God gives hope for all who have died: those lost at sea, those who lived only a short time, and everyone else.
[Mr. Ken Skorseth] Also, if you would indulge me for a moment, I am a little bit out of focus. I was stunned this morning when I saw the email sent out to the ministry that Mr. John Cafourek had died in the night. John Cafourek and I grew up 9 miles from each other and both of us on farms in South Dakota. I suppose both of us would say we grew up in the church or at least with the knowledge of the truth, but there were no churches. There were no local congregations.
He went off to Ambassador College having never attended a local congregation. I'm just a bit younger. Finally, I was a senior in high school and we had a local congregation, but we always stayed in touch through the years. There's that common bond of having grown up in the same place, both on farms and so forth. I had contact with him barely two months ago shortly before he had the heart attack. And, of course, I just presumed, I praised, I know so many of you did, God would see him through this trial as well, but it wasn't His will.
So, indulge me a little bit. If I'm a little bit detached, you'll understand, but I also know there are resurrections, right? Plural. And that's part of the focus of this day. The truth is wonderful. It's beautiful. And on this holy day, and it is just that, it's a holy convocation. If you turn back to Leviticus 23, and I won't, but we did earlier in the feast and this is the last high day, if you will, or last holy convocation noted there.
I know we've had some academic study here in recent years and should we call it the last great day in the course Christ's. As we have it translated into English, His statement “In the last day, that great day of the Feast.” Jesus stood and He cried aloud and so forth. And exactly when did he do that? We have to be a little careful with that, or suddenly the eighth day just becomes another day tacked on. Doesn't it? We've kept the feast. That was the big thing. And well, now there is another day. What should we dwell on?
We need to dwell on, in this short time, the remainder of the plan of God as it will be fulfilled. The Bible does indeed have much more to say. I think we would all agree on the Kingdom of God being established, that first resurrection, Jesus Christ descending with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the sound of the trumpet, and so forth, the dead in Christ rising, which is the first resurrection. And you probably in your local areas heard some or much about that on the Feast of Trumpets, beginning this fall holiday season as we have it in the Northern Hemisphere.
But now we come to the end and we look out beyond 1,000 years and I was reviewing in the fundamental beliefs of the United Church of God, a few statements about this day. Matter of fact, I think I'll read one right now. We should all have a copy of this. I would say it fits our culture. Some of you folks older than me, remember when our booklets were so thick and we even had books? Today, they're thin and they're small. People don't read very much anymore.
At least not the great volumes that people in my generation and previous generations did, but it does fit though, I think, our modern culture very well. It's very succinct. “We believe” and one of our fundamental beliefs, by the way, this would be true in virtually any fellowship of the true church of God. And if it gets far from this, then there's a problem.
But I'm reading from ours here, the United Church of God, where it talks about this day, the eighth day, it says, "The annual Sabbath immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles and known to many as the Last Great Day, this day teaches us that Jesus Christ will complete His harvest of human beings by raising from the dead and offering salvation to all who have died in the past and have never been given a full opportunity to be saved." And there you have very succinctly the central focus of this day.
My simple title is "Hope for All." And I'm going to dwell on that and expand it a little bit around this theme that there's hope even for those who have no hope, or it would seem that way. There's much to be learned yet today, much to be learned, much to be dwelled upon before we go home. I'm not much of a joke teller, not much of a storyteller, and there isn't much time, and I don't want to waste your time or mine. But I'm going to tell a story. And I originally heard this related as a true story. I don't know. Only because there's some meaning in this, it seems, and as the story goes.
A southern preacher and we're in the south, so this fits. But a southern preacher had completed the sermon on a Sunday. And as his custom was, he stood at the back and he shook hands with every parishioner as they exited the church. The very last one came up, shook his hand, and he leaned down and he said, "I'd like to have you pray about my hearing."
And this preacher full of zeal immediately said, "Come with me." And they went to a private room aside, closed the door and he knelt down, and he immediately began to pray loud and long. And he thanked God for the gift of hearing, the ability to hear the birds sing, to hear the quiet ripple of a brook, the leaves of the trees, beautiful music, and so forth. And he went on and on, and then he placed his hands over the man's ears. And he eloquently finished and asked that God would restore the man's hearing that he could hear the sweet voices of his grandchildren and so forth.
Ended with a loud amen. They rose to their feet. And as they were walking to the door and perhaps expecting an immediate miracle, the preacher looked at the man intently and asked, "How is your hearing?" And obviously confused and not understanding, the old gentleman said, "Well, I don't rightly know. My hearing ain't till next Tuesday."
