I want to talk to you about the resurrection and the scope of the resurrection, the importance of the resurrection. I was reading an article this week in which a gentleman was offering a handful of reasons why to reject the resurrection of Christ. That’s nothing new; that has been around since His resurrection was first announced. Soldiers were bribed to lie about the resurrection, and there have been people trying to discredit the resurrection ever since. It just may be that there are some Christian people and others who don’t quite understand how critical the resurrection is to our Christian faith.
I think it’s fair to say that the whole of Christianity is built on the resurrection. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity. If there is no resurrection, God is Satan, and the Bible is full of lies. If there is no resurrection, there is no salvation, no forgiveness, no hope, no heaven. You cannot pull the resurrection out of the structure of Christianity without it collapsing completely. And I want to see if I can’t show you at least in some small measure how broad, how wide, how high, and how deep the impact of the resurrection extends.
Let me start by talking about God - God the Father first of all. The Bible tells us about God, about His nature, about His character; and one of the things that the Bible reiterates about God is that He is the truth, speaks the truth and nothing but the truth. In Psalm 119, verse 89, the Scripture says of God, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” In Psalm 33:11 we read that, “The counsel of the Lord stands sure forever.” Psalm 86:15 says that, “God is full of truth.” And 1 Kings 8:56 says that, “There has not failed one word of all His good promise.” Deuteronomy 32:4 sums it up by saying, “He is a God of truth, without iniquity.” And in the New Testament, Titus 1:2 says, “God cannot lie.” It is impossible, for He is absolutely holy. The devil is the liar. The devil is the father of lies. God speaks the truth. And the truthfulness of God, and therefore the character of God is at stake in the resurrection.
Turn in your Bible to Acts chapter 2, and we’ll be looking at a few different scriptures this morning. But in Acts chapter 2 the apostle Peter stands up to preach in the city of Jerusalem to a huge crowd of Jews that are gathered there on the day of Pentecost - one of the Jewish celebrations - and Peter preaches concerning Jesus. These are his words, starting in verse 22 of Acts 2: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Then verse 24 says, “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
Scripture says God raised Jesus up from the dead. It repeats it over in verse 32: “This Jesus God raised up again.” The conclusion of that is in verse 36: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Three times it says in this section that God raised Jesus up, that God loosed Him from the grip of death, that it was impossible for death to hold Him.
Why is that so? Well, the Scripture used here by Peter does not speak of the power of God. It does not say God raised Him because He was powerful enough; doesn’t speak of the wisdom of God. God raised Him because He was wise enough; He could come up with a plan to do it. It doesn’t say that He raised Him up because He was compassion and mercy and wanted to extend grace to us. It says that God raised Him up because He said He would. And we see immediately in verse 25 and following a series of quotes from the Old Testament.
In the writings of David, for example - Psalm 16 is the text here; Psalm 16, verses 8-11 - and this is what that Psalm says, and it’s speaking of the coming Messiah: “‘I saw the Lord always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’” Clearly a promise of resurrection, that the Messiah, the Holy One, will not have his soul abandoned in the grave, nor will he be allowed to undergo decay.
Peter says Christ was raised by God because God said He would do it; and He did it. The Word of God is at stake in this. If Jesus doesn’t rise, then God is a liar, and what God said in the Old Testament in Psalm 16 is a falsehood. God being a liar makes God Satan, not God.
In 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul deals with the resurrection a lot – in fact, it’s the theme of the whole chapter – he talks about those who preach the resurrection, and he says in verse 15, “Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified concerning God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.” In other words, “We’ve been giving testimony to God that He promised to raise Christ. If Christ is not raised, then God is a liar, and we who have preached the resurrection are false witnesses.” If Christ did not rise, God lied, the apostles lied, all who preach the resurrection are liars, and all of Christianity collapses with a lying God, who is therefore no different than Satan.
God’s Word is at stake in the resurrection, and God is true, “And let every man be a liar,” says Scripture. The resurrection then impacts the very confidence we have in God. If Jesus did not rise, then God lied, and all those who represented Him lied. And there is no sense in believing a lie - our faith is worthless.
