What the Resurrection
Means to Me!
By Evangelist Robert L. Sumner
“In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”
– Matthew 28:1-15
Joseph Ernest Renan (1823-1892) was a French religious historian and rationalist of the 19th century. He was, in the dictionary sense of the word, an infidel, although he studied for the priesthood, leaving the seminary on the eve of his ordination with the explanation that he had lost his faith. Seventeen years later he was appointed a teacher in the College de France but, following his first lecture on the character of Jesus, there was such a public outcry he was forced to resign the position. Eight years later he was reinstated and in another 12 years became director of the college.
A proficient and popular author, he wrote the seven volume Histoire de Origines du Christianisme (a history of Christianity, which took him 30 years to write), the five volume Histoire du Peuple d’ Israel (a history of the people of Israel), plus a number of other titles, including books on the Apostle Paul, the early church, the antichrist and the end of the ancient world. His most popular work widely translated and selling 300,000 copies in France alone, was La Vie de Jesus (the life of Jesus). He was inspired for the latter work by reading David F. Strauss’ book of the same title and Renan portrayed Jesus as a mere man, nothing more. The book was a total distortion of the biblical record.
When Renan finished his life of Christ he concluded with the crucifixion. Then he wrote the word “Finir,” which is French for finish and by which Renan meant to convey the idea that the crucifixion ended everything. It was all over, finished, ended. Renan’s publisher, perhaps an even bigger infidel, put underneath that word “Finir” a woodcut showing as dismal a picture of Christ on the cross as he could find. His friends had deserted Him; His head was drooping and blood streaked. His face was unrecognizable, His hair was matted, and in the background were dark storm clouds and birds circling like vultures waiting to attack a carcass. Everything about the scene spelled total defeat.
There is a sense in which Jesus did die that way and He Himself shouted “Finished!” when He died. But it was not the life of Jesus that was finished, merely the redemption He came to provide. As for His life, three days and three nights later, “up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.” This is the clear-cut teaching of the Word of God.
Is the Bible wrong? Was Renan right?
During World War II, a Los Angeles municipal court judge wrote in a liberal religious paper: “What about the resurrection story? According to the record the dead body was re-animated and left the tomb. Not only so, but the risen Jesus in that re-animated body saw and conversed with the disciples and others … Is all this fact or fiction? It is told as if it were fact. Who knows? Do you? Does anybody?”
What a hopeless philosophy! His Honor should have consulted the top experts in his own field: lawyers, judges, professors of law and Supreme Court judges who have investigated the record.
For example, one of Indiana’s great attorney generals, Daniel Pratt Baldwin, wrote: “Jesus Christ … taught immortality through His resurrection from the dead, which was His crowning miracle. Without the resurrection the future life is only a dreary perhaps. No right-minded man, not even a so-called skeptic, can deny the immense indebtedness of humanity to Him, or His supreme title to the sweetest words tongue ever uttered – Our Savior!”
Theophilus Parsons, who was the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in his day, declared: “I examined and weighed the proofs and objections to Christianity many years ago with the accuracy of a lawyer, and the result was entirely a conviction of its truth.”
One of America’s all-time greatest statesmen, Daniel Webster, a Supreme Court lawyer, Congressman, Senator, and even candidate for President with the Whig Party, declared a few hours before his death: “What could the condition of any of us be if we had not the hope of immortality? … Thank God, ‘Jesus Christ … brought life and immortality to light,’ rescued it – brought it to light.”
Dr. Simon Greenleaf, professor of law at Harvard University and one of the foremost legal authorities this country has ever produced in all of her gloried history, examined the resurrection story “by the rules of evidence administered in courts of justice,” and then wrote a book to defend the whole life of Christ, particularly the resurrection record. In that work Greenleaf said: “All that Christianity asks of men … is that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions, in human tribunals. Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances, and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to a rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.”
But we are not just interested in what lawyers, judges, professors, historians or even preachers have to say. The important thing, the settling thing, is what the Word of God says. Note carefully the divine record:
“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. HE IS NOT HERE: FOR HE IS RISEN, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:5, 6, emphasis added).