Now, I didn't tell that story simply to entertain you. There's a vast difference between the human sense of hearing through the ear and standing before a judge in a hearing. It illustrates something about a great misunderstanding, doesn't it? And it perfectly portrays, I think, what we see in Christianity about the state of the dead and so forth and resurrections because there's more than one. In the traditional teachings of Christianity, it is so often taught or inferred that this is our current lives, this is the only day of salvation, isn't it?
And a person who has never even had the opportunity to know God our Father or our Lord Jesus Christ could be lost forever, even if, as I said, there was no opportunity. Depending on the denomination and the teaching, there are other beliefs, suffering and purgatory, worse yet having actually eternal life, if you will, but spending that in eternal punishment in a fiery ever-burning hell. That seems extremely unfair, does it not, if indeed one never even had the opportunity?
Modern Christianity, though, is straying from that to this sort of vague, well, you know, God works with everyone in His way. It all becomes a little fuzzy. He'll all bring us together in His time. But it just kind of goes off, by the way, far, from what we learn in the Bible. And to me, it sort of goes nowhere. And there isn't really much hope. Then you have the unbeliever, the atheist, most of whom would say there is no life after this one. And so as animals, birds, or even plant life are born, hatched, or spring up and sprout, enjoy your time right now.
You know the old saying or cliche, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die. And that's it." I don't believe any of that for a moment. Do you? And I realize the audience here is pretty diverse. Some are new. I was thrilled to see some hands go up, your first Feast of Tabernacles. Welcome. Welcome. These are beautiful things that God is revealing to you. Some of us on the other extreme have been studying it and hearing it for a long, long time. To be honest, sometimes I'm a little more concerned about that group. And I include myself, by the way. It can become all too common. Can't it?
My neighbors go to their church, I go to mine. Be careful with that. Were you indeed called by God or not? And are you indeed part of a first fruit family that's being prepared for that first resurrection. Now, I don't want to sidetrack on that. Beginning with the Feast of Trumpets, we studied those things and it's continued here at the feast. It's very good.
But I want to spend the rest of the sermon essentially focused on the future of those that the Book of Revelation, for example, defines as the rest of the dead and back in Ezekiel, a group who say, you know, allegorically, our hope is lost. And indeed it could seem that way. There's also something else here without the full understanding of God's plan that doesn't make sense because it could be easy to say that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ just aren't able to fulfill a lot of the promises in this book. Matter-of-fact, we could say if we're kernel and simply begin to reason in the ways of the world, we could say they're not doing very well today. They're not winning, right? John 12, I'm just going to set up a little background here for that thought and then go into the great hope, but let's spend a little time.
John 12:32 “These are the words of Jesus Christ Himself...”
After His triumphant entry there to Jerusalem and His last journey there or time coming in there, He was going to be crucified, not long hereafter. And we might say that was on His mind,
John 12:32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself."
All, that's all-inclusive. You can't misunderstand it. And the term "lifted up" translated in the King James Bible simply means, and the following verse signifies what kind of death He was going to die. It meant he was going to be crucified. And that happened. You and I stake our faith on that. That the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ did happen and it has covered our sins. And we look forward then, to be resurrected in that first resurrection.
But it's a sweeping statement that if indeed I'm crucified, I will draw all. And the word "peoples" added here, "to myself." That isn't happening, is it? It's not happening today. 2 Peter, this was referenced in the offertory message, but I'm going to turn there. 2 Peter 3 because sometimes there's just more impact from reading it together from the pages of our Bible. 2 Peter 3, talking about Jesus Christ again being faithful, our Lord.
2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise." Now, this seems then this is one who does what He says. “Not slack again, concerning His promise as some count slackness, but He's long-suffering” Or He is very patient with us or towards us. And then this sweeping statement again. "Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Are all men repenting today? Or throughout human history, have any, you know, vast numbers or percentages of the population repented as we understand it, as the Bible reveals it? I don't think so. Back in Joel 2, we also have the prophecies about things that will happen in Joel. The great prophet, Joel, at least in my mind, a great prophet. Joel 2 was inspired to make some pretty strong sweeping statements.
Joel 2:28-29 "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters will prophesy or speak with inspiration. Your old men shall dream dreams. Your young men shall see visions. And also on my men-servants and on my maid-servants, I will pour out my Spirit in those days."
