The Rescue of the Resurrection

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  1 : 10
Subject: Resurrection; Easter
Introduction

When it comes to matters such as the resurrection, some people just declare ignorance and turn away. They remind me of the preacher on an airplane several years ago. He was asked by the passenger next to him what he did for a living. The preacher said, “I am a preacher? Do you know the Lord?”

The man answered, “Well, preacher, I try to keep my religion simple, you know, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

The preacher asked, “What do you do for a living?”

The man answered, “I am an astronomer at a college. Do you know much about astronomy?”

The preacher replied, “Well, I try to keep my astronomy simple, you know, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.’”

We must look seriously at the subject of the resurrection, for the Bible declares it to be a subject of great importance. The person without the Lord faces three tragedies: First, in life, then in death, and finally in the judgment. In life, because life’s purpose is missed and the end of life is meaningless. In death, because power is missed and death is morbid. In judgment, because pardon is missed and eternity is miserable. The very opposite is true for the believer; in life, the Christian has divine purpose; in death, the Christian has the divine power (through the divine presence ... Psalm 23); and in judgment, the Christian has divine pardon. The life, death and judgment of the believer are all victorious because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection is especially important as it speaks to the issue of deliverance from a meaningless life, a morbid death, and a miserable judgment. We need to see that it is not just the event at the cross that saves us; it is also the victory of the resurrection. I want you to observe some important elements of the resurrection and how it can be called a rescue.

I. The Person of the Resurrection

Not just any resurrection could serve as a redemptive act for mankind. Lazarus was raised, but his resurrection could not save us. The widow’s son was raised, but he could not deliver us from sin and death. In order for salvation to be complete, the One raised had to be the One appointed for the task. This person had to be the One and only Redeemer. Look at the identification of the One who saves us through His resurrection.

A. His Deity...Son

He is called “Son.” This designation speaks of His Deity! He was God, He is God, and He always will be God. Some years ago we watched in horror the story of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. Under the leadership of a man named Applewhite, this group became convinced that they would be picked up by a UFO following in the tail of the Hale-Bopp Comet. Applewhite persuaded them that this was true. Applewhite was looking for a comet, he should have been looking to the One who made the comet. He was looking for transport in a spaceship. All he needed was a relationship with Jesus. His problem was that he had the wrong “ship.”

Friend, Jesus is God. He made the comets, the stars and the heavens. He is God. Only the pure, divine blood poured out in our behalf could save sinners should as we.

B. His Humanity...Jesus

But, we also notice that He is called “Jesus.” Jesus is His human name. To save us, He had to become one of us. He had to live among us and then go to the cross and bear our sin and shame. Without His human sacrifice, we would be lost forever.

Jesus lived in this world and was tempted in all ways just like you and I. He faced life without succumbing to temptation and sin. He was human, but He was unlike any human before or since!

The One who was raised on Easter Sunday morning was divine and human. He was the one-of-a-kind God-man! He and He alone could save us.

II. The Problems of the Resurrection

Some people have a problem with the resurrection. They try to explain away the miracle of the resurrection with foolish theories. They do this because they lack faith to trust the truth about the Truth!

A. The Swoon Theory

What is the premise of the Swoon Theory? The Swoon Theory posits that Jesus did not actually die, but rather He went into a deep coma (or "swoon") from the severe pain and trauma of the Crucifixion. However, in the cool atmosphere of the tomb, He "revived" and was somehow able to get out of the strips of cloth wrapped tightly around His body and appear to His disciples. Then, his disciples cared for Him and nursed Him back to full health so that He could appear to His followers.

This theory simply "flies in the face" of the facts. Think about the Roman guards. Remember, the Roman guards were actually the first to report Jesus' death (John 19:33-37). They were "experts at execution" and would be put to death themselves if they allowed a condemned man to escape death. They were so certain that Jesus was dead that they did not even bother to break His legs. And when the spear they thrust into Jesus' side brought forth blood and water, they had final proof of His death, for this occurs when the heart stops beating.

For the "Swoon Theory” to be valid, Jesus would have had to survive a massive loss of blood through the scourging, the nail wounds and the spear thrust. In addition, in this impossibly weakened condition, He would have had to endure 40 hours without food or drink, manage to unwrap Himself from His grave clothes, and single-handedly roll away the massive stone closing the tomb. And then convince His followers that He had risen from the dead. He would have had to travel countless miles in that condition to make many appearances to His disciples over a period of 40 days. He would have had to delude the disciples into thinking that He could simply appear in a room without the use of a door. This theory is so absurd that it really doesn't deserve to be dignified with a response. Yet, no doubt there are some who would conveniently "hang their doubt" on it.

