For over half a century I have stood here in the pulpit of Grace Community Church and spoken about the resurrection, not just on Resurrection Sunday, but all through the years of life in this church, we as a congregation have focused on the reality of the resurrection. The resurrection for us is not a once-a-year discussion, it is a constant reality for us. We live every day of our lives in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At this time of year the world stops and recognizes the historical event of the resurrection. Most people are content to accept the fact that maybe it happened and maybe it didn’t. But it seems to have some sentimental value to people and they don’t want to argue whether or not it happened. It kind of slides by as a recognized holiday.
But it seems to me as well that every year when we get to this point, the television begins to be filled with documentaries that are designed to question the resurrection. That’s not surprising. I remember a few years ago when some supposed archeologists and scholars and journalists said they had discovered the family tomb of Jesus, and in it they found His bones. They suggested that this discovery should not be disturbing to Christians the fact that Jesus’ bones were still in the grave. Shouldn’t take anything away from their experience since it really was the idea that His Spirit rose that gave life to the religion of Christianity. Obviously, that is bad history and bad theology, and it turned out to be bad archeology and bad journalism, because a few days after that was broadcast across the world, it was pulled from television when it was recognized that the entire thing was a fraud. The whole thing was debunked, never to appear again. Not surprising, because denying the resurrection has been a major enterprise for Satan.
If you go back to the book of Matthew and you come to chapter 28 in Matthew’s gospel and verse 11, right after the revelation of the Lord’s resurrection, in verse 8 of Matthew 28 it says, “They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to the disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them.” The women who came to the tomb met the risen Christ. “And Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brothers to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.’” And then this, in verse 11 of Matthew 28, “And while they were on their way, come of the guard” – that had guarded the tomb, Roman guard – “came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.” And what had happened? An angel had rolled the stone away, Jesus was gone, the grave clothes were there, the resurrection had taken place.
“And when they assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers. The leaders of Israel gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.”’” In other words, they bribed them to lie. This is the very day the resurrection took place. It didn’t take Satan long to begin to try to discredit the resurrection, it happened that very day. It’s not a very good plot to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.” How would you know that if you were asleep? “And they further said, ‘If this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble. We’ll perpetuate this deception and lie to the highest level.’ And the soldiers took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day,” years later when Matthew is writing his gospel.
The denial of the resurrection happened on the very day of the resurrection, and it has been constant ever since. For two thousand years, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as to its historical reality, has been denied. None of these denials have been successful. None of them has ever broken the chain of evidence linked unbreakably to the reality of the resurrection. None of them has ever been able to explain the empty tomb, the grave clothes lying exactly where they were when they were wrapped around His body. No one has been able to explain away the eyewitness account of the women and the apostles. No one has been able to explain away the missing body, the stone rolled away, angelic presence, later in Galilee five hundred witnesses at the same time of the risen Jesus. No one has been able to explain away the transformation of the disciples who went from cowards fleeing for their lives to bold preachers of a risen Christ. None of this has been successful; but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t continued. Destroying Christianity requires that you destroy the resurrection. So eventually all those who attack Christianity attack the resurrection, because in the resurrection are all the central realities of Christianity. The truth of the resurrection for two thousand years has been the foundation of true Christianity.
The apostle Paul, in that great chapter, chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, sums up the importance of the resurrection in these words: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is empty, your faith also is empty. Moreover we are found to be lying witnesses, lying witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. If the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” If there’s no resurrection of Christ, there’s no forgiveness of sins, there’s no hope of heaven, there’s no escape from eternal judgment.
On the positive side, Paul says in Romans chapter 10 that salvation comes to those who confess Jesus as Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9 and 10. Resurrection is at the very foundation level of the Christian faith. If there is no resurrection, Christianity is worthless; it is a lie and a deception. Because of that central importance of the resurrection, it has been assaulted relentlessly. And I want to show you the importance of the resurrection in a number of ways as revealed to us in Scripture.
