The Meaning of the Resurrection
since the bodily Resurrection of Yahshua is regarded by reputable historians as the best attested fact in ancient history, it is not essential at this time to present evidence in support of its reality. Rather we shall consider the meaning of His Resurrection for His contemporaries and for the future.
First: What did the Resurrection mean for Christ Himself, and for the genesis of the Christian Faith? It meant everything. Yahshua had made certain statements to His disciples, which, if not supported by His Resurrection immediately following His death, would have so completely discredited Hi that His name and works would not have outlived His own generation.
Since this is the case let’s examine a few statements that He made:
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the ELDERS and CHIEF PRIESTS and SCRIBES, and BE KILLED, and BE RAISED AGAIN THE THIRD DAY.” (Mark 9:31)
“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man SHALL BE DELIVERED UNTO THE CHIEF PRIESTS, and UNTO THE SCRIBES; and THEY SHALL CONDEMN HIM TO DEATH, and SHALL DELIVER HIM TO THE GENTILES; and THEY SHALL MOCK HIM, and SHALL SCOURGE HIM, and SHALL SPIT UPON HIM, and SHALL KILL HIM: and THE THIRD DAY HE SHALL ARISE AGAIN.” (Mark 10:33-34)
“THE SON OF MAN MUST SUFFER MANY THINGS, and BE REJECTED OF THE ELDERS and CHIEF PRIESTS and SCRIBES, and BE SLAIN, and BE RAISED THE THIRD DAY.” (Luke 9:22)
“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For HE SHALL BE DELIVERED UNTO THE GENTILES, and SHALL BE MOCKED, and SPITEFULLY ENTREATED, and SPITTED ON: and THEY SHALL SCOURGE HIM, and PUT HIM TO DEATH: and THE THIRD DAY HE SHALL RISE AGAIN.” (Luke 18:31-33)
“Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I WILL SMITE THE SHEPHERD, and THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED ABROAD. But AFTER I AM RISEN AGAIN, I WILL GO BEFORE YOU INTO GALILEE.” (Matthew 26:31-32; Mark 14:27-28)
“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I LAY DOWN MY LIFE FOR THE SHEEP...Therefore doth my Father love me, BECAUSE I LAY DOWN MY LIFE, THAT I MIGHT TAKE IT AGAIN. NO MAN TAKETH IT FROM ME, BUT I LAY IT DOWN OF MYSELF. I HAVE POWER TO LAY IT DOWN, and I HAVE POWER TO TAKE IT AGAIN.” (John 10:15-18)
“I AM THE RESURRECTION, and THE LIFE: HE THAT BELIEVETH IN ME, THOUGH HE WERE DEAD, YET SHALL HE LIVE.” (John 11:25)
After Yahshua had been put to death, the chief priests and Pharisees (the Jews), assembled before Pilate, said:
“Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:63-64)
“Ye (Jews) have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. SO THEY (the Jews) WENT, and MADE THE SEPULCHRE SURE, SEALING THE STONE, and SETTING A WATCH.” (Matthew 27:65-66)
This verse shows that it was the Jews who sealed the tomb and set the guard; not the Romans as the Judeo-Christian clergy would have you believe.
Here on the one hand, we have all these things which Yahshua said before His death; only His bodily Resurrection could confirm them. On the other hand, we have the precautionary measures of the Jews, who were eager to prove that He was a fraud and a blasphemer. It was, indeed, a crucial period; a turning point in history. For if Yahshua had not come forth from the grave on the third day, as He said, there would be no memory of Him, and no Christian faith, in the world today. Little did the Jews realize how their precaution would witness against them and serve in the future to substantiate the validity of the very thing they feared most, namely, the Resurrection itself.
What did the Resurrection mean to the apostles? Again the answer is: Everything. To them Yahshua
“Shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)
Addressing a group assembled in the home of Cornelius, Peter said:
“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom THEY (the Jews) SLEW AND HANGED ON A TREE: HIM GOD RAISED UP THE THIRD DAY, and SHEWED HIM OPENLY; NOT TO ALL THE PEOPLE, BUT UNTO WITNESSES CHOSEN BEFORE OF GOD, EVEN TO US, WHO DID EAT AND DRINK WITH HIM AFTER HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD.” (Acts 10:39-41)
Obviously Yahshua was raised in a recognizable body, as men do not eat and drink with disembodied spirits. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul testified that the Risen Christ was seen by all the apostles, and that later He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once, the greater part of whom were still alive at the time the Corinthian letter was written.
For the apostles the primary significance of the Resurrection lay in the fact that it established Yahshua’s claim to the Divine origin of His person and His mission. Yahshua had led His disciples to believe that He was the Messiah, the One sent from the Father in whom all the hopes of Israel were to be realized. He had already supported His claim by His miracles among them; however, this claim was apparently contradicted and denied by His death on the stake, which to the Jew was evidence of Divine rejection, even though they did the evil deed. Therefore, it took the Resurrection to afford conclusive proof of the Messiahship of Yahshua. By the Resurrection, Jewry’s act of rejection was Divinely reversed, and the claim of Yahshua to be the Christ was forever vindicated:
“God hath made that same Jesus, WHOM YE (Jews) HAVE CRUCIFIED, BOTH LORD AND CHRIST.” (Acts 2:36)
It was the Resurrection which transformed the disciples and other believers “from broken-hearted mourners at the grave of a crucified Teach into enthusiastic propagandists of a risen and glorified Lord.” They were no longer in doubt about His Divinity; He coequality with God. They were no longer puzzled by some of the strange statements Yahshua had made: for example; “I and the father are one,”“He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,”“I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” As one writer says, “The Resurrection only displayed Him as being what He was inalienably from the first, and installed Him in the dignity which corresponded to His name.”