“And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: HE IS RISEN; HE IS NOT HERE: behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6, emphasis added).
“And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? HE IS NOT HERE, BUT IS RISEN: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee” (Luke 24:5, 6, emphasis added).
“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I AM NOT YET ASCENDED TO MY FATHER: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ASCEND UNTO MY FATHER, AND YOUR FATHER; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:15-17, emphasis added).
“BUT NOW IS CHRIST RISEN FROM THE DEAD, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (I Corinthians 15:20, emphasis added).
And these are just samples. How clear, how sure, how positive is the Word of God regarding the victorious resurrection of the Son of God on that first Easter morning! No child of God has any difficulty believing the divine record. Understandably, those who have never been born again have a problem with it because they have no personal understanding or relationship with the One involved. It is like the English missionary who, years ago when communication was very limited, tried to explain to a Burmese prince what winter was like in his native Europe, describing skiing, skating on frozen ponds, the bitter and biting cold which required heavy clothing to keep from freezing to death, plus other matters peculiar to a cold climate.
Of course, what the missionary said about his country’s climate was a reality even though the Burmese repudiated the claim. His problem was that he knew nothing about it through personal experience and so he could not accept it. By the same token, until one knows the Son of God through a vital personal relationship, he may have trouble accepting the reality of biblical facts – especially such a wondrous miracle as Christ’s physical resurrection through His own power after being dead and buried for three days and three nights.
Although indicating in the title of this message I would present what the resurrection means to me, I want it very carefully understood at the start that I am not giving my opinions about it, but I am basing my convictions upon God’s revelation. In other words, I totally accept the Word of God, the “It Is Written!” of divine inspiration.
First of all,
I. THE RESURRECTION IS
GOD’S GUARANTEE TO
ME OF CHRIST’S DEITY!
My big book, Jesus Christ IS God, could never have been written without the firm persuasion that Jesus Christ rose from the grave. The Apostle Paul, writing to the saints at Rome, described our Lord’s humanity and His deity in his opening paragraph, saying: “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And DECLARED TO BE THE SON OF GOD WITH POWER, according to the spirit of holiness, BY THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD” (Romans 1:3, 4, emphasis added). His humanity came from the house and lineage of David, the tribe of Judah, but His deity was proved by His “resurrection from the dead.”
In the Old Testament, Psalm 2:7 says, “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” The fact that this prophetically looked forward to the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave was emphasized by the Apostle Paul when preaching at Antioch. He declared: “But God raised him from the dead … And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:30, 32-33).
The late Rueben Archer Torrey, world famous evangelist and educator who headed up several Bible schools and wrote voluminously, declared: “If Jesus arose from the dead He is beyond peradventure the Son of God. That is what He claimed to be. He was put to death for making that claim. Before His death He said that God would set His seal to that claim by raising Him from the dead, and this very thing God did. It is more clearly demonstrated by the resurrection that Jesus is the Son of God, than if God should shout it every night from the heavens. Faith in the deity of Christ does not rest upon theological or philosophic speculations, but upon an established fact. The one who denies the deity of Christ is unscientific. He shuts his eyes to facts and their evident meaning. Once settle it that Jesus arose from the dead, and Christianity is all settled upon a foundation that is impregnable. And it is settled that ‘now is Christ risen from the dead’.”
Others Promised, Failed!
It would be impossible to tabulate all the self-proclaimed messiahs who have promised to come back from the dead or even send word back, but have totally, completely failed! The same is true with those who have been involved in spiritism, or the occult, or who have tried for other reasons to come back from the dead or send a message back.
For example, every year on a set date a friend of the late Clarence Darrow went to Chicago and sought to summon the spirit of that departed agnostic. Darrow had promised before he died that after death he would make every effort to send back information concerning the hereafter. The entire project was a total failure.
For more than a decade, Mrs. Harry Houdini, the widow of the well-known magician and escape artist, tried to establish contact with her husband’s spirit, but she failed completely.
