Trusting God with Eyes Wide Open

cliff_jump

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead . . .” (1 Corinthians 15:20

Sunday at church, we sang a song that was new to me.  It was a powerful praise of the living Lord Jesus Christ and how He saved me from my sins.  My heart leapt within me and I sensed the Holy Spirit calling me to lift my hands in praise.  Now I am not shy about lifting my hands, but I’ve always done so with my eyes closed in worship.  “Lord, I don’t know this song.” I said, “I have to keep my eyes on the screen to see the words.”  I sensed Him saying, Child, I want you to worship me with your eyes wide open.

We’re often told that we are to believe in Jesus with “blind faith,” and not look for evidence that the claims of Christianity are true.   But I don’t believe that faith is closing my eyes and jumping off a theological cliff.  Mind you there is a huge difference in demanding proof and asking for assurance of your faith.  The first is an arrogant insult to the Lord, but the second is the cry of a heart that wants to believe.  God invites us to “come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).  He encourages us to look for evidence of His existence and to believe because we see.  Placing my faith in Jesus Christ is both an act of faith and a wise and conscious decision based on solid evidence.

No other event on the stage of world history is as important or as divisive as the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   Skeptics have long sought to discredit Christianity’s claims with attacks on the foundational truth of the gospel.  One of the foremost apologetics experts, Dr. Gary Habermas[1] offers many historical facts about Christ’s resurrection that provide evidence of Christianity’s claims.  Those facts include  Jesus’ death by crucifixion and his burial; the reaction of his distraught disciples; the empty tomb; the disciples’ belief in the literal appearance of the risen Jesus; their sudden transformation from hopeless, fearful doubters to emboldened witnesses; and the testimonies of skeptics turned apostles such as James, Jesus’ own brother, and Saul of Tarsus, known as Paul. [2]  These facts are not mere Bible stories, they are recorded in the secular history of the time.

The Jewish and Roman historical records note that a man named Jesus, from Nazareth, was crucified at Golgotha and buried in a garden tomb.  The grave was sealed and Roman guards were posted to prevent the theft of the body.  This is a historical, recorded fact.  History records that the condemned man’s tomb was found empty three days later, despite the extreme measures the Romans took to secure the grave.  Jewish records note the claims of Jesus’ followers that their Lord had been resurrected.  Historical writers of the time frequently mention eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus, just as Paul spoke of Peter, the Apostles, more than five hundred brothers, James (Jesus’ own doubting brother), and finally Paul himself (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).  In these verses Paul reminds the believers of the gospel message “that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and he was raised on the third day according to the Scripture” (v. 3-4).  These verses are almost certainly a creed that was well established in the ancient church and based on the testimonies of the very ones who firmly and emphatically believed they saw the literal resurrected Lord.  These are men who had been transformed from terrified, despondent fellows cowering behind locked doors (John 20:19) to bold witnesses willing to die for their faith, confident in what they saw (Acts 4:1-20).

The gospel message – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus – is strongly supported by men and women who had an encounter that transformed their lives and the landscape of world history.  The evidences are clearly shown in their testimonies and the traditions that found their foundation in their words.  The eyewitness’s accounts of Peter, James, John and Paul and hundreds of others, combined with the early creedal statements of the church provide good support for the claims of the resurrection of Jesus.  Generations of believers whose have also experienced this life-changing Jesus provide further proof that the claims of Christianity are true.

Still facts alone cannot convince anyone of the reality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is important that we know the truth, but it is even more important that we believe the truth.  Faith still requires an element of trusting in something we cannot physically see.  But the eyes of our hearts can pierce the darkness of doubt and focus on the truth of Jesus Christ as Savior and His promises of eternal life.

I want to encourage you to examine the evidence, look carefully at the Scriptures, especially Paul’s epistles, research the historical records.  Know for sure that what you believe is true.  God does not demand blind faith; He wants us to be confident in what we believe.  Trusting in Jesus is the most intelligent decision you will ever make.

