Living the Resurrection LifeHebrews 13:20-21
P.G. Mathew | Sunday, April 08, 2007
Copyright © 2007, P.G. Mathew
Today billions of people refuse to believe in Jesus and in his resurrection. Jesus himself said that only few would believe in him.
In Hebrews 13:20-21, the writer directly refers to the resurrection of Jesus. Indirectly, the author refers to the resurrection of Christ many times. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb. 1:3; cf, 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). He went through the heavens and arrived in the presence of God as high priest to intercede in our behalf. The whole epistle rests on the death and resurrection of our Lord.
We are going to speak about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the resurrection life.
The Resurrection Proofs
All four gospels give the historical truth of Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus Christ himself predicted his own death and resurrection in Mark 8, 9, and 10, and John 2. His was resurrection, not merely resuscitation. He is the only one who has been so raised in the history of the universe. He has conquered death, hell, and Satan for our salvation.
Mary Magdalene saw and heard the risen Christ. If someone were to write a false resurrection story as true, he would have not put the words into the mouth of Mary Magdalene. No court of law at that time would accept a woman’s testimony, particularly the testimony of a woman with a sinful past, like Mary Magdalene. In fact, she did not even expect to see a risen Jesus. She was confused and perplexed when she saw the risen Jesus. Therefore, what is reported has the ring of truth.
As predicted, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. We are told that he appeared to many at different times and was with the apostles forty days. Even Thomas stopped doubting and confessed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). We are told that once he was seen by over five hundred people at one time, many of whom were still living when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15. He appeared also to Saul of Tarsus, the most brilliant Jew and enemy of Christianity. Saul was convinced of Christ’s resurrection and became the apostle of the risen Christ, suffering martyrdom for his faith.
Dr. Boice says that the resurrection of Jesus is proof of the existence of God because God is the only adequate cause for this effect of the unique miracle of Christ’s resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also the seal and proof of the deity of Christ. He claimed several times to be equal with God. If he had not been raised, his claim would have been proven false. His being raised from the dead was proof that Jesus Christ is God, as the Father declared (Rom. 1:4).
Resurrection is also the seal and proof of our justification. Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification. God raised Jesus from the dead because he accepted the Son’s sacrificial death of atonement. Our sin problem is solved forever. The resurrection is God the Father’s signature to the reality that the atonement was acceptable to the holy and righteous God.
The resurrection is also the seal of our sanctification. We are risen with Christ to live a new life by the power of Christ’s resurrection.
Christ’s resurrection is also the seal and proof of our eternal life. The resurrection proves once and for all that death is not the end of life. Death has been defeated for those who have been united with Christ by faith.
The resurrection of Christ is the proof of eternal judgment. The billions of people who do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ shall believe one day the truth of the resurrection when he himself shall judge them (cf. Acts 17:31; Heb. 9:27). Being judged by the risen Jesus will be the final proof to unbelievers.
The Resurrection Benefits
ow does the historical resurrection benefit those who believe in him? Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25). A dead Christ can never give a person eternal life. But praise be to God, God has raised Jesus from the dead, and he gives eternal life to everyone who believes in him.
Hebrews 13:20-21 teaches how we can benefit from this resurrection life. It is not just a theoretical assertion. It is not just that God raised Jesus from the dead once upon a time in history. We need this resurrection power to live our daily lives, to die in faith, and to be brought into the very presence of God. A close look at these verses highlights the benefits we receive through Christ’s resurrection.
1) May the God of peace.
We were enemies of God, at war with him. But God devised a salvation plan to bring about a peaceful relationship with us. Paul says that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:18-19). It is God’s plan and initiative. God made Jesus Christ who had no sin to be sin in behalf of us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
It is God’s idea, power, and plan. God the Father is both the author and giver of peace. Through the cross this peace was secured for us (Eph. 2:17). “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). We have peace within ourselves, we live at peace with others, and we are at peace with God. Enemies have been reconciled to God and made his children. God is not our judge. He is our heavenly Father and we are his adopted sons in Jesus Christ. Have you experienced this rest of peace through the risen Christ?
2) God brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep.