I have learned that those who doubt do so with faith. They have faith in something that is less credible than the credible. They have to believe something that is more implausible than the plausible.

B. The Shock Theory

The premise of the Shock Theory is that everyone who claimed to see the risen Lord was hallucinating out of an earnest desire to see Jesus alive again. In other words, everyone who said they saw Jesus alive after His death were confused and in traumatized to the point that they all, every one of them, thought they saw what they did not see! Even Houdini was not that good at slight of hand!

Jesus' disciples had not expected to see Him alive again (Mark l6:l0-ll). It came as a complete and total shock to them that they did see Him after His crucifixion! Scripture also tells us that 500 people saw Him on one occasion alone.

Ironically, the non-believers initially had more faith in the words of Jesus than His own disciples. The chief priests and Pharisees came to see Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' Therefore, command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.'

So the last deception will be worse than the first." (Matthew 27:63-64) They remembered Jesus' words concerning His Resurrection while the disciples had apparently forgotten them!

Anyone who believes that over 500 people who saw Him after His resurrection were in shock is actually the one in shock! There has never been a state of shock in which over 500 people thought they saw someone after death who was not actually there.

C. The Stolen Body Theory

The Stolen Body theory holds that Jesus' disciples took His body in order to fulfill Jesus' words (see Matthew 27:64). According to Scripture, this story goes back to the day the guards, who had stood watch at Jesus' tomb, told the chief priests what had transpired. The chief priests bribed the guards, telling them to spread this story instead of what they had witnessed (Matthew 28:1 1-15).

The idea that Jesus' body was stolen actually proves the Resurrection of the Lord.

1. The Disciples' Initial Desertion

Jesus' friends could not have taken His body because they had left the scene, convinced that He was dead. When the women reported Jesus' Resurrection to the eleven apostles and other believers in Jerusalem, "Their words seemed like idle tales, and they did not believe them." (Luke 24:11)

The apostles had no reason to counterfeit a resurrection since they did not even believe it themselves. How could it be that the very men who fled for their lives while Jesus was still alive would suddenly muster the courage and ingenuity to steal the body and then boldly start preaching and teaching about a Jesus they knew was dead?

2. The Disciples' Radical Commitment

If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was a lie, how could all of the apostles go to an early grave saying that He was raised from the dead! According to Church history and tradition, all of them died the death of a martyr.

Matthew was thrust through with a sword in distant Ethiopia.

Mark died in Alexandria after being cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.

Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.

Peter was crucified upside down in Rome.

James, the Greater, was beheaded at Jerusalem.

James, the Less, was thrown from a high place off of the Temple, then beaten with a club.

Andrew was bound to a cross, where he preached to his persecutors until he died.

Thomas was run through the body with a lance in the East Indies.

Jude was shot to death with arrows.

John was put in a caldron of boiling oil, but the oil mysteriously would not boil. Afterward, he was banished to Patmos.

If their lives would have been spared, don't you think at least one of them would have suddenly exposed such a lie? Of course he would have! But they did not expose it because it was not a lie-it was true!

Jesus' enemies would not have stolen His body because His Resurrection was the very thing they were trying to prevent. It would have defeated their own purposes to do so. If they had taken it, they would have produced it to prove that He was no longer alive.

III. The Proofs of the Resurrection

We have two proofs that the resurrection actually occurred. First, we have Jesus own words and then we have the witnesses.

A. The Words of the Resurrection

John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life...do you believe this?”

Jesus claimed to be the resurrection before He ever went to the cross. He did not say that He would one day offer the resurrection, He said, “I am the resurrection.” He said that anyone believing in Him already had victory over death.

Those are pretty strong words. One great ball player spoke of what he intended to do in an important game. A reported asked, “Aren’t you bragging a bit?” The ball player replied, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it!” Friend, Jesus wasn’t bragging, He was stating fact.

Look at Revelation 1:18, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and hell.”

What a glorious Savior we have. He arose. He is alive! He ever liveth! He has the keys to death and hell (the place of the dead).

B. The Witnesses of the Resurrection

If all we had were the words of Jesus, that would be enough. But we have more than that. We have witnesses who saw Him after He was raised. Look at Acts 1:3. Then look at 1 Corinthians 15:3ff. He was seen by one, then 12, then 500, and then one additional trustworthy witness. Paul states the inevitable for the Christian, he states his own personal testimony!

The songwriter did the same,

“I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today,

I know that He is living, whatever men may say;

I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,

And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives, He 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!!!”

