Posts Tagged 'Resurrection body'

The Master Multiplier, Part 3

We serve a God who gives. And gives. And gives. He gave us Jesus, who is our salvation. He gives us blessings that cannot be counted; so many they often go unnoticed or unappreciated. God gives us answers to prayer. He gives us life and He sustains our lives. God gives and He miraculously multiplies His gifts to us. That’s why what He provides for us goes further than what we provide for ourselves. And why when we give to Him in the form of offerings or service, our gifts seem to do so much – He multiplies them to accomplish His will! The way God works is, in a word, amazing.

In 1 Corinthians, we discover that God gives His people something in addition to what we’ve already looked at: God gives victory!

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 | NIV84)

What could be more exciting than than “free victory?” God gives it to us! And yet, your experience has probably demonstrated that most victories are either hard fought or elusive. So what was Paul getting at here? Let’s take a look.

The central fact of Christianity

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central fact of the Christian faith. Had it all ended with His crucifixion, Christianity would be indistinguishable from virtually any other belief system on earth. The Resurrection IS what Christianity is all about. Had our Lord not risen from the dead, there would be no Gospel to preach, no church to start, no hope for the future. It’s hard to imagine a Christian who would seriously doubt or question the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and yet during the very early days of the Church, the Resurrection was doubted and questioned and the question as to whether or not it actually happened threatened to rip apart the Body of Christ.

1 Corinthian 15 is Paul’s brilliant defense of the Resurrection, and though volumes could be written about what Paul taught in this chapter, I’ll just barely glance at the highlights. The first thing Paul wanted his friends to understand was that the Gospel they received; the one they believed in by faith; the one that proclaimed the Resurrection, was the one that changed their lives.

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2 | NIV84)

No matter what other teachings these people may have heard after they received the Gospel, it’s the Gospel Paul wanted them to “hold firmly to.” And why would anybody believer hold any teaching above the Gospel when it was the Gospel that saved them in the first place? Let’s face it, teachings come and go, man’s philosophies wax and wane with generational changes, but the Gospel is constant. The Gospel doesn’t change. A culture doesn’t effect the truth of its teachings. And it’s the Gospel that changes lives.

The Corinthians heard it, they received it by faith, and by that Gospel they took their stand in the world. If a teaching, say a teaching that questions or denies the Resurrection, came along and they believed it, then they wasted their time with the Gospel. In other words, the Corinthians had to accept all the Gospel or none of it. This is not an insignificant concept. A lot of people like parts of the Gospel but hate other parts of it, and they foolishly think believing in some of it is better than nothing at all. Not according to Paul, though. Christianity is an all or nothing proposition; you believe it all or you walk.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 | NIV84)

Instead of getting all metaphysical, Paul makes it clear the the Resurrection is a historic fact, and he makes three statements in order of importance:

• Christ died for our sins.
• Christ was buried, which means He was dead; He wasn’t pretending to be dead. He wasn’t putting on an act. Jesus Christ’s death was real – it was an accomplished, historical fact that is provable.
• Christ rose again after three days. Interestingly, Paul notes that these three elements of the Gospel are all “according to the Scriptures,” meaning these three points are not made up fables or tall tales told by himself and other apostles.

But with this third point, Paul adds something: Proof positive that the Resurrection took place.

and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8 | NIV84)

Eyewitness, many of whom were still alive at the time he wrote this letter, could attest to the reality of the Resurrection. Skeptics today may balk at this, but in Paul’s day, this was a huge deal. All those eyewitnesses, Paul estimated 500 in all, saw Jesus alive after He had died. And he named names!

Reduction ad Absurdum

Paul used the Scriptures and eyewitness accounts to prove Jesus rose from the dead. Now the apostle goes negative.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:12 | NIV84)

Since the evidence for the Resurrection is overwhelming, Paul reasons, if even one person has indeed been raised from the dead, how can anybody say that there is no resurrection of the dead? To question this basic fact is to start a chain reaction that in effect nullifies the entire gospel.

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19 | NIV84)

And that’s the crux of the matter; this is why the Resurrection is so important: Without it, we have no hope for the future. Christ’s Resurrection shows that: (1) it is possible for the dead to rise again; (2) Christ will be the first of many who will rise from the dead; (3) that is our hope – that just as death wasn’t the end for Him, it won’t be the end of us, either.

By the way, this is exactly how liberals destroy the Word of God, even today. They deny parts of it – the parts they don’t like; the parts that don’t fit into their particular world-view – but in denying one part, eventually all the parts are called into question. That’s why the Bible in it’s entirety must be accepted, on the basis of faith, to be the complete, true and accurate Word of God.