As long as he was able, at exactly 12:30 p.m. every April 13th at the Greenlawn Mausoleum in Columbus, Ohio, Claude Noble of Detroit attempted to contact the spirit of his friend, Howard Thurston, a famous magician, by holding a picture of a mutual friend, explorer Carveth Wells, in his hand, saying, “Howard Thurston, I am here in fulfillment of our pact.” Then he waited unsuccessfully for Thurston’s spirit to knock the picture from his hand. After a reasonable wait, he would promise, “I will be back next year.”
The founder of that Christ-dethroning, devilish, dishonoring-to-God, blasphemous “Christian Science” cult, Mary Baker Eddy, was said to have had a telephone installed in her tomb so she could report back to her followers. We were never able to confirm this fact and perhaps it is only a rumor, but if it were installed the installation charge and monthly fees were “money down the drain.” It never rang.
Incidentally, this cultist who was subject to fits and whose father made her a specially-constructed cradle so she could be rocked to sleep even after becoming a full-grown woman, said that Jesus Christ didn’t die on the cross, but was alive in the tomb demonstrating the truth of Christian Science!
Perhaps that is what she is doing now!
Ah, but our Lord Jesus did what no one else could do: He arose from the dead! The reason He was able to do this when others couldn’t rested in the fact that He was someone no one else ever was: the Divine Son of Almighty God!
What If He Hadn’t Risen?
If Jesus Christ had not risen from the grave, He would have proven Himself to be an imposter, a fraud, a fake, a would-be deceiver of souls. His integrity, His trustworthiness depended upon His resurrection. He was not even a good man if He were not God.
During His earthly ministry, He claimed that His resurrection from the grave would be the single sign of His deity. The proof that He was God did not rest in His miracles, His wondrous teachings, His unique life, or even His sinlessness. No, it was that He would come back from the dead by His own power.
This truth is recorded in Matthew 12:38-40, “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Even His transformation on the Mount of Olives before Peter, James and John was simply a preview of the glory He would have after His resurrection. And because of this, those three disciples were commanded, “Tell the vision to no man, until the son of man be risen again from the dead” (Matthew 17:9).
As I point out in my Jesus Christ IS God, the very title “Lord” emphasizes His deity. Yet are you aware that the title “Lord Jesus” was never used until He arose from the dead? He was called “Lord” before the resurrection and He was called “Jesus,” of course, because that was His human name. But in all the Gospels you will not find the titles together, “Lord Jesus,” until the resurrection had become a reality.
The first time the titles are used together is in Luke 24 and it explains the empty tomb the women discovered early that first Easter morning. Luke 24:2, 3 reveal: “And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.” As soon as that tomb was empty, He was called “the Lord Jesus.” And from that time on throughout the remainder of the New Testament, He is repeatedly described by that title. In fact, from then on all the glory due Him is given Him: He is “the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Christ had been risen for more than a week when the Apostle Thomas saw Him for the first time. Yet the moment he met Him, he cried out truthfully, even though he said he “would not believe” without the physical proof of touching, “My Lord and MY GOD” (John 20:28, emphasis added). No wonder the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been called “the Gibraltar of faith and the Waterloo of unbelief!”
Someone tells of a cultured young woman who sought repeated interviews with a minister of the gospel, complaining that she wanted to trust Christ but could not intellectually accept the teaching that Jesus Christ arose from the dead, as the Bible claims. On one of those visits the man of God asked her what she thought of Jesus Christ apart from the claim of His resurrection. She enthusiastically responded, “He is one altogether lovely, the fairest among ten thousand. I find no fault in Him. Everything about His character and about His teachings appeals strongly to me.”
The minister responded, “Then if He is deity and His resurrection a reality, wouldn’t you like to know it?” Receiving an affirmative answer, the clergyman challenged her, perhaps on the basis of Christ’s challenge in John 7:17, “Go alone and tell Him about your intellectual difficulties and your doubts, but also tell Him that if He is what the Bible claims Him to be, you want to know it and to yield yourself totally to Him.”
The following day she was back with her countenance shining like an angel, exclaiming to the preacher: “I do not have outside proof that Jesus arose from the dead, but I know in my heart that He is alive, for He has made me alive.”
This is the experiential evidence every child of God has in his or her own heart. In the word of Alfred H. Ackley,
“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus
He walks with me and talks with me
along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart!”
