Bible Study Series: Resurrection, Rapture & the Redeemer
Resurrection Reactions P2- In the here and now
by I Gordon
In the last message we looked at resurrection reactions - past and future. That is, we explored the initial reactions to Jesus' resurrection and saw how this will play out again at the coming resurrection and rapture of the Church. So what did we see? Well, on the one hand you had perplexity, doubts, outright dismissal, and even actions to cover up the whole event through lies and payoffs. It seems there is nothing new under the sun there! But on the other (and better) hand you had marveling, wonder and unrestrained joy as believers got to stand in the midst of their risen Savior! And yep, this will all play out again at the rapture... with fullness of joy for believers as we stand in His presence!
So that was last time. This time is the resurrection for the present - in the here and now. That is, we'll look at:
- What does the resurrection mean for unbelievers today?
- Has God now put unbelievers 'on notice'?
- What are the present day reactions to the resurrection?
- What does the resurrection means for believers today?
- What is the living hope that believers now have because of the resurrection?
- What can we learn from Moses' mistake and his premature death?
Unbelievers 'put on notice'
So have you ever thought what the resurrection means for unbelievers today? By that I'm not asking what it means 'to them'. We know what it means to them. That would be "zippidy-do-da". But what does it mean for them? To put it very simply, it means they have been 'put on notice' by the Almighty God. To be 'put on notice' means that a person or group has had a formal notification of something needing attention and action. Do you remember when you received that letter in the mail saying that your car is not registered and driving it will result in a fine? You were put on notice. Or what about when your Mum saw your school report card and very clearly let you know how she felt. You were put you on notice and I'm sure you haven't forgotten that! Ok... alright... you found me out! So these cases are probably more me than you but you get the picture!
Well with the resurrection of Jesus, God put the entire unbelieving world 'on notice'. You will remember that Jesus said to the Jews that there was only one sign that He would give them - the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah had been three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so Jesus said the Son of Man would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. That was the sign. The only sign, He would give. And to give that sign He obviously needed to just do that small step of overcoming death! Now when Paul was speaking to those in Athens he picks on this stating:
Act 17:29-31 "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. (30) "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, (31) because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
So note the following from this:
- The Gentile nations worship idols which God has previously patiently overlooked1 due to their ignorance and lack of revealed truth. That is how it was and also what we are quickly heading back to.
- But following the resurrection of Jesus, God has now given 'proof to all men' so that none are exempt or excused.
- Thus God is putting everyone on notice - you must repent, because a day is fixed where He will judge the world.
There was a time when God shut His eyes to paganism. Now light has come into the world. God asks men everywhere to turn to Him. Light creates responsibility. Now God is commanding all men everywhere to repent.
He (Paul) has presented God as the Creator in His past work. He shows God as the Redeemer in His present work. Now he shows God as the Judge in His future work.
J Vernon McGee
Resurrection reactions - unbelievers
So what are the reactions from unbelievers today to the resurrection of Jesus? Many of course just ignore it. They want to just live their lives as they see fit thank you very much, and don't want to really answer any bigger questions around 'God', 'sin', 'Jesus' or 'life after death'. Many are happily ignorant but as we have seen that doesn't cut it with God. In the past He overlooked such times of ignorance among the Gentiles but this changed following the resurrection. Others look into the resurrection and are happy with any alternative theory no matter how contrived2. We read last time that the Jewish religious leaders didn't want to know, or have it known, that Jesus rose from the dead so they invented a false story and paid the guards to say that the disciples came by night and stole Jesus' body. Unfortunately people still believe this to this day! But it wasn't a dead Jesus that appeared to over 500 people after His resurrection! (1 Cor 15:6) Nor would the dramatic change in both the courage and joy of the disciples be explained if they had actually just stolen the body of a dead Jesus themselves! They had been completely fearful and hiding at Jesus' arrest, but were fearless, even willing to die for their rock solid belief that Jesus rose from the dead (and most, apart from John, did!)
What about the 'swoon theory'?
While we are on the topic, another theory that some skeptics propose is called the swoon theory. "The Swoon Theory is the belief that Jesus didn’t really die at His crucifixion, but was merely unconscious when He was laid in the tomb and there He resuscitated."2
I like how Bible teacher and Pastor J. Vernon McGee responded to this. A woman once wrote to McGee saying “Our preacher said that on Easter Jesus just swooned on the cross, and the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?” McGee replied, “Dear Sister, beat your preacher with a leather whip for thirty-nine heavy strokes. Nail him to a cross. Hang him in the sun for six hours. Run a spear through his heart. Embalm him. Put him in an airless tomb for three days. Then see what happens.”
