And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
~ Acts 3:12
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
~ John 11:25
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
~ Job 19:25-26
And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
~ Ezekiel 37:8-10
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
~ Hosea 13:14
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
~ Philippians 3:20-21
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
All Shall Hear His Voice, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 1869. The following contains an excerpt from his sermon, “The Coming Resurrection”.
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”— John v. 28, 29.
Pass on. “All that are in the grave shall hear his voice” Hear! Why, the ear has gone! A thousand years ago a man was buried, and his ear — there is not the slightest relic of it left— all has vanished; shall that ear ever hear? Yes, for he that made it hear at the first, wrought as great a wonder then as when he shall make it hear a second time. It needed a God to make the hearing ear of the newborn babe; it shall need no more to renew the hearing ear the second time. Yes, the ear so long lost in silence shall hear! And what shall be the sound that shall startle that newly awakened and fresh fashioned ear? It shall be the voice of the Son of God; the voice of Jesus Christ himself. Is it not wonderful that that same voice of Jesus is now sounding in this very place, and has been thousands of times, and there are men who have ears, who have yet never heard that voice; yet when that voice shall speak to men who have no ears, they shall hear it and rise to life. How deaf must those be who are more deaf than the dead! What is their guilt who have ears to hear, yet hear not! and when the voice of Christ sounds through the building again and again in the preaching of the gospel, they are no more moved by it than the slates which cover them from the rain. How dead, I say, must they be who are not moved by the word, which arouses even the dead in their graves who have lain therein these thousand years! Ah, my brethren, while this teaches us the stolidity of human nature and how depraved the heart is, it also reminds you who are careless that there is no escape for you; if you will not hear the voice of Jesus now, you must hear it then. You may thrust those fingers into your ears to-day, but there will be no doing that in the day of the last trump, you must hear then; O that you would hear now! You must hear the summons to judgment; God grant that you may hear the summons to mercy, and become obedient to it and live. “All that are in their graves shall hear his voice;” whoever they may have been, they shall become subject to the power of his omnipotent command, and appear before his sovereign judgment seat.
Note the next words, “and shall come forth” That is to say, of course, that their bodies shall come out of the grave, out of the earth, or the water, or the air, or wherever else those bodies may be. But I think there is more than that intended by the words, “shall come forth.” It seems to imply manifestation, as though all the while men were here, and when in their graves they were hidden and concealed, but as the voice of God in the thunder discovereth the forests and maketh the hinds to calve, so the voice of God in resurrection shall discover the secrets of men, and make them to bring forth their truest self into the light, to be revealed to all. The hypocrite, masked villain as he is, is not discovered now, but when the voice of Christ soundeth he shall come forth in a sense that will be horrible to him, deprived of all the ornaments of his masquerade, the vizard of his profession torn away, he shall stand before men and angels with the leprosy upon his brow, an object of universal derision, abhorred of God and despised of men. Ah! dear hearers, are you ready to come forth even now? Would you be willing to have your hearts read out? Would you wear them on your sleeve for all to see? Is not there much about you that would not bear the light of the sun? How much more will it not bear the light of him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, seeing all and testing all by trial which cannot err! Your coming forth on that day will be not only a reappearance from amidst the shadows of the sepulchre, but a coming forth into the light of heaven’s truth which shall reveal you in meridian clearness.
And then the text goes on to say that they shall come forth as those who have done good and those who have done evil. From which we must gather the next truth, that death makes no change in man’s character, and that after death we must not expect improvements to occur. He that is holy is holy still, and he that is filthy is filthy still. They were when they were put into the grave men who had done good, they rise as men who have done good; or they were, when they were interred, men who had done evil, they rise as those that have done evil. Expect, therefore, no place for repentance after this life, no opportunities for reformation, no further proclamations of mercy, or doors of hope. It is now or never with you, remember that.
Note, again, that only two characters rise, for indeed there are only two characters who ever lived, and, therefore, two to bury and two to rise again— those who had done good and those who had done evil. Where were those of mingled character, whose conduct was neither good nor evil, or both? There were none such. You say, do not the good do evil? May not some who are evil still do good? I answer, he that doeth good is a man who, having believed in Jesus Christ, and received the new life, doeth good in his new nature, and with his new born spirit, with all the intensity of his heart. As for his sins and infirmities, into which by reason of his old nature he falleth, these being washed away by the precious blood of Jesus, are not mentioned in the day of account, and he rises up as a man who hath done good, his good remembered, but the evil washed away. As for the evil, of whom it is asserted that they may do good, we answer, so they may do good in the judgment of their fellow men, and as towards their fellow mortals, but good towards God from an evil heart cannot proceed. If the fountain be defiled, every stream must be polluted also. Good is a word that may be measured according to those who use it. The evil man’s good is good to you, his child, his wife, his friend, but he hath no care for God, no reverence, no esteem for the great Lawgiver. Therefore, that which may be good to you may be ill to God, because done for no right motive, even perhaps done with a wrong motive; so that the man is dishonouring God while he was helping his friend. God shall judge men by their works, but there shall be but two characters, the good and the evil; and this makes it solemn work for each man to know where he will be, and what has been the general tenor of his life, and what is a true verdict upon the whole of it. O sirs, there are some of you, who with all your excellences and moralities, have never done good as God measures good, for you have never thought of God to honour him, you have never even confessed that you had dishonoured him, in fact, you have remained proudly indifferent to God’s judgment of you as a sinner, and you have set yourself up as being all you should be. How shall it be possible, while you disbelieve your God, that you could do anything that can please him? Your whole life is evil in God’s sight— only evil. And as for you who fear his name, or trust you do, take heed unto your actions, I pray you, seeing that there are only those that have done good, and those that have done evil. Make it clear to your conscience, make it clear to the judgment of those who watch you (though this is of less importance), and make it clear before God, that your works are good, that your heart is right, because your outward conduct is conformed unto the law of God.
