Up From The Graves [THEY] Arose!

Scripture Study:  Matthew 27:51-53

As the Easter season approaches, I wanted to look at some of the strange and unusual events that are recorded in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  These events are only recorded in one or two verses of Scripture and they have a real significance for understanding the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.  The specific passage I want to focus on in this study is this one:

Matthew 27:51b-53 (NIV)

[51b]  The earth shook, the rocks split  [52] and the tombs broke open.  The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  [53] They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

WHO ARE THE “HOLY PEOPLE”?

It’s possible that this refers to the great saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It’s possible but quite unlikely.  The fact that the tombs are empty causes enough of a commotion–had it been that it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–well that would have caused an uproar in the city.

I get the impression that the ones who showed up were instantly recognized.  It’s like a homecoming with many people in the city welcoming back loved ones who have recently passed away.  The “holy people” we should have in mind are those who have died more recently who now go back to a city where they are recognized without introduction.

In John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, it is said that they were some later saints, Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, John the Baptist himself, good old Simeon, Joseph the husband of Mary, and others, well-known to persons now alive.  If ever you needed a good plot for a movie–this would be it!

Passages like this are easy to speculate about especially because it’s such a brief account.

But this passage wasn’t written to make us open Pandora’s box of speculation.  These verses were written to tell us something about the nature of Jesus’ death.  To see the significance, let’s have a closer look at the process because it happens in TWO STAGES.

The FIRST STAGE happens immediately at the death of Jesus.

You can guarantee that this event caused a big stir on Friday.

The people back then were not buried in the ground like we do today.  People were buried in caves with rocks rolled in front…that’s how Jesus was buried.  It would be easy to see open and empty tombs.  With a little detective work of doing a missing body count, a trend would develop.  Not all tombs are empty–not everyone has come to life.  This was a difficult trend for the Jews to deal with because an event like this shouldn’t happen.  Common belief by most Jews that there would be a resurrection.  However, when that RESURRECTION did take place the Jews expected ALL Jews to rise, not a limited number.

The breaking open of these tombs has created a crisis.

For certain everyone would be asking, “Where are the bodies?”

They will have that answer on the day Jesus rises from the dead!

But the bigger crisis is a FAITH CRISIS–why is it that some were raised and others were not?

This brings us to the SECOND STAGE of the process. 

After Jesus was raised from death, those people went into the holy city (Jerusalem), and many people saw them.  (Matthew 27:53b. – NLT) 

When Jesus died on the cross, everyone thought it was all over.

But looks can be deceiving.

That’s because DEATH isn’t a natural occurrence.  It’s a result of SIN.

  • The grave has every right to hold us unless our sin can be covered.
  • Death has every right to keep us unless payment can be made.
  • Satan has every right to make a claim on us unless a ransom has been given.

And when Jesus breathed His last that’s exactly what happened.  SIN is covered.  Payment is made.  A ransom is given.  And DEATH watches helplessly as Jesus claims what is rightfully His.

It’s the DEATH of Jesus that VICTORY is secured. 

The RESURRECTION of Jesus is more like a victory lap.  SIN has been covered.  The payment has been fulfilled.

When these recently risen holy ones enter the city they do so as participants in the “victory lap” of Jesus.  And that’s the reason why ALL weren’t raised.

All weren’t raised because, in their lifetime, they had their eyes focused on the wrong spot.

  • The holy people were the ones who trusted that God had set them apart, not because they were Jewish, but because He was faithful!
  • The holy people didn’t presume that they had a place in heaven just because they were born in Jerusalem, they trusted in the GRACE of God to bring them into His family.
  • The holy people weren’t those who sacrificed at the Temple and went on with life as they pleased, they sacrificed their hearts as well.
  • The holy people understood they couldn’t do it on their own and they needed God.

Each of those empty tombs represents a person who understands that real spiritual victory can’t be earned…but rather that spiritual victory can be found when we put our trust in God’s incredible GRACE!

So where does all of this leave us today?

I believe it leaves us with a challenge.  What we are seeing here is a preview of what is going to happen in the future.

There will be a day when a RESURRECTION will happen–and it’s going to be a selective event.

Some will end up in the second death, to be banished from God’s grace forever.  And like the people in the city of Jerusalem, none of us should presume which group we’re in.

Looking at the situation from one side of the fence.

  • You may have been baptized in the church–but your baptism doesn’t save you.
  • You may be one of the foundational members–but that doesn’t save you either.
  • You could be a longstanding member–but that’s not what saves.
  • You Mom & Dad, your spouse are believers–but that doesn’t make you any more saved.

And here’s looking from the other side of the fence.

  • You may feel you have nothing to offer the King of Kings–that won’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be having doubts and questions–they can’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be carrying guilt, hurt, hidden secrets, regrets–they’re not stoppages.

Salvation is totally and solely linked to the Cross.

If we come on the basis of our own merits we are being presumptuous.

If we disqualify ourselves on the basis of something we’ve done in the past, we are presumptuous.

But if we come to the Cross trusting the GRACE OF GOD then we will never be presumptuous.

