THE REASON FOR LIFE AND THE VICTORY OVER DEATH
A Sermon by Venerable Dr. Ifechukwu U Ibeme,
Chaplain, The Chapel of Grace,
at the Burial of Professor Emeritus William Styan Richards (1920 – 2016)
in the Ecumenical Ground of University of Maiduguri.
From Prof Richard’s biography and our eulogy and tributes to him, we could appreciate the value of longevity when it is lived not only to strive for your personal success but to also sacrifice for others’ success.
We appreciate God for the life of this nonagenarian who abandoned the comfort zone of his native industrialized country and spent his life with us. He shared in our difficulties as a third world country, our interrupted water and power supplies. He loved his students and insisted he would rather die and be buried among them than with his biological family and native land. We must learn from Prof Richards to live our lives with commitment and sacrifice rather than with complaint and selfishness.
Our modern global culture is fixated on materialism and hedonism. It is now popular motive for many to live their lives to enjoy and delight themselves while annoying and depriving others. This evil and selfish mindset is destroying our modern world and setting up humanity against God. But why has God kept you alive each day on earth?
1. To please God fully (Rom 12:1-2; Col 1:10).
2. To do good to folk, friend and foe (Mat 5:43-48).
3. To overcome sin, Satan and death (Heb 2:14; 1John 3:8-9).
This is the way to light the world and salt the earth as Christ charged us in Mat 5:13-16.
But who could ever do this this without requiring enormous supernatural enablement of His Grace!
CHRIST HAS COME TO MAKE YOU GODLY AND GOOD WHICH IS THE REASON FOR YOUR LIFE
If you really truly want your life to please God fully and do good to others lovingly, then you must honestly believe in Christ and earnestly give your life to Him so He would save you from the PENALTY and POLLUTION of your sins and from the POWER and PERPLEXITY of your own sinful nature. This is sure to bring you into the supernatural and effectual working power of saving Grace which God gives through Christ.
(10) But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
The Good News of the Gospel is that if you believe in Christ and submit to His Lordship, He will redeem and save you from every bondage of sin and Satan by:
1. the seeding and illuminating power of His Word,
2. the enlivening and enabling power of His Grace,
3. the cleansing and propitiating power of His Blood and
4. the regenerating and renewing power of His Spirit.
The Apostles preached all theses together in their Full Gospel message.
1 Peter 1:18-25
(18) Since you know that you were not REDEEMED with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain manner of life received by tradition from your fathers;
(19) But [redeemed] with the precious BLOOD of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
(20) Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
(21) Who by him do BELIEVE in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your FAITH and HOPE might be in God.
(22) Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the SPIRIT unto sincere love of the brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently:
(23) Being born again, not of corruptible SEED, but of incorruptible, by the WORD of God, which lives and abides forever.
(24) For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away:
(25) But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the WORD which by the GOSPEL is preached unto you.
(1) Therefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking,
(2) As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the WORD, that you may grow thereby:
(3) If so be you have tasted that the Lord is GRACIOUS.
(4) To whom coming, as unto a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
(5) You also, as living stones, are built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
CHRIST SHALL COME TO DESTROY DEATH AND GIVE YOU VICTORY OVER DEATH
From the readings during this burial service, you could have heard that most humans will die but not all! One other notice you must have taken is that death is not really the ultimate end because there is resurrection (for those who die in Christ) and rapture (for those still living in Christ) when Christ comes again to conquer death for us, the way He had conquered death in His life. Jesus had made this powerful promise and proclamation with a strong persuasion:
(25) Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
(26) And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?
(51) Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
(52) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST TRUMPET. FOR THE TRUMPET WILL SOUND, and the DEAD WILL BE RAISED imperishable, and WE SHALL BE CHANGED.
(53) For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
(54) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
(15) For this we declare 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 have died.
(16) With a shout of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the SOUND OF GOD’S TRUMPET, the Lord himself will come down from heaven, and THE DEAD IN CHRIST WILL RISE FIRST.
(17) Then WE WHO ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN WILL BE CAUGHT UP in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
NOTICE from these Scriptures that we shall not all die before the resurrection because some who shall still be alive at Christ’s Coming and the Last Trumpet sound shall be changed without dying. Notice also that the dead in Christ shall first be resurrected, then those living in Christ shall be raptured to join the risen dead.
When Christ Comes with His Angels to gather His Saints and destroy the Antichrist, He would descend from the third heaven, shake space constellations and come into the atmospheric sky. Then:
1. The LAST TRUMPET shall sound
2. The dead in Christ shall resurrect FIRST to immortality
3. The living in Christ shall be CHANGED to immortality
4. The raised and changed immortals shall be RAPTURED and gathered to MEET and welcome the coming Lord in in the atmosphere.
5. The raptured immortals shall forever be with the Lord to reign with Him in the Millennium and rest with Him in the Eternity.
When would this Coming, Trumpet Resurrection, Rapture, etc be?
1. Christ said it will be at the end of the Great Tribulation (Matt 24:29-31)
2. The Apostles wrote it would not be till after the Antichrist Beast reign and the Tribulation (1Cor 15:20-26; 2Thes 2:1-4; Rev 20:4-6)
3. Some Christians in recent times think that it should begin before the Antichrist and the Tribulation
(29) “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
(30) Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(31) And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
(20) But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
(21) For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
(22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
(23) But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
(24) Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
(25) For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
(26) The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(1) Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,
(2) not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
(3) Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
(4) who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
(4) Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
(5) The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
(6) Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Whatever happens, never forget that only those who partake of the glorious resurrection for eternal bliss would escape the shameful “resurrection” for second death in the fire of eternal torment (Rev 20:6, 13-15). Therefore, the key wisdom is perseverance to remain in Christ till death or till whenever the Last Trumpet sounds.
Live for Christ with all devotion to godliness and goodness and Wait for Christ without despair.
This is what victorious Christian living is all about.