Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically, today’s selected reading is found in verses twenty-three through twenty-seven of the chapter. As this chapter begins and opens up, it does so with the apostle Paul confirming and affirming the gospel he preached unto all the churches in Asia, and unto the Gentiles. The gospel which Paul preached was a gospel that was centered upon the death and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, His burial in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimethea and His subsequent resurrection from the grave on the third day. To understand the gospel of Paul one must move and look no further than the cross and the tomb, for it was both the cross and the tomb which stood at the center of everything Paul believed and therefore preached. It’s absolutely imperative and necessary to recognize and understand that the gospel which Paul received he received not from men but from revelation of and revelation from Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. The gospel which Jesus received—the gospel he preached and delivered unto the Gentiles was not a gospel that originated with men but rather from specific and continual revelation from Jesus Himself as He spent three years in the desert of Arabia. It was there in the desert alone with himself and with the Lord who appeared to him on the road to Damascus that Paul received the revelation of the cross and the tomb.
What we read and what we find in the fifteenth chapter of the epistle which was Trotter unto the Corinthian congregation was a direct response to those among them who believed not that there was a resurrection from the dead. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that there were those who actually held to and believed that there wasn’t a resurrection from the dead. Consider how absolutely discouraging and hopeless such a concept truly was for those within this congregation, for to believe and declare that there was no resurrection from the dead emphatically suggests that there was no hope beyond the tomb and the grave we all find ourselves in when we go the way of all the earth. To believe that there is no resurrection from the dead is to also believe that there is absolutely no hope beyond the grave. What’s more, is that to believe that there was no resurrection from the grave is to live for this life alone and that which is temporal. What an absolutely erroneous and tragic notion and belief it is to even conceive within ones mind that there is no resurrection of the dead. How incredibly dangerous and tragic it is to believe that there is no resurrection of the dead, for to believe such a false delusion and lie is to limit oneself to this life and what is on this side of the grave alone.
With the fifteenth chapter of this first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints—although in the original manuscript there were neither chapters nor verses—the apostle Paul sets forth to correct the misguided belief that there was no resurrection of the dead. Such a teaching was not first found during the days of the apostle Paul Abe among the Corinthian congregation, but was found during and even in Jesus’ day among a specific religious group who believed there was no resurrection. What is absolutely intriguing is that not only did the apostle Paul combat the false teaching that there was no resurrection, but so also did Jesus. If you read, study and examine the life and ministry of Jesus you will quickly discover that almost immediately He found Himself at odds with the religious community and establishment that was present during His days and generation. If you want to understand the life and ministry of Jesus, one must understand that Jesus didn’t merely confront sickness, disease, infirmity, death and demons, but Jesus also combatted religion, legalism and hypocrisy. Between the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of Israel, the Pharisees, and the sadducees, Jesus had His hands full with the religious establishment that was present during those days. It was among the Pharisees and the scribes Jesus confronted legalism and hypocrisy, however, it was among the group known as the Sadducees that Jesus had to confront a specific sect and group of individuals who did not themselves believe in the resurrection of the dead. I can’t help but wonder if Paul wasn’t reminded of this group when writing this particular chapter within this epistle. In fact, if you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-second chapter of Matthew’s gospel, you will find a specific occurrence of the Sadducees when they came unto Jesus in order to tempt Him. Consider if you will the account as it unfolds according to Matthew:
“The same day came to Him the Sadducees, which say that there is not resurrection, and asked Him, saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? For they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His doctrine” (Matthew 22:23-33).
This particular passage is instrumental in any attempt to understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle unto the Corinthians. The reason it is instrumental is because the apostle Paul wasn’t the first who combatted the false concept and notion that there wasn’t a resurrection of the dead. Within the twenty-second chapter of the gospel of Matthew we not only find the Sadducees, we not only find the Sadducees coming unto Jesus, but we also find Matthew describing the Sadducees as those who did not believe there was a resurrection. What’s actually quite remarkable and incredible about this particular account and encounter Jesus had with the Sadducees is actually not in their question with which they attempted to trick and tempt Him, but rather in His response to their question. If you read this passage you will find Jesus—almost without even missing a beat—immediately responding to this particular group by emphatically declaring unto them that they did err. Pause for a moment and allow that to sink in for a moment, for when speaking to and addressing the Sadducees on this occasion, Jesus emphatically and without reservation proclaimed unto them that they did err in their thinking and in their belief. Jesus wasted absolutely no time and held no punches when declaring unto them that they did err, for their doctrine and their belief was completely erroneous and false. What is actually quite remarkable about this passage of Scripture is that not only did Jesus declare unto the Sadducees that they did err, but He also declared unto them that they did not know the Scriptures, nor the power of God. It is necessary that we pay close attention to Jesus’ words here, for these words are an incredible tool to debunk the false notion and belief that there is, and perhaps even that there can be no resurrection from the dead.
