GOD AND THE RESURRECTION
Thus we now reach the highest level from which the fact of the Resurrection can be viewed. Difficulty is solely proportional to the power of the person meeting it: a difficulty insuperable to an infant, is, to a man, no difficulty at all: to a Sadducean doubt - [ancient and modern] - of resurrection Jesus says, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the POWER OF GOD” (Matt. 22: 29). The apostle chosen at Pentecost to expound the empty tomb devotes one verse to our Lord’s life, one to His death, but twelve to His resurrection; for while the efficacy is in the Cross, the demonstration is in the Tomb; and throughout he supremely reveals God’s mind in raising His [only begotten] Son [out] from the dead. “A man approved of God, by mighty works which God did” (Acts 2: 22) - the only Man whom God never blamed and never rebuked: “delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” – for from the world’s foundation the sacrifice of the Lamb had dwelt in the heart of the Father (Rev. 13: 8): “Whom God raised up” – for the resurrection, as also the life and the death, was full of God. Now “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15: 56); that is, it is broken law which inflicts death, and maintains corruption; but the body of Jesus never corrupted – the only body which never did – nor was His soul left in Hades; for the law is powerless against absolute holiness; and the body was without corruption, for it was without moral taint. “Having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it.” So Peter proves that the Resurrection had been of God’s lips a thousand years earlier. “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, neither wilt thou suffer THY HOLY ONE to see corruption.” For, had sin been in Christ, He could not have risen; and, had it not been on Christ, He would not have died: but as sinless, He was free to bear the death-penalty for others; and as pronounced sinless still by the resurrection, the sin He bore had been expiated and consumed. “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to a spirit of holiness” – the force of Deity whereby He paralyzed death, and forsook Hades – “by the [His] resurrection [out] of the dead”* (Rom. 1: 4). The God of inflexible justice and awful holiness has loosed the pangs that were ours, and accepted our Sacrifice by exalting it: if my sins were not consumed, He would not be where He is. “Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.” Was it any wonder that the disciples disbelieved for joy? For the Resurrection is not a prodigy: it is a necessity; and less evidence would be ample to establish that which thus meets our infinite moral need.
[* Christ’s resurrection was a selective resurrection. No other disembodied soul, either before or after His, has ever been resurrected to immortality: and when He spoke to His disciples about His resurrection, they “kept the matter to themselves, discussing what (‘rising out [‘ek.’] from the dead:’ Gk.) meant” (Mark 9: 9.).]
But the Lord Jesus also participated in
the Resurrection. The angels said, “He is risen,” not He is raised:
others were raised, He rose: it was a conjoint work of the Godhead, in which He
was an equal share. “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. I have power to lay it down, and I
have power to take it again” (John
10: 17). Twelve times He is
recorded as foretelling his death in words free from all type of figure, and once
only (Matt. 26: 2) without naming
His rising from the dead in the same breath; and the figure He especially used
– the Temple rebuilt in three days – formed not only the ground-work of capital
charges (Matt. 26: 61), but was correctly understood
His enemies as a specific prophecy of resurrection (Matt. 27: 63).
“What sign showest Thou unto us?” “Destroy this temple,”
our Lord answered – for the [His] Resurrection is the only sign to be granted
to this generation (Matt. 12: 39) – “and in three days I will raise it up. But He spake of the temple of His body”
(John 2: 19, 21). Both temples, alike shrines of Godhead (Col. 2: 9), both born in one spot (Psa. 132: 6), and both rent with death-pangs
together (Matt. 27: 50), perished for reconstruction, our Lord in
three human days the
[* Moreover, our Lord, alone of all the prophets, foretold the exact measure of the ‘little while’ (John 16: 16) between the moment of expiring and the unsealed tomb; a measure of time which makes it impossible that the resurrection was the mere release of the spirit from the body. That was instantaneous.]
