November 3, 2011

I Believe In The Resurrection and the Life Everlasting

Both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds affirm belief in personal resurrection and eternal spiritual life. Christian believers have hope. Unlike others, we have the hope of eternal spiritual life in Jesus Christ. Our hope is that when we die, we die 'in Christ'. We are connected to Him in a relationship of love. This relationship of love is the 'oil' of the Holy Spirit that the Foolish Virgins in the Parable did not have. The message is that those who do not have this 'oil' of relationship or love may be shut out of the Heavenly Kingdom.

1. We are not to be ignorant and without hope
Lucille and I had an interesting conversation with a friend in Safeway this week. She was explaining how her son and his whole generation seem to be without hope. There has been an increase in the number of young people committing suicide or cutting themselves. In contrast in our Readings the Apostle Paul is explaining how the Hebrew people were looking forward to an End Time when God would intervene and bring His creation to an end. This is described in the Revelation of John, the last book in the Bible. It is a vision of terrible destruction. Over two thirds of the people on Earth are killed. The good news for Christians is that they will be swept up into Heaven to be with Jesus. The point Paul is making is that there is something more after this life. Those who have faith in Jesus are spiritually linked to Him. They live their daily lives emotionally "in Jesus". This means they go spiritually through the same life, death and resurrection experience as Jesus. In the Apostles Creed we say we believe in "the resurrection of the body". This could mean either that our physical bodies are raised from death, as Jesus was; or that we are given a new type of spiritual body like the one Jesus had that seemed to be both material and immaterial. It is not helpful to get bogged down in debates about this. The important thing is the Good News that there is something more. Christians believe that at death we go to be with Jesus in a relationship that is like a wedding banquet. A wedding banquet is a celebration of love where we put aside the troubles of this life and focus on what is most important. This is why Christian funerals are more of a celebration of a life than the mourning of the end of a life. Our Remembrance Day Service is a time to remember and honour those who gave up their lives in Canada's Armed Forces. Since Lucille and I lost our daughter Mary, I have had a much deeper sense of the cost to a family of loosing a child. It is a very difficult experience. The only good news I had was seeing a vision of our daughter and hearing from others who had seen her in the arms of Jesus. We believe in resurrection and the life everlasting.

2. We are to be ready
The Parable of the Virgins is a teaching on who is and who is not at the Heavenly banquet. As usual Jesus is using a common life situation to explain a deep spiritual truth. This spiritual truth is that everyone is not included. This is a bit shocking to the ears of modern people who are so focused on their rights that they blindly assume everyone gets into Heaven. This is not what the Bible says. Many people neglect to check this out, are deceived by false teachers and exclude themselves by rejecting the free gift of forgiveness and salvation offered by Jesus Christ. We have to be clear that It is not God or Jesus who rejects them. In these last days many people have been deceived by false teachers, lost their faith and neglected their spiritual life. In the Parable the difference between those who are included and excluded from the wedding banquet is based on who brought extra oil. If the wedding banquet stands for the Heavenly banquet, the question is what does the oil stand for? Jesus gives us a clue in the Parable by having the Bridegroom say "I don't know you" to those outside the locked door (Matthew 25.12b). This suggests that having a personal relationship with Jesus is very important. The oil could then represent the love relationship of the individual for Jesus. Oil is a form of stored energy or stored fire so this could easily be a reference to the fire of the love the individual felt for Jesus. We experience that fire of love in the Holy Spirit that Jesus sends to everyone who makes a decision and develops a relationship. Our experience of the Holy Spirit is evidence that we have the oil or love relationship required for admission.

 3. We are to be in relationship
The Holy Spirit is also the one who guides us in examining our lives and confessing and removing any spiritual pollution. This is the process by which our relationship grows stronger and our reserve of oil grows. This is how we ensure we are ready. This brings us back to the first Reading where Joshua models a family head making a decision to serve only the God of Israel. At that time there were many local and tribal gods. Joshua is calling on the Hebrew people to renounce their acceptance of these new gods and return to an exclusive relationship with the ancient God of Abraham. This is where the Hebrew people set themselves apart from other nations. Their God has acted in visible and miraculous ways to help them. The other gods were dumb idols that had not acted, had no power and were not capable of a real relationship.

This is the choice facing us today
We live in a time of unprecedented idolatry. We worship materialism, popularity, success, power, comfort. All of these things call out to us as values or ideals or priorities in life. We are living in the end times. It is a time of great religious confusion and deception by competing religious leaders. Jesus is teaching us in this parable to make a choice between all of these false gods and the real thing. Jesus is challenging us to make sure we are ready when He comes back to take His people to the Heavenly banquet. Each of us must decide which god to serve, which god to develop a real relationship with.

At our wedding, Lucille and I chose to have the Joshua reading. My family has chosen to serve Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour. We have been blessed ever since. We have hope.

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