The resurrection also has implications toward God the Son. Turn in your Bible to Mark chapter 2 and listen to a conversation with Jesus here. Some disciples of John the Baptist, along with some Pharisees, were fasting in Mark 2, verse 18; that’s what we read.
There was only one commanded, one demanded fast in Jewish history: that’s the fast on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). There were no other commanded fasts. But Pharisaic and Jewish tradition had developed through the centuries, so that by the time of our Lord, the Pharisees, who were the leading religionists of Judaism, had developed a pattern of fasting twice every week. They fasted every Monday and they fasted every Thursday, and this was to demonstrate their piousity, their virtue, their devotion to God. They even made sure that everybody saw them fasting and knew of their deprivation so as to think of them as truly devout.
John the Baptist’s followers followed that pattern; they wanted to be at least as devout as the Pharisees. They were following John the Baptist, who was the last of the true prophets, and so they followed that custom. The disciples of Jesus did not. So John’s disciples and the Pharisees fasting come, and they have a question for Jesus in verse 18: “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast? Why are we supposed to believe that You come from God when You don’t even meet the minimum requirement?” This was the badge of their supposed religiosity.
But on the contrary, the disciples of Jesus didn’t fast at all, and they want to know why they don’t at least come up to the standard of the devout. Jesus, in verse 19, replies to them with a parable: “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.”
Jesus describes a wedding. Nobody fasts at a wedding; you feast at a wedding. Our Lord is saying something very clearly. There is something tantamount to a wedding going on, there is a celebration happening now. To make it more direct, in the symbolic language of the ancient Middle East, the wedding represented the greatest of all celebrations. And, in fact, for Christ and the disciples the wedding represented the day of salvation. Christ is the bridegroom; believers are the bride; the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem in Revelation, is coming down out of heaven as a bridal city. And the reason the language of the bridegroom, the bride, and the wedding is used to speak of Christ and salvation is because that was the greatest of all celebrations. So our Lord says, “You don’t fast when the wedding is taking place.”
The bridegroom, Christ, had come; and the bride, His followers, were celebrating. But then in verse 20 He says, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” That verb “taken away” is used twice in the Greek translation of Isaiah 53, where it says, “In humiliation His judgment was taken away,” where it says, “Because His life is taken from the earth for the transgression of my people, He was brought to death.” That word, in the case of Isaiah 53, means “taken away in execution,” “taken away to die.” And that’s what our Lord is saying here: “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away to die; then they will fast in that day.” And surely they did.
That’s not the end of the story. Jesus not only spoke about His death. Turn to the eighth chapter of Mark, the eighth chapter of Mark and verse 31. And there are a couple of illustrations. I’ll give you two of what Jesus no doubt said very often, because the verbs indicate that this was something He repeated. Mark 8:31, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly.” He would die; three days later He would rise from the dead.
Go over to the ninth chapter of Mark, and again the thirty-first verse. He’s teaching again, and the pattern is to indicate that this was repeated teaching on His part. “He was telling the disciples, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.’” This is absolutely specific. If Christ does not rise, not only is God a liar, but Jesus Christ is a liar; God cannot be believed, and neither can Christ; and He is not the way, the truth, or the life. But He did rise from the dead, as the gospel record indicates. His prophecy was true, validating His deity.
In Colossians chapter 1, turn to verse 15. This is an important portion of Scripture identifying the Lord Jesus Christ. And we read in verse 15 of the Lord Jesus that, “He is the image of the invisible God.” He is the prōtotokos, “firstborn.” It doesn’t mean first in chronology; it means first in primacy. He is God, the image of the invisible God, but He also was born as a man; and as a man, He is the premier human ever made.
But He is more than just human, because verse 16 says, “By Him all things were created.” He is the Creator, therefore He predates everything that was created. “He is the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities,” – those are all titles for angels – “all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things; in Him all things hold together.” He’s the Creator and Sustainer of everything in the universe. “He’s also the head of the body, the church; and the beginning,” – and then – “the premier One born from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”
The place of Christ as the God-man, the primacy of Christ, the preeminence of Christ is connected to His resurrection. He is the firstborn from the dead of all that have ever been raised or will be raised. He is the most preeminent One - He has first place in everything. It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him. If Jesus doesn’t rise from the dead, He lied. If He doesn’t rise from the dead, He’s not the firstborn from the dead. But He did rise, and He is the primary One.
