Tag Archives: Easter

Death and the Second Coming

The Apostle Paul planted a church in Thessalonica. His enemies were jealous of his success so they drove him out of the city. Paul had planned to stay longer. He was worried that the believers in that new church were not sufficiently established in their faith.

Since he was unable to visit them personally, Paul wrote to the fledgling church in Thessalonica. He was anxious to finish the things lacking in their faith.

One of the issues troubling the believers in Thessalonica was apparently their understanding of Jesus’ Second Coming. They were concerned about Christians who died before Jesus’ return. What happens to them?

“Since we believe that Jesus died and rose,” Paul wrote, “so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.”

Notice that Paul speaks of death as sleep. For those who belong to Christ, death has lost its sting. Death for a Christian is like falling asleep on a journey and waking up at home. Jesus died to defeat sin and was raised by God to defeat death. All who trust in him share in these great victories.

Paul goes on to write that the followers of Jesus who are alive when he returns will be reunited with the believers who have died. When Jesus comes again Christians will be privileged to attend the world’s greatest reunion. What an incredibly joyous time that will be!

The Apostle also writes that we will be with the Lord always after he returns. Jesus warned his disciples just before his crucifixion that he was about to leave them. Their consolation would be God’s Holy Spirit, whom God later poured out on his church.

But when Jesus comes again, his followers will never again be separated from him. We will have all eternity to enjoy his visible presence, finally able to cast our crowns at his feet and marvel at that face which shines like the sun in all its glory.

This uplifting section of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian Christians ends with a command: “So encourage one another with these words.” Paul did not want those men and women who were new to the faith to be ignorant, mourning like the rest of world who have no hope.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. For believers, death is like sleep. As believers, we look forward to the greatest reunion ever imagined. And as followers of the Risen Christ, we have a guaranteed place in his presence for all eternity.

This is a great time of year for every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us encourage one another with these great words.

May the power of the Risen Christ carry us forward in the grace of God,

Brother Richard Foster

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What Are We Doing?

God did not save us so that we can do whatever we want. God saved us so that we can do whatever he wants. When we were doing whatever we wanted, we were doomed. But God graciously called us to salvation so that we would escape the disaster of doing whatever we want.

Salvation is more than going to heaven when we die. To be saved is to be serving God now. God’s forgiveness is not a spiritual safety suit that protects us from disaster while we go on ignoring the Lord and his kingdom. Nobody should fool himself into thinking that he has a mansion on a hill in eternity while caring little or nothing for the Master’s work now.

Jesus was very plain and outspoken about the signs of salvation in a person’s life. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit,” he said, “nor can a bad tree produce good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). In other words, saved people act saved and those who do not act saved are lost.

Jesus also said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of the heavens, but only the one doing the will of my Father in the heavens” (Matthew 7:21). Words without works are worthless.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “With Christ I am crucified, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live now in the flesh, by faith I live through the Son of God, the one loving me and giving himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). As followers of Jesus, we have left behind our old lives.

Baptism is a wonderful picture of this great spiritual truth. Jesus’ followers are buried with Christ through baptism, representing the death of our former way of life, when we did whatever we wanted. We are raised to live a new life, the life of doing what God wants, participating in his kingdom (see Romans 6).

By faith in Jesus, God gives us a new life that changes even more than our actions. God’s indwelling Spirit also changes our desires. As a result, followers of Jesus begin to want to do what God wants. The desire for the old things fades away in the lives of those who are really saved.

In the Psalms God promises, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Seeking and following God is a life-changing activity. Godly desires are born and nurtured in the hearts of God’s people. We no longer find true joy or satisfaction in the old ways of the world, but we discover a passion for obeying God and contributing to his great kingdom work.

When we are truly saved, we share in the resurrection of Jesus, not just because we will someday be raised to live in his Presence forever, but because we live in his resurrection power every day, doing things that are pleasing to God.

As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter, let’s rejoice not just in the fact that Jesus was raised in the past and that we will be raised in the future. Let’s rejoice in the fact that we have been raised to walk in newness of life now. Because he lives, we can face today!

May the power of the Risen Christ keep on changing us,

Brother Richard Foster

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Our Promise for Eternity

Jesus went to many of the same places that we go to in life. He attended at least one wedding, went to many worship services, accepted dinner invitations, visited at friends’ homes, and also showed up at some funerals. Marvelous things often happened when Jesus went to these events. Water turned to wine at the wedding. Demons were cast out of people at worship services. Arrogant rulers were humbled at dinner parties. Physically ill folks were healed at friends’ houses.

Nobody could ever forget what happened when Jesus appeared at funerals. One time a little girl had died and the house was full of mourners wailing and crying (Mark 5). Her parents were devastated at the loss. Jesus went into the room where the dead girl’s body had been placed. He gently took her hand and spoke to her. “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” And she did.

Another time Jesus and his followers came to a town where they were having a funeral (Luke 7). A widow had lost her only son. A large crowd from town was with her, carrying his body out for burial. Jesus’ heart went out to the woman. “Don’t cry,” he told her. He touched the coffin and spoke, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” He sat up and began to talk, no longer dead.

Perhaps Jesus’ most dramatic and memorable funeral appearance was when Lazarus died (John 11). Lazarus and his sisters were friends of Jesus. When he arrived they had already buried Lazarus but his sisters and many of their friends were still mourning. The sisters, Mary and Martha, each told Jesus that if he had come sooner, their brother would be alive. After hearing this the second time, Jesus wept. But he went on to the tomb where they had buried Lazarus and after praying he cried out to the dead man, “Lazarus, come out!” And he did.

