Among the many tragic events of recent history, what happened in America on September 11, 2001 is among the most shocking. On that now infamous day terrorists hijacked four civilian aircraft to use as weapons of mass murder. Two of those planes were directed toward the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. The first passenger Boeing 767 hit the North tower at 8:45am, and the second struck the South tower some twenty minutes later. Then at 9:59am the South tower collapsed adding to the horror of an already dreadful situation, followed by the collapse of the North tower at 10:28am.
The twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York represented not only international commerce, but architecturally the glory and greatness of human achievement, yet like everything pertaining to man, they sadly did not prove to be indestructible or enduring. Rather, they crumbled to the ground.
The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus are, so to speak, the 'twin towers' of the gospel. These two truths represent the glory and greatness of divine accomplishment, and having withstood attacks from the enemies of truth for centuries, they still stand strong and ever will as the Christian’s source of confidence and reason for hope.
The apostle Paul defined succinctly and simply the gospel message when writing to the church in Corinth: ‘Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures' (1 Cor 15:1-4).
Among the Corinthian believers there were some who propagated the notion ‘that there is no resurrection of the dead’ (1 Cor 15:12). The implications of such an idea were serious and far reaching. Paul writes:
‘But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable’ (1 Cor 15:13-19).
Does the resurrection matter? It matters so much that it makes all the difference between Heaven and Hell. ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead’ (1 Cor 15:20) wrote Paul with conviction and certainty. To Paul, the resurrection was a proven fact and its outcome unmistakable.
If then the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ matters so much, what does it tell us about His Person, the gospel and the future? Let’s think about five things:
1. The Resurrection Proves the Dependability of His Word
The Lord Jesus said before ever going to the cross that He would rise again. We read in the Gospel according to Mark: ‘And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again’ (Mark 8:31). Christ spoke with absolute certainty about His resurrection. We cannot be certain about the future. We make plans, but we neither know nor control what will happen tomorrow. But for the Lord Jesus, there was never a doubt about the outcome of His Cross. His word assured what the prophetic word had already foretold, He would rise again. His word is not only dependable, it guaranteed the outcome for ‘it is impossible for God to lie’ (Heb 6:18) and nothing, neither man nor Devil, can thwart divine purpose or change divine promise. When the women came to the sepulchre early that first day of the week, they heard these words from the angel of the Lord:
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’ ” (Luke 24:5–7).
2. The Resurrection Declares the Identity of His Person
The Lord Jesus is either the Son of God or He is not. The resurrection proves conclusively that He is. Paul in writing to the saints in Rome began his letter with these words:
‘Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead’ (Rom 1:1-4).
The death of Christ led to His resurrection, and His resurrection led to His ascension, and His ascension led to His exaltation. Thus the apostle Peter declared to a Jewish audience that while Israel 'officially' rejected Jesus as their Messiah and Lord, God 'officially' recognized Him as both: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
3. The Resurrection Verifies the Value of His Death
The Lord Jesus suffered and died on the Cross to answer for our sins before God. His resurrection verifies the accomplishment of His finished work and demonstrates that God has been forever satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ. He dealt once for all with sin, He defeated once for all the Devil and He conquered once for all death. The Lord Jesus has secured and assured forgiveness and acceptance before God for all who believe in Him – He ‘who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification' (Rom 4:25). These are the indestructible ‘twin towers’ of the gospel. True are the words:
I seek no other argument, I want no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died, And rose again for me.
4. The Resurrection Assures the Fulfilment of His Promise
The Lord Jesus promised He would come again for His people (John 14:3) and Paul stated that when He comes He will both raise the bodies of the dead and bring the living to Himself. The foundation and guarantee of this promise is indeed His death and resurrection. Thus the apostle Paul wrote these words of comfort to the believers in Thessalonica:
‘For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thes 4:13-17).
5. The Resurrection Guarantees the Day of His Judgment When the apostle Paul preached in the idolatrous city of Athens he began by reminding His audience that God is the Creator and Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. He concluded by reminding them that He is also the judge of all men:
“Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:29-31).
The apostle John gets a dramatic sight of the risen Christ in Heaven as He is announced as ‘the Lion of Judah’ and presented as the ‘Lamb as it had been slain’ risen, living and standing at the throne of God from whose hand He takes the offered Seven Sealed Scroll as the only one worthy to do so! (Rev 5:1-7). The loosing of the first seal means ‘the day of vengeance’ has arrived as the Lamb moves to claim what is His by right of redemption. The opened seals are followed by the seven trumpet judgments leading to the bowls of wrath and ultimately the appearing of the ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ to destroy His enemies and establish His one thousand year reign (Rev 19:11-16; 20:1-6). The Cross and resurrection are the foundation of it all!
In conclusion, should anyone, who does not yet know the power of the Cross and the assurance of the resurrection be reading this, the words of Paul and Silas comes to you with all the same assurance as they did to the jailor so long ago: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).