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I Can Only Imagine

1 Cor. 15:13-22


In the fall of 1971, John Lennon released his hit song, Imagine, the first few lines say, "Imagine there's no heaven/ It's easy if you try/ No hell below us/ Above us only sky." In the remainder of the song, he described a world of peace and hope that would result from living a life void of faith and ignorance of spiritual rewards and consequences for our actions. 

I know that some people consider Imagine the greatest song of all times, but to be honest with you, I don't get it. It would take a mighty big dose of mind-altering drugs for me to believe life would be better without faith in God and an afterlife. 

This morning, I don't want to ask you to imagine there is no heaven, like Lennon did in 71, instead, I want you to imagine there's no resurrection, like Paul did in 1 Cor. 15:13-22. What would life be like if there was no resurrection? Paul wrote, "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; [14] and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 

This is the pivotal issue of the Christian faith. If Jesus did not raise from the dead, there is no reason for this segment in the worship service-there is no need to proclaim from the teachings of scripture, because this is the truth that all other Christian truths are built upon. And the same is true of your faith. Without the resurrection, your faith is foolishness. The faith that brought you through your trials-the faith that sustains you when you are tempted-the faith that is the conduit for God's grace in your life when you need forgiveness-without the resurrection, your faith would be worthless.

Paul continues in verse 15, "Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised." If Christ did not raise from the dead, then all the Apostles of old and teachers of today are liars. It would be a grand conspiracy involving all the Christian teachers for the past two millenniums to deceive. 

And you know the state of well-being you have because of forgiveness you've received from God and from one another? Well, throw that out too. Without the resurrection, there is no afterlife and you are still in your sins. And all the Christians that you've admired over the years? Stop admiring them and start pitying them. That's what Paul says in the next few verses: [16] For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; [17] and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. [18] Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. [19] If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

I don't know if John Lennon believed in heaven and hell or not. I just know that he asked us to imagine there was no afterlife, but I do know what Paul believed. He believed in the afterlife because he believed in the Resurrection. He wrote: [20] But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. [21] For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive."

After the cross, the disciples were downcast, rejected, despondent and without hope. They were defeated and disillusioned. On Easter morning, a few women went to the tomb carrying spices to anoint Jesus' body for burial. Mark 16:3-7 describes what happened next:

"And they were saying to one another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?' [4] And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. [5] And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. [6] And he said to them, 'Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. [7] But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you.'"

In that instant, everything changed. The bonds of sin were broken. The finality of death was decimated. Now, because Jesus rose from the dead, there was hope where there was despair, there is peace where there was conflict and there life where there was death.

Jesus is coming back to take us to heaven-the place that Lennon asked us to imagine doesn't exist. But because Jesus rose from the dead, I know that it does, and that He will take me there in due time. Now I'm left asking another question, what will it be like when we get there. In 1999, Bart Millard asked that question as He thought about his Dad arriving in heaven after he died. He penned the words to a beautiful song "I can only Imagine." It says, "I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me. I can only imagine. Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for You, Jesus or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine. I can only imagine. I can only imagine. When that day comes, and I find myself standing in the sun. I can only imagine when all I would do is forever, forever worship You. I can only imagine. I can only imagine. (Bart Millard ©1999 Simpleville Music/ASCAP. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

No, Lennon, I can't imagine there's no heaven, because of the resurrection, I'm left standing beside Millard, imagining what it will be like...and longing for the day I'm there. 

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