Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Mystery of Resurrection

Artwork: John Marr

First Corinthians 15:50-58:
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” NKJV

There are many questions that would arise in the mind of anybody reading of resurrection. Some of these questions include: “Who shall be resurrected? In what form shall the one being resurrected be resurrected? Is there any particular order? Shall all people have to die before they are resurrected?” And many other such questions.

How can the dead rise? 

The devil in trying to disprove resurrection especially of Jesus Christ has inspired people to put forward a number of theories. I wish to briefly review a few of them.

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1. The Fraud theory: 

Fraud Theory

This says that either Jesus or His disciples or both simply invented the entire thing. It would have us believe that Christ was simply a clever crook who read the prophecies regarding the Messiah in the Old Testament and set about arranging for them to be fulfilled by Himself. However it would have been somewhat difficult for an impostor to arrange the place where He was to be born (it had to be in Bethlehem) or for him to select a virgin for His mother, or for some Roman soldiers to cooperate by not breaking His bones on the Cross. He could not have arranged the killing of the babies! In fact most of the prophecies fulfilled in the life of Christ were done by His enemies. The only fraud in the resurrection theory is on the part of the religious crooks who offer this silly and sinful explanation.

2. The Swoon theory: 

swoon theory

Here we are informed that Christ merely fainted on the Cross and was later revived by the cool dark air of the tomb. This is the position of the Christian Scientists. But there are a number of questions that need to be answered. But how did He get out of the sealed and guarded tomb? How did He get out without disturbing the tomb clothes? What bright light did He use to blind and terrify the Roman soldiers who stood guard outside the tomb? This theory does not stand any chance at all.

3. The Vision Theory:

vision theory

This would advocate that the early disciples were guilty of using some kind of primitive LSD. If this be true, then the practice was certainly widespread, for on one occasion alone over Five hundred (500) claimed to have seen Him. This theory does not stand any chance, for not one of the Pharisees nor the Roman soldiers denied Christ’s resurrection; they only attempted to suppress the story or kill the enthusiasm of the disciples.

4. The Spirit Theory: 

spirit theory

This holds that only His spirit arose. This is a liberal theory. But what do we do with the fact that Jesus ate in His resurrected body; talked in it, walked in it and even showed the nail prints in the body. This theory does not for one second stand the logic of reason.

5. The Heart Theory:

Here we are to believe that He was only resurrected in the heart of His friends. There is the story that Buddha at one time said he could live forever if only his friends could just remember him and mention his name. The trouble here however, is that none of His friends actually believed He would literally rise from the dead until they saw Him, with their own eyes, and heard His words with their ears.

Read More: False Theories Against the Resurrection of Christ

See Also: False Theories on the death of Christ

As a result of these devil inspired theories about the resurrection of Christ, the resurrection was doubted by most people. Despite the fact that His resurrection was predicted by many including Jesus Christ Himself, His disciples and friends forgot and did not expect His resurrection – only His enemies, the Pharisees and the Roman authorities remembered and made plans to prevent it (Matthew 27:62-64)

The Resurrection was Predicted by Many

The true Biblical theory is that the Bible teaches and presents a literal actual historical, bodily, visible resurrection from the dead. The angels declared it “He is not here for He is risen”. David predicted it in Psalm 16:10 “or You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” and in his first recorded message in Acts 13:35, Paul referred to this. Isaiah predicted it in Isaiah 53:9-12. “And they made His grave with the wicked — but with the rich at His death. Because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labour of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah was saying at the end of it all, Jesus would look back and declare – “It was worth it”. The Book of Hebrews also later said “who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross... “

Jesus Himself Predicted it many times: He said it in Matthew 12;33-40; Matthew 16:21; 17:19, 22-23; 20:18-19; 26:33; Luke 9:22 and John 2;18-22.

The Resurrection was Doubted by Most People

It is ironical and sad that the predicted resurrection of Jesus Christ was only remembered by His enemies – the Pharisees and not by His friends. (Matthew 27:62-64)

But what did His friends do?
a. The women did not remember (Mark 16:1-3)
b. Mary Magdalene did not remember (John 20:13)

c. Peter and John did not remember (John 20:9; Luke 24:12)

d. The Apostles did not remember (Luke 24:9-11)

e. The two disciples on the Emmaus road forgot (Luke 24;13-31)

f. Thomas did not remember (John 20:24-29)

What a tragedy that only the enemies remembered His promises!