Lord Jesus, I’ve believed in You since I was a child, but I didn’t understand the basis for my faith until I examined the evidence.  You are everything You claimed to be: Son of God, Savior, and Resurrected Lord.  Give us eyes to see and hearts to believe.  Amen.

[1] Dr. Gary R. Habermas, is a Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University.

[2] Gary Habermas, “The Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection of Jesus: The Role of Methodology as a Crucial Component in Establishing Historicity, Southeastern Theological Review, 3.1, (Summer 2012) 15-26, http://garyhabermas.com/articles/southeastern_theological_review/minimal-facts-methodology_08-02-2012.htm, 17.

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The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Know

resurrectionChrist Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God.  Romans 8:34

In the world of biology, all organisms are classed or grouped together by certain similarities and separated by differences in their cellular makeup.  These grouping are known as “kingdoms,” such as the “plant kingdom,” and the “animal kingdom.”  Those are pretty obvious in their classifications, but other groupings such as bacteria and a kingdom known as “Prostista” (complex microscopic cells) have a far wider range of characteristics.  So how do the biologists determine the criteria for classifying species? My Biology 101 textbook made a statement that drew my attention: “Evolutionary assumptions are generally used to decide which characteristics are most primitive and therefore most important.”[1]  In other words, in tracing a species’ changes and growth, classifications are based on the most basic characteristics—it’s “starting point”—as the most important.  Please note, I am not endorsing an evolutionary perspective, but merely pointing to the way all life forms grow and change from their earliest state.  For instance, all human beings start from the same organisms and from there a person changes and grows, but the basic building blocks of human life are evident throughout those changes.  All humans share this starting point, regardless of gender or ethnicity or location.  Thus we classify all humans differently from say plant life or bacteria.

So how does a biology lesson apply to a Christian devotional?  I’m glad you asked.  The Christian faith has experienced a tremendous amount of change over the past two-thousand years.  Some of these changes have been positive, such as the agreement of the doctrines of the faith and some have challenged and strengthened the faith—consider the inspiration of the martyrs during the persecution of the church.  Some changes have been hard, but necessary, such as the Reformation, which gave birth to Protestantism.  From there we have multiple branches of denominations, each with their own traditions and structure.  These are not bad things in themselves but they have changed the complexity of the faith.  And yes, some changes have caused havoc, confusion and turmoil in the church.  I’ll leave those unnamed so we don’t lose focus.  The point is, all these changes have added layers to the basic truths of Christianity.

The question then becomes, when we strip away all these added layers what is the “most primitive and most important” aspect of the Christian faith?

Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time . . . Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appear to me also.”  1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

The death of Jesus Christ, His burial and His resurrection are the core, the root, and the foundation of the Christian faith.  Paul said that those are “of first importance.”  That does not mean that other doctrine of the faith are of lesser importance.  We must recognize the humanity and divinity of Jesus, the incarnation and the virgin birth, but the heart of our faith is the fact that Jesus died, evidenced by His burial, and that He rose again, as seen by the many witnesses afterward.  If your faith is built on anything other than this, if your confidence is in your religious affiliation, if you follow a Jesus who is a “good teacher and moral example,” if you adhere to traditions rather than truth, I dare to say you do not have saving faith.  Only faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is saving faith.  If your Christianity is not built on this single most important truth of all, then you should reconsider whether you truly are a Christian.

Why are these so important?  Without the death of Jesus, our sin debt remains.  Only Jesus could be the perfect sacrifice for your sin and my sin and the sins of all of humankind.  Simply put, Jesus’ death paid for our sins.  But why is it so important to know about His burial?   Because without the grave His death is a question not a fact.   Jesus was visibly buried in an earthly grave to validate His death.  It is also important because, to borrow from Bill Gaither, “The empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.”[2]  The empty tomb was the first indication that Jesus’ followers had that He was alive.  Jesus’ resurrection is the assurance we have of eternal life.  Without His resurrection, we are trusting in a dead man with no power.  But He is alive and He promises us that we will have life everlasting if we believe and trust in Him.