What does the Resurrection mean for us now, as believers in Yahshua? Our Christian life in all its forms, both now and in the future, depends upon the Resurrection. The very essence of Apostolic Christianity is that we are saved not only by believing that Christ died for our sins but by union with the crucified and now risen, exalted Savior, Redeemer and King. It is only through union with a Living Lord that we receive forgiveness, justification and all the blessings of redemption. J.H. Newman put it this way:
“His rising again was the necessary antecedent of His applying to His elect the virtue of that Atonement which His dying wrought for all men (Israel, not all the peoples of the earth, but the author was not aware of the Identity of Israel at that time)...He died to purchase what He rose again to apply.”
According to Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 4, and in the first two chapters of Ephesians, the resurrecting energy of God in raising Yahshua and in raising us when we were dead in trespasses and sins is one and the same.
“The one act is the prolongation of the other, the manifestation in two steps or stages of the same Divine miraculous energy.”
Thus, in 1 Peter 1:3-5, the apostle speaks of Christians being:
“Born anew to a life of hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, born to an unscathed, inviolate, unfading inheritance; it is kept in heaven for you, and the power of God protects you by faith till you do inherit the salvation which is all ready to be revealed at the last hour.” (Moffatt Translation)
Cairns, in his Christ and Human Need, writes:
“Every conversion, every advance in the new life, is part of that great new creation which began at the open grave, which advanced at Pentecost, and which will only reach its consummation when every knee shall bow to Christ and every tongue confess that He is Lord.” (Page 186)
In Dictionary of the Apostolic Church edited by Dr. James Hastings, with the assistance of Dr. John A Selbie and Dr. John C. Lambert, there are a few statements that are especially relevant to this phase of our subject. We quote portions of two paragraphs:
“The Resurrection of Christ is not only the assurance or pledge of the full personal immortality of believers; it is also the revelation of the nature of this immortal life. It ‘hath brought life and immortality to light’(2 Timothy 1:10); it has displayed it to our view. He has risen in possession of a body like ours, only glorified and made free from the law of sin and death, a body ‘spiritual’ in the sense of being the perfect instrument of the purposes of the Spirit. In this glorified embodied state of the Risen Christ we have a look at the nature of the future state of believers. At present we are pent up in a body which is but an imperfect medium of our will or spirit. It is a ‘body of death’ (Romans 7:24), full of weakness and corruption, limiting our powers of service. But ‘this body that belongs to our low estate’ shall be transformed ‘till it resembles the body of His Glory.’ For ‘if the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you’ (Romans 8:11)...
“The moral significance of such a doctrine cannot be overrated. It gives a new sanction to bodily consecration and temperance. Each sin against the body is no longer, as it was on the Greek conception, a stain on that which is itself doomed to perish, but a defilement of that which is consecrated to an eternal life; ‘Know ye not that your body is the Temple of the Holy Ghost?...Therefore glorify God in your body’ (1 Corinthians 15:35-42), where he endeavors to answer in detail the question, ‘With what kind of body do they come?’ this was the difficult which perplexed the Corinthian Christians, and led some of them under the influences of Greek thought to deny altogether the possibility of a bodily Resurrection.” (Pages 352, 356)
With characteristic logic, Paul sums up the whole matter as follows:
“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raise: and if Christ be not raised, you faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this live 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.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)
And finally, what does the Resurrection mean for the Kingdom of God? We have seen that the Resurrection of Christ is the basis not only of the moral but of the physical Resurrection of all who believe in Him. We shall now see that it is also the pledge and basis of the ultimate consummation of the Kingdom of God. Verily, “This is its wider cosmic significance.”
Paul shows that the deliverance of the body from the power of death and the grave is an essential part of God’s worldwide plan to establish His Kingdom on earth through Jesus Christ. If God is to have a Kingdom on earth patterned after that in heaven, as stated in the Lord’s Prayer, then He must have citizens for it worthy of their divine calling. Note the cosmic outreach, the certainty and finality, in Paul’s words:
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; AFTERWARDS THEY THAT ARE CHRIST’S AT HIS COMING. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-25)
Yahshua, in the power of His Resurrection, will abolish every force, every rule, every authority that is antagonistic to the will and purpose of God. No enemy, not even death itself, will be able to stand in His presence; for He is destined to destroy “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) Now we know that sin and death are not the final realities in the universe; they are to be swallowed in the victory and sovereignty of Christ.
The work of our Living God involves the restoration of all things, both material and spiritual. Peter refers to this period of rectification as “the times of the restitution of all things.” In the fullness of time God the Father will “gather together in on e all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10) Then, and only then, troubled nations will experience the joys of world unity and peace. When “Christ is all and in all” we may safely talk about “one world” and “world government,” but not until then. Through the Resurrection and the Restitution, God’s aim in the profess of creation achieves its end.
What does the Resurrection mean to you in this day of tribulation through out the world? Christ, by His Resurrection, has brought inspiration and hope to all who believe Him and receive His truth. By His Resurrection, Christ “has transformed death into a narrow, star-lit strip between the companionship of yesterday and the reunion of tomorrow.”