Is Resurrection Real?
If resurrection is not reality—nothing else really matters. If there is no resurrection, all is futility. If resurrection is not reality, then the reality is, that anything and everything are no more than nothing. Without resurrection, even good ends up good-for-nothingness. The triumph of all Bible doctrines hinges on the reality of resurrection. What is election, or redemption, or regeneration, without resurrection? Did God give His vast host of children to Christ in the Covenant of Grace before the foundation of the world, so the grave might be the end for those much-loved children? Did Jesus shed His precious blood of redemption for His people, so they might remain forever entombed in death? Does the Holy Spirit breathe regeneration into each of the heirs of eternal glory, so death’s crypt might forever steal the life He had given? No! No! A thousand times, No! Yet if resurrection is not real, all the glorious truths of the Bible become senseless. If there is no resurrection, Jesus is still dead. If Jesus is still dead, He did not ascend back to heaven. If Jesus did not go back to heaven, He is not coming back from heaven. If Jesus is not resurrected, nobody else ever will be. Paul understood the nothingness of everything without resurrection. In response to those who doubted the reality of a literal resurrection, Paul countered that if there is no such thing as resurrection, then all faith is empty, all dead are perished, all hope is nothing, and all men are most miserable. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, then we are of all men most miserable. (1Co 15:19) Resurrection is the centerpiece of the Bible. Resurrection is the exclamation point of all Bible doctrines. Resurrection separates Christianity from all others. The angel said: He is not here: for He is risen. (Mat 28:6) Paul said: But now is Christ risen from the dead. (1Co 15:20) Jesus declared: I am the resurrection, and the life. (Joh 11:25) OUR MAN LIVES!!!
If resurrection is reality—nothing else really matters. If there is really such a thing as resurrection, all this world’s terrible things will eventually amount to nothing. To know the reality of resurrection is to live a changed life. After Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles were new men. No more striving over who was the greatest. Who cared about that anymore? No more denying that they knew Him. The cowards had courage. What was the worst thing that could happen? They might get killed for preaching Christ. So what! They had seen resurrection. They knew the reality of resurrection. They had seen His hands. They had supped with Him. They knew He was real. They had watched Him go through the cloud. They knew He was coming back. If resurrection was reality, nothing else mattered. It is not just the apostles lives that are changed by the reality of resurrection. We also know that Christ is risen from the dead. We know that Jesus had the power to lay His life down, and that He had the power to raise it up again. We know that at the last day Jesus will again show His great power, when He shouts from the cloud and resurrects us from our graves. What a hope! What a wonderful, never-ending day that will be! If we know that resurrection is reality, the things of this world cease to matter. Resurrection is everything! Resurrection is the only thing! Resurrection is worth getting excited about!
The closer we are to death, the better the idea of resurrection sounds. Once upon a time, I was preaching to the lonely, imprisoned, dying souls at a local nursing home. From Matthew’s account, I began to read about the women coming to Jesus’ tomb. They found the stone rolled away, and the angel seated upon it. As I preached through the passage, I read the angel’s words: He is not here; for he is risen. Applause suddenly filled the room. Cheers resounded. Those old folks were on ‘shouting ground’. I am not accustomed to such interruptions. I was shocked, even kind of knocked me off my feet, but I must say that their excitement about an empty tomb was contagious. So I just got happy with them.
As I think back on the occurrence, I suppose that there were two things that I had failed to realize. First of all, I had not sensed the extent of the presence of the Holy Spirit in that place that day. Secondly, and to my shame, I perhaps had never sensed the true wonder in the words, He is not here; for he is risen. Yet those, who were near to that walk through the valley of the shadow death, cheered with anticipation at the very thought of resurrection. After many years of preaching at nursing homes, I have learned that “Resurrection” is their favorite subject. The closer we get—the better it sounds.
