The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
November 20, 2011


1) Witnesses of Jesus' Resurrection (Tom Edwards)

2) News & Notes


Witnesses of Jesus' Resurrection
by Tom Edwards

The resurrection of Jesus has been one of the most pivotal events in the history of the world.  In speaking of its importance, Batsell Barret Baxter writes: "Nothing is more crucial in the entire field of Christian evidences than the question of the divinity of Christ.  Nothing is more crucial in the establishing of the divinity of Christ than His resurrection from the dead."

Does the Lord's resurrection confirm His deity?  If that sounds familiar to you, it should.  For it is what is expressed in Romans 1:3,4 as one of the purposes for the Lord's having arisen from the dead.  The passage states: "concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord."

Arlie J. Hoover referred to the resurrection as being the "linchpin of our complete system," and that if removed "the whole structure of Christianity collapses."

How true that is.  For without the Lord's resurrection there would be no hope for us.  1 Corinthians 15:17 states, "and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins."  So the Lord's resurrection is an integral part of the gospel and necessary for our salvation (vv. 1-4).  

This is also made clear in other passages as well.  Consider, for example, the following:

Romans 4:24,25: "but for our sake also, unto whom it shall be reckoned, who believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification."  So without the Lord's resurrection, we would have to remain under the condemnation of sin, without any justification!

According to 1 Peter 3:21,22, baptism could not save apart from the resurrection of Christ: "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him."

We can also compare this to Romans 6:3,4.  One is not only baptized into Christ's death through baptism, but also raised with Christ (as He was raised) to "walk in newness of life."  But if Jesus were not raised from the dead, then neither is the one being baptized raised from spiritual death in order to become a Christian with sins blotted out.  For that is what the "newness of life" is all about.  So without Christ's resurrection, one must remain in that "old life," which is characterized by sin and separated from God. 

Without the Lord's resurrection (and ascension), He would have never become our Savior.  For without His arising from the dead and returning to His Father in heaven, He would have never fulfilled His role as our great High Priest (Heb. 7:21-8:4, 6), which represents Him as being our advocate before the Father, and the One who can now intercede for us at God's right hand because of the sacrifice that was made at Calvary, which is the only one that can truly atone for our sins (see Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24).  In Hebrews 8:1, Jesus is set forth as being the great "high priest," who is at the right hand of God; but "...if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all..." (v. 4).  So the resurrection and ascension were both necessary that we might benefit from the Lord's atoning sacrifice.

Also, without the Lord's resurrection and ascension, He would have never been given the dominion, the glory, and the kingdom that Daniel 7:13,14 foretells as that which the Lord would receive after ascending back to His Father in heaven.  Daniel shows that the purpose for the Lord being given all of this is so "That all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him..." (v. 14).  What, therefore, would we infer if the Lord never arose from the dead and ascended to heaven?  If that be the case, then no one would be able to be saved from sin nor acceptably serve God.  For it is in the kingdom that the redeemed are because they had submitted to the rules of admission that the King has set forth (Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:6,9).  But without the resurrection and ascension, the kingdom of God would not be accessible for anyone today -- only the domain of darkness, which all who have sinned and not come to Christ are in (Col. 1:13), and which eventually will end up in hell.  So the Lord's resurrection and ascension are also vitally important that we might escape eternal torment.

Not only was it of major importance for Christ to arise from the dead, but believing that He did is also essential toward our salvation.  Paul declares, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved"  (Rom. 10:9).  So it is part of the plan of salvation, along with repentance (Luke 13:5), baptism (Acts 2:38), and keeping the faith (Rev. 2:10).  

The Lord not only foretold His death, but also His resurrection.  For instance, Matthew 16:21 declares, "From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day."  See also Matthew 17:22,23 and 20:18,19.  

Here is something to think about, in view of the Lord's own statements that He would arise from the dead the third day:  If Jesus were an impostor who simply wanted people to accept His teachings and live according to them after He was gone, would He have made such a confession, which would have proved Him a phony after the third day of His death, if He could not arise on the third day?   Surely, that would have brought an end to whatever followers He would have had up to that point.  

We can also note that the resurrection of Jesus is one of the main themes in all the sermons we find listed in the book of Acts.  Consider, for example, Acts 2:22-24,29-36; Acts 3:12-16; Acts 4:7-14;  and Acts 5:27-32.  Stephen's sermon to the unbelieving Jews dealt primarily with Old Testament history, in which he also shows that his audience was rejecting the Holy Spirit, just as their fathers had done.  But then in Acts 7:54-60, Stephen did not merely talk about Jesus being at the right hand of God; rather, he could "...see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God"; and Stephen talked to Him -- even in the presence of all these angry Jews who were gnashing their teeth at Stephen and stoning him to death.  It is often thought that a dying man's last words are truthful -- even if he hadn't been that way through much of his life.  How much more can we believe Stephen's words?

