Sermon: The Resurrection: A Central Pillar
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 09-Apr-16; 70 minutes
In the church of God, we have not bothered too much with creeds. We have not constructed a creed—the Bible is our creed. Why should we have something else?
Other Christian churches teach various creeds. People learn them in their Sunday school classes, or if the church has a catechism class, they usually learn it in that.
If you do not know what a creed is in particular, a creed is "an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief (as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed)." The significant part of that which we need to understand: "an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief."
Creeds in time past were often formulated to be memorized because, when they were making these creeds, a lot of the people were illiterate, and they needed to be able to memorize these short phrases about the beliefs that the church held so that they could recite them from memory. They have a kind of a sing-song sound to them.
Bottom line, a creed is just a concise statement of beliefs. We publish a "Statement of Beliefs" both on the website and on paper. It is in the back half of our Preparing the Bride booklet. But, as I said, we are just saying what the Bible says. That is our real creed.
I do want to go into one of these creeds, though, just for a little bit, and that is the Apostles’ Creed. It is thought to be the earliest formal Christian statement of belief. The later Nicene Creed (you heard Mike Ford talk about the Council of Nicea in 325 AD) was finally formulated after that—in 381 AD. The reason it had to be changed from the Apostles’ Creed is that they changed doctrine very substantially in the Nicene Creed. Particularly, they added the Trinity doctrine, so much had to change in that section of the creed.
But the Apostles’ Creed has its origins in the second century. Because of that, it is unlikely that any of the apostles of the first century (Peter, John, James, Paul, and Jude) had anything to do with it because they did not live that long. None of them, as far as we know, lived into the second century at all. If any of them did, it was John and just a little bit.
But what the creed has done, we could say, looking at it from a historical point of view, is to provide an early confirmation of what a majority of professing Christians believed in those first few centuries, particularly in the second century. As one resource put it, the Apostles’ Creed summarized what the apostles taught. In most regards, I would say that the Apostle’s Creed is correct. It is early enough—before the Catholic Church got its hands in all the doctrines—that the creed actually does pretty much re-state what was believed in the first century.
But, in the eyes of Catholics and Protestants, the Apostles’ Creed contains a glaring omission: It lacks any semblance of Trinitarianism. There is no Trinity in the Apostle’s Creed. In fact, in reference to the Holy Spirit, it simply reads, in Latin, Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, which translated is “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Very simple. And it does not go on, as the later Nicene Creed does (which “corrects” the Apostles’ Creed very roughly), adding that the Holy Spirit is a divine Person and gives a title, “The Lord, the Giver of Life” to the Holy Spirit, and also asserts in plain black and white that the Holy Spirit has equality in worship and glory with the Father and the Son. So, it is a fully Trinitarian creed once you get to the Nicene Creed in the later fourth century.
What it indicates to us is that the Trinity is not original to biblical Christianity. They did not believe that in the first century. They did not put it in the creed in the second century. But sometime between the second century and the fourth century, things changed a great deal. And we know from history that the Trinity doctrine was formulated and accepted by the Catholic church in the fourth century (as I said, in the Council of Nicea).
Now I want to start to bear down a little bit, get into this Apostle’s Creed, but only in the section that corresponds to Jesus Christ and the belief about that. I want to read about six lines of the creed, it does not take very long, but I want you to see what is said in this Apostles’ Creed.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his [the Father’s] only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
That is it. That is the full length of the creed in terms of Jesus Christ. It gives us the gist of the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and the present and future work of Christ. It covers all of that, all the way from his incarnation to Judgment Day, as we would say.
What I want to begin to focus on here and get to the real subject of what I am going to talk about today, directly in the middle of that list of things that the creed talks about, is His resurrection—His resurrection to Spirit life after three days and three nights in the tomb. His earthly life led up to His sacrificial death for our redemption. His resurrection (the next thing that occurred) was the springboard (we would call it maybe the vital element or the pivot point) that made all His present work and future work possible. If we were to just stop at His sacrificial death and go no further (without the resurrection), we have a dead Savior, and He would have remained a dead Savior. And a dead Savior can save no one. But we have hope.
Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them [meaning He is alive now, and He has been resurrected and is in heaven, so He can mediate for us].
What I want to go through today is to show that the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ from the dead is central to Christianity. I am going to give you a lot of basic stuff here. This is going to be a very basic sermon. It is probably not going to tell you very much that you do not know already.
I think we tend to shy away from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, especially in this spring season, for the same reasons that Mike went through in his sermonette. The Protestant and Catholic churches out there put so much emphasis on the resurrection that we tend to draw back from it. We do it unconsciously—we do not want to be like them. So we do not talk about it an awful lot, in this season of the year especially.
We tend to talk about the resurrection a lot in the fall, especially around the Day of Trumpets, because that is when the first resurrection is going to occur in God's plan. But what about Christ’s resurrection makes that resurrection possible? Because without His resurrection, none of us can follow Him. Of course, in this season of the year, in the springtime, we are thinking about the Passover which commemorates His death. We do not think very much about what happens after. We may mention it a time or two, but we often do not really study into it after that because we are thinking about what the Passover means. Then we get past the Passover, and immediately, we start thinking about the Days of Unleavened Bread. But His resurrection occurred within those Days of Unleavened Bread. Even so, we tend to emphasize getting rid of sin rather than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So, on the 1985th anniversary of Christ’s resurrection, which will be coming up in less than a month, I hope this sermon will refresh our understanding of the importance of the resurrection to the church as a whole and to each of us as individuals. It is going to be basic. I do not think there will be very much that you have not heard before. But I hope that it helps to be a bit of a refresher.
Before diving into the doctrine of the resurrection, though, what I want to do is take a backward journey through the New Testament. I want to go back step by step to see how the resurrection was used in the church and how important and vital it was to the gospel message itself. So I am going to go backwards through it so we can kind of go back to the source and see that the doctrine remained very true to what was originally taught—all the way through the New Testament.
Maybe this is kind of an outgrowth of my last sermon on “Proofs of the Resurrection,” but we will see that the doctrine was not late at all in being part of what was taught in the church. It was actually taught right at the beginning, and even before the beginning of the church, by Christ Himself. But there are some important things that we will see as we go backward through the New Testament. So, as secondary purpose, we will see how primary this doctrine has been throughout the church’s teaching, especially in the first century. So let us go to the book of Revelation—start at the end.
The book of Revelation is generally considered to be the last written of all the books of the New Testament (and of the Bible, therefore). So this is the last one that was put down and put into the canon of the Bible. It was written by the apostle John who had worked very hard for the church (for more than sixty years, by this point). He was an old man. He probably was in his 80s at least, depending on how old he was when he was called (if he was somewhere around 30, he would be 90-something at this point, so he was an old man). He had been through a lot. He had been boiled in oil one time and survived through God’s strength and miraculous deliverance.
He had been on the Isle of Patmos. He had spent a lot of years traveling. He had been pastor of the church in Ephesus for a while. He had gone through a lot of things in his life, and this was toward the end of an era. Once he died—all the original apostles were dead—a curtain goes down on the history of the church, as Mr. Armstrong said. And when it rises the next time, it is an entirely different church. So here we are, at the end of that era, and let us see what he says here. Revelation 1:12-18.
Revelation 1:12-13 Then I [John] turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man . . .
This is sixty-five years after the event, and John sees the Son of Man, the One who was put into the grave. But He is no longer like that One that was put into the grave. And he describes Him.
Revelation 1:13-14 . . . clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and His hair were white like wool . . .
The Jesus that went into the tomb had hair, as far as we know, that was not white. Some have thought He was a blonde. Some have thought He was a redhead. Some have thought He had darker brown hair. Some have thought He had hair just like anybody else—nothing special about Him.