There was another day when I realized that the closer we are to death, the better the idea of resurrection sounds. I sat quietly observing a much-respected pastor. I was to assist in the funeral that he was to preach. The hour quickly approached, and he kept flipping back and forth through his Bible. He finally shut the book, confessing that he could come up with nothing different to preach at this funeral. With a tone of frustration, he said that he was just going to talk about the resurrection. I assured him that he had made a good choice. I told him that there is no better message than resurrection, when we face the hopelessness of death.
At the appointed time, he arose to his feet, and preached what had been preached so many times before. God abundantly blessed him with the message that we should just patiently wait for the resurrection, even patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. People from the back of the assembly began to ‘amen’ the message. As the preacher continued to speak of patiently waiting for the resurrection, I watched the saddened eyes of the family on the front row begin to focus on his every word. They began to ‘amen’ the message about a coming resurrection. The ‘Amens’, which came from those who faced death at the funeral home, reminded me of the applause, which had come from those who faced death at the nursing home. When we must face death, no message brings more hope and comfort, than that of resurrection. The closer we are to death—the better resurrection sounds.
We are more prone to think of death, when at a funeral home or a nursing home. Yet in reality, death can appear at a moment’s notice, in any place, at any time. The phone rings. “This is the police. There has been an accident.” Or, “This is Mom. It’s your Dad.” Or, “This is your pastor. I have bad news.” Or, “This is the doctor’s office. Your test results are not good.” Suddenly, with no warning, we are facing death once again.
On a Tuesday morning at 9:40, the first text from my son read: “Saw a man die in front of our house late last night. Wrecked his car into the median. I tried to help and called 911, but they didn’t get there fast enough. It’s really bothering me…Can barely work.”
I responded: “I’m sorry. Life is full of experiences. Some good and some bad, but many are for purposes we don’t understand. You may need this for preparation for the future, or for awakening for the present. Or the man may have needed your presence for the moment. May God give you peace.”
My son replied: “I just can’t stop playing the reel in my head and questioning the speed of my response. It’s crazy that he was alive one second, then dead the next. Guess I wouldn’t have been a good soldier.”
I answered: “Every good soldier has had to, and continues to, deal with what you are dealing with.” My son did not immediately reply. So I further explained: “As I looked back on the previous message that I sent to you, I fear that you might have thought I was unconcerned. My heart aches for you, as it aches for many good soldiers who have watched men die. My point was that you are not alone in what you are feeling. Many have had these trials, but with the trials, God will give you strength that you may be able to bear it. The feelings you are having are common to men, and Jesus is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.”
My son responded: “I didn’t think you seemed unconcerned at all. I always appreciate greatly your counsel. I’m very fortunate that I’ve had limited contact with such things. However, that fact creates a disconnect with the fragileness that exists in our dealings with our brothers and sisters. The suffering that sin has created connects us all so deeply. Life is so fragile, and you never know when your service, words, or actions with others could be the last you or they experience. It was very much a perspective building experience. I want to learn who he was and write to his family. Thanks and love ya.”
As I think of my son’s words about what soldiers have seen, I am reminded of another recent experience. A preacher friend told me that he needed a favor. He asked if I would be willing to listen, while he talked about Vietnam. I told him that I never ask anybody about what happened in a war, but if he needed to talk, that I was more than willing to listen. For an hour, or more, I listened. It has been nearly fifty years, and my friend still cannot sleep at night. As has been said, “War is hell.” Death is truly a monster.
These are two otherwise stable men, who witnessed death in two different ways. Both men are strong Christians, yet both struggle with what they saw with their eyes. The deaths they witnessed were not near as personal as the death of a loved one, yet just watching death happen is so difficult. Death seems so final, so cruel, so real. And at the same time, in some strange way, so unreal. When we sit with a stranger… When we look into his eyes… When he stares into our eyes… When he gasps his last breath… We ask the question: “Why?”
In some ways it seems like only yesterday when I watched a man die. This one was my Dad. While in the parking lot of the hospital, my dear wife and I received the phone call. “Where are you? Get here quick.” We raced up to his room. My Mom, my wife’s parents, and a nurse were standing around his bed.