YE DO ERR! NOT KNOWING THE SCRIPTURES! NOR THE POWER OF GOD! YOU DO ERR AND ARE IN ERROR! YOU DO NOT KNOW THE SCRIPTURES! YOU DO NOT KNOW THE POWER OF GOD! With these words Jesus didn’t merely declare unto the Sadducees that they did err, but He also declared unto them that they did not know the Scriptures, nor the power of God. The final two components of this particular statement unto the Sadducees are worth placing emphasis on, for anyone who believes there is no resurrection from the dead neither knows the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Why? How? How could Jesus declare unto this group who believed there was no resurrection from the dead that they did err, and their neither knew the Scriptures, nor the power of God? It’s one thing for Jesus to declare unto the Sadducees that they did err in their doctrine and thinking, but it is something else entirely to declare unto them that they neither knew the Scriptures nor the power of God. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us today not only do err in their thinking and belief, but also know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God. These twin concepts—knowing the Scriptures and knowing the power of God—is paramount for our understanding correctly, and for our belief. It is only in knowing the Scriptures that we can truly have a proper doctrine—one that is pleasing in the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father who is in heaven. To deny that there is no resurrection is not only an affront and an assault to the Scripture itself, but it is also an affront and an assault to the power of God. To actually deny that there isn’t a resurrection of the dead is to deny the power of God, and what a tragic place it is to deny the power of God. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of his epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Rome: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: FOR IT IS THE POWER OF GOD unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).
There is a powerful passage of Scripture which is found in the sixth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Roman congregation which must be carefully considered if we are going to continue in this discussion concerning the resurrection of the dead. Beginning to read with the first verse of the sixth chapter we find the following words written by the apostle Paul: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14).
It isn’t enough to read and consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth chapter of this epistle unto the Romans, but it also necessary to read and consider the first eleven verses of the eighth chapter of the same epistle. Beginning to read with the first verse of the chapter we find the following words which were written by the apostle: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likensss of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, He is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:1-11).
If you turn and direct your attention to the sixth chapter of this epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, you will find another powerful reference concerning the resurrection and the power of God. Beginning to read with the twelfth verse of the sixth chapter you will find the following words: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord: and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raise up the Lord, and will also raise up us by His own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an Harley? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which h is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). It is what the apostle writes in the fourteenth verse of this passage of Scripture that I must carefully point out, for the apostle Paul declared that just as surely as God did raise up the Lord, so also will He raise up us by His own power. It is absolutely necessary that we understand the resurrection of Jesus Christ form the dead, for it is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that stands as the first fruits of the countless resurrections from the dead that will be experienced in that day when the trump shall sound, and the Lord shall descend with a shout. Anyone who would wish to deny the resurrection of the dead must also deny Scripture, and must deny the power of God, for Jesus was raised from the dead according to Scripture, and Jesus was raised from the grave and from death by the power of God.
ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE! BY THE POWER OF GOD! When speaking of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is is necessary that we understand these two concepts—that of His resurrection ring according to Scripture, and that of His resurrection being by the power of God—for apart from and without a proper understanding of these two concepts we cannot fully and completely understand the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was raised from death to life according to Scripture, for it was according to Scripture that Jesus must needs be raised from the dead. The resurrection which Jesus Christ experienced from the grave on the third day was about more than just raising Him from death to life in order that He might triumph over it, but also that it might fulfill the Scriptures that Christ must be raised from the dead. The resurrection which Jesus Christ experienced from the grave was not only necessary to fulfill Scripture, but it was also necessary to demonstrate the power of God. The apostle Paul declared unto the Roman congregation that he was not ashamed of the gospel, for it was the gospel which was the power of God unto salvation to those who believed. What is the gospel which Paul preached except that and other than that Jesus Christ came and took on the form of human flesh, that He was crucified by the hands of sinful men, was buried in a borrowed tomb and on the third day was raised from death to life according to the Scriptures and by the power of God. There is a particular passage found within the twenty-fourth and final chapter of the gospel according to Luke which helps illustrate this point even further—that Christ’s resurrection from the dead was not only by the power of God, but was also to fulfill that which was written concerning Him in Scripture. Beginning to read with the thirteenth verse of the twenty-fourth verse you find the following words:
“And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while they communed together and reasons, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And He said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not His body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but Him they saw not. Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:13-27).
