Do You Believe in the Resurrection?
"I am the resurrection, and the life:
he that believeth on me. Though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever
liveth and believeth in me shall never die." (John
Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, believed in the resurrection. Let us notice what she had to say about this all-important matter. Jesus told Martha that her brother, who was even then in a state of decay in his tomb, would rise again. Martha replied: "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." There was no doubt in her mind. She knew that her brother would rise again. That is something skeptics deny today, or at least they say that one cannot know for sure. Martha, though, was sure. She had no doubts on this question.
You might say, "Well, Martha was a good, orthodox Jew. Of course she would believe in the resurrection. But the Sadducees were also Jews. Some of them, very likely many, were in places of great power and authority, and some even became high priests. These didnot believe, either in angels, or in spirits, or in the resurrection. Does it make any difference, one way or the other?
Yes, it makes a great deal of difference. If you do not believe in the resurrection, it seems very unlikely that you will make any preparation for that great coming event. If you are unprepared, what a tragedy that will be for you.
There are some wonderful passages in the Old Testament that I would like you to consider, and then some in the New. Think, for instance, of that great man of antiquity, Job. Perhaps he was a contemporary of Abraham. At least we know that he lived a long time ago. The Lord allowed Satan to tempt Job in very painful ways. You will remember some of them: he lost his sons and his daughters; he lost his wealth; he lost the respect and perhaps the affection of his wife; and he losthishealth! Isn't that enough to bring on an acute attack of discouragement and self pity?
Job had questions; that is sure, but he did not lose his faith in his Redeemer. You will remember what he had to say:
"I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." (Job 19:25)
These were the words of Job after he had not only lost everything, but had come under the intense criticism and condemnation of his so-called friends. Yet, he was not willing to give up his faith in the Redeemer. As Isaiah and the Psalmist and others had their visions of the coming Messiah, the Christ, so Job must have had a vision, in his time, of the glories of the resurrection.
This brings us to the crucial question for each one of us today. You may be a faithful church-goer, one who seldom misses a service. Or, you may be one of those that goes on Easter and Christmas, sometimes. The question is the same for all: "Do you believe in the resurrection? Do you have saving faith in Jesus Christ? There is no point in dealing with smooth platitudes. This is a matter of life and death!
Do you remember the account of the skeptical farmer? He did not believe in the resurrection. He did not believe in hell. Yet, he said that he would give that fine team of horses of his to be sure that there was no hell, no resurrection. There is a resurrection, and there is a hell! Let us make no mistake about that. The Bible is clear. Jesus Himself said more about hell that anyone else in the Bible, and if it had not been a real place, one to avoid at all costs, He certainly would not have wasted time on that subject!
We will get back to other great verses about the resurrection, but I plead with you, "make your calling and election sure!" There is only one way to do so. That is, through confessing and forsaking your sins, and coming humbly and boldly to the foot of the cross of Christ, asking for forgiveness, for pardon. His promise is dependable and it is plain: "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) Do so at once, if there is any doubt in your mind as to where you stand with the Lord!
In one of Billy Graham's recent magazines there is the testimony of a woman who says that she always went to church. She thought that she was earning her way to heaven. Finally she came to realize she could not earn her way to heaven, that the only way of salvation was through faith in the shed blood of Christ. She was right. Of course someone who is genuinely converted, who has saving faith in Christ, will feel impelled to do something about it, to let others know of what the Lord has done in his or her heart and life! He does not save us to have us sit on the sidelines doing nothing, but to a life of service to others.
It was at Passover time during the second year of Christ's ministry, just a year before His crucifixion, that He was preaching in Jerusalem. Many had come to Him for healing, and He had healed them of their diseases. It must have been wonderful for a blind man to see, or for someone who was lame to be able to walk, but Christ was also thinking of those who were spiritually blind or lame, who did not know the way of eternal life. There was to be a resurrection day for all: those who believed on Him and turned to Him for salvation, as well as those who rejected Him and refused to believe and obey. This is what He said:
The hour is coming, in the which all
that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they
that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have
done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:29)
It is not pleasant, of course, to contemplate the resurrection of damnation, but it is a wholesome warning to take steps to avoid that end.
After many years as an overseas missionary St. Paul was back in Jerusalem. He had been warned by a number of his Christian friends that his life was in danger. He met with James and the elders of the Church, and gave a report of the wonderful way in which the Lord had been working in distant places. Many Gentiles had come to faith in Christ. It was suggested that he take four Jewish believers to the temple and go through a temple ceremony with them, so that the Jewish brethren would realize he was "keeping the law" and walking in an orderly manner..
The complete ceremony lasted seven days, and almost at the end Paul was noticed by some hostile Jews from Asia Minor. They laid hands on him and began an insurrection, and were about to kill him. Paul was rescued by the Roman authorities, and then was taken before Felix, the governor. As he was giving his defense before the governor, he gave a very good and appropriate testimony: "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men." Shouldn't that be the testimony of all Christians, including you and me?
Just before he said that, Paul had pointed out, very simply and very briefly, the central point of Christian belief: "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust." (Acts 24:15) The Jews from Asia Minor, who had caused Paul to be beaten, before he was rescued by the Roman soldiers, for some reason had not showed up for the appearance before Felix, so Paul pointed out once again the importance of this great Christian doctrine: "Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day." (v. 21)
Paul had much to say about the resurrection. In his first letter to the Corinthians he goes into detail on this subject. Let us look at just a little of what he says.
Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; . . . he was buried . . . he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: . . . he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; . . . And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. . . . And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. . . . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. . . . But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Chapter 15) Then comes that last great verse of the chapter: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
A Hanoverian countess who was a noted unbeliever violently opposed the idea of a resurrection. She was bound and determined, however, that when she died her body would remain in the grave forever. She was a wealthy woman, and when she died at the age of thirty she left detailed instructions for her burial.
The countess' grave was to be covered by a heavy slab of granite. Blocks of stone were to be fastened with heavy iron clamps to the granite. An inscription in bold letters would read, NEVER TO BE OPENED. Her wishes were carefully observed, that is, until a little birch seed found its way into a crevice somewhere and began to grow. Year by year it continued to grow, until finally it became a "large, flourishing tree," and it tore open the clamps and raised the granite lid! How foolish she was to think she could resist the power of God.
Contrast the countess' foolish attitude
with that of a man of God who found that he was dying of cancer and would
soon depart to be with his Maker. As he addressed a congregation he told
them of his home, some miles distant, where there was a "mountain he loved,
(and) stately trees that were always God's own poetry to his soul." Then
he went on to say, "I shall be alive when you are gone, Mountains, and
Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets." He was
trusting in Christ as his Saviour. Like Job, he knew that his Redeemer
was alive, and that he would see Him face to face some day soon, and be
with Him throughout all eternity.
As some of you know, I was down in Costa
Rica in January helping hold meetings. A missionary couple in Costa
Rica, some time ago, spent some time in sightseeing. In a cathedral
they saw "a statue of Christ hanging on a cross." Later, in an old Spanish
mission "some of the children were frightened when they saw a wax figure
of Christ in a glass-enclosed casket. "That night, during family devotions,
little Mark [the youngest, just six years old] said, 'Daddy, I have
seen Jesus dead so many times today. Please tell me again the story
of the Resurrection!' After listening to the story he said, 'Daddy, that's
the best story in the whole world!"