Christ, the Resurrection and the Life
Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again." John 11:25
Words of Divine majesty and of sublime import! Who could in truth have spoken them but Essential Life? They were uttered at the grave, and rang in living, crushing tones through the dark domain and dungeon of death. The tomb was shaken, the grim tyrant relaxed his grasp, and "he who was dead came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes." Jesus- Lazarus- and death- stand before us in the scene, types of people and of truths with which we have an individual, solemn, and eternal relation. One object, however, must alone engage our especial study- it is He who occupies the central position of the picture- Christ, the "Resurrection and the Life." We have, as yet, considered no title of our Lord which blends our thoughts with a scene of such sublime interest as the present. The resurrection of Christ as a fact of our religion, and the resurrection of the body as an event in our history, are obviously so essential to the truth of the one, and so entwined with the hopes of the other, it is impossible not to regard them as two of the most vital and glorious doctrines which can possibly challenge the belief and engage the study of the Christian mind. And as the Church of God, at the present season, irrespective of its different nationalities and denominational distinctions- is a devout and adoring worshiper at the Savior's tomb, it may be proper that these pages, in sympathy with the solemn yet joyous occasion, should aid in molding and animating its meditations upon "the hope of Israel"- Christ's resurrection for us, and our resurrection with Him. These words of Jesus are as a voice from the grave. They are uttered in tones of peculiar emphasis and solemnity. It was not likely that in a position of such solemnity, and surrounded by an audience of so unique and, in some respects, of so skeptical a character, Jesus would have given utterance to words not pregnant of the profoundest meaning, and capable of withstanding the severest test of truth. When, therefore, in response to the confession of Martha, who boldly asserted her belief in the doctrine of the resurrection at the last day, "Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life," we may be assured that He represented Himself as wearing a title the import of which was of the most vital and sublime character. Let us illustrate this magnificent title of our Lord, and then trace some of the precious blessings which result from it to the saint and the sinner. IN WHAT SENSE IS CHRIST THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE?
He is essentially so. When He says, "I am the Resurrection and the Life," He speaks as Jehovah, He spears absolutely as God. He in effect says, "I am the infinite, eternal, self-existent Jehovah. I am uncreated, the fountain of life; all life flows originally and essentially from Me." To take a lower view of the Speaker than this, to give to His words an interpretation less important and divine, would at once be to compromise the entire subject of these pages. The magnificent superstructure of the Resurrection rests entirely upon the personal dignity of our Lord. If He is not divinely, essentially "the Life"- that is, ceasing to be God if He were not so- then there is no "resurrection to eternal life." There would be a resurrection of the whole human race, but it would be the "resurrection of damnation." It is because Resurrection life in Christ is essential and divine- uncreated, independent, exhaustless, and, therefore, deathless- that the grave of those who sleep in Jesus is lighted up with the luster and glory of the first resurrection.
Oh, what majesty, what authority, what power beams forth from this declaration- "I am the Resurrection and the Life!" Never did our Lord utter words more worthy of Himself, or assume an attitude more dignified and sublime. Christ was the Resurrection and the Life infinite ages before a pulse of life beat in angel or human form. Dwelling in His own eternity, happy in His own existence, He was the Resurrection and the Life when there was no other intelligence to admire His glory but Himself. I pray, my reader, that your faith in this truth may be no vague, unsound thing. In proportion to your belief in the Godhead of the Savior will be your confidence in the truth and possibility of the resurrection. That there are mysteries in that truth I fully concede- mysteries which must ever elude the grasp and baffle the research of the most potent and sagacious inquirer; nevertheless, confronted with this doctrine of Christ's infinite nature, brought to the touch of His Divine and essential Omnipotence, they vanish like the dew of the morning, or the spray of the sea. If, then, our Lord is essentially the Resurrection and the Life, shall it be thought a thing incredible that He should raise the dead?
