This message was given at the morning service during the Feast of Trumpets.
[Darris McNeely] Several years ago, my wife and I attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Jordan when they were… we were holding it there. And one of the side trips we made was to the… an ancient city called Jerash. It was an outpost to the Roman Empire and in front of the old city, the old Roman city was this huge gate that they were actually that time reconstructing. And I'd someday like to go back and see if they finished it all up. But the gate was built in the second century AD, the height of the Roman Empire when the Emperor Hadrian, Roman Emperor Hadrian was making a visit to the city of Jerash.
Now the way the visit of Hadrian would have been done is that when he was a few miles away from the city, the town leaders would have gone out and met him. He would not have come to the gate of the city on his own. They would have met him a few miles away, and then escorted him in this procession with all the other attendant fineries of the Roman system and government and the city of Jerash to the city and into the gate in a procession. The Emperor would not have come in by himself and then he would have had his visit.
Now, the town fathers of Jerash, no doubt anticipated that the Emperor's visit was going to bestow kindnesses and blessings upon them. They no doubt hoped that he would bring money, concessions, maybe trade treaties and negotiations that would enhance everybody's lifestyle and certainly, everything that led up to the preparations, probably the paintings of buildings and other public works that would have been done to kind of dress up the city. Would have benefited the city when they heard that he was coming and what they hoped for, as a result of his visit would have brought multiple benefits to the city.
Now, that's about all I know of that particular gate. But it tells us something in regard to a very important scripture that we read on the Day of Trumpets. And the Day of Trumpets, if there's anything that stands out in my mind, as I've thought about this year, this sermon speaking to you this morning on the Feast of Trumpets, it is matter of hope. Those people in Jerash hoped that the Emperor Hadrian would have brought many benefits to them. When we look at the Feast of Trumpets, and there are many meanings, it is a day that pictures the sounding of a trumpet, an alarm, a witness, a warning, the return of Jesus Christ, it is a day that also pictures judgment.
Years ago, I heard a very impactful sermon that said, "On this day, Jesus Christ is returning but He's got blood in His eye," which is very true. But there is also a significant event that we see described on this day. And that is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the dead in Christ. That is an occasion that creates really the overriding theme, I think of this day to focus on today. And that is the appearance of Jesus Christ as King of kings and of Lord of lords bringing with Him the dead in Christ and occasioning the resurrection of the just.
We read about that in 1 Thessalonians 4. Let's turn over there, please, and look at this verse, 1 Thessalonians 4. When Paul wrote these words to the Church in Thessalonica, they knew exactly what he meant. Thessalonica was a major Greek city in the time of the first century. And the words that he uses here beginning in verse 13, what have conjured up in the minds of the members in Thessalonica the same image that I just described for you, in that other city Jerash, with the coming of the Emperor Hadrian.
Let's begin reading here in verse 13. Paul writes, "I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep." Now what had happened was Paul had been to the city of Thessalonica, he had begun a church there, started a church. You know what he did? He immediately offended the city fathers, because he preached that there was going to be a new King coming, one named Jesus. And He was… that King was going to replace Caesar. It was a treasonous message. It was a message that created an uproar and brought out people against Paul and the members. And in the aftermath, Paul had to quickly leave the city. But unfortunately, as he left, some of the members, evidently, were martyred because of their newfound belief.
And now sometime later, Paul is writing this letter, we call 1 Thessalonians to them. And he says, "I don't want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep," in other words, those who have died in their midst. "lest you sorrow as others who have no hope." They were going to sorrow, they were going to cry. But he wanted them to do that with the knowledge of something beyond, the hope of the resurrection. He goes on, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus."
From this, we gain a tremendous amount of understanding about death, the nature of death, that it is like a sleep. The dead know nothing but it is a sleep from which we will be awakened in the resurrection. In this case, he said, "Christ is going to bring those with Him who sleep in Jesus," the dead in Christ that we talk about here. And he goes on verse 15, "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we will always… shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words."
Paul is saying that Christ is going to bring a living Kingdom to this earth. They will have a new King. And with the imagery that he uses here, they understood exactly what he meant. Because just as the city fathers, the mayor, and the council members and everyone else would have gone out to meet an emperor coming to visit their city, and then bring him back into the city and that's where everyone would be. And there they would enjoy the benefits of the emperor paying a visit to their city. They then realized that Christ's return, they would rise in the air with those that sleep in Jesus, and then they would return to where He is.