That is the challenge…but there is also much comfort.  You see, at the end of the day, the HOLY PEOPLE are just like us.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Commentary:  Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Matthew 27:53; Studylight.org.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Testament (NLT).

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

Being Late, Yet Still On Time!

SCRIPTURE – JOHN 11:1-40

Please, if you have the time, watch this YouTube Video of a scene from the movie Son of God.  This four-minute plus scene sets up my Bible study in John 11.

BEING LATE IS A BAD THING!

I’m a person who always believes in being punctual.  Being late is a bad thing.  My dad was the same way: “Better an hour early than 5 minutes late” he used to say.

TRAINS and PLANES leave at appointed times and connecting flights are dependant on the earlier flights being on time.  Delays or cancellations can cause big problems for people.

But by far the most punctual person in the universe is God!  He set up the galaxies and our solar system like giant timepieces, run with precision.  The timing of the sunrise–a thousand years from now–can be calculated to a millisecond.

So, how strange it is then, to find God being late!  God–all-knowing and all-powerful–how can He not be on time?

And yet, we find God being so late to heal a man that he even missed his funeral by 4 days!  We’ll look together at the Scripture in this blog-study and find out, how God “Being Late, Yet Still On Time!” will give some perspective and understanding.

SCRIPTURE – John 11:1-7, 11-15, 39-40 (New International Version)

(Verses 1-7)

[1] Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  [2] (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and washed his feet with her hair.)  [3] So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  [4] When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  [5] Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,  [6] So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,  [7] and said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

(Verses 11-15)

(Verses 39-40)

[39]  “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

[40]  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

“Lord, the one you love is sick”  (11:3)

Note that Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, didn’t say, “Lord, the one who loves You, but the one You love.”

(1 John 4:10)

“This is LOVE: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Our LOVE to Him is not worth speaking of but His to us can never be enough spoken of.

Jesus has the POWER to alter the forces of nature; calm the winds and waves; to suspend the movement of the universe in answer to the prayer of one man.  Jesus did miracles with many elements–He made arms grow out, made bread and fish multiply, turned water into wine.  He didn’t have to be present to work a miracle.  He told the Centurion “Go your way, your servant will be made whole.”  Another long-distance healing was the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter.

No circumstances could stop Him.

No limit of time was a factor.

QUESTION:  Then, why does Jesus wait until a man, who He dearly loves, is dead, before setting out to help him?

Even the disciples knew there was a special bond between Lazarus and Jesus.  Imagine if you will, you or I call our best friend and say, “I think I’m going to die!”  And our friends’ response, “Well, I’m pretty busy right now.  It’s Sunday, I’m in church, I’ll try to make it by Friday.  Do you think you can hang on that long?”

Doug Greenwold, with Lamb & Lion Ministries, gives us a deeper look into the events that occurred:

“A messenger is commanded to go and find Jesus, to tell Him that Lazarus was about to die.  The messenger traveled by foot for two days, then faithfully informed Jesus about Lazarus’ condition.”

Here’s what I found fascinating.  When Jesus heard the message, He replied (verse 4), “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Notice the very first thing that Jesus did.  He gave the messenger a PROMISE.  Jesus often does this when He’s going to stretch our FAITH.

He provides a PROMISE, and then He gives the reason why what’s about to happen was going to happen.

Lazarus’ sickness was not to end in death, rather it would be used for God’s GLORY so that God’s Son would be glorified through it!

Jesus stayed two more days.

Jesus didn’t leave right away.  So something puzzling was going on there.  We’re talking about God incarnate here, so everything Jesus does here is strategic and for a reason.

In Mr. Greenwold”s article, he points out something I never knew before, so I wanted to share this in the blog-study:

“The Hebrew view of death believed that when a person died during the first three days their NEPHESH, which is the Hebrew word for soul, hovered over their body.  In fact, by the beginning of the fourth day, the body would already be fallen into such a rapid state of decomposition, it would stink to high heavens, and then the NEPHESH flees.”

The upshot is for the first three days you’re just dead, but from the fourth day on, you’re totally dead-dead.

Why does this matter in the grand scheme of things?

Because the rabbis and the religious leaders had been teaching when the Messiah finally arrived, he would be able to achieve something so amazing they would easily know he was the prophesied one.  It’s so impossible to bring someone back from the dead.  Only the Messiah or his prophets could bring people back from death.

From the Religious Leaders’ Point of View –

If Jesus was really the Messiah as some had claimed, then the religious leaders, in order to keep their positions of wealth and power, would have to kill him.  They’d attempt creating some uncertainty.  They’d claim that bringing a person back from the dead during the FIRST DAY didn’t count.  The nephesh (the SOUL) hadn’t left yet.  Doesn’t count!  For Jesus to truly be THE MESSIAH, in the people’s eyes, Jesus needed to overcome this obstacle.

A Sign Of A Much Greater Love –

By Jesus delaying to answer the sister’s prayer and letting the situation to become seemingly hopeless and impossible…He showed more LOVE than anyone else!

NOTE:  GOD’S GREATEST INTENTIONS MAY BE SIGNALED BY HIS LONGEST DELAYS!