And listen to how that affects the gospel. Go to Romans 1. Paul sets apart the features of the gospel to which he was set apart as an apostle. He says in verse 2 of Romans 1, “The gospel was promised” – the good news promised – “beforehand” – in the Old Testament – “through God’s prophets in the holy Scriptures,” – what was promised was – “concerning His Son, who humanly was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared also to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.”
The word “declared” is a very important word. It’s a Greek verb horizó from which we get “horizon.” The horizon is a clearly marked point. The horizon line separates earth from heaven, the clear line between the earth and the sky.
Jesus Christ is clearly declared and marked out to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. If He does not rise, God lied, Christ lied, He is not the Son of God. He has no power. Everything concerning the Father, everything concerning the Son is connected to the resurrection. He is the image of the invisible God, the eikón, the “precise copy,” the “exact replica” of God, the “perfect revelation” of God. He bears the glory of the Father, John says.
Of all who have ever been created He ranks first, not in time, but in position: Creator, preexisting Creator, source of life. He upholds the creation, He dominates the spiritual world of angelic beings, He’s the head of the church; all of this validated by His resurrection from the dead. He becomes, by the resurrection, the preeminent One. And Revelation 1:18 says through His resurrection He holds the keys to death and hell. Philippians 2 says that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand.
In John 2, Jesus said to the Jewish people, “Destroy this body, and in three days I’ll raise it up.” He was not speaking of the temple, the building; He was speaking of the temple of His own body.
In the tenth chapter of John’s gospel, verse 17, He said this: “The Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, I have authority to take it up again.” He had the power over His own body. He yielded up His life; He took it back.
This has critical implications. Look again to 1 Corinthians 15; and here are these implications in verse 17. First Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” If Christ is not raised, then God did not accept His sacrifice for sin, and there is no sacrifice for sin, and you are still in your sins, headed for hell and punishment. If Christ has not been raised, verse 18, “Then those also who have fallen asleep” – or died in Christ – “have perished.” They’re all in hell. If Christ is not raised, heaven is empty, except for God and holy angels.
“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only” – in other words, you hoped in Him in a temporal sense as, perhaps, a good teacher, but not one who rose from the dead – “we are of all men most to be pitied.” If you deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you turn God into Satan, because you make God a liar. You make Christ a liar. You void the cross. There is no salvation. There is no hope - everyone perishes. And if we still follow Christ in only a temporal sense, we are pitiful.
But He is risen. Look at verse 20: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, and He is the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death,” – that’s Adam – “by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.” That’s Christ. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” “He was raised,” says Paul in Romans 4:25, “for our justification.”
The character of the Father, the character of the Son, is at stake in the resurrection; also, the Holy Spirit. We read a moment ago Romans 1:4 where it says that, “The Son of God was declared to be so with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness.” It was the Spirit of holiness, the Holy Spirit, who had promised that Christ would rise; promised it in the scriptures of the Old Testament; promised it in the scriptures of the New Testament, even through the lips of the Lord Jesus.
But there’s even more than that in considering the Holy Spirit. In John 16, Jesus says in verse 7 to the disciples in the upper room at the last Passover; He says, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. It’s good for Me to go away, to die, to rise, to ascend to heaven, because when I get to heaven I’m going to send the Holy Spirit. And when He comes,” – down to verse 13 – “He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak.” In other words, He will speak for God as God. “He will disclose to you what is to come.” Verse 14, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and disclose it to you. The Spirit will come and show Me to You.”
How important is that? That’s essential. You can’t be a believer in Christ unless you see Christ, unless you have a revelation of Christ. It is the Spirit’s work to come and provide that revelation of Christ in the Scripture. “He will come, and He will aid you writing the revelation of My own life and work.”
But it is also the Holy Spirit who not only reveals Christ in Scripture, but reveals Christ to the mind and the heart in the ministry and the miracle of regeneration. If you have no resurrection, then Christ doesn’t go back to heaven. If He doesn’t go back to heaven, He doesn’t send the Holy Spirit. If there’s no Holy Spirit, there’s no conviction of sin, there’s no regeneration of the spiritually dead, there’s no revelation of Christ, there’s no Christianity.
