Dear Radio Friends,
Today is Easter Sunday. On Easter Sunday true believers remember and celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Bible tells us, in Matthew 28, that on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, Jesus’ dead body came to life and arose from the grave where it had been laid to rest. This is what we celebrate today and, really, what we remember every week when on the first day of the week as the New Testament church we gather for public worship. The Christian Sabbath, on the first day of the week, is a weekly memorial of the resurrection of Jesus.
In our day, a day in which everything seems to need a scientific explanation, and a day in which the Bible is questioned, we must emphasize that the resurrection of Jesus was historical. That it actually happened. Many people today celebrate Easter Sunday, but at the same time deny that Jesus rose from the dead. It is common today to view the resurrection of Jesus Christ as symbolic or mythical. The resurrection is explained as the legacy of Jesus’ living on in the memories of His followers. People, following science rather than Scripture, will say it is impossible for a human body once dead to rise again, so they will try to find some other explanation for the resurrection.
But every true believer takes Scripture at its word, believing that Christ physically and literally arose from the grave, that His body, which was dead, came back to life. We believe that the resurrection really happened. We do not believe this because it can be substantiated scientifically or with physical evidence; rather, the proof of the resurrection is found in the Word of God. By faith in God’s Word, we believe the resurrection.
The Bible, throughout, teaches the resurrection of Christ. It was prophesied in the Old Testament. In Psalm 16:10, David speaks prophetically of Christ, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” When Jesus spoke to His disciples of His death, He repeatedly told them that on the third day He would rise again from the dead. After Jesus arose, He sent heavenly messengers, angels, who said, He is not here, He is risen as He said. And the disciples said to one another, He is risen indeed. Many times the risen Jesus appeared to His disciples to demonstrate to them that He was indeed risen. There were eyewitness accounts of His resurrection. And so, in the days, weeks, and months following Jesus’ resurrection, it was an undisputed fact, so much so that the Jews had to fabricate a cover-up story.
There is no question that the Bible teaches that Jesus arose. Every true believer who takes the Bible at its word believes that Jesus arose.
We do that, not just because the Bible says it is true, but because the resurrection of Jesus is essential to the message of the gospel. It is an essential part of Jesus’ saving work for us.
When the followers of Jesus after Pentecost began to preach the gospel, the resurrection of Jesus was an essential component of that message. Not only did Jesus come and die in the place of sinners, but He also arose the third day, is alive today ruling over all, and will come again to judge this world. In I Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul says, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you…by which also ye are saved…how that Christ died for our sins…that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
On the day of Pentecost, when Peter stood up to preach, he said to his audience, who had killed Jesus, that God “raised him up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).
In Acts 10, Peter preached the resurrection of Jesus to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. In Acts 13:29-30, Paul preached concerning Jesus, “they took him down from the tree and laid him in a sepulchre, but God raised him from the dead.” And again, in Acts 17:31, preaching at Athens to an audience of Gentiles who had never heard the gospel before, Paul said that God “hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained [that is, Jesus Christ], whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he raised him from the dead.”
By raising Jesus from the dead, God has told us that Jesus is alive and is coming again as judge. Or, as Romans 1:4 tells us, He declared by the resurrection from the dead that Jesus is the Son of God.
And so this was emphasized in the preaching of the early church as an essential component of the gospel message.
Why? Why is it so important to believe in the resurrection of Jesus?
In the greatest chapter in the Bible on the resurrection, I Corinthians 15, Paul tells us why the resurrection of Jesus is so essential. And here, understand, Paul is answering people who are skeptical about the resurrection of Jesus. Paul says this, in verses 16-20: For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
Just stop with me and notice a few things here.
Paul says, if dead people do not rise again, then Jesus did not rise. And if Jesus did not rise, well, your faith in Jesus is a waste of time and energy. If Jesus did not rise, you are still in your sins. There was no power in His death. The grave and not Jesus had the victory. If Jesus did not rise, there is no forgiveness. There is no overcoming of the curse of death. There is no power to overcome sin. You are still in your sins. And if Jesus did not rise, then those who have already died have perished. There is no hope for them. If Jesus did not rise, no one is delivered from hell. No one dies with hope.
If Christianity is only a religion that has to do with the here and now, with being good people in this world, with finding joy in this life only; if Christianity has no connection to another life; if it gives no hope to people beyond death, well, then Christians are the most senseless people on the planet. Then we are of all men most miserable. Why live as followers of Christ in this world, why deny yourself and suffer for Christ, if there is no resurrection?
But, now, is, Christ, risen, from the dead!
You see, the resurrection means all these things. We are no longer in our sins. Sin has been paid. Death has been conquered. The power of sin has been broken. We have hope beyond the grave. Jesus is alive, and has overcome not only death, but hell and Satan. And so our faith in Him is not vain, and we are not miserable and senseless, but the resurrection gives sense to our whole existence as Christians. We have hope. We have joy. We believe in a God who lives. We trust in a Savior who delivers from death. We are here in this world, on a journey, to a heavenly home.
