Philippians 3.11. Please stand for the reading of our text from God’s Word:
“If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead.”
Think about this verse for a moment. Reflect on it, if you would. We have here a man, presumably a reasonable man, a thoughtful man, an educated man, who is actually writing about being raised from the dead. Does it make an impression on you to read of someone addressing the issue of the resurrection from the dead? It ought to. For it is one thing to write about and talk about the resurrection from the dead, but it is quite another thing to actually mean that someone once dead can be raised from the dead. However, that is exactly what the Apostle Paul is doing here. He is referring to actually dying, and being dead, and then being raised from the dead.
Does that amaze you? If it doesn’t then you either don’t make the connection between the words and the actual events, or you don’t have much of a concept of what it means to be dead. This evening I want to help you realize what it means to be dead, since it means a great deal more than most of you think it means. Most people think that dead means existence is over, life is done, you are finished. Kaput. Others assume the dead can automatically be consigned to “a better place.”
I remember walking into ICU in a nearby hospital years ago, in time to hear a nurse attempting to persuade an elderly woman, who had recently had a heart attack and who was astonishingly in the bed immediately next to her dying husband, sign a release form to take her gravely ill husband off life support. As I approached, the nurse said to the old woman, “He will go to a better place.” I then asked the nurse if she knew the woman to whom she spoke. She asked who I was and I told her that I was her pastor. I then asked again if she knew the woman she was attempting to sign the release form. She said, “No,” she did not. I asked if she knew the old woman’s husband who lay dying in the next bed. Again, she said, “No.” I think asked the nurse what formal theological training she had, and she said none. I then asked her, “Then how dare you guarantee this woman that her husband will go to a better place when he dies?” I then said, “I know this woman and know that if she signs that release form she will blame herself for her husband’s death for the rest of her life.” The nurse became indignant and told me she would talk to the hospital administrator the next day. I said, “If you want to beat me to the administrator’s office you will have to get up early.” The nurse huffed and puffed and left ICU as indignant as can be. After she left, the kind old woman said, “Thank you for coming to my rescue pastor. I would never have forgiven myself if I had signed that consent form, but she was making me feel like I was making my husband suffer more by not signing.” I comforted her, prayed with her for her husband and for her recovery, and left. I learned the next day her husband had expired less than an hour later. I was so thankful that by God’s grace I spared that dear woman the guilt she would have borne by holding herself responsible for her husband’s death.
Most people do not know, and do not want to know, what dead means according to God’s Word. Three points to help you to bring focus in your thinking of what dead means, and why you need to be saved from your sins before you physically die:
First, THE REALITY OF DEAD
As I mentioned, we live in a world of confusion about the concept of being dead. To the modern generation, raised on thousands of murders and accidental deaths on TV and on video games, being dead is somehow not really real to many people. There is no finality to it. There is no loss from it. And to a generation who thinks that being dead means the end of all suffering, and in a nation which allows even late term abortions of unborn infants and gave little thought to the activities of the assisted suicide physician, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a good dose of scriptural reality is greatly needed. Three words will greatly expand anyone’s understanding of the concept of being dead:
The first word is separate. Most people think of being inanimate, of being immobile, of a stiff carcass, when they think of being dead. Such is not the scriptural concept of being dead, however. When God warned Adam that he would die the very day he ate the forbidden fruit, in Genesis 2.17, He meant it. So, when Adam did disobey God, but did not immediately fall to the ground a lifeless corpse, the concept of being dead was shown to be different than what folks normally think. However, Adam did die that day he disobeyed God. How did he die? When he was expelled from the Garden of Eden. Being dead, then, actually refers to being separated, cut off if you will, from the source of life. Physically dead are those whose soul is separated from their body. Spiritually dead are those individuals who are separated from God.
