“As It Began to Dawn”

How the world hates and would destroy the truth of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Of course! The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ seals the victory of this Jesus of Nazareth. But it also seals the condemnation of the world. How terrible it is for the world, unspeakably terrible, that the Jesus they hated and sought to destroy by nailing Him to a cross, is raised from the dead, is seated at the right hand of God, and has been given all power to reign also over all the powers of evil and darkness! Indeed, the event of this first day of the week is of catastrophic significance as far as the wicked are concerned. But for the church of God? Fear not ye, but rejoice. 

How the world strives to destroy this fundamental truth of Holy Writ! To be sure, also in and throughout the ages of the Old Dispensation the devil attempted to prevent the birth of this Seed of the Woman. We read of this in Revelation 12:1-5. It is not our purpose now to call attention to this in this article. The truth of the resurrection of our Lord must be destroyed. There is the story of the soldiers who kept watch at His tomb that His disciples stole His body while they slept. They were bribed by the Jewish leaders to tell this absurd tale. And what an absurd tale it is! On the one hand, should not a watch who sleep at their post be executed at sunrise? And, on the other hand, the disciples stole His body while they slept? How could they know? Did they sleep with one eye open? And then we read inMatthew 28:15 that this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day, until about A.D. 150. Then, there is the story that the disciples narrated the resurrection of our Lord because they were the victims of hallucinations. They imagined it. What nonsense this is! This is exactly what they did not imagine. Fact is, these disciples did not even believe the resurrection of the Lord when it was told them, and they regarded it as an idle tale. We will come back to this later. Finally, there is also the modernistic view of the resurrection of our Lord. They deny Jesus’ physical resurrection. This means that they simply deny His resurrection. To them, Jesus remained in the grave. The malicious wickedness of these modernists is that they use Scriptural terms but ascribe a significance to them which is directly contrary to the Scriptures. They speak of His birth and of His resurrection but do not understand these wondrous events according to the meaning of Holy Writ. Jesus is alive in the same sense that a Washington or a Lincoln is alive, in the same sense that the soul of Washington or Lincoln “goes marching on.” The modernist speaks of a Jesus who was alive and is dead. We, however, believe in a Jesus Who was dead and is alive even forevermore. Indeed, “He is not here; come, see the place where the Lord lay.” 

We now return, briefly, to the wicked allegation that the disciples narrated the story of the resurrection as they imagined it. We have already noted that, according to Scripture, these disciples did not even believe that their Master had risen from the dead when they were told of it. They regarded it as an idle tale. However, we would maintain that the disciples could not possibly conceive of the resurrection of our Lord as it actually occurred, and that they could not possibly have recorded it as we read of it in the Scriptures if they were the victims of hallucinations. Mind you, these disciples were witnesses, witnesses of the risen Lord. Would these witnesses, if they had imagined things, report this incident without reporting their seeing Him leave the tomb? Fact is, the resurrection itself is not stated anywhere in these gospel narratives. Nowhere do we read: “And Jesus comes forth out of the grave.” Of course, no earthly eye could possibly see this. This explains its omission from the gospel narratives. But, the point now is: if these witnesses were imagining things, would they not also imagine seeing Him leave the tomb? But there is more. How reliable are these witnesses? Do they not declare that they did not believe in His resurrection? Was not this the “unbelief” of Thomas who could not believe it? And Thomas was not alone in this respect. The only reason why Thomas did not believe until a week later was simply that Jesus did not reveal Himself to him until a week after He, revealed Himself to the other disciples. Thirdly, had the disciples been victims of their own hallucinations, reported the resurrection as they imagined it, they could never have reported it as it is recorded in Holy Writ. Had they imagined Jesus’ resurrection (and this is exactly what they did not imagine), they would have reported an earthly resurrection of their Lord. Of course! They were earthly. Incidentally, this also explains the quandary of Thomas. It is not that Thomas could not believe Jesus’ resurrection as such. Others had been raised from the dead, such as Lazarus, etc. Why should not Jesus also be raised from the dead? But the problem of Thomas lay exactly here that the resurrection of Jesus would be pointless. Why should He be raised from the dead? He, Who had been killed once, could surely be killed again. What Thomas therefore did not understand was the cross. However, be all this as it may, had the disciples imagined things, they could never have imagined this event as recorded in Holy Writ. Two truths are emphasized in connection with Jesus’ resurrection as recorded in the Scriptures: that He is really risen from the dead, and, secondly, that He is risen, that He is absolutely different. This the disciples could not possibly imagine. They were earthly. They could not possibly conceive of a heavenly resurrection. How could they, for example, conceive of the wondrous sign of the linen clothes, that these linen clothes had not been disturbed in the slightest sense of the word, that these clothes lay there as if the body of Jesus were still in them. Did not John and Peter stare at this sign and believe, because, we read, as yet they understood not the Scriptures which had spoken of the resurrection of the Lord? This wondrous sign declared to them that Jesus was truly risen, was not as He had been before His suffering and death. But is it not plain that, had the disciples imagined things, they could never have imagined Christ’s resurrection as it actually occurred? 