Look at the words found in Ezekiel 37:11, 13 (AMP)

[11]  Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  Behold, they say, Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are completely cut off.”

[13]  And you shall know that I am the Lord [your Sovereign Ruler],  when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, O My people.

Jesus’ DECISION was for His Disciples too!

VERSE 15 says,  “…and for your sake, I am glad I was not there. so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

God may be delaying because DELAYING is good for us!  He may be testing our faith or developing perseverance in us.  It may actually be dangerous to give us something at the moment we first ask.

Another idea is that God is setting up an impossible situation, in order that He may perform a MIRACLE or an even bigger miracle!

So the question may come up in your mind, “How long will God wait?”

And the answer?  TILL IT STINKS!

Sometimes Jesus waits until the situation you find yourself in really “stinks”.  When it “stinks,” God will get complete GLORY!

Another REASON God Waits So Long…RESURRECTION LIFE is not for the living, it’s for the dead!

You don’t get resurrected while you’re alive, you get resurrected when you’re dead!

THE PRINCIPLE IS LIFE OUT OF DEATH!

We must grow in our handling a bumper crop –

You don’t see a young apple tree bearing 150 apples; if it did, it would collapse under the weight.  Over time, God strengthens and prepares the tree so it can handle the weight for what it can bear in maturity.

It’s the same way with us.  We want everything NOW!  But God knows we can’t bear it, so He only gives us an apple or two until we grow stronger.

Jesus said to Martha,  “I AM the resurrection…”  That’s present tense.

PATIENCE!

The word “patience,” doesn’t occur in the Old Testament, but we have “patiently” in Psalm 40:1; meaning to “wait,”to expect,” or waiting on God.

In the New Testament, the Greek word “hypomone” carries in it the ideas of endurance, continuance (Luke 8:15; 21:19; Romans 5:3-4).  [Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encycolopedia]

PATIENCE is often hard to give and maintain, but in Romans 15:5, God is called “the God of Patience” (ARV – “steadfastness”) as being able to grant that GRACE to those who look to Him and depend on Him for it.

NEVER CLOSE THE BOOK OF YOUR LIFE WHEN GOD HASN’T FINISHED WRITING YOUR STORY!

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV Bible) –

[35]  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

[36]  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Never hang up–throw in the towel–when God is still on the line with you.  Hang in there!  God is still working in your life!!

God wants us to know that even if we don’t see Him, He’s always there and He will be on time!

THE CALL!

Many teachers have asked the question and attempted to explain why JESUS WEPT.

Jesus knew at the time that in a matter of minutes He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He still wept, because He felt the hurt of Mary & Martha’s pain so deeply that He grieved for their hurt.  HE WEPT!

Jesus is touched by feelings of our own infirmities, our pain, our grief. 

Let us then turn EVERYTHING over to Him in prayer.

_________________________________________________________

~CREDITS~

Movie Clip:  YouTube video – Lazarus Raised scene from The Son Of God movie.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advance settings.

Bible Translations used:  New International Version (NIV); American Revised Version (ARV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or where noted.

Credit and courtesy of LAMB & LION MINISTRIES Deeper Insights Into the Resurrection of Lazarus by Doug Greenwold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Yesterday Is History, Tomorrow Is A Mystery, But Today Is A Gift…”

A Study in Philippians 3:10-14 

I’ve heard about an odd phenomenon in the military.  When people were drawing close to retirement or their discharge date, their whole demeanor changed.  They started dragging to the formation.  Their PT efforts became lackluster.  Their work grew sub-par or average at best.  Now to be fair, it most likely wasn’t their fault.  They had an STD, which in this case stands for “short-timers’ disease.”

Do you ever feel like you’ve short timers’ disease in life?

Do you ever feel like, why even make the effort?

Maybe you’re just going through the motions.

Just maybe the Scripture cited in this blog will give you a new attitude:  about your past, present, and future.

First, Paul’s words advise us to…RELEASE THE PAST

In verse 13, Paul uses the phrase, “Forgetting what is behind”.

Is he asking us to suppress those troublesome memories we’ve accumulated over time?  I don’t think so.  Paul is talking about letting go of things that still have a hold on us.

Not releasing the past, two things will get us into trouble:

  • Past Failures
  • Past Successes

Past failures have the tendency to make us think we’re a failure.

Paul could certainly recall his failures:  He supervised the death of the first martyr of the Church, Stephen.  He could have carried a lot of GUILT for his persecution of Christians before his salvation.  But he didn’t.

He said we need to release all of that to God.

God can forgive your GUILT if you give it to Him.

God can FORGIVE ALL the woulda/coulda/shoulda decisions you’ve analyzed to death!

1 John 1:9 (AMP)

[9] IF we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

We need to forget our FAILURES, and by the way, our SUCCESSES too.

If we concentrate on them too much, we’ll rest on our laurels and never want to do more.

One thing I learned over the years I was in business, the biggest threat to future success is past success.  That’s why companies keep reinventing themselves.

In marriage seminars, it’s often said, “Being married is like riding a bike: It takes some work, some peddling.  If you’re coasting, you’re always going downhill.”