Joel 2:32 "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
I'll simply stop there, but the Spirit will be poured out and thereafter, any who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. That's been watered down today as well, hasn't it? "Have you accepted the Lord?" I've been asked that many times, street corners, particularly in large cities. Just call on the name of the Lord and you'll be saved. You have to be very careful with that, too. Although I read that statement directly from the Bible to you.
Peter referenced this and I won't turn there, but I think most of you know it in Acts 2 as the New Testament church was beginning. And he told the people there that were assembled there on the day of Pentecost, you're seeing the fulfillment of this, of what the Prophet Joel spoke about. The spirit being poured out on all. What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit or the evidence? What shows it? A lot of you know, don't you?
Now that's defined in many places in the Bible, but in Galatians 5. And again, I'm not going to turn there, but in Galatians 5, you have this one place where it says, now the fruit of the spirit is or, you know, the evidence of it, love, joy, peace, right? Beautiful words. Patience, humility, or maintenance, temperance, or self-control, kindness, faithfulness. Depending on what translation you read, the words may be changed somewhat. The first three though are the same in virtually every translation I've ever looked at, love, joy, peace. Is the world filled with that today? Oh, you've gotta be honest my friends, it's not.
So, what's going wrong? We could begin to perceive that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are pretty weak and cannot do what they said they would. There are some proof Scriptures, by the way, following…Romans 8, I think I will read this. that Holy Spirit, so very important. And I don't want to sidetrack too long on this, but it's critical.
Romans 8:8-9 “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Not in our natural state. Verse 9, “But you are not in the flesh.” We don't continue living as we did before. “But in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” And then this final sentence in Chapter 9 in the New King James, "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."
So, you have to be very careful. Any who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved? No, because it requires when you look at the whole Bible and that's the challenge with modern Christianity, they can take a phrase here, a verse there, another here, and another there and build doctrines on them. But the entire Bible has to be studied and read and pondered upon.
And we know the Holy Spirit only comes to those who've truly repented. Matter-of-fact, Peter followed up with that in Acts 2. Remember? The people were so convicted when he spoke those words, you know, men and brethren, what should we do? And he told them, "Repent." Requires a little more than the simple statement calling upon the name of the Lord. Now, that's important. And I don't want to belittle that, but repentance. Now in order to repent, one has to understand what the law of God is and what one must repent of,. And then to come forward and to be baptized as adults, or at least generally we would say, at least late teens. Depends on the individual.
But that person is making an adult decision and are clearly grasping or, yes, that's the right way to put it, the gravity of the decision they are making to put their former life behind, to accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and then the commitment ever after to follow Him with our whole heart. And then we receive the Holy Spirit, right? So many of us have done that. The bulk of us I would perceive the adults here are baptized. If you're working towards that, keep going. Keep going. You will come to understand. God will grant that.
And then someone laid hands upon us and the Holy Spirit is given. And then we need to manifest the love, the joy, the peace. Another proof Scripture. I think I'll simply reference it.
1 John 2:4 It says simply "He that says I know him," referencing Jesus Christ, "and keeps not His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
Boy, that's strong. That's hard to misunderstand. How many are doing that today just striving with all of their being? You know, you can do that perhaps with all good intentions, but it's going to fall short. Remember what Jesus Christ said in part of what we call the sermon on the mount? At one point when He said, "Many," you know, "are going to say 'Lord, Lord.'" Remember that? And in that day, in the Bible that almost means in that day, the day that Christ returns, they're even going to say, "Remember this?” It's in Matthew 7, by the way, I'm just quoting it off the top of my head.
But they're going to say, "Lord, we prophesied in your name. We spoke with inspiration in your name. Remember that? Cast out demons in your name. Did wonders in your name." You remember his reply? This group's a little too big. I like to interact a little bit. It works back home. It doesn't work with 600 or so, but you remember what he said? "Depart from me." And then that next statement that's really sobering, "I never knew you." Again, depart from me. Why? You who work iniquity, as I first learned it in the original King James, or lawlessness. You don't keep the law.
Now, the reason I'm building on this a little bit is because how many are doing that today? Sincerely working hard at it. Not many. The first fruits, we who are the first fruit family had better be doing it because this is our day of salvation. Remember what it says in 1 Peter, for the time has come that judgment must begin where? At the house of God. And that's not a building, that's the church. It is indeed our day of salvation and preparing to face Jesus Christ. But if that's true for everybody, then things aren't working out very well.