There are many facets to the Christian faith and we do well to learn about atonement, justification, sanctification, grace, Christology and the other great truths of Christianity.  If you’ve never studied these important doctrines, I encourage you to do so.   They will enrich your understanding of the Bible and of your relationship with Christ.  Consider them the building blocks of your faith.  But before you start building, make certain you are on the rock-solid foundation of “first importance.”  Be sure your faith is resting on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Chris. “All other ground is sinking sand.”[3]

Lord Jesus, there are many voices that claim to know the truth, but only Your Word tells us what is “of first importance.”  Guard Your church Jesus lest we wander from the substance of our faith and lose our foundation.  Amen.

 

[1] Charles Detwiler, Kimberly Mitchell and Norman Reichenbach, Life by Design, (Boston, Cengage Learning, 2014), 14.

[2] William J Gaither and Gloria Gaither, Because He Lives, (1971).

[3] Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury, The Solid Rock, (n.d.)

What He Sees in Me

“What is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:4

This is a personal testimony, and I share it because I believe with all my heart and soul that is true for every person. Please prayerfully read it and let God speak to your own heart.

I’ve always believed there was nothing good in me, nothing of value. That’s been a persistent feeling for most of my life.   The thought comes to me and I just accept it and agree with it and take it as part and parcel of my identity. Recently, that same old impression came to me – “There is nothing good in me – nothing worth redeeming.” Then came the thought, “No – that’s not entirely true.” So I went to God in prayer and posed a question. “God what is the truth here? You saved me through the cross of Christ – but why? What did you see in me worth redeeming?”

I wondered, is it some innate gift or talent He’d given me? I’m a pretty good writer and teacher – maybe that is what He saw. I’m generous and loyal (sometimes too loyal) and helpful – those are good qualities worth redeeming.   I have a heart for God and His Word – that has to mean something. But I knew that all these were not the answer. And then God painted a scene in my heart that was a true revelation to me.

Go with me, back to the beginning to Genesis and creation.

Genesis 1 tells the story of the creation of the universe, the heavens and the earth, plants and animals and God’s premier creation: man. Please take a moment and read Genesis 1:26-27. Both verses record the creation of man in the image of God, the Imago Dei. What does that mean?

Without trying to delve into much deep theological theory, the creation of man in the image of God can be understood as a certain essence of God imbued in man at the time of creation. “The image is something in the very nature of humans, in the way in which we were made. It refers to something we are rather than something we have or do.”[1] “The image of God is what makes us human”[2] Humans are created as body, soul and spirit.[3] It is within this trichotomy that we bear the image of God. How it works, I cannot tell you – theologians and scholars have debated it for centuries, but the Bible says that it is part of every human.  Consider Deuteronomy 6:5 which says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart [spirit] and with all your soul and with all your strength [body].” We share a body – a physical shell – with all creation. The body houses the soul – the seat of reason and emotion. But what truly sets us apart from all other creation is the spirit – the part that enables us to commune with God – it is somewhere in the realm of the spirit that the most distinctive image of God is found.  However, while the Scriptures tell us that we are made in God’s image “there are no direct statements in Scripture to resolve the issue.”[4] This is one of God’s mysteries and we can only accept it and rejoice in it, for this image is what God sees in man that calls out to His heart for redemption.

God saw His image – the Imago Dei in me, and that was worth saving.   So He pursued me – me, who’s never been pursued in her life – and drew me to His Son. He saved me through the cross of redemption, through the blood of His Son and in saving me He imparted His Spirit to me, [5] and His Spirit brought my spirit to life. [6] He brought Image and Spirit together to create a perfected being – perfected, meaning completed, as Hebrews 10:14 says – “by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”  (Perfect – teleioo – to perfect, complete, finish, to reach a goal, be fulfilled, made complete.)  He restored me to God’s original design – complete in Image and Spirit.

