By Rev. Annie Mae Sproles
Our eternal hope is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christ's personal, literal, and undeniable rising from the grave is fundamental to the existence of the church. The
hope of every believer rests in the fact that ". . . every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him, may have
everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40).
For example, when the church met to choose someone to replace Judas, the criteria for this ordination into
apostleship was that he must be ". . . a witness with us of His resurrection" (Acts 1:22). Therefore, Jesus'
resurrection was the life-giving message of the church, for He laid the foundation in His own preaching. Then, the
church structured all that it taught and practiced on the assurance of the resurrection of its Founder. Thirdly, to
propagate this message, the church leadership must bear witness of this vital truth. Finally, as He stated, ". . .
Because I live, ye shall live also"
(John 14:19), the resurrected Christ Conqueror and head of the church. Besides the resurrection being the
life-giving message of the church, it was also the power that prepared the believer for a bodily resurrection with the
righteous, but the ungodly were resurrected to eternal destruction.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH WAS LAID UPON CHRIST'S OWN PREACHING OF THE RESURRECTION:
Jesus' resurrection became the doctrine upon which all that the church taught was established. His death and
resurrection provided eternal life for all believers. As He promised near the grave site of His friend Lazarus, "I am the
resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).
Consequently, to take away this demonstration of Christ's authority; His death and resurrection would destroy the
foundation of the church. In essence, to take away the resurrection of Christ, Christianity would be nothing more
than the admiration of a man and his teachings. So the faith of the `born again' was grounded in His resurrection.
Without the resurrection, the church would never have been born; or it would have died leaving little to the journals
of history. The resurrection and the existence of the church depended totally upon each other in that they would
either stand or fall together.
Jesus used two Old Testament examples in which He explained figuratively His death and resurrection. He did not
give the sign to the Pharisees that they expected. The fact that He could cleanse the temple should have been
sufficient proof of his authority. Yet, He responded with an example, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will
raise it up" (John 2:19).
He told of His death and resurrection in terms normally denoting something else. Another example, He called it "the
sign of the prophet Jonas," For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of
man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39-40). Jesus had already given
throughout His ministry an abundance of signs that proved Him to be sent from God.
Likewise, the preaching of Jesus should have been sufficient as in the case of Jonah, "They repented at the
preaching of Jonah." Jesus was greater than both the temple and Jonah. He knew they would continue to disbelieve
in spite of all that He said or did.
Signs confirmed faith, but Jesus denied giving them, when they demanded them, because of unbelief. Yet, the
message contained here would be reserved for their conviction. Furthermore, it was intended to be the evidence
that Jesus was the Messiah. John explained the later response of His followers to the destruction and raising of the
temple. "When, therefore, He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered He had said this unto them; and
they believed the Scriptures, and the word which Jesus said" (John 2:2).
THE RESURRECTION ESTABLISHED WHAT THE CHURCH TAUGHT AND BELIEVED:
The Apostles, in their earliest preaching days, were staggered by Jesus' proclamation of His death and resurrection.
"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many
things of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took
Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, be it far from Thee, Lord, this shall not be unto Thee. But He turned, and
said unto Peter, get thee behind Me, Satan: Thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be
of God, but those that be of men" (Matthew 16:21-23).
When He arose, His place as the Messiah had been approved, justified, and glorified by the Father. Because of this,
the resurrection and the preaching of the Gospel became primary and basic to their faith in Christ. Paul declared to
the church at Corinth. "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14).
The witness of the disciples to the resurrection of Jesus was so empowered by the Holy Ghost that they said of
themselves, "We cannot but speak of the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).
As a result, the resurrection of Christ upheld what Jesus taught and did and what the disciples believed due to their
relationship with Him. Indeed, those who had deserted Him and the one who had denied Him would not have been
rallied again if it had not been for His resurrection. It is reasonable to assert that the Gospels illustrate how the
foundation of the church was laid in His death and resurrection. Then, in the Acts, they raised the church upon the
power of His resurrection under the official authority of the Holy Ghost. Thirdly, anointed men developed in the
Epistles the explicit details for the church as they opened the mysteries of Christ's resurrection.