First of all, the truthfulness of the Word of God is seen in the resurrection. I read you from Luke chapter 24, how that Jesus met some disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened up the Old Testament Scriptures and spoke to them of the things written about Himself in the Old Testament. In fact, He covered the whole Old Testament – the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings – and He showed them that those very familiar books that the Jewish people had basically grown up to know and revere revealed that the Messiah would first suffer and then rise again. He took the Old Testament on that road to Emmaus and explained its significance, its messianic prophecies that had been fulfilled in Jesus. Later that night our Lord met as well with the apostles back in Jerusalem and did the same thing. He went through the Old Testament and explained the things concerning Himself with particular regard to His suffering and His glory, His death and resurrection. So you end Luke’s gospel account with the fact that finally the disciples understand that the Messiah is going to suffer and rise again, and that this is all contained in the Old Testament. So because of the teaching of our Lord on that day of the resurrection, that afternoon on the road to Emmaus, that evening with the rest of the apostles, they now understand Old Testament messianic prophecy in its fullness and its richness.
So we’re not surprised as Luke continues to write, and he writes the book of Acts. And when we come into the book of Acts we find the results of those lessons that the Lord had taught them about messianic prophecy in the Old Testament. Look at Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2. Here is the first sermon preached by an apostle, it’s preached by Peter. He talks about the fact that “Jesus the Nazarene,” – verse 22 “a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God,” – in other words, God had planned and revealed that plan in the Old Testament – “you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. You killed Him, God raised Him from the death.” This, a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, verse 25, “For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence; He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You have made known to me the ways of life, the path of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’”
All of that is right out of Psalm 16, verses 8 to 11. And it is a prophecy of the Messiah, and it’s set in an interesting format because it is first-person singular. It is the Messiah Himself. It is the Son of God Himself speaking, and He is speaking of His resurrection from Psalm 16: “I saw the Lord always in my presence.” That is the Messiah saying that “the Lord is with Me.”
“He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” Decay happened very rapidly upon death. In fact, the Jews used to say that by the fourth day you didn’t want to be anywhere near a dead body; it had decayed beyond recognition. But here, the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Holy One says, “You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You have made known to me the path of life. You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.”
When David said that he was not speaking up himself, his soul did go to the grave, his body did decay. No one ever claimed that David rose from the dead. So the resurrection must refer to someone else. It does. It refers to someone who is called “Your Holy One, Your Holy One,” One who is set apart from sinners. That is a well-known name for “Messiah.”
When the angel came in Luke chapter 1 to bring about the enunciation of the coming of the Child, he said, “This Holy Child.” And when you get into the book of Luke in the early chapters, chapter 4, for example, and into the book of Mark in the first chapter, the first beings, the first creatures to recognize that Jesus is the Holy One are demons – that’s right, demons, Luke 4, Mark 1. The demons identify Him as the Holy One.
So this is a prophecy of the Holy One, the virgin-born Son of God, and a prophecy that He would not be corrupt in the grave. His body would not decay, but rather He would come out of the grave, He would be raised from the dead. This is not David. Look at verse 29 of Acts 2, “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on the throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.” And then the fulfillment: “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.”
The first thing you need to understand is that the veracity of Scripture is proven by the resurrection. Peter’s argument is clear. Psalm 16 refers to someone who will rise from the dead, someone who will not be corrupted. He will rise from the dead. He can’t be David, David didn’t rise. But it has to be someone in David’s family, someone in David’s line, a Son of David somewhere down through history. And the gospel record of the New Testament starts with Matthew, which gives a genealogy from David to the Messiah. And so Jesus is in David’s line. It must refer to one who is a Holy One, and that is restricted only to one person whoever lived in this world, and that is the Son of God, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; and he must come, and He must die, not be corrupted, and rise from the dead; and that’s exactly what He did. And for the first time, the apostles now are quoting the Old Testament with an understanding mind. The difference between the apostles before the road to Emmaus and before the evening of the resurrection when Jesus appeared and taught them the meaning of the Old Testament as relates to Him was now they understood the full range of messianic truth laid down in the Old Testament. They become instantly Old Testament scholars.