This is what it means that Christ is risen.
This is why we believe that the third day He rose again from the dead. To be saved, we must believe in our hearts that God has raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9). Our full confession is that our Savior both died and rose again (Rom. 4:25; 14:9).
The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ extends far beyond His own bodily resurrection. It reaches into the twenty-first century, into the hearts and lives of believers today. There are great benefits for us today, as a result of Jesus’ resurrection.
Let me mention three of them.
The first is that we become partakers of the righteousness that He purchased for us by His death. In His resurrection, Jesus gives to us what He first earned for us. By His death He earned our righteousness, paying the price for our sins. In His resurrection, He both proves that the payment for sin was sufficient, and applies that righteousness to us.
We must remember that all our righteousness is in Jesus Christ. We are not acceptable and righteous before God on account of any work or worth that comes from us. We must not dig into our own souls, or strive in our own lives, to make ourselves acceptable to God. We are accepted and acquitted only through trusting in what Christ has accomplished for us.
The resurrection tells us that God receives us. The resurrection is a declaration from God concerning Jesus, and so also concerning us who believe in Him. He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).
If Christ is not raised, ye are yet in your sins. But now is Christ risen from the dead.
Dear believer, do you take solace and comfort in the resurrection of Christ? When you are weighed down with the burden and the guilt of your sin, do you meditate on the reality of Christ, your sin-bearer, being raised from the dead, and overcoming what your sin deserves? What He earned, He gives to us.
The second benefit of Jesus’ resurrection that reaches to us today is that by the power of His resurrection we are raised up to a new life. I did not say we will be raised up to a new life, but that we are raised up to a new life. Already now, in the present, today, we are raised up to a new life.
The new life that I am speaking of here is the life of the Holy Spirit that comes into us in regeneration. Through the work of the Spirit we are united with Jesus Christ our Savior, so that His work and His life becomes ours. Romans 6 says we are buried with Him, and raised with Him to newness of life. This is the new life of sanctification—a life separated to serving the Lord in godliness and obedience.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, I am crucified with Christ. He means that, through faith in the death of Christ, His death is my death, He pays for my curse. But faith takes me further. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live. Yet not I. But Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
Paul says, I am alive. I am alive now, in the flesh. I am alive, through faith in Jesus Christ.
It is the privilege and joy of every believer to possess the new life of Christ in his soul. Because of this life, we are victorious as Christians. Sin is not altogether dead. No, it will not be abolished until our physical death. Meanwhile, it wages war against our souls and against the life of Christ that is in us. But, in Christ, we are more than conquerors. We have victory! And declaring our victory over sin, we then go to war.
Paul says, Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed, to sin, but alive unto God. This is what we know, we believe, we confess about ourselves, as we put our faith in Jesus Christ. This is how we evaluate ourselves, spiritually, in the present. Whereas by nature we were dead in trespasses and sins, now we are alive, and so Paul says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” (Rom. 6:12).
Again, we declare our victory in Jesus Christ’s resurrection, and then we go to war with sin. Apart from the life of Christ, we are dead, and can never take on the enemy of sin. In Him, we have the victory.
The third present benefit of Jesus’ resurrection is this, that we have a promise and pledge of our own blessed resurrection.
“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” (Job 19:25-26).
Job said these words knowing that he would die. But, believing that his Redeemer lives, he knew that his flesh would also live someday to see God. He made this confession long before the resurrection of Christ, but he believed in a living God, and so believed that he too would live.
Jesus is not dead. He lives.
Jesus is risen as a pledge, a guarantee, and a promise that our bodies will also be raised.
This is a double promise, a promise that works both ways.
A little of our humanity, represented in the human nature of Jesus Christ, is already raised and living with the Father in heaven. Colossians 3:3 says that our “life is hid with Christ in God.” The risen Christ is called “the firstfruits of them that slept” (I Cor. 15:20). A little of the earth is taken to heaven, to show that more will follow.
And at the same time, a deposit of the blessed and eternal resurrection life of Christ is left here with us. A little of heaven is put into our hearts and experienced in our lives. We have the “earnest of the Spirit” (II Cor. 5:5).
How blessed the final resurrection day will be. The living Christ will come on the clouds. He will issue a powerful, effective wake-up call to all who are in their graves. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed. The dead will be raised, incorruptible. And death will forever be swallowed up in victory.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s ultimate problem, the problem of death. It removes the curse of eternal death from me. It overcomes death in my nature. It assures that my dead body will be raised to be with the Lord.
Faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ assures all this for me.
Did Jesus rise from the dead? If you do not believe it, you are still in your sins. If you do not believe it, you are in a miserable state.
But now is Christ risen from the dead.
Let us pray.
Father, we give thanks for the power of Jesus Christ that overcame death and the grave, and by which He suffered for us the agonies and torments of hell that our sins deserved. And we give thanks for the power of Jesus’ resurrection that reaches into our hearts, to change us, to make us alive, to give us eyes for heaven, eyes and hearts and lips and lives of praise. Oh, living God, give us Thy life, we pray. Amen.