One can view the resurrection of our Lord from many points of view. Our Heidelberg Catechism looks at it in Lord’s Day 17 from the viewpoint of our profit. Of course, the resurrection of Christ is also God’s revelation to us of what He eternally willed in His sovereign and inscrutable counsel, His eternal will to call life out of death and to realize His covenant, through sin and death, into heavenly life and glory and immortality. Let us look at it as our Heidelberg Catechism views it. And, let us look at the first profit mentioned here in Lord’s Day 17. The resurrection of Christ is indeed the divine seal of our righteousness and justification. 

How wonderful is the truth of our justification! There is undoubtedly nothing more wonderful to the child of God than this truth of the Word of God. Justification refers to the verdict of the Most High, the Judge of all the earth, that there is now no condemnation for him as he is in Christ Jesus. How Luther strove to attain unto this blessed consciousness that he was justified before the living God, that his sins would never be held against him, that he was an heir of everlasting life and glory. The Judge of all the earth declares us righteous, righteous forever! How wonderful! Fact is, we remain sinners as long as we continue in this earthly house of our tabernacle. And sin is guilt, the obligation to pay. And now we are declared righteous. By God! And God is holy. He sees and knows all our sins and trespasses. And He declares us righteous! Does the Lord, then, declare something to be true what is not true? Besides, this is the judgment of the Judge of all the earth! And this judgment cannot be changed. There is no higher appeal. God is for us and He is the Most High, the supreme Judge of all the earth. The elect sinner, knowing his sin, the sin which he commits daily, always, experiences the blessed truth that the Lord sees him as if he never committed any sin, that he is forever free of all guilt, that life and glory everlasting and immortal await him, in God’s fellowship forever. 

Of course, there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. And of this blessed truth the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the divine seal. To understand this we must, of course, understand the true nature of the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died atoningly. He died only for the elect given Him of the Father. He did not suffer and die merely as an example of the love of God. Such an example could not possibly save us. We are by nature haters of God. And no example of the love of God could possibly induce us to love Him. Neither is it true that Jesus died for everybody. The Arminian proudly boasts that his Christ is much richer than the Christ of the Reformed man. He asserts proudly that his Christ died for everybody whereas the Christ of the Reformed man died only for a few. His Christ is therefore so much richer than our Christ. How wrong he is! The choice does not lie between a Christ for some and a Christ for all. The choice lies between a Christ for some and a Christ for none. The Christ of the Arminian died for everybody, also therefore for those who perish. Hence, this Christ really died for nobody. He died for all and therefore never paid for sin. Had He died atoningly for everybody, then everybody would surely be saved. How terribly poor is the view of the Arminian! Indeed, Christ died only for the elect given Him of the Father. He took all their sins upon Himself. He bore the eternal and infinite wrath of God upon them. He suffered and died, in full and perfect consciousness, in perfect obedience to the will of His God. He made Himself of no reputation, emptied Himself, destroyed Himself, entered into an eternal nothingness, suffered the infinite wrath of God, whereof the cross is but the slightest symbol. And having suffered the infinite agonies of hell, He cried out upon the cross: It is finished! What an amazing word! Finished is the bearing of God’s wrath, finished is the payment for all our sins and guilt, finished is the shedding of blood whereof we read throughout the Old Dispensation. And finished is the meriting of everlasting life and glory for all these elect. 

And now God raised Him from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is God’s answer to the sixth crossword. It is the public verdict of the Most High that His suffering and death were not in vain. It is the verdict of the Most High to His Servant: Well done, Thou good and faithful servant, enter Thou into the joy of Thy Lord. What a terrible moment is this resurrection of the Lord for the wicked! Well may they fear. The Christ they hated and slew by wicked hands is Lord of lords and King of kings. He will indeed return to judge the quick and the dead. But, as far as God’s people are concerned: fear not ye. The angel proclaims unto us Jesus Who was crucified, crucified for me, crucified that I might live. My sins are paid and everlasting life and glory are not merited for me. We believe in Christ crucified and raised from the dead. He, Who was delivered because of our offences, has been raised because of our justification. This is our blessedness: Jesus is risen from the dead, and we therefore live and shall live forevermore.