None but Jesus Christ Conquered Death for Us
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, March 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."
Jesus Christ alone conquered death for us! The monstrous infidel Ernest Renan imagined in his fertile, unbelieving mind that all of Christianity was based on the hallucination of a woman, Mary Magdalene, who claimed that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead. But the truth is, Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, just as the Scriptures say he did. Because Christ rose from the dead, we have no reason to fear. When the risen Christ spoke to his disciples, his first words were, "Peace be unto you; do not be afraid."
The Importance of the Resurrection of Christ
Christianity is the only religion that is based on the historical fact of the death and resurrection of its founder. Even secular historians acknowledge that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is unique in world history.
The Greeks mocked at the idea of the resurrection of the physical body. To them, salvation was deliverance from the body by death. The materialistic Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the body, even though Jesus Christ corrected them from their own Scriptures (Matthew 22:23-33). The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the body, but theirs was a belief that the body will be raised exactly as it was laid in the tomb. But the Bible teaches that the body of a believer will be resurrected as a physical body yet a transformed body, a body made fit to dwell in the spiritual realm. Our resurrection bodies, we are told, will be incorruptible, glorious, and powerful like unto the glorious body of Jesus Christ, who is in heaven.
The dying atheist Voltaire, who was very rich, declared that he would give half his riches to his doctor if he could prolong his life for six more months. He had no hope for resurrection after his death; he could only hope to extend his life in this world. Like Voltaire, the vast majority of modernists reject the resurrection of the body altogether. The prevailing modern view is that miracles are against reason, so they do not happen; therefore, Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead and no one else can either.
Rationalistic unbelief in resurrection is very ancient. It is the old Sadduceeism we read about in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:12 Paul wrote, "But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" In other words, even some people in the church of Corinth did not believe in the resurrection. Where did this unbelief come from? In verse 33 Paul says, "Bad company corrupts good character." As people in the Corinthian church carried on friendships with unbelievers, the unbelief of the pagans was affecting these believers in a way that tragically denied the very heart of Christianity.
Yet the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact as recorded in the historical records of the New Testament. It is the cornerstone of Christianity. In this study we want to examine three points: biblical prophecies about the resurrection, the biblical history of the resurrection of Christ, and the salvation we enjoy because of the resurrection of Christ.
Prophecies of the Resurrection
The Old Testament speaks in many places, such as Daniel 12, Isaiah 26, Hosea 6, and Psalm 16, about the resurrection of the body. Jesus Christ himself prophesied many times that he would be killed and on the third day be raised from the dead.
In Matthew 16 the apostle Peter made his great confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Jesus disclosed to the disciples what would happen to him soon. In Matthew 16:21 we read, "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the laws, and that he must be killed. . ." The phrase "must be killed" is a "divine must," indicating that Christ's death was part of the eternal plan of God. But Jesus didn't stop with speaking about his death. Matthew concludes the sentence, "and on the third day be raised to life." We find similar statements in Matthew 20:17-19 and Matthew 26:31-32.
In Matthew 12:38 we find the Jewish people asking Jesus for a sign. In verses 39-40 we read Jesus' response, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Here Jesus was prophesying about his resurrection.
In Matthew 27:63 we read that the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.'" Here we see that the Sanhedrin was aware of the prediction of Jesus Christ that he would be killed, buried, and raised to life on the third day. In fact, because of this prophecy they had the tomb sealed and posted guards.
In John 2:19 Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." This daring statement was understood after his resurrection by the apostles as a prediction of Christ's death and resurrection.
In John 10:17-18 Jesus said, "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." In John 11:25 Jesus told Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life." In John 14:19 Jesus told his disciples, "Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live."
Not only did Jesus prophesy his own resurrection, but he also prophesied about the resurrection of those who believe in him, as we just read in John 14:19. There Jesus said, "Because I live, you will live also." John 6:39, 40, 44, and 54 declare the same thing, but let's look at verse 39. There Jesus said, "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me."
In John 5:28 Jesus said, "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." At the Lord's command we will come out. There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In the Bible the people of God are called children of the resurrection. Thus, we have Jesus' prophecies about his own resurrection as well as ours.
