THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firit-fruits of them that slept. 1 Coorithians 15:20.
The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was the most important event that ever took place in this lower world. If it can be proven, Christianity will stand fast in the world in spite of all its opposers. If it cannot be proven our faith is vain, and we are yct in our sins. But we have such proofs of that glorious event as cannot be overturned and we may confidently assert in the 1anguage of our text, “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the the firstfruits of them who slept. This passage may be divided into two parts: first, Christ is risen from the dead; secondly, he is become the firstfruits of them that slept.
First of all, Christ is risen from the dead, says Paul. The death of Jesus cannot be doubted, for in the presence of vast multitudes he bowed his head and gave up the spirit. An impious soldier. pierced his side with a spear, from whence flowed blood and water. This important circumstance fully proves the reality of his death, for the wound reaching his heart must have caused instant death, had he received it in perfect health. Being dead, his body was laid in the sepulchre, where it remained till the third day; but his soul went into the invisible world. Some have imagined that he went into the regions of lost departed souls, but upon serious examination this appears to be a mere fiction. The prophecy of David concerning this event, “You will not leave my soul in hades” means no more than, “You will not leave my soul in the hidden or invisible world.” The invisible or hidden world to which our Savior went was Paradise, as appears from his own words to the penitent thief, “Today you shall be shall be with me in Paradise”(Luke 23:43). On the third day, the soul of Chnst returned from the invisible world, and re-animated the same body which died on the cross. Thus when the soul departs the body dies; when it returns and is again united to the body, there is a proper resurrection. The proofs of Christ's resurrection may be reduced to three: the testimony of the disciples, the out-pouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the rapid progress of Christianity afterwards.
The resurrection of Christ is fully proved by the testimony of His discples. Testimony may always be relied upon, when those who testify are neither deceived themselves, nor design to deceive others; and that this was the case with our Lord's disciples will be evident upon a fair view of the subject. They could not be deceived themselves; for they all saw him, conversed with him, ate and drank with him, handled his body, and saw hun ascend into heaven. He appeared ten times before His ascension: To “Mary,” Mark 16:9; to other women,“Matt. 28:9; to “two disciples going to Emmaus,”Mark 16: 12, Luke 24: 13; to “Peter,” Luke 24: 34; to “all the disciples,” John 20:19; to “them again,” John 26; to “the disciples at the sea of Tiberias,” John 21:1; “to the disciples in Galilee,” Matt. 28:16.; to “James,” I Cor. 15:7; arid to “the eleven,” Mark 16: 14. He appeared three times after his ascension into heaven: to “Stephen,” Acts 7:56; to “Saul,” Acts 9:3 to 6; and to John on the isle of Patmos(Revelation 1:12,13).
The dissciples of Jesus had no design to deceive others. They could have no temptation to such a fraud, for the whole whole world was against them. They had nothing to gain by such a fraud but much to lose. Did they aim at wealth? This was the way to poverty. Did they aim at honor? This was the way to disgrace. Did they aim at ease? This was the way to hardships,toils and death. What, then, but truth, could induce them to declare the resurrection of Christ from the dead? It is also very remarkable that the resurrection inspired them with uncommon boldness. Before it happened they were remarkably timid and fearful, but afterwards they neither feared men nor devils. It is not less remarkable that they were all united in their testimony. Some of them doubted at first, and they all appear to have been slow of belief, but they had such evidence as removed every doubt. Nor could all their sufferings afterward, even death in its most in its most dreadful forms, nduce one of them to doubt, much less to deny this wonderful event. We may just notice an objection.