And they would have already been schooled in certain scriptures like Zechariah 14:4 Zechariah 14:4And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×about the feet of the Messiah standing onto the Mount of Olives in that day, and others. And they knew that this is what that meant. There was no way they thought that they were going to be raptured up with Christ to the heaven or to some other existence. They knew that they would be on this earth. Paul was talking here about a living Kingdom and it was a message of hope. It was a message that was meant to bolster the church, that their dead friends and family members would rise in a resurrection. They would see them again. That there was hope ahead of them.
Now, we sometimes read this and we say, "Well, this is, they thought that Christ was going to come in their lifetime, and he didn't." And I think when we resort to that, we lose a bit of the impact of what God is really telling us. Yes, they did probably believe that he would return in their lifetime, just as many of us, most of us and in the church believe we are living in times preceding the return of Christ. But the reality is God-inspired these scriptures. And I think every generation of God's people that have read these scriptures since the first century, have believed in that coming, and that they would see that appearance of Christ as we do today. I think that that is one of the matters of hope that God gives to His people, a hope and a resurrection of the dead.
And as these people in Thessalonica read this, and then grew old and some of them then began to die let's say natural deaths. No doubt, they realized, "Well, it might not happen in my time," but they still had the hope. And they died with that hope. And we read it today. And we have the same hope. In fact, I think that many of us, most of us, I hope all of us will have that hope till we die. Because it's that hope of the resurrection, it is that hope of all that resurrection means, the first resurrection of the dead in Christ. And in fact, all the other resurrection that we will talk more about when we come to the Eighth Day in about three weeks from today, as we will be assembled to observe that last holy day of the year, these two resurrections both give hope, not only for the dead in Christ, but for all mankind. And that is what we live with. And it speaks to what God has hardwired into mankind.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Ecclesiastes 3:11He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end.
American King James Version×there is a statement made there, by Solomon regarding this truth, that Ecclesiastes 3:11 Ecclesiastes 3:11He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end.
American King James Version×, "He Has made everything beautiful in its time." Solomon writes, "Also He Has put eternity in their hearts, except that no man can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." That comes with a fuller revelation than even Solomon had. We can understand what God has from the beginning to the end.
But God has put into the hearts of man something called eternity, a spiritual nature. We know it as the spirit in man. That does give us the ability to know, to think, to plan, to create. And it is what we think about this life and every age of human existence has had their ideas about the afterlife, what it would be like. The Egyptians had theirs, the Greeks had theirs. And in our modern world, we have so many different varieties of belief about what life is all about, what happens in death, everything from nihilism to there's nothing else it just that's it, to heaven, to some type of soul sleep or other variations that people have.
But there's something that is there in the nature of man to have hope and to look to the future. In the book of Job 14, this is very well brought out in a scripture that we often turn to, at a time of death. To look at the question that Job asked. Job 14 beginning in verse 10, Job 14:10 Job 14:10But man dies, and wastes away: yes, man gives up the ghost, and where is he?
American King James Version×it says, "But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he? As water disappears from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dries up, so man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep. 'Oh,' he says, 'That you would hide me in the grave.'"
We know that Job had, from the story, he had suffered a great setback with his children, his family, and all of his possessions. "Oh that you would hide me in the grave," It was so overwhelming that the sleep with a grave to him was a better option. You know, how sometimes we're under stress, we have things pressing on us, we have either big decisions to make or it's a stressful time of life, and if we can get to sleep, we take that sleep that we might have, even if it's only a few hours during that time as an escape. Where we hopefully don't, we won't be thinking about it and we hope we won't dream about whatever it is that's stressing us out. And we get a few hours of rest from us and we'll think about it tomorrow. "We'll worry about that tomorrow," as Scarlett O'Hara said.
Well, Job wanted to just go and be hid within the grave and not think any more about this. "That" he says, "You would conceal me until your wrath has past, that You would appoint me a set time, and remember me!” You know, he thought and understood something about a set time to be remembered. The dead are never forgotten. God knows who they are. "If a man dies, shall he live again?" He asks. "And all the days of my hard service I will wait till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands,” is what he concludes.
