Vol. 5, No. 5
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This time of year, Spring, is often associated with the time of Christ's resurrection. Rightfully so, for it was about this time of year when the Jewish Passover was observed, and it was during the time of Passover Jesus became our sacrificial "Lamb," as John the Baptist noted, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). By being crucified, the Creator of mankind (John 1:1-3), was now demonstrating his tremendous love for mankind and becoming the Savior of his church. He hung on the Cross, arguably the cruelest means of torture ever devised by man, for the space of about six hours before finally succumbing to death. He was buried in a borrowed tomb belonging to one Joseph of Arimathaea, but Jesus did not stay in the grave.
It has been said that every major world religion can point to a grave, but only Christianity's grave is empty! In modern times, there are those who attack the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No wonder! The resurrection is foundational to our Christianity. Without it, faith in him is void and meaningless. With it, we have hope! Consider Paul's instruction to the those of Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14:
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."
What would the world be like without the resurrection of Jesus? Paul took the unenviable position of "devil's advocate" in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 to answer this very question:
"Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."
What is the apostle Paul trying to say to the Corinthians? What applications can we gain from the study of the magnificent passage? First of all, if there is no resurrection, then the preaching of the Gospel is vain. (See verses 12-14.) According to Paul, the resurrection is central to the doctrine of Christ. This same Paul describes the Gospel as "...the power of God unto salvation..." (Romans 1:16). John also wrote in John 1:12, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." However, without the resurrection, none of these passages means anything, either to the Corinthians of the first century, or to us today. If Jesus died, was buried and never arose, he is then still in the tomb, and if he is still buried, then God was either unwilling or unable to raise him from the dead. Either way, we lose! Remember the Father loved Jesus more than any other. He told the disciples, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). If he refused to raise up Jesus, what makes us think he will raise us up?!
Secondly, if there is no resurrection, then the early disciples, including Jesus' own apostles, were liars. (See verse 15 of our text.) The apostle John wrote, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14, emphasis mine, SPS). These men were eyewitnesses to Jesus' teaching, miracles, compassion, etc., as well as his death burial and resurrection. Did you ever notice how the disciples scattered when Jesus was arrested? "And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" (Mark 14:27). For fear of the Jews, these men hid behind locked doors, cowering in terror, but then just fifty days later at the feast of Pentecost, we see Peter standing boldly in the midst of the same Jews who shouted for Jesus' crucifixion, and the apostle Peter lays out the facts of the whole situation. "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made this same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Rarely do we see such courage in men. It is not only noteworthy, but deserving of the highest praise. Yet never do men find such courage from falsehood. Lies do not make one bold.
Third, if there is no resurrection, there is no remission of sins. (See verses 16-17.) Old Testament sacrifices displayed the cost of sin. Through the law the Jews learned that "...the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23). Yet, even though they offered blood sacrifices year after year, they had to realize it was "not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin" (Hebrews 10:4). It was the supreme sacrifice of Jesus that paid the debt we could not pay. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9).
There is no power without the resurrection. In order to be our perfect sacrifice our Savior had to be able to conquer death. Acts 2:22-24 reads:
"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." (Emphasis mine, SPS.)
Jesus could not have been allowed to remain in the grave since the reason for death is sin, and Jesus was completely innocent of sin.
Finally, if there is no resurrection, there is no hope for eternity. (See verses 18-19.) What good would it do to be forgiven of sins, only to die at the end of this life and never know anything more? There is then no meaning to life at all, only utter despair and hopelessness. We are the most "miserable" of men if there is no resurrection. But, look at verse 20! "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." No more does Paul play the part of the "devil's advocate"!
Furthermore, the term "firstfruits" implies that there will be secondfruits. If one introduces someone to his "first" son, we can be assured he has at least one more son. Remember the Thessalonians were told:
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
In Acts 17:30-31, inspiration gives us this word of certainty:
"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Emphasis mine, SPS)
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine.
Heir of salvation, purchase of God.
Born of his spirit, washed in his blood.
This is my story, this is my song;
Praising my Savior all the day long...
Without the resurrection of Christ, we are indeed living in the gloomiest of worlds and are "of all men, most miserable." It is the single most important event in all of human history. Everything written in the Old Testament looks forward to it, and everything written after it looks backward to it. Satan may have appeared to gain a victory over Christ on the day of his crucifixion, but rising from the grave, Jesus cries, "All power hath been given unto me in heaven and in earth..." (Matthew 28:18). Because of his paying the cost for our sins, Jesus can authoritatively say:
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28).
He has the authority to say that, and we can take comfort and assurance in the fact that there is a day in which we, too, will be raised from the dead.
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).
Salvation is ours for the asking! We need only come to him in obedient faith and meet him on his terms. (See Mark 16:16.)