THE EXPANSION OF THE CHURCH DEPENDED ON ITS LEADERSHIP'S KNOWLEDGE OF WHOM JESUS WAS AND
WHO THEY WERE IN CHRIST:
Jesus had given hints of His sufferings when He said "Destroy this Temple." Again, when He spoke of "the Son of
man being lifted up" and of "eating His flesh and drinking His blood." He continually directed their minds toward His
mission in the world. Beginning in Matthew 16:20, Jesus commenced to show them more plainly that He would have
to suffer and die. It was evident from Jesus's rebuke of Peter that His followers did not understand or know Him for
who He was.
Admittedly, His disciples needed to know much more about Him. Then, they needed to understand His work of grace
in their lives before they would be fit, or able, to confess Him before men. Sometimes, as the experience of the
Apostle Peter displayed, the most unfitted of all for the preaching of the Gospel, his death and resurrection, are
those who suppose themselves the most fit. Peter was an excellent example. He must know who Jesus was, and He
must know what His work of grace meant.
When Christ spoke of His death, He always combined it with His resurrection. The Lord loved the work of
redemption. No doubt, for Him, the resurrection took away the reproach of death on the cross, and for His disciples,
it should have taken away the grief. A. T. Robertson explained, "They continued not to understand. They were
agnostic on the subject of the death and resurrection even after the Transfiguration experience." As they came
down the mountain, they were puzzled again over the Master's allusion to His resurrection (Mark 9:10). Matthew
17:23 notes that "they were exceeding sorry" to hear Jesus talk this way again, but Mark adds that they "were afraid
to ask Him . . . " Luke 9:45 explains that "it was concealed from them," probably by their own preconceived ideas and
prejudices" (Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. l p. 344).
Each of the Gospel writers gave an account of Christ's resurrection. They presented it with the assurance of true
church leaders. Those upon whom Jesus would depend to build His church must exchange their conflicting ideas
and prejudices for a solid faith in His death and resurrection. Each recorded from different perspectives, but their
accounts enhanced and gave full proof that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. What Jesus told His disciples of His
suffering actually happened. They tried Him, abused, convicted, and killed; but He arose.
Although He had given notice to his disciples of His suffering, when it came, they were both surprised and terrified.
To Peter, it was as if he had never heard what the Lord had repeatedly told them. Yet, it was Peter who called for
one to be chosen who can speak from his own experience of the ministry, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord.
Also, his message of Acts 2, at a time when it was possible to test the validity of its content, openly proclaimed the
resurrection as a fact. He needed no evidence, for what he declared was known to his hearers. Not only that, but the
Apostle goes back to the Old Testament, Psalm 16, the resurrection Psalm, to support what they witnessed.
God used unbelievers, both political and religious, to announce who Jesus was. He intended it to be the proclaiming
of Christ upon the cross, the king of the Jews. Pilate did not know what he wrote when he placed the words "the King
of the Jews" on the cross. Neither did Caiaphas who said, "And this spoke He not of himself, but, being high priest
that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation" (John 11:51).
Christ emptied Himself: not of His divine nature, that was impossible. He continued to be the Son of God. He gave up
His environment of glory, and took upon Himself the limitations of place. He was without sin, though He was tempted
as a man. He stripped Himself of the insignia of majesty. His humanity was as real as His deity. It was a voluntary
humiliation on the part of Christ. He came as God's Son incarnated in the flesh as Mary's Son to the most despised
death of all, a condemned criminal on the accursed cross (Philippians 2:6-8). Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:15,
proclaimed His resurrection and its benefits for the believer, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the
first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead" ( 1
Corinthians 15:20-21). Christ is the Conqueror!
THE CRUCIFIED, RESURRECTED CHRIST IS THE CONQUEROR AND HEAD OF THE CHURCH:
When He hung on the cross, He conquered His and His people's enemies. Not only that, He triumphed over them,
"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way,
nailing it to His cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over
them in it" (Colossians 2:14-15).
