The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
It has been said that " the glory of our Christianity is that it never views life as being complete in this world. It always has its eyes lifted to the morning, and gazes out upon the eternities, recognizing that we belong to eternity as well as to time."
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was, therefore, the essential sequel to His atoning death, that " as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive," Westcott wrote that " taking all the evidence together, there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ."
We shall content ourselves in this paper with a study of the great resurrection chapter (1 Cor. 15).
1. Let us first consider, Three Important Testimonies to the fact of the resurrection of Christ (vv. 1-11) as given in this chapter.
(a) The Testimony of Experience. It is interesting to notice that the first evidence of the resurrection is not documentary or evidential but the living experience of a Christian soul. The apostle writes, " now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel . . . which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved " (vv. 1, 2, R.V.).
" He lives, lie lives, Christ Jesus lives today, He walks with me and talks with me, along life's narrow way; He lives, He lives, salvation to impart; You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart."
(b) The Testimony of the Scriptures. The Scriptures here; referred to are no doubt the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures, Throughout these Scriptures there ran the principle of resurrection, of life out of death, of triumph through travail. This was the pathway of the Saviour, " when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin. He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days. . . . He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied " (Isa. 53. 10, 11). Concerning Israel we read, "He hath torn and He will heal us ; He hath smitten and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us; in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight " (Hosea 6. I, 2).
( c) The Testimony of Eye-witnesses. " He appeared to Cephas (Peter) ; then to the twelve ; then He appeared to above live hundred brethren at once, , . . then He appeared to James ; then to all the apostles, and last of all, as unto one born out of due time. He appeared to me also " (vv. 5-8). Surely here are sufficient witnesses for any court of law!
Modern rationalists maintain that they can account for the appearances of our Lord Jesus Christ by the ordinary laws of psychology, without introducing supernatural agency. Hallucinations, they say, are known to occur to persons afflicted with certain physical diseases ; to insane persons; to persons, not insane, but suffering from certain disorders of the nervous system ; to healthy persons intensely preoccupied with an idea which they have allowed to obtain exclusive possession of their minds. We note here, however, that none of those who saw the risen Lord were sick, nor insane. It is hardly credible that Mary Magdalene who came to a graveyard in the dim light of early morning, was suffering from disorders of the nervous system, and in any case it cannot be said of the 12, or of James or of the 500 brethren. As to the idea of preoccupation, the disciples showed no intense preoccupation with this thought. Rather the Gospels indicate that our Lord's prophecies of His resurrection fell upon deaf ears (Matt. 16. 22 ; Mk. 9. 10), and depict the despondency of the disciples (Matt. 26. 56 ; Mk. 16. 10) and their unwillingness to believe the good news (Matt. 28. 17 ; Mk. 16. 11-14 ; Lk. 24. 11).
2. The apostle continues his theme (vv. 12-34) by showing the resurrection message to be a Central Fact in, (a) his preaching (vv. 12-19), (6) God's plan and purposes (vv. 20-28), and (c) his own personal experiences (vv. 29-34).
(a) His preaching is empty, unreal and frustrated, if Christ hath not been raised (vv. 14, 15), and those who have placed their hopes in Christ are of all people most to be pitied (v. 19).
(b) Moreover, in God's plan Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits, the Pledge of harvest, of them that are asleep. Paul scans the whole plan of the ages from Adam to the time when God shall be all in all.
(c) His own conduct would have been entirely illogical and unwarranted if the dead are not raised at all. Surely his motto for living would have been " let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die " (v. 32). Instead he " died daily," holding his life " in jeopardy every hour," fighting even " with beasts at Ephesus." This thought demands no compromise with evil, but a bestirring of the soul to righteous living (v. 34).
3. Two Questions now present themselves in the next section of the chapter (vv. 35-49). There were those who asked, How are the
In answering these questions Paul begins by referring to the miracle of harvest. The bare unclothed grain is placed in the ground, it dies and is quickened. God gives it a ' body,' clothed with stalk, ear and full corn in the ear. It is different from that which was sown, yet essentially the same. In nature, death is the necessary prelude to life.
Bodies are adapted to environment; there is one flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fish, and another of birds. So also is the resurrection of the dead (v. 42). The sun, moon and stars have varying glories ; there is variety in God's creation, but each has its own peculiar glory. Thus, there is something much more than Epicurean materialism ; and, contrary to the Stoical and Platonic teachings, the soul does not lose its personality or its bodily form in resurrection.
The natural body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption ; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory ; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power ; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly (v. 49).
4. The apostle finally calls for special attention while he discloses a Revelation Hitherto Kept Secret (vv. 50-57). " Behold," he declares, "we shall not all sleep (die) but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." Here is an event which will take place in time, when Christians who are living their ordinary lives will be suddenly and wonderfully changed, just as really as those who are fallen asleep in Jesus. Then the final triumph of resurrection will be realized for " death is swallowed up victoriously." And so the challenge rings out to the last great enemy, " O death, where is thy sling ? O grave, where is thy victory ? Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Thus having challenged death as to its sting and the grave as to its victory, Paul concludes with a Note of Encouragement, " Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord " (v. 58).
The harvest is sure and your reward for labour and toil will surely find its recompense.
" Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice
For toil comes rest, for exile home ;
Soon Shalt thou hear The Bridegroom's voice,
The midnight peal, " Behold, L come I"