Golden Text—"The Lord is risen indeed."—Luke 24:34.
THE resurrection of our Lord is shown by the Apostle to be the assurance of the resurrection of mankind.—"For as all in Adam die, even so, all in Christ shall be made alive;" "for he is the propitiation for our [the Church's] sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world," all of which, therefore, both the just and the unjust shall come forth from the grave; and, by accepting Christ and yielding implicitly to his guidance, they may be made fully alive—be fully restored to the original human perfection lost in Adam.
This, the Lord also taught, saying, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth." And Paul said, "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." So important is this doctrine of the resurrection, that the Apostle declares that without it the hope and faith of the Church is vain.—"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 the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."—1 Cor. 15:16-18,32.
This doctrine of the resurrection is, however, very little heard or thought of to-day among professed Christians, and likewise the promise of the Lord's second coming, at whose presence the work of resurrection is due to be accomplished. It is written that "to this end Christ both died and rose and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." (Rom. 14:9.) It is his voice that shall awaken the dead, and his wisdom and grace that shall lead all the willing and obedient to the realization of full resurrection, or restitution, to all that was lost. This is the logical consequence of his great sacrifice, to be realized at his appearing and kingdom.
The first work of his presence is the unobserved, thief-like gathering of his elect—the awakening of those that have slept in Jesus, and the perfecting and the change of those who are alive and remain to his own glorious nature [R1816 : page 124] and likeness. When this is fully accomplished, as it must be within this harvest period, then will follow the resurrection of the ancient worthies. Then the Kingdom of God, in both its heavenly and earthly phases, will be established and manifested to the world,—an event due at the close of this harvest period and time of trouble.
Then the resurrection morning will have come, and the Sun of righteousness will have risen with healing in his wings. Yes, "the Lord is risen indeed;" and his resurrection is the sure pledge of the resurrection of all for whom he died—of the Church first, and afterward of the world.*—1 Cor. 15:12-23.
The manner of the testimony as to the fact of the resurrection, as related in the gospels, is worthy of the special attention of Christians, as proving three things, (1) the fact of the resurrection, (2) the Lord's change of nature in the resurrection, and (3) his personal identity, notwithstanding the change of nature.
The fact of his resurrection was attested in three ways; viz., (1) by an earthquake and the sudden appearance of an angel whose countenance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow, who rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulcher and sat upon it, and for fear of whom the keepers did shake and become as dead men. (Matt. 28:1-6.) It was attested (2) by the facts to which the angel called attention—the vacant tomb and the folded graveclothes, together with the statement that he was risen—"And the angel said unto the woman, Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." (Matt. 28:5,6. See also Luke 24:12.) And (3) it was finally attested by the risen Lord himself, who appeared to the women, and others subsequently, and talked with them.—Matt. 28:9; John 20:1-18.
How great was the reward of these devoted women—last at the cross and first at the sepulcher, anxious to bestow upon the lifeless remains of their beloved Lord the last tokens of their esteem and love. They sympathetically lingered near the cross, beholding his dying agonies; they were the mourners that accompanied him to the tomb at night; and they were there again before break of day with their precious ointments. In their eagerness to do this loving service, they forgot the great obstacle of the stone at the door. But the sweet incense of their devotion arose to heaven, and God sent his angel to remove the obstacle, and their zeal was rewarded with the richest tokens of his grace. Theirs was the honor of personally receiving the heavenly benedictions—of the angel and of the risen Lord,—and of first bearing the glad tidings of the resurrection to the other disciples.
The fact of the resurrection was further attested to the [R1817 : page 124] other disciples by the Lord's sudden appearance in their midst at various intervals, and his personal testimony and teachings on such occasions.
The Lord's change of nature in the resurrection was no less clearly testified than was the fact of his resurrection. In evidence of this note that in no instance of his appearance after his resurrection was he recognized by his personal features, although the disciples were all intimately acquainted with him, and they had been separated from him by death only three days. Mary mistook him for the gardener; the two on the way to Emmaus walked and talked with him for some miles, entertained him in their home, even dining with him, without recognizing him. In every case he was manifested to them, not by face, but by some familiar expression or tone, or teaching, which they promptly recognized as personal characteristics of him whom they so loved and revered.
Now he could enter a room, the doors being shut, and disappear as mysteriously, as he did on several occasions; and this was in exact accordance with his description of the powers of a spiritual body—which could come and go like the wind, unseen (John 3:8), and with his statement—"All power in heaven and in earth is given unto me." It accords, too, with all the information we have concerning the appearance of angels among men. They came in sudden and unaccountable ways, vanished out of sight as mysteriously as they came, and could and did assume any appearance or features they chose. These things the Lord never did prior to his crucifixion.
Observe further the different appearances of the Lord on different occasions. At one time he appeared as a gardener, again as a stranger, again with prints of nails in his hands and the spear wound in his side, etc. On no single occasion was he known by his features on previous occasions, but always by his words, his voice, or his conduct.
Why were these changes of appearance adopted? They were for the purpose of emphasizing the fact that the bodies which they saw were not his glorious spiritual body, which no human eyes can look upon. And "it doth not yet appear" what a spiritual body is, "but we know that when he shall appear, we [the Church] shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2.) Saul of Tarsus once caught a glimpse of that glorious body, which shone above the brightness of the sun at noonday (Acts 26:13), but it left him blind until by a miracle his sight was restored.
The removal of the crucified body from the tomb which was also miraculous, for it did not see corruption, nor was a bone of it broken (Psa. 34:20; 16:10) was necessary to establish in the minds of the disciples the fact of his resurrection. Had it remained there it would have been an insurmountable barrier to their faith; nor could the astonished guards, nor the Jews, nor the world, have believed that he was risen; because they could understand nothing of the spiritual nature and the mysterious change.
To presume that Christ's glorious body is but the reanimated body of his humiliation, is to deny the assertion of the Apostle that "it doth not yet appear" what a spiritual body is (1 John 3:2); and to claim that that "glorious body" is ingloriously marred with the wounds of spear and spike and cruel thorns; and that the flesh which he gave for the life of the world—as our ransom price—he took back, thus rendering null and void the finished work on Calvary; and it is in direct contradiction of the statement of the Apostle that, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him [so] no more."
Let us not, dear fellow-aspirants and called ones to the sharing of his glory and nature and Kingdom, lose sight of these blessed assurances of our glorious inheritance with him, who is now a partaker of the divine nature and "the express image of the Father's person" (Heb. 1:3), whom no man hath seen, nor can see, and who dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto. (1 Tim. 6:15,16.) Praise the Lord! "when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,"—not as he was; for indeed if he is as he was, then also shall we be even as we are now. If he bear still the ignominious scars of Calvary, then shall we also bear the scars that mar us; and every mutilated martyr will be disfigured to all eternity. Think you, has mortal man the power thus to harm the saints of God? Nay, verily: they shall be, "even as he is,"—"without spot or wrinkle or any such thing."*