We were too late. The nurse nodded that Dad was gone. In my sadness, I leaned over the bed, and said, “Love you, Dad.” Much to the surprise of all, Dad muttered, “You too.” Though it had seemed so certain that Dad was already gone, God’s mercy allowed me to hear one last, “You too.” It has been nearly five years, since I heard those last words. I still dream of him. We talk in the dreams. When I awaken, they are good dreams. One day soon I will awaken, and it will not be a dream. I will see him again. Maybe I will say, “Love you, Dad.” Maybe he will say, “You too.”
Surrounding the grave of that dear old man, we sang, I’ll Fly Away. Someday my Dad is coming out of the ground. Oh, the blessing in knowing that we shall someday conquer death! We realize that we have no power to conquer the beast, but we find our hope in knowing that the beast has already been conquered. Jesus said that He would rise again after three days, and He did. Jesus conquered death in His own behalf, and through His death and resurrection, He has conquered death for us. We face death as mortals, knowing that our lives will soon fly away. Yet we also face death knowing, that as immortals, our very bodies shall someday fly away. Resurrection is reality. God is good!
God’s word proclaims that God’s plan of salvation will eventually, and certainly, end in resurrection. God’s word praises the God, who purposed our salvation before time began, and whose purposes always come to pass. God’s word honors the Christ who paid for our salvation, and who will finally have with Him all that He paid for. God’s word exalts the Holy Spirit who gives us our salvation, by moving as He pleases to give eternal life to each of God’s children. God’s gospel preaches: Salvation is of the Lord. It shouts that Jesus hath saved us. It trumpets the successful Savior, and His certain salvation. It celebrates the waiting resurrection of all God’s elect to eternal glory. There will be none missing. Everyone Jesus died for will be with God. From start to finish, God, and God alone, without man’s help, even by grace, and grace alone, saves every one of His children from their sins. Resurrection is coming. God is good!
Paul wanted us to know these things. He knew that knowing these things would help us, when we face the deaths of loved ones. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1Th 4:13) At the death of a loved one, we still feel sorrow, but not like those who do not know about resurrection. If we believe that Jesus can and will resurrect the dead, then we are different to the world, who through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:15) The Bible is clear that Jesus will one day deliver His children from death to life. The knowledge that Jesus will do that, even now delivers us from the bondage of fear, to a life of peace. Paul preached the gospel of peace. There is much comfort in knowing the certainty of life after death. There is deliverance in understanding the truth and reality about eternity. By having certain hope concerning the reality of resurrection, we are saved from much despair as we face the loss of loved ones, or as we anticipate our own deaths.
It is a glorious thought to anticipate that our spirits, even our very lives, will go to be with Jesus when we die. To know that life does not end in death, but that we immediately go to paradise would seem to be a sufficient eternal outcome. Yet even the wonder of our spirits going to paradise pales in comparison to the thought of resurrection. The best is yet to come. Jesus is going to resurrect our bodies from the graves. What a day that will be!
Forty days after Jesus’ self-resurrection, His closest followers watched Him ascend back into the heavens from whence He had come. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Act 1:9) As if the ascension of Jesus was not enough astonishment for one day, while Jesus’ disciples were staring in amazement at His going up, they perhaps had not noticed that two angels had come down. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel. (Act 1:10) To add even more marvel to the moment, the angels broke into their wonder with perhaps the most wonderful words of hope that have ever been spoken. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Act 1:11) We have a wonderful and certain hope. This same Jesus is coming back! Surely it was with a great sense of awe that Jesus’ friends watched Him rise from the earth and disappear through a cloud. Surely it brought a great sense of joy to hear the words that He was coming back. If not for the angels’ words, Jesus’ departure might have been a scene of sorrow. Yet instead of being filled with sorrow, His friends were filled with joy, even filled with hope. Jesus is coming back. Jesus will return in the clouds one day with a purpose. He is coming to raise the dead!
