As the year goes on, we look towards each new highlight, but eventually it will end. What are you ULTIMATELY planning for? There are four "last things" that will occur, death, judgement, heaven and hell. Other religions, such as Islam, speak of them, but as Christians, we add the parousia (second coming) and the resurrection.
The modern tragedy is of secularism, the belief that this life is all that there is. If this were so, "let us eat and drink…", and there must be increasing despair, as weakness encroaches and death gets closer. In fact there have always been secularists; at the time of Jesus, there were the Pharisees and Sadducees, the latter not believing in an afterlife (see Mk 12:18f).
In this situation, Christ gives HOPE! Suffering is swallowed up in the anticipation of new life. Jesus expected a resurrection (Jn 5:28-9)!!
Why is there modern disbelief in an afterlife and resurrection? People claim a lack of evidence, despite the overwhelming evidence for the resurrection. The point is that they do not WANT to believe, or would have to acknowledge God (see Lk 16:31).
It is this that gives part of the background to the story of Jesus and Lazarus. Incidentally, Jesus did not stop the death. Suffering can well have a good purpose. Indeed, Jesus waited four days, to show death was definite, and resurrection was real. But even in the face of the evidence, the Jews still rejected the resurrection!
In contrast came Mary and Martha's confession of hope in resurrection. But then Jesus states the cause of resurrection. Jesus said I AM, the name of GOD! - it is Jesus who raises the dead (Jn 5:21). He gives ETERNAL life, so it continues.
BUT, this depends on belief (Jn 6:40). Without this, there is NO HOPE!!
Jesus confronts us with the fact of the two ways:
With no faith, death leads to becoming a "shade" and to the judgement, and finally the completion of death
For believers, death is like a putting off of the body like clothing, then "reclothing" and eternal joy (2 Cor 5:1f)
What will YOU find after death?
Sermon by Prof David T Williams