Revelation 1:14 [But now He has hair that is] white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.
Ever seen a person, a human being, with eyes with a flame of fire? Well, this Being that John sees has fiery eyes, quite different from a human being.
Revelation 1:15-17 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. . .
It was so shocking, so powerful an experience that he fainted. It knocked him out.
Revelation 1:17-18 . . . But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives [notice the present tense], and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” [or, to put it a different way, “I have the keys of the grave and of death”].
So John sees this vision of a glorified Christ so much different from the Friend who died on the cross and went into the tomb, and whom he saw afterward for forty days. But He did not look like this—because He was toning things down to be amongst the disciples. But here he sees Him in His glory—what He looks like in heaven—and it just amazes him.
This is the power of the resurrection. This is what happens when someone goes through the change from human to Spirit. More than that, though, not just the look of the person, it is the power. The Son of Man is no longer bound by the flesh. He has so much power, not only to radiate like the sun in full strength, but He has the power over the grave and over death. He is unstoppable. Not even mankind’s most implacable enemy has anything on Him. It cannot stand up to Him at all because He has gone right through death like it is tissue paper. And that is the message that He gave to John.
John was afraid. John was an old man. He knew that his time was close, and these kinds of things were very startling to him and affected him deeply. But Jesus said: “There’s no need to be afraid. John, you’re going to die, but you don’t need to worry about that because I have the keys of Hades and Death. They don’t hold Me back. You will live again.”
Those words there, in verses 17 and 18, should give us great comfort as well. Because that same Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, who sits at the Father’s right hand, still holds that power. This is in the last book of the Bible, and that is the message that is still going out all these years after the church was founded in 31 AD. So, roughly 65 years later, the apostle John is still going strong with this message. Christ went into the grave, but Christ came out of the grave, and that means that we can have life eternal—because the same thing can happen to us.
Let us go to I Peter 1. By doing so, we jump back 30 years from the book of Revelation—if we have our dating right on these books—because Peter wrote this epistle in the mid-60s AD (some say 65 AD, perhaps 66 or 67 AD, but no later than right around there because Peter died about that time). So here we are, 30 years earlier than the book of Revelation. Notice what he begins with after his opening salutation: “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus.” Go to verse 3. He opens with this:
I Peter 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.
Now we will drop down to verse 18.
I Peter 1:18-21 Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and [your] hope are in God [All this was done for us].
So he sets the tone for his entire epistle with this opening salvo, in verses 3 through 6, and then continuing on, as he nears the end of the chapter, by reminding them not only of His crucifixion and death that covers our sins, but that He rose from the dead and is alive now, and now we have “a living hope” (he says there in verse 3), which is very interesting.
What does it mean to have a living hope? Well, that means that the Hope is alive. Our hope is in a living being. The Being that is our Hope is alive. He is not dead and left in a grave. This Hope is a Person, Jesus Christ. And because He is alive—not just the fact that He rose from the dead and lived again, but the fact that He still lives and will always live—gives us hope that we will follow in His footsteps—because He promises to give us life like His if we keep our faith in Him to the end. We will see in various other places that these points keep getting repeated over and over again so that we understand what the doctrine really means to us.
But notice verse 5: “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation.” That is the point that keeps coming up over and over again in terms of the resurrection from the dead, that we are kept (meaning "secured"; our place is assured) through the power of God through faith to our belief—our continued belief in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and in the work He is doing—and that we are going to follow Him, as best we can, to live the life that He lives.
We are going to switch apostles here. Go to II Timothy 2, written right about the time that I Peter was. Paul is writing to this evangelist, Timothy, giving him some pointers on how to pastor a church, and he reminds him about this particular doctrine.
II Timothy 2:7-13 Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel [meaning according to the good news that I preached to you], for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory [and that is through the resurrection of the dead]. This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him [meaning he is talking particularly about baptism here], we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him [so now he adds a reward to all of this]. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful [He is still going to try to win us back]; He cannot deny Himself [He cannot deny His character and His desire to have you in the Kingdom with Him].