The fact is that the Romans were experts at killing and didn't make mistakes. And to make it all the more certain the Roman Solider trust his spear through the side of Jesus on the cross, piercing His heart. Jesus certainly died. But even better, He certainly rose from the dead! So, as mentioned above, God now puts everyone on notice that you have to repent and turn to Him for salvation because He has fixed a day where He will judge the world. And I believe that day is at hand. The real issue with unbelievers looking at the resurrection is not intellectual but spiritual. Sir Edward Clark wrote,
“As a lawyer, I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter Day. To me, the evidence is conclusive. And over and over again in the high court, I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Inference follows on evidence, and a truthful witness is always artless and disdains effect. The gospel evidence for the resurrection is of this class. And as a lawyer, I accept it unreservedly, as the testimony of truthful people to facts they were able to substantiate.”
The fact remains that unbelievers react with opposition or dismissive apathy not because they can't believe, but because they don't want to believe. To do so means they are then accountable to God... and they don't want that. At the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart - not the head. There is more than enough evidence for those who are willing to look. Jesus exposed this well saying:
Joh 3:19-21 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (20) Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21) But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
Resurrection reactions today - believers
Alright let's move on and speak about believers. What does the resurrection mean for the believer today? What should our reaction to it be? A lot of believers seem to unfortunately stop at the cross. They know that Jesus died in for their sins and are very thankful for that. But they then live as though He is in Heaven and they are down here and it is up to them to straighten up and 'be a good Christian' in order to please Him. I am thankful that early on in my Christian life I came across the person and ministry of Major Ian Thomas. His whole ministry was about 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' - here and now! It was all about the resurrected Christ, "who laid His life down for you, to give His life to you, to live His life through you!" I soon learned, through both great teaching and personal failure, that Jesus is far more than a great teacher who simply showed the way that we are to walk to find life. He is the way and He is the life! He is our life. This is where the resurrection comes in. Larry Norman has a very short song that gets right to the point. He wrote:
You can take your diamonds and lock them in your room
And you will lose everything you save
You can take your flowers and lay them on His tomb
But I know he rose up from the grave
Larry Norman, Diamonds
What he is saying is that most just live for the here and now, storing up treasures on Earth - but they will lose everything they've saved. Others think of Jesus as just a good religious figure with teachings to follow, but someone who came and died long ago. But the true reaction is to know that He rose up from the grave! We should be living each day with the attitude that that Jesus is alive and He has given Himself to us.3
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
It is good to think about the question that the angels asked the women that came to the tomb. We read this in the last message. Can you remember what they asked the women that came? They said - "Why do you seek the living One among the dead?" This question from the angels is one that has great importance today as well. Why do people look for life among rituals and dead religion? Why do people people substitute the life of the living Lord for works and human effort? Think about the relevance of His resurrection for your life... right now. Christianity is not a religion or a set of teachings to follow. It is not man trying to pull themselves up by their boot straps and 'be better'. It is a relationship with a risen indwelling Lord. Don't look for the living among the dead but remember, as these first women did, the words of the Lord that He is alive!
Dwelling in the living hope
So let's just zero in a little more on the importance of the resurrection in the here and now4. For example, the book of Romans says:
Rom 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His (resurrected) life.
Rom 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Rom 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
But I want to focus on one passage I very much like from 1st Peter:
1Pe 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,
This is a great passage for it involves the past, present and future:
- Firstly, past mercy - His great mercy he has given us new birth
- Secondly, present hope - Into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
- Thirdly, future blessings - Into an inheritance that can never perish, kept in Heaven for you!
Let's focus on the present day aspect. It says He has given us new birth 'into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.' That is very interesting... but what does it mean? What is this living hope? Well, it's not hard. We have a living, active, energizing hope because we have a living active powerful Savior! But we have to live in the reality of who He is us for us today! We must come to know the Lord in this way, least we miss this living hope in the here and now. It doesn't mean that we aren't saved. But sometimes we live as though Jesus was still in the tomb... expressing the same reactions as the early disciples did with fear, doubts, tears and burdens. But that all changed when they met the risen Lord! The book of Hebrews, chapter 4, tells us that there remains a rest for the people of God. And do you know what day that rest is on? Not the Sabbath... not Sunday... it says it is 'TODAY'. There is a rest 'today' - it is always in the present. Is there anything that is taking your peace at the moment? There is a rest that remains for God's people when they come to understand and experience that Jesus is a living risen Savior who is with them.
