21. A Matter of Position

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 21. A Matter of Position

Eph 2:6,7 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Overview: The first Part was all about having died to the old life. The second Part was all about the power of God that gives us new resurrected lives. This third Part is all about our Position TODAY and what that can mean. In the opening study of this Part we looked at the ascension of Christ and noted our verses above, but before we move on I sense we need to really get hold of this matter of position more fully.

About Perspective: It is, of course, a matter of perspective. In the first Part we noted the apostle Paul telling us to consider ourselves dead to the old life so that the things of the past will not impact us in the present. It was a matter of perspective. In the second Part we emphasized again and again the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is our power source for what I have called again and again, our resurrected lives. A matter of perspective and understanding. But now it about us seeing ourselves – yes, very much with our daily human lives living out human existence here on earth, and yet seeing ourselves as linked to Christ and therefore, in the realm of the Spirit, being seated with him in heaven where he is seated at his Father’s right hand. The ‘resurrected life’ emphasized the power we have today, but the life ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms’, is all about authority that leads to action that expresses the kingdom of God on earth.

The Godhead: First of all, how does this actually work? Well, it’s very simple isn’t it. We have dwelling within us the Holy Spirit, otherwise referred to as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ. It is God within us. But God expressed His one self in three ways. As the Father is the all-powerful authority over all things, so the Son is the part of the Godhead who exists alongside the Father in heaven from before time, who left heaven, came to earth, died for us, rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven where he is seated at the Father’s right hand ruling. (Sorry, we do need to say these things again and again for many today seem to lack this understanding).

The Spirit: The third member of the Godhead, or the third expression of it is, of course the Holy Spirit, the power-on-earth element of it, who moves on the earth expressing the will of the Father and the Son and is now indwelling all Christians. He is the link between us and Christ in heaven and He is the way Christ communicates with us. In this sense we are completely linked with Christ and there is able, therefore, to be a two-way communication. It is because of this permanent link that we are to envisage ourselves as being seated with him as he reigns. As we are open to him, so we become vessels or instruments through whom he can flow and act here on earth. Of course, because we cannot see him, it is an act of faith to believe, to hear, and to respond.

With God: But next we need to see what this ‘position’ means and because it is a position in heaven that means, first of all, that it is a position in the presence of God. I have already in the past studies put forward a ‘God first’ strategy and that must come to the fore again here. Anything and everything we say in this Part must take its origin from God; that is the big emphasis. In heaven everything focuses on God. If you want a revelatory picture of this, sometime read Revelation 21 and see the position and emphasis on God and His Son seen there.

Place of Revelation:  Second, because it is heaven, there is also a sense of being ‘above’ the earth and therefore everything of the earth is visible to heaven and therefore God sees everything and knows everything. This position therefore, as we share it with Christ, is a position of revelation, and we will find that various aspects of it, will be about knowing in ways that go beyond normal human experience. Revelation plays a big part.

Place of Power & Authority: Third, because this is all about God, it is also all about power and authority. We might take that as read when we start by saying we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but this takes on a new emphasis now because it is a direct link to the Godhead and so there is this enormous sense of power and authority wherever God is concerned.

Holiness: Fourth, because we are now talking about a more intimate or closer link to Jesus by his Spirit, and this to the Godhead in its entirety, we must remember a crucial word that occurs in the Bible over five hundred times – holy. It means to be utterly different and it reminds us that God is perfect, and that means He cannot be improved upon, He is complete, lacking nothing. There is also a moral or ethical dimension to it, that He is morally perfect. How can we have contact with such a God and still live? Only by the completed work of the Son of God on the Cross. Never have any silly idea that this concept, that we are touching on in this Part, allows us to become super-beings, super-Christians who can do what they like.  We are what we are because of Christ and we do what we do because of Christ – nothing more and nothing less.

