This past year was a disaster for the employees of a major U.S. company. Their retirement funds were totally invested in company stock. According to the reports they received from the company, everything was going very well. One can only imagine what plans some employees had for their retirement. And then, suddenly, it was revealed that the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. The company stock was worthless, their retirement funds were wiped out, and they were out of a job. To add insult to injury, some of those who managed these funds (or had access to them) ended up with millions of dollars. You can imagine the disappointment and the sense of loss these employees felt. Many were wiped out financially, and some were too old to start over.
The disillusionment of these employees is nothing compared to that of the disciples after the crucifixion of their Master, Jesus Christ. Jesus had promised them great rewards in heaven, and they had forsaken almost everything to follow Him:
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were astonished at these words. But again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for man, but not for God; everything is possible for God.” 28 Peter began to speak to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you!” 29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10:23-30).379
The disciples had given up their jobs and left friends and family behind to follow Jesus. They had invested three years of their lives in Jesus, assuming that their sacrifices would pay off before long. They had not only entrusted their lives to Jesus in terms of temporal blessings, they had cast their lot with Jesus for their eternal future. Then, suddenly, Jesus was dead; betrayed by Judas, condemned unjustly by the Sanhedrin, and executed by the Rome. We can sense their utter discouragement in Luke’s account:
17 Then he said to them, “What are these matters you are discussing so intently as you walk along?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 He said to them, “What things?” “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied, “a man who, with his powerful deeds and words, proved to be a prophet before God and all the people; 20 and how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. Not only this, but it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Furthermore, some women of our group amazed us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back and said they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him” (Luke 24:17-24).
The disciples’ response to the Savior’s death is somewhat surprising because we expect them to anticipate the resurrection of their Master. Why would they not possess at least the same measure of the “resurrection faith” that we see in the Old Testament saints? We know, for example, that Abraham’s faith was a “resurrection faith”:
16 For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants—not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”). He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed—the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do. 18 Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, “so will your descendants be.” 19 Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do. 22 So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness. 23 But the statement it was credited to him was not written only for Abraham’s sake, 24 but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification (Romans 4:16-25).
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He had received the promises, yet he was ready to offer up his only son. 18 God had told him, “Through Isaac descendants will carry on your name,” and he reasoned that God could even raise him from the dead, and in a sense he received him back from there (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Abraham was not the exception in this matter of “resurrection faith;” he was the rule. Both Job and Daniel believed in the resurrection of the dead:
25 As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that as the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, 27 whom I will see for myself, and whom my own eyes will behold, and not another. My heart grows faint within me (Job 19:25-27).
2 Many of those who sleep in the dusty ground will awake— some to everlasting life, and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence. 3 But the wise will shine like the brightness of the heavenly expanse. And those bringing many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:2-3).
Many Old Testament texts teach or imply that there will be a resurrection of the dead.380 As we shall see, the apostles would later on teach that the Old Testament not only foretold the resurrection of our Lord, but actually required it. This text in Psalm 16, for example, foretold the resurrection of our Lord:
10 You will not abandon me to Sheol;
you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit.
11 You lead me in the path of life;
I experience absolute joy in your presence;
you always give me sheer delight (Psalm 16:10-11).
As a result, many of the Jews of Jesus’ day believed in the resurrection of the dead. We see this resurrection faith in the words of Martha, spoken while she was mourning the death of her brother Lazarus:
23 Jesus replied, “Your brother will come back to life again.” 24 Martha said, “I know that he will come back to life again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies” (John 11:23-25).
6 Then when Paul noticed that part of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, he shouted out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” 7 When he said this, an argument began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.) 9 There was a great commotion, and some experts in the law from the party of the Pharisees stood up and protested strongly, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” (Acts 23:6-9)
Hard as it may be to believe, wicked Herod believed in the possibility of the resurrection of the dead:
1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead! And because of this, miraculous powers are at work in him” (Matthew 14:1-2).
It was not just a few Old Testament saints who believed in the resurrection; it was all of them. Biblical faith, saving faith (Old Testament or New), is a resurrection faith:
13 These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. 14 For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 In fact, if they had been thinking of the land that they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).