So also the [Holy] Spirit is God’s great Agent in resurrection, to which also He is the supreme Witness; though I am not aware that He is anywhere stated to have raised the Lord. “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8: 11). Nothing less than the Resurrection can explain Pentecost. So it is the Holy Ghost who uncovers the fatal consequences (1 Cor. 15: 12-19) of a denial of the Resurrection. For if Christ now lies in Palestine, (1) He is a dead man still; a false prophet, therefore, of what never was, and never can be, fulfilled; and, in His assertion – “I am resurrection” (John 11: 25) – a blasphemer: (2) the Gospel is a delusion – “our preaching is vain” – for its central dogma is a myth: (3) the Apostles are liars – “we are found false [not, mistaken] witnesses of God” – utterers of falsehood deliberately put into His mouth*: (4) atonement is as dead as the Lamb – “your faith is vain” – for, as death is the physical proof of sin, so sin’s obliteration can be physically proved only by resurrection: (5) no soul has ever been regenerated – “ye are yet in your sins” – so that all that is good and lovely and god-like in character has been a mirage: (6) the godly are lost – “they also which are fallen asleep in Christ have perished” – for if a lifeboat, seeking a foundered ship, never returns, it can only be because both have been engulfed in a common destruction: and (7) we disciples are fools – “of all men most pitiful” – for while we have renounced earth, we have also lost heaven, and we have led countless myriads into the same folly. It is Deity alone which emptied the tomb of Christ: Christianity answers for the Resurrection with its life. But more perishes than the Christian faith, if Christ lies beneath the Syrian blue. History is shattered – for no other event was ever closely or so amply evidenced; testimony is shattered – for no testimony can survive the ruin of the testimony of holy apostles and prophets; character is shattered – for if our Lord was thus exposed as a false prophet and blasphemer, no character can be trusted again; heaven is shattered – for if the sinless Christ sank under death, all escape for the sinful is impossible; and faith is shattered – for if God has so dealt with His Son, trust in Him can never be restored. All this is a much less credible creed than the Christian Faith. THE RESURRECTION [OF CHRIST/MESSIAH] IS A FACT. Millions of believing souls had fallen asleep with their faces set forward to a sinless Sacrifice; earth’s only holy millions to-day have their faces turned upward to a living Christ: and “the Church is too holy for a foundation of rottenness, and too real for a foundation of mist.”
[* It has been well expressed thus: “If false, you must suppose that twelve men of mean birth, and of no education, formed the noblest scheme that ever entered into the mind of men, adopted the most daring means of executing that scheme, and conducted it with such address as to conceal the imposture under the semblance of simplicity and virtue. You must suppose that men guilty of blasphemy and falsehood united in an attempt, which has in fact proved the most successful, for making the world virtuous; that they formed this singular enterprise with the certain expectation of scorn and persecution; that although conscious of one another’s villainy, none of them ever thought of providing for his own security by disclosing the fraud, but, amidst sufferings the most grievous, persevered in their conspiracy to cheat the world into piety, honesty and benevolence.”]
MAN AND HIS DESTINY
Thus the Resurrection, as we should expect from a miracle so foretold, so evidenced, so unique, and so stupendous, has changed the entire destiny of mankind. For what exactly is ‘man’? Scripture regards the body, spirit and soul as ‘man.’ “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his [still lifeless] nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2: 7): “they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths” (John 19: 40): “Dorcas fell sick and died; and they laid her in an upper chamber” (Acts 9: 37): in each case the body is the man. So also, only more emphatically, is the soul. “I will go down to Hades to my son mourning” (Gen. 37: 35): “this day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 43): “the garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9: 39):- in each case the soul is the man: living humanity is spirit, soul and body: “and her spirit returned, and she rose up immediately” (Luke 8: 55); “for as the body apart from the spirit is dead” (Jas. 2: 26):- in each case the spirit gives life to the man. Thus spirit, soul and body are essential elements in man; humanity is “body, soul, and spirit” (1 Thess. 5: 23). Death, therefore, we had almost said, dehumanises: it is decomposition, a disintegration, a dissolution, of ‘man’; it is a violent rending asunder of his constituent elements, consequent on sin; and, to speak exactly, though body, soul and spirit are each ‘man,’ neither is man alone. The spirit returns to God; the body rots; the soul departs to Hades: the man is dead.
