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Posted in: Big Faith, Growth, Know God

05.31.23 ( Jeff Vines )

Revelation 20

(Excerpt from the Sermon)

Sermon Series: Pumped

In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, “You are either for Me or against Me.” You either think about and do the things of hell or you think about and do the things of heaven. In fact, look at this in Revelation 20:4, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

We're told here that those who came alive during the age of the church, whoever they are, those who sit and reign with Christ, they think the thoughts of God and they do the thoughts of God and they've come alive. So this would be in reference to how Christ's followers have two resurrections. They have the resurrection of when they're buried with Christ in baptism and raised to live a new life. That's the first resurrection. Then they will have a second resurrection. When they die physically in the body, they will rise again to new life and a new kingdom where those who are not Christ followers, who are still separated from God because of their sin, they never come alive while they're living on the earth, which means they're dead men and women walking and they too will be raised, but not to life, but unto eternal punishment and death.

That's a harsh reality, nevertheless, it's true. In Romans 6:4 the apostle Paul said that we are “buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in a newness of life.” So, for the lack of a better term, we are spiritually woke. We have awakened, we are not dead in our transgressions. We are alive, we are walking in a new way of life. We're a new person, a new woman, a new man. 

Colossians 2:13 says, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him.” Somehow we've been made alive by Christ's spirit in us here and now. It's not something we wait for in the resurrection. It happens now.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” So if it's true that somehow during these thousand years that we came alive through the new birth, how is it that we would reign with Him? Are we reigning now in this world? You might say it doesn't really look like it. 

Yet in Ephesians 2 we read these words, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” In a real way, we are seated in the heavenly realms right now. In what sense? 

In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus explained this to Peter “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” So Jesus says, upon your confession of faith that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God, that all who call on His name will be saved, upon that confession, the church is going to be established. Those who come into the church, God's chosen ones, His new community, they determine what is bound. They determine what is loose. 

Now what does that mean? They sit in judgment of the earth. Now some of you have grown up in a generation that uses this phrase all too often, they'll say, you shouldn't judge me. I think you're misunderstanding what that means. 

In some sense, it is the church's responsibility to present the world with a judgment that God has already determined. God has already said, you are lost in your sins separated from God without the work of Christ on the cross. That's not judging someone in and of your own accord. That's just presenting the judgment that God's already determined. When you tell someone they are walking in an immoral way, you're not judging them. You're simply presenting them with a judgment predetermined by God. So the Bible tells us that those who have come alive, we are alive, we woke up, we swam upstream. We live against the grain. Something got ahold of us. Isaiah 54:17 says, “‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,’ says the Lord.” 

As you look around at what's going on in our world, yes, the IRS and the FBI may be weaponized in the future against Christ followers. Maybe even in the present. We may be ridiculed and mocked and even eradicated. But this is something that should not surprise us. The Bible is very clear that, as we stand on the word, culture and society will hate us. Because, in their eyes, we stand in the way of progress – when, in reality, society digresses as we attempt, as the body of Christ, to protect the family and the sacredness of marriage and life itself. As we stand to protect who God has made us to be in our identity, the evil one attempts to destroy the family and the sacredness of everything including sex and identity and marriage and the family. The reason he does this is because he knows if he can destroy these things that are central to the success of a culture, he will destroy culture and ultimately he will destroy life. Jesus Himself said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

We're told in Revelation, the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Now, if you have the first resurrection, it must mean that you have a second resurrection. That's what we've been saying. That's where this thousand-year period comes into play. Evidently, there's going to be a time that even though Satan has been bound here to some degree, even though we have come alive in Christ to the first resurrection, even though we will not fear the second death, there's going to be a time here just before the consummation, or the end of the age, when Satan and his armies are released. 

Now scholars debate when that is and what it looks like. But what we know with certainty is that even though you and I right now have crossed over from death to life, even though you and I right now are seated in the heavenly realms as judge, not judge in and of our own accord, but presenting the world with the judgment already determined by God. In Revelation 20:5 we're told the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished, which tells me that everybody eventually is going to rise.

So we've experienced the first resurrection. Everybody else is a dead man, dead woman, dead person walking. But they too will rise from the dead. Everybody has at least one resurrection, some have two. If you experience only one, you are resurrected to the great white throne of judgment where you'll be judged and will be cast out into a realm separated from God for all of eternity. Here's the rub, those who are never born again, their eyes are not opened. They are not spiritually woke, they are zombie-like. They go through life unprotected by the sway of the evil one. They're impacted by a world system that's under the influence of the prince of the power of the air. They don't wake up each morning thinking, you know what, today I'm going to live under the influence and for the purposes of the evil kingdom.

No, that's ridiculous. By default though, because they're still asleep, that's exactly what happens. 

We are called to keep on declaring the word of God, to keep on living lives of distinction. To keep on loving and calling those who are far from God, while calling out sin for what it is and compelling people toward purity and righteousness while confessing our own sin and realizing we're really not better than anybody else. 

A friend of mine once told me, you Americans teach your children to pray: “If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take,” what you ought to be teaching them to pray is, “Lord help me wake up before I die.” He said, because most Americans spend their lives pursuing dead things and in fact become dead themselves, there ought to be a wake-up call. What are you doing with your life? Life goes by fast. You're either going to be raised to life or you're going to be a dead person walking through all of eternity. When did you wake up? 

Here's the way it happens. You hear the message of the gospel, you understand it, and you embrace it – that you're saved by grace through faith, that the only sufficient atoning sacrifice for your sins is Jesus' death on the cross. You hear it, you get it – that you can never be good enough. You could never earn heaven. As a result, you want to give your life to the one who gave everything to you. You are baptized into Christ and the Holy Spirit comes into you. And it's no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you. As a result of that reality, you now have new passions and new desires and a new objective. It's to live for the kingdom of Christ that cannot be shaken. You become spiritually awake. 

Some people look for a spiritual loophole. They're looking for something that they can do to make sure they'll go to heaven. But they have no intention whatsoever of living in the kingdom of God, coming out of the kingdom of man. As a result, when they get baptized, they're now just a wet dead man walking. But nothing has changed. That's why, here in Southern California, I feel like we've baptized the entire San Gabriel Valley Easter after Easter, hundreds and hundreds of hundreds. But where are they? Well, not all that get wet have been changed. That's why you never see them again. 

The seed was sown, the word was heard, but not fully understood. 

But that's why I say it's never too late, while you're walking and breathing, to live again. To RSVP to God's invitation:

Repent and turn away from the way you've been living.

Say you're Sorry for thinking you could do this on your own and for living in the kingdom of man that is basically bringing about destruction, for being tainted, for being caught up in a world system that is going in the opposite direction from the kingdom of Christ. 

Then you Verbalize your trust in Jesus to forgive you for your sins, past, present, future. 

And then you Plunge your past in baptism representing what you've already decided in your heart. You're going to live, you're going to walk in a new way. 

This is the first resurrection. Those who experience the first resurrection have nothing to fear from death. They will experience a second resurrection into life forevermore.

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About the Author
Pastor Jeff Vines is the Lead Pastor of ONE&ALL Church. He spent twenty years on the mission field (Zimbabwe, New Zealand) planting churches and training leaders. Jeff is the author of Dinner with SKEPTICS: Defending God in a World that Makes No Sense (2008, 2011) and Unbroken: 8 Enduring Promises God Will Keep (2012). Jeff and his wife, Robin, have been married over 30 years and enjoy life with their kids Delaney & Sian, their daughter-in-law Jessica and sweet grandchildren Ada, Owen, & Layla.

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