In the first part of the chapter, Paul mentions the successes that were under his belt.

He listed his pedigree as a learned Jewish scholar and Pharisee, trained by the best.  Yet, he said, compared to knowing Christ all of his Ivy League know-how was garbage (verse 8).  The actual word there is “DUNG” (Strong’s Greek; 4657), or “manure pile”- Luke 13:8; 14:35.

ALL OF OUR EARTHLY EFFORTS AMOUNT TO NOTHING COMPARED TO KNOWING CHRIST.

The image of poop is a vivid reminder not to let those past success go to your head!

I’m not saying the past isn’t important.  We need to learn from the past.

But I find life is like driving a car:  Most of the time you want to look out that large front windshield; every now and then you need to glance back through the tiny rear view mirror.  Too much looking back will get you into trouble.

LEARN from the past.

Make PEACE with the past.

CELEBRATE the past.

And LET GO of the past so that you can be…

Reaching toward the FUTURE.

Paul says in verses 13 and 14,  “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.     [In other words, “I haven’t arrived yet!”].  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Straining to cross the finish line!

Paul pictures here the sprinter straining forward to cross the finish line.  You can’t worry about what’s behind you.  You need to lean into the run and give it all you got, keeping your eyes fixed on the finish.

And what a finish it will be!

What is our goal? What is the prize?

It’s the heavenward calling of God in Christ Jesus!

A couple of weeks ago now, I began this study in Philippians [STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?].

In the introduction, we looked together at Paul’s life mission when he said, For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  

He pointed out that the STUFF–the things we face in life is temporary.  We have one foot in eternity and one foot on earth.  Earth is our temporary home.  We’re just passing through.

And in God’s perfect timing, He will bring us home to our glorious future.

When we can remember that, we can press forward in the race of life, running every day in serving God, leaving our worries in the past.

Romans 8:31 (NIV) says “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift…”

I borrowed that quote for my blog-title from Master Oogway from the movie Kung Fu Panda.  Actually, the author is unknown yet many claim it.  And to be accurate, I left out of the title an important finishing line: “That’s why it’s called the ‘present’ “.

As we yield our past and our future to God, we’re left with the PRESENT.

We run the race, a race that’s never over until it’s over.  As long as we have breath, we need to PRESS ON!  Stay with it!

Follow Christ, love Christ and know Christ Jesus.

That, my friends, is what we do now:  We release the PAST, we reach toward our FUTURE, and we grow closer to Jesus every day.

Paul says, over and over in this chapter, his number one ambition is to know Christ. 

The word “KNOW” doesn’t refer to head knowledge.  He doesn’t want to know more about Jesus.  It’s the word used to describe how a parent and child know each other, or how a husband and wife know each other.  It means to KNOW in the context of RELATIONSHIP, to know more intimately, to grow closer and closer.

This is Paul’s goal; every day, to know Christ more!  Paul said, “I want to know Him in two ways.”  

In verses 10 and 11, Paul said,  [10]  “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]. and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]  [11] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].”  (Amplified Bible)

Paul starts by saying, to KNOW CHRIST means to know “the power outflowing from His resurrection.”

Think about the POWER found in our greatest atomic bombs or our largest hydroelectric plants.

RESURRECTION POWER is so much more!

How much POWER does it take to reverse death and decay?

All the blood loss and tissue damage done to Jesus’ body, all the muscles ripped apart by spears and whips and nails, and the weight of hanging on the cross–

God reversed all of that, restoring Jesus not only to a healthy human body, but to the very first resurrection body, and a body that would never age again!

We could use that kind of POWER in our world today.

When the cruel words cut into our hearts, when our mood darkens, when the prognosis isn’t good, when tragedy strikes, when the loss is devastating…WE NEED THE RESURRECTION POWER OF CHRIST!

And we have it as we get to know Jesus better and better!

Paul talks about having that POWER now, in his first phrase (verse 10).

Paul also talks about how that RESURRECTION POWER and the participation in His sufferings arrives completed in the FUTURE…

Becoming like Him in His death, and so “somehow…” (“if possible” – AMP.) “attain to the resurrection out from the dead.”

I like the words, “if possible”.  

Some have wondered, does this mean Paul had doubts about this?  I don’t think so.  Paul doesn’t strike me as a guy who was unsure what he believed.

I think, with the words “if possible”, or “somehow”, Paul was implying to the mystery of the final resurrection.  The Bible describes how the dead in Christ will rise first, followed by believers that are still alive, as we join Jesus in the air, (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)

But what a mystery!  Our minds cannot conceive it.  It’s simply too great to imagine!!

But Paul wasn’t content to know only the power of Christ’s resurrection.  He also wanted to participate “in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have His resurrection power than want His sufferings.

But Paul did!

Paul knew that if you were to know Christ Jesus, you were to know suffering.  And Paul suffered!