As an example, think about Moses for a moment. Moses was given the tasks of leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Did he complete it? Well, half of it. He led them out but didn't lead them in. At 120 years old, Moses died in the wilderness. Yet didn't die of old age! The Bible says that:
Deu 34:7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.
So why then did Moses die? Why was he not allowed in the Promised Land? Because instead of speaking to the rock he struck it. Now some of you will be saying 'whatcha talkin about Willis? - Is that all he did? That seems a tad harsh on old Moses!' Well let's just refresh our minds on the situation and see what it means spiritually. At both the start and end of the wilderness wanderings the Lord told Moses that water would come from the rock to quench the thirst of the Israelites. Here are the commands and note the difference:
Exo 17:5-6 The LORD answered Moses, "... I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Num 20:7-12 The LORD said to Moses... Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.... So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."
The first time Moses was instructed to strike the rock. The second time he was told to speak to the rock. The Apostle Paul picks up on this saying that in picture form the 'rock was Christ' (1 Cor 10:4) So just as water came forth for the Israelites when the rock was struck, so the Holy Spirit came forth for believers after Jesus was struck and crucified for us. That is the first picture and Moses got this one right... as all those who wish to be saved must! But the second time, at the end of wilderness wanderings, Moses was instructed to speak to the rock and it would give forth water. This is a picture of Christ risen! He is alive and we only need to speak to Him, not strike Him again. But Moses, in anger, disobeyed God and struck the rock twice with his staff. In picture form he knew about Christ crucified but not Christ risen! And unfortunately that is where a lot of Christians also fall down. Let me be clear - this it is not a salvation issue. It is sanctification issue. It is a maturity issue. It is a victorious life issue. It is a rest issue. Moses missed the Promised Land because, in picture form, he didn't rely on the risen Lord. And we don't want to miss the rest in the Promised Land available to us!
So, as Peter writes, God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. There is a living hope for whatever situation you face today. As CHM writes:
“There is power in the presence of a risen Savior to solve our difficulties, remove our perplexities, calm our fears, ease our burdens, dry our tears, meet our every need, tranquilize our minds and satisfy every craving of our hearts.”
Conclusion & an example - my Mum!
So we have seen that the Jesus' resurrection has a real 'here and now' application for believers and unbelievers alike. For unbelievers the proof of Jesus' claims have been shown through His resurrection and everyone is now placed 'on notice' to turn to God because His day of judgement is coming. For believers, the resurrection means a living hope based on a living Lord!
I wanted to close with an example and that is from the life of my mum. I've written a little previously about some of the struggles that my Mum has had this year. At the beginning of the year she was diagnosed with a golf ball size brain tumor and after several months of stroke like symptoms down her left side, she finally had an operation (at the ripe old age of 85!) to open her skull and remove the tumor from her brain. And it was amazing to see how she trusted and more importantly, was upheld, by the Lord through the whole ordeal.
Having read some of the story, a frequent user of the website recently wrote in saying 'In my books, your Mum is a real champion'. And yeah... in my books she is as well. I'm biased, I know (she is my mum of course!) But I've seen her go through many varied and difficult trials over many decades and yet, in the midst of them, find her strength in the Lord. But I wanted to point out something important and that's to say that she is not a strong person in herself. She really isn't! She's not some Christian 'Green-beret'! She is very, um, normal. She worries, She frets. She gets overcome. Probably even more so than many people. She wouldn't point to herself as a model for victorious Christian living. She is human and often frail. And yet here is the interesting thing... God's strength is made perfect in her weakness. This is not a theoretical statement. It is something I have seen time and time again. I have seen her come through situation after situation because she is somehow able, in her weakness, to touch the Lord. She is able, in the midst of her own weakness, to experience the One who is faithful and able. She knows all too well that without Him she is nothing (John 15:6). And yet she also knows that with Him, with the risen Lord, that she is able, because He is able, to keep her in all situations (Jude 1:24).
So yeah, she is a champion. But the real champion is the One she relies upon. The real champion is the One behind and upholding every weak frail humble human like you and me. And that is the Lord Jesus. He is the rock that we speak to, to receive the spiritual living water that we require in the time of need. We need to learn more, in the short amount of time we have, to experience this living Lord and walk in this living hope - because of His resurrection from the dead!