God will call, He will call forth from the graves. Just as Jesus called forth Lazarus, in that temporary resurrection back to a physical life at that time. So Job speaks to this very same thing, very hope that we have of the resurrection. But to what? You know, Job is a profound book. It is probably the highest book of godly philosophy that there is. And it confounds a lot of people. Whole commentaries have been written by very smart people trying to figure out and explain the message of the book of Job. We read it, or sometimes we don't read it. I don't know what your particular thoughts about the book of Job are. Some people don't like to read the book of Job. Had a teacher tell me one time, an ABC instructor he didn't like to go through Job. But you have to go through Job if you're going to do… explain the entire Bible.
A few years ago, my wife was going through one of those yearly Bible reading programs. When she got to Job, and she got it going along chapter by chapter. She just got more depressed, more discouraged, and all of this. And she said… one morning she said, looked up from her Bible study and asked me, "What in the world is the purpose of this book?" She said, "Why do we have it?" And I said, jump right to chapter 42. You have to go through all of that to get to chapter 42 where, as you know, if you read it 10 years ago or whatever, Job finally comes to understand God. "I know you, I've heard about you, but now I see you." And that's what it was all about. And, you know, the ending of Job, everything was restored. Well, you know what? Really that is saying that God restored sanity to Job's life.
Any of us would probably virtually go insane if we lost all of our children in one fell swoop. Everything taken away. His life was looking at it and, you know, you read through all this, it's what you're reading. A man trying to figure it all out. God restored sanity to his life, at the end of the book. And some people, some critics can't take that. They think it's added later. But what it really is, Job had mourned what he had lost. But in the restoration of Job's fortunes and his… and a family at the end of the book I think we have a lesson that teaches us something about this day, and the hope of the resurrection. We have a lesson in the restoration and the renewal that is brought on by the resurrected life, that Trumpets and we could say the Eighth Day picture and show us in the future.
When we observe this day, we are observing in part the first resurrection as we've just read. When we keep the Eighth Day three weeks from today, we will talk about the rest of the dead, small and great, who will stand before God and have the books of the Bible open to them. You talk about hope, you talk about hope for tomorrow. And also help to get through today. "To make it through the night," as the song said. That is hope. The greatest hope that we can ever have. Hope for tomorrow means that there will be a time for every generation to be healed and to made whole… be made whole. Job had that. And I think that that's why that book is there, to show us in part, a lesson about a hope of the resurrection. A time when God will restore the wholeness of mankind and the integrity of every life. That is an amazing thing.
You know, in Acts 3, beginning in verse 18, we read a scripture there, about a time of restoration and renewal. One of the great sermons of the book of Acts beginning in verse 18. As Peter writes, "These things God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore," he says, "be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come." Repentance, conversion begins a time of refreshing. "That will come from the presence of the Lord, that He may send Jesus Christ, who is preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the time of the restoration of all things, which God Has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began."
Renewal, refreshing, a time of the restoration of all things. You know, that phrase "all things" is an interesting phrase here in verse 21 of Acts 3. All things. What does all things mean? That all things will be restored. Job had his family restored to him. Job had his life, his sanity restored, after all, that he had gone through. There's a couple of other times when this is brought out, I want to turn to one in 1 Corinthians 15. We read 1 Corinthians 15, as also as part of the message of the Day of Trumpets. But there's a phrase we skip over because we may not fully really understand what it means as we get to the sounding of the trumpet and the changing from mortal to immortality.
This body putting on immortality that the ending of chapter 15 talks about the entire chapter we call the resurrection chapter. But there's a verse in 1 Corinthians 15:28 1 Corinthians 15:28And when all things shall be subdued to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
American King James Version×, "Now when all things are made subject to Him," and this is speaking here, the Him is Christ. "Then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him," who is the Father. "Who put all things under Him," which is Christ. "That God may be all in all." There's that word all again. The restoration of all things, that God will be all in all. What does that mean? Again, we kind of read right over that because we really like the part that talks about the changing of the mortal to immortality. And that's certainly very important, but what does, all in all, mean in this chapter about the resurrection? Well, it means that all things will be brought together in God.