Can you say the same?
II. THE RESURRECTION IS
GOD’S GUARANTEE TO ME
OF MY OWN SALVATION!
That open, empty tomb outside Jerusalem’s city wall is the pledge I have from Almighty God that my sins are blotted out and my eternal Home in Heaven is assured. It is the guarantee that He is able to fulfill His promise of John 14:2, 3: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Peter was enthusing about this very fact when he wrote to the scattered disciples: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope BY THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:3, 4, emphasis added).
It is the resurrection of Christ that one must believe in order to be saved. In that great tenth chapter of Romans, the salvation chapter, Paul wrote: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt BELIEVE IN THINE HEART THAT GOD HATH RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Vss. 9, 10, emphasis added). Earlier in the epistle He declared: “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:23-25).
The same truth was emphasized by Paul in his sermon at Antioch. He quoted from David in Psalm 16 and noted that David died and “saw corruption.” Then, referring to our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul declared: “But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:37-39). It is because Christ arose from the dead without seeing physical corruption that He is able to do what the Law of Moses could not do, namely, grant forgiveness of sin.
Quite frankly, Jesus Christ could not be much help if His bones were still rotting in an Oriental tomb. There would not be much hope in a dead Savior and we would still be in our sins. Paul uses this very fact as one of his arguments in that great resurrection chapter of I Corinthians 15, saying in verse 15, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”
When the Heavenly Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead it proved that He was satisfied with the Son’s offering for your sin and mine. Jesus Christ died on the cross as the Sacrificial Lamb. John the Baptist introduced Him to the multitudes where He was baptizing by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The resurrection is the evidence that His sacrifice was accepted.
Shortly after the end of the second global conflict, an American minister was talking to an employee of the Commercial Cable Company of London. After a brief conversation about other matters, the minister inquired if the young man, who was about 35 years of age, had a family. When he responded in the affirmative, the American said, “Tell me about it. I am interested in families. How many children do you have?”
“We have one girl left.”
“One left? How many did you have?”
“We had three; two boys and one girl. Then came the German blitz and the German bombs destroyed every home in our area for blocks. We were blown out; our home was completely destroyed. In the darkness my wife and I finally found our little girl, not seriously injured, and we tried to find our boys. One was never located, probably blown to bits. But while we were digging through the rubble, suddenly I heard a weak cry, “Papa! Papa! Oh, papa! Oh, papa!”
We redoubled our efforts and eventually pulled his bleeding, battered body out from the heap of rubbish. He was covered with filth and blood, and when we lifted him out he briefly opened his eyes, looked into my face – he was only four years old – and exclaimed pitifully, ‘Papa, why did they want to kill me? Why did they want to kill me?’ His eyes dropped shut and never opened again.”
That broken father said, “The next day I knelt beside his little white casket and I went to Calvary. I thought I had been there before as I have been a Christian since boyhood, but that morning I went to the foot of the cross and heard another Son cry, ‘Why did they want to kill Me?’ I heard another Son say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?’”
Listen! That was all in vain, it was all to no avail, unless Jesus Christ rose again. The suffering of Calvary, the crown of thorns and the beating with the Roman cat-o-nine-tails, the beard plucked out by the roots, the spittle in His face, the nails driven into His hands and feet, the spear into His side bringing forth blood and water, the spiritual anguish of being separated for the first and only time in all eternity from the Father, the bearing of the terrible load of the world’s sin with its terrible curse – all of this was vain, to no avail, unless He rose from the dead.
Only a living Savior can forgive sin and save sinners. Hebrews 7:25 puts it like this: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, SEEING HE EVER LIVETH TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR THEM” (emphasis added).
Thank God, He is alive!
A dear Christian lady wanted to reach a Chinese immigrant who had moved into her neighborhood. In spite of several efforts, she seemingly could not arouse the slightest interest on his part. Then, recalling what she had heard about the remarkable ability of the Chinese for prodigious feats of memory – and that the Bible says “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” – she got him to promise to memorize the first three chapters of the Gospel of John.