The second word is sinful. If dead is being separate from God, then dead is also sinful, because sinful is what everyone is who is separate from God. You see, when Adam disobeyed God he by that single act became a sinful human being. It is sinful human beings who are dead, separate from God. Are you a sinful human being? Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever taken anything that wasn’t yours? Have you ever sassed your mother or your father? Such deeds as those, and many more besides, reveal that you are sinful. Sins that are committed are committed by sinful people. Only sinful people commit sins. Isaiah 59.2 shows very clearly the relationship between being separate from God and being sinful in the sight of God:
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
In the New Testament, Romans 5.12 also shows the relationship between being spiritually dead and being sinful by inherited nature:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Think about this, my friend. Because you are sinful you are separate from God. And because you are separate from God you are dead. Dead in the Biblical sense. Dead as the term is correctly understood. Dead.
However, that is not all to the reality of dead. There is also the word sold. In Romans chapter 7 the Apostle Paul wrote what about half of the commentators I have consulted believe to be a retrospective look on his former life as an unsaved man who strived with all his might to do good and serve God. I would agree with that position. Saul of Tarsus, however, came to realize when he encountered the glorified Savior on the road to Damascus that the struggle was hopeless. Listen to Paul’s lament related to that chapter in his life, in Romans 7.15-24:
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
This passage may in some ways sound a great deal like a description of you. You want to do good. You want to live for God. You want to serve Him. However, every time you would do good there is evil present in you. This is true of both the saved and the lost to some degree. However, speaking now only to the lost man’s situation, who is without Christ, your cause is utterly lost, because Christ is the only remedy. Why must it be this way? The reason for this hopeless struggle is found at the end of Romans 7.14. Like you, when he was lost, the Apostle Paul was “carnal, sold under sin.” What does it mean to be sold under sin? To put it simply, it means that sin owns you, my friend, lock, stock, and barrel. When you are separate from God, when you are sinful, when you are sold, you are as dead as dead can be. That is why Paul describes such as you as dead in trespasses and sins. Animated? Yes. Energetic? Yes. But dead all the same. Thankfully, Paul had a glorious encounter on the Damascus road that led to his conversation. This enabled him to write what Christians can only realize when you set aside any and all dependence upon the Law of Moses and a rules-oriented approach to life to rely solely on Christ for not only your salvation, but also for your sanctification: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Second, THE REASON OF DEAD
There are reasons why you are dead. There are reasons why Adam was dead.
First, your are dead because God is true. God told Adam that if he ate the fruit of that one tree, in that day he would surely die. Adam ate and Adam died. Why? Because God is true. Because God keeps His Word. No one else you know keeps his word. Not even mom or dad, entirely keep their word. Sometimes they forget. However, God always keeps His word. The same thing is true of you. God said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall surely die.” Your soul sins. You’ve admitted that you are a sinful person. And if you deny that you are a sinful person you are a liar and the truth is not in you, First John 1.10. Therefore, because God is true, because God speaks truth, because God never lies, and because God is true and every man who disagrees with Him is a liar, you are dead. You are dead because God said you would be dead if you sinned and you have sinned, therefore you are dead. This from the God Who cannot lie, Titus 1.2.
Second, you are dead because God is just. In Romans 3.26 we are reminded by the Apostle Paul that God is just in justifying that sinner who believes in Jesus. The reason Paul stresses that God is just when sinners are saved is because no such reminder is needed with respect to God’s dealings with sinners otherwise. Go back and look over the dealings of God with sinful men. Was God ever unjust? Has God ever failed to be just in His dealings with men? Whatever men have received from the hand of God have they not fully deserved? Has an innocent ever been unjustly treated by God? Did Adam not deserve to die for sinning against God? Did not the world of Noah deserve to die by flood for their wicked imaginations? Did not Sodom and Gomorrah deserve the fire and brimstone that brought them to their end for their abominations in the sight of God? You are dead in your sins because God is just. No one will ever be able to stand up against God and accuse Him of being unjust in His dealings with men. Not you and not anyone else. You are dead in your sins, just as every other sinful man or woman is dead, because God is just.