And in Ephesians 1:10 Ephesians 1:10That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
American King James Version×, it talks about all things as well being brought together in Christ. The very purpose for Christ's life in His body and His purpose is to bring all things together in the universe in Christ, that phrase is there again. The resurrections, the first resurrection, the resurrection of the Great White Throne Judgment. The rest of the dead will be among many other things, the time when all things are restored. People's lives will be restored. Integrity and wholeness will be restored. That's when we'll figure it all out.
Let me ask you a question. We all have our families, we know something, some more than others about the history of our families. Is there anything in your family that you'd like to know better? About your parents, your grandparents and aunts, and uncle. Someone that you just saw as a picture on a wall when you were growing up or barely remember? Or died too soon and you didn't get to know why your family was the way that it was. Why your family tree developed the way it did. Why your parents came together to make you.
I have as I looked at my family, snatches of conversations, from my youth with, about, and with relatives that I didn't know enough to ask about when I was a young man because I was just too stupid. I had my life and interests and I had to go here, go there, and, you know, how it is. But I'd like to know… as I've grown older, I sure would like to know more about them. I had an uncle that was my mother's youngest son… youngest brother. She had four brothers, they all went to World War II. Three of them got out of the army as soon as the war was over.
The fourth one, the youngest decided to stay and make a career out of the army and we never would see him too much. He didn't have a home back where the family clan was. You might not see him for three, four years, and then all of a sudden he'd walk through the front door big as life. Here's my uncle Wingard, never heard that name since you may never have either. I couldn't say, Wingard, I'd call him uncle Winky.
And he'd stay for two or three days. He was kind of like The Cat in the Hat. He'd come in and smoke cigarettes in the living room and drank all my dad's Budweiser Long Necks, and then he'd be gone. And in between, I'd try to talk to him and this was in the mid-60s and he loved Johnny Cash. And I just loved the Beatles. I didn't want anything to do with country music. And we'd argue and he told me how great Johnny Cash was. And I'd tell them how great the Beatles were.
My uncle Wingard died in 1970, picking corn in the field in Iowa that he had no business doing after the army didn't know what to do with his life. And his body came back. And I remember the day that my mom heard that he died. She sat for hours that Saturday afternoon in the window of our front room just looking out. And she kept saying over and over again, "Now at least I know where he is. Now at least I know where he is." Because we never knew where he was until he walked through our front door. “Now I know where he is.”
And there's so much that I'd like to understand about him and know about him. I didn't think too much about it until to be honest when 2003 came around Johnny Cash died, September 20, 2003. And it made kind of a few headlines and I realized, “Oh yeah, Johnny Cash, my uncle Wingard.” And so I started listening to everything Johnny Cash ever sung and wrote, trying to figure out my uncle Wingard. Why did he like him? And I learned a few things, both sons of sharecroppers down in Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. Poor hard lives, came out of the depression, both in the army and I began to understand a few other things, not enough, but I'd like to understand more about my uncle.
Well you know I will, in the resurrection. And whatever it was about his life that wouldn't let him come home to his brothers and sister and dad and mom that caused him to stay as a vagabond in the army, that'll come known as well, because I've heard snatches of family stories as to why he never came back home, why he stayed in the army. You know, every family will find out the answers to the questions and will know what it was all about when these resurrections begin to take place. It's only through the resurrections that justice, true justice, as only God can give, will be found for everyone who has suffered injustice. Every people, every person, every tribe, every ethnicity, every religion, every person, everyone, only through the resurrection, will the integrity of the creation be healed.
That is the hope that we have when we look to this day, and its meaning, and to think about this in the coming days and prepare ourselves for the Feast of Tabernacles and all that we will learn there, including the Day of Atonement before then. But then to that last day, that we keep the Eighth Day when the dead, small and great will come from the graves and they too will have justice and their lives will be made whole.
And I sometimes wonder even for those in the first resurrection, call it a personal speculation or whatever, that the way our bodies will be changed. And if indeed there will be things that we will have to then figure out and learn as we have the glorified bodies in that resurrected state. I think that Jesus Himself did still retain in His appearances, the wounds that were in His hands. Remember when he showed them to Thomas? The wounds were still there.