It’s evident that Paul looked at the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ as a hopeful thing. I’d wager not many of you look at it that way. Most modern Christians in the West, especially, have it so good and are so comfortable, the idea of being raised from the dead never enters their minds. But these Corinthians didn’t have healthcare. They didn’t enjoy good health. They died young. Yes, even just the mere possibility of resurrection would have given those with a bleak outlook, HOPE.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19 | NIV84)

Without the Resurrection, there is no forgiveness for sins because after all, if the Resurrection is a fable; a mere invention of man’s over-active imagination, then so is the idea of forgiveness, for if you can’t trust the Word of God to be truthful about Resurrection, how can you trust it for anything else? Worse, without the Resurrection of Christ, there would be no resurrection of believers, and that means there’s no future – no hope for any of us.

Christ’s Resurrection and Ours

But, because of His Resurrection, ours is guaranteed:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20 | NIV84)

That’s right, and that’s the hope of every believer; that we won’t die; that we will live on after this life is over. Part of that “living on” has to involve our bodies. Man is a spirit, he has a soul, and he lives in a body – all three parts of man are eternal and God has made provision for all three to live on. The Resurrection (Christ’s and ours) is as certain as death. As death had entered the world through Adam, resurrection entered through Christ. As Adam opened the door to death, so Christ opened the door to resurrection life. But there’s an orderly process to this whole business:

But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:23-26 | NIV84)

Death still reigns today. You might have noticed people are dropping dead all over the world. But we have the hope that until Death is destroyed, God has made provision for His people, as He made provision for His Son. Death may come to you, but the joke is on Death. You’re coming back! Just as death couldn’t hold our Lord, it can’t hold you either. Death is, we might say, an inconvenience; something we have to put up with because of what sin had done to human beings and the world in general.

A special kind of victory

Earlier I said that your body is eternal. It is, yet it isn’t. Paul clarifies the issue of your immortal body beginning at verse 50:

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53 | NIV84)

God’s people are special people, and in keeping with their special place in the Kingdom, they will be given a body that is able to enter into the eternal, spiritual Kingdom of God. Your mortal body would be no good in Heaven. Just like you can’t exist in the water without SCUBA gear, so you can’t exist in Heaven without the appropriate body. And whether a body is in the grave (or in the belly of a lion or at the bottom of sea), or living at moment in the future when Jesus returns, all believers will be able to exchange their flesh-and-blood bodies for new ones – perfect ones that will last forever.

Paul called that “a mystery,” and it was in his day. He was the first person to talk about it. It’s not a mystery to us, thanks to Paul’s profound teaching here in 1 Corinthians 15.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55a | NIV84)

The death of Death will occur when Jesus returns and we receive our new bodies. At that time and not before, Death will forever come to an end on planet Earth. And that gets us to the verse that started this whole thing:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 | NIV84)

The victory He has given us is the victory of death and sin. It may seem like Death is winning, but Death is a defeated enemy. If it were not for sin, Death would have no sting. If it were not for the law of God that shows us how sinful we are, Death would have no power over us. But Death doesn’t have the final word! God has the final word and, and that word is VICTORY. Victory over death, hell, and the grace has been won by Jesus Christ and He shares that victory with all of us. Because Jesus died and rose, Death’s back has been broken, and you and I never need to fear it. That’s the victory – multiplied millions upon millions of times.

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Our Glorious Salvation, 5

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Our Ultimate Salvation

Salvation has three aspects: past, present, and future. Another way to put it: we were saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. We were saved by the finished work of Jesus on His Cross. We are being saved by the ministry of Jesus now, in heaven. But there is a future aspect to our salvation: we will be saved. What does that entail? We will be saved. From what? From whom? Let’s find out.

Philippians 3:20, 21

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21 | NIV84)

In these two verses, Paul teaches us something very profound that others take volumes to say. It’s the “now but not yet” idea. It may not feel like it, but if you are a Christian you are already living in heaven in the sense that your citizenship is there. A look verse 20 in the KJV shows us something interesting:

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ… (Philippians 3:20 | KJV)

“Conversation” is how the KJV translates the Greek word politeuma, which actually means “citizenship” or “commonwealth.” If you closely at the Greek word, you see part of the word “politics.” Why did the KJV use a work like “conversation,” then? In Elizabethan English, the word “conversation” meant a lot more than talking or speech. It had to do with how one lived in society; how they conducted themselves as citizens in an organized society. As citizens of Heaven, we are just living here on earth temporarily, but subject to the laws governing Heaven. Our conduct should be the kind of conduct befitting citizens of Heaven, even though we aren’t actually there yet. It’s the “now but not yet” idea.