Now God sees in me His completed design. He does not see my faults and failings, my shortcomings, my weight, anxieties, character flaws, temper or  impurities – because of Jesus – He no longer sees my sin. He does not see this worthless perspective I’ve always held of myself.  He sees a completed, beautiful and whole person. I don’t know what that means to you, but it means the world to me. In Christ I am made complete.

Ah, but that’s not all there is! There is coming a day – a grand and glorious day – in the resurrection when I will receive my spiritual body,[7] and the total transformation is gloriously accomplished and I will be fully perfected – body, soul and spirit.

This can be your testimony too. You were made in the image of God and the redemption of Jesus Christ is available to you – just receive this wonderful gift – it is given freely. Will you be complete in Christ?

Holy Father, I don’t pretend to understand all of this with perfect knowledge, You left it a mystery. But one thing I know – “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2). But with You I have everything-I am made complete!

A word of thanks to Rev. Michael Shockley for his theological assistance.  Love you “Dad!”

[1] Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 2nd Edition, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 176.

[2] Gerhard von Rand as quoted by Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 171.

[3] See 1 Thessalonians 5:23

[4] Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 175.

[5] See Luke 11:13, John 7:39, Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 3:16,

[6] See John 6:63, 1 Corinthians 6:17

[7] 1 Corinthians 15:35-54

The Greatest Story Ever Told

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun (Israel), who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty.” Deuteronomy 33:26

I grew up on fairy tales and stories of damsels in distress and spent much of my early life dreaming of my knight in shining armor. It’s such a romantic thought. I would be kidnapped and held captive by someone who was just mean and evil and wanted to defeat everything good. My situation would be so dire, but then, here would come my beloved hero, to defeat the enemy and rescue me. I would be swept up on his white stallion and we would ride off – of course into the sunset – to begin our “happily-ever-after” life together. Even as I grew older and left fairy tales behind, I still looked for that one guy who would right all the wrongs and make everything wonderful. I figured out that, no matter how wonderful he is, no man will every measure up to that expectation.

That is until I met the One Man who did. No, it’s not my husband, though he is a great guy. My beloved hero is Jesus Christ. And the scenario is not just my fantasy fairy tale; it’s really true, for me and for you. It’s true for every person that lives today, that ever lived, and that is yet to live.

There really is someone who is completely evil. His name is Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, and he is the enemy of the One who is pure and good – God, the Heavenly Father. God created a perfect world (Genesis 1:1) and then perfectly created two beings in His image: man and woman – we know them as Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:7). Satan slid his way into this perfect place and took them captive to sin, and because of sin, to death (Genesis 3:1-6). This curse of death and sin has been passed down to every human being (Romans 5:12). We are all held against our will by Satan. You may find that strange given how humanity has chosen sin for thousands of years, but our true will – the soul which God placed in man at creation – longs for Him. But our feet are in the stocks, even as we roam the earth, bound by the enemy of God. Why us? Why does Satan attack man? Because we are God’s beloved creation, made in His image, and what God loves, Satan hates.

How it moved God’s great heart with compassion, to see us, His beloved creation bound in chains of sin and unable to rescue ourselves. So He sent us a Hero, a Knight in shining armor. He sent us a Savior, His own and only Son. In what is only a God-miracle, He set His glory aside and poured His divinity into a mortal shell. The perfect Son of God became the perfect Man, Jesus. He came, not on a great steed, but in a young woman’s womb. He came, not to brandish a sword and kill a mortal enemy, but to carry a cross up a hill and crush the head of the enemy of our souls (Genesis 3:15). He came to take on every sin of every person in every age – He came to bear your sin and mine (Romans 6:10). He suffered. He bled. He died a cruel and torturous death for one reason: because He loves you and me. He came to set us free.