Strategy: Fifth, what we are now looking at is another phase in the strategy of the Godhead formulated before the creation of the world, and it opens up a vista or panorama of new understanding for the child of God who is open to the Lord in His word and by His Spirit. In this we grow. The apostle Paul caught something of this panorama when he spoke of when Christ returns again at some future time and he says, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25)

In that, we catch the big purpose of the present time – an era in the history of existence when the Son of God is working with those who become believers, children of God, to counter the works of the Fall and to bring an expression of the kingdom of God to earth. As we play our part in this, so we grow. Now because this is such a big and significant concept, we will stop this present study here and pick up on the kingdom of God tomorrow.

35. Confident Expectations

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 35. Confident Expectations

1 Cor 15:14,17-19   if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith …… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

A People of Hope? As I have working through this series on ‘expectations’ I have come to realise (or just see more clearly) that hope, or confident expectation, is everywhere, especially in the New Testament and so, we are called to be a people of hope, a people of confident expectation. Thus, when I suspect that a large majority of Christian do not live with this expectation, I conclude that it must be because they do not read their Bible or take in what is there.

Back to Basics: Very often with such studies we start out with some complexity but then find ourselves going backwards it seems and becoming more and more simple, and so, as we must be drawing nearer to the end of this series, let’s see if we can be absolutely basic.

The Resurrection: If we have this hope, this confidence, we have emphasised again and again that it is to do with the future, but why can we have this confidence? On what is it built? Well, very obviously, it is built upon Jesus, upon what we read of him in the Gospels, but even more it is built upon his resurrection. If Jesus had just come with good teaching and did a variety of miracles and healed a lot of people, we could say he was just a good man, but he stands out in history as having died by crucifixion and then within three days as having risen from the dead. There is also the small matter of his ascension! The fact that this happened to Jesus, not only marks him out in history, but it also indicates God’s approval of him, as well as setting down a foundation of believe in a power that is there available for our lives also, a power we have already observed that will take us through death and into an eternal life with God.

Our Salvation Package: So, when the ‘salvation package’ is laid out before us, we find it includes us being justified (because Jesus has taken our guilt and shame), us being adopted (because Jesus has taken away any barrier between us and the Father) and us being receivers of his own Holy Spirit (because Jesus has redeemed our lives from the enemy and his way of living). All of these things, I have just shown, we have because of what Jesus has done. Thus, our confidence for these things is in Jesus, and our confidence in Jesus is because of what we see of him in the Gospels, and especially his death and resurrection. Because we are sure of these thing, we can be confident about tomorrow and especially the ‘tomorrow’ that includes our death and what comes after it.

The Ingredients of Tomorrow: Thus, seeking to be as simple and obvious as possible, if we can backtrack over these things, as I look into the day ahead of me and the many days, weeks, months or years I may have left to me, I can look forward to such times that will be free from guilt or shame because I have been justified. Even more, I can look forward to such times being those when I am aware of being a son of God, a child of God, part of God’s family, part of His household (Eph 2:19), and thus a receiver of all of the love and goodness that flows in that relationship with the Father. And underpinning all this, is the glorious and wonderful presence of His Holy Spirit who indwells me and equips me and empowers me to do the work of Jesus.

All of these things, I have with complete confidence and it is a confidence that they will be there, just the same, every day of my life that remains. There will not be a day when I have to feel guilt and shame, there will not be a day when I do not know the love and provision of the Father, and there will not be a day when I will be devoid of the Holy Spirit and His power and enabling. THAT is the confidence, THAT is the hope we have for this day, and tomorrow and every day after that.

Holding Firm: In case this sounds too good or too easy, let me balance it with the following that comes earlier in that same chapter as our starting verses: By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (1 Cor 15:2) Now there is a faith element to all this. Why is it that so many are not living in this threefold expectation I have just laid out? It is because of lack of faith to believe God’s word, the Gospel that Paul said he had preached.

Please, if you need to, if you recognise that you do not live with this daily threefold recognition (and we could add more things to those three), then go back and reread the paragraphs above until you take them in and absorb them and are able to say, “Yes, that is the basis upon which I live each day!”