It is crystal clear in the Gospels that Jesus believed in the resurrection of the dead, and that He taught that the dead would be raised. In Matthew 22, we read:
23 The same day Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to him. And they asked him, 24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children he left his wife to his brother. 26 The second did the same, and the third, down to the seventh. 27 Last of all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.” 29 Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 Now as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” 33 When the crowds heard this, they were amazed at his teaching (Matthew 22:23-33). 381
It is important to observe that while the Sadducees asked Jesus a question about the resurrection, they did not personally believe in the resurrection. Jesus points out their hypocrisy. We should see, however, that the only reason the Sadducees would ask a question about the resurrection (while not believing in it themselves) is because they knew that Jesus believed and taught that there was a general resurrection of the dead. When Jesus answered their question, He rebuked them for their hypocrisy, and for their unbelief and ignorance about the nature of the resurrection (i.e., when we are resurrected, we will not marry nor give in marriage). Jesus told them that they were deceived, “not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God” (verse 29). In other words, Jesus affirmed the fact that there would be a resurrection of the dead, whether the Sadducees believed it or not.
Jesus also taught that there would be a future resurrection, at which time the righteous would be rewarded:
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid. 13 But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14, emphasis mine).
Jesus taught that the resurrection was a time for rewards for the righteous, but it was also a time of judgment for the wicked:
28 “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and will come out—the ones who have done what is good to the resurrection resulting in life, and the ones who have done what is evil to the resurrection resulting in condemnation” (John 5:28-29).
Jesus could certainly teach on the resurrection with authority because He raised the dead. Jesus was regarded as one who “taught with authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29), and rightly so. He raised the widow’s dead son (Luke 7:12-15) and the synagogue official’s dead daughter (Matthew 9:18-26).
When Jesus sent His twelve disciples out, He commanded them to raise the dead:
7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8).
When John the Baptist entertained doubts and sent some of his disciples to Jesus, seeking confirmation that He was the promised Messiah, Jesus responded:
4 Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them” (Matthew 11:4-5).
The most spectacular raising was that of our Lord’s friend, Lazarus, just a few days before His final appearance in Jerusalem (John 11:1-44). I think it is therefore safe to say that Jesus underscored His teaching on the resurrection of the dead with numerous “raisings” during His earthly ministry. No wonder people found the doctrine of a future resurrection believable.
Jesus not only taught that there would be a future general resurrection of the dead, He foretold His own death and resurrection after three days. He gave a veiled announcement of His resurrection very early in His ministry at the time He cleansed the temple in Jerusalem:
18 So then the Jewish leaders responded, “What sign can you show us, since you are doing these things?” 19 Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” 20 Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” 21 But Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 So after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the saying that Jesus had spoken (John 2:18-22).
After the great confession, Jesus spoke very plainly of His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection:
21 From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21).
“They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they became greatly distressed (Matthew 17:23).
27 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even if they all fall away, I will not!” (Mark 14:27-28)
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22).
“They will flog him severely and kill him. Yet on the third day he will rise again” (Luke 18:33).382
I find it interesting that in Matthew 17:23 we are told that when Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection three days later, the disciples “became greatly distressed.” In Mark 14:27-28, Jesus spoke again of His death and resurrection. One might expect that the disciples would find Jesus’ words concerning His resurrection comforting. Instead, we find that this prophecy of His resurrection is virtually ignored. The disciples (Peter at the very least) fastened on the Savior’s prophecy of His death and of their being scattered. I think the first words of Jesus’ prophecy were so shocking, so distressing, that they failed to hear the rest of what the Lord spoke. Had they believed Jesus would rise three days after His death, they would probably have responded differently. At this point, I do not think they refused to believe Jesus; they simply did not hear what He was saying.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is even more specific about His death and resurrection. He says that it is He who will lay down His life, and it is He who will raise it up again, and this in obedience to the “commandment” of the Father.
“No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from my Father” (John 10:18).
What Jesus told His disciples privately, He also openly told those who opposed Him. When Jesus was challenged to give a sign to prove His authority, He spoke of His resurrection. The first time, He did so in a veiled statement that neither His enemies nor His disciples understood at the time (John 2:13-22). But as time passed, Jesus became much more direct in speaking of His resurrection. In Matthew 12, Jesus staked His identity and authority as Messiah on His ability to rise from the dead:
38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees answered him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:38-40).
There is no doubt that the enemies of our Lord understood that He claimed He would rise from the dead in three days:
62 The next day (which is after the day of preparation) the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give orders to secure the tomb until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal his body and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “Take a guard of soldiers. Go and make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went with the soldiers of the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone (Matthew 27:62-66).