Our Lord is the "Resurrection and the Life,'' as it is by Him the doctrine of the resurrection and of eternal life is revealed. Until He uplifted the veil, the most dim and confused notions of a future state existed. The Jews, it is true, believed in the doctrine, but their traditions so neutralized and their corruptions so overlaid it, as almost entirely to veil its glory and to destroy its influence. But Christ revealed the truth. "Bringing life and immortality to light by the gospel," He uplifted the veil of the future, scattered the shadows of the tomb, and declared, "The hour is coming in the which all that are in the grave shall come forth; those who have done good unto the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." Having thus revealed, He proceeded to illustrate the doctrine. Two examples shall suffice. The touching narrative of the first runs thus-
A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The boy who had died was the only son of a widow, and many mourners from the village were with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. "Don't cry!" he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. "Young man," he said, "get up." Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk to those around him! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:12-15
Each feature of this remarkable incident is replete with the most tender instruction. We may note the compassionate love of Christ for the widow, His sympathy with the sorrow of her bereavement, and His power over death. It is this latter feature which presents Him before us at this moment encircled with the deepest interest. Who but "the Resurrection and the Life" could have stood between that corpse and the grave, and before the body had reached its home, summoned back its departed spirit, rekindling the inanimate clay with life, intelligence, and beauty?
This compassion of Jesus towards the mourning widow, bereft of her earthly prop, unveils an exquisite trait of His character. Of the many cases of human suffering which came under our Lord's notice, not one exceed this in its touching interest. She was a widow, a bereaved widow, following her only son to the grave. What an appropriate occasion for the interposition of His sympathy as man and of His power as God! Every spring of His compassion was unveiled, every resource of His Deity employed. He stopped the coffin, awoke the dead, gave back the son, and made the widow's heart to sing for joy! Truly is He the "Resurrection and the Life."
Weeping widow! Christ can as easily awaken the dead soul as He did the lifeless body. Are you mourning over the spiritual death of your child? Are you following in tears, entreaties, and prayers your son, sinful and wayward, as to an early and dishonored grave? Weep not, then, afflicted parent! Christ, who is our life, passes by. And although spiritual death may hold its subject firm within its iron grasp, and unbelief would suggest, "Your son is dead, trouble not the master," yet He who once spoke the words, "Young man, I say unto you, Arise!" can speak the words of life, and your son lives! A Christian mother's prayers were never lost! Your son may be far from God, dead in trespasses and in sins, yet, though the child of many tears of anguish, he is the child of many prayers of faith, and those prayers shall come up through Christ as a memorial before God, your son given back to you again, by Him who is the Resurrection and the Life.
The second illustration our Lord gave of the doctrine He had come to reveal is that with which His present title especially stands connected. In introducing it the evangelist thus gives us the key-note to the thrilling narrative. "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus." But Lazarus, the sick one whom He loved, was dead, and it was around his grave the group we are now depicting was gathered. And what a group! There were present the Jews who "came to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother." Still nearer to the grave stood the bereaved sisters, the one loud and impassioned in her grief, the other silent and thoughtful. In the center of the group stands Jesus, dignified and majestic, yet groaning in spirit and bathed in tears. Lifting His eyes to heaven, he prays, Father, I thank You that You have heard me. And I know that you hear me always." "And when He had thus spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth! And he that was dead came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes."
How resplendent the glory of Jesus now as the "Resurrection and the Life." He had revealed the fact of the resurrection; He now confirms it. He had brought life and immortality to light by His gospel; He now illustrates it. He had declared Himself the "Resurrection and the Life;" He now proves His right to the magnificent title by re-opening Hades and by unsealing the grave. Here let us pause and bid you thus reason- "Am I a disciple of Jesus, learning at His feet the mystery of the resurrection and the truth of my future and endless life? These subjects are vast. Their mystery baffles me, their solemnity awes me, their greatness overpowers me. Reason tells me, and conscience echoes the truth, there is a future state where I am to live forever. But I am perplexed, bewildered, and in darkness. Where can I turn? Where shall I find the light for which I yearn? the rest for which I sigh?" Come, you doubting and perplexed inquirer, and take your place as a true, lowly disciple at the feet of Him who is the "Resurrection and the Life," and learn of Him. He alone can solve your doubts, remove your perplexities, and quell your fears. Believe in Him, receive in humble faith His Word, trust in His salvation, and life and immortality will shed the luster of its hope upon your soul.
