FROM THE ARCHIVE: Article by Kenneth H. Freeman – Bible Advocate April, 1968
An old story worth repeating tells of a Mohammedan speaking to a Christian concerning the advantages of his religion over that of his companion: “On our way to Mecca to kiss the Black Stone, we can stop at Medina and visit the tomb of Mohammed. All that you Christians have at Jerusalem is an empty tomb!”
Praise God for the empty tomb! All of the people of God should be thankful for the empty tomb, and the hallelujahs should spring up within them as wells of flowing water when they think and meditate upon the love of God as manifested in the empty tomb.
We speak with reverence and respect of someone who risks his own life that he might save someone else from death. How much more is Jesus Christ deserving of respect and reverence because He actually gave His life that others might live.
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would dare to die. But God commend eth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7, 8).
Looking At It Negatively
It may be helpful to us in better appreciating what the resurrection of Christ accomplished if we would first look at it negatively. What would we have lost if Christ had not been raised? What would need to be eliminated from the Gospel we now preach if Christ had not been resurrected? If Christ had not been brought again from the “Land of the Shadow,” how would this affect Christianity?
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).
The argument might be presented that there are many other important subjects on which the preacher could base his teachings, and the elimination of the resurrection of Christ need not affect his preaching. It is true that some congregations would never miss the omission of the great truth of the resurrection of Christ, for they seldom, if ever, hear it preached. Many modern expositors believe that they are called to preach a gospel of social reform, to crusade in behalf of any movement as long as it is in opposition to something, and to carry the torch for any cause that smacks of the mysterious or mystical. Such preaching is in vain, and so is all preaching that does not lift up Christ and Him crucified and risen again.
Our faith would also be in vain if Christ was not risen. As we come to God we must believe that He is, and that He will reward those who diligently seek Him. Although I am enjoying life and rejoice as I walk with my God, it is true as Paul states: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15: 19).
Some will declare that the resurrection of Christ is a myth, a fairy story to be told to amuse children, and certainly not some thing substantiated by facts to be taught as truth. They ridicule anything that speaks of the miraculous, and their sophistry has made weak-willed people ashamed to lift up the banner of the truth of a risen Christ.
It is time for all born-again, blood-bought Christians to take their stand against the peddlers of such sentimental confections and sweep their intellectual shavings out of the temple of God. This is the hour when we need to not only preach that God can perform miracles, but teach our people to EXPECT miracles in their lives, for they believe in a RISEN CHRIST. HALLELUJAH!
What Did the Resurrection Accomplish?
When holy men of God spoke as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit concerning the coming of the Messiah, they prophesied of the miracle of the resurrection. After Christ was raised from the dead, it was necessary for Him to remind His close followers that this event had been prophesied in the Scriptures.
“… These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the ‘prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:44-46).
His resurrection accomplished the accurate fulfillment of the Scriptures pertaining to this event.
Since we examined from a negative standpoint what would have happened if Christ had not been resurrected, let us examine the matter from a reverse angle and see the contrast.
Because Christ has risen, our preaching is not in vain, and our faith will be rewarded. God will bless our preaching, because we are bringing the glad tidings of a risen Saviour to those who need this news, and we are assuring them by the power of the resurrection that there is a genuine hope of life beyond this one we are now living.
Because Christ has risen, we are not in our sins if we have confessed them to God and asked for forgiveness, trusting in the ransom price paid for our redemption, and believing in the power of God not only to raise Jesus Christ from the dead, but also to quicken our mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells within us.
Because Christ has risen, we can be justified in the eyes of the Lord. Although justification and regeneration are closely connected, it may be well for us to realize that regeneration is the changing of a man’s natural way of thinking and acting; and justification is the changing of his standing before God. We all stand before God as being guilty, and we cannot be justified by the law, nor by any change of mind we may determine to have in relation to sin. It took the resurrection of Jesus Christ to cause us to be justified in the sight of the Almighty.
“… If we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:24, 25).
“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” (Rom. 8:34).
Because Christ has risen, we not only have forgiveness of sin through His shed blood, but because He came forth from the tomb and is at the right hand of God, we, through this sacrifice and gift, become citizens of the spiritual kingdom of God.
In the Heavenly Father’s great plan of salvation, He recognized the need man would have of a Saviour to bear his sins, and to have them washed away. The Almighty was also cognizant of the necessity of a mediator, for He knows our frame that we are dust. If the work of Christ stopped when He was buried in a borrowed tomb, we could have those sins forgiven which are in the past, but we would never be forgiven if we slipped and fell after conversion. Therefore, God, in His great wisdom and through His marvelous love, provided a way whereby we could come boldly to the throne of grace to find help in time of need; and to come humbly through the risen Christ asking for forgiveness. We are exhorted not to sin, but if we do, our case is not hopeless as it otherwise might be, but “…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
The resurrection of Christ was not a postscript to the letter God caused to be written to mankind. His resurrection was not something “tacked on” the theme of salvation. The resurrection of Christ was not a belated afterthought of God. It was in the plan of God.
Have you ever considered how foolish the acts of men were in sealing the tomb of Christ in view of the tremendous proofs offered as to His resurrection in the prophecies? The edict concerning the sealing of the tomb was to “Make it as sure as you can,” and the guards did just that very thing. They made it as sure as THEY could, but God in His heaven must have smiled at the puny efforts of mankind to contain the Son of God.
There should be a valuable lesson in this part of all these miraculous happenings. If we are in the will of God and desire to walk with Him, no man can hinder us for any length of time even though they attempt to seal us and roll stones in our way. Offences will come and persecutions arise, but even as Jesus related that in the world we shall have tribulation, He assured us that we could be of good cheer for He had overcome the world. After we have done all that we can-prayed in anguish about some difficulty, and yet no immediate answer comes — we may have to wait for God to work. Christ rested in the tomb for three days and three nights, but when God’s time came to work, Jesus came forth a victor in triumph over all enemies — even death.
May I say very reverently that God has angels in heaven who are specialists at rolling away stones from the path of fellowship and Christian progress. If we stay in close communion with God, He will indicate to us when He wants us to try to remove the stones, as well as show us when we need to just confidently wait on the Lord.
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psa. 27: 14).
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass” (Psa. 37: 7).
“He is risen!” What electrifying news this exclamation was to the disciples. Bereaved, bewildered, and beaten, the disciples had hung their heads in defeat and disappointment for the four days following the arrest of Jesus. On several occasions, the Master had gently tried to teach His followers that the former glory of the Kingdom of Israel would not be restored at this time. Jesus attempted to prepare the minds of His friends for the time when the Shepherd would be smitten. Coupled with this warning was the reassurance given numerous times of His presence with them, and of the coming of the Holy Spirit doing the work of a Comforter and Guide. Evidently, at the time of His arrest, trial and crucifixion, they had forgotten His teachings. How prone we all are to forget the assurance and the promises of God. How thankful we should be for the longsuffering of God.
“Christ is risen!” Could there be any more glorious news than this, especially to the ones who had been so shocked at the death of their Leader?
“Low in the grave He lay — Jesus my Saviour!
Waiting the coming day — Jesus my Lord!
Vainly they watch His bed — Jesus my Saviour!
Vainly they seal the dead — Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep his prey — Jesus my Saviour!
He tore the bars away — Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thin g to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 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” (Rom. 8:31-34).
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:20, 21).