OVERCOMING HOPELESSNESS, FUTILITY, DEATH AND HELL
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul deals with the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though there are many questions he answers and explanations he gives, I want to focus on four key blessings of the truth of the resurrection for us as believers and to encourage those who have yet to receive Jesus to put their trust in Him as Savior, Lord and soon coming King. Let's look at how the resurrection of our Lord overcomes hopelessness, futility, death and hell.
HOPELESSNESS – "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel." (Luke 24:21) These men had lost hope because Jesus had been crucified and though the risen Lord was with them they did not recognize Him. Like many of us, their dreams had been shattered. What are you hoping for and who are you hoping in? "Some people have no hope because they believe that life is meaningless. Others have an illegitimate hope, trusting in the promises (lies) of this world. They are "circumstantially" happy but blind to ultimate reality – death and judgment. (Hebrews 9:27; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15) Some Christians have a divided hope (double-minded), believing in heaven but not truly believing and obeying Jesus' Words on how to live now in this life. (e.g., Luke 14:33) Others have a legitimate and Biblical hope as they live each day in light of eternity and the promises of eternal blessings and rewards for sacrificial obedience in this life. (Hebrews 11:24-26)" (From Walt Henrichson's Diary of a Desperate Man) "Behold, I am laying in Zion a chosen (honored), precious chief Cornerstone, and he who believes in Him [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] shall never be disappointed or put to shame." (1 Peter 2:6) God, through His Word, promises us that hoping in Jesus will ultimately not disappoint us. Yes, we will have disappointments in this life but if we hold on to our hope in the recompense of the Lord for faithfully loving and obeying Him we will never regret it. Even in facing the death of our saved loved ones we can have hope because we know we will see them again and be with them forever in heaven. "And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14; 17-18)
FUTILITY/VANITY – "The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. "What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun? ‘I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2; 14) The saved but backslidden Solomon had lost his eternal perspective and realized that everything "under the sun" (a temporal, worldly mindset) was meaningless and vain. Yet, contrast this to the sense of meaning and purpose we hear in God's Word for those who believe in the resurrection: "Therefore (i.e., because the resurrection is true), my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." Everything we do for the Lord and His glory will be rewarded for all eternity.
DEATH – "There is a preacher of the old school, but he speaks as boldly as ever. He is not popular, though the world is his parish and he travels every part of the globe and speaks in every language. He visits the poor, calls upon the rich, preaches to people of every religion and no religion and the subject of his sermon is always the same. He is an eloquent preacher, often stirring feelings which no other preacher could in bringing tears to eyes that never weep. His arguments none are able to refute nor is there any heart that has remained unmoved by the force of his appeals. He shatters life with his message. Most people hate him, everyone fears him, his name? Death. Every tombstone is his pulpit. Every newspaper prints his text and some day everyone of you will be his sermon." (Thomas Gray, 18th century English dramatist, poet) Contrast this to God's "poem" on death for all believers in Christ: "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Corinthians 15:51-57) "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies." (John 11:25) ["You know frankly, for the Christian in the truest sense when death plunged its stinger into Christ at the cross, it left it's stinger there. And Christ bore the whole sting of death for us, so death for us has no sting. It's still an enemy, it still buzzes around and makes you dodge a lot, but it can't sting any more. It left its stinger in Jesus Christ and its been flopping around in the throws of death ever since. "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." What do you mean, Paul, "The sting of death is sin?" Listen, I'll tell you what he means. It's not death that harms. Death doesn't harm us. Really, it invades our world and we have to dodge it a little bit. We have to recover from what it does, but it doesn't ever really harm us unless there is sin there. The sting of death is sin. Now what that means is wherever there is sin, death can give a fatal blow, but wherever sin has been paid for, forgiven, and removed death has no sting. And so we say on the behalf of a believer there is no sting in death, because the sting of death is sin and sin in the case of a Christian has been removed. Is that true? It's forgiven. So all death can do is buzz around and annoy you a little. It can't sting. The sting of death is sin. And if you're a Christian, Jesus bore all your sin. He already took the sting. If you're a Christian He forgave it all. If you're a Christian there's not one sin imputed against you. If you're a Christian, the Bible says " Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies." The Bible says "there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ." There is no sin against your account. God has forgotten it. He's buried it in the seas, removed it as far as the east is from the west." John MacArthur]
