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“If Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17 RVIC).
It was the early hours of Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James went to our Lord’s tomb to further care for their Master’s bodily remains. The two women who were with the Master in his last moments of life at Calvary would now be the first to hear the words, “He has risen” from an illuminated angel that sat upon the huge stone door that sealed Jesus’ tomb.
Their endearing devotion to their beloved Jesus was rewarded because the stone door had been miraculously rolled away. Trying to shake off the fear that overwhelmed them, they entered the tomb. There they reaffirmed what the angel had told them about the Lord’s resurrection, and their joy of exhilaration displaced heaviness in their hearts. They ran, bursting with excitement, to tell the Apostles of this most momentous event — Jesus’ resurrection from the dead!
The doctrine of Jesus’ resurrection is a fundamental fulcrum of the Christian faith. So fundamental is it that numerous other Christian doctrines would topple over in rapid succession if this pivotal doctrine were not true. There would be no hope for any man beyond the present life unless Christ Jesus was resurrected from the dead. But our living hope is anchored in the fact that Jesus has, indeed, risen from death. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 RV).
1 Corinthians 15:12-22 expresses how inseparable is the resurrection of Jesus to the fundamental teachings of our Christian belief in a resurrection of the dead, based on Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (Please read those verses before proceeding!)
Paul emphasizes that there could be no resurrection of anyone else from the dead if Christ had not already been raised from the dead. Conversely, if Christ be raised from the dead, then there is a resurrection of the dead. If Christ be not risen, then all the Apostle’s preaching was in vain and our faith is in vain. If our faith is in vain then we are yet in our sins and all who have ever died have perished forever. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. “By man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21,22).
Praise God (and our precious Jesus), we do have hope that the dead will be raised — because we do believe, and have absolute faith in, Christ Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Our faith has substance because we believe in the Bible’s complete testimony. And that basis of our hope — even though not seen with the visible eye, is seen with the eye of faith— mentally understood and internalized. Everything we read from the Bible adds up and makes perfect sense to support the existence of Jehovah God, its author, His wisdom, His justice, and His incredible love (John 3:16).
Witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection
From the fundamental doctrines of the Ransom, to the permission of evil, to the Resurrection blessings secured through Jesus’ precious sacrifice, our belief is based on our faith and the reasonable evidence of the scriptural record — sealed with the assurance of Jesus’ resurrection. Additionally, what happened at Pentecost also confirmed the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and his divinely accepted sacrifice. The hundreds assembled in the upper room were witnesses to the cloven tongues of fire, the rushing wind, and the miraculous abilities to speak foreign languages, abilities given to these early Christians to further spread the Gospel (Acts 2:1-6).
Furthermore, we have the eleven apostolic witnesses that Jesus arose from the dead — and even one last apostle, Paul, who witnessed Jesus’ condition of spirit glory on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5). This was not just one occurrence. Some ten or eleven times Jesus appeared to the apostles in witness of his resurrection! This jury of twelve were so convinced in this verdict of Jesus’ resurrection that they demonstrated the convictions of their testimony by enduring persecutions of torture and/or cruel deaths. (We say, spirit glory. Jesus was not raised with his human body; that perfect human life was totally given up as the ransom sacrifice for the debt incurred by Adam) (1 Timothy 2:5-6, 1 Corinthians 15:21,22).
Some misunderstand the scripture in Acts 17:31 to teach that Jesus (as well as the saints) have a bodily resurrection as stated in the post Biblical Apostolic Creed. “Because he [God] hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man (1) whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”
(1) The Greek word for “man” is not anthropos, which distinguishes a man from animals and from spirit beings; but is an-er, which distinguishes a male human from female or inanimate.
However, clarification is given in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” Christ is “no more” after the flesh. In other words, he was raised a spirit being — and likewise we are to be raised spirit beings — not with these bodies of flesh that we have now. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5).
Jesus’ resurrection assures us that all of the divine requirements have been met for God to be both just, and the justifier of all that believe in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:26). Divine law requires that only a perfect life can be a corresponding price to offset the debt incurred by another perfect life. An eye for an eye and a life for a life. A perfect man brought the death penalty on the human race through disobedience, and only a perfect man could redeem the human race by substituting a ransom, a corresponding price, of his perfect life.
“As through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19 RV). (Many can be all, and all can be many. There were many people in the congregation and all of them attended the service. There are many people that have lived on the earth and all of them will be raised from the sleep of death. John 5:28-29) The Bible assures us that all mankind will have an awakening from death, and an opportunity to regain actual perfection and all that was lost in Adam (Acts 17:31, Romans 3:26).
Yet one can be awakened from death, continue in the dying condition, and fall back into death again. Examples of this were Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain, Dorcas, and the child of the Shunammite woman. But these were no part of the resurrection provided by Jesus’ blood.
The Greek word resurrection, from the divine standpoint, has the idea of standing up (Greek: anastasis, a raising to life again — full life, like Adam originally had). Mankind will undergo the process of being awakened from the dead and progressing towards a full standing of life in actual perfection during the Messianic Age, the 1000 year millennium found in Revelation 20.
Jesus taught us that from the divine standpoint all men were considered dead in his eyes: “let the dead bury their dead” (Matthew 8:22). Men were not truly alive in the full resurrection sense.2 However, Jesus was raised to a perfect spiritual nature and therefore did have a full resurrection, a full standing of perfect life. The Bible promises that his little flock of 144,000 will likewise be raised to a perfect spiritual nature (Romans 6:4, 1 John 3:2, Revelation 14:1). Even though there were individuals that were awakened from death before Jesus, Jesus was the firstborn from the dead in the sense of a complete resurrection to life.
Christ the Firstfruits
1 Corinthians 15:20 states, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. Let us reason together regarding the resurrection: If Christ risen from the dead was the firstfruits of those asleep in death, what does that say about all who died before him? You cannot be first at anything (such as a race) if others have gone before you. It confirms that Daniel, King David, and Abraham are not in heaven (John 3:13). Some believe Christ has not returned but tell people at funerals that the dead person has risen to a heavenly reward. But Paul says, “the dead in Christ” shall rise first — after Jesus’ second coming, during his presence (1 Thessalonians 4:16). If these dead rise first, then clearly nobody has risen from the dead prior to this! Before Christ’s return all men are asleep in the condition of death — everyone, even spirit-begotten Christians (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16).
2) Editors’ note: When it is noted that the first sentence of Revelation 20:5 was not added until centuries later, the meaning of “resurrection” need not be so limited. The entire restoration to human perfection may be described as “resurrection and restitution.”
When God raised up Jesus from the dead, Jesus became the firstfruits of those asleep in death. “But if the Spirit of him [God] that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you (Romans 8:11, 23).
What does the resurrection of Jesus mean for us on an emotional level? Do we feel a sense of exhilaration and joy, knowing that his meritorious sacrifice and ascension mean not only an escape from eternal oblivion (death), but he also gave us the most awesome invitation that will ever be offered to a human being?
In the present age God’s invitation provides the opportunity for life on the highest plane of existence, the divine nature, an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled. If successful in battling the world, the flesh, and the devil, we will be raised immortal, to be part of the divine family, to bless all the families of the earth, and to honor God’s name for the rest of eternity throughout the universe. Oh, how our hearts rejoice that our Master has risen from the dead and in humility with deepest appreciation, we rejoice and praise God for the blessed vision before us — of being a part of that Abrahamic Seed that will bless all the families of the earth (1 Peter 1:4, 2 Peter 1:4, 1 Corinthians 15:53, Galatians 3:29, 1 Peter 1:3, and Hebrews 12:2).