Third, you are dead because God is holy. Oh, if you could but understand in some small way the holiness of God, if you could in any way obey His command to “be ye holy for I the Lord thy God am holy.” Is He not called the holy One of Israel? And why are you dead because God is holy? You are dead because of the holiness of God because His eyes are too pure to behold evil. You are dead because of the holiness of God because without holiness no man shall see the Lord. You are dead because of the holiness of God because our God is a consuming fire Who would destroy you but for the separation between you and Him, but for the fact that you are dead. So you see, everything about you as a sinner, everything about you as one who is sold under sin, violates the nature and the essence of God. Sin denies God’s truth. Sin transgresses God’s justice. Sin violates God’s holiness. Therefore, because God is true, because God is just, and because God is holy, you are dead.
I’VE SHOWN TO YOU THE REALITY OF DEAD AND THE REASON OF DEAD. NOW LET ME QUICKLY DESCRIBE FOR YOU THE RESULT OF DEAD.
What must happen to you as a result of being dead in trespasses and sins?
First, you who are dead must die physically. Romans 6.23 declares, “For the wages of sin is death.” This death is not physical death only, but it certainly does begin with physical death. Only if you are without sin can you possibly escape physical death. But you’re not sinless, are you? You are spiritually dead, separated from God by your sin. You don’t know God. And because of that you will someday expire and the life will go out of your body, and it will then be only another carcass to bury or burn.
After you die physically you, that is to say your soul, will go directly to Hell. Every sinner goes to Hell when he dies. Physical death, you see, is only a portal to eternity for the sinner, and Hell is the foyer, Hell is the anteroom, Hell is the holding cell. And how do I know you will go to Hell? Because Hell is where sinners go. Don’t worry, there will be room enough. Proverbs 27.20 tells us that Hell is never full, so there will always be a place waiting for you when you pass from this life and begin your agonizing and tormented descent toward utter destruction.
After being in Hell for at least 1007 years, you will then be called before God for judgment. This judgment will not be for the purpose of determining whether or not you will go to heaven or Hell, for you will have already been in Hell, and with the passing of your normal span of life your opportunity to turn to Christ for salvation and a home in heaven will long since have passed. No, Revelation 20.13 tells us that Hell will give up the dead (that includes you), whereupon you will be judged to determine how wicked was your wickedness while alive on earth. That will be the basis for the severity of your eternal punishment.
Then you will be cast into the lake of fire. Of course, this will be your place of eternal torment. This will be your place of everlasting horror. This will be the place of your ultimate death, your ultimate separation from God. Again, according to the judgment you faced just before being cast into the lake of fire, so will be the severity of your punishment for sinning against, for refusing to humble yourself before, for rebelling against, God.
What a horrible word.
What a desolate word.
What a dreadful word.
It’s a word that’s dry and eerie and dark and threatening. But it’s a fitting and descriptive word that is properly worn by everyone. Everyone, that is, except those who know Jesus Christ. You see, if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior things are different for you.
Consider what the Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples in John 10.27-28:
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
I would like to talk to you about to whom, and how, Jesus Christ gives to eternal life to those who are dead in their sins. Are you among the sheep who hear His voice, who are known to Him, and who follow Him? If you are, then respond to the sound of His voice through His Word, hearing with the ears of faith, as He bids you to come to Him.
 Leviticus 20.7; 1 Peter 1.15-16
 2 Kings 19.22; Psalm 71.22; 78.41; 89:18; Isaiah 1.4; 5.19, 24; 10.20; 12.6; 17.7; 29.19; 30.11-12, 15; 31.1; 37.23; 41.14, 16, 20; 43.3, 14; 45.11; 47.4; 48.17; 49.7; 54.5; 55.5; 60.9, 14; Jeremiah 50.29; 51.5
 Habakkuk 1.13
 Hebrews 12.14
 Deuteronomy 4.24; 9.3; Hebrews 12.29
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