Our Lord Jesus not only reveals the doctrine, but IN HIM IS LODGED THE POWER OF BESTOWING THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. Essentially, the blessing belongs to Him. As no other being could make it known, so no other could confer it. Martha, to whom the title was originally declared, acknowledged her belief in the general fact of the resurrection, and also in its particular application to the case of her brother. "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." But our Lord leads her farther than this. He draws her from the fact of a resurrection to Himself, the Resurrection- from a doctrine to a Person.
Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this, Martha?" John 11:25-26 In other words- "I am essentially the Resurrection and the Life. I, by my own divine power, can raise your brother when and how I please. I hold in my hands the keys of hell (Hades) and of death, and by a word can recall the spirit and rekindle the dust." And then follows the glorious confession of her faith- "Yes, Lord," she told him. "I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God." John 11:27
It is a glorious truth that the power by which the dead are raised belongs to Christ! That He will occupy a prominent place in the resurrection at the last day is evident from His own testimony. "Verily, verily I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and those who hear shall live." "No man can come to me, except the Father, who has sent me, draws him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Thrice these words are repeated in the course of this chapter- "I will raise him up at the last day." In this sense our Lord is emphatically the "Resurrection and the life." In that great day when the Lord shall descend from heaven, and the trumpet of the archangel shall sound, the divine power of Jesus will light up the dust of all the buried dead with life and immortality- some to honor and some to dishonor. "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live."
Oh, sinner, if you do not hear the voice now uttered in tones of mercy and speaking words of salvation and of love, you will hear it then in tones of anger and speaking words of woe. You may now be as the deaf adder, wilfully closing your ears to the voice of the charmer, but the day is coming when you will, you must, you shall, hear the voice of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, piercing the "dull, cold ear of death," reverberating through the silent mansions of the grave, quickening you with resurrection-life, and summoning you to the final and dread judgment. Oh, listen to the voice of Jesus! Turn not from it- it is for your life. Bend close a hearkening ear; fall low at His feet; hang intently upon His lips; catch every word of grace that proceeds out of His mouth, for "now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." Oh, Lamb of God! let me hear Your voice of love and mercy now that, when I hear Your resurrection-voice at the last day, exclaiming, "Arise, you dead, and come to judgment!" I may then recognize it as the same almighty voice that roused me from a death of sin and quickened me into a life of righteousness; that said unto me, "Live," and henceforth I lived to You.
But Christ, by His own resurrection, has ESTABLISHED HIS DIVINE AND EXCLUSIVE CLAIM TO THE TITLE He now wears as the "Resurrection and the Life." This fact in His history and this doctrine of our faith constitutes the central principle of both. It is a self-evident truth that had He not risen from the dead, all His pretensions to Messiahship, all His claims to be the Son of God and the Savior of sinners, must have fallen to the ground; and in that fall must have perished the salvation of the Church and the hope of the sinner. But no such event awaited Christ, and no such catastrophe awaits man. He arose from the dead exactly as types foreshadowed, and as prophets predicted, as He Himself promised, and as evangelists and apostles testified and preached, and He was thus "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Were it our present object to meet the cavil of the infidel, rather than confirm the faith and comfort the heart of the Christian, nothing were easier than to demonstrate, on Scripture grounds, the truth of Christ's resurrection; thus establishing His claim to the sublime title these pages assign to Him. The facts in His case were indisputable. He was brought before the tribunal of Pilate, He was tried, was sentenced to death, was crucified, was taken down from the cross, was laid in a new sepulcher, a stone was rolled against the door, it was sealed, and a watch set over it of Roman soldiers, to whom it was certain death had they slept. The victory of His foes seemed now certain and complete. But vain were their precautions, and still more vain their momentary triumph! A messenger from heaven, "his clothing white as snow, and his countenance like lightning," came and rolled back the stone from the door, and the Son of God rose triumphant! And when the holy women came in the gray twilight of morning to the tomb, lo! they were challenged by the inquiry, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, He has risen. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." And then, to meet all credulity and to set at rest all doubt, He appeared in His risen body among the twelve apostles as they were assembled in an upper room, exhibited the scars of His wounds, and with His own lips assured those who it was even He Himself, and said unto them, "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things." And thus instructed and confirmed, the apostles went forth preaching everywhere, "and with great power gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all."