Did not the Jews account for his removal from the sepukhre another way? They certainly did, but their account confirms that of the disciples. They forged a
bare-faced lie, and bribed the soldiers to publish it: “You say; His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept”(Matt. 28: 13). Could they all be asleep at the same time?. If they were, how could they tell so exactly what was done? Was it possible for the poor timid disciples, who fled when Jesus was apprehended, to venture through a band of soldiers to steal the dead body of their Master? If the soldiers slept upon guard, why were they not punished with death? But we need not push this inquiry any further; the thmg speaks for itself
It is also worthy of notice, that the account of Christ's resurrection was written and published in the age when and in the country where he rose from the dead. And when the Gospels were first published, many of those Jews, who had killed the Prince of Ljfe were still alive. How easily might they have contradicted the apostles had they published falsehoods! How readily would they have done so with their deep-rooted malice, if they could have done it with credit to themselves. But who did contradict them? Can we produce one writer in that age, either Jewish or Pagan, who dared to call in question the plain, simple, and faithful narrative of the holy apostles? I never heard th4t any one attempted to disprove the fact;. and if it had been done, the vain attempt would have strengthened the cause of Christianity.
The miraculous out-pouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is another strong proof of Jesus' rsurrection. He had said to His apostles in the days of his flesh, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart I will send Him.”( John 16: 7). And just before his ascension, he commanded them not to depart form Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father to send the Spirit down in his miraculous influences. Accordingly, when the day Of Pentecost was fully come, the promise was fulfilled, and the apostles were qualified by various gifts of the Holy Spiritt for an extraordinary work. They were enabled to speak a variety of languages they had never learned, and to work astonishing miracles in the name of Jesus. The effects of that day were soon discovered, not only in Judea, but in every part of the Roman Empire. If there had been any doubts of Jesus' resurrection before that memorable day, those doubts must have been removed by the irresistible proof which was given in the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The rapid progress of Christianity immediately after that day, forms another powerful argument in favor of Christ's resurrection. The world was soon turned upside down. The heathen oracles were silenced, their temples were shut, their altars were thrown down; and Christianity, through the instrumentality of a few poor fishermen, triumphed every where. Surely the God of truth was with them. All the world was in arms against the apostles, and every means that could be devised was used to crush them; but all in vain. God being with them, the word grew and multiplied. Can we suppose that the God of truth would have sanctioned a lie? We allow that Mohammed, though a great impostor, had many followers, but they were obtained by fire, sword, and blood. The apostles had no power but that of God; and they used no means but such as were worthy of God They were men of strict integrity, deep pity, unwearied diligence, and heaven crowned all their labors with success.
Finally, Christ is called the first fruits of them that slept. The resurrection is
compared to a harvest. The bodies of men, like seed in the earth, are laid m the grave, and as sure as the seed quickens and grows, so surely shall they be quickened, and raised up. The growth of the seed is natural, but the resurrection of the dead will be supernatural. Omnipotence is necessary in both cases, and it is certain that omnipotent power can raise the dead, with as much ease as it can produce a grain of corn. Let those who doubt this recollect that by a word God created the world out nothing!
Christ is the firstfruits. Many indeed indeed were raised from the dead before he arose, but they died again. They were raised to mortality, but he was the first who rose to immortality. Death had no more power over him, being vanquished and overcome by his resurrection. How pleasing is the thought that death is a conquered enemy! Why then should we be afraid of it? Let us cast away our fears and live in a full assurance of a final conquest over the last enemy. As the firstfruits were a pledge of the general harvest, so the resurrection of Christ is a pledge of ours, and as sure as he arose, so surely shall we arise, “but, every man m his order: Christ the first-fruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming”(1 Cor.15:23). For wise reasons he suffers his saints to pass through death, and to lie in the grave. This, however painful, is a necessary part of his wise and gracious plan, and it should be submitted to with pious re signation. But we are assured by the resurrection of our Lord that this bondage will have an end. The truths of Christianity are established; death and the grave are conquered, and the resurrection of the dead is certain. When he shall descend from heaven in the glory of his Father, the saved of earth will rise from the dead and meet him in the air.*
*This message is a reproduction of sermon written by Jonathan Edmondson in 1852., I commend it to you.