I shall not keep you much longer in the exposition, except to notice that the mode of judging is remarkable. Those who search the Scriptures know that the mode of judging at the last day will be entirely according to works. “Will men be saved then for their works? no, by no means. Salvation is in every case the work and gift of grace. But the judgment will be guided by our works. It is due to those to be judged, that they should all be tried by the same rule. Now, no rule can be common to saints and sinners, except the rule of their moral conduct, and by this rule shall all men be judged. If God finds not in in thee, my friend, any holiness of life whatever, neither will he accept thee. “What,” saith one, “of the dying thief then?” There was the righteousness of faith in him, and it produced all the holy acts which circumstances allowed; the very moment he believed in Christ, he avowed Christ, and spoke for Christ, and that one act stood as evidence of his being a friend of God, while all his sins were washed away. May God grant you grace so to confess your sins, and believe in Jesus, that all your transgression may be forgiven you. There must be some evidence of your faith. Before the assembled host of men there shall be no evidence given of your faith fetched from your inward feelings, but the evidence shall be found in your outward actions. It will still be, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” Take heed, then, as to practical godliness, and abhor all preaching which would make sanctity of life to be a secondary thing. We are justified by faith, but not by a dead faith; the faith which justifies is that which produces holiness, and “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” See ye then the two classes into which men are divided, and the stern rule by which God shall judge them, and judge yourselves that ye be not condemned with the wicked.
The different dooms of the two classes are mentioned in the text. One shall rise to the resurrection of life. This does not mean mere existence; they shall both exist, both exist for ever, but “life” means, when properly understood, happiness, power, activity, privilege, capacity, in fact, it is a term so comprehensive that I should need no small time to expound all it means. There is a death in life which the ungodly shall have, but ours shall be a life in life— a true life; not existence merely, but existence in energy, existence in honour, existence in peace, existence in blessedness, existence in perfection. This is the resurrection unto life. As for the ungodly, there is a resurrection to damnation, by which their bodies and souls shall come manifestly under the condemnation of God; to use our Saviour’s word, shall be damned. Oh, what a resurrection! and yet we cannot escape from it if we neglect the great salvation. If we could lay us down and sleep, and never wake again, oh, what a blessing it were for an ungodly man! if that grave could be the last of him, and like a dog he should never start again from slumber, what a blessing! But it is a blessing that is not yours, and never can be. Your souls must live, and your body must live. O fear him, I pray you, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear him.”
II. Our time is almost spent, but I must occupy the remaining minutes in DRAWING LESSONS FROM THE TEXT.
The first is the lesson of adoring reverence. If it be so, that all the dead shall rise at the voice of Christ, let us worship him. What a Saviour was he who bled upon the tree! How gloriously is he who was despised and rejected, now exalted! O brethren, if we could even get but to see the skirts of this truth, that he shall raise all the dead out of their graves, if we did but begin to perceive its grandeur of meaning, methinks we should fall at the Saviour’s feet as John did when he said, “I fell at his feet as dead.” Oh, what amazing power is thine, my Lord and Master! What homage must be due to thee! All hail, Immanuel! Thou hast the keys of death and of hell. My soul loves and adores thee, thou ever great enthroned Prince, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
The next lesson is consolation for our wounded spirits concerning our departed friends. We never mourn with regard to the souls of the righteous, they are for ever with the Lord. The only mourning that we permit among Christians concerns the body, which is blighted like a withered flower. When we read at funerals that famous chapter in the epistle to the Corinthians, we find in it no comfort concerning the immortal spirit, for it is not required, but we find much consolation with regard to that which is “sown in dishonour,” but shall be “raised in glory.” Thy dead men shall live; that decaying dust shall live again. Weep not as though thou hadst cast thy treasure into the sea, where thou couldst never find it; thou hast only laid it by in a casket, whence thou shalt receive it again brighter than before. Thou shalt look again with thine own eyes into those eyes which have spoken love to thee so often, but which are now closed in sepulchral darkness. Thy child shall see thee yet again; thou shalt know thy child; the selfsame form shall rise. Thy departed friend shall come back to thee, and having loved his Lord as thou dost, thou shalt rejoice with him. in the land where they die no more. It is but a short parting, it will be an eternal meeting. For ever with the Lord, we shall also be for ever with each other. Let us comfort one another, then, with these words.