This text forces us to acknowledge that there are times when some unbelievers may grasp things that some Christians may not. How is it that the enemies of our Lord can be more perceptive concerning our Lord’s resurrection than the disciples? We should be clear about just what the enemies of our Lord believed. They believed that Jesus claimed He would rise from the grave in three days. This in no way suggests that they believed He would actually do so! Their fear was that His disciples would steal Jesus’ body, so that it would appear that He had risen from the dead, thus fulfilling His prophecy. Sometimes it is easier for unbelievers to grant that the Bible teaches a particular doctrine than it is for Christians. Part of the reason is that while unbelievers may grant that the Bible teaches something, they feel no obligation to believe it. Christians are sometimes reluctant to “see” certain teachings in the Bible because they know that they must not only believe them, but also act on them.
What is most troubling for me is the realization that while our Lord’s enemies remembered and understood Jesus’ claim to rise again, His own disciples seemed to completely forget His words concerning His resurrection. There is an amazing dullness on the part of the disciples at this point:
9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. 12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were on their way to the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:9-14, emphasis mine).
John explains to us why the disciples were so reluctant to believe the reports of Jesus’ resurrection:
8 Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first came in, and he saw and believed. 9 ( For they did not yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.) 10 So the disciples went back to their homes (John 20:8-10, emphasis mine).
The disciples’ dullness is providential. Their reluctance to believe in the Lord’s resurrection reminds me of Elijah pouring more water on the altar, so that when God sets the sacrifice ablaze it will clearly be recognized as God’s work (see 1 Kings 18:16ff.). The fact that the disciples themselves were reluctant to believe in our Lord’s resurrection makes the reality of the resurrection all the more forceful. This is not something the disciples wanted to believe and were quick to believe; they thought His resurrection impossible, and yet they were finally overwhelmed by the evidence. The disciples’ dullness and refusal to believe in the Lord’s resurrection is further proof that the resurrection did occur.
The disciples were not psychologically predisposed to believe Jesus had risen from the dead. All the evidence shows that they were completely devastated by the Savior’s death, with no thought of His resurrection. The disciples were just like Thomas in that they had to be convinced that Jesus was indeed alive:
24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28)
The only difference between Thomas and the other ten was that he had not been present when Jesus had appeared to the ten earlier (see John 20:19-23).
We have already seen that the refusal of the disciples to believe Jesus had been raised was due to the fact that they did not as yet believe the Scriptures concerning the necessity of His resurrection (John 20:9). Luke’s words enable us to understand the basis for the disciples’ change of mind – they came to see the resurrection as an Old Testament prophecy, and thus as a necessity:
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Messiah would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47, emphasis mine).
The scriptural necessity of the Lord’s resurrection was underscored by “many convincing proofs,” witnessed by many, taking place over many days:
To the same apostles also, after his suffering, with many convincing proofs he presented himself alive. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
One is struck by the dramatic change that occurs in the disciples of our Lord after they are convinced of His resurrection. Peter demonstrates this amazing “about face” when we compare his denial of our Lord before His crucifixion and his declaration of the gospel after Christ’s ascension and the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost:
54 Then they arrested Jesus, led him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55 When they had made a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a slave girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man was with him too!” 57 But Peter denied it: “Woman, I don’t know him.” 58 Then a little later someone else saw him and said, “You are one of them too.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after about an hour still another insisted, “Certainly this man was with him, because he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22:54-62).
18 And they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God, you decide, 20 for it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20)
Once they were convinced, the apostles looked upon themselves as “witnesses of Christ’s resurrection”:
“This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it” (Acts 2:32).
“You killed the Originator of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this fact we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15).
30 “The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you seized and killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these events, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:30-32).
39 “We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:39-42).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead became a central and indispensable part of the gospel they proclaimed:
22 “Israelite men, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed through him among you, just as you yourselves know— 23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. 24 But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power (Acts 2:22-24).
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” 40 With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:36-40)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a transforming truth for the disciples and for those who believed their message. It is no less important for men today. Let us conclude by considering some of the implications of the resurrection for men today.
(1) The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the verification and vindication of Jesus’ message and ministry – it proved that Jesus is God’s promised Messiah, Who came to forgive men of their sins, and to provide them with the gift of eternal life. If the resurrection is not true, then our faith is vain:
12 Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. 15 Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. 18 Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
(2) The resurrection is an essential part of the gospel. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), 9 because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:8-9).