This idea gives us a clue about the future aspect of our salvation. We are citizens of Heaven, therefore we are already participating in and enjoying many of the benefits of the heavenly life, and yet we aren’t enjoying that heavenly life in actuality yet. Our salvation will be complete when that happens. Verse 21 tells us what Jesus will do to make that happen: He will transform our bodies, making them suitable for living in Heaven. When Jesus descended to live in our world, He had to have a body like ours; His heavenly body was not at all suited to our world. When He returned to Heaven, His body transformed back, more or less, to the way it was. Similarly, our earthly bodies are made for living here; they must be changed, as Jesus’ was, to bodies fit for heaven. Our future salvation, then, involves our bodies. When Christ saved us, He saved all of us!

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53 | NIV84)

You hear these verses all the time at funerals, but they should be read more often because they are full of theology to encourage the weary believer. Paul makes it clear why a “transformation” of our bodies must take place. Our mortal bodies – our present humanity – can’t go into Heaven any more than we can go into space without a space suit. Our bodies as they are constituted now are made to wear out and break down, which explains why they can’t go into Heaven, a place where life never ends. They must, therefore, be changed into something that will never wear out or break down. This is why the unsaved can’t set foot in Heaven at all and why the saved must have their bodies changed.

The “mystery” Paul refers to is the believer’s resurrection body. That whole idea was a mystery to the Corinthians, it may not be mystery to you, though. Looking at the “mystery” in detail, we can see three parts to it:

(1) Not all Christians will be dead when Jesus returns. Some will be alive when that event happens.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:15 | NIV84)

(2) All Christians will receive new bodies when Christ comes back and calls His people to Himself. This will happen at the Rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

(3) The change will happen in an instant to Christians who are alive and those who have already passed.

This will be a victorious event in the life of believers. We don’t think about it often, but death is an ever-present reality that robs us of part of the life God has given us: our physical lives. What kind of salvation saves only our souls and spirits (minds)? God made us whole beings and He saves us wholly. Defeating death means eliminating what death does to us. Jesus will literally stop the reign of death as it relates to Christians and reverse what it has done to them.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Peter’s first letter was written to a number of churches facing horrible persecution.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6 | NIV84)

These were second generation Christians; people who, unlike the apostles and original disciples, had never seen Jesus. In spite of that, they were wholly dedicated to their Lord. In the midst of these trials, it is significant that Peter encourages them with words like these:

…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2 | NIV84)

The very fact that they had been “chosen” implies purpose. And purpose presupposes a plan. Couple that with God’s “foreknowledge,” and these suffering saints had to know what Peter knew: God had a plan for them in spite of their present difficulties. That plan has an air of permanence about it:

…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4-5 | NIV84)

They may be suffering right now. They may have lost possessions and even loved ones, but what God has waiting for them will never be taken from them. Not governments, thieves, nor death will be able to take away the believer’s ultimate inheritance.

Above all else, these believers – and all believers, for that matter – need to keep the faith. Trials, like the ones Peter’s friends were undergoing, come along from time to time to test our faith. These “tests” are not for the purpose of “passing or failing” believers. These tests serve to keep our faith on the promise and the One who made it. Max Lucado expresses it this way:

Jesus gives us hope because He keeps us company, has a vision, and knows the way we should go.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Unlike Peter’s letter, Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians was written very early in the Church’s history, during the first missionary journey in fact. It was written to correct some false teaching and ideas that had come into that church after Paul, Silas, and Timothy had left. It seems these Thessalonian Christians had some doubts about believers who had died. Convinced as they were about the soon-coming of Jesus, they wondered what would happen to those deceased Christians? Some believed that those unfortunates would miss out on the glories and blessings of the Second Coming. To help them understand what happens to the dead in Christ (Christians who had died, in other words), Paul goes on to tell them about a revelation he received from Christ.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:15 | NIV84)

There will be a distinct order of events. In terms of the believer’s ultimate salvation – that of his body – the dead in Christ will be called up first, followed almost immediately by those who are still alive at the “event.” This event is the rapture, and during this event all believers, those who have died and those who are alive, will receive their new, heaven-suited bodies.

This event, and in particular the teaching that all believers will receive new bodies, is the final and ultimate proof that, as William Barclay wrote, God cares.

