I Am He That Liveth

April 8, 2007 / No. 3353

Dear radio friends,

    Our Lord Jesus Christ died. There is no question about that.  We read, “Having loved his own, he loved them even unto the end” (John 13:1).   We read, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  He was crucified, dead, and buried.

     As a dead man, He was taken down from the cross and carried by gentle hands and laid in Joseph’s tomb.  Tenderly two disciples wrapped Him in linen sheets with sweet spices, and with a napkin over His face.  And then they rolled a great stone over the grave’s mouth.  The jaws of death closed upon Him, from which we cannot deliver ourselves.

     Jesus Christ died.

     Our Lord Jesus Christ is risen.  On the third day He rose from the dead.  There can be no question about that.  The Scriptures are clear:  I Corinthians 15:20, “But now is Christ risen from the dead”;  II Timothy 2:8, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.”  His soul returned to His body.  And the body that lay in the grave came back to life.  No, not back to life.  But His body was changed to life, to incorruptible life, to glorious life.

     And they found the grave empty.  Not because the disciples stole His body.  Not because He came out of the grave the way they brought Him into the grave.  But He arose.  He went through the grave.  His body now is victorious over death.  The grave clothes were wrapped around His body.  He went through those grave clothes.  In the body He arose to life everlasting and immortal.  And in that glorious body our Lord Jesus Christ, after forty days, ascended up into heaven, where now He sits at the right hand of God ruling over all things for the church’s benefit.  And in that body, that glorious, risen body, Jesus is coming again, and with Him we shall live forever.

     Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!  That is the gospel today.  That is the glorious gospel.  Christianity is no hoax.  The gospel is no fake.  The gospel is the truth, the only truth, the truth of life eternal.

     This means that all who by grace, through faith, belong to Jesus Christ have victory.  We read:  “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).  Death is overcome.  We have new life.  We have hope.  We look forward to the resurrection of the body.  We have joy in the midst of gloom.  We have peace in the midst of despair.  We have eternal hope in the midst of all hopelessness.

     Belonging to Jesus Christ, by faith, is life.  Belonging to Jesus Christ, by grace, is the victory.  For we belong to Him who is alive forevermore.

     This glad day of resurrection proclaims that Jesus Christ is the conqueror of death.  He Himself has conquered death.  And He has conquered death for us.  For He says in John 14:19, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”  By His resurrection He defeated death.  Did you hear that?  Jesus Christ overcame death and the grave.  He did not merely cheat death by escaping its clutches for a few more years.  He did not come back from the grave (which in itself would have been quite a thing) only to have to return to face the grave again.  No, He conquered death.  Death has no power whatsoever over Jesus Christ.  Nor does it have power over anyone who belongs to Him by God’s gracious election.  Death is abolished.  Death cannot destroy us.  Death, in Jesus now, is the portal to life eternal.

     We read in II Timothy 1:10 concerning Jesus Christ, “Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  Jesus Christ, in the body, is immortal.  He is not subject to death.  He has rendered death null and void.

     We also read in I Corinthians 15:54-56 that “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?”  Death had a stinger.  Death had a terrible venom to destroy man.  That stinger was sin—the transgression of God’s holy law.  But, for His people, Jesus pulled the stinger out.  Now death is impotent in Christ to overcome us.

     In death our souls are taken to God.  We read in Revelation 1:18 these words of the risen Lord:  “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

     You have the keys, perhaps in your pocket, to your house, to your car.  Those keys represent authority to open and to shut at your will, to allow to enter into your house whomyou please and to keep out whom you please.  This is Christ’s power.  He lives.  He has the keys of life and death, of heaven and hell.  He opens, by His wonderful love and tender grace, and brings us in and releases us.  And He keeps out according to His own justice and sovereignty.  He is the victor over death.

     Let us drink that today into our souls.  We who now live in this mortal body belong to One who has conquered our death.  Child of God, Jesus Christ did not conquer this or that sickness.  He did not conquer polio, multiple sclerosis, or cancer.  He has not joined His name to the list of doctors and specialists to be remembered.  He did not come to conquer an aspect of death.  He did not come to remove the symptoms of death.  He did not merely postpone death in order that we might have more earthly days and more earthly things.  Jesus Christ defeated death.

     Death is separation from God.  Death is not only the destruction of the body.  It is also the casting of the soul into the flames of utter destruction and hell because of sin.  Jesus defeated it.  He defeated it by paying for sin upon the cross.  And now, risen in glory, He has transformed death into the passageway for every child of God into the presence of God in eternal joy and peace.