Only one Bible writer described the resurrection. Only Paul wrote in details about the resurrection in First Corinthians 15 and Romans 8. We shall be discussing the proof of resurrection in a later paper, but now let us discuss the other mysteries of resurrection.

"...But we shall all be changed"

In the passage we read from First Corinthians 15, Paul talks of the transformation that will take place in the bodies of believers, both living and dead at the time of our Lord’s return. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. By this he means that our present body is not suited to the Kingdom of our God. To this he added-that corruption cannot inherit incorruption. Our present bodies which are subject to disease, decay and decomposition would not be suited for life in a state where there is no corruption. This immediately raises a question –How can we, our bodies be made suitable for life in heaven? What type of body did Christ have after His resurrection? Did He have flesh and blood?

In an answer to the first question, Paul tells us a mystery: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” Whether we die before Jesus returns or live when He comes, we shall all be changed. The change would take place in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. The last trump here does not mean the end of the world or even the last trumpet mentioned in Revelation. It refers to the trump of God which will sound when Christ comes into the air for His saints. (See First Thessalonians 4:16) When the trumpet sounds, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and the living will be changed. Everyone who has ever lived and died in this world would be raised, no matter where he/she was: - sea, land etc.

In verse 53 Paul uses two words – the corruptible and the mortal. The first refers to all who had died and seen corruption – decay. They would put on incorruption. The second refers to the living who are mortal – subject to death – they would put on immortality. When the dead in Christ shall be raised and the living changed with them, and then shall be brought to pass the saying: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8). The power of resurrection far overpowers death and corruption. What a magnificent future!

In verse 55 Paul now goes into a song as a result of the joy of verse 54. His song: “O grave where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” These two exclamations or expressions of joy are made by two different classes of people. Those who had died and were raised exclaimed “O grave, where is your victory? And those who were living but have now been changed; who will never taste of the sting of death, now exclaim; “O death, where is your sting? The risen ones are now saying; “O Death, where is your victory? It is true that we died, but you could not hold us captive” Those who are living at the time of the Lord’s return on the other hand, would say, “O death, where is your sting?” We never shall taste or experience your sting!” We are now going straight to heaven without passing through you.

In verse 56 – we have a very important lesson to learn. Death would have no sting for anyone if it were not for sin. It is the consciousness of sins unconfessed and unforgiven that makes men afraid to die. If we know our sins are all forgiven, we can face death with confidence. If, on the other hand, sin is on the conscience, death is terrible – the beginning of eternal punishment.

The strength of sin is the law. This simply means that the law is the arm of sin that condemns the sinner. It pronounces the doom of all who have failed to obey God’s holy precepts. It had been said that if there were no law, there would be no condemnation. The throne of death rests on the two bases: sin which calls for condemnation, and the law which pronounces it. Consequently, it is on these two powers that the work of the believer bore.

Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have victory over death and grave. Death is robbed of its sting. It is a known fact that when certain insects like the bee, sting a person, they leave their sting imbedded in the person’s flesh, and being thus robbed of their sting, they die. In a very real sense death stung itself to death at the Cross of Christ and now the king of terrors is robbed of its terror as far as the believer is concerned

Resurrection is the death of death

While resurrection means life to the Christian, it means death to death and the grave, to sin and to law. Is there any wonder, therefore why Paul in this last verse of the longest chapter in the whole of the New Testament, now exhorts his beloved brethren to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labour is not in vain in the Lord! Resurrection is sure, and faith in Christ is the key to a blissful resurrection. All will be raised, the unbeliever to eternal punishment, and all who have expressed faith in Christ to eternal bliss. The truth of resurrection changes everything. It provides hope and steadfastness, and enables us to go on in the face of overwhelming difficult circumstances.

Yes, the key to all Christian hope is in the resurrection of the dead. God is not the God of the dead but of the living. If the dead be not risen, we are of all men the most to be pitied. Let us then eat and drink for life is really a foolish tale told by an old woman. Life will be robbed of all its meaning; Christianity will be robbed of its joys and hopes, and living will have no meaning if resurrection of the dead is not a fact. But it is a fact- Because He lives I can face tomorrow for I too will live.

God bless you all

Let us pray.

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