Resurrection is the centerpiece of all that Christians believe. Christianity hinges upon the reality of resurrection. A resurrected Christ is the only hope of our salvation. Yet from early times, some have scoffed at the idea of a resurrection of the body. There were some in the church at Corinth who said there was no such thing. Paul asked that church: How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? Paul began his answer to this challenge by acknowledging that if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. What if Christ is not risen? What if Christ is still dead? Paul proceeded to elaborate the ‘what ifs’, which would be true, if Christ is still dead. Paul said: If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. If Jesus is still dead, all that Christians preach, or believe, amounts to nothing. If Jesus is still in that tomb, then Christian preachers are liars. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. If there is no such thing as resurrection, and if Christ is not alive, then our belief is in nothing. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain. If Christ is dead in a grave, then we are yet in our sins, and all men are perished. And if Christ be not raised…ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If the Christian hope is in a dead Christ, then the Christian’s case is the most pitiful of all cases. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1Co 15:12-19)
Yet Paul went on to declare that the Christian hope is not in a dead Christ. Paul said: But now is Christ risen from the dead… (1Co 15:20) Christ is indeed resurrected from the grave. Moreover, the Christian hope goes beyond a one-time resurrection of Christ. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1Co 15:20) Christ was the first fruit. He was the first to be resurrected. Someday Christ will shout and all His children’s bodies will come forth to forever be with Him in glory.
The scoffer will ask how such a thing can be done. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? (1Co 15:35) The Bible’s extended answer to the question of how such a thing as this can happen begins with the two words: Thou fool… (1Co 15:36) It goes on to describe how the same God, who brings stalks of corn from dead seed, can bring a resurrected body from a dead one. The same God, who has made all manners of natural bodies, such as beast, bird and fish, can make spiritual bodies. The same God, who has made the celestial and terrestrial bodies of the universe, can make spiritual bodies. The point here is that only a fool would think resurrection is too hard for the Lord.
Paul said that the same body that is buried in the grave is coming out of the grave. Our natural bodies are buried in corruption, in dishonor, and in weakness. Yet those same bodies will be resurrected in incorruption, in glory and in power. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (1Co 15:42-43) The ‘it’ that gets planted is the ‘it’ that comes out. God is not going to create new bodies. He is going to resurrect our bodies. You will be raised, as you. I will be me. The ones, we loved, will be the ones, we loved.
Our Jesus is the life-giving power behind the glory of resurrection. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1Th 4:16-17) Resurrection will be instantaneous. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1Co 15:52) These mortal bodies will rise again. These mortals shall put on immortality. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1Co 15:53) Jesus paid for body, soul and spirit at the cross. At death, our spirits go home immediately, but the day will come when Jesus will come back. He will shout. Our bodies will rise and be reunited with our spirits. Death is swallowed up in victory. (1Co 15:54) What a victory!! What a glorious Savior!!
Listen to Jesus’ words: For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. (Joh 6:38-39) What a plan of salvation! Before time began the will of God gave a vast host of people to Jesus. At God’s appointed time Jesus gave His life for the people in that vast host. At the time of His pleasing, Jesus speaks the spiritual life of the new birth into each person of that vast host. At our deaths, Jesus receives our spirits unto Himself. Yet Jesus’ final accomplishment in salvation is yet to come! At the last day, Jesus will shout from the clouds, and all that were given to Jesus, will come to Jesus. Nothing will be lost. Each and every one will be gloriously raised up the last day. All that the Father willed to Jesus, Jesus will resurrect. To the praise of our Savior, none will be missing. To the honor of His integrity, none will be lost. To the glory of His name, resurrection is coming. What election determined before time began, resurrection will obtain when time is no more! From start to finish salvation is of the Lord. What a plan! What a Savior!
Resurrection is the only thing that really matters.
Resurrection is everything that really matters.
Resurrection is worth getting excited about!