THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
By D. M. PANTON
The belief of one fact is vital for salvation. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and
shalt believe in thy heart - the core of your being that God raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED (
The Resurrection Foretold
Twelve times our Lord foretold His own death; and on eleven out of these twelve occasions He foretold His resurrection also; that is, He almost never spoke of His death without also saying that He would rise from the dead. And His enemies witnessed to His saying it:- That deceiver said, After three days, I will rise again (Matt. 27: 68); and the Angel who rolled away the stone from the grave said it, - He is risen, even as he said (Matt. 28: 6). And Jesus foretold - what no one has ever foretold in the history of mankind - exactly how long He would be dead. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12: 40).*
[*NOTE. Is there not here a very important lesson to be learned by Christians from the miracles or signs performed by our Lord in the presence of His disciples when feeding the multitudes with five loaves and two fish (Mark 6: 38-44; Luke 9: 13-17): fish having their habitation under the visible earth?
Peter reminds us (in his second letter) of the importance of understanding the deep meaning of the miracles or signs:- Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a [one] day is like a thousand years, and a [one] thousand years are like a [one] day, N.I.V. In other words, the miracles of our Lord, when feeding the multitudes with two fish, pointed forward two thousand years which were to intervene from that time, before their souls (now in Hades) would be raised after two days on the third day (Micah 6: 2).
Now as Hades, says Robert Govett, answers to the fish - and the fish had its habitation in the raging sea, and was prepared to swallow up Jonah - so the existence of Hades (in the heart of the earth) - was the consequence of the wrath of God because of sin and its attendant death; - and it is prepared to swallow up the souls of all - even as it swallowed up the prophet.
Jerome, on the Prayer of Jonah - Jonah ii., In the heart of the seas, - By the heart of the seas is signified Hades; in the place of which expression we read in the Gospel, in the heart of the earth: now, as the heart of an animal is in the midst of it, so is Hades supposed to be in the midst of the earth.]
A Blocked Tomb
Now let us follow the counsel of the Angel who said,- Come, see the place where the Lord lay (Matt. 28: 6). And first we observe no stone blocking the grave. Cometh Mary Magdalene unto the tomb, and seeth the stone taken away from the tomb (John 20: 1). His enemies determined to make resurrection impossible, and so blocked the grave with a stone that only an angel could move:- Joseph rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb (Matt. 27: 60); and so the women disciples cried,- Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the tomb? (Mark 16: 3). But even more remarkable: the stone was secured in place by an official seal; and an armed guard was stationed before the tomb - a Jewish guard, which, if it allowed a prisoner to escape, was executed (Acts 12: 19). Pilate said unto them - the Pharisees - Ye have a guard; go your way, make it as sure as ye can (Matt. 27: 65).
An Absent Body
When John entered the tomb, he saw, and BELIEVED; for he seeth the linen clothes lying. The sole occupant of the tomb are the left clothes of the dead. If the body had been stolen - as the Pharisees afterwards said - the clothes would never have been left; and if either the Jews or the Romans had stolen it, they would have produced the corpse since, and so have destroyed the Christian Faith at one blow; or, equally effectively, have destroyed the corpse. Or if the disciples had taken away and destroyed the body, how could such Apostles as Peter and John have lived such holy lives while publishing a conscious lie for the rest of their lives?
It is most remarkable how the evidences of the resurrection were such that our Lords enemies, having heard the facts, took elaborate pains to explain them away. The Angel who rolled away the stone had been seen doing it by the military guard. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone. His appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow; and for fear of him the watchers did quake, and became as dead men (Matt. 28: 2). The guard then returned to the authorities, and reported the facts. And they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. So they took the money, and did as they were taught (ver. 12).
The Risen Body Proved
Next, we find that our Lord took studied care to prove the facts to His disciples; for the disciples - not having understood our Lords own prophecies - could be convinced of the resurrection only by overwhelming facts, seen and felt by themselves. When the women came back from the tomb, she told these things unto the apostles; and these words appeared in their sight as idle talk, and they disbelieved them (Luke 24: 10). But the most sceptical was Thomas. The other disciples said unto Thomas, We have seen the Lord. But Thomas said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe (John 20: 25). At their next meeting the Lord Jesus appeared: then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and see my hands, and put it into my side, and be not faithless but believing. Thomas was instantly overwhelmed by the facts. Thomas answered, My Lord and my God. It proved that it was the Lord who had come out of the tomb in the actual body crucified; for - as our Lord adds - a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having (Luke 24: 39).