Revelation 19:1-3

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah!Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Revelation 19:1-2 | NIV84)

This great moment of worship in Heaven takes place during the Tribulation, a period of God’s judgments on earth. At this time, God will pour out His wrath on all ungodly rebellion, and this will be the cause of great rejoicing in Heaven. It’s not pain and suffering or even vengeance, but rather perfect justice; God’s straightening out a crooked world, that motivates the saints to celebrate.

This, too, is part of salvation. Just as God created our bodies and will deliver them from the effects of sin, so it will be with the world. God created the world and when Jesus returns, He will begin the work of restoring it; of reversing what sin has done to it.

Revelation 19:4-9

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9 | NIV84)

The motivation for this great interlude of worship and celebration in Heaven is God’s actions on earth, but soon the worship moves from what is being done to the One responsible; the One sitting on the throne and to another event in Heaven: the union (“marriage”) of the Lamb (Christ) and His bride (all the saints of God).

This is the believer’s ultimate salvation; the culmination of his salvation. As close as we may get to Christ now, when our salvation is made complete we will be united to Him in a spiritual union impossible to conceive of with our finite, flesh-bound minds. The Bible writers use the term “marriage,” which describes the closest possible union two human beings may enter into, to describe how close our final union to Christ will be.  All believers should look forward to this great day, when our faith becomes reality.

Jesus Is Alive!

 

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John 19:28 – 20:31

John was a master in using ironic phrases, especially in his buildup to the Crucifixion.  For example, Jesus referred to this event as “the time of His glorification.”  What an ironic way to describe the way He was going to die!

John also devoted more time describing in minute detail the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion than the other Gospel writers.  We can learn a lot about the Crucifixion from reading what John wrote, and we can also learn a lot about God’s eternal purposes in how he wrote it.

1.      Jesus died and was buried, John 19:28-30; 38-42

(a)  The Lamb of God, 19:28-30

Jesus knew that everything was now finished, and to fulfill the Scriptures said, Im thirsty.  A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so a sponge was soaked in it and put on a hyssop branch and held up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, It is finished, and bowed his head and dismissed his spirit.  (John 19:28-30 TLB)

Only John gives us the very profound theological background for Jesus’ words, “I’m thirsty.”  It’s remarkable to contemplate, but even in His last few moments of life, Jesus was fully aware of His mission and completely dedicated to its completion.  The word “finished” in verse 28 refers to the “perfect completion of the whole prophetic image.”  With the utmost care and attention to detail, Jesus carried out His mission on Earth for man’s good and His Father’s glory.  It reminds us of what Jesus had  prayed just a couple of chapters earlier:

I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to.  (John 17:4 TLB)

But not only was Jesus fulfilling His mission, He was also fulfilling Scripture, specifically Old Testament symbolism.  The use of the “hyssop branch,” for example.  The hyssop was used in certain Passover observances in memory of Exodus 12:22, where it was used like a paint brush, painting and sprinkling blood around the doors of Jewish homes.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus is referred to both as the Lamb and the door!  The Jewish Passover was perfectly fulfilled in the sacrifice of the true Paschal Lamb.

In verse 30, Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished.”  What was finished?  His earthly life, certainly was finished, but the word He used, tetelestai, refers to the absolute completion of His job on earth.  This expression has been interpreted in various ways:  a cry of relief, a cry of painful anguish, or a shout of victory.  Given the stress in John’s Gospel on the fact of Jesus’ control of all the events we’re reading about, the last interpretation seem best.  “It is finished” was Jesus’ cry of absolute victory.  This was, as some scholars have noted, the last report of Jesus from earth to His Father in Heaven.  IT IS FINISHED!  was the Victor’s cry, not a victim’s whimper.  Jesus, remarkably, remained in complete control of Himself and events until He gave up His life.

(b)  Compassionate religious leaders, 19:38-42

Together they wrapped Jesus body in a long linen cloth saturated with the spices, as is the Jewish custom of burial.  (John 19:40  TLB)

In another ironic twist, all of Jesus’ disciples had fled the scene.  It was two of Jesus’ “secret disciples,” Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, who worked together to prepare Jesus’ body for proper burial, which in the Middle East, takes place within 24 hours after death.  Had these two religious leaders not intervened, Jesus’ body would have been tossed into a common grave, along with the other two who had been crucified with Jesus. 