  • He was arrested on false charges
  • He was beaten on several occasions
  • He was run out of cities
  • He was slandered
  • He was shipwrecked

I don’t have to tell you there’s a lot of SUFFERING in this world.  Ask the citizens of Las Vegas.  It seems the news headlines are non-stop lately, from one hurricane to another, from earthquakes to mass murders.  And here around us, in our own backyards, many are suffering in various ways that don’t capture the news’ headlines–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

When you suffer (Not “IF”, but “WHEN”), draw closer to Jesus in His sufferings.

He knows what it’s like to SUFFER, so He knows what you’re going through right now.  None of us have suffered to His extent, but He knows our situation quite well.  And He promised us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Jesus can and will bring perspective and meaning to your suffering if you’ll let Him.

C.S. Lewis, the Christian writer, suffered several losses throughout his life.  He wrote a book called, “The Problem of Pain”.  There he said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Let your suffering bring you closer to Christ in His sufferings.

Release your past to Christ, all the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Reach toward your glorious future, living with one foot in eternity, as you remember where you’re heading in glory.

And then, every day, seek to grow closer to Jesus.  Make it your daily ambition to get to know Christ more and more.

____________________________________________________________________

~CREDITS~

Epository Dictionary Of Bible Words by Stephen D. Renn

The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Images:  Google Image Search; Settings–advance search.

Video:  The Resurrection of Jesus -The Passion of Christ – YouTube

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Bible (NIV) unless noted.

 

In DEATH, Are We Just “Food for Worms”… Or, Is There More?

~ Our Study Scripture – 1 Corinthians 15:35-52 ~

cremation-burial-resurrection

 The Resurrection Body —

In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul is writing a letter to a group of Christians who were struggling with the issue of what happens after one dies.  They were living about 24 years after the RESURRECTION, and as we often today have lapses in memory of past events, their thinking about life and death were being influenced by their culture.

I read in a recent survey this past week, that 30% of all American believe in reincarnation; a belief that each individual soul lives a succession of lives in various human bodies over the course of history.  The purpose being, such reincarnation gradually purifies the soul eventually reaching perfection.

Even harder to grasp in reading this survey, Gallup also found 25% of those who describe themselves as Christians, including 10% of those…defining themselves as “born-again”/evangelicals.  [See Footnote [i] ]

This idea (25%/10% of Christians) makes absolutely no sense to me.  REINCARNATION is incompatible to the TRUTH of the Gospel.  Even among Americans who believe in the resurrection of the dead, 2/3 believe they will not have bodies after the RESURRECTION (Alcorn p. 110).

RESURRECTION by its very definition requires a body.  If we didn’t have bodies, we wouldn’t be resurrected!

“What Awaits After Death?”

~ Philippians 1:21 New Living Translation (NLT) ~

“For to me, living means living for Christ,

And dying is even better.”

PHYSICAL DEATH is the separation of the body from the soul.  At the DEATH of a believer in Christ Jesus, the body is committed to the grave and the soul and spirit goes to be with Jesus.

DEATH is an abnormal condition because it tears apart what God created and joined together.

God intended our bodies to last as long as our souls.  The reason we are decaying and dying is not because we have bodies.  It is because SIN has infected our bodies.

The Biblical Doctrine of Resurrection

This understanding is an affirmation that we are a spiritual and physical unity; that God intends to put us back together again.  I call it, the “Humpty Dumpty Effect.”  The kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t do it, but my King certainly can!

Although the soul is separate from the body at death, it’s only a temporary condition.  Some of you reading this care less about what happens to your body–after you die.  Right now, after looking in the mirror in the morning, hoping to find enough aspirin, icy/hot and duct tape to keep yourselves from falling apart and running now.

I would like to share some exciting news about what eternity holds for you physically as “mirror” gazers.  YEP! PHYSICALLY!! One day, you are going to experience the ultimate extreme makeover.

Being Transformed For Life In Heaven–

First, The New Body Is Real.

Paul addresses the FIRST QUESTION,  “How are the dead in Christ raised up?”  beginning in verse thirty-six:

“You foolish man!  Every time you plant a seed, you sow something that does not come to life UNLESS it dies first”  (1 Cor. 15:36).

This verse says that the body is “sown” – “sown” here means “buried.”  It seems obvious there’s no need for a resurrection “UNLESS” one is dead.

New, Yet Part Of The Old (vv. 37-38)

“Nor is the seed you sow then the body which it is going to have [later], but it is a naked kernel, perhaps of wheat or some of the rest of grains.  But God gives to it the body that He plans and sees fir, and to each kind of seed a body of its own.”

The illustration Paul uses here explains the “seed sown” doesn’t look like the fruit it will produce.

When you plant a pumpkin seed, as I do every year, the seeds planted never looks like a pumpkin.  Although the seed doesn’t look like the pumpkin, I know I can’t get the fruit if I don’t plant the seed.

The BODY that is resurrected is a brand new you.  If it’s not you, then it’s not resurrected.  Perhaps this analogy might help you understand my meaning–

At the age of thirty I was SAVED!  I became a new person, yet I was still the person I had always been.  I hoped those around me saw a lot of change in my life, but not to the point that they could not say, “That’s Mel.” 

This same MEL will undergo another change at death, and yet another change at the RESURRECTION.  But through all these changes, I’ll continue to be who I was and always will be [I’m indebted to John Hamby and Randy Alcorn’s analogy as a model].

