The Resurrection

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The saints are the witnesses of the Lord's resurrection. Our souls too little dwell on the stupendous import of the act which introduced a total change in the position and character of God's people. Not in the nature of their redemption; for as guilty they always needed forgiveness of sins; and as sinners it was always necessary that they should be born again to enter the kingdom of God.
But besides the fact that forgiveness of sins was not entered into as a present and assured blessing before the resurrection, the earth and blessing on it, length of days, and abundance of riches, with the favor of God, were what bounded the vision of the saints. An Abraham might not actually get so much of the promised inheritance as to set his foot on; and a David might suffer persecution under the government of God, though he were God's chosen king; but the revelation given to them respectively of the seed, in whom all the nations would be blessed, and by whom the land would be possessed, and of the final judgment of the wicked, and deliverance of the righteous, satisfied their minds so that they went on contentedly with God and what they had. Thus also was it with others who embraced the promises as having seen them afar off, but who died in faith, not having received them. The Spirit of God in Heb. 11 gives His own value to the faith that thus simply waited on God, and so connects it with unseen and heavenly blessings. But we are not to suppose that these saints had a portion in heaven definitely before their minds; for such was not revealed to them, and they were taught to look for the time when there would be no obstacle to God's blessing His people here on earth, and even when the traces of sin would be removed from it.
There is a decided and complete change in this respect when resurrection is accomplished. Not only is heaven presented as the proper sphere of the blessings of the saints now, and earth is definitely refused, and the world separated from, as unfit for them in their true character, but the character and extent of the blessings which are revealed are now found to be expressed in that which the Lord Jesus enjoys as the risen and ascended Son of man. We may perhaps take verses 42, 43 of Luke 23 as illustrating this, what the thief actually received from the Lord being a figure of the blessing of the saints now in contrast to the portion proposed in verse 42, which will be that of the Jew in the future day. " Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom," was all that the Scriptures would then have led one to expect; and so this man, who was subject then to the teaching of the Spirit, was led into the revealed mind of God. But, " To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise," is perfectly new. Literally it, of course, refers to the state of his soul, his condition of existence, immediately after death; but in figure it sets forth the kind of blessing the Church has in contrast to the other. The resurrection is everything to her, and chap. 24. brings this out.
The angels announce it (5: 4-8), almost reproaching the disciples for being so untrue to their peculiar blessing as still to cling to earthly hopes, when they say, " Why seek ye the living One among the dead?" He is not to be found in this world at all for us, and to expect to find Him here, or to seek to connect Him with earthly hopes, is to seek the living One among the dead. "He is not here, He is risen: remember how He spake unto you." He had sought in His love and care for them to prepare their hearts by His words; but these hearts, as usual, proved truant; but "they remembered His words."
We see the great difficulty which they had in apprehending it at first in verses 10, 11; and it appears (from vv. 13-25) that the disciples even went back to earthly concerns in a spirit which gave up and denied the truth of all their blessing as connected with Him in His new character and position. But they are immediately set right, and their hearts recalled, when He is known to them as Lord in resurrection, and they at once return to their proper path as connected with this One (vv. 31-34) of whom they are to testify. It should be remarked, that though the Lord graciously drew near to them in their backsliding, and gave them communications of His mind from the Scriptures, so as to cause exercise of heart in them, still "their heart burning within them " must not be mistaken for communion with Him, for His presence was at that time unknown to them. They were not intelligently enjoying His company, and true communion there could not be without that enjoyment. They find on returning that the same Lord has thought of others of His doubting people; but those who were not so ready to act in self-will have the truth brought home to them sooner, and without their experiences. The eleven, and those with them, are found gathered together, saying, " The Lord is risen indeed." He appears amongst them to strengthen and confirm this faith (vv. 35-43), and shows them how that He Himself, known as thus risen, is the key to the entire Scriptures (vv. 44, 45), making them witnesses of the truth (v. 48) thus brought out, and connecting them by the gift of the Spirit (v. 49) with Himself as ascended to glory (vv. 50, 51), and truly an object of worship, as well as a subject of joy and praise. (vv. 52, 53)
Thus the proper blessing of the Church is immense. She does not wait till the kingdom will display the truth as to Christ, but even now enters into God's thoughts about Him by virtue of knowing Him so immediately. Not only so, but also the measure of the glory in which Christ in resurrection is known being far above that of the kingdom, the extent to which divine wisdom in the Word is opened is immensely greater now than then.
F. J. R.