So then the mass of the evidence, and the character of it, makes Christs bodily reappearance one of the best attested facts in all history. First, we have the evidence of the soldiers. They actually saw the Angel [after the time] of the resurrection. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and for fear of him the watchers did quake, and became as dead men. Secondly, we have the evidence of the disciples. Paul enumerates them:- Christ hath been raised the third day according to the scriptures, and appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then He appeared to five hundred brethren at once, then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me also (1 Cor. 15: 4). Here is a body of evidence unshaken and unshakable. Observe:- the occurrence was too recent to allow of the growth of myth; the witnesses are men of cleansed consciences and therefore of truthful lips; the identifiers of our Lord had been His closest intimates for years, and therefore there could be no mistaken identity; they were, like Thomas, allowed to handle Him, and so prove a crucified body; and their evidence is unanimous, harmonious, and without flaw. Thirdly, we have the evidence of the Angels. They said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you that the Son of man must the third day rise again (Luke 24: 6).*
[* Always keep this scriptural truth in mind:-
For as long as our Lords body lay in Josephs tomb He - as a disembodied soul, remained in the underworld of Hades / Sheol amongst the souls of the dead in the heart of the earth (Acts 2: 27, 31. cf. John 20: 17): and from there, He went and preached unto the spirits in prison: (1 Pet. 4: 19, R.V.). See also, Rev. 6: 9-11; Luke 16: 19-31; 1 Sam. 28: 8-19, etc. For -If his soul had ascended to heaven as his body descended to the grave, then one part of his human nature had been exalted, whilst the other had been debased. For his soul, that would have been shining in the highest heavens, whilst his body was lying under a piece of earth; and so this would have been in a state of humiliation, whilst the other was in its state of exaltation. By which means, at that time he would have been wholly in neither state, but partly in both. And so most of the systems of divinity that ever were made, teaching only a double state of Christ, the one of his humiliation, the other of his exaltation, must be changed, and a third added, partly of exaltation, partly of humiliation. But that needs not, for certainly Christ was never in more than one state at one time: when he was in a state of humiliation, he was in a state of humiliation, not of exaltation; when in a state of exaltation, he was in a state of exaltation, not humiliation ... We cannot but maintain that the soul was in a state of humiliation, as well and as long as the body, and so not in heaven, while this was upon the earth, but under earth in hell, whilst his body was under earth in the grave. And when one rose, they both rose; the soul being fetched from hell to be united again to its body. But in few words, to put this question out of question, that the soul of Christ was not in heaven (but therefore in hell), in the third place the Saviour himself, who best knows when HE first descended into hell, tells us plainly the third day after his death, being the day of resurrection, that he was not then ascended up to heaven, saying to Mary, Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. John xx. P. 172-175. - Bishop Beveridge.
Origen, - For not even the Apostles have yet received their joy, but themselves also wait for it, that I also may become partaker of their joy. For neither the saints, when they depart thence, receive immediately the full reward of their deserts, but wait for us. ... You see therefore that Abraham yet waits for the attainment of that which is perfect. And Isaac waits, and Jacob, and all the prophets wait for us, that they may enjoy with us perfect happiness. On this account, therefore, even that mystery is kept to the last day of the deferred judgement, Hom. 7 on Levit. § 2. And again, - It is my opinion that all the saints that depart from this life shall remain in a certain place in the earth, which the divine Scripture calls paradise, as in a place of instruction. - De Princip. lib. ii. c. xi.
Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, c. 80), -For if you have conversed with some that are called Christians, and do not maintain these opinions (the millennarian), but even dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and say that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that the souls, as they leave the body, are received up into heaven, take care that you do not look upon these as Christians: as no one that rightly considers would say that the Sadducees, or the like sects of Genists, and Merists, and Galileans, and Hellenians, and Pharisees, and Baptists, are Jews. ]
Our Lord could not have stated His resurrection more overwhelmingly than He did in one sentence:- I AM THE RESURRECTION, and the life (John 11: 25).
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