In the thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts, again an illustration of the relationship of the Scripture – the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament – to the resurrection of our Lord. In chapter 30, it says that “God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people.” That is, He appeared to the apostles. “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten you.’” That’s Psalm 2. And now they understand for the first time Psalm 2, that in Psalm 2 there was the promise of a resurrection: “You are My Son eternally; but there will be a day when I will give You life,” the resurrection. As for the fact that He raised Him from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.” And that’s quoted right out of Isaiah 55 and verse 3.
God is guaranteeing that Jesus, by the resurrection, is the long-awaited Inheritor of the Davidic covenant and all its promises. Verse 36, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among the fathers and underwent decay.” It’s not David who didn’t decay, it’s not David who fulfilled this prophecy. “But” – verse 37 – “He whom God raised did not undergo decay.” So again, the apostles refer to Psalm 2. They refer to Isaiah 55. They refer back to the same passage. And we saw in Acts chapter 2, Psalm 16. “Therefore” – verse 38 says – “let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” This is the Messiah who came to bring salvation. He is the One whom God raised from the dead.
Later on the book of Acts, just to see it all the way through, chapter 26, again, this is the constant apostolic message. Chapter 26 says this, verse 22: “So, having obtained help from God,” – Paul says, talking to King Agrippa – “I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place,” – that’s a reference to the Old Testament – “that the Christ” – or the Messiah – “was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” Again the apostles tie the resurrection to promises in the Old Testament.
One other important portion of Scripture is the second chapter of John’s gospel, where Jesus even makes a prophecy that’s recorded in Scripture. “Jesus says,” – verse 19 of John 2 – ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I’ll raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple,’ – referring to Herod’s temple – ‘and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” So here is a scripture in which Jesus predicts His own resurrection. “So when He was raised from the dead,” – verse 22 – “His disciples remember that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” Early on they were beginning to realize in John 2 that the Scripture predicted the resurrection of Messiah. May have seemed vague then because they don’t seem to hold to that later on, until finally on the road to Emmaus it all becomes clear. And when Jesus rose from the dead, they fully believed the Scripture.
What is at stake in the resurrection is the veracity of Scripture, the truthfulness of the Word of God. Secondly, the deity of the Son of God, the deity of the Son of God. In Romans chapter 1, it tells us concerning the Son of God, verse 4, that “He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” Resurrection is proof of His deity.
Acts 13:30 says, “God raised Him from the dead.” Romans 6:4 says that “Christ was raised by the glory of the Father.” Ephesians 1 says that “The Father of glory raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand on the throne.” The resurrection was the Father’s declaration, “This is My Son.” And again, the preachers of the gospel, way back in Acts chapter 2, understood this.
Go back to Peter’s sermon, pick it up where we left off. And we see from verse 32, “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.” And then this: “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” That is the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’” Taken right out of Psalm 110.
Who was the psalmist talking about? “The Lord said to my Lord.” We have two Lords? Yes, we have the Lord who is Father and the Lord who is Son, and the Son sits at His right hand, and the Father makes His enemies a footstool for His feet. That also is indicated in Psalm 2. By the resurrection, the Father declares that this is His Son. So verse 36 says, “Let therefore all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah – this Jesus whom you crucified.”
At that moment, panic sets in. Verse 37: “They heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” Recognizing they had killed the Prince of life, they had killed the Son of God, they had killed the one who was Lord and Messiah, “Peter says, ‘Repent.’” And we know many did, many did that very day. Thousands that very day were added to the church, and thousands more day after day in the early chapters of Acts when they recognized that the Messiah whom they rejected was truly God the Son come to redeem them. If you have no resurrection, then Jesus is just a man, made a noble effort as a good teacher, make a difference in people’s lives; but like everybody else, He dies and disappears from history. But He was raised from the dead; and God, by that resurrection, declared Him to be His eternal Son.
