The Authority of Scripture: No. 8 - The Resurrection

 •  18 min. read  •  grade level: 10
James Boyd
No. 8 — The Resurrection
As the authority of Scripture hangs upon the truth of the Person of Jesus, so does the truth of His Person hang upon the fact of the resurrection. It was by the resurrection from the dead He was declared Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:44And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (Romans 1:4)). The power by which He passed through this evil world, untainted by its defiling influences, was the power by which He offered Himself without spot to God, and by which He proved Himself victorious over death and the grave. One who has to do with death must attest his power over it, or it will attest its power over him. He must annul its might, and come back scathless from its gloom, or it will hold him prisoner in its strongholds of corruption, and thus declare its superior prowess.
From the entrance of sin into the world all who descended into those impenetrable and mysterious regions of fear had to remain there. In a few isolated cases the might of God was exhibited in bringing back again to life upon earth those who had fallen into the clutches of the fell destroyer, but such were never placed beyond the reach of the terrific foe. They were bearers of what might be likened to a “ticket of leave,” the time limit of which having expired they were once more compelled to enter the land of shades. We read of two men who escaped altogether the fate common to the sons of Adam. By the intervention of God on their behalf they were translated to heaven that they might not see death, and thus became witnesses of the hidden resources of God, which He could put forth for the complete deliverance of the people of His choice. With these two exceptions all in Adam died, and in death they remain.
Death is to man the most appalling evil that can come upon him; it is the most heartless and horrible mischief which one man can inflict upon another; and it is the most severe sentence which the law of the land can inflict upon a criminal. Satan has said that a man will give all he possesses for his life; and he is very well acquainted with the way in which men regard things which refer personally to themselves. Those who enjoy a fair share of the mercies of the present life, and to whom death seems far distant, may be found discussing the dissolution of the earthly tabernacle with a certain amount of calmness; but let the dread shadow of the grim monarch fall across their threshold, and you will find their tranquility brought to an abrupt and speedy termination, We seem never to become accustomed to its ravages. Familiarity with its silent footfall has not enabled us to hold its presence in contempt. It is today the same hideous, hateful, horrible invader of hearts and homes as it was at the outset of its reign on earth. He who guides it upon the track of his neighbor is branded as most wicked, and he who invites it to his own embrace is held to be insane. To the appeal for mercy it is deaf; to the question as to whence it comes it returns no answer; as to why it strikes it is dumb; as to whither it conducts the vital principle of its victim it has no information to convey to the unhappy and brokenhearted mourner. It strikes out from impenetrable darkness; and is only known by the certainty of its aim, and by the violence of the blow which needs not to be repeated. It has no more respect for the autocrat upon his throne than it has for the peasant in his humble cot, and it is equally dreaded by both. Its heart is harder than the flinty rock, and the only music it has ever heard is the lamentations which arise from the souls of those who feel the burden of its iron scepter. It is swifter than those who flee from it, and stronger than those who stand up to contend against it. It is the monarch of all evils, and is either the executioner of a righteous governor, or the pitiless slave of a being who revels in murder.
But after all, is it indeed a foe which has never known defeat? Has it proved itself victorious in every engagement? Has no one risen up on behalf of man with might enough to grapple with this terrific monster and lay in ruins his apparently impregnable fortress? Has no one been able to track him to his lair, and heap destruction upon the head of the destroyer? Is there no one to deliver us from this ruthless enemy of mankind? If not, our lot is indeed deplorable.
That it is a terrible evil none but a dreamer will deny, and when it is denied no one will believe in the sincerity of the person who attempts to minimize its horrors. It has been designated by every name that the ingenuity of man can invent, from “a bend in the road” to “annihilation,” all to relieve it of its hideous and repulsive appearance; but bitter death, call it what you will, is still the “King of terrors.” It is the just conclusion of a life of rebellion against God. And this is the very thing that makes it so terrible. Why should human life be so beset with sorrow? and why should the way out of it be so fenced with terror? Without the gospel of the grace of God the present life is an enigma incapable of solution.
Here the Scriptures come to our relief, and set before us the Son of God as our almighty Deliverer. In grace He goes down into death to break its power. That He might be able to die He took flesh and blood: “Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14, 1514Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14‑15)). Again we are told: “For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:2121For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:21)). It is impossible that such a person as the Son of God could be held by the cords of death. We should not require to be told that death must give way before such a glorious Personage. That Jesus came into death is a matter of profane history; that He came out of it is not. If He was compelled to remain there He was no stronger than any other of the human race.
