The bodily resurrection of our Lord is an essential part of the Gospel. Anyone who does not believe that the same Body that was laid in the tomb came out of the tomb does not believe the Gospel. This is the Gospel: “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3, 4). The Gospel is “good news;” and it would not be good news if Christ had not risen from the dead. Good news is that the God-man who took the place of sinners and died on the Cross for their sins came forth from the grave in proof of the fact that He had conquered death and that the penalty of sin had been satisfactorily paid. If Jesus Christ had not bodily risen from the grave, His death on the Cross would have been worthless. We are justified by faith—faith not only in the death, but also in the resurrection, of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Without shedding of blood is no remission…” (Hebrews 9:22), and without the resurrection there is no justification; for “Jesus our Lord…was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24,25).
It is possible to judge a man’s theology by the language he uses when speaking of sacred things. In these days we deal with people who neither say what they mean nor mean what they say. To those who deny the authority of God’s Word, to the ecumenically minded—Protestant or non-Protestant—language is a means of deceiving people. Men are past masters at using words but do not mean what their words imply.
The old double talk saying: I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not exactly what I meant.
When true Christians speak of the resurrection of our Lord, they mean that His Body came forth from the grave. To them, if there is no bodily resurrection, there is no resurrection at all. Liberals, on the other hand, speak of the “resurrection of Jesus” and say that it is “the teachings of Jesus living on in the lives of His followers,” or that “spiritually, He is alive.” Of course His teaching lives on in the lives of believers; but that is not resurrection. Moreover, the spirit is immortal, and therefore cannot die. Only the body is mortal and able to be touched by death. Obviously, if there is a resurrection from the dead, it must be a physical, bodily resurrection. How illogical is the thought that the spirit, which never dies, could rise from the dead.
If the body of Jesus Christ did not come forth from the grave, there is no hope of resurrection for any of us. But He is risen, and is “become the first-fruits of them that sleep.” (I Corinthians 15:20). The seed is planted in the ground, it germinates, the plant springs from the ground. The seed of life that was buried has come up from the soil, and “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Jesus Christ was buried, but “He rose again the third day according to the scripture.” He was crucified a propitiation for our sins; He rose again the third day for our justification. By His resurrection He proved that His sacrifice was acceptable to God and that He was indeed the Promised One. His death without His resurrection is incomplete. He had power to lay down His life, and He had power to take it again (John 10:18). His power to save men from sin is proven by His resurrection. We are cleansed by the Blood, but our eternal life is assured by the resurrection of His body from the tomb. It is because He lives, that we, too, shall live (John 14:19).
The resurrection of our Lord is prophesied in the Old Testament. The psalmist said, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:16). At Pentecost, Peter declared, “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:31, 32). Jesus Himself prophesied His resurrection: “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go into Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21).
The resurrection is a cardinal truth of our Christian faith. Paul said, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain…ye are yet in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:14, 17). If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, He was not the sinless Son of God. If He became a prisoner of death and went back to dust as other men go back to dust, then He was nothing but a mere man; and I have no hope of resurrection by trusting Him. Man’s body is formed of the dust of the earth, and it is the law of nature that when a man dies, his body returns to dust; for sin produces corruption. But the Lord Jesus Christ was sinless; in His nature was no seed of corruption; hence His Body was preserved from any touch of corruption. He became obedient unto death; yet death had no dominion over Him. If His Body returned to dust, either He was not the Holy One of God, or else God’s Word is not true; for God’s Word promised that His Holy One should not see corruption. God raised up Jesus Christ, “having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24); and the body that came forth on resurrection morning was as spotless from the corruption of the tomb as the body that was taken down from the Cross, bathes, anointed, and buried in the borrowed tomb.
The whole record of the life of our Lord’s incarnation ties together. He took upon Him the form of man; He suffered as a man; He rose again from the grave the first-fruits of them that sleep; He ascended on High; He will come back again; and throughout eternity He will wear the same Body that took form in the womb of a virgin. The fact that He is seated with the Majesty on High in that same Body and will keep it forever in Heaven is the proof of resurrection for us. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (I Corinthians 15:19). But Paul did not stop there but continued with the definite affirmation, “But now is Christ risen from the dead.”
Someone has said that the best attested fact of history is the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was seen alive of many witnesses. “He showed himself alive touched Him; they felt the nail prints and put their hands in His side (John 20:27). They saw Him prepare and eat food (John 21:9-12). To the church at Corinth, Paul wrote of varied eye-witnesses to this great event: “He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once…After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (I Corinthians 15:5-8). In the presence of King Agrippa, Paul testified of the resurrection: “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come” “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead…”(Acts 26:22, 23). Stephen, when he was stoned to death, saw the heavens open and “the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:56).
The risen body of our Lord was a glorified Body, and in our resurrected bodies “We shall be like him…”(I John 3:2). Our bodies will be different from the ones we have now; nevertheless, they will be the same bodies. The Word of God makes it very clear that in the resurrection of the dead, that which is sown in corruption shall come forth in incorruption; that which is sown in dishonor shall be raised in glory; that sown in weakness shall be raised in power; that which is sown a natural body shall be raised a spiritual body. “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15).
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” By that is meant that not all men will have to experience death and resurrection to receive a glorified body. If we are alive when the Lord returns (and some of us might be) we shall be translated. Translate is an interesting word to use in this connection. When something is changed from one language to another, it becomes subject to different rules of grammar. In English we might say, “My feet are cold.” But when translated into Spanish the literal translation is now “I have the feet cold.) Though it is the same truth, it is in different form. When we speak of the translation of the living saints at the coming of Christ, we mean that these mortal bodies—flesh, blood, and bone—will be translated into the likeness of His resurrection. The form may be somewhat different—not physically different, but different in the sense that the body now subject to the laws of earth will become a heavenly body and be subject to the laws of Heaven.
On the day that our Lord arose, the disciples, fearing the Jews, were assembled in an upper room behind closed doors. Suddenly the Lord appeared in their midst. The first glimpse of Him terrified the disciples; they though they were seeing a spirit. But our Lord said, “Why are you troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see me have” (Luke 24:38, 39). It is strange how men will take refuge from the supernatural in the superstitious. What could be more natural than that the God who is the giver of life, the Lord of life, the Eternal One, the Everlasting god, should come forth from a grave? The miracle is not that He should rise again, but that He was willing to be obedient unto death for our sins. To those to whom He is only a spirit there is no reality of experience, no divine purpose and anointing in life. Christianity is centered in a living, divine Person Whose resurrected Body could be touched, handled, and seen; and this is one of the great differences between the religion of Jesus Christ and all other religions.
The resurrection of the Lord is an infinitely important truth. It matters whether or not we believe it. It matters whether or not it is true. Unless He rose again the third day according to the Scripture, He is not able to save men; for He Himself is bound by death and subject to death. Only the Lord of life can give life. The risen Lord is the power and victory of the church and the answer to a sinner’s need. Men can only know the resurrection power of Jesus Christ as they see it revealed in the life of a transformed child of God. Until the Lord returns, it is our obligation as Christians to manifest in our lives the witness that He is risen from the dead.
“They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again’ (II Corinthians 5:15)