Ready for the Resurrection

In the sermon this morning, we will examine Paul’s argument from the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians that the resurrection is most certainly a reality. With this being the case, we want to take some time to reflect and examine ourselves: are we ready for the resurrection?

In one sense, we don’t have to be “ready” for the resurrection. By this, I mean it will come whether we are ready for it or not. Consider Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:1-13: there were five who were wise and prepared and five who were foolish and unprepared. The foolish waited until it was too late to get prepared, so they were unready when the moment came; yet, the moment came anyway. You do not have to be ready to be raised from the dead for it to happen; all will experience the resurrection.

However, all will not experience the same resurrection. In John 5:28-29, Jesus says, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” The NKJV rightly translates the understanding of the last phrase in this verse: “…those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (5:10). In other words, we will receive what we are ready for!

With this, let’s return our thoughts to Matthew 25:1-13 and ask which resurrection we are ready for. While the summary above sufficed to make the necessary point, if you have not read the text itself, please pause here, open your Bible, and read Jesus’ parable with great care.

Those who were prepared were wise. Scripture reveals a lot about wisdom, and this one word tells us much about these five who were prepared. It tells us that they feared the Lord: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). It tells us that they were willing to build upon the truth: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25; cf. John 12:49; 17:17). In order to build upon the truth, they were willing to do the necessary work: “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” (Luke 6:47-48). The prepared were wise because the wise do the work necessary to be prepared!

Those who were unprepared were foolish. It’s interesting in this parable that they thought they were prepared. They took their lamps; if circumstances were like they expected, this would have been plenty for them. This was not the case, though: “As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept” (25:5). There are many who think they are prepared and simply are not (Matthew 7:21-23; 25:41-45). On this point, this is not the time to think about everyone you know who thinks they are prepared but aren’t; it is the time to look in the mirror. Am I prepared? It’s really easy to think so, but will reality meet my expectations? Answering this question takes an honest heart and a careful examination of the Scriptures.

Note this of the foolish, as well: they thought the wise were prepared enough for both of them. When they did not have enough oil to be ready, they thought they could use the oil of the wise. Some expect to receive a “resurrection of life” because they are surrounded by “those who have done good,” but do not “do good” themselves. While there is no doubt about the importance of the company we keep (Proverbs 22:25-25; 1 Corinthians 15:33), we must not think that association is the same thing as action. Note God’s words through Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:10 again: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

This is still the time to look in the mirror, and looking in the mirror requires us to act: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22-25).

Which resurrection are we ready for? I recognize that we have largely discussed the Judgment Day and judgment texts, but notice that Jesus discusses the Judgment while talking about the resurrection in John 5:28-29, quoted above. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28). All will die, with exception to those still living at Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:17). All will be raised, whether to life or condemnation (John 5:28-29). Which resurrection are you ready for?