The Unacceptable Alternative: And to go back to the beginning, we can say these things with a certainty, with this sure and confident expectation – this hope – because of Jesus and because Jesus died AND rose again. I do like the way Paul puts it, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith … your faith is futile …… we are to be pitied more than all men.” We either believe it and live it, or we pack our bags and go and join the miserable atheists, materialists and humanist. Trying to settle somewhere in between (“well you ask too much of me”) means we incur the strong words of Jesus: you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! …. you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold” (Rev 3:15,16) We don’t want to be that; we don’t need to be that. All we need do is go back over and over those three sets of truths above – justified, adopted, empowered – and get them well and truly settled in our lives, and then live them!

These things we should be able to be completely confident about, and when we are we can live every day with this confident expectation, and the wonderful thing is that when we do, it opens a door for God to move in and through us and who knows what the outcome will be? All I can say is that a) it will be change and b) it will be good! As you finish, dare to pray: “Lord, thank you in anticipation for this day and this week ahead, that I can live it in the knowledge of your love, live it as your child and live it with your power. Thank you, Lord. Amen!”

31. Copying Jesus

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 31. Copying Jesus

Acts 2:25-27    I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.  

Following Jesus: Jesus is always to be the one we follow, the one we copy, and this is as much true about expectations as it is about anything else.  I have always been slightly worried about the “What would Jesus do?” campaign of a number of years ago because it has the potential for legalism and of ignoring the Holy Spirit’s inner leading, but nevertheless Jesus is indeed to be the one we follow and seek to imitate.

Resurrection Hope: It was the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, under the anointing of the Spirit, who took the words of David from Psa 16:8-11 and declared them prophecy that spoke out the heart of Jesus in respect of the resurrection. Now when it comes to expectations these words are worthy of our consideration, so let’s check the quote first of all.

Verse 9 of Psa 16 says, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,” but Peter changed it to “my body also will live in hope,” Perhaps David when he first wrote it did not dare to take that final step about a resurrected body and yet he clearly hinted at something akin to that as he continued, “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay,” and if that wasn’t enough he concluded, “you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psa 16:11) There is definitely a thought there about living in God’s eternal presence after we die. Peter, and we must remember, under the anointing of the Spirit, extends this in respect of Jesus to suggest that he knew the reality, he (Jesus) had known he would be resurrected.

Jesus Sureness: Now this, of course, is quite true because we have read, “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt 16:21) which was reiterated by Jesus in Mt 17:22,23 and Mt 20:17-19 as well as more oblique references in Mt 17:9 and Mt 12:39,40 and Mt 26:31,32 which also became obvious public knowledge (see Mt 27:62-64).

Two Applications: Now that was Jesus and we just said that we are to walk in his footsteps and when it comes to his resurrection there are two ways this applies to us: first in respect of the life we now live and, second, the fact of our bodily resurrection. These are both the hope (expectation) that we have today. Let’s consider them both.

First of all, our lives today. The apostle Paul taught, “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Rom 6:4,5) Christ’s resurrection is to be symbolic of our lives today.  But this isn’t merely symbolic, it is about the power within our lives today which will take us on after physical death, which takes us on to the second application, life after death.

A little later he wrote, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:9-11)

Now this take a little explaining. When he says, “your body is dead because of sin,”  he means, as the Message version puts it, “you yourself experience all the limitations of sin” and the Living Bible helpfully adds, “your body will die because of sin” i.e. the fact is that, humanly speaking, each one of us will physically die one day because of the ‘sin thing’ since the Garden of Eden, but, nevertheless, because the Holy Spirit indwells us and enlivens our spirit, there is yet a further existence for us after our physical death whereby we will receive new resurrection bodies.

Before we came to the Lord, the Bible speaks about us having been ‘dead to Christ’ or ‘dead to God’ but when we receive the Holy Spirit and are born again, our spirit is brought alive, resurrected if you like, and alive to God. As the apostle Paul said in that earlier argument, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11) So it is a very real and very practical application for our lives today – Him in us, gives us a new resurrected life, and who knows where He will lead us tomorrow.