He came to give us life –the life we were created for, before Satan and sin took us captive. This life is ours once again, because Jesus did not stay in the grave. God raised Him from the dead, and He is alive today (Ephesians 1:20). His death set us free from the curse of sin (Romans 8:1-2). His resurrection gives us life, eternal life, forever life (1 John 5:11). That “happy-ever-after”? It is a promise, not a fairy tale. Heaven awaits, the place of pure perfection, our forever home (John 14:2). One day, Jesus will come again to earth. He will come to finish the battle of good vs. evil. He will bring His enemy, our enemy, to his final destruction. And guess how He will come? Yep, on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). He will come as the Rider who is Faithful and True – the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And He will right every wrong, and put an end forever to evil.

This is not just a great fairy tale, though the world tries to claim it is. This is the true reality. This is the over-arching picture of God’s plan. He created us. He loves us. He saw us captive to sin and death and evil, and He sent His own Son to rescue us. I hope this is real for you. I hope you have received this gift of freedom and life that God has offered to you. For those without Jesus, the final fate of Satan in their eternal fate as well. The promise of forgiveness and redemption and eternal life is only for those who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. If you do not know Jesus, please examine the evidence in the Scriptures I’ve highlighted. Ask Him to show you the truth. And pray the prayer at the close of this devotional. Please let me know if you do. I want to rejoice with you. If you already know Jesus, pray a word of thanks for what He has done for you.

This is real life. This is the only question that matters: What will you do with Jesus?

Dear God, I know that I am held captive by sin and my fate is death. I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died to set me free from sin and death. I receive this wonderful freedom and the promise of eternal life. Thank you God, for saving me. Teach me to love you and walk in Your ways all my days. Amen.

A Perfect Body at Last! (Part 10 in the Apostle’s Creed)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  1 Peter 1:3

 THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;

The Holy catholic Church;

The communion of saints;

The forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body;

Continuing to focus on the Apostle’s Creed, we come to “the resurrection of the body.”  This was a “hot potato” even in Jesus’ day – as one faction of the religious leaders, the Sadducees, did not believe in the resurrection, while the Pharisees did.  The debates over this subject still divide people, but the Scripture is very clear, and that is where we will be focusing in this devotional.

Before His own resurrection, there are three separate accounts in the Scriptures of Jesus’ raising people from the dead:  the widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7:11-17; Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; and Lazarus (John 11:1-45).  But these all still eventually died, theirs was not an eternal life.

It was only at the resurrection of Jesus that a bodily resurrection unto eternal life became a reality for believers.  So critical to the Christian faith, the writers of all four gospels, under the divine leading of the Holy Spirit, were inspired to record Christ’s resurrection.  (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16; Luke 24; and John 20.) Jesus’ resurrection lead the way for all who will follow Him into eternal life. Paul said, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).  This was His promise in John 11:25-26 as He spoke to Martha – “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”

Jesus proved His bodily resurrection to His disciples in Luke 24: 37-43, when He told them “Look at my hands and my feet.  It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (v. 39).  He even ate before them, as further evidence that death has no hold on the Author of life.

Jesus declared that ours will be a bodily resurrection, just as His was.   The most important Scriptural evidence came when He addressed the Sadducees in Matthew 22, He said “But about the resurrection of the dead – have you know read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (vs. 31-32).  Dr. R. C. Sproul says “Our Lord’s argument seems to be based partly on the use of the present tense; God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,’ not ‘I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’”[i]  He is the God of life, and will raise to life all who believe in Him.

Philippians 3:21 is another confirmation of the resurrection of the body: “Jesus Christ…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”  In this body we will enjoy everlasting, or eternal life, as Jesus Himself promised: “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

Paul gives us an excellent source of information for the resurrection of the body in 1 Corinthians 15: 35-57.   He says that we will have imperishable, glorious bodies, raised in power and in the Spirit (v. 42-44); we will “bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (v. 49); we “will be raised imperishable and immortal” (v. 53).