Joseph of Arimathaea was a wealthy man and member of the Sanhedrin.  Luke gives us this insight:

Then a man named Joseph, a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, from the city of Arimathea in Judea, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He was a godly man who had been expecting the Messiahs coming and had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other Jewish leaders.  (Luke 23:50-52  TLB)

Nicodemus, was also a member of the Sanhedrin, who first visited our Lord “by night,” suggesting there were other visits.  Both men were wealthy and both men were followers of Jesus.  How much did Nicodemus think of Jesus?  Apparently he brought enough spices to bury a king.

2.   Jesus rose from the dead, John 20:1-8; 19-20

The accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection differ from Gospel to Gospel, each emphasizing a different aspect of the event.  But no Gospel gives details about the three-day interval between His death and Easter morning. 

(a)  An empty tomb, verses 1-5

Then Simon Peter arrived and went on inside. He also noticed the cloth lying there, while the swath that had covered Jesus head was rolled up in a bundle and was lying at the side. Then I went in too, and saw, and believed that he had risen.  (John 20:6-8  TLB)

If the biography of Jesus had ended at chapter 19, Jesus’ would have been just another religious leader; a man of exceptional character whose teachings changed lives and whose sincerity could never be questioned.  Every biography of every human being ends in their death. But the story of Jesus was far from over.

John may have hesitated entering the tomb of Jesus, but Peter had no problem barging ahead of his friend.  What they saw was startling.  No wonder John wrote that he “believed that he had risen.”  In all, there were three convincing proofs:

   The stone was rolled away.

   The grave clothes were  now lying in a neat pile;

   The body of Jesus was gone.

At this point, John had not seen the risen Lord, but he believed.  The word used, episteusen, means John simply made up his  mind.  It was a real step of faith, especially in light of verse 9:

 ...for until then we hadnt realized that the Scriptures said he would come to life again!  (TLB)

Right now, they believed the evidence of their own eyes, but they didn’t grasp the teachings of the Scriptures in this regard.  But what Scripture or Scriptures does this verse refer to?  We may only offer an educated guess.  On the Day of Pentecost, Peter delivered his amazing sermon and quoted Psalm 16:10–

For you will not leave me among the dead; you will not allow your beloved one to rot in the grave. (TLB)

For these two men, John and Peter, the real truth of the Resurrection of Christ was just beginning to dawn on them.  They didn’t possess the full revelation, but they knew enough to know something miraculous had just happened!

(b)  A holy encounter, verses 19, 20

That evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors, in fear of the Jewish leaders, when suddenly Jesus was standing there among them! After greeting them, he showed them his hands and side. And how wonderful was their joy as they saw their Lord!  (TLB)

This is actually the third appearance of Jesus after He rose from the dead.  John does not record the appearances to Peter and to the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).  This visit of Jesus to the group of disciples was of vital importance because, though they believed a miracle had taken place, they were still filled with fear.  They had almost been arrested in the Garden, they were under suspicion, and they were without Jesus, the Leader they depended on.

The doors were shut and locked, but that didn’t  keep Jesus out!  His first words indicated He knew exactly what these people needed at this moment in time:  Peace.  But really, what this group of frightened believers needed most of all was Jesus Himself.  To prove to them that He was the genuine article, Jesus showed them His wounds and the result was “joy.”  The people were filled with joy.

3.  Jesus is Lord and God, John 20:24-31

The Resurrection was and remains a life-changing and world-changing  event.  But even it wasn’t the end of the story.  The Resurrection was more than just Jesus coming back to life; there was a meaning and a purpose behind it.  The disciples needed more than just to know Jesus had come back to life; they needed to know the meaning behind the event:  His continued ministry on Earth IN them.

(a) Doubting Thomas, verses 24-28

Thomas was absent when Jesus visited the other disciples in verses 19 and 20.  Why he wasn’t there is obvious:  he was a doubter, so what was the point in meeting together as though Jesus were alive?  Obviously their leader was dead, so why keep the band of followers together?  As far as Thomas was concerned, people didn’t return to life and Jesus was dead.  The hopeful thought that Jesus might have been the Messiah was just that:  a thought.  And this is why Jesus had to come and see Thomas.

 “I wont believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his handsand put my fingers into themand place my hand into his side.  (verse 27  TLB)

Only John records this visit.  It may be unfair to nickname Thomas “Doubting Thomas,” because all the disciples had their doubts.  Maybe a better nickname would be “Pessimistic Thomas,” or “Thomas, the Dark Cloud.”  He was a practical man that leaned toward being pessimistic.  The events of the last few days simply confirmed his worst fears. 

Thomas should have been with the other believers – doubts and pessimism aside – the night Jesus visited the group.  Instead of fellowship, he chose to be by himself and that was a big mistake.  Fortunately for him, Jesus cut Thomas some slack.  A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and that visit must have scared Thomas witless! 

Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side. Dont be faithless any longer. Believe!  (verse 28  TLB)

Jesus’ direction to Thomas shows that Jesus knew what Thomas had said to his friends even though He was nowhere around!  

This visit to Thomas teaches us some very important things about the Christian life. First, whether we like it or not, Jesus is always around us.  He hears what we say. He knows what’s in our hearts.

And second, there are levels of faith; we aren’t all the same and our faith changes.  There are those believers who depend on seeing with their eyes before they believe.  Their salvation is real, but Christians like this are missing out on the blessedness that comes to those who believe in Jesus AND  in what He can do for them beyond saving them.  Christians that depend on what they see are limited in their experiences with God because they unknowingly limit God.  But those who believe in Jesus AND see Jesus as actively involved in their lives open themselves up to wonderful, limitless spiritual vistas.  Such was the case with Thomas.  In a life-changing encounter, Jesus showed the skeptic how involved He could be in a believer’s life!  Jesus proved to Thomas that He knew what Thomas had told His friends and then paid him a personal visit to encourage the man’s faith.  There could be no doubt any more that not only had Jesus risen from the dead, but that He was somehow more than just alive.  He was divine.

(b)  Stunning proclamation, verse 29

Then Jesus told him, You believe because you have seen me. But blessed are those who havent seen me and believe anyway.  (verse 29  TLB)

Sight is important, but it isn’t everything.  It was important for His disciples to “see” who He was.  Through miracles and the Resurrection, His disciples believed because they “saw” these things.  This included Thomas.  But the main part of this verse is what comes after because Jesus is referring to the many future believers who would manifest saving faith in spite of never having seen Jesus perform a miracle or seen Him in His Resurrected state. 

Even though this isn’t the very end of the Gospel, it is the climax because it shows Jesus as truly divine for His appearance elicited a profession of faith from the disciples, including Thomas.  It shows Jesus as victorious over death and the grave; sin and sorrow; doubt and fear.  In the experience of Thomas, John shows how faith can grow into maturity and how that growth can change the direction of a single life.

Jesus:  the most remarkable Man who ever lived.  And died!  And lived again!  Had He remained in the tomb the world would barely have noticed Him.  But the tomb couldn’t hold Jesus.  He rose from the dead.  Because of the Resurrection, redemption had been made available to all who call upon His Name.

THE END OF DEATH

1 Corinthians 15

1 Corinthians can be thought of the manual for church operations because from beginning to end, it covers the gamut of problems any church can face. Paul deals with personal and ethical issues, liturgical issues, problems surrounding the exercise of spiritual gifts, and with chapter 15, Paul will deal with doctrinal problems.

There was an element in the Corinthian church that believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ but not in the resurrection of God’s people. They were “Christians” because they believed whole-heatedly in the bodily resurrection of Christ, but they had been so influenced by false teachings outside the church that they disbelieved in their own bodily resurrection. The teachings of popular Greek philosophies were finding their home in the Corinthian church, and these Greek ideas “envisaged the disembodied spirit of man passing through the planetary spheres finally sloughing off every part of man’s flesh-and-blood existence, even self-consciousness and reason.” (James L. Price)

The popular notion of the day was that all material things were either evil or the source of all evil, therefore man’s physical body could never be part of heaven. They believed in the immortality of the soul, but not of the body. This, of course, was in total contradiction to apostolic teaching which said that the bodily resurrection of Christ was just the “firstfruits” or the initial evidence of the resurrection of the Christian. Christ’s work of redemption is total; He has redeemed the whole person, including the body.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:50)

While this is undoubtedly true, Paul will go on to reveal to his readers a great “mystery.” The resurrection of the believer is not merely a change of states, from death to life, but it is a complete change from a “physical body” to a “spiritual body.” The mystery is that there will be a continuity: our resurrected bodies will be new, but they will be ours.

The under-discussed topic of the resurrection of the believer was of prime importance to Paul. He based his entire life of faith in Christ on the hope of his personal resurrection.

1. The resurrection of Christ, 15:1—11

Paul’s defense of the resurrection of the believer rests on the fact of Christ’s resurrection. Up to this point in his letter, Paul has already taught that the Church is in reality a living organism with Christ as its Head. His logic is flawless: If Christ as the Head of the body arose, the body will also rise.

Results of Paul’s teaching, vs. 1, 2

The denial of the resurrection of believers carried with it serious consequences. The Corinthians had originally accepted, believed, and been committed to the true Gospel as preached by Paul and others. The result of their acceptance of that Word was their salvation. By entertaining a “new teaching” that denied the bodily resurrection of believers was to alter that true Gospel!