     Even as the martyr Stephen, when he was being stoned by the wicked Jews, could say, “Receive my spirit,” so now, through Jesus Christ, our death is the entrance into the presence of God.

     You must not think that when Jesus defeated death He lost His body, or that He lost your body.  Jesus Christ is raised in the body.  Now that body, as I mentioned before, did not return to the life that it formerly had.  It is now immortal.  It is heavenly.  It is able to live eternally.  It is beyond the grave.  It is glorious.  It is perfect.  It is a body that on the eve of the resurrection was able to pass through locked doors and come among His disciples.  It was also a body that was able to eat bread and honey.  It was able to be on the earth.  It could be seen.  It could wear clothes.  But it was much more.  It was eternal life in the body—no sickness, no disease, no arthritis, no pains, no dishonor, no sin.  Higher than Adam in paradise, beyond the grave, the victory over death.

     But this is also ours.  Not only does our soul rise to God in our death because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also our body, when our Lord Jesus Christ returns, shall be raised and be made like unto His glorious body.

     We read in Philippians 3:21 concerning Jesus, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”  This vile body, this body now under the ravages of sin, this weak body, this body right now that has death inside of it—this body shall be made like unto His body.  I John 3:2, 3, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:  but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”  Jesus Christ has conquered death for every child of God.

     This is the glad day that we remember today—the resurrection of our dear Savior Jesus.  And, therefore, because He is the conqueror of death, all honor is due unto Him alone.  All hail the power of Jesus’ name; let angels prostrate fall.  As the women were returning from the grave on that resurrection morning all astir in their hearts, having seen the empty tomb, and having heard the angels’ message, Jesus met them.  He said, “All hail.”  And they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.

     When John, on the island of Patmos, saw Him in vision, saw Him whose eyes were as flames of fire and His voice as the sound of many waters, and in His right hand seven stars, and His countenance as the sun that shineth in his strength, John says, “When I saw him, I fell at His feet as dead.  And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:17, 18).

     When Jesus, after the ascension, appeared in heaven among all the saints who had seen glorious things, and as He appeared among angels who had been there to surround the throne since the beginning of the creation, both the saints and the angels were shaken and they cried out when they saw Him:  “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).

     And when Jesus, this risen Savior, comes again in this glorious body, so much of the glory of God will be seen in Him that the world’s wise and the world’s rich and the world’smighty and all the proud will cry for the mountains to fall upon them and to cover them from the face of Him who returns.  For He shall then come also to be admired of all the saints (II Thess. 1:10).  Honor is due to Jesus.

     We are living in a man-saturated world.  The stench of pride is coating everything.  We can be dazzled by the illusions and by the thrills and by the glitter of earthly things.  But we, who know Him, our hearts burst and our souls soar when we consider our Lord Jesus Christ, the conqueror of death.  He is not merely an idea.  He is not just a name.  He is the conqueror of death.  He is our Lord.  To Him be honor and glory and worship forever and ever and ever.

     How do we honor Him?  One important way that we honor the risen Lord Jesus today and always is by keeping the Sabbath Day, Sunday, the day in which Jesus arose from the dead, the day of celebration, the day in which we bring honor to our risen King.

     In the Old Testament, the seventh day was celebrated as the Sabbath—the completion of the creation.  Now, in the New Testament, we celebrate on the first day what is the completion of the work of salvation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus appeared to His disciple John on the island of Patmos on the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10).   Our Sabbath, then, is Sunday, the first day of the week.  We did not make it so.  God did that.  God has changed the Sabbath to Sunday, the first day of the week.

     And we honor our Lord Jesus Christ by honoring and keeping the Sabbath Day.  For the Christian church and for all who belong to Jesus, this risen Savior, Sunday is not the day to sleep, but it is the day to keep.  Sunday is the day in which we gather to worship the risen Lord Jesus Christ—twice.  That is not too much.  Twice on the Lord’s Day.  Is not Jesus glorious?  Why not twice?  Why do you not go to church twice?  Is not He a glorious Savior?

     Very often in Christianity the evening service drops in attendance.  Or the Sabbath is set aside for vacations and for cottages and for camping and there is no church at all on the Sabbath Day.  There is the doing of our own pleasure on His day, especially when the weather is nice and warm.  If that is the case in your church or in my church, then the world has the right to say, “Well, some kind of conqueror is Jesus Christ!  Other things are more important than your Lord Jesus Christ—than being with Him on the day of His victory.”  Sunday is the day of Jesus’ victory.  He is worth it.  One day?  He is worth every day.  But especially on that one day we may get together to worship Him; we may come into His house with His people who are living in Him; we may be with Him in the morning and then again in the evening; we may fill the whole day with His sweet and wonderful Word.