Now that leads to a third very important reality if you’re talking about the full force of the resurrection. You have not only the truth of the Word of God, the deity of the Son of God, but you have the completion of the salvation of God. Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “The Son is come to seek and save the lost.” He came to save. He didn’t come to be a good teacher, didn’t come to make a moral impact on the world, He came to save sinners. To save them from what? Save them from God, to save them from the wrath of God, to save them from eternal hell and punishment.
Could He do it? Could He actually do that? It’s nice to think that He came to seek and save the lost. The question is, “Could He actually do that? Could He accomplish the salvation that He sought to achieve?” And that takes us back to 1 Corinthians 15, and we could pick it up again at verse 17: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you’re still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” Did you get that? If Christ is not raised, those who have associated with Him have perished; He did not save them, because, verse 19 says, “If we hope in Christ in this life only,” – if you’re looking at Him as a temporal leader, a moral teacher, “we are of all men most to be pitied.” Why? Because we trusted in someone to save us from eternal hell and He was just a man, if there’s no resurrection.
But because He is raised, verse 20, “Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” He can’t save anybody if He’s not alive. But He did rise and He conquered death, and He was vindicated by God as having offered a sacrifice that was satisfactory to God to satisfy His justice and provide the required penalty for sin.
The apostle Paul acknowledges this as well in the fourth chapter of Romans in a very important statement, verse 24: “But for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,” – and then he describes this – “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised” – literally – “for our justification.” If He is not raised, we are not justified. He raised Jesus from the dead to validate His sufficient sacrifice providing righteousness for us.
This is the work of Christ. It is not just to upgrade the moral character of people. It is not just to bring some kind of gentle religious life into the world. No, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, to rescue people from eternal hell. That is the work of redemption. He died on the cross to then bear the penalty, the full fury of God for all the sins of all who would ever believe. He died to satisfy the wrath of God.
The question is, “Was God satisfied with His offering? Could His death actually be applied to sinners who believe?” The answer is yes. He was raised for our justification. “What do you mean justification?” He was raised so that we could be declared righteous.
Every aspect of salvation depended on His resurrection, bestowing eternal life. Jesus says when He’s with Mary and Martha and raising Lazarus, He says that “I am the life. Whoever believes in Me will not die.” And that’s why Paul writes, “As in Adam all died, even so in Christ all will be made alive.” In John 14:19, He says, “Because I live, you will live also.”
So our life is dependent upon His resurrection. Our life as Christians is also dependent on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us life, who regenerates us, who takes up residence in us and enables us to sustain a permanent, everlasting faith and an everlasting life. And if He doesn’t rise, there’s no coming of the Holy Spirit.
In the upper room with His disciples, recorded in John 13, 14, 15 and 16, Jesus repeats several times, “I’m going to send the Holy Spirit. I’m going to send the Holy Spirit.” But He says, “I can’t send the Holy Spirit until I return to glory.” He hadn’t died yet. He was still to die, to rise, to ascend into heaven; and when He ascended into heaven we find it in Acts chapter 1, immediately in chapter 2, the Spirit comes.
The Spirit is the one who empowers the preaching of the gospel on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit is the one who brings about the salvation of every soul that is given life, and the Spirit can only do His work based upon the rising of Christ from the dead and His ascension to the right hand of the Father. Forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins is dependent upon the resurrection of Christ. We read that in the book of Acts: “Because He rose from the dead, He provides the forgiveness of sins.”