This is the insidious nature of all false teaching; rarely do those Christians who believe it realize the full ramifications of believing a teaching that is contrary to the Gospel. To accept the truth of the Gospel, live by the Gospel and stand up for the Gospel would mean nothing if all of a sudden you start believing false doctrines. To believe in false teaching is to alter your original commitment.

Foundation of the Gospel and the witness of history, vs. 3—11

How certain was Paul that Christ rose from the dead? He lists no less than six historical proofs of the event:

  • Cephas, or Peter was an eye witness. A large number of the members of the Corinthian church were loyal to Peter, so they would appreciate and respect his testimony.

  • The Twelve, or the original group of apostles. Actually, there were only 10 who witnessed the risen Lord the first time, since Judas had killed himself and Thomas was absent. Eventually, though, 11 saw the risen Christ personally. The word of the apostolic body carried tremendous weight in the early Church years.

  • 500 witnesses. Just in case some of the Corinthians had doubts about memories of The Twelve, they could ask some 500 other folks who had seen the risen Jesus!

  • James. This, of course, was James the brother of Jesus, who was a disbeliever during Jesus’ lifetime. However, the Resurrection seemed to be the determining factor that convinced James the skeptic that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be.

  • All the apostles.

  • Paul himself. Paul did not see Christ only in a vision. He believed that what he saw on the road to Damascus was, in fact, the risen Lord Himself.

So all the original apostles and several hundred other believers in the Early Church were eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ and Paul, along with the other evangelists, preached the same Gospel with the same emphasis of the resurrection and this Gospel, verified by history and eyewitness testimony, was exactly what the Corinthians believed. Why change now?

2. What happens when you believe bad theology, 15:12—19

Paul had just shown that the resurrection of Christ was an established historical fact, attested to by the Gospel and by eyewitness accounts. That was the good news. Now for the bad news. What happens if a Christian rejects the resurrection? By appealing to our reason, Paul uses an argument known as reductio ad absurdum, “reduction to the absurd.” In other words, Paul will show what happens if you don’t accept the doctrine of the resurrection as taught in the Gospel: it results in an untenable, absurd position. Without the resurrection, Christianity folds up.

The argument: The resurrection of Christ is undeniable. Therefore, if just one person rose from the dead, how can anybody deny it? So key is the resurrection to the Christian faith, Paul reaches the end of his argument with:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (vs. 17)

And what is the final result of refusing to believe in the resurrection of the dead?

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (vs. 19)

In other words, we’ve been duped if there is no resurrection. We’ve believed a lie and we’re all lost.

The point of Paul’s case for the resurrection of Christ and of believers is that no Christian is free to pick and choose what parts of the Gospel to accept and which parts to reject! As they say, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” Salvation is an all or no thing proposition. You either believe it all, or you don’t believe it at all: reductio ad absurdum, it’s ridiculous to think otherwise.

3. The doctrine of the resurrection, 15:20—34

Just as there is certainty about Christ’s resurrection, we can be 100% sure of our future resurrection. He was the “firstfruit,” the first of many who will eventually be resurrected at the great ingathering of believers at the fulfilment of the redemption of the Kingdom of God.

The logic and theology of these verses is breathtaking. In this section, Paul explains how the believer’s future resurrection is vitally connected to Christ’s historic resurrection. As death entered the world through one man, Adam, resurrection entered the world through another man, Christ. Adam gave the gift of death to man, Jesus gives the gift of resurrection.

The thing is, though, just as it took a while for death to work its way through the human race (life spans got gradually shorter and shorter, most people don’t die after they commit their first sin), so the resurrection must be worked out in the believer. This is how we can be saved now, but not yet glorified; salvation from sin is not all there is, as Paul wrote in verse 19. It really is just the beginning.

But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (vs. 23)

Like everything else God does, there is an order to the resurrection: Christ first, then later we who belong to Him. But notice this verse:

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. (vs. 24)

Christ is completely victorious over every single enemy of man, even death, but the subjection of death—the last enemy—is a process. That’s why we die. But at some time in the future, Christ’s victory of death will be fully realized by His followers when we personally experience our own resurrection, just like our Lord’s.

But why the delay? Verse 25 gives us the answer:

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

During this period, between our salvation and our resurrection, between Christ’s resurrection and His second coming, all of Christ’s enemies need to be destroyed. The emphasis of verse 25 is “until.” This world will be delivered to God but only after Christ, the King, has subjected all powers. This is certainty, but it will take time.