Now, what are some of the BLESSINGS which specially accrue to us from the fact of Christ's resurrection? The reply to this question will conclude this chapter, with an experimental and practical application of our subject. We have already presented as one illustration of this magnificent title of our Lord, the light which it throws upon the great and sublime fact of our eternal future. In His resurrection from the dead we have shown that Christ has emphatically "brought life and immortality to light." Until the bars of His prison were unloosed, and the door of His sepulcher was thrown open, a dense and impervious haze enveloped the doctrine of a future state. The Pentateuch, it is true, threw some rays of light upon the dark cloud; they were, however, but faint and few. The heathen, also, were not without some dim conceptions of the existence of a future state of the soul, as their pagan idea of Tartarus as a place of torment, and of Elysium as one of happiness testifies. But it was reserved for the Resurrection of Christ fully to uplift the veil and bring to light the glorious fact which would at once set at rest all doubt and dissipate all speculation, supplying scepticism with its fullest answer, and Christianity with its richest triumph. Blessed Redeemer! You did come from heaven, Your robes streaming with glory, that in its light we might see light upon our mysterious and endless future. Thanks be unto You for so emptying and irradiating Your grave that through it we might look into eternity, and behold the "kingdom of heaven opened to all believers." By Your impurpled cross we travel to Your tomb, and through Your tomb we follow You to Your glory; and, bathed in its ineffable effulgence, we take our place in the heavenlies, the risen members exalted with their enthroned Head, "far above all principality and power, and might and dominion." Thus we pass through the vestibule of Christ's empty grave into heaven itself, where He, our risen and glorified Redeemer, now is.
Another essential blessing resulting from Christ's resurrection is the spiritual life which it confers upon all believers. Had our Lord continued a prisoner of the grave- a dead Christ still- there had been no spiritual life. The true life of the Church springs from the resurrection life of her Lord. Mystically one with Him, we share each stage He traveled in working out our salvation. We have "fellowship with Christ in His sufferings," we are "dead with Christ," we are "risen with Christ," and we ascend with Christ into heaven, and we shall come with Him in His glory, and shall reign with Him in the New Jerusalem forever and ever. Thus, in its fullest and most emphatic sense, "Christ is our life." "I have come," He says, "that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly." We have spiritual life from Christ as He is Essential Life, but we have a more abundant supply of this precious blessing when we more fully know "the power of His resurrection." Oh, there is a spiritual power in the resurrection of Christ which His Church, in union with Himself, feels throughout the entire body, the extremest and lowliest member pulsating with its divine and deathless vitality. It raises the believing soul from a death of sin, out of a grave of corruption, and above a hell of condemnation. The saints went to the cross of Christ when He was "delivered for our offences," and they passed through the grave of Christ when He "rose again for our justification." How blessedly the apostles experienced the power of Christ's resurrection! Listen to the testimony of the chief of them- "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me." Again, "Always bearing about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." They bore about with them the dying of the Lord Jesus in the persecutions and losses, in the sufferings and death which they endured for His sake; but the life also of Jesus was made manifest in their mortal flesh in the vitality and strength, the succouring and sympathy which, flowing from a risen, living Savior, enabled them to endure this daily dying for Christ, sustained by the daily life of Christ. The grand evidence to them that Christ was alive was the support and consolation they experienced in the service and suffering for Christ. There was a daily dying, and yet a daily living- both bound up in Christ. He had told them on the one hand, and He tells us, "You shall be hated by all men for my name's sake;" and He told them on the other, "Because I live, you shall live also." All this transpired in their experience. They were persecuted, as He predicted; and they were comforted, as He promised. They died daily, and daily they lived through the manifestation of Christ's life in their mortal body.