When Christ took on our human flesh and stepped upon the field as the Captain of our salvation, the conflict man
faced from the fall reached its climax. In dying, the crucified Christ stripped off the evil forces of Satan that man
could not overcome himself. It is evident. The victory of man is involved in the victory of Christ. In the cross, there
was the greatest triumph: for the law was fulfilled, God's program was vindicated, death was robbed of its prey in his
resurrection, then Satan "the prince of this world" was cast out. The world that was imprisoned had been set free.
The resurrection message gave life to the church, and it was the power of the Holy Ghost that gave it witness. In the
Bible, there were two methods by which God's power was gaged. In the Old Testament, Micah 7:15 explains it as the
power which God brought Israel out of Egypt. The New Testament, according to the Apostle Paul, says it is " . . . His
mighty power, Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him in at His own right hand
in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1: 19-20).
THE SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION is identified as the power exerted by Christ's resurrection, and it is brought to
bear in raising divine life in a person who is dead in trespasses and sins. Furthermore, the aspirations of the
believer results in the desire to achieve something higher and greater. That is, to know ever more the power of His
resurrection. "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being
made conformable unto His death" (Colossians 3:10). This passage not only gives the believer the promise and
assurance of the present power and victory, but also of future glorification.
THERE WILL BE A BODILY RESURRECTION OF THE BELIEVER:
As Paul explains, "For as in Adam all die, even so is Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Christ's
appearance to the disciples in bodily form was evidence of His bodily resurrection. In fact, it was so important that He
remained forty days upon the earth after His resurrection. During this time, He gave infallible proofs to the claims of
His own preaching.
As long as Christ lay in the grave, there was no assurance that His redemptive work had been acceptable to God.
But as Paul explains, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even
at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:34). The apostle is speaking of physical
death in Adam, and physical resurrection in Christ. Christ's work gave assurance to the redemptive work in the lives
William Evans describes the resurrected body in this manner. "What was the nature and likeness of Christ's
resurrection body which our resurrection body is to resemble. It was a real body (Luke 24:39); recognizable (Luke
24:31; John 20:16); powerful (John 20:19). Summing up these passages, we may say that the resurrection body of
the believer will be like the glorified body of Christ" (The Great Doctrines of the Bible p. 248). Further characteristics
of the believer's resurrected body are discussed in 1 Corinthians 15.
The resurrection of the believer is connected with the return of Christ. Indeed, the reality of the resurrection of the
body convinces the believer of salvation and the hope of immortality.
The Old Testament is not as clear on the resurrection of the saints as the New Testament, because Christ brought
light on the subject. Job 19:25-27 stated, ". . .
In my flesh shall I see God . . . " Isaiah 26:19 declared, " . . . Together with my dead body shall they rise . . . " The
people of the Old Testament were not without hope.
They believed that God's Holy One would redeem them from Sheol. Psalms 16:10 and: Ps 49:15- point to the
fulfillment of this in Jesus' death (Matthew 12:40; Luke 23:42-43).
The resurrection of Christ ensures that all men, both the wicked and the good, the unbelieving and the believing,
shall be raised. They will not be raised at the same time. Christ was the first fruit of the resurrection. True believers
will come forth at His second advent (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The unbelievers will be raised to come before God
THE RESURRECTION OF THE WICKED is defined as those who never accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God
and the Savior of the world. For a person to be a part of the first resurrection, that individual must know Jesus in the
power of His death and resurrection. Because Christ has been made head over all things for the church, everyone
must become subject to Him. This decision separates the believer from the unbeliever. It separates the church from
the world, and it separates the righteous and the wicked in the resurrection. Furthermore, it will separate their
There is no message more powerful than that of the resurrection. When it is embraced into the church life with the
same fervency as the New Testament Church in its doctrine, practices, and leadership, it will bring reformation and
revival to the church. Christ, the Head of the church, is in charge of His work here. He is more than able to lead
people with resurrection lives from sin and destruction to victory. His victory is the victory of the church. In His
resurrection, He was more than the Conqueror.
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