Secondly, The New Body Is Recognizable–

One of the most often asked question concerning HEAVEN over the years is,  “Will we know our loved ones and will they know us?”

The only real example of what our resurrected body will be like in eternity is what we read of JESUS in the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension.  JESUS walked the earth in His resurrection body for forty days showing us how we would live as resurrected human beings.

We are going to have bodies like JESUS (Note I didn’t say we were going to become little JESUS’).  It was the same body He had before He died and recognized by His friends. Yet, when the resurrected Lord appeared, He was so different that the first they didn’t recognize Him.

thomas

— He arose from the DEAD, yet upon His body were still the marks of the crucifixion, where-by His disciples knew with understanding this was the same JESUS in the same body (The Gospel of John Chapters 20-21).

— He had a real body that could touch, be touched and could and did eat(Mark 24:13-45).

Not only is the New Body Recognizable but…

Third, The New Body Is Radically Different

In Paul’s second rhetorical question in 1 Corinthians 15:35, he addresses what kind of body WE will have that is suitable for living forever in Heaven.

In verse forty-two Paul begins answering that question by drawing a series of contrast–

#1. The New Body Will Be Indestructible (v. 42):

“[The body] that is sown is perishable and decays…” [“food for worms”]. “but [the body] that is resurrected is imperishable (immune to decay, immortal)” (AMP translation).

First thing Paul tells us is our new resurrection bodies are indestructible–our new bodies are not like our old bodies–our current bodies wear out…we get old…we begin to notice everything doesn’t work like it use to. We begin to understand the old saying, “What doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.” We discover that no matter what the infomercial promises, it can’t stop the aging process.  At best, we may slow it down somewhat or camouflage it, but we can’t stop it.

Our new bodies will be made to last forever. Our resurrection bodies are not subject to disease or decay or aging. HALLELUJAH! Bodies will literally out-live the stars!

#2. The New Body Will Be Glorious (v. 43 a.):

“It is sown in dishonor and humiliation; it is raised in honor and glory…”

The word “GLORY” means brilliance. Our new bodies will be glorious like that of the risen Christ.

In Philippians 3:21 Paul says Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [as] Savior “Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty…”

#3. The New Body Will Be Powerful (v. 43 b.):

“…it is sown in weakness, raised in POWER.”

We will possess a new body with abilities beyond our wildest imaginations.

When JESUS was with His disciples, He had POWER to come and go as He pleased, neither walls nor distance were obstacles.

According to John 20:25, JESUS came into the room without opening the door.  Now we are never told in Scripture that we’ll be able to do the same things JESUS did (like pass through closed doors).  It may be that some aspects of His resurrection body are unique because of His divine nature.  We may not share those special abilities that JESUS possessed but whatever abilities we do have will be more than we could have ever dreamed of.

#4. The New Body Will Be Infinite (v. 44 a.)

“It is sown a natural (physical) body; it is raised a supernatural (a spiritual) body…”

To say that we’ll have a “spiritual body” doesn’t mean we will just be spirits.  Somehow many Christians have come to the conclusion life in eternity is going to be some kind of ghost-like spiritual being.

JESUS reassured His disciples, “I am not a ghost…” (Luke 24:39 NLT).

We will be raised with a body suitable for our new life!

Fourth, The New Body Is Received At Christ’s Return (vv. 51-52):

"The Twinkling of an Eye"
“The Twinkling of an Eye”

[51] Take notice!  I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God).  We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed).

[52] In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the [sound of the] last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall be changed (transformed).

“In a TWINKLING of An Eye”

Paul answers the question “Who will be resurrected and when?” in verses fifty-one and fifty-two.

“Take notice! …”

The DEAD in Christ will rise first and given new glorified bodies and the LIVING BELIEVERS will follow in the Parousia [STRONGS NT 3952 – Bible Hub.com], the RAPTURE– and their bodies will be transformed.

Paul further explains the sequence of events in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (AMP): 

[16] For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have depart this life in Christ will rise first.

[17] Then we, the living ones who remain [on the earth], shall simultaneously be caught up along with [the resurrected dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so always (through the eternity of the eternities) we shall be with the Lord. 

All this will happen in the twinkling of an eye–a “wink”.  How long exactly, is the “twinkling of an eye”?  Jack Van Impe has defined “the twinkling of an eye as eleven one-hundredths of  a second [See Footnote [i] ].

Ben Franklin’s Epitaph–

In preparing this weeks topic, I discovered the epitaph that Ben Franklin wrote for himself while still a young man [See Footnote [ii]. ] 

I loved his wording because it wonderfully catches the spirit of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:

The body of B. Franklin, printer, (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding) lies here, food for worms.

But the work shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more, in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author.

He was born on January 6, 1706

Died 17

 


Footnotes and Credits:

[i] – www.blogos.org/theologyapologetics/reincarnation-christianity.hphp

[ii] – http://www.ushistory.org/franklin-grave

Bible Translations Used:

Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Translation (NLT)

Photo Credits:

“Twinkling” Eye: Shutterstock via Photo Pin.