We also have to look at some other things in the Bible that I think we would struggle with if we don't understand the whole plan of God. One, and this may be a bit obscure and we wouldn't turn there very much, but in 2 Samuel 24. I would like to turn there and just read that one with you, 2 Samuel 24. Very last chapter in that book. It's also getting near the end of King David's life and his time as king. It begins a bit ominously here in 2 Samuel 24, the very first verse, it says, again.
2 Samual 24:1-2 "The anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel." Now, notice there's a problem. He was unhappy with Israel. And He moved David against them to say, "Go number Israel and Judah. So the king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, 'Now go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and count the people that I may know the number of the people."
So, this was a national census, but it wasn't good. There were times when God instructed that Israel was to be numbered, but this was a different reason. And I don't have time to read the entire account. But clearly, David was thinking about how large his army was. Skipping down to verse 9, a summary was given to him. And if you just glanced through that, he had 1,300,000 who it says were a valiant man who drew the sword. But right about this time, David began to see, I shouldn't have done this.
2 Samual 24:10-17 “David's heart condemned him after he had numbered the people.” And you know this great man of God, even though he made mistakes, he reacted correctly when he came to himself because he said middle of verse 10. “To the Lord, I have sinned. I have sinned greatly in what I have done, but now I pray O Lord, take away the iniquity of your servant for I've done very foolishly." So, "When he arose in the morning," verse 11, "the word of the Lord came to the Prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, 'Go and tell David,' thus says the Lord, 'I offer you three things, choose one of them for yourself and I'm going to do it to you.'"
So, Gad, David's minister, if you will, goes to talk to him. This is a ministerial visit you wouldn't like to have, but let's just glance through this. "He came to David," verse 13, and he told him, “He said to him, ‘Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land, or shall you flee three months before your enemies while they pursue you?’" That's choice number two, "Or shall there be three days plague in your land?" Choice number three. "Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me." And David said, good answer, verse 14, "I am in great distress." And he made the best decision he could. “He said, ‘please let us fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of a man.’” He certainly didn't want the first choice of fleeing before his enemies for three months and being pursued. He'd been through that before in a different way. That happened, verse 15, "The Lord sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time throughout the whole country..." End of verse 15, "...70,000 men of people died."
This is not small and insignificant, 70,000. We've had so many recent, you know, natural disasters and even going on right now, but it hasn't come close to this. Think about this. Continuing, verse 16, "And when the angel stretched out his hand over Jerusalem to destroy it," this is where it was going, "the Lord relented from the destruction and said to the angel who was destroying the people, 'It is enough.'" Verse 17, "And David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people." It came close enough. He was seeing this. And he said, "Here is a man of God." He said, "Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand I pray be against me and against my father's house."
And so the plague was stopped and I'll just stop reading there. But 70,000 people died at the hand of the Lord. That seems so harsh. In the offertory message, Sodom and Gomorrah was referenced. There was a wholesale destruction at the hand of God. It all becomes a little hard sometimes, doesn't it? How would a just God do all of this? Did everyone in Sodom really have an understanding of the plan of God? Oh, I doubt it. No, I doubt it. And then we have to ask, honestly, so are they lost forever? They just lived their lives, granted in a pretty sinful way, at least the vast majority of them, it seems like virtually the entire populace there was given over to sin, but again, destroyed. Are they gone forever?
Our God, our Father and Jesus Christ, again, our Savior, weak? Not able, again, to do what they said and, worse yet, maybe even taking some joy? You can allow yourself to begin to think that way. Can't you? Even take a little pleasure in destroying people. Now, Scripture says otherwise, but you could fall into that line of thinking. It goes on and on, even into our modern time. I'm going to put up at this time, actually, the gentleman backing me up need to put this up. We're here in the eighth day. Let's take a little break. We'll just illustrate a little bit with photos. I'll take five or so with this.
So many have died in human history and they seem forgotten. You can read the text. Perhaps everyone on the webcast doesn't see a video. I don't know, but again, here's a cemetery that's essentially abandoned. I'm going to move on to this photo. I'm so grateful to have technical assistance here. Their main qualification is they're no more than half my age and I'm so grateful. Those types understand these things. I can only put together the PowerPoint, but all of these photos are photos that I pulled out of archives that I have.