History of the Resurrection
The second point we want to look at is the history of the resurrection. What we read in the gospels is history. Unbelievers reject the supernatural found in the Bible, saying such things could never happen. The events of the Bible are historical facts, but the fallen reason of unbelievers prevents them from believing.
All the authors of the Holy Scriptures were writing truth because they were borne along by the Spirit of the living God, as we read in 2 Peter 1:21. The product of this process, the word of God, is God-breathed, and therefore infallible and profitable for teaching, rebuke, correction, and instruction in righteousness.
Luke was a historian who wrote both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. In his introduction to his gospel Luke wrote, "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us. . . " Notice, Luke was referring to events that had taken place in time and history. They were facts, in other words. He continued, "just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Theophilus was probably a great man who was also a catechumen. Both Luke and Acts were written so that Theophilus might have certainty of the things he had been taught. Luke was telling Theophilus that his gospel was speaking about events that took place in history. These events included the virgin birth of Christ, the miracles Christ performed, and the death, burial, resurrection and subsequent appearances of Jesus Christ.
Thus, when we study the gospels, we are reading about historical facts, including the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we already said, Jesus Christ made a most daring prediction when he spoke about his own resurrection on the third day. Not only did his disciples hear it, but the Sanhedrin was aware of it and, therefore, had the tomb sealed and a guard posted. By predicting his resurrection, Jesus was saying, "If I do not rise from the dead on the third day as I have predicted, do not believe anything else I have said. But if I do rise from the dead, as I prophesied, then you must believe everything I have taught. In other words, he was saying to his disciples, "Watch for my resurrection! Although I am, as you confessed, the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will be killed and buried. But on the third day I will be raised up." The gospels affirm that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.
In Matthew 28:6 we read the testimony of the angel, who appeared as a young man at the tomb. "He is not here!" the angel declared, and then gave the reason Christ was not there: "He has risen!" An unbeliever would say, "He is not here because he was buried in another tomb or because someone stole his body." But the angel declared, "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." He was referring to the many times Jesus had prophesied his resurrection. Then, to prove his point, he invited the disciples, saying, "Come and see the place where he lay."
Evidences of the Resurrection of Christ
Thus, the first evidence of the resurrection of Christ was the testimony of the angel and the empty tomb. The angel said Jesus Christ rose from the dead "just as he said" and invited the disciples to look personally for his body in case the angel was not telling the truth. In other words, he was saying, "Come, take a look at that which took place in time and space."
Second, the tomb had something in it and so was not entirely empty. The graveclothes, the bandages Jesus' head and body had been separately wrapped in, were left intact and in order, just as they were when he was placed in the tomb. One hundred pounds of spices had been wrapped up in the folds of these bands. As resurrection body evaporated, so to speak, and left the tomb, these bands collapsed and lay where the body had been. The Bible tells us that John saw these graveclothes and he believed.
Not only did Christ's resurrected body go through the grave bands and the spices, but it also went through the sealed, closed tomb. This is one new property of the transformed, resurrection body. The resurrection body, which is glorious, powerful and incorruptible, has new properties. It is not like the body of Lazarus, which also was bound by graveclothes. When Jesus called, "Lazarus, come out!" Lazarus came out of the opened tomb still bound in the old body. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was resuscitation, not resurrection. There is only one person so far in the history of the world who has been raised from the dead with an incorruptible, glorious, powerful death-defying, resurrection body. Unlike Lazarus, Jesus Christ came forth unbound. He went through all the bandages, the spices, and the tomb itself. So the empty graveclothes are the second evidence of the resurrection of Christ.
Third, Jesus appeared to many people. This is a very important evidence of the resurrection. Not only did Jesus' disciples see the empty tomb and the graveclothes, but they saw Jesus Christ himself. Mary Magdalene saw him first; then other women saw him, clasped his feet, and worshiped him. The two disciples on their way to Emmaus in the afternoon of the first Sabbath saw him and recognized him as he was breaking bread.
Then Jesus appeared to Peter. You see, Peter and other apostles refused to believe the women's report. In those days, no one believed any report that came from a woman. So Peter and the apostles refused to believe at first, but then we are told that Jesus appeared to Peter and he believed.
