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THOUGHTS WHILE WANDERING
THROUGH A MAUSOLEUM

by Dr. Robert Hymers

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, November 6, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).


I attended two funerals last week. On Tuesday Ileana and I went to the service of a young man who died at the age of twenty-four. Then on Wednesday I was at the memorial service of a man who died at seventy-eight. I went to the older man's funeral alone because Ileana was busy with things at home. After the older man's funeral I shook hands with several people and then wondered what to do with myself for a couple of hours. The service was held deep in Orange County and ended at 4:00 PM. I didn't want to fight traffic all the way back to Los Angeles, so I decided to kill some time wandering around the cemetery. It was an older graveyard which was opened in the early part of the twentieth century. I meandered through the oldest part of the cemetery, looking at the antiquated upright stones, and the names and dates of those who were buried there. Then I got in my car and drove toward a stark grey stone mausoleum toward the back of the graveyard. The mausoleum was quite cold and grey and foreboding - but I saw a light inside, parked my car and walked up the marble steps into the building. All was quiet. As I entered, I could hear my own footsteps echoing through the damp grey building. As is my habit in such places, I took time to read many of the inscriptions on the front of the niches where the dead lay in the coldness of their marble resting places in niches in each wall.

Then, suddenly, the quietness of the place was filled with rock music. It seemed strangely out of place in such an austere building. I wondered where it was coming from, when all of a sudden a middle-aged Hispanic woman appeared and began dusting things. I wasn't really disturbed by the music, although it did seem oddly out of place. Then she turned it off and left. I continued walking up and down the cold marble halls reading the inscriptions on the tombs of the dead who had been placed in those walls, some as far back as 1916, when the cemetery and mausoleum first opened. I thought of the lives of those, young and old, who were buried in those niches in the walls. I thought of their dreams, and their struggles in life, and I wondered whether or not they had been saved, whether they were truly Christian people when they had lived and died - some of them long ago. A verse from the book of Ecclesiastes went through my mind,

"The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead" (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

And then I thought of the struggles, heartaches and pains they had experienced in their lives on earth, and I wondered how much they had accomplished in life that would have any real significance, or any lasting meaning. I wondered how many of them were in Heaven, and how many of them were in Hell on that cool November evening as I traipsed through the chilly marbled corridors of that foreboding building and the sun went down, leaving the pale light of a dying day filtering through the opaque stained glass windows.

At last I left, got in my car and drove away. But somber thoughts went with me as I left. And, then, this verse came to mind,

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal"
     (II Corinthians 4:18).

And then I realized that there is a message in this text which, not only illuminates my graveyard musings, but also speaks to every person, young and old, who is here with us in church tonight.

As I meditated on this verse, three thoughts came to mind.

I. First, the difference between "them" and "us."

The Apostle begins our text with the words, "While we look not at the things which are seen…" (II Corinthians 4:18). I want you to notice that he contrasts the difference between "them" and "us," or "them" and "we," in these chapters. He says,

"But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart" (II Corinthians 3:15).

By this he means that

"Their minds were blinded" (II Corinthians 3:14).

He tells us that this condition of blindness remains as they read the Scriptures. He concludes by saying,

"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" 
      (II Corinthians 4:3).

So, they have a vail covering their hearts. Their minds are blinded when they read the Bible. The truth and value of the gospel is "hid to them."

Then the Apostle contrasts "they" with "we." He says,

"We have such hope, we use great plainness of speech" 
      (II Corinthians 3:12).

He says,

"We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord" 
      (II Corinthians 4:5).

He says,

"God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6).

And, then, in our text it says,

"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…" (II Corinthians 4:18).

Do you see the contrast here between the saved and the lost? They have a vail covering their hearts. Their minds are blinded when they read the Bible. The truth and great value of the gospel is "hid to them." But "we have…hope."  "We preach…Christ Jesus the Lord." The light of God "hath shined in our hearts" to give us first-hand knowledge of Christ. "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen."

I cannot think of a clearer passage of Scripture than this on the difference between the saved and the lost. The difference is simple. The saved have faith. The lost do not have faith. They may have a head knowledge of the Bible, but they do not have faith. They may know the plan of salvation. They may know the facts of the gospel. But they do not have faith in Christ.

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

Dr. Ryrie said, "Faith is described in this great verse as the assurance (or reality)…of things hoped for, the conviction…of things not seen. Faith gives reality and proof of things unseen, treating them as if they were already objects of sight…"  (The Ryrie Study Bible, note on Hebrews 11:1).