But this was a hope that Paul was reminding Timothy of, to bolster, to gird up his ministry on top of this central pillar of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. “Don’t forget,” he says, “that this doctrine is a basis for everything that we believe and hope in—that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. And because He rose and because we believe in Him, we will also rise with Him and have the great reward of reigning with Him in His Kingdom.” So "remain faithful" is the watchword there. Paul is saying here that a large part of his preaching of the gospel was letting people know the glorious news that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.
Many people have died as saviors of people. They have saved them from various harm—or death even. But Jesus went beyond all other saviors by returning from the dead and ascending to heaven. No savior had ever done anything like that. Not even close. And not only did He ascend to heaven, but He is there to complete our salvation through sanctification. He is not just there twiddling his thumbs waiting for His Father to say, “Oh, go ahead, go back.” But He is hard at work sanctifying us, as the Head of the church, making sure that we will make it—that we will be there. But all that is only possible through the resurrection of the dead. As Paul says, He remains ever-faithful to the task He has been given because He wants to reward us with power and a crown in the Kingdom of God.
Let us go back in time a little bit to I Corinthians 15, the resurrection chapter. We are going back over 10 years, to 55 AD, and Paul is still preaching this very central doctrine to the Corinthians here. He feels like he needs to give them a full rundown of the doctrine, and it takes him about fifty-eight verses to give them a good understanding of what the doctrine of the resurrection is all about. We are going to read verses 1-5 only for now because I want to show you how he began this particular passage.
I Corinthians 15:1-5 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
So here we have, especially in verses 3-5, a recitation of some beliefs, some doctrines—maybe what we call the "gist"—of what he taught when he preached the gospel to them. So what was the gist of what he taught? The gist of what he taught was that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures and this was verified by the fact that He was seen by the apostles who were eyewitnesses of His resurrection.
Many people think that this was an early Apostles’ Creed, but there is really no proof of that. He is just basically telling them the kernel of what he taught when he went anywhere. When he went to Corinth, this was what he taught: He taught that Christ died, and that He was buried, and three days later He rose from the dead, and the apostles all saw Him. Then he gets to the fact, down a little bit later, that he had seen Him too. And so they were living proof at that time that Christ had indeed risen from the dead, that He was alive, and He was working on their behalf. He then goes on from there to talk about the resurrection and clear up some matters that the Corinthians had some problems with.
If we were to go through all 58 verses of I Corinthians 15, we would see that the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead (both Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of us) is fully developed. There is very little that needs to be added to understand this doctrine at all. He gives them a very clear and concise fifty-eight-verse rundown of what the doctrine of the resurrection is all about. We must understand this was 25 years after Christ’s death, and everything is already perfectly understood.
Now to I Thessalonians. This is going forward in the New Testament, but we are actually going backwards in time. I Thessalonians is thought to be the first epistle that Paul wrote, and this takes us back to about 50 AD. Some commentators think that it might have even been written late in the 40s, like 49 AD. But right about 50 AD is where we are now. We have come five years earlier than where we were in Corinthians.
I Thessalonians 1:9-10 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Here in 50 AD, we are already seeing that the apostle Paul is preaching this doctrine right off the bat to these Thessalonians. Let us go to chapter 4. We will see it again.
I Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
So, not only is the idea there that Jesus died and rose from the dead, it is also well-known and believed that we will also rise in the resurrection just as He rose in His resurrection. What we see here is an unmistakable connection between Christ’s resurrection and the hope of our salvation and resurrection to eternal life at His second coming. It is very clear, and it is said in very few words.