But it is also life after death: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:20-22) So there it is, but it is not simple and obvious. When, is a question asked. Paul continued, “each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (v.23)  i.e. when Christ returns. How, is the next question. Paul replies, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (v.42-44)

What is ‘a spiritual body’?  Clearly a body that is imperishable and does not rot as a physical body does. Did Christ’s own body after he was raised from the dead give us a clue, a body that did not seem to be limited by time and space, that appeared to be able to pass through physical matter?  Again Paul wrote, “just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (v.49) A ‘body’ is clearly part of the package for our eternity and perhaps we will just have to wait until after death to experience the reality of it. In the meantime, we have this expectation: there is a life beyond death, a life that involves a body. In the meantime, there is a ‘life’ that exists now which includes spirit, His Spirit linked to my spirit and that may be the clue to our eternal future as well. Amen.

25. The Dead Raised

Short Meditations in John 5:  25. The Dead Raised

Jn 5:25  I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live

Jesus is subtly making the same point again and again, that his business is to bring the dead to life. The world does not like it when you say they are spiritually dead but that it the truth – before we receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ we are spiritually dead. Now we have to be careful here for people in the world use the occult and the occult operates in a spiritual dimension but that is not ‘life’ as the New Testament speaks of it. ‘Life’ only comes when the giver of all life – God – puts His own Holy Spirit within a person – He alone is life, life that goes on and on and on. He is eternal life and any other form of life ceases at the end of its human existence here on earth.

Yes, New Age people and spiritists dabble on the edges of the spiritual world but that is very different from encountering the living God; they may inadvertently have dealings with demonic beings bringing deception and an appearance of another reality, but it is not the reality of heaven and of God, and it is certainly not eternal life.

When Jesus says, I tell you the truth,” he is declaring, “This is really true,” so when he goes on, “a time is coming and has now come,” he is saying that this possibility of a new life has already come – with him. There is no doubt about his claim: “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live,” for he describes himself (somewhat rarely) as the Son of God. It is an outright challenge, but then who else but God could make such a claim to impart life to the dead. Maybe it is something they expected the Messiah to be able to do, but Jesus lifts himself beyond a mere messiah figure when he clearly calls himself the Son of God. No wonder the legalistic Jews got upset, but he has a lot more to say before we get to that.

But perhaps we need to return to the subject of the spiritually dead before we finish for this is the state of all those who may be family, friends or workmates or fellow students. It doesn’t matter how nice they are; this is a not a question of sociability or even morality, this is a question of the ability to have a genuine spiritual relationship with God. Doing good or being nice are laudable in themselves but they are no replacement or substitute for a living relationship with God. If our own relationship is not particularly sparkling we may take it for granted and fail to distinguish clearly between them and you or be afraid to make that distinction because you feel it is presumptuous, but it is not – it is a distinction between eternal life and eternal death. Hold that!

50. Resurrection Fact

Focus on Christ Meditations: 50.  Resurrection Fact

Jn 20:11,14   Mary stood outside the tomb crying……At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there.

When it comes to the facts of the resurrection recorded in the Gospels, as I have written in other studies, it is not an easy matter to form a coherent picture and for this I suggest two reasons: first it was a time of great anguish and confusion in the minds of the disciples and, second, some of the things that occurred are in respect of a body that is no longer the same as it was before death, and that is sometimes confusing.

Without doubt the basic facts of the resurrection were clearly understood by the early church for the apostle Paul was able to write so clearly: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Cor 15:3-8) The word ‘appeared’ is seen here four times, emphasizing the testimony of witnesses who saw Jesus and were able to show that the appearances were real and not mere fancy.