Then Jesus appeared to the Ten in the evening of the first Sabbath and they believed. I am sure Mary was also in the upper room with the Ten at that time. On the next Sabbath Jesus appeared before the Eleven. Later, he appeared to James, who, although he was Jesus' brother, was still an unbeliever. After his resurrection, Jesus revealed himself to only two unbelievers-first, his brother James and then Saul of Tarsus, the brilliant enemy of the gospel. Both subsequently became believers. Then Jesus revealed himself to five hundred people at one time, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, saying that most of them were still living. The idea was that anyone could go to these people for verification of Jesus' resurrection.
Fourth, Jesus himself gave certain evidences of his resurrection to his disciples. When the disciples to the Emmaus saw Jesus break the bread, I believe they saw the nail prints in his hands and were convinced that this man was Jesus. When he came to the disciples in the upper room, Jesus told them, "You see, I am not a ghost. After all, a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see me have." In other words, he wanted to assure them he was not a vision or a figment of their imaginations. Jesus stood before them in a real physical body which had continuity with the body they had known before and said, "Look at my hands and feet. Go ahead, touch me!" The idea is the nail prints in his feet and hands were tangible evidence that he was Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Another time he ate broiled fish. In Acts 1 we are told that he ate and drank with his disciples for forty days before his ascension into heaven.
Fifth, we discover in the history of the church that the day of worship was changed because of the resurrection of Christ. There is no reference in the Bible about people worshiping on the first day of the week until after the resurrection of Christ. Jewish people are traditionalists and the disciples always worshiped on Saturday, as they had done for generations. The Bible tells us Jesus himself worshiped on Saturday, as his custom was. But all of a sudden these people who were steeped in their tradition began to worship on the first day of the week. If we could ask them why they changed, they would say it was because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. There is no other reason but the resurrection of Christ to explain why the day of worship was changed from the seventh day to the first day.
Sixth, we find evidence of the resurrection in the sacraments of the church. For instance, baptism speaks about the resurrection of Christ, declaring that we have died with him, are buried with him, and are raised with him. As Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, he said, "Do this in remembrance of me until I come." These words speak about a risen Christ.
Seventh, we find evidence in the dramatic transformation of the apostles. After Jesus' crucifixion, the disciples were depressed and fearful, staying together in a locked upper room in Jerusalem. They were not encouraging each other to believe in the prophecies of Jesus about his resurrection; in fact, they forgot all about them. PGM Even when Mary Magdalene, a very pious person, and the other women went on the first day of the week to the tomb, they were going, not to see the risen Christ, but to anoint his dead body. In other words, the disciples had no expectation of Jesus Christ rising from the dead. The disciples on the road to the Emmaus said in reference to Jesus, "We hoped that he was going to redeem Israel," meaning a political redemption. But the Bible says their faces were downcast, indicating they were depressed and did not know what to think since Jesus had been killed.
But after the resurrection of Christ, the disciples became very bold and courageous. They even spoke about the resurrection without fear to the Sanhedrin. What caused this change in them? Since Jesus had appeared to them in his resurrection body, they were convinced of the truth of the resurrection. Peter, who had denied Christ three times, began to fearlessly proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ and did so until he, like many of the other apostles, died for his faith. Surely, the transformation of these timid, fearful disciples into bold proclaimers of the gospel, no matter what the cost, attests to the truth of the resurrection of Christ!
Salvation Based on the Resurrection of Christ
Thirdly, our very salvation is based on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is very simple: If the most unusual and difficult prophecy of Jesus concerning his own resurrection came true, then all the teachings of Jesus Christ must be true. Jesus Christ said, "I have come to give my life as a ransom for many." These words of Jesus were validated by his resurrection from the dead.
When Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter confessed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This tells us that Jesus Christ is God. In Romans 1 we read that that God the Father declared Jesus Christ to be the Son of God with power. The resurrection of Christ tells us that Jesus Christ is God.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that the death of Jesus Christ was a sufficient atonement for our sins and God is satisfied with the redemption price. God demands a redemption price for us which Psalm 49 says no man can pay because it is so costly. But not only does God demand a price for our redemption, he also pays it. Jesus Christ's death was accepted by the Father because it alone satisfied his demand for divine justice.
