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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Importance of the Resurrection

There are some today who question the Resurrection of Christ. Oh, they're okay with a "spiritual resurrection" of sorts. You know, spirituality is quite popular today. I mean, it's a popular theme that when someone dies they're "up there in heaven, looking down on us." Nice. And that was Jesus, too ... right? No, not right. The bodily resurrection of Christ is not negotiable, nor is it minor.

The Resurrection assures us that there is a God. Its violation of the "Laws of Nature" simply prove that God is the Master over Nature, something we desperately need to know when considering a world where Nature is sometimes not too friendly.

The Resurrection demonstrates a victory. The Cross was a victory over sin, but the wages of sin is death, so we needed another victory. The Resurrection demonstrates Jesus's victory over death. It is in the Resurrection that we can exult, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor 15:55).

It was in the Resurrection that Jesus was ultimately vindicated. It is entirely possible for one to be wrongly convicted and put to death for crimes he didn't commit. That's sad. Did that happen to Jesus? We wouldn't actually know if it weren't for the Resurrection. By rising again, bodily, He demonstrated that His death was necessary and complete, but not the end of the story. He wasn't simply killed by injustice; He died on our behalf and rose again to new life.

It is this new life that is really in focus at the Resurrection. "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). That "newness of life" is what the Christian life is all about. All things have become new. Indeed, "eternal life" was the whole idea. A Savior who promises new life and then doesn't actually continue to live is no savior at all. Christ did.

The bodily resurrection of Christ is non-negotiable. Paul said, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor 15:14). He goes on to say, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Cor 15:17-19). Instead, Paul assured his readers that the risen Lord had been seen by the original disciples as well as more than 500 more, "most of whom are still alive". In other words, "Go and ask them!"

There are other important matters that the Resurrection answers:
1. If "They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced" (Zech 12:10), but He is dead and buried, how will that happen?
2. He promised to "destroy this temple" and raise it up again in three days. His integrity was in question if He didn't rise again.
3. Appearing first to the women was a message to all of the importance of women in Christianity in the midst of a culture that demeaned them.
4. His physical resurrection was the sign needed to convince Thomas, the doubter, and continues to convince others today.
5. His Resurrection made Him the "first fruits", the forerunner of what we can expect for ourselves. It is the promise of our own bodily resurrection.
6. "What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power" (1 Cor 15:42-43).

The Resurrection is an absurdity to the unbeliever. Without it, we are without hope. But since it is a reality, we have every reason to rejoice. Some may quibble over it today, but as for me, I will exult in my Risen Savior. The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!


Anonymous said...

It came out of left field when an Episcopalian coworker casually mentioned to me, in my late twenties, that Christ spent three days in Hell, doing some sort of work there.

"Is that in the Bible? I don't remember reading that."

"Well, it may not be there in an obvious way. But you can get it implicitly. The church supports it with the Apostle's creed."

Stan said...

The first reference to "descended into hell" in the Apostles' Creed doesn't show up until the 3rd century, making one wonder about its accuracy. However, we know that Jesus told the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with Me in Hell", right? No, He said "Paradise". Another question. Peter talks about Jesus preaching to the dead "to the lost spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:19), which served as the principal text for those who buy it, but I don't think that works there, either. Scripture often uses "hell" simply as a reference to "the place of the dead". That's certainly a possibility. In this case the "place of the dead" would be that place that Jesus described in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) which was divided into two parts -- "Abraham's Bosom" (Paradise) and a place of constant torment. In this case Christ would have gone there to release those who were in Abraham's Bosom (Paradise) -- the Old Testament saints awaiting Christ's coming. That makes more sense to me and is more palatable from a biblical perspective than "He descended into the place of torment which He called 'Paradise'."

Stan said...

I just came across another possibility. The reference in 1 Peter 3:18-20 speaks of Christ preaching to spirits in prison "because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah." Do you see that "Noah"? Well, Peter brings it up again. In his second epistle he says, "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if He did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly ... then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment." (2 Peter 2:4-6,9). This seems like the most likely idea. These "spirits in prison" are the "angels" who sinned (Jude 1:6) and were cast into "hell". These, then, were the ones to whom Christ proclaimed His victory after His death. (Note that He didn't have to go into hell to do this. It says He proclaimed "to the spirits in prison" without saying He went into the prison to do it.)