The Basic Record: Elsewhere we have focused on specific individual verses and considered what they say but here, perhaps it will be easiest if we, first of all at least, simply provide a list of the appearances as they appear in the records:

  • To Mary Magdalene: Mk 16:9-11; Jn 20:10-18
  • The other women at the tomb: Mt 28:8-10
  • Peter in Jerusalem: Lk 24:34  (1 Cor 15:5)
  • The two travellers on the road to Emmaus: Mk 16:12-13; Lk 24:13-35
  • Ten disciples behind closed doors: Mk 16:14; Lk 24:36-43; Jn 20:19-25
  • All eleven disciples (including Thomas): Jn 20:26-31 (1 Cor 15:5)
  • Seven disciples (at least) while fishing on the Sea of Galilee: Jn 21:1-14
  • Eleven disciples (at least) on a mountain in Galilee: Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15-18
  • A crowd of 500: 1 Cor 15:6
  • Jesus’ brother James: 1 Cor 15:7
  • Those who watched Jesus ascend into heaven: Mk 16:19-20; Lk 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8
  • To Stephen: Acts 7:55,56
  • To Saul (later Paul) on the road to Damascus: Acts 9:3-6, 22:1-11
  • To John in a vision: Revelation, numerous times

The Record of Acts & the Epistles: Our temptation, when seeking to itemise the records of the resurrection is to limit ourselves to those above, but the reality is that those above who were involved and saw Jesus, did not keep quiet about it and so when we read through Acts, because there are so many references in the earlier chapters at least, we almost take them for granted, but the following are the times reference was made to Jesus rising from the dead in Acts alone:   2: 24,  2: 32, 3: 15, 4: 10,  5: 30, 10: 40, 13: 30, 13: 34. In the epistles, again we probably take them for granted but to make the point even more clearly, verses referring to Jesus being ‘raised’ are  Rom 4: 24, 25,  6:4,9,  7: 4, 8: 11,34,  10:9,   1Cor  6: 14,  15:4, 12,15,   2Cor 4: 14, 5:15,  Gal 1:1, Eph 1:20,  Col  2:12, 1Thess 1: 10,  2Tim  2:8, 1Pet 1: 21. It is so embedded in the New Testament writings that we probably almost pass them by without noticing this significance: the fact of Jesus’ resurrection gave credibility to the Gospel message and without it, that message would lose its power.

Apologetic Support: The atheistic skeptic comes up with a number of ways of trying to show that it did not happen as the records say, but we cannot just shrug aside the records for they are, in fact, so comprehensive and by so many witnesses. So let’s pick up the two most common of these things.

i) Wishful thinking: The skeptic says, “Well, of course, it was all wishful thinking, it’s what the disciples wanted to happen so they imagined it and made up folk tales to support their wishful thinking.” The only trouble is that that goes totally against the record. It is quite clear that a) the disciples struggled to understand and believe Jesus when he told them beforehand that it was going to happen, b) when his arrest and death did occur the disciples were in complete disarray, were frightened, fearful for their own lives and had hidden away and were in a state of shock and utterly believed he was dead and c) when he did appear to them their initial reaction was not joyful acceptance but disbelief.

ii) Propaganda: The skeptic then says, “Well, it was probably just propaganda to prop up their years of false belief in Jesus. He didn’t really rise, they just said he did, or perhaps they had a look-alike they used for a couple of weeks to con the other believers.” The problem here is twofold. First, is the total change around, and it is total, of the disciples from being a fear-filled bunch of cowards who abandoned their master and fled for cover in abject terror, to outward going, fearless preachers. Only the knowledge that is was true could affect them like that. Following on from that, second, is the fact that of the remaining eleven apostles (Judas having already committed suicide) ten of them died for their faith as martyrs. It was only John who died of old age. Nothing but the resurrection of Jesus could have caused such a transformation and total commitment of these men.

A Final Witness: One of the most telling of unlikely apologetics-witnesses comes in the form of a solicitor, Frank Morison, who wrote a book, “Who Moved the Stone” from the starting point, in his own words, in respect of the life of Christ that, “His history rested upon some very insecure foundations.” When he eventually came to write about the last seven days of Jesus’ life, his testimony was, “Slowly but very definitely the conviction grew that the drama of those unforgettable weeks of human history was stranger and deeper than it seemed. It was the strangeness of many notable things in the story which first arrested and held my interest. It was only later that the irresistible logic of their meaning came into view.” He then carried out deep and detailed study and the book closes with the words, “there certainly is a deep and profoundly historical basis for that much disputed sentence in the Apostles’ Creed –‘The third day he rose again from the dead’.”