In Acts 8:5,12, it simply shows that Philip had preached "Christ to them," "the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ...." But is it not safe to assume that that included preaching the Lord's resurrection?  For why preach about Christ if He never arose from the dead?  If He hadn't, that would mean He lied frequently about that; and why would anyone want to serve a liar -- and, especially, die for one?

Other examples of preaching on the Lord's resurrection can be seen in Acts 10:38-42; Acts 13:28-38; Acts 17:30,31, and  Acts 26:22,23.  After Paul points out that "...God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent," he then gives a good reason for that in the next verse: "because He 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" (Acts 17:30,31).  So to deny the resurrection is to deny what God has done and disregard His proof.

The very fact that the apostles could work miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit is also another indication of not only the Lord's resurrection, but also His ascension.  For in preparing them for His upcoming departure back to heaven, one of the comforting things He told them can be seen in John 16:7: "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."  The "Helper" is the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26); and He fell upon the apostles 10 days after the Lord's ascension, which was made manifest by the speaking in tongues that the apostles then did.  These tongues were actual languages, which the apostles had not known.  But there were Jews in Jerusalem on that day of Pentecost that were "from every nation under heaven," who now were each able to hear in their own language of the mighty acts of God as preached by the Holy Spirit through the apostles (Acts 2:5-11).  So this is a clear indication that Jesus truly did arise from the dead and ascend back to heaven.  For from there, He had kept His promise, which was now being witnessed.  

These are all just a few of the many references that either declare or indicate that Jesus' resurrection was an actual event.  As the song tells us, "I serve a risen Savior."   The very fact that Christ lives and reigns, after having been put to death, says much about how wonderful it is to be a part of His kingdom, which is filled with abundant life (cf. Jn. 10:10).  What other religious leader died and arose from the dead to continue to be there for his followers?   It is the risen Jesus, exalted at the right hand of God, who is the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).   Going along with this, Hebrews 7:25 says, "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." 

Let us also consider those whom the Bible shows that Christ appeared to after His resurrection.  

In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, Paul seems to be mentioning in a chronological order, people who saw Christ after His resurrection.  But this is not a complete account -- though it is complete by including all whom God wanted mentioned in that statement.  However, from elsewhere, we also read about the resurrected Jesus having appeared to Mary Magdalene first of all, the two on the road to Emmaus, and perhaps many others who had seen the Lord during his 40-day stay on earth between His resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:1-3).  

On the day of His resurrection, Jesus appeared...

To Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9).  

To the women returning from the tomb with an angelic message (Matt. 28:8-10).  

To Peter, probably in the afternoon (1 Cor. 15:5).  We might overlook this truth that the Lord had appeared to Peter prior to the other apostles; so it wasn't when Jesus first appeared to the group of 10 (with Thomas being absent) when Peter first saw the Lord.   Consider, for instance, Luke 24:31-37, where the two on the road to Emmaus tell the apostles that "The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon" (v. 34).  

To the two disciples on the road to Emmaus toward evening (Luke 24:13-31).

To the apostles, except Thomas (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-24).  

Then eight days afterward, Jesus appeared to the apostles with Thomas being present (John 20:24-29).  

It is also recorded of Jesus being in Galilee after His resurrection.  There, He appeared to seven apostles by the Lake of Tiberias (John 21:1-23).  Notice John 21:14: "This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead."  It would, therefore, seem that this means His appearing to them as a group (though all might not be present at that time).  It was probably also here in Galilee where the Lord appeared to not only the apostles, but also to the more than five hundred brethren at one time (1 Cor. 15:6).  

Then, when back at Jerusalem again and Bethany, Jesus appeared to James (1 Cor. 15:7), who was not the apostle James, but the Lord's half-brother and a prominent member in the church in Jerusalem.  Jesus also appeared to the eleven (Matt 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:33-53; Acts 1:3-12).  

After the Lord's ascension, Jesus appeared to Stephen outside of Jerusalem (Acts 7:55); to Paul near Damascus (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Cor. 15:8) and also in the temple (Acts 22:17-21; Acts 23:11); and to John on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:10-19).  

As we think of these various witnesses, we need to also remind ourselves of Acts 1:1-3. The "these He also presented Himself alive...by many convincing proofs" is referring back to the apostles.  This passage makes us wonder how many -- other than those mentioned in the Scriptures, such as the "more than 500 brethren at one time" (1 Cor. 15:6) -- did Jesus also appear to during that 40-day period, following His resurrection and prior to His ascension.  

