Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Hope of the Resurrection

Hope is a good thing. Perhaps it is the best of things. Hope brings comfort to a downcast soul. Hope motivates the discouraged to keep on running. Hope keeps our eyes fixed on the future. Hope is a good thing.

The Christian’s hope is different from the hope of the world. The hope of the world is a simple feeling that everything will be ok in the end. But the hope of Christianity is a mental confidence that what God has promised will come to pass.

Hebrews 6:19 – "This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus…”

In the day and age in which this was written, the anchor of a ship was often placed in a smaller boat, called a forerunner, to take the anchor deep within a harbor that the boat could not successfully navigate. The forerunner would drop the anchor in the harbor. That would secure the ship’s safety. Even though the ship was out on open water it would not drift away.

As Christians, hope is our anchor. Jesus, our forerunner, has taken our hope beyond where we ever could and placed it in the presence of God, behind the veil. No matter what happens out here in the open waters, we can know that our hope is both sure and steadfast.

The hope of Christianity is the resurrection. We believe, first of all, that Christ died, was buried, and rose again three days later. And we believe that one day He will return and resurrect those who have died in Christ and those who are alive and remain will be raptured. That is our hope.

In 1st Corinthians 15 we read of the truth of the resurrection. The Corinthians had lost sight of this hope. They even went so far as to deny that there was a resurrection. This was no small matter. Paul writes this long treatise in defense of the vital doctrine of the resurrection. Let’s look at a portion of it:

1. The Resurrection is intrinsically tied to the Gospel

1 Cor. 15:1-4 – “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…”

Declare: - means to make known. It is as if Paul has to declare the Gospel anew to a group of people that should have known better.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that it was the gospel of the resurrection that had brought them salvation in the first place. In verse 12 Paul tells us that some of the Corinthians were actually questioning the resurrection from the dead. Our culture today is not much different. The majority in our culture denounce what the Scripture teaches. In fact, there are many within the church that if seriously questioned would deny the doctrine of the resurrection.

In some small way, I can understand why it would be difficult to believe in something so amazing, something so far beyond our comprehension. None of us have seen a resurrection. There is no one here today that has died and been resurrected. Yes is it difficult for our minds to accept such a truth, but let me remind you that these are the very words of God. These are words we can trust. We have never seen a resurrection, but the Word of God declares this truth: “He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” We can heartily agree with Job and declare, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God…How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

Without the resurrection the doctrine of the gospel would be incomplete. Paul ties the resurrection to the very gospel itself. The resurrection is the “good” in the “good news.” Without the resurrection, Christ’s death is just “news”—just another headline in the morning paper. “Extremist Sect Leader Crucified on a Cross” the papers would read. Without the resurrection, Jesus would be no different from the so-called heroes of the rest of the world’s religions.

2. The Resurrection was identified by many eye-witnesses

1 Cor. 15:5-8 – “and that He was seen by Cephas…the twelve…over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present…James…the apostles…[Paul]”

One of the greatest confirmations of the resurrection is the host of eye-witnesses to the risen Lord. An eye-witness account is powerful. Think about it. In our court system in America, an eye-witness is enough to give someone the death penalty. Eye-witnesses confirm something that actually happened.

It is possible that if there was only one eye-witness that the testimony could be passed off as untrue or unreliable. But Jesus was seen by over five hundred people at one time. Try convincing those five hundred that they were all crazy or hallucinating. The word ‘seen’ means to gaze with eyes wide open. There was no doubt about it. Jesus was alive—and that confirmed by a host of eye-witnesses.

If the resurrection was false, they had to know it! If it was something they had conjured up by hiding the body or if Jesus faked his death they would have known. Why would the disciples have died for Christ if the resurrection was false? Many people have died for a lie, but they always believed it to be true. The disciples and other eye-witnesses of the resurrected Christ were willing to go to the death because they knew the resurrection was real.

3. The Resurrection is imperative to the hope of eternal life

1 Cor. 15:12-20 – “If Christ is not risen, the our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty…”

If there is one thing that Christianity hangs on, it is the resurrection of the dead, specifically the resurrection of Christ. Paul declares that without the resurrection his preaching is empty and their faith is empty. Not only that, if Christ is not risen, then all those who have died in Christ have perished.

I love verse twenty. “BUT NOW Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This is the truth. Christ is risen from the dead. What a glorious day! Our faith is not in vain! Our preaching is not in vain! Our Christianity is not in vain. Those who have died in Christ did not die in vain! There is life beyond the grave! Christ is risen from the dead!

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” -1 Thessalonians 4:14-17

The resurrection gives hope for:

1. The Past – Those who have died in Christ will be bodily resurrected at the rapture of the church. Their lives were not in vain. The sacrifices that they made for Christ were not in vain. They will be resurrected.

2. The Present – This hope motivates us not only to live for Christ, but to convince others of the certainty of Christianity. Remember, our hope is both sure and steadfast. Jesus has gone before us and placed our
hope where we never could have gone.

3. The Future – There is coming a day when we shall meet the Lord in the air, whether we have already died or are still alive and remain. Each and every day we ought to expect the Lord to return. He is coming again. We have hope.

1 comment:

  1. I like this: "The resurrection is the “good” in the 'good news.' Without the resurrection, Christ’s death is just 'news.'"