The destruction of Satan is a result of our Lord’s resurrection. That is made explicitly clear in Hebrews chapter 2 in what is a very important portion of Scripture. Listen to verse 14: “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself” – speaking of Christ, the Son of God – “likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of His people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He’s able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” Because He rose, He rendered powerless the devil who had the power of death, and freed all of us from Satan’s grip eternally. His resurrection is the evidence that He conquered Satan, that He provides forgiveness of sin, that He sent His Spirit, that He bestows eternal life.
His resurrection also, that as well, in the book of Hebrews, we just read a portion of that in chapter 2, provides Him as our Intercessor, the one who lives to make intercession for us, to sustain us into eternal glory.” Listen to Hebrews 4:14, “We have a great high priest who has” – not only raised from the dead, but – “passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, so let us hold our confession tightly. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
And then chapter 7, verse 25: “Therefore He” – our permanent Priest at the right hand of the Father – “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” What is His intercession? It is His sustained support and prayer to the Father on our behalf that secures our eternal salvation. All that we have as believers, from the gift of eternal life to the defeat of Satan to final glory is a direct result of the resurrection. No resurrection, no eternal life for anyone. Because He lives, we live.
The resurrection affirms then the Word of God, the Son of God, the salvation of God. And, fourthly, it even affirms the church of God. Jesus said, “I will build My church.” But that church was predicated on His rising from the dead. Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 20 says that “God the Father brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
What did He bring about? This: “He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” It is the resurrection of Christ that establishes the church. He is alive and He lives in His church, that marvelous, marvelous statement of verse 23: “The church is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
What does it mean to be in the church? It means to be full of Christ, full of Christ. “This is the highest honor of the church,” – wrote John Calvin – “that until He is united to us, the Son of God recons Himself in some measure incomplete. What consolation it is for us to learn that not until we are in His presence does He possess all His parts, or does He wish to be regarded as complete.” Amazing. He’s not complete until His body is complete: the redeemed who are in union with Him.
In the fourth chapter of Ephesians we read more of this. “The Lord” – verse 10 – “who descended also ascended.” Not only did He die, He rose again, ascended into heaven. “And He gave” – for His church – “some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors-teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; till we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the statue which belongs to the fullness of Christ. We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Got a lot of powerful theology in that. But the sum of it is this: the risen Lord lives and gives to His church apostles, prophets, evangelists, teaching pastors, to build up the body to conform to His own image. The true, living church is in union with the living Christ. The religions of the world inevitably look back to some originator, some source, some person who is dead. But not in the case of the church of Jesus Christ. We don’t trace our history back to someone who is dead, we live in the presence of Him who is eternally alive.
The true church is alive. Despite all that it endures and suffers, it is alive. The resurrection life of its Lord is the very life of the church. Because He lives, we live. And you can ask the question, “What gathered the scattered apostles? What transformed them? What took that little band of followers of Jesus going through very difficult times and being fearful, what took them to the place where they literally turned the world upside-down with the message of Jesus as Lord and Messiah?” One event: the resurrection, the resurrection. That became the message of the apostles, a message essentially that established the church and always does advance the church.
How important is the resurrection of Jesus Christ? It vindicates the truthfulness of the Word of God, the deity of the Son of God, the completion of the salvation of God, and the establishment of the church of God. There’s another reality that is tied inextricably to the resurrection: the inevitability of the judgment of God. Jesus rose not only to be Lord of His church, Jesus rose not only to be the life of His church, but Jesus rose to be the Judge of the world.
In the eighth chapter of John, the Jews say to Him, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I’m going, you cannot come’?” They were mocking Him because they believed that if you committed suicide you wouldn’t go into the kingdom. “He said He was going to go to His Father, does He mean He’s going to kill Himself and we’re not going to be able to go because we’re going to heaven and He’s going to hell because of suicide? Is that what He meant?” This is mockery.
He said to them in verse 23, “You’re from below, I’m from above; you’re of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am,” – that is the name of God – “unless you believe that I am God, you will die in your sins.” So they were saying to Him, “Who are You?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning?” And then, verse 26, “I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you.” He’s either your Savior or He’s your judge.