Before you get the idea that the resurrection appears in every epistle or every book in the New Testament, it does not (especially in books like I, II, and III John, and Jude). If it is referred to at all, it is just in passing. It is not part of what they are speaking about. It is not in Philemon, as far as I know. I do not believe it is mentioned in Titus and a few others. But it is central enough in the really doctrinal books to show that it was a central part of the teaching of the apostles Paul and Peter especially, and John too (I should not forget John because we will see something very astounding, I think, from his gospel).
We are going to go back now, almost 20 years from this point, to 31 AD, and we are going to jump into Acts 2. This is the apostle Peter’s very first sermon. What does he preach about? Starting in verse 22—this is after he quotes Joel extensively about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Then we will hop, skip, and jump down through verse 36.
Acts 2:22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
“You guys are witnesses of it too,” he says. “You saw them. He was here in Jerusalem. He was all up and down the hills here, all the way up to Nazareth and around the lake, and you saw Him do these miracles time and time again. So you can’t say that what I’m saying isn’t true.” This is kind of what he is getting at.
Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; . . .
He indicts them right there. “You are witnesses! You saw what a good Man He was, but you consented to Him being taken and put to death.”
Acts 2:24 . . . whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
Peter is saying this wonderful Person could not be constrained by the grave. He had to rise again. I want to go down through verse 28.
Acts 2:25-28 For David says concerning Him [now notice he quotes from Psalm 16 here, a Messianic prophecy]: “I foresaw the LORD always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh will also rest in hope, because You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of joy in Your presence.”
He quotes from Psalm 16 to show that all the way back in the time of David, there was a prophecy of this very thing taking place. Down now to verse 31.
Acts 2:31-33 he [David], foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
So here we have the first sermon that Peter gave, and it is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This sermon builds to a crescendo, as it were, and what he does is preach the Gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ, not only dying for our sins, but being raised from the dead, and what that means to us. It means that Jesus ascended in power to the Father; that He kept His promise of giving the Holy Spirit to His disciples (they could all see, in the way that the disciples were speaking in all these tongues, that they should know); and that He is a living Lord (or "Master" or "Sovereign"—verse 36), and He is also Messiah ("Savior"; in verse 36 it is "Christ").
So, even in this first sermon, we see the hope of the resurrection within the prophecy of David (as it says “moreover my flesh will also rest in hope”). That is about Christ, but it is about us too. He knew that in dying for the sins of the world—of those who would believe in Him—that He would be raised again. He had hope that the Father would raise Him. He knew. He had living hope in His own Father that He would raise Him. And so do we also, knowing that we are going to die, have a living hope that He will raise us as well.
Let us go back into the gospels. I was going to read Matthew 12:39-40. This is the prophecy where Jesus says that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. His only sign of His own messiahship was that He would not stay in the grave—that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth—but He would rise. That would be as long as He would stay there. It could not contain Him. And He rose, as we know, exactly three days and three nights—72 hours—from His burial in the heart of the earth.
Think of this. Jesus Christ died and went into the tomb. What can a dead man do? There is no thought, there is no device, there is no kind of work or anything that could be done in the grave—Solomon tells us that in Ecclesiastes. So what power did He have to fulfill this prophecy? He gave the prophecy that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, but He could not do anything about it. He was dead. But He went to His death in hope and in faith, strongly believing that His Father would raise Him from the dead, which is the same kind of hope and faith that we need to have.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead thus becomes a proof of the Father, that He reached down into history, reached down into our lives here, and He raised our Savior from the dead with His power to break through death—His sovereignty to do as He wills. It also shows His love—His love for the Son with whom He was well pleased. By doing that—in showing His love toward the Son—He shows His love toward us. Because He was doing that not just for the Son, but for all those who would come after Him and follow His way and die in the faith, that He will just as gladly reach down and raise us from the dead just as He did His Son.
I have Psalm 49 written in my notes. I will just read this one verse to you. Way back in the Psalms, a thousand years before Christ, it says:
Psalm 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me. Selah [Think about this!].
What a wonderful thing that God will redeem our soul from the power of the grave! This, of course, is a messianic prophecy, but it applies to us just as well.