HELL – "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ have perished (in hell)" But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep (who have died). For since by a man (Adam) came death, by a man (Jesus) also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die (physically and spiritually -hell), so also in Christ all will be made alive (resurrected to heaven)." (1 Corinthians 15:13-18; 20-21) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish (in hell) but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "And he who believes in (has faith in, clings to, relies on) the Son has (now possesses) eternal life. But whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the Son will never see (experience) life (eternal life), but [instead] the wrath of God abides on him. [God's displeasure remains on him; His indignation hangs over him continually.]" (John 3:36) "For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) "For the wages of sin is death" (spiritual and eternal death/hell – Romans 6:23a). God is perfect love and perfect justice (and perfect in all of His many other attributes) and never does one attribute minimize the others. Jesus Christ, the most loving and perfect human being that ever walked the earth (God and Man), spoke more about hell than He did about heaven and spoke more about hell than any other person in the Bible. Why? Because He wants no one to go there so much that He voluntarily suffered God's wrath on the cross in our place so whosoever will call upon the Lord will be saved (from hell – Romans 10:13). God's justice demands a hell. Not all evil is justly punished in this life. Hitler's physical death alone is certainly not just punishment for a man who murdered six million Jews and others. Even God's love demands a hell. A God of love does not force people to love Him against their will. Love cannot act coercively, only persuasively. As C.S. Lewis says: "He cannot ravish, He can only woo." In Scripture we see that God wants all men to be saved not wanting any to perish (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) but "you were not willing". (Matthew 23:37) Those who do not wish to be with God for all eternity in heaven will be allowed to be separated from Him for all eternity in hell. God's sovereignty demands a hell. God is greater than evil and will triumph over it. Further, hell is only for the unrepentant. Even the man in torment in Luke 16 did not repent. As C.S. Lewis says in The Great Divorce, his book about heaven and hell, some people had rather have their own way in hell than to love and submit to God in heaven. If there is no hell, the cross is a sham, Christ's painful and humiliating death is robbed of its eternal significance, and the jugular vein of the Great Commission is cut. Why go into all the world and preach the gospel if everyone is going to heaven? Life is not a game. Our eternal destiny and all of mankind's is at stake – heaven or hell. And you can know for certain that you have eternal life and are going to heaven when you die. (1 John 5:11-13; Romans 8:16) This is not presuming at all on our goodness but trusting totally in God's grace as revealed in His Word. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8; See Titus 3:4-5)
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17)
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God." (John 3:3) "The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. How do we do we become a new person? By believing the gospel, the good news:
God's Position – God is perfect in love and in justice. Perfect love: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Perfect justice: " And he who believes in (has faith in, clings to, relies on) the Son has (now possesses) eternal life. But whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the Son will never see (experience) life, but [instead] the wrath of God abides on him. [God's displeasure remains on him; His indignation hangs over him continually.]" (John 3:36)
Man's Condition – sinful and thus separated from God –"For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) "For the wages of sin is death" (spiritual and eternal death/hell – Romans 6:23a) "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)
God's Provision – To restore us to His love and to satisfy His justice God provided the cross of Christ; "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3.18) "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (satisfactory payment) for our sins." (1 John 4:10) "If justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]" (Gal. 2:21) If there are many ways to God/heaven then God Almighty allowed (and ordained) His only begotten Son to be tortured and murdered needlessly. Jesus, God the Son, is the only way to heaven. "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)
Man's Decision – "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23); Accept the free gift of pardon paid for by Jesus on the cross "But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12) We must do it now before we die: "It is appointed for [all] men once to die, and after that the [certain] judgment." (Hebrews 9:27) "Behold, now is "THE ACCEPTABLE TIME," behold, now is "THE DAY OF SALVATION." (2 Corinthians 6:2) Don't presume on the future, thinking, some day I will do that. "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." (James 4:13-14)
Be His Witness – "Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy." (Psalm 107:2) Be baptized publicly as your testimony to your new life in Christ. "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4) And be His witness. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
*HISTORICAL FACTS REGARDING THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST
We will list eight of these facts. The first three relate to pre-resurrection events:
(1) Jesus suffered death by crucifixion. He endured six trials (three religious and three civil) that stretched through the night and into the morning. As a result, men cruelly beat Him about the face and body, plucked out His beard, jammed a crown of thorns into His scalp, and scourged Him by many lashes from the mutilating Roman whips. After His tormentors forced Jesus to carry the heavy crossbar for His crucifixion on His bleeding back, they drove iron nails through His hands and feet to secure Him to the cross. After His death, one of the executioners thrust a spear into His side, and "blood and water" immediately issued forth. Then the centurion pronounced Jesus dead (Mark 15:44-45). (See photo from the Passion of the Christ).
(2) Friends placed Jesus' body in a securely guarded tomb. Joseph of Arimathea's tomb was hewn out of solid rock and had a single entrance that was closed off by rolling an "extremely large" (Mark 16:4) stone in front of it. The stone fit into a groove and would have to be rolled up an incline by several men in order to gain access to the tomb. Friends bound Jesus' body in linen wrappings along with about 100 pounds of spices (John 20:39-40), and Pilate ordered a guard of soldiers (probably Roman) stationed in front of the tomb when the stone was put in place (Matt. 27:65-66). A Roman seal on the stone certified that the body was inside and that no one had tampered with the tomb.