I've wondered sometimes in our glorified body, will there still be some wounds that we will then work through? I don't know. I just know that the resurrection holds out so much glory, so many opportunities, so much for us to understand that we have a lot to prepare for. We have a lot of hope to look forward to because Christ is going to return. He's going to appear and He will bring blessings and benefits and grace far beyond what any human king or emperor could bring upon the people. That is what we hope for. That is what we look to.
In Colossians 3, beginning in verse 1, Paul writes this to the church in Colossae regarding the appearance of Christ, but he puts a different focus on it. It's a focus that really applies to the here and now, your life and my life today. Let's read, beginning in verse 1, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For to me to write the same things to you is tedious." And I'm reading in Philippians 3. I've got the Dave Hemsley Syndrome here. I'm turning to the wrong scriptures and reading them.
All right, Colossians 3:1 Colossians 3:1 If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
American King James Version×, "If then you were raised with Christ," and again, you see exactly where he's.. what his mind is on, being raised with Christ. The dead in Christ will come, be brought with Christ at His appearing. "If then you were raised with Christ," now he's speaking here about our baptism, and our receipt of the Holy Spirit, which he covered back in Romans 6. We come up out of that watery grave as a type of resurrection to a new life. This is what he's referring to, a new life with us with Christ. "Seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God."
And so with God's Spirit in us, the very life of God, the very essence of God in us, we are to seek the things above. Now, that's a hard, lifelong challenge for us all, isn't it? But that's not only hope. But that's the teaching, the command that we have. It goes on, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." We think about God, His presence, we think of the mind of God, we think of the things of God, the purpose of God, our relationship with, all that, we think about. We're here today to worship God on His commanded assembly, His Holy Day. We will go up to keep the Feast before the Lord, the Feast of God in the Feast of Tabernacles in a few days. Our mind is there in many ways. But as you and I read this, from our perspective, after how many years in your life that you have been reading these verses and thinking about them 20, 40, 50, 60? And plus in some cases. I won't have those of you 60 and over raise your hand. We don't want to single you out too much.
But we put our minds on the things above rather than on the earth. "For you died," he said. "And your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory." And this verse 4 is an interesting verse. "When Christ who is our life appears," that's His coming, that is what we would call the second coming. That is that visible manifestation and His return to establish His Kingdom on the earth. "When He appears, you will also appear with Him in glory." But we've already read that our mind is that we've been raised with Christ, our mind is to be put on heavenly things, and that Christ is our life. Our life is hidden with Christ, and he is our life which means that his life is in us.
One translator puts this, "Christ who is the secret center of your life." Well, it shouldn't be too secret because the fruits of Jesus Christ should be manifest in our own lives. But it is there, that life. And the resurrection in part as we are transformed from mortal to immortality will be the finishing product of what has been working in our lives through the Spirit of God in this life. Our life in Him will appear with Him in glory. Then Paul goes on to talk about some very practical things regarding that. But this is our hope, Christ in us.
Hope is at the center of the gospel. We are those with hope, remember Paul said, "Don't sorrow as those who have no hope." We live with hope. And when we have to sorrow and mourn because of stress and trials, and even death, we do it with hope. It is at the very center of the gospel. Hoping is at the center of our relationship with the one true God and with His Son whom He sent to open the door of eternity for us. Hope is knowing that God designed this world to be the incubus to bring so many sons to glory. Hope lights a path through the suffering of this life. And hope is at the center of a world that is moving toward the event of this day and all that lies beyond.
Skip down to verse 15. He says, "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body, and be thankful." There's one thought that I could leave you with here to think about, for your own life, where you are right now as we keep this day and look forward to the remainder of the Holy Days. It's let's pray that the peace of God can rule in our hearts, seek that. Let that be the rule. Let that be the guide. Let that be the light. Let that be what gives us hope, the peace of God. Because until we let that peace and have that peace of God, in our hearts through the Spirit of God, Christ in us, the center of our life, until that peace rules in our hearts, Christ is not going to give us rulership over the nation's with Him when this day comes to its fulfillment. Until we have first allowed that peace to rule in our hearts. Let's use this time as a period of renewal. We are those with hope. Let's let that hope and that peace rule in our heart and renew us for the work that God has before us as we look for His coming Kingdom.