Acts 24:10-21

I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also
accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Paul’s accusers, along with Paul, were called in front of Felix, the governor. Tertullus, the attorney for the high priest and the elders spoke about how Paul was a leader of the Christians and that not only was he agitating the people, but that he was profaning the temple.

Paul was then given a chance to defend himself.  He denied the charges and told Felix that his accusers cannot prove any of their charges. He stated that all he was doing was worshipping and that he was not disputing with anyone nor stirring up the crowd.  Basically, according to Paul, it came down to the fact that Paul believed in the resurrection of the dead, while some of the accusers did not, and that was the reason he was put on trial.

So let us look a little closer about the resurrection of the dead.  When we hear the word, we tend to first think about how Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead.  This was not simple coming back from the dead, only to die again later, like Lazarus, or any of the people who we hear about coming back to life after their heart stops.  Jesus’ resurrection was permanent – He came back to life bodily and will not die again.

We also think about the resurrection of the believers. The Bible promises to us that if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we also will be bodily resurrected and live eternally with God and our fellow believers.

What about those who die without accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior – Do they simply become extinguished?  They are resurrected also – Paul states in v. 15, “. . . there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous”.

This means the everyone will be resurrected. The difference is that the believers will live with God once they are resurrected, while the nonbelievers will live without God.  The Bible speaks of this place without God as dark and agonizing, where the fires do not cease and there will be gnashing of teeth – Definitely not a pleasant place.  Eternity without God is not something you would wish for, for yourselves, your loved ones – probably not even your enemies.

The last part of the book of Revelations, chapter 20, depicts the scene where the dead are judged. Everyone is going to be judged according to their works. Presumably, everyone is going to be judged as failing to meet God’s standards. It sounds like each person will know that they have failed to be judged as worthy and should be thrown into the lake of fire. But then the book of life is mentioned – anyone whose name is found in that book will not be thrown into the lake of fire.

So, how does anyone get their name into the book of life?  It is simply a matter of faith – Faith in Jesus Christ. Anyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior will have their names written into the book of life.

I am aware that many loved ones and friends, as far as I know, have passed away without coming to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  But I know that most of them did get an opportunity to hear about the Lord. So, my hope is that sometime before they died, even if it were in the last seconds of their lives, they had a change in heart. This hope is based on the fact that the Lord does not wish for anyone to perish, and that every chance would have been given. The Bible tells us that the return of Jesus is being delayed so that more people are given the chance to come to faith in Him.

We know that there is nothing we can do for those who have already passed away. However, we should take seriously the task of telling the living about Jesus Christ – How He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

For whatever reasons, it seems that society has lost its manners. Behaviors that would have been considered rude and unacceptable a few years ago have become common place. It has become much more unpleasant. From experience, once these lines are crossed, societies don’t revert back so easily. We can expect that it will steadily get more crass, ill-mannered and violent.

Physically, this world has some truly beautiful places, and yet, we know that it is also in a fallen state. The Bible tells us that in the end, a new earth will take its place. Whether this means that this earth will be renewed and restored to the original state, or a brand new one will replace this one, it is going to be a far lovelier place.

As unpleasant as this world can be, for those whose name is written in the book of life, they can be comforted to know that this is the closest to hell that they are going to get.  But for those whose name is not on the book of life, this world is going to be the closest they are going to get to heaven.

Like Paul, we believe in the resurrection of the dead. We also have been told that after resurrection, only those with their names written in the book of life are going to avoid the lake of fire and be able to spend eternity with God and other believers in a new earth.

So, like Paul, let us commit to telling as many people as we can, as many times as we can, about the saving grace God is offering us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is not always easy, but the Holy Spirit will provide us with the words, love and power as needed.

(the above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano during our worship on Sunday, October 16, 2022.)