There is nothing so persistently kept before our minds as resurrection — I may say death and resurrection. We have it every twenty-four hours set figuratively before our souls. The day declines, and noiseless night advances and wraps an unconscious world in her inky mantle. The morning breaks, night vanishes, the song of birds is heard, and man arises from his sleep refreshed, the toils of yesterday forever gone. The seasons run their course, the winter comes, the flowers are dead, the leaves fallen, the trees are bare, snows mantle the earth, and desolation broods over a lifeless world. The spring appears, the winter frosts and snows are gone, nature awakes, the daisies deck the field, the budding woods are full of life, and everything beneath the azure dome of heaven with bounding pulse, and bright brow, and gladsome heart, instinct with life, gives witness to the God of resurrection.
But when we come to the Scriptures, we find that from the entrance of sin into the world, resurrection is the hope of fallen man. Adam and Eve are no sooner brought under the power of death than they are made to hear of a Deliverer, One who was destined to bruise the head of their fell destroyer. Still they have to take their sorrowful journey down to the dust out of which they were taken. Where then would their deliverance come in? Of what value was a Deliverer to those who were compelled to submit to the penalty of their offense? How could they be made to profit by this Deliverer? As far as we know they knew nothing of a state of bliss for their spirits apart from the body. And even if they did, how could they be in the favor of their Creator, and in the enjoyment of that favor, while their bodies lay under the judgment pronounced by God on ‘account of their transgression? There was only one way by which their deliverance could be effected, and that one way was by resurrection.
I may be told that I am taking the early chapters of Genesis for granted, and that this is begging the question. I am taking nothing for granted. I am simply putting before the reader the things of which Scripture testifies, and the setting in which the things borne witness to are placed. A Deliverer is announced to those who are told they must return to dust, and I see no way in which they could hope to benefit by that Deliverer except on the principle of resurrection. If the whole matter recorded in the early chapters of Genesis be but the imagination of the writer, then the idea of resurrection must have had such hold upon his soul that it never occurred to him there might be a doubt as to it in the mind of the reader.
Enoch the seventh from Adam is translated, not passing through the article of death; another proof that resurrection is the way of deliverance for man: man is to have his body in his perfectly delivered state. Enoch has his body, and shall have it forever; for I suppose no one imagines that death stills lies before him, and if he is to have his body it is unreasonable to suppose other men can be blest without theirs. If we are not to have our bodies in our eternal condition, what confusion must arise from translation. I may be told Enoch never was translated. I have not affirmed that he was; I am speaking from Scripture. But I do affirm this, resurrection was in the mind of the writer of the book of Genesis.
Abraham and Sarah are childless until nature becomes withered and dead, and then God tells him that his seed shall be as the stars of heaven or the sand upon the sea shore for number, and Abraham read in this promise the character of the God who had appeared to him, the God of resurrection. This faith of the patriarch had a severe test applied to it when he was told to offer up this child of promise as a burnt-offering upon Mount Moriah; but his faith rose up strong in answer to the demand which was made upon it, and he bound his son upon the altar confident that God would raise him from the dead. It is the same God of resurrection who is preached in the gospel today, but brought to light in raising, up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.
It is brought before us typically in the dividing of the Red Sea, through which Israel passed out of Egypt into the wilderness; and in the parting of the waters of the Jordan, through which the same people came into the Promised Land. The Red Sea was not the usual way out of Egypt, neither was it necessary for them to cross the Jordan to come into Canaan. But just as death and resurrection were in the mind of him who wrote Genesis, so also was the mind of the writer of Exodus filled with the same idea. Then we have the budding of the rod of priesthood; the dry, dead staff which was laid up before the Lord, buds, blossoms, bears fruit, and thus witnesses that priesthood must be established upon the basis of resurrection.
At the cleansing of the leper the live bird let loose into the open heaven, bearing upon its wing the red stain of its identification with the one killed over running water in the earthen vessel also Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, set forth the same principle of divine operation. The fact is, if in reading the Old Testament the idea of resurrection is expunged from the mind the Bible is a book of unrivaled contradictions. That great principle pervades every sentence uttered by prophetic lip from the entrance of sin into the world.
Could anything be plainer than that resurrection was that which was the hope of the One who speaks in Psalm 16? “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol), neither wilt Thou suffer Thy holy One to see corruption.” Here is One who goes down into death in the utmost confidence that the power of God will not allow His soul to abide in Sheol, nor His flesh to see corruption. The apostles of the Lord tell us that this Psalm refers to the Christ of God. He could not be held by that dread power. By going into it He broke its might. Does not the whole heart and soul of the reader rise up in praise and thanksgiving to God for the victory which He has gained, gained at such infinite cost, but nevertheless gained on behalf of poor things like ourselves that we might no longer be in bondage to Satan on account of the fear of it.