Matthew chapter 25 presents Him as the Judge of nations. Apostle Peter and Jude present Him as the Judge of angels. But more than that, He is presented as the Judge of every individual. And that judgment is a terrifying picture in the twentieth chapter of the book of Revelation. We can go forward to that chapter, which reveals to us the final judgment.
Revelation 20, verse 11: “I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things that were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
God keeps accurate accounts. Here’s the most solemn, threatening passage in all the Bible. First Corinthians 16:22 says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned.” Here is that damnation in its final form. God keeps, again, accurate records. And every sinner will be judged by the books, and what the books will record is sin.
Who is this Judge? Who is this Judge? The answer to that is back in John’s gospel, chapter 5; and we read in verse 25, “Truly, truly, I say to you,” – Jesus is speaking – “an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Who is the One who raises all the dead and brings them to that final judgment? It is the Son of God. “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,” – all, everybody will rise – “all will come forth; those who did the good to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil to a resurrection of judgment.”
The Lord says, “I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true.” He is simply saying, “I’m not saying this on My own, I’m reiterating what the Father has said.” Suffice it to say, He’s the Judge. He came to seek and save the lost; but those who reject Him, He will judge.
It’s impossible to understand the full range of importance connected to the resurrection of Jesus Christ unless you see these things, which are the sum of all of God’s redemptive purpose. The truthfulness of the Word of God is at stake. The deity of the Son of God is at stake. The completion of the salvation of God is at stake. The establishment of the church of God is at stake. The inevitability of the judgment of God, all of them tied to the resurrection.
And one final reality: the eternal bliss of the people of God, the eternal bliss of the people of God. Beloved passage in John 14 where Jesus says to His disciples in that upper room on the night of the last Passover, the night of His betrayal, the next day He was to be arrested: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Because He lives He has the power to fulfill His promise, to gather His people to glory.
Listen to what Paul says at the end of that great chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. He says, “Now I say this, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” Not everybody’s going to die, some are just going to be transformed on the way up. That’s the rapture of the church.
“It’ll happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” The dead will rise, and the rest of believers will be gathered into the presence of the Lord. “The perishable will put on imperishable, this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What victory? The victory over death. The victory over death.
Everything in our redemption is connected to the resurrection. It’s the all-encompassing reality that establishes the truth of the Word of God, the deity of the Son of God, the completion of the salvation of God, the establishment of the church of God, the inevitability of the judgment of God, and the wonderful heavenly hope of the people of God. Everything is tied to the resurrection; that’s the full force of the resurrection.
The invitation is this, Paul’s very familiar words in Romans 10. He says this: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” In that same passage in Romans 10, Paul quotes from the prophet Joel: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The resurrection is the final evidence that He could do what He came to do: save His people from their sins.
Father, we thank You for the clarity with which the Scripture speaks to the glory and centrality of the resurrection. We thank You for giving us, at least briefly this morning, a picture of the full force of this incomparable event. We thank You that our Savior lives; and because He lives, all who are in Him live as well. And because His life is eternal, so is the life that belongs to all who belong to Him. In Him we live, everlastingly in joy and bliss. Thank You for raising Christ and for one day raising all of us so that we are not just disembodied spirits in Your presents, but all of us will have resurrection bodies, as Paul says, like His glorious body, fit for an eternity of joy and service to the One who gave us life.
We praise You on this Resurrection Sunday for our own resurrection. We have been raised already from spiritual death; we will soon be raised from temporal death to eternal life in Your presence. We long for that reality. But until that time, we want to be faithful, faithful to fulfill the calling that You’ve given to us in these words, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor, your toil, is not in vain in the Lord.” May we who have life, because we are in Christ and Christ is in us, so labor and toil for the gospel and the sake of the kingdom, that our lives are allowed expression of thanksgiving by obedience and worship for the gift we have received, even our eternal life in Christ. And we ask these things in His name. Amen.