In the book of Acts, again in chapter 2, Peter says in verse 33 concerning Jesus, that, “He was exalted to the right of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” He went back to heaven and He sent the Holy Spirit.
Earlier in this second chapter we have the marvelous, wonderful coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. If Christ hasn’t ascended, He can’t send the Spirit. He can’t ascend if He didn’t rise. But He did rise; He did ascend. He sent the Spirit. The Spirit brought power, established the church on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit regenerates, gives life. The Spirit leads, guides, gifts, cares for, edifies, comforts, strengthens, empowers the church. You have no church without the Holy Spirit; you have no Holy Spirit without the resurrection.
So you can see that to pull the resurrection out of Christianity, all of it collapses - and it collapses at the divine level, and we’re pitiful who are Christians. If God, Christ, and even the Holy Spirit lied to us, and there is no resurrection, and there is no salvation, and there is no hope, we’re a pitiful bunch of deluded religionists. But, Christ is risen from the dead.
The resurrection also had an impact on angels. We don’t think about the angels very often; we should. I want us to think about them with regard to the resurrection, so turn to the first chapter of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews starts out this incredible book which is designed to show the preeminence of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, in every sense, in every way. But I want you to notice that, in the first chapter, He has the angels in view.
He introduces the Son of God. In verse 2 is the heir of all things, as well as the Creator of all things. And then He says about the Son of God, that, “He is the radiance of God’s glory.” He’s the emanation of the shekinah of God. He’s the very nature of God manifest. He is the exact representation of God’s nature. He upholds all things by the word of His power. He made everything, verse 2; He holds it together, verse 3.
And then He says when He had made purification of sins – and that, His sacrifice at the cross – He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. That’s the ascension; and to have an ascension you have to have a resurrection. He provided the sacrifice for sin that God accepted. God raised Him from the dead, and He ascended to glory and took His place at the right hand of the Majesty on high. And at that point, “having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”
What is His relationship to the angels? Keep reading. It was all presented in the Old Testament. Which of the angels did God ever say, “You’re My Son; today I’ve begotten You”? None. To which of the angels did God say, “I will be a father, and you shall be a son to Me”? None. And when He again brings the firstborn into the world at the resurrection, He says, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
The angels are simply “winds,” “ministers,” like a flame of fire. But the Son, He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions,” above the angels who are His companions. “You Lord in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth. The heavens are the work of Your hands.” Down to verse 13: “You are the sovereign. To which of the angels has God ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’?” The answer: none.
The angels worship the Son of God. If He has not risen, who do the angels worship? It says in verse 14, “Angels are ministering spirits, sent to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” They are the servants of the Son of God who minister to the saints.
If the Son of God was not raised, they don’t worship Him, and they don’t serve Him. And yet that is what angels do; they serve the purposes of the Son of God among the saints, and they worship Him. And you see that in the fifth chapter, fourth and fifth chapter of the book of Revelation, where all the angels of heaven are gathered around worshiping the Son of God as well as God the Father. If there’s no resurrection, angels have no sovereign. They have no Son to worship; they have no Son to serve; they have no saints to be served.
But it’s not just that He has this relationship to holy angels. He also has a relationship to fallen angels. The demons who chased Jesus around and tried to discredit Him – you see that all through the gospel accounts – were subject to Him. That was the remarkable thing that the Jewish leaders said, people in the synagogue said. He has control of the world of demons. They’re His to control. He even controls the forces of hell.
We see in Colossians chapter 2 that by His cross, it says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public display of them, triumphing over them,” Colossians 2:15. And Peter says in 1 Peter 3 that, “When He died on the cross, He was dead in the flesh,” 1 Peter 3:18, “but alive in the Spirit.” And where was He when His Spirit was alive? He went to the demons. He went, it says, and made proclamation to the demon spirits, held in the prison of hell, and he declared to them His authority and His sovereignty over them. It says at the end of that text, in verse 22, it says, “Angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” The holy angels are subjected to Him and worship Him; the demons are subjected to Him and bow to the fierce force of His eternal punishment.
Once in a while you hear someone say, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ: every angel, every demon. Every angel falls down to worship Him as their sovereign; every demon falls down under the fury of His judgment. They all are personally connected to Him because of the resurrection.