     The Sabbath Day is the church’s testimony to the honor that we possess for Jesus Christ, death’s conqueror.  Honor Him by hearing His true gospel on that day.  Honor Him by inviting others on that day to His house.  And honor Him by giving the whole day to Him.

     But we honor Him also by preaching Him as the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel, the Word of the risen Lord—we want that gospel preached throughout all the world, even unto the ends of the world.  He alone is the Savior.  All religions of the world have their saviors.  But they cannot help your souls.  They are empty.  They are vain.  There is only One who is above all others—Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.  He alone, who came from the grave, He alone can deliver us from sin and death.  That is the gospel.

     It is His Word, His living, powerful, conquering Word, that must be preached, for He is the risen Lord.  By His Word He will stand before your grave one day and He will say in the day of the resurrection, “Come out of that grave.”  And the pile of ashes called your body will be back together as your body.  But now His Word must be uttered.  It must be uttered through the preaching of the gospel.

     And then we honor our risen Savior by a holy life of repentance and love and service to Him.  He has set me free.  Do you say that?  Do you say that by the power of Christ, through grace alone, by God alone, I have been set free from sin and death and I belong to the risen Savior Jesus Christ?  Then the reality of that confession will be seen in your life and in a life of repentance and service to Christ.  That will show the power of the Lord Jesus Christ within you.  You will honor Him by a life of holiness.

     And we will have comfort—the wonderful comfort of belonging to the risen Savior Jesus Christ.  There is no other comfort in life and in death.  We belong to our Savior, according to the power of His love and grace.  That is very good to think about for a moment.  It is very good to remember that the only comfort in this life is that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ in life and in death.

     That is the comfort because the truth concerning ourselves is that we are sinners and we are worthy, in ourselves, only of destruction.  We are dying.  We are right now traveling this weary world and it is heading towards the grave.  We are subject to all sickness and to loneliness and to troubles and to pride and to sin and to vanity.  We are in a fallen world as fallen sinners.  But now comes the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  Oh, the message that He lives now and ever.  This is water in our desert.  This is shade from every heat.  This is the good word.  The good word to us today is Jesus’ word:  “I live forever.”

     Then we have comfort.  Because He lives we have the assurance of the pardon of our sins.  Jesus, upon the cross, succeeded, earned perfect pardon for all of our sins.  I know He did.  How do I know that?  Because He arose from the dead.  The Father did not leave Him in the grave.  Death did not gobble Him up.  Death did not break Him down.  Death did not turn Him to dust.  It could not.  Why?  Because sin had been forgiven in His death.  And as the Head of the church, He arises as proof that our sins are pardoned and forgiven in the sight of God.

     But there is more.  The comfort is that now by His power we too are raised to a new and holy life.  His resurrection is the power of that life of Christ within me right now.  The power of Jesus Christ is seen not only in death when we are taken to the angels and to the presence of God.  Nor is the power of Jesus Christ seen only when He returns the second time to raise our bodies from the dead.  But the power of Jesus Christ is seen right now.  It is seen in that He makes us new.  It is the power of spiritual rebirth, the power of Christ by His Spirit renewing me and Christ being in me according to powerful grace.

     And then the comfort is the pledge of the resurrection of our bodies.  We are certain of that.  We bring the bodies of our loved ones to the grave.  And one day your body, unless Jesus returns first, is going to be taken to the grave.  Right now, you are dying.  But He who is risen, who now lives in us, will come again and raise our mortal bodies.  He will not leave it behind.  One day your body, in the grave, will hear Him.  It will hear Him say, “Lazarus, come forth.”  And you and your body will arise, and you will go to your Father in heavenly bliss.

     I know that.  I know that because today He is the conqueror of death.  He is the One who has destroyed sin.  He is the One who receives us in death to the Father’s presence. Jesus Christ is the One who is alive for evermore.  And all who, by wondrous grace and love of God, belong to Him shall never perish but have everlasting life.  Praise God!

     Let us pray.

     Father, we thank Thee for Thy precious and holy Word today.  We pray that it may be sealed to our hearts.  All glory and honor and praise be to Thee for the great work that Thou hast done through Thy Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.