Arlie J. Hoover defines the "proofs" in this passage by saying, "The word for proof means 'a sure sign or token.'  It implies the strongest type of legal evidence, a demonstrable corroboration."

Seeing the resurrected Jesus had transformed the apostles into being willing to lay down their lives for the cause of Christ -- and they did.  According to tradition, all of the apostles suffered martyrdom -- except for the apostle John.   But that even he they tried to boil alive in a pot of oil, but he was miraculous spared and then exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.   

Between the crucifixion and the Lord's resurrection, the apostles had been fearful.  John 20:19 records the time when the Lord first appeared to all the apostles except Thomas, and it says that "...the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews...."  When the Roman soldiers had come to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night of Judas' betrayal, the Bible says, concerning the Lord's disciples, that "they all left Him and fled" (Mark 14:50).  It was in the courtyard, while Jesus was taken before the authorities, that Peter had denied Jesus three times, rather than acknowledge that he had been one of the Lord's disciples (Matt. 26:58-75).  The two on the road to Emmaus appear to have been very discouraged, after the Lord's death, for "they were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21); and, I imagine, others, who had been followers of Jesus, also felt that same way -- as if the Lord's plans to help Israel had been thwarted by His enemies.  

But regardless of whatever discouragement, feeling of defeat and hopelessness, and even fear that the apostles had felt soon after the Lord's death, seeing Him alive from the dead dramatically transformed their lives and brought them out of that negativity!  For by witnessing the Lord's resurrection, they were spiritually revitalized! 

Think, too, of the major change that was made in the life of Saul of Tarsus, after he had met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Saul was transformed from having formerly been an intense persecutor of the church to one who was willing to suffer and die for the cause of Christ.  Meeting Jesus was a life-changing event for Saul who had referred to himself as having been the "chief" or "foremost" of sinners, due to his previous ill-treatment toward Christians (1 Tim. 1:12-16).  Prior, Paul had excelled in Judaism; but, afterwards, considered all those things of former gain to be nothing more than rubbish in contrast to knowing Christ, gaining Christ, and knowing the power of the Lord's resurrection  -- and even the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3:4-14).  But without the resurrection of Jesus, there never would have been an apostle Paul -- only a Saul of Tarsus, living under a law that could not give eternal life, but only a hopeless knowledge of sin and death (Rom. 3:20; 7:7; 8:2).

As we come to the close of our lesson, what should be our attitude toward the resurrection?  Notice what Luke writes in Acts 26:6-8: "And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews.  Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?"

That is a great point Paul is making.  Why should anyone find it unbelievable that God can give life to those who have passed away?  The Lord is the one who created man from dust (Gen. 2:7), who spoke the universe into existence, and is the creator of life (Gen. 1,2).  The power of God to raise the dead has also been demonstrated numerous times; Some of which is recorded in the Old and New Testaments.  For instance, on the same day in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the Lord also referred to Himself as being "the resurrection and the life" (Jn. 11:25) -- so that was a claim that He went on to assuredly prove.  Furthermore, not only is God a creator who can give life, but also a loving Father who can bless His children with eternal life!  Even life on earth can be quite a blessing, but how much more so will everlasting life in heaven be?!

I read of some seeds that were found in a pyramid that were believed to be a couple thousand years old.  Though appearing dead for all those years, from them came life.  

The Bible speaks of a universal resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous, the saved and the lost (Jn. 5:28,29), but only the redeemed will experience the quality life enjoyed in heaven (Matt. 25:46).  What "life" will there be in hell?  It is referred to as "the second death" (Rev. 20:14).  But that does not mean that those there cease to exist.  For the punishment of hell is eternal (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 14:11).  So hell will be far from a quality life.  Rather, it will be an everlasting existence of torment.  What we will end up with depends on the choices we make during our time on earth.  Let us, therefore, choose wisely and accept God's gracious plan of salvation!  For that is also what the Lord wants us to choose, but He does not force us against our own will (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; Rev. 22:17).

You are special to God.  So much so that He gave Jesus to die for you, so that you can be saved from the wrath to come, if you will believe and submit to God's plan of salvation.  Life can be a wonderful thing, but how much more so of the eternal life in heaven!  Be sure to not miss out on that!   


News & Notes

Let us who are Christians be remembering Geneva Wilson in prayer, who had recently been in the hospital, due to her health.

Let us also be praying for a quick and complete healing for Terry MacDonald who underwent gall bladder surgery a few days ago.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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