Before a full week was past, the Chinese gentleman was at her door, his face beaming. He exclaimed, “I knocked one day at the door of Confucius and cried, ‘Explain to me the dynamic of your teachings that I might obey them,’ but there were no answers save the echo of an empty tomb. It was the same with Gautama Buddha and the whole world knows where Mohammed lies buried. But as I read this Book, I was suddenly seized with the overwhelming conviction that its Author was not dead, but alive! I want you to know that I have taken Him as my personal Savior.”
Ah, that is it! And the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave is Almighty God’s guarantee to me of my own salvation and home in Heaven. As the late William Jennings Bryan, 3-time Democrat candidate for President, expressed it, by His resurrection “He has transformed death into a narrow, star-lit strip between the companionship of yesterday and the reunion of tomorrow.”
III. THE RESURRECTION IS
GOD’S GUARANTEE TO
ME OF MY RESURRECTION!
Isn’t this what Christ promised His disciples? In John 14:19 He said, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” Our living is dependent upon His living. If He ceased to exist at Calvary, there is absolutely no hope whatsoever that we will live beyond the grave, either.
Paul put it like this in Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” And he said again, in II Corinthians 4:14, “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”
In that great resurrection chapter, I Corinthians 15, referred to earlier in the message, Paul said in verse 20, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” What did he mean by the first-fruits? To put it into the words of another, “The first ripe sheaf is an earnest and sample of the harvest, consecrated to God and laid up with Him in anticipation of the rest. The resurrection has begun.”
The resurrection of Christ was that first sheaf. The fact that He arose again is a guarantee that a complete harvest will eventually transpire and that all those who have put their faith and trust in Him will arise again. He, the Lord of the harvest, will call the bodies of every saint from their earthly tombs and we will dwell with Him for ever more.
Some years ago in a large church in downtown Los Angeles, a woman named Mrs. F. J. Cressey taught in the primary department. A devout and spiritual woman, she told a story of a lad in her class who had come to know Christ but his mother was unconverted and, apparently, totally disinterested. Yet the woman had a terrible fear of death. In fact, the reason she refused to attend church was due to her concern that she would hear a discussion of the subject.
When the Easter season rolled around and Mrs. Cressey taught her class its meaning, the lad ran all the way home and burst into the room where his mother was, shouting, “Mother! Mother! You need not be afraid to die. Jesus went through the grave and left a light behind Him.”
Nothing happened at the time, but the mother could not get away from those words. Shortly after this a neighbor invited her to attend some revival meetings and when the invitation was given, she went forward and surrendered her heart and life to Jesus Christ. She would never have done this – in fact, she would have never attended the revival meeting where she was almost certain to hear about death – if it had not been for the way her heart had been prepared through the testimony of her son.
Interestingly enough, Mrs. Cressey said that the lad had prayed, the night his mother attended the service, “Please, dear God, make my Momma a Christian, and do it right off quick.” And that night was the night she was saved!
The fear of death disappears when one comes into contact with the Lord who lives. Arthur Brisbane, in his picturesque way, described a crowd of grieving caterpillars carrying the corpse of a cocoon to its final resting place. He pictured the distressed caterpillars weeping and wailing, clad in their funeral raiment, and all the time this was transpiring, the beautiful butterfly was fluttering above, forever freed from its former earthly house.
Obviously, Brisbane wanted Christians to know that when their loved ones depart from life, it is not a tragedy, but a joyful and triumphant event. How foolish to center our attention upon the earthly house and ignore the liberated spirit already in Heaven with Christ.
Paul said again: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (I Corinthians 15:42-44).
Did you know that, in a very real and scientific sense, there is no such thing as annihilation? It is totally impossible to destroy as much as a single atom, no matter how hard you try. For example, if you burn your house to the ground and then take the ashes aloft in a B-747, scattering them over the Pacific Ocean, you would have not destroyed a thing. The only thing you would have done would be to change the form of what existed and still exists. You can turn solids into gases and gases into solids, but you cannot annihilate anything!
What a tremendous truth: because He lives, I shall live also! In what may have been the first Scripture ever written, the Book of Job, we find that saved sinner’s testimony: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (19:25, 26).