The Father brought Jesus up from the dead. Death had no power to keep him in the grave, for Jesus Christ was sinless. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezek. 18:20). But Christ did not sin. By his death he destroyed death. The resurrection of Christ is the Father’s signature that he totally accepted Christ’s atoning sacrifice in our place. Christ’s death was acceptable to our holy Father. Now our sins can be forgiven once for all. Death could not keep him down because he is the Holy One (Acts 2:24, 27).
The writer of Hebrews may have been thinking of Isaiah 63:11, which reads in the Septuagint, “Where is the one who brought up out of the sea the shepherd of the sheep?” In Hebrews 13:20 we read, “God the Father brought up the great Shepherd of the sheep out of the dead.” Isaiah 63 is speaking about how God brought the shepherd Moses and the people out of the judgment of the sea. But here he is speaking about how God the Father brought the great Shepherd of the sheep from death itself. Jesus was brought, not out of the sea, but out of death.
He may have also been thinking about Zechariah 9:11, “As for you, because of the blood of my covenant, I will free your prisoners out of the waterless pit.” So God the Father brought Jesus Christ out of the waterless pit of death because Christ’s bloody atonement was acceptable to him. He is brought out from the dead. And Christ did not just come up himself. In him, all his elect sheep are brought out from the dead. Because he lives, we also live forever. He has vanquished death and given us eternal life.
3) Our resurrection is on the basis of the blood of the eternal covenant.
God raised Jesus from the dead because of the blood he shed on the cross when he, as our great high priest, offered himself to God in our place for our eternal salvation. The cause and basis of resurrection is the death of Jesus Christ. The blood of Christ sealed and confirmed this new and eternal covenant of grace, which saves and enriches his people.
The cause of resurrection is Christ’s acceptable sacrifice. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death” (Heb. 2:9). In Zechariah 9:11 we read, “As for you, because of the blood of my covenant, I will free your prisoners out of the waterless pit.”
Without Christ’s bloodshedding, death would be the final word. We all would live a hopeless life. But, thank God, death is not the last word. (PGM) There has been a bloody atonement. The Son of God died, and God accepted his death as our death. The holy Father raised Jesus from the dead, declaring that death is conquered and Satan defeated.
4) That great Shepherd of the sheep.
The Father brought out from death the great Shepherd of the sheep. Christ is greater than Moses, David, and all true shepherds. He is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the Son of God.
He is the good Shepherd because he loved us and gave his life for us. He is the chief Shepherd who appointed shepherds for all his flock. All such shepherds must give an account to the chief Shepherd. The flock is his flock; he purchased them by his blood. He died for them and he lives for them. As the great Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ cares for his sheep. Not even one of his sheep shall be lost. All shall be regenerated, justified, adopted, sanctified, glorified, and brought before God’s presence to enjoy eternal communion with him. No wolf, bear, or devil can harm us when Jesus is our good Shepherd. He comforts us. We lack nothing. He loves us and calls us by our name. The evil shepherds kill the sheep, but the good Shepherd laid down his life for us. Because he is raised from the dead, we shall also be raised up on the last day by him.
Our great Shepherd promised three times: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day . . . No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39, 40, 44). This great Shepherd is our Lord Jesus. He is our Sovereign and our Savior.
5) May the Lord equip us.
That means God our Father equips us with everything good for us to live a holy life. We cannot say that we sinned again because God did not make us able to resist. It is God the Father’s responsibility to equip us and make us fit to do his will. He capacitates us by repairing all our weaknesses. He sets right every broken bone and gives us the health and fitness to do the will of God. He restores us to a state of functional perfection, giving us a good heart, mind, will, and affections. He puts his Holy Spirit within us and enlightens our minds, causing us to will God’s will. God makes us new creations to do his will with delight.
6) The purpose is for the doing of his will.
We are told that God equips us “with everything good for the purpose of doing his will.” In sanctification, we have responsibility too. We shall do the will of God because the Father equips us and makes us able. Those who are truly saved shall seek the will of God and do it.
The incarnate Jesus Christ came to do the will of God. He searched out the book to find out the will of the Father and did it. He always did the will of God (John 8:29).