The Meaning of the Resurrection of Christ
What is the meaning of it all? The Bible tells us Christ died, not for his own sin, but for our sins, so that those who trust in Christ can stand in the presence of God in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is what salvation is all about.
If Jesus rose from the dead, which he did, his teaching on the universality of sin must be true. In John 8:24 Jesus said, "if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." Why did Jesus Christ come into the world? Because of sin. The truth is, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ speaks about particular redemption. Jesus Christ died for our sins and raised from the dead to redeem those whom God gave to him. As we said before, Jesus spoke about this in John 6:39, saying, "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."
The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that Jesus Christ defeated all our enemies for us on the cross. We are set free from our enemy, the flesh, which is our body in which sin dwells. We are set free from the law that accuses us. We are set free from the world. We are set free from the devil. Finally, we are set free from death itself.
Additionally, the resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we also are going to be raised from the dead with a resurrection body. In 1 Corinthians 15:20 we read, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." Paul uses the figure of aparchÝ¬, which means firstfruit. The agricultural people understood that the firstfruit pointed to the coming harvest. If there is a firstfruit, there will be a harvest, and as the firstfruit tastes, the harvest will taste. In other words, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the guarantee of the resurrection of those united to him by faith.
Our resurrection is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6:14 we read, "By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also." In 2 Corinthians 4:14 we read, "[W]e know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence." In 1 Thessalonians 4:14 we read, "We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." Finally, in Romans 8:11 we read, "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." In these verses we notice that our resurrection is tied to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If he rose from the dead, we also will rise from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ in history is the guarantee that his people, who are united with him, will also be raised from the dead with a glorious body.
Not only that, the resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees that he is coming again as Judge. Jesus himself taught this truth. He is going to come in great glory and meet with Ernest Renan and every other person, believer and unbeliever alike, as we read in Matthew 25. There will be a resurrection of the just and the unjust.
The resurrection of Christ also tells us that there is a place in heaven for us. Jesus said he came from heaven and is going back there. It means there is a heaven somewhere from which he came down, to which he went, and to which place we will also go the moment we die.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ also means that Jesus was without sin. He asked the question, "Who is there to convict me of sin?" It means that Jesus Christ was God/man. It means that he has authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus Christ alone is able to forgive sins because he died for our sins and was raised for our justification.
If all of these things are true, based on the resurrection of Christ, then this is also true: Jesus Christ said that anyone who repents and believes on him will be saved; if Jesus rose from the dead, then if you trust in him, you will be saved. That should give us great hope.
Also because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we now have victory over sin, as we read in Romans 6 and Colossians 3. Even now, the power that animates us is the power of the resurrected Christ. In Philippians 3:10 Paul wrote, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection." We died with him, were buried with him, and are raised with him to live the new life. Now we can overcome all temptation.
Because Jesus rose again, we are regenerated, as we read in 1 Peter 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. . . ." If Christ was not raised, no one would be regenerated.
Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, what he said about the devil is true. There is a personal devil, who is the god and prince of this world. Praise be to God, Christ defeated him and his minions by his resurrection . Now if we resist the devil, the devil shall flee from us.
Why Don't People Believe in the Resurrection of Christ?
If the resurrection of Christ is so important, why don't more people believe it? In 2 Corinthians 4:3 we read, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing." Notice, the gospel without the resurrection is nothing. If Christ never rose from the dead, there would be no gospel! Jesus would just be another man who died, was buried, and was wasting away in the grave. Notice, it says, "It is veiled to those who are perishing." If you do not believe in Christ, you are not part of the company of people Christ was commissioned to save.
In verse 4 we read, "The god of this age," meaning Satan, "has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Now we can understand why not everyone believes in Christ. There is a personal devil who has put blinders on people so that they cannot believe the gospel lest they be saved.