Thus, when God deals finally with man He deals, not with a corpse, nor with a disembodied soul, but with a man; man, for all eternity, can never cease to be ‘man’: his eternal destiny, whatever it be, must be the destiny of a man. Now our Lord, as the typical Man, is the One who, alone hitherto, has passed through all the processes of man. First, He was truly man:- “they took the body of Jesus” (John 19: 40); “my soul is exceeding sorrowful” (Matt. 26: 38); “into Thy hands I comment My spirit” (Luke 23: 46). Violent dissolution took place on the Cross: “being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit; in which He went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3: 19). After three days and three nights, the angels said:- “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here” – His corpse is not in the graveyard [in Joseph’s tomb], His soul is not left in Hades (Acts 2: 31) – “but is risen” (Luke 24: 5); that is, the recumbent body stands again upon its feet, and the spirit is ‘returned’ into it (Luke 8: 55). Christ, born of a woman, was born full man: He died as a man dies: and He rose with body, soul and spirit re-knit in everlasting resurrection. “I am the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1: 18).
A passage now arises before us than which perhaps the whole Bible itself contains none more solemn. “For since by [a] man came death” – dissolution, decomposition, disintegration – “by [a] man came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15: 21)* - the re-knitting, the individual re-composition, of the whole man; and this, for the entire race. “I AM RESURRECTION AND LIFE” (John 11: 25): since Christ was made man, and is resurrection, resurrection has become an essential part of human nature. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” – not regenerated, but made alive physically: for as physical death poured itself through Adam into all the race, so physical resurrection becomes integral to humanity from the second federal Head of mankind. Because Christ was a Man, and rose, all rise; for all partake of the same flesh with Christ: but believers are “one spirit with the Lord” (1 Cor. 6: 17): so, while unbelief severs from all benefits of the Passion, no man can escape the consequent resurrection. The Incarnation empties every grave: for Christ is “the first-born from the dead,” “the first-born of all creation” (Col. 1: 15, 18).
The eternal destiny of our race now stands revealed. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed” – for all mankind – “is death”: man, after entering on resurrection, never suffers dissolution again: “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9: 27): full manhood follows forever. Thus the redeemed are wholly redeemed: redeemed in spirit, soul and also in (Rom. 8: 23), the man, as man, is redeemed utterly and eternally. What then of the lost? “Be not afraid of them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Matt. 10: 28). The wicked equally abide as men forever: “they twain were cast alive” – that is, spirit, soul and body – “into the lake of fire, which is the second death” (Rev. 19: 20; 21: 8). The Second Death is not decomposition, the splitting up of the personality, as was the First: much less is it annihilation: it is the final and eternal abode of the undivided man. “This is the second death, even the lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20: 14). “For this corruptible must put on incorruption”: and when God says it must, it is certain that it will.
Unbeliever, what a destiny! And what a Christ! “I am a substance nobler than the stars”: they must perish, but, for better or worse, we endure: none can escape the momentous consequences of the incarnation. It twists its roots under and about all that is human, and lifts the entire race into resurrection from death; and the new relation which humanity bears towards Christ is glorious, or fearful, according to what we do with him. And what a Christ! Christ is so truly man that He actually died as a man dies: He is so truly God that He not only raised Himself, but the whole of humanity, in His rising. The rising of one is the peculiar prerogative of the Godhead: who but the Son of God, by the mere fact of association in the flesh, could raise all?
For who is it that lay on the slab of
rock? The Lord has Himself answered in
one of the most wonderful utterances that ever fell even from the lips of the
Son of God. “I AM RESURRECTION AND LIFE” (John 11: 25).
What is resurrection? It is life
in battle with death, and conqueror: it is the tremendous
creative energy of the Deity put forth over a corpse. Jesus does not say, I produce resurrection,
or, I confer resurrection, or, I intercede to obtain resurrection: He says, - “I am resurrection.”
Resurrection, that is, is not some unknown law about to operate
suddenly: it is the personal intervention of Christ: where he moves,
graves empty. Therefore our Lord’s
resurrection is itself the touchstone of all salvation. For to acknowledge its absolute truth, and
therefore to cry with Thomas – “My Lord and my God!” is to confess the
sinner’s need, to embrace the sinless Sacrifice, and to submit to the provided
not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven?” – for the Incarnation has occurred;
“or, Who shall descend into the abyss?” – for
the Resurrection [of Christ/Messiah] has occurred: and between these two
points Christ’s righteousness, the imputed obedience of the Son of God, has
been wrought out, and is ready for faith to grasp. “Not having a
righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that
[righteousness] which is through faith in Christ, the
righteousness which is from God UPON [resting as a garment upon the shoulders of] faith” (Phil. 3: 9; Isa.
61: 10). THEREFORE “if thou shalt confess with thy
mouth Jesus as LORD, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him [out] from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED” (