Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
Having considered Christ’s names and work, we are left to consider His exaltation. He who perfectly satisfied God’s justice was then exalted to the highest place of glory.
The exaltation of Christ is revealed to us as having taken place in steps. The first step was His resurrection from the dead; the second, His ascension into heaven; the third, His sitting at God’s right hand; and that which is yet to be seen, His final coming again in judgment, when He will also take His people to Himself in the perfection of God’s tabernacle.
The truth of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead is the heart of the gospel of our salvation. For us who are in Christ Jesus, His resurrection means righteousness. His resurrection means life everlasting. His resurrection means a living hope. It is good news!
But before we consider the benefits of Christ’s resurrection, we ought at least review the fact of that wonderful event.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a resurrection unlike any previous resurrection. There were a few instances, you remember, where those who had died were raised from the dead as demonstrations of the wonder work of God’s grace and power. But Christ’s resurrection was unique.
That Jesus arose from the dead on the third day is well testified by many infallible proofs.
In the first place, although no man could see the actual event of the resurrection, many were witnesses of the wonder of that resurrection. They were witnesses of such things that proved to them that the Lord had risen indeed, and had conquered death and the grave.
That He arose on the third day according to the prophecy of the Scriptures was confirmed by many who were not at all expecting such a wonder. And the evidence was concrete and infallible. That was according to God’s purpose. We must be assured of the truth of the resurrection. As we read in I Corinthians 15:17, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” So we must know.
That knowledge is applied to our hearts by the Spirit through the testimony of the apostles, as they proclaimed what they had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
The evidence proved it already at the sepulcher. The empty grave, and more especially the empty linen clothes in the tomb, served as a strong testimony of Christ’s resurrection. More emphatically is that the case when you realize that those linen clothes in the open tomb (John 20) lay there just as they had been wrapped around the body of Jesus. If not for the fact that the head napkin lay apart from the linen clothes, one could not even know that the linens were empty of Jesus’ body! But the disciples, Peter and John, as well as the women, saw that evidence.
In addition, the fact of the resurrection was testified to by the angels whom God sent to the grave as the first preachers of the resurrection gospel. They proclaimed, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matt. 28:6).
Still more, that historic event is also established as a fact by the several appearances of the Lord to His own, appearances which number at least ten, and that to several hundred of God’s people (see I Cor. 15:4-8).
But the testimony concerning Jesus’ resurrection is a demonstration not only of the fact, but also of the wonder. That is also necessary for our faith. It is necessary in order that we might understand why the resurrection of Christ proclaimed a righteousness and life and hope that had never been seen before. His people before had enjoyed such benefits only by way of promise. We have that which has become the reality of the Christian life!
It is true that God’s people had always believed in the resurrection of the dead. Job, one of the earliest Old Testament patriarchs, testified of that in Job 19:25,26, when he said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” He had faith in the promise. And the wonder of the resurrection was even pointed toward by many miracles, as recorded in the Bible.
But it is necessary that we understand that the resurrection of Jesus was entirely different from any other. It was a wonder that was unique.
That is also attested to by the linen clothes in the sepulcher. You will recall that when Jesus performed the miracle of raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus came forth “bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44). Jesus’ resurrection was entirely different. He arose a spiritual body, not bound by the linens, not bound by the tomb, not bound by anything earthly.
That wonder of the resurrection was also manifested by the same appearances of Christ which testified to the fact of the resurrection. They also testified to the wonder. Because the appearances themselves belonged to the wonder. Now in one form, then in another, the Lord appeared. Always the same Lord, always the same person. But He appeared in different forms, so that the disciples wondered whether it was really He who was with them — wondered, that is, until He spoke and identified Himself as their risen Lord.
This means that Jesus did not merely come back. That is not the meaning of the resurrection. But He went on. He who entered the grave in His corruptible body arose in incorruption, so that corruption could never again touch Him. He went into the grave in His body of weakness. But He arose in power, never again to die. He arose in power that could never be touched by death again. He who entered that grave in dishonor because of His body in the likeness of our sinful flesh, arose in glory, radiating the glory of God.
All that belongs to the wonder of the resurrection. And all is clearly confirmed by the infallible proofs and testimony revealed in Holy Scripture. Christ is risen from the dead!
The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the pronouncement of victory for us!
The resurrection gospel proclaims to us that Christ overcame the power of death! He did so for us! You and I could never do that. For us there was no way out. Apart from His death, you and I would have had to bear the infinite wrath of God into all eternity. But Christ bore that curse for us. His resurrection from the dead proclaims that He has overcome death, and made us partakers of His righteousness. What a tremendous treasure is that righteousness! All the more so, because we had none.
By raising His Son from the dead, God gave His attesting and visible seal that Jesus was what He had declared Himself to be, the eternal Son of God, and that He had accomplished the work which the Father had given Him to do. He had fulfilled all righteousness. As we read in Romans 4:25, He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for (i.e., because of) our justification.” Christ’s resurrection is, as it were, the receipt that God has given us and His whole church — “Paid in full!”
But Christ also arose to make us partakers of that righteousness. His resurrection is also the power of our new life.
From beyond the power of death and the bondage of sin, Christ now stands and proclaims the gospel. Even through weak and sinful men, those preachers of His choosing, Christ speaks. That, after all, is the proclamation of the gospel. Christ calls powerfully and efficaciously. He calls unto life. We preach the resurrection gospel. We do so eagerly, fervently, with the words of the apostle Paul upon our lips: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16).
By His gospel He raises His people from their spiritual death and embraces them with His life!
How amazing is the description that Scripture gives this wonder work of God’s grace! The inspired apostle put it this way in Ephesians 2:4-6: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
When Jesus was raised by God from the dead, all the elect were raised with Him. From Adam to that last elect to be born just before Christ comes again, all of them have been taken to heaven in Christ. We can’t even comprehend the significance of that truth. But that is the gospel, good news! We who are in Christ Jesus by a true and living faith, we in whose hearts Christ has shed abroad His love by His Spirit who lives in us — we have the resurrection life, the life of Christ.
That certainly means that we have a life that is free from the bondage of sin.
We have a new life, a new man, as Scripture speaks of it. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).
No, this doesn’t mean that we are without sin. We know from bitter experience that we have a daily battle with our sinful nature, our “old man.” But what this means is that when we are freed from sin’s bondage unto that new life in Christ, that new life manifests itself in our mortal flesh and in this old world of corruption by crying out daily, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Is that your cry? Do you long for spiritual growth, and for grace to flee from sin and to walk in godliness? If so, that is the resurrection life of Christ in you. Yours is the power of the new life.
And that life can never die.
For the resurrection of our Savior is also the promise and suretyof our own blessed resurrection.
Jesus spoke of this very truth, as recorded in John 11:25,26, when He said to Lazarus’ sister Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
So also the apostle wrote in I Thessalonians 4:14, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”
We who are in Christ have a glorious life, a life of righteousness, a life that cannot be touched by the power of death anymore. We have that life that reaches toward heaven, and that final resurrection that can never fail.
That is the gospel, the resurrection gospel.