If you refuse to trust in Jesus Christ, you must make the logical deduction that you are not part of those Jesus Christ came to save. But if you repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we can conclude that Jesus Christ came to save you. This is the most serious issue in life. I hope you will never glory in your unbelief. If we want to glory, we must glory in our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is the demonic unbelief of rationalism that rejects the fact of the resurrection. Yet these same people who reject the resurrection are truly irrational. Rather than believing in God, such people believe that the universe came out of nothing, that life came out of non-life, that rationality came out of irrationality. In fact, they receive Nobel Prizes for such thinking. They believe in the most irrational nonsense, yet they cannot believe that the personal, infinite God who created the universe, sustains the universe, and performs miracles in the universe, sent his Son and raised him from the dead.
Has Christ Conquered Death for You?
The apostles boldly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin could have silenced the apostles if they could have produced the dead body of Jesus, but they did not.
The Sanhedrin had heard the prophecy of Jesus' resurrection, so they sealed the tomb and posted guards. But Jesus rose as he predicted on the the third day. The Sanhedrin heard about it, but simply gave the guards money to lie. The silence of the Sanhedrin is simply amazing. Unbelief rejects stubborn facts. They knew Jesus rose from the dead, but they would not believe in him. It is my personal theory that after Christ rose from the dead, these authorities even went to the tomb and took the grave bands, which proved that Christ rose, and kept them. But they refused to believe and be saved.
Jesus Christ died for those who are chosen in Christ before the creation of the world. Such people shall believe the gospel. He died for them only, rose for them only, and will raise them up on the last day to live with him forever. He conquered death and obtained everlasting life for his people only.
In 1 Corinthians 15:23 we read concerning the resurrection, "But each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." When Jesus Christ comes again, he will raise from the dead those who belong to him by faith who are joined to him in vital union with Jesus Christ.
Thus, the question we must ask is: Have you trusted in Jesus Christ for your salvation? Do you belong to him by faith in the gospel? There was a young girl who was paralyzed and partly blind. One day as her doctor came to visit her, he whispered to others who were in the room, "She has seen her best days, poor child." But this girl heard what the doctor said. She spoke up, "No, doctor, my best days are yet to come, when I shall see the King face to face."
If you are an unbeliever, I urge you to read Psalm 49, where the life of an unbeliever is described. You may be rich, you may be powerful, you may be famous, but you must die. Nothing can save you from death. God demands ransom for your salvation, but it is so costly that no one can pay it. Praise be to God, he who demands this costly ransom also paid it in the death of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Those who believe in Jesus Christ are saved forever and death has been conquered for them. They even now enjoy eternal life and look forward to their full redemption, including the resurrection of their bodies.
In 1899 D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, was dying. His son Will heard him exclaim, "Earth is receding, heaven is opening, and God is calling." His son said, "Dad, are you dreaming?" Moody said, "No, Will. This is no dream. I have been within the gates and have seen the children's faces." He continued, "Is this death? This is not bad. There is no valley. This is bliss. This is glorious." Then his daughter Emma began to pray for his recovery and Moody stopped her, saying, "No, Emma, don't pray for that. God is calling. This is my coronation day." He concluded, "I have been looking forward to it," and he died. I have heard from the lips of my own father such words about the grand and glorious vision of heaven.
Jesus Christ is coming soon in great glory. Do you belong to him? Have you been united with him by faith? If so, you have nothing to fear. Peace be unto you, he is saying to you even now. But if you do not belong to him, he is coming for a different purpose. He will judge you and say, "Depart from me to eternal punishment!"
Perhaps you have heard the gospel for many years now. If you are God's donation to Christ, you will repent and trust in Jesus Christ and glory in the resurrection of Christ. I urge you to repent and believe the gospel. By doing so you will prove that you belong to him and have belonged to him from all eternity, having been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Then you can live in the profound assurance that the Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death and conquered all enemies for you. Then you can live in the power of Christ's resurrection, which is the same power that created the universe out of nothing, the same power that performed all the miracles that brought Israelites from exodus, the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the same power that is in you by the Spirit of the living God. You have nothing to fear.
May God help those who never believed in Christ believe in him today. May God help those who have trusted in Christ to rejoice in their great salvation and live a life pleasing to God by the death-defying resurrection power of Jesus Christ with which Paul said, "I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengtheneth me." Amen.
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
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