As I have already indicated, resurrection is, according to Scripture, a great witness to the glory and greatness of the person of Jesus. During His earthly career, instead of being as every other man under the power of death, He is seen to have power over it, for at His word it was compelled to deliver up its prey. But above all, His own resurrection furnishes the most complete evidence of His dignity as Son of God. When Moses smote the waters of the Red Sea they became parted hither and thither, their power was broken, and when Jesus smote the waters of death in His own death upon the cross their power was broken; His resurrection is the witness to this stupendous fact.
“He hell in hell laid low,
Made sin He sin o’erthrew,
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death by dying slew.”
The witnesses to this mighty victory are overwhelming, and I do not therefore marvel at men, who wish to get rid of the fact, and yet do not feel that they can safely impute deceitful practices to the disciples, suggesting all sorts of theories which they consider sufficient to account for their belief in the event without it being really true. But I would like to ask these men a very old question: “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead”? Had fallen man been the one declared to have gained such a victory, it would have been very reasonable to doubt it, but as it is declared to have been brought about by the power of God I see no reason to question it. No doubt the enemy would desire to treat the report as a fable. He is not likely to foster the notion in men’s minds that his stronghold has fallen before the assault of the Son of God, but the witnesses are so many and of such unquestionable integrity that not to believe the fact is a terrible evidence of sheer self-will.
Paul tells us that Jesus was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once. After that He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of Paul himself. Luke tells us in his gospel that He appeared to two of them on their way home from Jerusalem to Emmaus; and was made known to them in the breaking of bread, the symbol of His death; that He ate and drank with His disciples, and that when they thought it was a spirit they were looking upon, He invited them to handle Him and see, telling them that a spirit had not flesh and bones, as they saw He had. Next, he tells us that He led a company out as far as Bethany, and that while, with uplifted hands, He blessed them, He was parted from them and carried up into heaven (Luke 24). And in what a pure and guileless atmosphere of holy affections this short history of the victory of God is enshrined. Never in the universe has appeared the liar who could set the baseless inventions of his corrupt imagination in such a framework of tender grace and evident piety. Had I no other testimony than that which is furnished by the writer of the third gospel I dare not question the glad tidings of the overthrow of the king of terrors.
And Paul tells us he saw Him on his way to Damascus, when he thought to wipe out the blessed name of Jesus from under heaven. That this remarkable convert was neither a deceiver nor a liar is evident from the whole spirit of his writings. Whatever else was true of him he was conscientious, and was certain that he had seen the Just One and heard His voice. Was he mistaken? Was it the effect of sunstroke? Was it hallucination, or some insane wandering of his excited mind? That he was a man with determined will is not to be questioned, but that he was nervous, hysterical, mentally deranged, and subject to hallucinatory attacks, no one who studies his profound, pure, and wholesome disquisitions will be willing to admit. What insight into the mysteries of God he possessed, things which eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor which ever entered into the heart of man — things which God has prepared for those who love Him. What an immense grasp of his infinite subject, what profound reasoning, what ability for anticipating the caviling of the corrupt human mind, what terrible earnestness, what self-abnegation, what deep piety, and what boundless affection for the souls of those to whom he writes. And all this resulted from that visitation which he encountered on his way to Damascus.
And yet some of the leaders in Christendom tell us Paul never saw the risen Jesus at all, and neither did His disciples, for such a thing as the resurrection never took place. And how do they know? They do not know. They are servants of his who desires to keep poor man in the dark as to his own defeat. And yet they call themselves Christians, at least some of them do, while they deny the foundation upon which the whole truth as to Christianity rests. And they tell us that Christianity is not a bad thing, though if we believe them it is founded upon the blackest bundle of lies that ever was told under the sun. Some of them in their madness go so far as to suppose that the power of the spirit-world was put forth to deceive the poor disciples, so that they might believe in a thing that had no existence, and thus be strengthened in the notion that nothing good could ever really perish (New Theology, page 219), and the spirit of Jesus is supposed to have lent a helping hand in this trickery. Strange morality this! It is evident that very soon in Christendom the devil will have no reason to disguise himself, they will be quite open to receive him as he is.
It was not in this way the apostles of our Lord instructed their converts. They gave them to understand that a lie was a lie, and that a lie against God was the greatest of all lies (1 Cor. 15.). They tell us: “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is Christ not raised: and if Christ be not raised your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”
This is wholesome doctrine compared with the corrupt ethics which the leaders of the people, today, seek to foist upon us. How can the truth be respected in secular things when the religion in which they attempt to instruct the people is founded on a falsehood, which is by them justified, and declared to have been concocted or connived at by the Savior of the world? If I could not believe in the resurrection I should abandon the profession of Christianity as a system of unparalleled deceit, hypocrisy, and soul-destroying error.
Let us turn every circumstance of the day into an occasion of communion with God; things of small account will then bring us great blessing.
Let us solemnly consider how much we may injure others when we are fretful and willful, and how much we may help others when we are joyful in God.