IV. The Promise of the Resurrection

Our text today declares that we are delivered from the wrath to come through the resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection serves as a rescue for us. Applewhite was looking for Heaven’s Gate, all he needed was Heaven’s Door, and that is Jesus! He promised the resurrection to all who put their faith in Him.

We are not looking for death but for deliverance.

We are not looking for a mortuary but for a Mansion.

We are not looking for the undertaker but for the uptaker.

We are not looking for a cemetery but for a City not made with hands!

We are not looking for coffin but for a Crown!

We are not looking for a tomb but for a triumph through Him, even Jesus!

We are not looking for a judgment, because we have received Jesus!

The resurrection of Jesus answers the age-old question by Job in Job 14:14, “If a man die, shall he live again?” Jesus stood up on Easter Sunday morning and answered Job saying, “Yes, Job, a man can live even after death!”

Four hundred years before the birth of Christ, the renowned Greek philosopher Socrates drank the poison hemlock and lay down to die. His friends asked, "Shall we live again?" The dying philosopher could only reply, "I hope so, but no man can know." Let Jesus answer the friends of Socrates, “Yes, you shall live again, and live forever in one of two places.”

In fact, please be aware than in reality every person will one day be raised. The resurrection of Jesus ensures that every single person who has ever lived will be raised. Some will be raised to everlasting life with Him in heaven; others will be raised to face the Great White Throne Judgment where they will be cast out of the presence of God. Now someone might protest that a loving God would not judge the lost and certainly He would not send people to a place called hell. Some would even say that the God of the Old Testament might send people to hell, but surely Jesus would not. I want you to turn to a very impressive and important passage of Scripture - Revelation 6:16, “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’”

Note that the LAMB is the One who is filled with wrath. A Lamb is gentle and non-confrontational. But, dear friend, the risen Lamb of God will be the One who actually does the judging.

Please understand the point of this message on the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus rescues all those who put their faith in Him. Look at Acts 17:31, ”For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

The resurrection of Christ was in part to rescue and in part to judge. The One put to death for sin has risen to judge His killers. Image that, a person killed rising from the dead to accuse and punish his killers. That is what we have here. But, those who believe upon Him are rescued from that awful Day of Judgment. Look at the two aspects of this deliverence.

A. The Spiritual or Immediate Rescue

In Ephesians 2:3-5 we read, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.”

We were dead in our sins and were already the objects of God’s wrath. When we turned to Him by faith, He saved us and immediately His death and resurrection rescued us and removed the target drawn over our soul. We are not longer the objects of His wrath but all who have believed are the objects of His love and grace.

B. The Physical or Impending Rescue

But there is another form of this coming rescue. He will deliver us from death and the judgment! Look at Romans 8:34, “Who is he that condemns? 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.”

He stands for us and will stand with us on that great and terrible day when the wrath of God is poured out. The Bible declares in Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.” Oh, how wonderful to have God’s shield of protection over us. The risen Savior covers us with His hand of mercy. Look at 1 Peter 1:3-5, “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.”

But what about those who have never received Him. Remember what I said when I began this message. The lost person is a three time loser - In life, in death and at the judgment. Dear friend, the risen Savior holds out His hand of mercy to you today. Come to Him now! He will save you now, and He will reserve a place for you in heaven.

Conclusion

One school teacher wanted her class to think about the new life that springs up in the springtime. She brought several L’eggs hosiery eggs to give the children. She told them to take them home and fill them with something which revealed new life.

The next day the children deposited the L’eggs containers on the teacher’s desk. One little boy in the class was very slow and had a condition which affected his thinking. The teacher had determined not to embarrass the little boy named Stephen.

She opened the first egg and found a tiny flower. The person who brought it yelled out, “That one is mine. I brought it.” The teacher congratulated the child.

The next one contained a rock. She thought it might be Stephen’s, since she could not think of anyway that a rock represented new life. But Billy called out, ’I brought the rock. It has moss on it. That is new life.” The teacher agreed. Then another one had a butterfly in it.

Then she opened one that was completely empty. She knew that had to be Stephen’s egg. She hurried past it to the next one, but Stephen jumped to his feet and said, “You skipped mine. It was empty.” The children giggled. The teacher said, “Oh, was that yours, Stephen?” She tried to go on. “But teacher,” he cried, “mine was empty because the tomb of Jesus was empty and that was new life.” Everyone in the class, including the teacher, was touched. She congratulated him for his observation and went on with the class. A few months later, Stephen’s condition worsened and he died. At his funeral, people brought L’eggs hosiery containers, laid them open on his casket and they were all empty!

Praise God for the empty tomb. That is real life. In John 11:25 Jesus asked, “Do you believe this?” How about it, do you? Will you? If you do, step forth and receive the risen, living Savior now!