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SHALL WE BELIEVE IN A GNOSTIC CHRIST?
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, March 13, 2005
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (I Corinthians 13:12).
I was very close to my mother when I was small. She taught me all the important things. Then, when I was twelve, I was separated from her. Things didn't work out as she wanted them - and so we were separated. A veil slipped over her thinking, and I couldn't communicate with her for a long time in any meaningful way. This went on for about forty years. I was called into the ministry during that time, but Mother couldn't understand my call. She loved me still, but I was saved and she was lost, and so we were separated spiritually for a long, long time. She came to my ordination, but she couldn't quite grasp the significance of it. She came to church every Sunday morning, but she somehow couldn't enter in to an understanding of what I preached. Sunday after Sunday she came, and sat with the Bible open as I preached. But I knew there was no real connection, because she did not know Christ.
Then, one wonderful day, our deacon, Dr. Christopher Cagan, led my mother to Christ. The veil that separated her from Christ was removed, quite suddenly, and she knew Him. She spoke for the first time about Christ. He was finally real to her. She was born again. I can't describe it any other way. She now read the Bible on her own every day. She asked me questions about God, and listened carefully as I explained the Scriptures. We had wonderful long discussions. I had my mother again, like I had her forty years earlier. She loved my wife with all her heart, and she loved our boys. She moved into a bedroom of our house, next to my study, in the beautiful house she gave my wife and I. It was a wonderful, happy home, with Mother, my wife, the two boys, and me. I enjoyed every day that we had together in the five years she lived with us after she was saved.
But then one day she died. I knew she was in Heaven, but I was now separated from her again. The pain and sorrow I felt nearly broke my heart. When we buried her body, I stood by her grave and wept bitter tears. Dr. Cagan came over to my side. I whispered to him, "I hate leaving her down there." He looked at me and said, "Dr. Hymers, she's not down there in that hole. She's in Heaven with Christ." Those were very simple words. I knew them in my mind already, but they somehow hadn't penetrated my heart enough to give comfort. Years went by. I would go to her grave and feel great sadness, as I sat on the grass and thought about her. Very gradually, over a period of years, Dr. Cagan's words became real - so real that I didn't need to go back to her grave so often. Instead, I began to think how beautiful and how happy she was with Christ, "which is far better." And I began to realize that I would see her again in a glorified body, when Jesus comes to raise us at that great resurrection called the "rapture."
Why did it take me so long to get over the pain of losing her? Simply because, as our text says,
"Now we see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).
Even Christians don't see spiritual things as clearly as they should.
But the text doesn't end there. It goes on to say,
"…but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (I Corinthians 13:12).
"Then" I will see Mother face to face. "Now I know in part" that Mother is alive with Christ. But then "shall I know [her] even as also I am known [by her]." What a joy that will be!
Now what if someone told me," You won't really see your mother again. She won't really be there in Heaven"? I wouldn't believe that person! And yet this is the way many people think of Christ. I recently read a sermon by a preacher who said this about the risen Christ:
Some think that Jesus is in Heaven with a physical body, with nail prints in His hands and a spear print in His side, sitting at the right hand of God the Father…There is no physical Jesus sitting on a literal chair or throne up in Heaven, somewhere at the right side of God, who also is sitting on a literal physical throne…Don't make Jesus like He was in this life. He will never be that way again.
Is he right? If he is wrong, how do we know he is wrong?
There is only one way I can tell if someone is right or wrong about Jesus. And that one way is by reading the Bible. The only Jesus I know is the Jesus spoken of in the Bible. I dare not trust my own human reason on such an important matter. I must look to the Bible alone to find out the truth. Does the resurrected Christ have a physical body with nail prints in His hands and feet and a spear print in His side? Is He sitting on a literal throne at the right hand of God the Father? I must look to the Bible alone for answers to these questions.
Please turn to John 20:19:20. Here we are given a description of the resurrected Christ.
"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord" (John 20:19-20).
Here we read in the Bible that Jesus showed the Disciples His hands and His side after He rose from the dead. But one of the Disciples, named Thomas, was not there. Drop down to verse twenty-four.
"But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:24-29).
The resurrected Christ told Thomas to put his finger into the wound in His hand and to put his hand into the spear-wound in His side. This passage of Scripture make it very clear that the resurrected Christ had actual wounds still remaining in His hands and side, caused by the nails and the spear that wounded Him when He was crucified.
Now turn to Luke 24:36-43. Let's stand and read these verses aloud.
"And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them" (Luke 24:36-43).
You may be seated.
In verse 39, the resurrected Christ told them to look at His hands and feet. Then He said,
"Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones,as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet" (Luke 24:39-40).
What could be clearer than that? He is not a spirit. After He rose from the dead He said, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." Then, to prove that He was not a spirit, He ate some food.
"And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them"
So, after He rose from the dead, Jesus still had the wounds of the crucifixion in His hands and the spear wound in His side. He was not a spirit. He plainly said that He was not a spirit. He plainly said that He had a "flesh and bones" body. Then, to prove this, the risen Christ ate some fish and honey in front of the Disciples. So it is perfectly clear, in John 20:24-29 and Luke 24:36-43, that the resurrected Christ had a physical body with nail prints in his hand and a spear print in His side.