But consider this: What if Jesus had not been resurrected? While the sinless Jesus’ crucifixion and death paid for all the sins of the past of those who accepted Christ’s blood, for their forgiveness, and leaves them redeemed (they have been bought; the penalty has been paid), it leaves them without a future. The sins are forgiven—they have been wiped clean—but there is nothing after that. They cannot live again if Christ did not rise. What good would it be to have our sins forgiven—which is wonderful and great—but then there is nothing after that? There is no life; there is no reward; there is no good. Just that far—it satisfies God’s justice and nothing more.
So, the death of Jesus Christ is very important—for His blood to be shed on our behalf—so that our sins will be forgiven and so we can have entrance to the Father. But it has to be coupled with His resurrection. There must be life after death—because, as I said before, a dead Savior can save no one truly. But a living Savior—One who raises from the dead—can then give life to those who follow in His steps. A dead savior leaves salvation incomplete. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives those who come after a chance to be resurrected as He was.
Let us go to I Corinthians 15. Paul mentions this in his doctrinal statement to the Corinthians. There were people who were saying there is no resurrection from the dead. Paul says: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
I Corinthians 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.
If there is no such thing as resurrection from the dead (which, as we see in Acts, some of His enemies did not believe in), then you cannot say that Christ rose us from the dead.
I Corinthians 15:14-17 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain [Why should you have faith—why should you believe in anything—if there is a dead Christ, and no life afterward by the resurrection from the dead?]. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God [remember he had just said Peter and all these other people had seen it, and finally he had seen Him too], because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ [because they saw a living Being—a Person, Jesus Christ—after He died], whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise [the dead do not rise, and Jesus did not rise, and we are false witnesses]. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile [empty, worthless]; you are still in your sins!
Now that is an interesting concept, is it not, that even though He died, the forgiveness of sins had to be completed through His resurrection. It is a whole process, you cannot leave a step out. It had to be completely worked out—death, burial, resurrection, ascension, His acceptance before the Father—and then all of those things, as they affect us, can work. They can do what they are supposed to do.
I Corinthians 15:18-19 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished [meaning they are dead, and they will stay dead]. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
Does not the King James say ‘miserable’? I think ‘miserable’ is a better word. It may not be exact, but it would be miserable if there was no risen Christ. We would be believing this for no good reason. We would still be in our sins. There would be no future. This is why the resurrection from the dead is so important!
Yet, Jesus was raised from the dead, so we do not have to worry about that. He was restored to a Spirit body of great glory and exalted to the right hand of the Father. By doing this, the Father made possible two crucial realities that we can thank Him for over and over again endlessly.
The first reality that was made possible by the Father’s raising of Jesus Christ is that Jesus became our Mediator and High Priest. He is there at the Father’s right hand. He goes before the Father on our behalf. By being the Mediator, the One who goes through the veil, as it were, we can then come with Him and have a relationship with the Father. Jobs of the Mediator and High Priest.
Let us go to Hebrews 8 to get a few scriptures that verify this. Paul writes:
Hebrews 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry [more excellent than the ministry of the Levitical priest, Aaron], inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
Hebrews 10:11-22 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man [he is speaking here about Christ, of course], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till his enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified [that is you and me; He did it through one offering and that is all that is necessary for the forgiveness of our sins, but we can keep coming back to it and asking God to be merciful.]. And the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” [notice that He will do these things—that He will put His laws into our hearts and He will write them in our minds], then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God [and here is what we need to do], let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
These are all the things He is doing for us while He is there. He is the Mediator of the covenant and He is our High Priest. He has given the offering for sin already, and He is putting His laws in our hearts and minds through His work that He does as Head of the church. Paul tells us:
Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both [meaning Jews and Gentiles] have access by one Spirit to the Father.
