Having looked last month at the burial of the Lord Jesus, we will now begin to consider together the glorious subject of His resurrection. At the outset, it is vital to an understanding of this subject that we are very clear as to what exactly His resurrection was.
There have been people who have died and been raised again. It was not a common occurrence, even when the Lord Himself was here on earth. The gospel writers record only three individuals whom He raised (Luke 7:11-16; 8:41-56; John 11:1-45), as well as a group of unspecified number who rose in association with His own death and resurrection (Matt 27:52-53). People were raised before He came, at the time of Elijah (1Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2Kings 4:18-37; 13:20-21). Others were raised after the Lord had risen and returned to Heaven, by Peter (Acts 9:36-42) and Paul (Acts 20:9-12).
However, in all these cases, the raising again was to the same state of life as they had experienced before they died. Each was still in a mortal body, subject to death, and all of them did eventually die again; none of them is with us today. They all lived twice and died twice; and both lives, and both deaths, were of the same character.
The raising of the Lord Jesus was of an altogether different character. He was not the first person, chronologically, to be raised from the dead, but He was the first to be raised in an immortal body, never to die again. This is seen clearly in several quotations: “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him” (Rom 6:9); “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:18); “And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:34).
None of these things could be said of those individuals mentioned above – that he or she “dieth no more,” or that they were “no more to return to corruption,” or could say, “I am alive for evermore.” They were not alive forever. They did die again. They did return to the grave, the place of corruption, and, lest anyone might get the wrong idea from the Acts 13 quotation, and mistakenly think that the Lord did see corruption when in the grave, we will requote it in its context: “And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore He saith also in another Psalm, Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But He, Whom God raised again, saw no corruption” (Acts 13:34-37). David died, and saw corruption. Those temporarily raised returned to the grave, where they saw corruption. Praise God, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the grave. He never saw corruption, and never will. It was, and is, utterly impossible that He ever did, or could, see corruption. His being raised from the dead is most certainly unique.
We could view the uniqueness of the Lord’s resurrection from another angle.He was not the first person to ascend into heaven alive in the body. Two other men did so long before Him: Enoch (Gen 5:24; Heb 11:5) and Elijah (2Kings 2:1,11). However, they ascended without dying. They did not experience resurrection, for they never experienced death. The Lord Jesus is the only man presently in heaven in a resurrected body.
So, when we speak of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are considering an event unprecedented and exclusive. Nothing like it had ever taken place before nor has such occurred since (the raising of a man from the dead, in a glorified, immortal body). However, and our hearts thrill at this thought, it will happen again, and could happen at any time; the raising of “they that are Christ’s,” when they too “shall be raised incorruptible” (1Cor 15:23,52). But we must not preempt a later discussion.
Like the death of Christ, this is a vast subject, which could take a large tome in itself, and we will have to limit the scope of our study. For example, each of the four gospels gives a detailed account of the resurrection and the subsequent appearances. No two writers use exactly the same material, and they complement each other in presenting united testimony to the reality of the resurrection. A discussion of the details of these different accounts would be instructive, but we will forgo it. Nor will we go into a detailed discussion of the arguments, based on other Scriptural narratives, for the reality of the resurrection, such as the conversion and subsequent life of Paul. Nor will we consider the theories that have been put forth to try to disprove the resurrection. These are pathetic, and they certainly contain nothing to cause any problem to a believer. Nor will we take time to note the considerable amount of extra-Biblical material in support of the resurrection, such as the people who have set out to disprove it, and have ended up believing it. This would also be interesting, but we want to restrict ourselves to the teaching in the Scriptures themselves. For we believe in the resurrection, not because of the self-evident folly of the sceptics, nor even because of the testimony of searchers and scholars, but because it is the teaching of God’s inspired Word.
Thus, we will consider this great subject under three headings: the Centrality of the resurrection – the fact that it is fundamental to our faith; the Certainty of it – that it is a real, historical event; and the Consequences of it – what flows from the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.