And I've had the privilege of traveling to so many all across the U.S., every state of the union, and many internationally primarily because of the work I did for 28 years. And I don't have, you know, a real fascination with cemeteries, but it's very interesting. And a lot of these are outside of the U.S., as is this one, but I looked at this, it's in the midst of a city, a fairly large and flourishing city. And the city built around this and this very old cemetery is just forgotten. At least someone had cut the grass, but you see here the headstone is gone. This grave site is deteriorating greatly. As I put on the text, there's no visible record of even who in the world is here, right?
I've been in other places where Christianity and the knowledge, even the very basic knowledge of God and Jesus Christ isn't there. You can go to large parts of Asia, parts of Africa, even parts of South America. That God, at least as the Christian world knows Him and Jesus Christ, you know, there's going to be some understanding of who they are, particularly Christ. Also, you know, the Bible may be in their homes, probably is. For many in the world, that's never even been true.
This one I never forgot. I don't know if you can read it up there, but, "In loving memory of Margaret Gleason, day of birth and day of death are one and the same." I'd never seen a little grave marker like this before. She was aged eight hours. Now, this is a little sensitive, especially at the feast. I don't know all of you. You don't know me. If anyone has had to deal with this, especially recently, it's pretty heart-rending. And if so, my apology, but keep in mind, trust me, we're going to end with some real hope, okay? Otherwise, this becomes pretty gloomy, but this is real. I shot the photo.
I'm willing to bet quite a number of you have been here. You recognize it, Arlington's National Cemetery. And if you've been up at the tomb of the unknown soldier, that's a somber place. I was up there one time in a snowstorm, at least as much of a snowstorm as Washington, D.C. ever gets. Pretty light by South Dakota standards, but it was miserable. I wanted to see if those guards were...really, I was pretty sure they would, but that was really sobering. They continue… they’re vigil.
It's pretty moving. The inscription is hard to read on that white marble, so I simply put it up here. "Here lies in honored glory an American soldier no one but to God." Now, these all represent larger groups through human history, don't they? Remains were found, but no one knows who they are, who they were. This one tugged at my heart. Actually, no one's buried here. This was down in New Zealand. Actually, there are eight names on this little square pillar and I just shot...I think I shot all the sides, but I picked this one. Actually shows two men, but neither one are buried there.
It is simply erected in their memory. One was lost. At least they know where he is. These were New Zealand soldiers killed in World War II. One is buried in Germany, at least they know where he is. The other lost at sea off of Scotland. You probably can't read it. This old headstone was pretty weathered, 8th of June, 1944. Some of the worst are getting especially close to the invasion of Normandy, some of the worst times in World War II. And I would presume he was shot down or whatever happened. No other information there, but it tugs at your heart. Think about his mom, his dad.
Went after war and never saw him again and were finally notified, "Your son is lost at sea." And they live with that. I'm old enough to remember that generation. Actually, most of the World War II vets are gone now. I'm old enough to remember their parents when I was a young man. I knew a couple of those mothers that never recovered. So, it's hard not to get emotional, but they saw their sons go off to war and never saw them again. And in one case back home also, the body never returned.
Has anyone been at the Submarine Memorial out at Pearl Harbor? I'm just curious. Aha. Some. I went into the submarine, the USS Bowfin that exists as a memorial there to all the sailors that were lost in submarines. And to me, it's bad enough to be lost at sea, but there's something about a submarine. And this is another photo I just grabbed out of my archives. It's a photo I had of a port and I shot this photo for a different reason. But I thought about, again, you go into a submarine and you go under the water, into the deep, so to speak.
And what if you left the harbor with a storm coming in, that's why I shot this photo. It's kind of grand, but again, it's ominous. Isn't it? And most of those boys if they surface...well, they had to surface in that era at times, but they usually did it at night, right? Once they were on war patrol because it was dangerous to come up in the daytime, that might have been their last daytime look at the world. To me, there's something very foreboding about being lost at sea, especially for these boys.
A lot of them weren't there because they wanted to be, the draft. My father went through that, World War II. Some simply joined the Navy or another branch hoping to avoid at least being in the army. But again, it wasn't necessarily by choice. And if you leave Pearl Harbor, for example, and sail about as directly as you can to Japan where some of them ultimately went in submarines, about the most direct route you can take is 4,000 miles. And 52 of them went down somewhere.