Google Images – 1 Corinthians 15:42 Image; The New Body Is Recognizable: Marks of the Crucifixion Image.

Connecting the Dots: The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ

He is not here!
He is not here!

THE TIMING OF THE RESURRECTION & CHRIST’S ASCENSION:

Harmonizing Biblical stories of the Resurrection of Christ Jesus and His post-resurrection appearances and all the events that took place that day has proven a challenge for many Bible scholars.  So in saying, as a Word Detective, I am going to investigate the Four Gospels and search for the biblical truths of Christ’s Ascension.  So grab your Bibles, and let’s get started.  And by the way, this isn’t a light read.

Harmonizing the Biblical Stories–

Bible skeptics love to take potshots at the Gospel stories; try to discredit the Scripture as in-breathed of God, therefore ‘one cannot rely upon the Bible.’

An important reminder.  God could have all four Gospel writers record all the events exactly the same way, but would that prove anything?

Four Aspects Presented by Four Writers:

All four Gospel writers were under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, depicting the four aspects of the Life of Jesus while here on earth.

Matthew – Writes his gospel with a view of Jesus as King.

Mark –  Shows Jesus as a Suffering Servant of God.

Luke – Depicts the Humanity of Christ.

John – Views Jesus’ Divinity.

Putting ALL the events in chronological order: (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1,10; John 20:1)

The Three Women at the Tomb–

Not less than 3 women go to the tomb that early morning, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome.  There is the possibility they don’t go as a group but as two separate groups, meeting at the tomb at slightly different times.  Take note that Mary Magdalene is especially singled out by all the Gospel writers on the resurrection day.

Making their way to the tomb, an angel of God descends from heaven–rolls the stone away–the earth quakes–the guards faint– and the said angel, sits on the stone (Matthew 28:2-4).

Arriving at the Tomb…

1.  Mary Magdalene finds it empty and runs to tell the disciples (John 20:1-2).  The other women mentioned remain behind.

2.  An angel shows them the empty tomb, telling them JESUS CHRIST has risen from the dead!  “Go and tell” – (Matt. 28:5-7; Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1-8).

Happenstance doesn’t occur in the Bible– Old Testament or New Testament.  

There are many points of comparison in Scripture showing the Holy of Holies is prophetic of the EMPTY TOMB.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Cherubim covering the Mercy Seat of The Ark of the Covenant
Cherubim covering the Mercy Seat of The Ark of the Covenant

1.  The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant– the Presence of God, while the empty tomb contained the body of Christ Jesus.

2.  The Veil covered the entrance of the Holy of Holies and the Stone covered the opening of the Tomb.

3.  Worshipers were not allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and the tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers.

4.  The Veil covered the Holy of Holies–JESUS’ body was covered in a shroud (Matt. 27:59).

5.  Blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat and on the worshipers in the temple for forgiveness of sins–the BLOOD poured out of JESUS on the Cross and then in the tomb for the forgiveness of sins once and for all (Past, Present, and Future).

6.  Two carved Cherubim (angels) faced the empty space above the Ark of the Covenant, covering it with their wings, while TWO ANGELS greeted the women at the empty tomb.

Left Alone Weeping…

Mary Magdalene returns to the scene and stoops down looking into the tomb.  She sees two angels sitting where JESUS had lain, one at the head and the other at the feet.

They question her, she replies and as she turns around, she sees JESUS, thinking that He is the gardener, pleading with Him for the Body of Jesus.

JESUS then calls her by name and suddenly…Mary recognizes Him.  She responds and reaches out to touch JESUS, cling to Him, who quickly cautions her saying,

John 20:16-18:

[16]  Mary!  Turning around she said to Him in Hebrew,  Rabboni!–which means Teacher or Master.

[17]  Jesus said to her,  Do not cling to Me [do not hold Me], for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to My brethren and tell them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.

[18]  Away came Mary Magdalene, bringing the disciples news (word) that she had seen the Lord and that He had said these things to her.

The Bible Verse Most Believers Have Overlooked (John 20:17):

They missed this “ascension” of Christ in which He must first present Himself pleasing before the Father.

Most Christians believe that there is only one ascension of Christ, and that it took place right after He spent 40 days with His disciples following His resurrection (Acts 1:1-5, 9).  However, John’s Gospel clearly points out Jesus’ own words–-He must not be touched with human hands until He goes up to see His Father, our Father, His God, our God.

WHY?  The Book of Leviticus Chapter 16 gives answer:

On that given day, it was the one day of the year the high priest was allowed to offer a blood sacrifice in the Holy of Holies; sprinkle the sacrificial blood of a lamb before the presence of Yahweh, covering the sin of the people.  The high priest was the only one who could do it!

The Day of Atonement–

Yes, alone and unassisted, the ATONEMENT had to be made by the solitary high priest (Lev. 16:17).

As a High Priest, JESUS laid down His life as the represented Passover Lamb.  He was the SACRIFICE.  He took His own BLOOD and He went up (“ascended”) in to the Holy Presence of God, where He presented it before His Father, after which He came back out to where He first entered in.