Now, for the sake of continuing his argument in support of our eventual resurrection, Paul makes two negatives comments. First, if there is no resurrection, then why are some being baptized on behalf of a dead person? This is a puzzling verse, but probably refers to the strange practice of vicarious baptism—that is, baptizing a living person in the place of another who died unbaptized. And second, if there is no resurrection, why are the apostles risking their lives preaching a Gospel that teaches it? Why would anybody endure the risks associated with Christianity if the end of all things is death?

The summation of Paul’s argument is wonderfully succinct:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame. (vs. 33, 34)

There was a real danger that some in the Corinthian church were being corrupted by unsaved friends. This could have been why so many were now disbelieving of the believer’s resurrection. The phrase “do not be mislead” does not mean misled by others, rather, it means don’t deceive yourselves! The point of Paul’s admonition is that if a believer keeps the wrong company (in this case, those who deny the resurrection), he may corrupt his otherwise good Christian witness and turn other believers away from the truth.

4. The nature of the resurrection body, 15:35—50

Now to the verses so many believers are interested in: what will our “resurrection bodies” be like? Paul begins his answer with two questions: “How are the dead raised” and “With what kind of body will they come?”

In response to those questions, Paul exclaimed:

How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (vs. 36)

What does this mean? Most of us aren’t farmers, so thankfully, Paul goes on to explain, writing that all believers would receive a resurrection body perfectly suited for life in the spiritual world. By using a nature from analogy, Paul makes it clear that death is merely a transition to a higher form of life.

Seeds, vs. 36—38

A seed goes through stages: it is planted in the ground, it dies (germinates), finally it re-appears, transformed and alive.

Men and animals, vs. 39

People, animals, fish, and foul all have different kinds of flesh. Why does Paul bring this up? He is preparing his readers for the notion that there are different kinds of bodies—different forms of life, if you will—yet all are alive.

Heavenly bodies, vs. 40, 41

Again, Paul illustrates the differences between heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but God created all.

Application of the analogy, vs 42—44

With a series of powerful contrasts, Paul describes the resurrection body in terms of how different it will be from our earthly bodies.

First Adam/Second Adam, vs. 45—50

More contrasts show the differences between our present earthly bodies and our future resurrection bodies. The first Adam was a man created from the dirt, and because we are related to him, we all have a physical body like his. The the last Adam, Christ, is not from the dirt, but from heaven, and because of our relationship to Him, we will have a spiritual body. The spiritual body of the believer will be like that of the risen Christ. This must happen because flesh and blood cannot enter heaven.

5. Triumph over death, 15:51—58

We now know that our bodily resurrection is part of God’s plan of redemption. With this stunning group of verses, Paul reaches a magnificent climax. This is surely one of the most exalted passages in the New Testament. Since the eternal state is not made up of flesh and blood, all believers will necessarily undergo a transformation when the Lord returns. Those who died before His return will be resurrected and transformed, while those who survive until He returns will be transformed from that which is temporary to that which will be eternal.

But how will God accomplish all this? Paul calls it a “mystery,” which means something which cannot be discerned by the natural mind but is the result of revelation. What is the mystery? Unfortunately for the overly curious, the mystery is a revelation, not of how God will do it, but rather what He will do to make His people compatible with their eternal home. Simply put, He will change us; in the twinkling of an eye, man’s essential nature will undergo a drastic, permanent change. The signal for this event will be a trumpet blast.

This change that will affect all believers, those who have passed away and those who are living, will not be a renovation or an upgrade of our present bodies, but a complete change. And yet, our personalities, our identities, will not be lost. Somehow, unknown to us at the present time, we saints will be completely different when Christ returns and yet we will easily recognize each other.

The resurrection of Christ and the eventual resurrection of believers spells the end of sin and death. These awful twins of evil have been hounding mankind since it was evicted from the Garden of Eden so long ago. Christ is victorious over sin and death, we are victorious over sin and soon we will be victorious over death. When we are clothed with our new bodies, death will finally be dealt it’s final blow.

This doctrine is all but ignored by the Church, and yet it is so interwoven with victory over sin that these two ideas cannot be separated. If there is no resurrection, as some in the Corinthian church thought, there can be no victory over sin. Why? Death is the result of sin, and none can escape it except for believers. Victory over sin and the reality of the resurrection are two towering aspects of God’s plan of redemption.

The real mystery is not how God will do this, but why? What makes us worth it?

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God… (1 John 3:1, KJV)


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