Acts 24:15-16 “I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”
This is a very interesting statement. It is an interesting legal gambit to put yourself on the same plane as your accusers, and that plane itself is interesting. Modern churches generally don’t preach/teach the resurrection of all mankind at the last judgment, but it’s certainly in the Bible. Most cultures speak of things like “eternal sleep,” (which is a specifically Japanese expression) and the church tends to go along with it. The thing is, the Bible also speaks of paradise, as in Jesus’ statement to the man on the cross beside Him, (Luke 23:43) and Paul speaks of being “away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) The experiences of my wife and others who have had what are called “near-death experiences” would indicate paradise at the very least, though some have experienced what could only be called hell. The Book of Revelation speaks of resurrection at the same time it describes heaven, so it can all be very confusing. I think we need to remember that God is outside of time, so our linear experience of time really doesn’t apply once we have left this life. The other thing we need to accept is that there are things we aren’t going to know until we get there, and that’s really for the best. What we can be sure of is that physically we are going to die, and after that we will be judged. (Hebrews 9:27) The Bible is very clear that the choices, the allegiances we have made in this life will determine what happens to us after that. Like Paul then, we should strive to keep clear consciences before God.
I haven’t preached much on resurrection and judgment myself. The average person doesn’t want to hear about it, but it is still essential truth. It is especially painful here in Japan, where such a small percentage of people are committed to Jesus Christ. Even when I am confident of my own salvation, I don’t like to think about most of the people I meet every day not being saved. I cannot force anyone to accept the Gospel but I can make it available to them, and that is what I need to do, as winsomely as possible. I am not to shy away from speaking of judgment, because it is a certainty that we will all face it, and as they say, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” I am to help the believers accept the reality that their words can make a difference in the eternal destiny of others. Yesterday I spoke on “Witness,” and some in the congregation seemed very uncomfortable at what they were hearing. My job is not to make people comfortable, but to help them be right with God.
Father, I don’t like feeling like I’m pounding on the believers, and if it comes across to them that way it will be counter-productive. I ask for wisdom and anointing to communicate the truth they need so that they won’t stay as they are, but grow to be the sons and daughters You desire, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!