This, then, is the difference between the saved and the lost. We have faith in Christ. They do not have faith in Him. They can only see the material world. But

"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…" (II Corinthians 4:18).

That's the first difference, the difference between those who have faith in Christ and those who do not have faith in Him.

If you do not have faith in Christ, your future is very dark. You are headed for a graveyard, and to Hell,

"Having no hope, and without God in the world"
     (Ephesians 2:12).

II. Second, the difference between the physical and the real.

Look again at our text,

"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…" (II Corinthians 4:18).

We have a depraved human tendency to treat what we see as real and what we do not see as unreal. This view has a name in philosophy. It is called "mechanistic materialism." It means that nothing exists but the material world, what you can see, feel and touch. But we say, as Christians, that modern mechanistic materialism is wrong. Dr. A. W. Tozer spoke of this in his marvelous essay, "The Bible World is the Real World." Dr. Tozer said,

    The world as the men and women of the Bible saw it was a personal world, warm, intimate, populated. Their world contained first of all the God who had created it, who still dwelt in it as in a sanctuary and who might be discovered walking among the trees of the garden if the human eyes were clear enough to see. And there were also present many beings sent of God to be ministers to them who were the heirs of salvation. They also recognized the presence of sinister forces which it was their duty to oppose and which they might conquer by an appeal to God in prayer…
     [But] today's world consists of wide and limitless spaces, having here and there at remote distances from each other blind and meaningless bodies controlled only by natural laws from which they can never escape. That world is cold and impersonal and completely without inhabitants except for man, the little shimmering ephemeral being that clings to the soil…
    The blind eyes of modern people cannot see the invisible but that does not destroy the reality of the spiritual creation. Unbelief has taken from us the comfort of a personal world. We have accepted the empty and meaningless world of science as the true one, forgetting that science is valid only when dealing with material things and can know nothing about God and the spiritual world…
    The Bible tells us of another world too fine for the instruments of scientific research to discover. By faith we engage that world and make it ours. It is accessible to us through the blood of the everlasting covenant. If we will believe we may even now enjoy the presence of God…

I thought about Dr. Tozer's essay as I walked through the cemetery to the mausoleum late last Wednesday afternoon. The trees were cold against the grey sky. The mausoleum was even chillier - hard, cold stone. There was no sound except my feet walking on the marble floor. This is the place to which your body goes if you do not have Christ,

"Having no hope, and without God in the world"
     (Ephesians 2:12).

But

"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…" (II Corinthians 4:18).

That is the difference between "them" and "us." They see only the material, only their job, only their school, only their earthly life. But we look to "things which are not seen."

III. Third, the difference between the temporary and the eternal.

Let us stand and read our text again.

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).

You may be seated.

Last Wednesday as I wandered through the cold corridors of that mausoleum, I read the names of those whose bodies had been placed in the walls behind cold marble slabs. I thought of their dreams and struggles in life, and I wondered what their lives had meant. Where were they now? Surely there was more to them than a shriveled mummy encased in stone. Were they with Christ? Were they in Hell? What had their lives stood for - if anything?

And then I thought about myself. Soon my body will lie in a grave like theirs. Soon the only memory of me will be inscribed on a stone. Soon there will be no one on earth who remembers me. Like the Pharaohs, whose tombs were long ago ravished and plundered, their mummified remains scattered to the four winds, so too would my name and memory be forever forgotten. So too would my life have been lived, my struggles endured, my triumphs come and gone - all for nothing - without Christ.

So you too must think beyond the temporary if you hope to become a Christian. You must lift up your head from the daily routine and answer that piercing question from Pontius Pilate,

"What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:22).

Your answer to that question will determine your eternal destiny.

"What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"

"For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Corinthians 4:3-18.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Is My Name Written There?" (by Mary A. Kidder, 1820-1905).


THE OUTLINE OF

THOUGHTS WHILE WANDERING
THROUGH A MAUSOLEUM

by Dr. Robert Hymers


"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).

(Ecclesiastes 9:3)

I.   First, the difference between "them" and "us,"
II Corinthians 4:18a; 3:15, 14; 4:3; 3:12; 4:5, 6;
Hebrews 11:1; Ephesians 2:12.

II.  Second, the difference between the physical and the real,
II Corinthians 4:18b; Ephesians 2:12.

III. Third, the difference between the temporary and the eternal,
II Corinthians 4:18c; Matthew 27:22.