Do you want to know what the will of God is? If you refuse to read the Bible to discover the will of God, you have nothing to do with salvation. You spend time on the Internet, but how much time do you spend in the Bible to discover the will of God, to do it! He has given us a book, in our own language. The will of God is revealed in the Scriptures, and God’s people eagerly read God’s word to discover his will. That is where Jesus himself discovered God’s will. What is God’s will? To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
7) God himself works in us his good pleasure.
Not only does he save us and equip us, but he also works in us to do what is his good pleasure. God works in us his good pleasure so that it becomes our nature to do his will. This is the nature of the new covenant.
God works in us what gives him pleasure and what gives us pleasure. What gives pleasure to God is that which also gives us pleasure. We are happy when we do the will of God, but we are miserable when we do our own thing. Sanctification is all about God working in us and we working out the will of God (Phil. 2:12-13). We are raised from the dead to be servants of God. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that hose who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
There is God’s action and there is ours. “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28). That is the type of radical, fundamental change God expects from us because he equips us and works in us. “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14). We are God’s work product to do his work.
Philippians 3:9-11 shows the connection between the resurrection and our present life. Verse 9 speaks about justification, verse 10 speaks about sanctification, and verse 11 speaks about glorification: “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” We need his power to live a life of suffering. Without the resurrection power, we simply cannot deal with our problems that we as Christians daily face.
God works in us and we work out. “I can do everything through [Jesus Christ] who gives me strength”
(Phil. 4:13). We do so by his resurrection power. “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask because we obey his commands and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:22). We do not live a Christian life by our will power or by our positive thinking. We live by an alien power, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ that comes to us by faith. “We are raised with him to live a new life” (Romans 6:4). We live a Christian life by the power of the Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Paul writes, “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:29). If you are a Christian, he equips you and works in you, and you are able to work out the good pleasure of God. Paul says elsewhere, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). Not only within the apostle, but the Holy Spirit also works within every person who trusts in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation. We are not merely to draw upon our education and skills. We are to draw upon nothing less than the power with which God raised him from the dead, the incomparably great power to us who believe.
We receive this power through Jesus Christ. We are who we are and we do whatever we do through the merits of Jesus Christ our covenant head. By grace are we saved and by grace we live forevermore. That grace flows to us from Christ.
8) To him be glory forever and ever, amen.
This whole salvation is due to the Father’s eternal plan. We live for his exclusive and endless glory. Ephesians 1 highlights God’s grace: “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6); “in order that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory” (v. 12); “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of his glory” (v. 14). There is no other god to save. There is exclusive glory to God, whom the holy Scriptures reveal to be one God in three Persons. To him alone be glory and forever glory.
Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ in history? Do you believe that the Father raised him from the dead because of his perfect atonement? If so, rejoice forevermore and live for his glory. He works in us to be able to work out his will for his glory and our eternal delight. There is no other way to happiness.
We have nothing to fear, not even death. An account of the death of D.L. Moody illustrates this point.
[It was in 1899] the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody died, but his death was triumphant both for himself and for his family. Moody had been declining for some time, and the family had taken turns being with him. On the morning of his death, his son, who was standing by the bedside, heard him exclaim, “Earth is receding; heaven is opening; God is calling.” “You are dreaming, Father,” the son said. Moody answered, “No, Will, this is no dream. I have been within the gates. I have seen the children’s faces.” For awhile it seemed as if Moody were reviving, but he began to slip away again. He said, “Is this death? This is not bad; there is no valley. This is bliss. This is glorious.” By this time his daughter was present, and she began to pray for his recovery. He said, “No, no, Emma, don’t pray for that. God is calling. This is my coronation day. I have been looking forward to it.” Shortly after that moody was received into heaven. At the funeral the family and friends joined in a joyful service. They spoke. They sang hymns. They heard the words proclaimed: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-57 KJV). (James M. Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, Volume 2: God the Redeemer [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978], 229-230).
A Christian’s death is victory! But if you have not confessed this Jesus as your King and Savior, know that: the writer to the Hebrews describes him as a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). There will be severe punishment for those who despise the blood of Jesus Christ. God is angry at sinners every day and hates all who do wrong (Psalm 7:11; 5:5).
Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep, not of goats. Be his sheep. The Bible says that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Be his sheep by trusting in his atonement and resurrection. He will then raise you up on the last day.
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