What a truth! No wonder the early Christians in North Africa, when they repeated together the Apostles’ Creed in their service and came to the words, “I believe … in the resurrection of body,” would raise their hand and with two fingers point to themselves. It was their way of expressing a positive conviction that through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, especially His victory over death, they themselves would be resurrected with their same body, though miraculously transformed.
Can you join them in saying, “I believe in the resurrection of this, my body”? You can if the truth of Christ’s resurrection grips your soul.
IV. THE RESURRECTION IS
GOD’S GUARANTEE TO ME
OF RETRIBUTION FOR SINNERS
WHO REJECT CHRIST,
WHO SPURN THE GOSPEL!
It broke up the meeting at Mars Hill, but Paul, in his sermon to the Athenians assembled at the Areopagus, warned, “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” (Acts 17:31). In addition to its thrilling blessings, that open, empty tomb is God’s guarantee that judgment is coming!
Peter said the same thing in Acts 10 when addressing the crowd in Cornelius’ home. Referring to Jesus of Nazareth, he said “Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly … And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead” (Vss. 40, 42).
You see, Easter is God’s guarantee to the sinner that he cannot get by with his sin. It is going to catch up with him. It will find him out and slay him, eventually.
Some years back a novelist wrote of a cultured young Danish man who seduced a girl and enticed her to travel with him though the Swiss mountains. He felt that in such an area where they were unknown their sin would never be exposed. However, the writer had them come around a bend in the Alps and suddenly he was brought face-to-face with one of the many crucifixes pious people have erected in that area.
Rather than being smitten with guilt and repentance at the reminder of the Redeemer who suffered so greatly for him, the youth was filled with rage. Acting upon impulse, he whipped his revolver from its holster and shot at the wooden figure before him, the bullets piercing the side of the image.
Yet that action could not destroy Christ or help the young sinner escape the consequence of an inevitable meeting with Him. Pilate’s washing of his hands could not do it. The Roman soldiers, piercing Him with nails and spear and a crown of thorns, could not do it. The execution by the Roman government could not do it. No, Christ lives and one day every sinner will stand before Him to give an account for both personal sin and willful rejection.
It is the natural tendency of man to put all thoughts of judgment out of his mind. People simply do not like to think about it. Yet ignoring it is certainly not the answer.
An ancient writer tells of a bridge at Bath that had not been cared for in years. In fact, it had become so old and rickety that cautious individuals preferred to travel considerably out of their way and take another bridge across the river. On one occasion, however, a lady came to the spot in a great hurry, then suddenly remembered the untrustworthy state of the bridge. She did not want to take the time to go another way and yet she was fearful the bridge would not hold her weight. What should she do?
She ordered a sedan chair and was carried across in that conveyance. Do you say that surely such a thing did not happen? Perhaps it didn’t, we cannot say for sure; we were not there. But we do know that such action would be no more irresponsible than what sinners are doing today, hoping to escape a facing of Almighty God in judgment. God raised up Christ from the dead to make men remember the Bible truth: “JUDGMENT IS COMING!”
There are other things we might say about the resurrection of Christ. It is God’s guarantee of the inspiration of the Scripture, His promise of a new life, His pledge of Christ’s High Priestly ministry – plus a host of other things. Suffice it to say, in the words of verse 6 of our text, “He is not here; for he is risen, as he said!”
Those are wonderful words of life for believers, but they are tragic words when spoken of human hearts. Irene Hammer expressed it beautifully when she wrote:
“’He is not here’ – what wonderful words
When spoken at Jesus grave;
Marvelous proof of a risen Lord,
One who is mighty to save!
“’He is not here’ – what terrible words
When spoken of human hearts;
Empty and barren and hopeless that life
Where Jesus has no part.
“’He is not here’ – in many hearts
Though He died and rose ‘tis true,
If you welcome Him now, you may surely know
That He died and rose for you.
“’He is not here’ – is that true of your heart?
Have you crowded out God’s dear Son?
Make room for Him now – the King of Kings,
‘Tis Jesus – the Chosen One.”
How is it with you? Remember, Romans 10:9, 10 declare: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Trust Him today before another Easter passes. As Joe Henry Hankins used to say, “If you are not saved, nothing else matters.