Some we know, well, have been found, many to this day, absolutely... Now, again, it represents a larger group. Shipwrecks, lost at sea. But again, to me, this just tugs at me. Where are they? Maybe they're in the Mariana Trench. You know where that is? Out there above Papua New Guinea, below Japan. Deepest point on the earth. Experts argue over how deep it is. They've actually measured right at 36,000 feet. Now, I guess in one way, it doesn't matter. If you're 40 feet under or 36,000, you're gone. You're out of sight. Nobody knows where you are. But boy, if you're in that trench, and that's big, by the way. It's a huge arc out there in the Western Pacific.
Is the hope of all of these really lost? That's what I want to go back to. And now I want to turn to something that we must dwell on on this day that gives us hope and encouragement, lest this sermon become an absolute downer. And I confess it must seem like it's going that way. I'm a Scandinavian American farm boy. We're kind of stoic. You know, we struggle a little at times to see the bright side. Thank God I was called and chosen.
And I've come to understand the truth. All of these are gone, but are they gone forever? Jesus Christ said, "If I'm crucified, I'm going to draw all men to myself, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth." It's going to happen. Brethren, I want to go to the landmark scriptures that we turn to on this day, Ezekiel 37, first. Ezekiel 37. I've read this so many times. I've heard it expounded. Now I'm expounding it. I never get tired of it. Do you? I hope you don't. Otherwise, it becomes, again, all too common. What we're going to read together has to do with the hope of billions and billions of people, my friends. Let's read it again in 2017 and be encouraged and strengthened with it.
Ezekiel 37:1-3 "The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord." This is something like John in the Book of Revelation, he said, "I was in the spirit in the Lord's day." This is a vision given to them. The same was happening in an earlier time with Ezekiel. "He set me down there," middle of verse 37, "in the midst of the valley and it was full of bones. And He caused me to pass by them all around and behold, there were very many in the open valley." In other words, it's open. It's a big place. "And indeed they were very dry." Symbolically, talking about people who, in many cases, we would presume have been dead for a very long time. The lesson begins in verse 3, "He said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?'"
The New Living Translation has a simple translation that I happened to glance at yesterday. It renders it, "Can these bones become living people again?" Pretty good modern translation. Isn't it? Ezekiel's answer was very wise. You know, he's just a man, faithful man, but he didn't know, but he answered.
Ezekiel 37:4-10 "'O Lord God, you know.' And again He said to me, 'Prophesy, speak with inspiration to these bones and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.' So I prophesied." He did as he was told, verse 7, "and as I prophesied," as he was speaking to them, “There was a noise and suddenly a rattling, and the bones came together bone to bone.” I mean, these people have been destroyed, torn apart in some cases, but the bones are all coming back into the skeletal structure that we or any man would originally have. They came together.
"Indeed," it says verse 8, "as I looked the sinews and the flesh came upon them and the skin covered them over, but there was no breath in them." This is sort of death in reverse. They're coming back. Now they're pretty good-looking. No longer skeletons, pretty good-looking dead bodies, nevertheless, still dead. "Then he said to me," verse 9, "prophesy to the breath," or simply the air, the oxygen within it that is needed. "Prophesy, son of man," verse 9, "and say to the breath, thus says the Lord God, 'Come from the four winds O breath and breathe on these slain that they may live." So, again, he did that as he was told, beginning verse 10, "And breath came into them, and they lived, and they stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army."
This is a physical resurrection. It is not the one we studied about back in the Feast of Trumpets, in particular. The dead rising, being changed. This mortal must put on immortality, right? This corruptible must become incorruptible depending on what translation you read. That's a resurrection again to eternal life. This is not. This is a resurrection though full of hope back to physical life.
Ezekiel 37:11-14 now they're breathing. They're on their feet. "He said, 'Son of man,” Who are they? Verse 11, "These bones are the whole house of Israel." They indeed say our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off.” There wasn't hope for these people for eternal life until this time. Now they're not yet immortal, but now they have that hope. We'll build on a little bit. Verse 12, "Prophesy, say to them, thus says the Lord, God, 'Behold, O my people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord when I have opened your graves O my people and brought you up from your graves."
And now the last part of this that I won't read is in verse 14, they're going be given another spirit. "I will put My Spirit." Now they've already been given breath, that spirit of man again, but now the Holy Spirit, clearly that is what is being referenced here. "'I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land that you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,' says the Lord." And I'll break off there.
This is expanded upon in Revelation 20. Please, turn there, Revelation 20. Again, portions of this were likely read in previous holy days because it references the first resurrection. Revelation 20 begins with the account of the great angel coming down, binding Satan, and so forth.