HOW LONG DID THIS TAKE?

How long did it take for JESUS our Lord to ascend and come back down?  It didn’t take very long, not even minutes.  When Aaron the high priest took the blood of the sacrificial lamb into the Holy of Holies, he certainly didn’t dilly-dally in that place.  He sprinkled the blood on the Mercy Seat and came right back out.  That was why small bells were attached to the rim of the high priest’s garment.  Outside the Holy of Holies, you could hear the bells as the priest moved about.  No bell-ringing? The priest wasn’t found worthy in the sacrifice and was struck dead.  The other priest could then drag him out by his feet.

JESUS, as the High Priest:

As a High Priest, JESUS laid down His life as the Passover Lamb.  He was the SACRIFICE…He took His own blood and went up in to the Holy Presence of God and presented it before His Father, after which He came back out to where He first entered in.

How long did this take for JESUS our Lord to ascend and come back down?  Didn’t take long, not even minutes.

The Revelation…

Now, with this revelation in hand, let’s continue to look at the events as follows:

1.  Mary Magdalene–goes off to tell the disciples she has seen the Lord (Mark 16:9), and Christ goes up (ascends) to His Father, His God.  And then comes right back down again.

2.  The Guards–having raised themselves, report the empty tomb scenario to the authorities, who then bribe the guards to say that the disciples have stolen the body of JESUS  (Matthew 28:11-15).

3.  JESUS meets the women–on their way to tell the disciples the NEWS the angel has given them.  JESUS greets them, and they draw near and hold His feet, worshiping Him.

*[Note:  JESUS could now be touched].

4.  JESUS comforts them, and reaffirms the instructions the angel has given them (Matthew 28:8-10).

 It is at this time, the Old Testament saints resurrect and many go into the city of Jerusalem and appear to many (not all) of the disciples  (Matthew 27:52-53). 

* [A Note about Matthew 27:50-54]:

The word “and” appears often in the New Testament.  This conjunction can sometimes confuse readers, because of the way Scriptures were translated; marked off into verses for the ease of locating particular words and phrases.

The original written manuscripts were in Greek, which didn’t separate words, nor used accents and punctuation marks.  Even in Luke 23:44-47, appears misleading in comparison to Matthew 27:30-34.

Nevertheless, the proper readings of the two passages are as follows:

Matthew 27:50-54:  

1.  After JESUS had given up His spirit, an earthquake happens.  At the same time, the VEIL in the Temple in Jerusalem was torn into, top to bottom.

2.  After the RESURRECTION of Christ Jesus (on the 3rd Day), the graves were opened [Remember, there was also an earthquake as an angel descended and rolled away the stone in front of the grave].

3.  THE SAINTS of old resurrected and many of them went into the city of Jerusalem and appeared to many of the Disciples.

Luke 23:44-47:

1.  From about the sixth hour (12:00 PM) until the ninth hour (3:00 PM), there was DARKNESS over the land because the sun was darkened.   2.  The VEIL of the Temple was rent (torn) as JESUS gave up His spirit crying,  “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”.

3. Mary Magdalene and the other women meet the disciples and relate what they have seen and heard (Mark 16:10-11; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:18).

4.  Later the same day, JESUS appears to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).  

Cleo and a friend in dismay…”JESUS had been crucified…who would redeem us now?”

In the late afternoon of the same day, JESUS meets up with Cleopas and another disciple on the road to the village of Emmaus, a distance of about 7 1/2 miles (12 kilometers) from Jerusalem.

As the day turns to evening, they all sit down at the dinner table.  JESUS breaks the bread, and the disciples suddenly recognize Him.  They immediately return to the city (15 miles round-trip… in one day!), and report the event to the Eleven and others (Luke 24:13-35).

Later that night… 

JESUS appears to the disciples in a closed room…and Thomas the disciple is found missing (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).

And again, after 8 days…

JESUS appears again to His disciples in a closed room, but this time, Thomas is present (John 20:26-31).

Following that, and over a period of up to 40 days since His resurrection, JESUS appears a few more times–to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25), and to about 500 disciples in Galilee and to His half-brother James (1 Corinthians 15:6-7).

The Great Commission…

While JESUS is with the disciples, He commissions His disciples, teaches the Scripture and the PROMISE to send the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-5).

The Ascension…

After 40 days, JESUS ascends into Heaven (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-12).  

It becomes quite clear, that as He ascends, He takes the resurrected Old Testament saints up with Him, for they are no longer held in captivity by the Prince of Darkness who has held them in Sheol (not Hell) all that time.

The POWER of the Resurrection…

By the POWER of JESUS’ resurrection from the dead, these saints are now Christ’s captives.

JESUS sets them free into Paradise as He ascends to sit in His Father’s Throne (Ephesians 4:8; Matt. 27:52-53; Rom. 1:4).

JESUSONTHETHRONESURROUNDEDBYANGELS
Sitting on the Throne

There you have it.  READING your Bible is more than just scanning the pages.  It’s a conscious effort to search for the truth with the help of the Holy Spirit in “connecting the dots”.