Jesus told Martha, Lazarus’ sister, that he is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). On another occasion he said that he had God’s power and authority to lay down his own life for God’s people and then to take it up again (John 10:17-18). He also said that a day is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out (John 5:28). Some will rise up to a resurrection of life, others to a resurrection of judgment.

Jesus is the resurrected Lord who is the source of resurrection power for all his people. This great truth is our promise for eternity. We can face living and dying with confidence because Jesus is our resurrection and our life. The proof is his own resurrection, the foundation of our faith. We remember Jesus’ resurrection power always, but we turn our hearts and minds toward his empty tomb in a special way each Easter. Let us prepare our hearts to do so once again.

May God’s Spirit fill us with the power and the joy of Christ’s resurrection,

Brother Richard Foster

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Offended or Overjoyed?

It was a legal hearing to determine the charges against him.  The Roman commander had called for the Jewish ruling council to investigate Paul.  If the council was able to prove its charges against him, then the Roman commander would probably turn Paul over to them, and they would almost certainly execute him.

With his own life hanging in the balance, Paul stood to defend himself.  He started by claiming his innocence but the council refused to hear that.  What would he do?  What could he possibly say to a group that was so hostile toward him and bent on ending his life?  Here’s what he did say, “I am on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” (See Acts 22:30-23:10)

For the Apostle Paul, everything he believed and everything he lived for came down to the resurrection.  The resurrected Jesus Christ had appeared to Paul on that road to Damascus and everything changed.  Since Jesus was really resurrected, then the resurrection became the most important thing in life.

Not everybody agreed with Paul about the importance of the resurrection.  Paul’s Gospel made many people angry but at the same time it brought great joy to many others.  The message of a resurrected Lord Jesus who is the only Savior sent from God still has the same effects today.  Some are offended that Jesus is presented as the only way to eternal life.  Others are overjoyed.

At Easter we make it a special point to emphasize this one great truth: Jesus was raised again so we will be, too.  Jesus said that a day is coming when all will be raised, the just and the unjust.  Those who did good will rise to live and those who practiced evil will rise to be judged (John 5:28-29).  We rejoice about the resurrection because Jesus himself is our guarantee of goodness.

May God’s Spirit lift you up and fill you with the joy of his salvation,

Brother Richard Foster

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The Last Word

Jesus stood before Pilate.  A humble Jewish carpenter who had become an itinerant preacher was at the mercy of the powerful Roman governor.  Jesus stood bound by the chains of disgrace and Pilate stood adorned in the robes of honor.  The preacher was in submission and the statesman was in control—so it seemed.

Jesus had made some powerful enemies among the religious leaders in the city.  Pilate had forged some powerful connections in the ranks of the ruling elite.  Jesus apparently represented nothing more than a small spiritual movement confined to a relatively limited region, a movement that was embraced by just a handful of followers.  Pilate represented the mighty Empire that ruled much of the civilized world.

A lowly preacher was delivered into the hands of a powerful government official.  History thrust these two men against each other, but their conflict appeared to be one-sided.  As events unfolded that busy day in Jerusalem, anyone watching would have given the victory to Pilate and his Empire.  Before the day was done, Jesus had been brutally executed and Pilate still occupied his seat of authority.

Despite his honored status and impressive authority, despite the magnificence of his culture with all its wise laws and brilliant architecture and military might, Pilate and his Roman Empire would fade from its exalted place, left behind by the unstoppable advances of history.  On that Friday morning he seemed to be in command, but his power was not the last word.

Despite his public shame, his painful wounds, his broken body, his spilled blood, and the heavy stone that sealed his corpse in a tomb, Jesus would rise up and give birth to a spiritual movement that would challenge the powers and authorities of this world for two millennia, a movement that continues to challenge the powers and authorities of this world today.  On that Friday morning he seemed to be defeated, but his crucifixion was not the last word.

The turning point was Jesus’ resurrection.  Jesus, it turns out, was not simply a lowly preacher who left behind the life of a carpenter in Nazareth.  Jesus was, and is, the Leader of God’s Kingdom.  His resurrection firmly establishes his vital place in time and eternity.  All kingdoms and empires, all powers and authorities, every leader and every ruler, will not only step aside, but they will bend the knee and they will confess the supremacy of the One Lord sent by God: Jesus Christ the resurrected Savior.

Jesus’ resurrection makes everything clear.  Now we know which kingdom will finally be victorious.  Now we know which kingdom to support and to serve.  Now we know, despite any appearances in the meantime, that citizens of God’s Kingdom will share the ultimate victory for all of eternity.  Now we know that our participation in Christ’s Kingdom, no matter what the cost, is not in vain.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we should never lose heart, despite the apparent victories of the powers and authorities in this world.  Because of Jesus’ resurrection we know that all such victories are temporary, fleeting shadows in this passing age.  Because of Jesus’ resurrection we should gather on every Lord’s Day and worship, but especially on Easter.

Easter reminds us that Jesus Christ is the Living Word, the Word of Truth, and the Last Word—we need not wait for another Word from God, Christ is the fullest revelation of God’s glory.  The chains that bound him and the nails that pierced him have long since crumbled.  Jesus the Crucified and Risen One is seated at the right hand of God in glory!  What could possibly keep us from praising him?

May God’s Spirit fill us with the power and the joy of Christ’s resurrection,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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