Revelation 20:4-6 The resurrection of those in verse 4. “Who are now going to sit on thrones and judgment is committed to them those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus," there in middle of verse 4, "and for the word of God.” These are those who were truly called earlier." That could be you and me depending as we live on and what happens. End of verse 4, "They lived and reigned with Christ for 1,000 years." But verse 5 identifies the next group for the next resurrection. It says “The rest of the dead.” If I could put it simply, wait. They do not live again until the 1,000 years were finished. This is the first resurrection. So here, the first one has been defined, that's to immortality. There's encouragement here, verse 6, "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection over those the second death has no power. But they're going to be priests of God and of Christ and will reign for 1,000 years." And then after that, Satan's lost for a little while. But then please, please, skip ahead to verse 11.
Revelation 20:11-12 "Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat on it from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away and there was no place found for them." This is a mighty being. But verse 12, "And I saw the dead." "I saw the dead, small and great." I was looking at the Greek word for small yesterday. It's interesting. It's really little and there's derivations of it, but we get our word English today "micro" from this, for example.
In other words, small, what about Margaret Gleason? Small. But also great. “I saw the dead, small and great,” all-inclusive, “standing before God and books were opened.” Books were opened. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And as we have in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Corinthians. We know from Scripture that's what is open. By the way, the word book here, Greek, or books, plural form.
It's the same word, remember when Christ came back, went into the synagogue as his custom was. Remember that one incident and the book was handed to Him? It's the same word. Remember what He read from? Isaiah. But the bigger meaning here is the understanding. And there's just no time to build on this anymore. I must wind down, but the books were opened. That is the understanding of this precious Bible that we're reading from. But then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works by the things which were written in the books. Notice verse 13.
Revelation 20:13-15 O brethren, think of the pictures, "The sea gave up the dead who were in it." Does this give you hope? I told you we'll turn this positive. It just took me a long time to get here. God knows. God knows. "The sea will give up its dead, Death and Hades delivered up the dead that were in them. And all of these dead will be judged," or were judged, he's seeing it past tense, but it's yet to happen, "each one according to his works." They have their chance. Now in verse 15, ultimately they too have to make their decision.
Anyone not found written in the book of life ultimately there is yet another resurrection, but I'm not here to talk about that one today. But I sure want to dwell on the second resurrection and the hope for all of the dead who never knew Jesus Christ. Matthew 11 says it's going to be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment and more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for the people that Jesus Christ was speaking to back there in His day. Is that hope? Well, it is.
It should give some of those who really think they are religious as those were in Christ day, pause to think. But for Sodom, it's going to be more tolerable. In other words, they're going to be given their chance in Christ who knew perfectly the minds and hearts of men, knows they've got a better chance. They've got a full chance of coming to understand what you and I do right now today. I want to close with this...well, maybe two. We'll see. I'm going to get in trouble here.
Isaiah 65. There's a short two-hour window here between services. And I know we need it. So, Isaiah 65, did I say 25? If so, I meant 65. There's a very interesting statement or two here. And it's talking about, again, a latter time. Well, verse 17, just glance at that.
Isaiah 65:17 "Behold, I create new heavens and new earth." This is looking way out ahead. Now look at verse 20.
Isaiah 65:20 "No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days, for the child shall die 100 years old."
What about Margaret Gleason? What about the sailor who went into his submarine perhaps at age 19 and never saw daylight again? It's not a very...and it really tugs at my heart that this little one struggled only eight hours and succumbed, but even for a young man or woman, for that matter, other circumstances too, never had a chance to live out their lives. This Scripture promises what they will have. Is there hope in this day? Oh, can we even grasp it? I struggle to get my arms around this. Even though I've studied this for a long time and I've now been assigned a preacher, I feel pretty inadequate. But are you getting a little of the picture again?
For those of us who've studied it a long time, is it renewed? Is it inspiring you for those of you who are just learning it? Grasp it, but take it, internalize it because it's the words and the promises of God. Romans 11, and I won't turn there, but it simply says in one verse there, you know how great are God's ways. It says, "His ways are past finding out." Even one so great as the Apostle Paul said, right now, in 1 Corinthians 13, he said, "We see through a glass, darkly, right?"
But, oh, we've got enough. We've got enough. The plan of God extends far beyond the 1,000 years and the millennium. It goes into eternity. And as we close this morning, we've had a little glimpse into it and it is beautiful. Take care, everyone. See you this afternoon.