Nor were they alone in this experience. In a measure it is substantially ours. We bear about the dying of the Lord Jesus when we mortify the flesh, crucify the world, endure hardness, pass through trial, and suffer persecution; and we bear about the life also of Jesus in His power keeping us, in His grace sustaining us, in His sympathy soothing us, in His love animating us. The "great tribulation" is to come, times of fiery persecution are at hand, when the followers and confessors of Christ will find the words of one of the earliest and noblest Christian martyrs more expressive of their experience than in these easy and silken days of religious profession- "We who live are aways delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." But before those days of physical persecution and trial come, is there no spiritual dying with, and living by Christ? Most assuredly there is! Oh, it is a blessed death the believer daily dies! There may not be the shattered earthly tabernacle, the "marks of the Lord Jesus " in our wounded and mutilated forms, nevertheless, there is a moral and spiritual crucifixion of the flesh in its affections and lusts, the body offered up as a living sacrifice unto God on the altar of a holy obedience. There is the crucifixion of the old man with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, even when the sword is not drawn, and the faggots are not kindled, and the cross is not reared- that deadly apparatus of torture and suffering so familiar in the history of the "noble army of martyrs."
What is your daily history, beloved, but a daily and a living testimony to the truth that Christ is risen and is alive? How is it that you are borne through a single day of your earthly history? And when you rise in the morning, and think of what you have to pass through in that one day, and when at night you place your head upon the pillow and reflect how God carried you through it, what a witness you are to the power of Christ's risen life! You tried Him in that trial, you proved Him in that necessity, you looked up to Him in that difficulty, you fled to Him in that temptation, you trusted Him with that burden, and you never found in a single particular His promise falsified, "Lo! I am with you aways." He showed you your emptiness, taught you your nothingness, impressed upon you the sentence of death that you should not trust in yourself; and when He had thus reduced your strength, humbled you in your own eyes, emptying you from vessel to vessel, He then put forth His all-sustaining, all-comforting, all-shielding life in your soul; and so you had the most conclusive and convincing of all evidences that Christ was risen and alive, and that He lived to succour, shield, and comfort His saints, serving and suffering for Him here below.
How wonderful, too, is the "power of Christ's resurrection " in the spiritual elevation it imparts to the believing soul. The life of the believer is a resurrection-life; it is the resurrection-life of Christ. And if we are partakers of Christ's risen life, we share also its earth-receding and its heaven-attracting power. Thus exhorts the apostle, "If you then are risen with Christ, seek these things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Are we manifesting the power of the risen life of Christ in an unearthly, heavenly life? When Christ rose from the grave, He rose above earth, above corruption, above the world, and ascended up into the heavenlies. If, then, we have union with Christ in His resurrection, we are seeking after
heavenly things, are cultivating a heavenly mind, are transferring our affections from things below to things above, are even now sitting with Christ at the right hand of God! What a high and heavenly calling is ours! Oh, to know more of Christ and the power of His resurrection! Oh, for more of the sanctifying; elevating life of Jesus in our souls! We would then rise, where we now grovel; ascend, where we now droop; fly, where we now walk. The world will lose its charm, the creature its power, the flesh its thraldom, and we shall feel that we have left death behind us and a grave beneath us, while we "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Remember, oh believer, that yours is a risen life, emerging from a new tomb into a new and higher region of purity, thought, and love. Debase it not. Beware of unholy alliances, of worldly conformity, of sin's contamination, of the "garment spotted by the flesh." Never forget that you are risen with Christ, are one with Him in His new and resurrection-life. Let your daily walk be a daily resurrection- a perpetual renewal of your spiritual and heavenly calling. You will confront trial and temptation, conflict and toil; but, realizing the power of Christ's resurrection in your soul, you will be so energized and stimulated as to rise superior to the things that are seen and temporal, in wrapped communion with the things that are unseen and eternal. Oh, to what a high, holy elevation will you attain in constant fellowship with the living Savior! Emerging from the dust that entombs, and throwing off the grave-clothes that bind, you will move in an inner spiritual world, breathe a higher life, and hold fellowship with beings of another and holier sphere.
But where is Christ? Alas! how we seek the living among the dead! Like the holy women of old, we are searching for a dead Christ in the grave, forgetting that He who is all our salvation and all our desire, and whom we often seek in tears, is not here, but is RISEN and ascended up on high, and is at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. What, then, is the lesson the Lord would teach us by this? Even the lesson of dealing less with His grave and more with His throne; looking up rather than looking down. We are not to seek life where there is only death. Never shall we find spiritual quickening from lifeless doings, duties, and ceremonies. This is seeking the living among the dead. Our spiritual life is in and from a risen Savior; and in proportion as we get the power of His resurrection in our souls, and live a life of daily faith upon a living, interceding, ever-present Christ, we shall live the higher life of a soul that lives for God in all the minutiae of daily life, living to Him in little as in great things, so that, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we do all to His glory!