The last lesson is that of self-examination. If we are to rise, some to rewards and some to punishments, what shall be ray position? “What shall be my position?” let each conscience ask. How do you feel, my hearers, in the prospect of rising again? Does the thought give you any gleam of joy? Does it not create a measure of alarm? If your heart trembles at the tidings, how will you bear it when the real fact is before you, and not the thought merely? What has your life been? If by that life you shall be judged, what has it been? What has been its prevailing principle up till now? Have you believed God? Do you live by faith upon the Son of God? I know you are imperfect, but are you struggling after holiness? Do you desire to honour God? This shall rule the judgment of your life; what was its end, and aim, and bent, and object? Imperfection there has been, but has there been sincerity? Has grace, divine grace, that washes sinners in the blood of Christ, proved itself to be in you by alienating you from the sins you loved, and leading you to the duties that you once neglected? Need I press these questions; I know they are irksome to those who cannot answer them with comfort. Yes, I must even again press them upon you. I beseech you, this morning, put yourselves into the crucible of self-examination, for from the refiner’s fire you shall not at the last be able to escape. Ah, if I can say, “Yes, my God, with ten thousand sins, yet since the day in which thy grace found me, I have sought to honour thee;” oh, happy, happy thought to know in that dread hour that the blood has cleansed me, and the righteousness of Christ has enwrapped me, and that I am safe! But if I am compelled to say “No, up to this moment I have not regarded God, my actions have had no respect to him, a sense of his majesty has never constrained me to perform a single act, and never withheld me from one solitary sin,” oh, then you are judged already! I pray you, tremble and flee to him who can purge you from all iniquity, and yet present you faultless before his Father’s presence with exceeding great joy.
I will ask you another question: if you do not feel happy at the thought of yourself, are you quite peaceful concerning the raising of all others? Are you prepared to meet before God those whom you have sinned with among men? It is a question worthy of the sinner’s thought, of what must be the terrors of men and women who will have to meet the companions of their sins! Was not this at the bottom of Dives wishing Lazarus to be sent back to the world to warn his five brethren lest they should come into the place of torment? Was not he afraid to see them there, because their recriminations would increase his misery? It will be a horrible thing for a man who has been a debauched villain to rise again and confront his victims whom his lusts dragged down to hell! How will he quail as he hears them lay their damnation at his door, and curse him for his lasciviousness! “Oh, she is buried long ago,” say you, and you go gaily on in your mirth; but she will see you, and like a basilisk’s eyes shall be her eyes as they shall flash vengeance on you in the light of eternity, counting you to have been the devil that destroyed her. Let any man here who has sinned against his fellow, tremble; let any one here who has sent another down to hell, repent lest he perish now. O man, your sin is not dead and buried, and the sinner whom you joined hands with in iniquity shall rise to witness against you. The crime, the guilt, the punishment, and the guilty one, shall alike live again, and you shall live for ever in remorse to rue the day in which you thus transgressed.
Another question, if it will be terrible to many to see the dead rise again, how will they endure to see him, the Judge himself, the Saviour? Of all men that ever lived, he is the one that you have need to be the most afraid of, because it is he whom this day you ought most to love, but whom you forget. How many times from this pulpit have I pleaded with you to yield yourselves to Jesus Christ, and how frequently have you given him a flat denial! It may be, some of you have not quite done that, but you have postponed your decision, and said, “When I have a more convenient season I will send for thee.” When he cometh, how will you answer him? Man, how will you answer him? How will you excuse yourselves? You would not have him as a Saviour, but you must have him as your Judge, to pronounce your sentence. You despised his grace, but you cannot escape his wrath. If you will but look to Jesus now, you shall find salvation in that glance, but in refusing so to do you heap up for yourself wrath when that terrible but inevitable glance shall be yours, of which the prophet says, “All the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” O spurn him not, then! Despise not the Crucified! I pray you trample not upon his blood, but come to him, that so, when you see him on his throne you may not be afraid.
Beloved, I might have continued to ask more questions, but I shall close with these two. One of the best wavs by which to learn what will be our portion in the future, is to enquire what is our portion in the present. Have you life now, I mean spiritual life— the life that grieves for sin, the life that trusts a Saviour? If so, you shall certainly have the resurrection to life. On the other hand, have you condemnation now? for he that believeth not is condemned already. Are you an unbeliever? Then you are condemned now, you shall suffer the resurrection to damnation. How can it be otherwise? Seek, then, that you may possess the life of God now by faith, and you shall have it for ever in fruition. Escape from condemnation now, and you shall escape from damnation hereafter.
God bless you all with the abundance of his salvation, for Christ’s sake. Amen.