I have written elsewhere in more detail about this part of the account of the Christ, but in this series of amazing information that challenges both mind and heart, the accounts of the resurrection likewise convicts both mind and heart for the person who is open and willing to investigate. He’s alive, he rose from the dead! Hallelujah!

49. Resurrection Necessity

 

Focus on Christ Meditations: 49.  Resurrection Necessity

Acts 2:23  This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

As we move on looking at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, having considered the warnings beforehand that it was coming, before we move on to look at the facts of the resurrection, it would be profitable to consider WHY the resurrection is so vital to our beliefs.

The Problem Stated: The apostle Paul focused on this subject when he wrote, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:3,4) In the next study we will consider the greater detail that then follows, but for the moment we need to look at his later remark which goes right to the heart of the matter: “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.” (1 Cor 15:14,15)

Death in History: Our starting point, as we considered in some measure previously, is that Christ was dead and buried. If he stayed like that then he would find himself in a gallery of fame that included other famous religious leaders, e.g. Mohammed, Buddha and so on, let alone lesser but important leaders in history. The starting point has to be that history shows that all great men and women died, were dead and buried, and remained dead and buried. THE claim that separates Jesus Christ out from any other major leader, is that although he died, he did NOT remain dead; he rose from the dead, he was resurrected and in that, he is unique, there is NO one else like him in all history.

Two Critical Overview Consequences: Now look back at what Paul wrote: “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Two things. First we have this New Testament  that, after the Gospels and Acts,  is full of the writings of Paul, Peter, James and John, and they all say the same thing, and it all hinges on the Lordship of Christ because of his resurrection. If Jesus was not raised then all that teaching was wrong and then, secondly, it means that our faith, founded on all this teaching, is unwarranted and pointless. It isn’t simply the fact of his resurrection that is important, it is also the consequences that flow from that. To understand that, we need to look at some of this teaching we find in the New Testament, and there we will see six consequences.

  1. Ground for Belief for Justification: Going through Romans, we see this again and again. Speaking about our lives, Paul wrote, “us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Rom 4:24) Now see this clearly. The whole of Paul’s teaching is that we are justified by belief and faith, just like Abraham was: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:3) Abraham’s belief was focused on God’s power to bring new life to his body, give him a son and make him a nation, resurrection power, if you like! We are justified when we believe that Jesus died for us and rose again: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Rom 4:25) The resurrection of Christ becomes the focal point of our belief. If it didn’t happen, we have nothing to believe in.
  2. Ground for Ascension & Rule: The apostle Peter focuses our belief as follows: “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Pet 3:21,22) We focus on a Lord who was raised and subsequently ascended to heaven where he rules today. If he wasn’t raised, he couldn’t have ascended and would not be in heaven reigning gloriously today. Our faith would be pointless. Paul said the same thing: “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 1:19,20)
  3. Ground for Our Power: But that takes us on to another aspect of this, for the power Paul spoke of there was the power we now have: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Eph 1:18,19) Hope, an inheritance and power, the same power as raised Christ. i.e. God releases that same power in us That’s what Paul also said in Romans: “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:4) and “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:11) Christ being raised is paralleled with us being given a new life and that life is enabled by this same power. If that power DIDN’T come and raise Jesus, then all this is pie in the sky!
  4. Ground for Eternity: He repeats this with the Corinthians: “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” (1 Cor 6:14) But this is not just for now, it is also about our eternal future: “we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” (2 Cor 4:14)
  5. Ground for the Second Coming: But there is another aspect to be considered: “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead.” (1 Thess 1:10) We speak about waiting for Jesus’ Second Coming, but if he was not raised from the dead, then his body is still in the ground and has rotted and any talk about a glorious return in power (e.g. Rev 19) is meaningless.
  6. Ground for the Final Judgment: Yet, one more aspect. Men question whether there will be a final judgment. Yes, says Scripture, God keeps His word as the resurrection proves: For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:21) or, as the Message Version puts it, “He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”

No, the resurrection provides a) a focus for our belief, b) a parallel for the power that is ours today that enables us to live today and c) which will also carry us into eternity, but it also shows d) how Jesus could ascend and rule at his Father’s right hand, and e) be there ready to return in glory at the appropriate time, and f) a confirmation that God’s agenda for the end is on course. Without it, all of Paul’s preaching was just pure deception and our faith meaningless wishes. That prepares the ground for us to go on and examine the equally important subject of the evidence for the resurrection which we will consider in the next study.