John writes “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life” (1 John 5:11-12).

What does this all mean to you and me?   No more death, no more tears, no more crying or mourning or pain.  The Lord said, “I am making everything new” (Rev. 21:4-5).  That includes you and me and every person who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ, the salvation of all mankind. He will bring us, with transformed bodies, into everlasting life.  That is the greatest news the world has ever known.

Lord Jesus, when I think of the resurrection of the body, I always think that I will have hands, to hold the hand of my Savior; arms to throw around You in a loving embrace, and lips to sing Your wonderful praises with the angels of heaven.  Oh what glory that will be!  Amen.


 

[i] Sproul, R. C. “Tabletalk Devotional with RC Sproul.” Bible Gateway. September 24, 2013. http://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/tabletalk/2013/09/24 (accessed September 24, 2013).

 

From Hell to Heaven

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

From “The Apostles’ Creed”

 “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34

We are continuing our walk through The Apostles’ Creed, as we search the Scriptures for the evidences and foundations for our faith.  Our journey finds us in a place of terror – hell – a concept that has been argued for and against for hundreds of years.  Even some Christians contend that the Bible doesn’t really support the theory of hell, citing terminology and translations they claim have turned hell into something it is not.  But Jesus was very clear on the subject, teaching about this place of torment and “darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12)  As much as we don’t want to confront it, hell is the place for Satan and His demons – and it is the place reserved for those who reject Jesus Christ as their Savior.  God does not condemn anyone to hell, but by choosing to disregard God’s perfect sacrifice on our behalf, unbelievers condemn themselves.  Good as they may be, without Jesus Christ, they are cast into hell by their own pride.  Man rejects the truth of hell because hell denotes punishment, punishment denotes sin, and sin denotes the truth of “right and wrong.”  Sin is the symptom of a greater problem, that of denying the authority of Holy God to set standards of right and wrong.  . Hell is a very real place, as is heaven; one is reserved for those who accept Christ and the other for those who reject Him.  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”(John 3:36)

Of all the foundations of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is likely the most important, for it undeniably reveals Him as God.  He performed great miracles throughout His earthly life, healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding the multitudes and even raising the dead back to life, but it is His resurrection that becomes the irrefutable evidence of His Deity.  Great men of the faith have done great things in God’s name, but they have died, and did not see the light of life again.  Even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death to life eventually died his final death.  But Jesus – Jesus rose from death to life and ascended from earthly life to heavenly life everlasting.  Death could not hold on to Him because He was and is eternal.

In His bold address to the Jews, Peter said simply “God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead…because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” (Acts 2:24)  It was not a rumor nor an exaggeration, for Peter followed by saying, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (v. 32) Paul confirmed Peter’s words in Acts 13:30-31 when he proclaimed, “God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, and for many days He was seen by those who had traveled with Him,”   Luke, the writer of Acts wrote, “After His suffering, He showed Himself to [His apostles] and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.   He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) Paul adds yet another proof in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 (sel.) “He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time.  Then He appeared to James…and last of all He appeared to me also.”

Paul calls the Doctrine of the Resurrection “as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  It is of first importance because without Jesus’ resurrection, He is just another dead religious teacher.   And a dead man cannot save anyone.  Paul said “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) Jesus Christ had to die – there is no other way for you and me to be forgiven and cleansed from our sins.  Christ had to be resurrected – there was no other way for you and me to obtain eternal life.

The Apostle Peter gives us the blessed benediction to our look at the Doctrines of Hell and The Resurrection:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

 In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope

through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

and  into an inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.

1 Peter 1:3-4

 Merciful Father, by Your great love and power, You have opened the way for us to turn from death to life and from hell to heaven.  We give you thanks and praise Your name for Your tender mercies.  Amen.