(3) The resurrection is foolishness to the unbeliever, and thus there will be those false teachers who deny the resurrection.
17 So he was addressing the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue and in the marketplace every day those who happened to be there. 18 Also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him, and some were asking, “What does this foolish babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.” (They said this because he was proclaiming the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) (Acts 17:17-18)
30 Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to all by raising him from the dead.” 32 Now when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We will hear you again about this” (Acts 17:30-32).
16 But avoid profane chatter, because those occupied with it will stray further and further into ungodliness, 17 and their message will spread its infection like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are in this group. 18 They have strayed from the truth by saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are undermining some people’s faith (2 Timothy 2:16-18).
(4) The resurrection of Jesus Christ is foundational to the spiritual life of the Christian. The central passage here is Romans 6-8. In Romans 6 Paul argues that the death and resurrection of our Lord necessitates that we die to our old way of life, and that we live a new life in Christ:
1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in new life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:1-11).
The death and resurrection of Christ requires that we die to sin and live to righteousness, as we see above. The problem with this is that we are incapable of living a righteous life in the power of the flesh. Paul makes this clear in Romans 7:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual—but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. 15 For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want—instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. 21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. 23 But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:14-24)
The solution to the Christian’s dilemma is to walk in the Spirit. As Paul puts it, the Christian’s problem is not in being willing to obey God and live a righteous life; the problem is that sin is more powerful than our flesh, and so we experience constant defeat when we walk in the flesh. The answer to Paul’s question, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24), is found in Romans 8:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. 6 For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness. 11 Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you (Romans 8:1-11, emphasis mine).
We are dead insofar as our ability to live the Christian life is concerned. Our flesh will always be overpowered by sin. But God has provided the means by which we can live a new kind of life. His provision is the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit Who raised the dead body of Jesus Christ to life, and it is the same Spirit Who indwells every Christian. The Holy Spirit will raise our dead bodies to life, so that we can live a life that is pleasing to God. Who can deliver us from our “body of death”? The same Spirit that delivered the dead body of our Lord from death.
(5) The resurrection of Jesus Christ plays an important role in evangelism. We have seen that the doctrine of the resurrection is foolishness to unbelievers. In spite of this, the Holy Spirit uses the resurrection of Christ to play a powerful role in convincing and converting the lost:
7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment—9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned” (John 16:7-11, emphasis mine).
The empty tomb of our Lord is a powerful witness to the validity of His claims and of the gospel He preached. Jesus told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit, who would convince the lost of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He convicts of sin because men do not believe in Jesus. He convicts of Christ’s righteousness because the grave of our Lord is empty, and because Jesus is now in heaven. God would not allow Jesus into heaven unless He were righteous. And so the Holy Spirit drives home the message of the empty tomb. The resurrection of Jesus is a powerful witness to the truth of the gospel.
(6) The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is our assurance that we, too, will rise from the dead and live eternally in heaven with Him. Thus, we need not fear death, and we can be bold in proclaiming the good news of the gospel.
Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power (1 Corinthians 6:14).
13 But since we have the same spirit of faith as that shown in what has been written, “I believed; therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak. 14 We do so because we know that the one who raised up Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence (2 Corinthians 4:13-14).
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
(7) The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also our assurance that we will be reunited with our believing loved ones, in the presence of our Lord.
13 But since we have the same spirit of faith as that shown in what has been written, “I believed; therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak. 14 We do so because we know that the one who raised up Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence (2 Corinthians 4:13-14, emphasis mine).
13 Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. 15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord always. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Our Lord has risen from the grave, and He now is in heaven, at the right hand of the Father. But He is going to return for His own, and when He does, we will be caught up in the air to spend all eternity with our Lord, and with those whom we love who love Him.
(8) The resurrection of our Lord is also a strong word of warning for those who have rejected Him as the Savior of the world. Peter boldly stood before those who had crucified His Lord, warning them that Jesus had been raised from the dead. This same Jesus, Peter preached, would return to judge His enemies. It is a sobering thought. The day of salvation is now. If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as God’s Son, and His only provision for your sins, I urge you to call upon Him now for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life.
378 This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 78 in the From Creation to the Cross series prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on May 5, 2002.
379 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
380 See, for example, Deuteronomy 32:39; 2 Kings 13:20-21; Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Hosea 13:14.
381 See also Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40.
382 See also Matthew 20:19; 21:38-42; 26:32; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:28.