Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tom, Risen from the Dead!

by Jim Elliff

Imagine what you would think if your good friend (we'll call him Tom) were to tell you that he is going to die due to some angry men, and then be put in the grave. You would listen incredulously at his prediction about himself, no doubt. How could he know that he is going to die, and by what means he is going to die?
Then suppose that Tom said, "Don't worry about my death, because in three days from the time I die, I'll come to life again. And I'll be looking for you."
Come on, now. This would be too much.

I'm sure you thought of Christ when I described Tom, and that what he said is precisely what the Bible claims Christ actually did. But not everybody who calls himself or herself a Christian believes that Jesus did this.

Christ's resurrection is a big notion to swallow, after all. It is no wonder that many pastors spiritualize the resurrection into something other than a rising from the dead in a body. You might not catch it when you listen to their words, but if you ask and they will be honest, there are many that think of Christ's resurrection in something other than corporeal terms.

Is it important for Christ to have risen in historical time/space reality? Yes it is. Consider the following:

1. If Christ were not raised from the dead, then He is morally unable to save. Jesus told of His future death and bodily resurrection on numerous occasions prior to it happening, and those predictions were lies if not fulfilled. Deception negates His larger message. A deceiver could not be God, or a sinless Savior. As sinful, He would not be able to satisfy the just requirements of the Father for a substitute on behalf of sinful people. If He were not raised, you should not only refuse to listen to Him; He could not save you even if you did.

2. If Jesus were not raised from the dead, the disciples were at best fools, and at worst, liars. What we know about the Christian life comes from the pen of men moved and guided by God to write the words we call the New Testament. The original apostles died martyrs' deaths on the basis of their belief that the resurrection took place just as predicted, and that they saw Him alive again. If it were not true, then they were either duped, or else they fabricated the resurrection as a means to shore up the movement. But would they pay the ultimate price for a lie they had manufactured in order to have a job? Not so. Paul speaks of the absurdity of this in the following way:

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ . . . . (1 Cor. 15:14-15)

3. If Jesus were not raised from the dead then we could not have assurance that the price of our sins has been paid. Christ was the perfect Lamb offered in our place, the single sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all who would believe on Him. His death provided our only way of being accepted by God. Without it we are doomed. Christ's resurrection is the assurance that this was completed, and that sin and its resulting death (physical and spiritual) was fully overthrown. What assurance could we have that the work promised had been done through the means of the cross if He did not rise to verify it?

Without question, the Easter Bunny pales in comparison with this momentous event called the resurrection. And we have not even mentioned such benefits as the way His resurrection results in our own future bodily resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-22), or how emancipation from the tyranny of sin is a necessary consequent (Rom. 6:1-14).
Tom's comeback would make the news. But, since Tom is sinful, like all other humans, he will die again—even if he were to predict his death and rising. His reappearance would be spectacular, but not saving. Lazarus was raised like that, remember, but he died again just like everybody else will, and his death did not do anything to solve the problem of sin and death. Tom would certainly make a few talk shows, and get a good book contract, but that is about it.

Jesus' resurrection, on the other hand, is permanent. He exists now in heaven in the same glorified body He had when He rose from the dead. He ascended in that same body to heaven after His resurrection. He has the power of "an indestructible life." And your salvation—spiritually and physically—depends upon it.

Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment I have received from My Father. (John 10:17-18)

Copyright © 2004 Jim Elliff Permission granted to copy in full, including all copyright information.

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