And that leads us to the final consideration, and that is the impact of the resurrection on people. Turn to John 5. Verse 21 is a good place to start. Powerful, powerful, extensive, marvelous text; much here to learn. “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”
He has equal life-giving power to God the Father. He also has equal sovereignty to God the Father. He not only has equal power, but He uses that power to whom He wishes. He has equal power and equal sovereignty to choose for whom He uses the power to give life.
He has equal authority to judge. It’s not even the Father who judges anyone - He has given all judgment to the Son. So He has equal life-giving power, equal sovereignty, equal authority to judge with God the Father. Verse 23: He deserves, therefore, equal honor “so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” He deserves equal honor, because He has equal life-giving power, equal sovereignty, equal authority in judgment - deserves equal honor.
And then verse 24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word,” – this is Jesus speaking – “and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” This is salvation. He has equal power to grant salvation. “He who hears My word - you listen to My word and it will bring you eternal life.”
This is demonstrated immediately in the next passage: “Truly, truly, I say to you,” verse 25, “an hour is coming and now is already set, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice.” Did you see that? He has the power to raise the dead, all the dead; and all the dead will be raised. All people who have ever lived since Adam to the end of human history will be raised from the dead: all believers, all unbelievers. All will be raised.
All will receive a body suited for their eternal dwelling. Most will receive a body fit to receive everlasting punishment. Believers will receive a body like Christ’s glorified body, Philippians 3:20, suited to the joys of heaven. But everyone will be raised. The book of Revelation, at the great white throne judgment (chapter 21), says all the dead from all over the planet throughout all of human history will come out of the ground, out of the sea, wherever they are. Whether there’s anything left of them or not, there will be a resurrection form for everyone. And the power to raise them all is the power of the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. He raises all the dead at the end of the age.
Go to verse 29: “They will all come forth; those whose lives were marked by good deeds” – evidence of salvation, transformation – “to the resurrection of life, those who committed evil deeds” – evidence of their rejection of God – “to a resurrection of damnation.” But all will be raised.
And so, I say again: don’t think you’re special because you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Everyone who ever lived has a personal relationship to Jesus Christ. He will raise them all from the dead. He will form for them a body suited to their eternal dwelling place: some for the lake of fire and some for the glory of heaven. And He knows every person, and He has a record of every deed of every person recorded in heaven.
So what should be our response? You will have a personal relationship with Jesus; you do now. You have a connection with Him whether you know it or not. He will be the One who raises you from the dead, for hell or for heaven.
Therein lies the good message of the gospel. And what is the message of the gospel? I think you probably know it. It goes like this, Romans 10:9-10: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” From what? Saved from hell, saved from the resurrection of damnation.
“How is that again? If I do what?” No, it’s not about what you do; it’s not of works. If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, acknowledge Him as Lord, sovereign over your life, deny yourself, acknowledge Him as Lord, believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, which means you believe God is who He says He is, Christ is who He says He is, the Holy Spirit is truth, the gospel is true; Christ did die for us as the perfect sacrifice; He did rise. If you believe in your heart the resurrection, then you believe in the divine affirmation of everything said in the Old Testament, and everything done in the life of Christ, and everything recorded in the New Testament. When you say, “Jesus is Lord and He rose from the dead,” you’re saying, “I am a true believer. I acknowledge Him as my Sovereign Lord.”
“When the heart believes,” the next verse says, “it results in righteousness.” God covers your sin with His own righteousness as a gift of His grace. And when your mouth confesses, it results in salvation. Confess the resurrection, and you are saved, if you believe it in your heart and acknowledge that thereby God has declared Jesus to be Lord. Let’s bow in prayer.
Our Father, the glory of the resurrection has swept over us today in this wonderful service. We’re so grateful and thankful for the truth. You are true: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You have given us the truth in Your Word. Jesus did rise. And He was, because He rose, given a name above every name: the name Lord. And at that name, every knee will bow in the earth and under the earth, and every tongue will one day confess the truth. For most, it will be too late. They will have been raised with a body for destruction.
Lord, I ask that You would open the heart to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and open the lips to confess Him as Lord. Work that work in hearts even this very day.
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