 

48. Resurrection Forewarned

Focus on Christ Meditations: 48.  Resurrection Forewarned

Acts 2:23  This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

From death to resurrection. Jesus, we saw, had the power to raise others from the dead but now, with his own death, we are told it was the Father in heaven who now raised Jesus from the dead. As with his death we will consider what Scripture had to say about it BEFORE it happened, then the fact of it happening, and finally the significance of it happening. So, first of all, what warning was there that this is what was going to happen?

Let’s start with Jesus’ own words, as we said we would do. Yes, we have seen these verses before but let’s see them again to ensure we really and truly take in this particular aspect of them. They start in Mt 16:

  • From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt 16:21) Then there was,
  • “When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Mt 17:22,23) And finally there was,
  • “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Mt 20:17-19) We have seen each of those before because they were linked with his explicitly speaking about his death.

However there are also other references in Matthew: “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:9) That verse did not make reference to the third day, but it certainly put Jesus’ resurrection on the agenda! Then there was, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,(Mt 12:39,40) a very specific reference to what would happen. The death would only appear as that over three days. After that there would be resurrection even as Jonah was given a new life after what was surely going to be death. Also at the Last Supper there is an oblique comment, “Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ” `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Mt 26:31,32) There it is again, part of his agenda.

Now it becomes clear that Jesus words were not only discussed among the disciples they were talked about further afield, so much so that they got to the ears of the religious elite. We’ve seen it before but it is pertinent here: “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, `After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 27:62-64) It was because of this claim that had become widely known that the authorities took these precautions, to prevent any false claims about it having happened. As far as they were concerned such a thing was preposterous and so they wanted to prevent the disciples staging any false resurrection appearances and claims, and so the first stop was to ensure the body remained in the tomb.

Next we turn to Old Testament prophecies to see if this was foretold. Now if you remember what we said when we did this with his death, you will remember that we said that although there are many prophecies about his kingship and the coming kingdom, there is little or nothing about his death. Having said that we should not be surprised, therefore, when we say there is only one reference in the Old Testament that was picked up in the New Testament to refer to the resurrection: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” (Acts 2:26,27 citing Psa 16:9,10)  Peter used this verse in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost to show that in fact the resurrection was expected. To that he added his absolute assurance about what had happened: “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:29-32)

The apostle Paul also used it in his preaching for the same reason: “So it is stated elsewhere: ” `You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” (Acts 13:35-37)

As we search among the strange verses of Isa 52/53 there is just a glimmer of the resurrection there: “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days.” (Isa 53:10) Although death is implied there is also this strong hint that yet there will be life after it.

So again we see this mystery: the two main events of the existence of the Son of God on earth were hardly spoken about in the prophetic utterances of God’s men and women in the Old Testament. Why? We are not told. Perhaps because the Lord did not want to influence the outcome by telling of it beforehand. Perhaps if it had been laid out so clearly there would have been imposters trying to create it like a modern-day illusionist. Again the truth is that in hindsight there are indicators in the Old Testament but very tenuous, and yet when the Son of God comes, he is very specific with his disciples that this is what is going to happen.

No conjuring trick, no pretending death – crucifixion at the hands of one of the most brutal armies in the world does not allow that theory – no spiriting the body away and then having a look-alike stand-in afterwards – the apostles would not have given their lives for a lie – no, none of these possibilities stand scrutiny. That leads us on to the next study where we shall examine the details of what happened and ask, why would anyone make this up?