Now look a little further in that same chapter, at Luke 24:50-51. Let's stand and read these two verses aloud.
"And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:50-51).
You may be seated. This is quite clear. The same "flesh and bones" resurrected Christ, who showed them His hands and the spear print, and who said He was not a spirit, and proved it by eating in front of them - this very same resurrected Christ
"was parted from them, and carried up into heaven"
Now, listen to that preacher again. Is he right about Jesus? Listen to what he said again,
Some think that Jesus is in Heaven with a physical body, with nail prints in His hands and a spear print in His side…
Well, what did we just read in the Bible? Remember, our appeal is not to human reason, but to the Scriptures. The Scriptures teach plainly that a physical Jesus, with the physical marks of His passion still present in His body, rose up to Heaven at the Ascension. An unbiased reader of the Bible has to admit that these verses show that the preacher is wrong. Christ went up to Heaven with the marks of the passion still visible in His body.
But where is Christ now? We have already seen that
"He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven"
In Acts 1:11 the angels called the ascended Christ, "This same Jesus." So we are never to think that there is more than one Jesus - a physical Christ and a spirit-Christ. Oh, no! That is the Christ of the cults, that's the Christ of the new-age movement and Hinduism. The "spirit-Christ" of these false religions is a "Gnostic" Christ. The Gnostics were a religion of the First Century that said Christ did not rise physically from the dead. But Bible-believing Christians must reject this Gnostic Christ. No, the Christ of the Bible is the same all the way through the Scriptures. He is "this same Jesus." From His incarnation and birth until the moment He returns at the second Coming, He is always "this same Jesus" (Acts 1:11). The Bible says, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8).
Then, this preacher said,
There is no physical Jesus sitting on a literal chair or throne up in Heaven, somewhere at the right side of God, who also is sitting on a literal physical throne.
Notice that he uses the word "literal" twice. He also says there is no "physical" Jesus. And then he says there is no "literal" throne. He seems to dislike the words "physical" and "literal." That always troubled me when I was attending a liberal seminary back in the 1970s. I always wondered how those liberal professors knew that these things weren't "literal" and "physical." How did they know that? All I knew for sure was what I read in the Bible. I wondered how those professors could be so sure of themselves. I read the Bible. It looked pretty "literal" and pretty "physical" to me! So, I decided to stick with the plain words of the Bible - and let them drift off into space with the cults, the new-agers and the Hindus. The plain words of the Bible were good enough for me then - and they are still good enough for me now.
That preacher said,
There is no physical Jesus sitting on a literal chair or throne up in Heaven, somewhere at the right side of God…
Take a look at Mark 14:62-65 to see if he is right. Let's stand and read those four verses aloud.
"And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power,and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their
You may be seated.
Why did they beat Jesus? Why did they spit on Him and say that He was "guilty of death"? Because He said that they would see Him "sitting on the right hand of power." That's one of the main reasons they wanted Him crucified! They beat Him and cried "crucify him" because He said He was going to sit on a throne in Heaven! This preacher tells us He didn't really go to sit on a throne. Hasn't he ever read the Bible? That's the main reason they crucified Him!
Now look at Mark 16:19. Here is a plain description of the facts.
"So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19).
Plain words. Simple words. Clear words. Now turn to Romans 8:34.
"Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God…" (Romans 8:34).
It's all through the New Testament. For instance, Colossians 3:1.
"Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1).
So, the Bible repeatedly tells us that this preacher is wrong. He seems to be telling us to believe in a spirit-Christ. But that is "another Jesus," not the real Jesus. The real Jesus rose physically from the dead, flesh and bones, with the nail prints in His hands and the spear wound in His side. The real Jesus ate fish and honey in front of the Disciples and then ascended physically up to Heaven. The real Jesus is seated on a throne at the right side of God - up in Heaven. Now, you may not like that, but it is what the Bible teaches. And I have no other source of revelation but the Bible. The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.
But how do I explain it? I don't. I just preach it. I don't think the human mind can explain it. There are some things that are a mystery, beyond human reason. The resurrection, ascension and intercession are among those things - beyond the capacity of the human mind.
"Now we see through a glass, darkly…" (I Corinthians 13:12).
When we got to the cemetery, Dr. Waldrip and I walked to the back of the hearse. I asked the mortician to lift the edge of the coffin's lid. I saw the top of my mother's head. I wanted to be sure she was in there. It sounds strange now, but it seemed important at the time. Then he put the lid back down. We walked in front of the coffin to the grave. We saw the coffin lowered into the earth. We watched while they bulldozed the earth into the hole. Then we left.
How do I explain that my mother's body will rise from the dead? I don't explain it. I just preach it. The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.
How do I know that my mother's body will rise from the dead? I know it because the Bible says that Jesus' body rose from the dead. And He said,
"Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19).
We don't understand it all.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (I Corinthians 13:12).
Come to Christ. Rest on Him. He will wash you clean with His Blood and clothe you with His righteousness.
Then you will be ready to meet Him in Heaven.
And we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him,
Face to face in all of His glory!
We shall behold Him, we shall behold Him,
Face to face, our Saviour and Lord!
("We Shall Behold Him" by Dottie Rambo, 1934 - ).
Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 8:31-34.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"We Shall Behold Him" (by Dottie Rambo, 1934 - ).
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