These two men—one of which was named Cleopas—were traveling on the third day after Jesus was crucified atop Calvary and Golgotha, and were traveling to a village called Emmaus. The question I find myself asking when reading this passage of Scripture is why these two men were traveling on the road to Emmaus away from and outside of Jerusalem. As you read this passage of Scripture you will find that while they walked and talked with Jesus on this road to Emmaus, they recounted unto Jesus Himself how certain women made them astonished when they declared how when they went to the sepulchre to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, they found the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, and angels of the Lord before them proclaiming that Jesus was not here, but had indeed and in fact risen as He said He would. What’s more, is that these men also spoke of themselves as being among those who received this report, and that certain of them who were with them arose and went to the sepulchre in order to verify that what these two women had stated was in fact true. If these two men heard the report of the women, and if these two men perhaps even heard the report of the disciples when they had confirmed the report that the tomb was in fact empty, why were they traveling on the road to Emmaus away from Jerusalem? I am convinced that this was perhaps the reason Jesus chose to meet up with them and join them on the road to Emmaus, for He knew and recognized that they had heard the report of His resurrection from the dead from the women who had visited the tomb, as well as perhaps the report of those among them who arose and went unto the tomb themselves. Jesus found these men as they were traveling away from Jerusalem for He sought to bring them back to the city—back to the place of resurrection, back to the place where Scripture was fulfilled, and where the power of God was demonstrated and manifested upon the earth. Jesus met up with these men as they traveled along the way, for He must needs reveal unto them all things concerning Himself beginning with Moses and the prophets. When speaking unto them and confirming that the events which took place needed to take place, Jesus used the words of Moses and the prophets in order to emphatically declare that He not only needed to die in order to fulfill Scripture, but He also needed to be raised from the grave to fulfill Scripture and to demonstrate the power of God.
Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth in this particular passage of Scripture beginning with the twelfth verse and continuing through to the twenty-seventh verse: “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But 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 fain. 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 not Christ 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. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him” (1 Corinthians 15:12-27).
When I read the words of the apostle Paul within this particular set of verses, I am not only convinced that the resurrection of Jesus must needs take place in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, and that the power of God might be demonstrated and manifested within the earth, but the resurrection of Jesus Christ was also the first phase in the ultimate display of authority and power—namely, that death and hell would both be destroyed, and would be cast into hell. RESURRECTION IS ONLY THE BEGINNING! RESURRECTION WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING! The more I read the words of the apostle within this passage of Scripture the more I am convinced that resurrection—the resurrection of Jesus Christ specifically—was only the beginning and was a powerful portent and prophetic sign that both pointed and revealed the incredible truth that there is coming a day when death will not only once and for all be overthrown, but death itself will be cast into hell. Christ’s resurrection from the dead demonstrated and revealed that death is completely and totally powerless to withstand the power of God. What’s more, is that death was absolutely and completely powerless to withstand Scripture itself, for death could not stand in the way of the fulfillment of Scripture. When I read and consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I can’t help but see within His resurrection a powerful statement and declaration that death and hell had no authority. I can’t help but wonder if when Christ descended into Sheol through the portal of death He did not emphatically declare that not only would sin no longer have any dominion over men, but neither would death, and even hell itself have any dominion over men. I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that when Christ descended into the depths of the earth within those three days that He emphatically declared unto all those spirits which were confined within the depths that He was going to emerge—not only from hell, not only from death, but also from the grave. ASCENDED FROM THE DEPTHS, EMERGED FROM THE GRAVE, ASCENDED TO THE FATHER.
Please pay close attention to those final three statements, for I am convinced that those statements hold a powerful prophetic declaration and truth which we must recognize and understand within our own lives. I am firmly convinced that when Jesus was raised from death to life and when He ascended from the depths of Sheol He emphatically declared that He was only the beginning. I AM ONLY THE BEGINNING! THERE WILL BE MORE! I can’t help but get the strong sense that when Jesus ascended He emphatically demonstrated and declared that there would be more who would themselves attain victory over death, over the grave, and even over hell itself. I can’t help but get the powerful sense that Jesus could very easily have declared unto the devil and all the foul and evil spirits, and all the principalities, and all the demons themselves that as surely as His death was only the beginning, so also His resurrection was only the beginning. I am utterly and completely shocked when I read that there were those who believed there was no resurrection of the dead, for there is within the resurrection of the dead a powerful statement that neither death, nor hell, nor even the grave holds any authority over us who are in Christ and who believe. DEATH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING! RESURRECTION IS ONLY THE BEGINNING! ASCENSION IS ONLY THE BEGINNING! What we must recognize is that the path Jesus took—from the cross, to the grave, to the throne—is the same path we ourselves have been called to take. Just as surely as Jesus died and was crucified, so also must we be crucified with Him. Just as surely as Jesus was raised from death to life and experienced the resurrection from the grave, so also do we experience resurrection from the grave and from death to life. What’s more, is that just as Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father when He ascended from the earth, so also will we who believe ascend unto Christ when we meet Him in the air, and ascend to the Father who is in heaven. If we are unwilling to believe and/or acknowledge that there be a resurrection from the dead, we not only have to deny the Scriptures, we not only have to deny the power of God, but we must also deny the reality of ascension—both ascension from the very depths of that which would destroy us, and ascension with Christ before the throne of God in heaven. Resurrection was only the beginning, for the resurrection of Christ was the first of countless resurrections which would take place. What’s more, is that the ascension of Christ was only the beginning, for Christ’s ascension unto His Father in heaven would be the first of countless ascensions of men and women who would ascend into heaven and would find themselves before the throne of God in heaven.