(3) The disciples were clearly discouraged because of the Crucifixion and entertained no hope that Jesus would rise from the dead. In spite of Jesus' repeated predictions of His resurrection, none of His followers expected His resurrection (see Luke 24).
The remaining five historical facts relate to post-resurrection events:
(4) Jesus' friend Mary Magdalene and other followers found the tomb empty on the third day. This fact was disputed in the past, but recent studies even by critical theologians have led to a growing scholarly consensus that the tomb was indeed empty. This was clearly admitted even by Jesus' enemies, because the chief priests and elders bribed the guard to say that the body was stolen by His disciples (Matt. 28:11-15). Certainly if the tomb were still occupied when the word about His resurrection began to spread, the authorities would have exhumed the body and put it on public display to quell the insidious rumors. But no body was ever produced and the empty tomb was never denied.
(5) The Roman seal was broken and the large stone was moved away from the sepulcher.
(6) The guard left the empty tomb and reported what had happened to the chief priests. They were given a large bribe and promised protection from punishment by Pilate who could have had them executed for their failure.
(7) The graveclothes of Jesus were found empty yet undisturbed (John 20:3-8).
(8) The followers of Jesus reported that Jesus appeared to them in bodily form on several occasions. These were eyewitness accounts, and they involved a variety of circumstances (e.g., indoors and outdoors) and people. On one occasion, Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at once (1 Cor. 15:6). In these appearances, Christ stressed that He was in a real body and offered ample demonstration of this truth. The first witnesses were women, and it is unlikely that a fabricated account would have included this since the Jewish courts regarded the testimony of women as unreliable. Jesus also appeared to His brother James and later to Paul. In every case, the lives of these witnesses were radically transformed, and this is especially difficult to explain in the case of Paul apart from the Resurrection.
These facts cannot be ignored by historians and theologians, but they can and have been interpreted in various ways to avoid the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. Several naturalistic theories regarding the tomb and the appearances have been proposed, but all of these fail to explain the historical data. Furthermore, there is a quantity of circumstantial evidence that supplements this data and makes the case for the Resurrection even stronger.
(1) Christ predicted His own resurrection on the third day and announced that this would be the most significant sign for the affirmation of His truth claims. The Lord demonstrated His foreknowledge of this crucial event several times (e.g., Matt. 12:38-40; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; John 2:18-22).
(2) The silence of the Jewish leaders about the Resurrection eloquently testified that they knew these things were undeniable. They certainly would have offered a refutation of this Christian claim if there had been any basis for doing so.
(3) Before the Resurrection, the disciples were fearful men whose faith was weak and all abandoned Jesus after His arrest. But by the Day of Pentecost seven weeks later, they were boldly proclaiming Christ to the multitudes in Jerusalem. This transformation was complete, permanent, and unanimous. All of them suffered for the sake of the message of the resurrected Lord, and almost all died as martyrs. It is clear that they were totally convinced of the truth of the Resurrection, and they were certainly in a position to know whether the Resurrection had indeed taken place.
(4) The success of the early Christian church in spite of fierce opposition is another evidence for the Resurrection. The church began right in Jerusalem, the city of the empty tomb, and the apostles' preaching centered on the resurrected Savior. Without the Resurrection, the church would not have come into existence.
(5) The shift from Saturday to Sunday as the day of worship for the early Jewish Christians (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2) was a radical act that would never have taken place if Christ had not been raised on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Luke 24:1).
(6) The sacraments of baptism and Communion are both related to the Resurrection, and would have been senseless in the early church apart from the historical reality of the Resurrection.
(7) The complete disregard for the tomb of Jesus by the first-century church also illustrates that these Christians knew they were serving the resurrected Lord.
(8) The conversions of James and Paul offer significant circumstantial evidence for the Resurrection. James was opposed to the claims of his half-brother Jesus (John 7:5), but a transformation took place after the risen Jesus appeared to him (1 Cor. 15:7). He became the leader of the Jerusalem church and called himself a "bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1). The incredible change in the zealous young Pharisee, Saul, is also inexplicable apart from the Resurrection. Saul, the fierce persecutor of Christians, suddenly became Paul, the persecuted Christian. He was never the same after he beheld the glory of Christ on the road to Damascus.
All the attempts to find naturalistic explanations for the historical facts related to the Resurrection have failed. The direct evidence concerning the tomb and the appearances combined with the circumstantial evidences establishes beyond a reasonable doubt the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. He conquered the grave, and He offers resurrection life to those who place their trust in Him. *Taken from I'm Glad You Asked, by Kenneth Boa and Larry Moody.
"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he die." (John 11:25)