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§ 1. Resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection of Christ is not only asserted in the Scriptures, but it is also declared to be the fundamental truth of the gospel. “If Christ be not risen,” says the Apostle, “then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. xv. 14). “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (verse 17). It may be safely asserted that the resurrection of Christ is at once the most important, and the best authenticated fact in the history of the world.
(1.) It was predicted in the Old Testament. (2.) It was foretold by Christ Himself. (3.) It was a fact admitting of easy verification. (4.) Abundant, suitable, and frequently repeated evidence was afforded of its actual occurrence. (5.) The witnesses to the fact that Christ was seen alive after his death upon the cross, were numerous, competent, and on every account worthy of confidence. (6.) Their sincerity of conviction was proved by the sacrifices, even that of life, which their testimony entailed upon hem. (7.) Their testimony was confirmed by God bearing witness together with them (συνεπιμαρτωροῦντος τοῦ θεοῦ, Heb. ii. 4), in signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost. (8.) That testimony of the Spirit is continued to the present time and granted to all the true children of God, for the Spirit bears witness to the truth in the heart and conscience. (9.) The fact of Christ’s resurrection has been commemorated by a religious observance of the first day of the week from its occurrence to the present time. (10.) The effects produced by his gospel, and the change which it has effected in the state of the world, admit of no other rational solution than the truth of his death and 627subsequent resurrection. The Christian Church is his monument. All believers are his witnesses.
The importance of Christ's resurrection arises, —
1. From the circumstance that all his claims, and the success of his work, rest on the fact that He rose again from the dead. If He rose, the gospel is true. If He did not rise, it is false. If He rose, He is the Son of God, equal with the Father, God manifest in the flesh; the Salvator Hominum; the Messiah predicted by the prophets; the prophet, priest, and king of his people; his sacrifice has been accepted as a satisfaction to divine justice, and his blood as a ransom for many.
2. On his resurrection depended the mission of the Spirit, without which Christ’s work had been in vain.
3. As Christ died as the head and representative of his people, his resurrection secures and illustrates theirs. As He lives, they shall live also. If He remained under the power of death, there is no source of spiritual life to men; for He is the vine, we are the branches; if the vine be dead the branches must be dead also.
4. If Christ did not rise, the whole scheme of redemption is a failure, and all the predictions and anticipations of its glorious results for time and for eternity, for men and for angels of every rank and order, are proved to be chimeras. “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first-fruits of them that slept.” Therefore the Bible is true from Genesis to Revelation. The kingdom of darkness has been overthrown. Satan has fallen like lightning from heaven; and the triumph of truth over error, of good over evil, of happiness over misery, is forever secured.
Nature of Christ’s Resurrection Body.
1. The identity of the body in which Christ rose with that which expired upon the cross, was proved by indubitable evidence. It retained even the print of the nails which had pierced his hands and his feet. Nevertheless it was changed. To what extent, however, is not clearly made known. The facts recorded in the sacred history bearing on the nature of the Lord’s body during the period between his resurrection and ascension are, (a.) That it was not at first clearly recognized as the same. Mary Magdalene mistook Him for the gardener. (John xx. 15.) The two disciples whom He joined on their way to Emmaus, did not recognize Hun until He was made known to them in the breaking of bread. (Luke xxiv. 31.) When He appeared to the disciples on the shore 628of the Sea of Tiberias they did not know who He was, until the miraculous draft of fishes taken at his command revealed Him. (John xxi. 7.) (b.) It appeared suddenly in the midst of his disciples in a room of which the doors were shut. (John xx. 19, and Luke xxiv. 36.) (c.) Nevertheless it was the same material body having “flesh and bones.” That the appearance recorded in Luke xxiv. 36 was preternatural may be inferred from the effect which it produced upon the disciples: “They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” Our Lord reassured them saying, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” It appears from the transfiguration of Christ that his body while here on earth, was capable of passing from one state to another without losing its identity.
2. Such was the state of our Lord’s body during the forty days subsequent to his resurrection. It then passed into its glorified state. What that state is we know only so far as may be learned from what the Apostle teaches from the nature of the bodies with which believers are to be invested after the resurrection. Those bodies, we are told, are to be like Christ’s “glorious body.” (Phil. iii. 21.) A description of the one is therefore a description of the other. That description is found in the contrast between the present body and that which the believer is to inhabit after the resurrection. The one is a σῶμα ψυχικόν, and the other a σῶμα πνευματικόν. The one is adapted to the ψυχή, (principle of animal life) and to the present state of existence; the other to the πνεῦμα (the rational and immortal principle) and to the future state of existence. The change which the “natural body” is to undergo in becoming a “spiritual body” is thus described. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:” in one word, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. xv. 42-44.) It is still a body and therefore material, retaining all the essential properties of matter. It is extended. It occupies space. It has a definite form, and that a human form. It was seen by Paul on his way to Damascus and upon other occasions, and by John as recorded in the Apocalypse, as well as by the dying martyr Stephen. Nevertheless it is no longer “flesh and blood,” for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Flesh and blood are from their nature corruptible; and so the apostle adds, “neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” Hence “this corruptible must put on incorruption, 629and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. xv. 50-53.) The future body will not be subject to the wants, the infirmities, or the passions which belong to the present state of existence. “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. xxii. 30.) The saints are to he like angels, not in being incorporeal, but as being immortal, and not needing reproduction for the continuance of their race.
The risen body of Christ, therefore, as it now exists in heaven, although retaining its identity with his body while here on earth, is glorious, incorruptible, immortal, and spiritual. It still occupies a definite portion of space, and retains all the essential properties of a body.
The efficient Agent in the Resurrection of Christ.
In numerous passages of Scripture the resurrection of our Lord is referred to God as God or to the Father. The same person who in the second Psalm says, “Thou art my Son,” is addressed in the sixteenth Psalm by that Son, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” In Romans vi. 4, it is said, that Christ “was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father;” so also in Acts ii. 24, “Whom God hath raised up.” In Acts xiii. 30, it is said, “God raised him from the dead.” So in Ephesians i. 19, 20, we are told that sinners are converted by the same mighty power “which wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” In other passages, however, it is said to be the work of Christ himself. Our Lord speaking of his body said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John ii. 19.) And again, John x. 17. 18, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” In Romans viii. 11, according to the reading adopted by Tischendorf, the resurrection of Christ is, constructively at least, referred to the Holy Spirit. This diverse reference of the same act to the several persons of the Trinity is in accordance with the common usage of the Scriptures. The three persons of the Godhead being the same in substance, the act of the one ad extra, is the act of the others. Any external divine act, i.e. any act terminating externally, is an act of the Godhead; and therefore may, with equal propriety, be referred to either of the divine persons. “What things soever he [the Father] doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John v. 19.) 630All, therefore, that the Scriptures teach on this subject is that Christ was raised by the divine power. The Lutherans hold that Christ rose by the power of his human nature, to which divine attributes had, in the act of incarnation, been communicated. All the miracles of Christ, as before stated, according to their view of his person, were the works of his human nature distinctively, and so of course the crowning miracle of his resurrection.
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