Child of sorrow! take your sorrows and afflictions to a living Christ. He is alive to all your troubles, griefs, and needs. He lives to succour you with His grace, to strengthen you with His might, to soothe you with His sympathy, to comfort you with His love, and to bear you on His interceding heart moment by moment. You are bereaved! Death has shaded your home, and has broken its strongest and most beautiful staff. The grave entombs your heart's treasure, and with it your loving heart. But what if earthly friends are gone, and life's joys are fled; Jesus lives! and one glance of His loving eye, one word of His gentle voice, one touch of His living hand, will raise you superior to your deepest sorrow, and will more than compensate you for your greatest loss.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave." Only realize what a Treasure, and Portion, and Friend you have in Christ- in Christ ascended- in Christ alive- in Christ making intercession for you- and your widowed heart will again sing, and your orphan spirit will yet rejoice, and life's landscape will yet throw off its wintry dress, and once more quicken into life, and bloom into beauty, and burst forth into song, and this will be its anthem- "He has done all things well!"
Christ is the "Resurrection and the Life" of all who sleep in Him. "But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again." Need we explain this expression? At the time of harvest the Jews were required to bring a single sheaf, first threshed in the outer court, and then taken by the priest, waved in the four winds of heaven, and presented before the Lord as the first-fruits of the harvest, now to be sickled and gathered in. Thus, "Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again." He is a pledge and earnest of a like glorious resurrection of all those who sleep in Him. If, therefore, we deny the resurrection of Christ, we must deny the resurrection of the saints. Listen to the sublime argument of the apostles,
"For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God, for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, but that can't be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.
But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again." 1 Cor. 15:13-20
Oh, what a halo surrounds the grave of a sleeping saint! It is the halo of Christian hope, the day-dawn of the "first resurrection." "On the cold cheek of death smiles and roses are blending, And beauty immortal awakes from the tomb!"
They may have died in distant climates- no friend to wipe the cold dew from their brow, answer their last look of love, or receive their last confession of faith, and then close their eyes in death. Their sacred ashes may repose in foreign soil, or beneath the rolling surges of the deep- no mound or stone to tell where. But, He upon whose tomb angels sat and watched, Himself sits upon and watches theirs- the Resurrection and the Life.
"The mourners came at break of day,
Unto the garden sepulcher,
With saddened hearts to weep and pray,
For Him, the loved One, buried there.
What radiant light dispels the gloom?
An angel sits upon the tomb.
"Then mourn we not, beloved dead,
Even while we weep and pray,
The happy spirit has but fled
To brighter realms of heavenly day.
Immortal hope dispels the gloom,
For Jesus sits upon the tomb."
The comforting apostle says, "And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died." "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first." Oh yes! the "Resurrection and the Life" was with them in their departing hour, and still He watches their sleeping dust, a ruined temple of the Holy Spirit, and precious in His sight; and when He comes in person, and in great glory, with all His saints with Him, then at His voice the sea shall give up its holy dead, and death and Hades the holy dead that are in them, and so those who sleep in Him shall rise first. "Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection; on them the second death has no power." And then, when this "corruption shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality," from the sunny plains of India, from the lonely glens of Africa, from the distant wilds of China, from Asia's blood-stained heights, from every spot consecrated by the ashes of the holy dead, will ascend the shout, "O death! where is your sting? O grave! where is your victory?" What a divine religion is Christ's!- what a sublime hope is the Christian's! With such a religion, and such a hope, who would not be the lowliest believer in Jesus?
What will be your resurrection, unconverted reader? There will be but two- the first is the "resurrection unto life;" the second, the "resurrection unto damnation." "Those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Fall down at His feet, penitent and believing, and let your prayer be, "O Lord, raise me by Your Spirit from a death of sin into a life of righteousness; that at Your second coming to judge the living and the dead, I may be found numbered among those who shall have their part in the First Resurrection, upon whom the Second Death shall have no power. "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again." John 11:25