He is the One that is the link. Jesus Himself says:
John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
So He is there always at the Father’s right hand, hard at work to make us holy and fit for the Kingdom of God, and He will do His job (as we saw in II Timothy 2—He is faithful).
The second crucial reality that the Father made possible by resurrecting Jesus Christ is that Jesus became the firstborn among many brethren. This is said in Romans 8:29—this is also said in Colossians 1:18 and also Revelation 1:5—that He is the firstborn from the dead. And being a firstborn means that others will follow. So, by overcoming death through the resurrection from the dead, He became our archegos (the forerunner, the trailblazer, the standard, and the example that the rest of us are to follow)—because everyone who faithfully follows Him as a disciple will be raised from the dead as He was.
Let us see this in I Corinthians 15 where we keep going back because it contains, as I said, a fully developed exposition of the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead.
I Corinthians 15:20-23 But now Christ is risen from the dead [after he has said that people think that there is no resurrection, he says “Well, Christ is risen from the dead”], and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
Paul shows this reality through the type/anti-type of Adam and Christ here. We have to figure out who we are going to follow. Are we going to follow the first Adam, who led in sin, and all the people who followed him end up dying—in death? Or are we going to follow the Man, the second Adam, who lived a perfect life, and all who follow Him live? That is the idea here. He is firstborn, and we can follow if we remain faithful to Him. Put simply, the resurrection of Christ opens the way to eternal life and glory for those who believe.
This is expanded a little bit in John 11. This is one of the big ones I wanted to go to because it is the word of Christ Himself to Martha at the resurrection of Lazarus. We will start in verse 21 and go down through verse 26.
John 11:21-22 Then Martha said to Jesus [remember He had delayed going back and Lazarus had died], “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
She had no doubt that He had the power to raise him from the dead.
John 11:23-24 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
She understood the doctrine that those who die in Christ will be raised—Jesus had talked about the resurrection of the just—and she felt that her brother was going to be there.
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though He may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Something to think about. Do you believe what that means? The crux of what we are seeing here is something we have already seen in I Peter 1 that bears repeating: Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life—the resurrection and eternal life are a Person. We could say those things depend on a Person. Do not just leave it at that because Jesus did not leave it at that. Yes, He died, and He has all this power to raise us up with Him, but we have a part to play.
What did He say? “He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet he shall live.” Yes, Jesus is the resurrection and life, but our part is to believe. We believe by having a relationship with the resurrection and the life—Jesus Christ. Do you understand what I am saying here? It says in John 17:3 that to know the Father and the Son is eternal life. Well, this is very similar. It is similar with the resurrection.
The resurrection is all part and parcel of our relationship with Jesus Christ—our faith in what He has taught us, in what He is, and what He promises. There is no possibility of resurrection apart from the relationship we maintain with Christ through faith, through our belief. No relationship—no resurrection. If you do not know Jesus Christ and His Father, there is no eternal life! Even so, if we are not close to Jesus Christ and becoming more and more like Him, there is no resurrection.
He says if we endure in this belief, even though we die the death of the flesh, we will live again. That is why hanging on and enduring to the end is so important. We have to hang on and endure (you might say, clinging to Jesus Christ) for all we are worth as long as we live because that is the relationship that guarantees us the resurrection and the life—the Person of Jesus Christ. We must know Him inside and out—all that He teaches—and we have to be continually striving to emulate Him in every area of life. Not as though we are going to achieve anything by that, but because we love Him, and we want to do what He wants us to do and be with Him for all eternity.
Let us conclude in I Corinthians 15 again. How many times have we been here already? I will be reading a fairly long section here, starting in verse 26.
I Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death [it is going to linger for a long time, and I know we hate it, but it has got to be there—it has a part to play].
I Corinthians 15:42-58 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, 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. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit [Adam received; Jesus gives]. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual [It is just the way it works. It is given to man once to die and after this, the judgment]. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly [meaning we will be just like Him, as it says in I John 3:2: “We shall see Him as He is.”]. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.