dad

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Today I was given yet another reason to look forward to heaven. At 11:30 AM my mother called to tell me that my father passed away (picture to the right is my dad and our daughter).

Just four days earlier, I received a call in the evening to tell me that my pastor, mentor and friend (Dr. Richard Gregory) passed away.

Many years ago, Pastor Gregory led my dad to Christ. It was a result of what he always considered one of his worse sermons. He and my dad were the same age. I love the thought that they can now fellowship together in heaven with their Lord and Savior!

As the oldest son of eleven children (with seven boys), I was always amazed at my dad’s perseverance in providing for what many would consider three families. And he did this under great trial because in his mid thirties he was afflicted with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. His badly bent up hands will always be remembered because he often held them out to tell others of God’s grace in his life.

Not knowing that my Dad was soon to pass away, I did a message last week and will continue this week on his life verse – II Corinthians 12:9 - “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’”

I took some time today to revisit some truths about life, death and eternity. Great comfort is found in these truths

The Heidelberg catechism asks, “What is your only comfort in life and in death? Answer: “That I am not my own, but belong body and soul to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.”

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

Those who take the promises of Scripture seriously know that there is never a loss of personhood and consciousness with death — only the temporary death of a body.

Scripture specifically states that, “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). By spirit, it could refer to “breath” or in keeping with the way Scripture views humans, as the immaterial part of our being separating from the material — the departure of the inner person from the outer body.

When Jesus died, he cried out, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” and breathed his last breath and died (Luke 23:46). His body was laid in a grave, when he was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (I Peter 3:18).

The distinction between inner person and body:

Philippians 1:21-24 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

II Corinthians 5:6-8 “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (with 4:16-18)

7 truths about death

  1. Death is a curse - Death, according to Christian teaching, is the result of a curse on humanity because of our rejection of the rule of our Creator. With vivid description, God declared that humans must “return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). This has been the experience of all people from the time it was announced.
  2. Death is a penalty for sin – “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23)
  3. Death is an inheritance - “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
  4. Death is an enemy - Death is an enemy and a thief – not a welcomed friend. Death is a separator. It brings things to an end and removes loved ones from our presence. But gratefully, our Creator did not allow death to have the final word. Jeremiah the prophet animated death when he wrote: “Death has climbed through the windows and has entered our fortress; it has cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.”  (Jer. 9:21). In a sense the apostle Paul also animated death when referring to is as: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  (1 Cor. 15:26). Death is an enemy that stalks and threatens us.
  5. Death is agony - “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24)
  6. Death is a spiritual and a physical reality - “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live …. We were dead in transgressions…” (Eph. 2:1-2, 5)
  7. Death occurs twice for unbelievers - “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8).

Should we expect to live after our earthly lives end?

The story of Jesus didn’t end with death because, “God raised him up putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24). And because Jesus broke the power of death, those who trust him as their Savior rest confidently in his promise, “my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).

Based on this promise, I expect to be resurrected one day. But when I say I expect to be resurrected, I am not merely saying I expect to live after the death of my physical body. Resurrection is more than life after death. Resurrection is life after life after death. Yes, you read that correctly. Resurrection is bodily life after life after death. It’s postmortem existence stage two. I expect to return to identifiable bodily existence just as Jesus returned (see: Philippians 3:20). I expect the same for my Dad and former pastor. 

Six major points of biblical history support the importance of the body.

  1. Creation: God fashions the body from the dust of the earth
  2. Incarnation: God became man
  3. Resurrection (Christ’s and ours)
  4. Ascension: Jesus retained bodily existence at the Father’s right hand
  5. Salvation: The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
  6. Glorification: Final redemption of the body (Romans 8 )

If we take Jesus Christ at his word, everyone who has lived should expect to be resurrected. Jesus said, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).

7 Great truths about heaven

  1. Heaven is a place of unhindered fellowship with God.
  2. Heaven is a place where we always do what pleases God.
  3. Heaven is a place of unhindered fellowship with believers. No more conflicts!
  4. Heaven is eternal — no separation in heaven.
  5. Heaven is home to Jesus our Savior, the Holy Spirit our comforter and the Father of mercies.
  6. Heaven is beautiful beyond comparison: It’s architect and builder is God (see: Revelation 4:1-6).
  7. Heaven is a place of unimaginable joy! (see: Psalm 16:11; Luke 15:10)

Here I rest and here I flourish — in living and dying and anticipating a reunion with those who go before. 

To God be the glory!

Steve Cornell

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