The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was attested by “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). On one occasion He was seen by “over five hundred brethren at once” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Peter included all the other eleven apostles with him when he said, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Our Lord’s disciples handled Him (Luke 24:39); talked with Him (Acts 1:6-9); and “did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41). This companying with the disciples after our Lord’s resurrection was for “forty days” (Acts 1:3).
Others were raised from the dead, like Lazarus (John 11:43-44), and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-16), and the twelve year old daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:35-43): but these all rose to die again.
The renown of our Lord’s resurrection is that when He emerged from death He brought the “keys of Hell and Death” with Him (Rev. 1:18). He was a conqueror, not conquered. Our Lord took His life again in resurrection (John 10:17-18). Resurrection was His own act by His own inherent power.
Our Lord will never die again, death “hath no more dominion over Him” (Rom. 6:9). He ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).
There is no resurrection like His. There is nothing so glorious as resurrection; but there are elements of glory in the resurrection of Christ that could not possibly belong to any other.
His resurrection sealed Satan’s doom (Heb. 2:14-15); His resurrection is the assurance of our justification and resurrection also (Eph. 2:5-6, Rom. 4:25); His resurrection is the one act of power that shall never cease to be felt in heaven, earth, and hell; among the redeemed for blessing, upon His enemies to bind them at His pleasure, and to subdue all things to Himself.
Let us look at some of the “infallible proofs,” and let us hear the testimony of some of the many witnesses. Some have borne unconscious and reluctant witness; some who loved Him have borne testimony that eventually cost them their lives. The doings of all persons who were implicated in the death of Christ, have in some way added testimony to the fact of His resurrection.
The “watch” of soldiers who were sent to guard the tomb of Christ was taken from that “whole band” (Matt. 27:27), who were called together to strip and dishonor His person. It was they who put on Him the “scarlet robe” and the “crown of thorns” (v. 28-29). It was they who “mocked Him” saying, “Hail, King of the Jews” (v. 29). It was they who “spat upon Him, and took the reed and smote Him on the head” (v. 30).
Pilate’s thinly veiled disgust with the elders of the Jews who asked for soldiers to guard the tomb, is evident in his answer, “Ye have a watch, go your way, make it as sure as ye can” (Matt. 27:65). God says of them, “So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch” (v. 66). This was that wonderful precaution that caused laughter and ridicule in Heaven. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). Was God afraid of Roman soldiers? What did an angel He sent care for the seal of Rome? Were these the soldiers who with the centurion stood at Calvary when the heavens grew dark? Did they hear their commander confess, “Truly this was the Son of God”? They did see the darkness and the earthquake, and must with the centurion have “feared greatly” (Matt. 27:54).
Now these callous men are left at Golgotha with their weapons and armor as the darkness of another night is coming on; they are there to guard the tomb where lies the body of Him they had so cruelly mocked in Pilate’s hall. All they have to fear, they are told, is frightened disciples who may come in the darkness to steal His body. These soldiers watched and waited. The seal on the stone would awe any earthly power. No man dared to break that seal. The swords and shields of Roman soldiers were ready to keep all intruders away. The soldiers might have slept, but they did not.
As the first day of the week is near the dawning, this is what happened:
“And behold there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men” (Matt. 28:2-4).
This was a sight those soldiers would never forget. That exalted countenance! That majestic greatness that sat upon the stone! As soon as any strength returned to their helpless limbs the soldiers left the tomb for the city. They dared not go to the governor lest they perish for the neglect of their duty. They “showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done” (Matt. 28:11). These were the priests who accused Christ of blasphemy. These were the same priests who seemed so anxious for the soldiers to frighten away the disciples of the Lord from stealing His body from the grave. What were their feelings now as they listened to the story of the soldiers’ experience? They were not deceived now. The darkness, the earthquake, and now the indisputable evidence of resurrection, told the story of Israel’s dreadful mistake in crucifying the Son of God.
There stood the soldiers; they had not failed in keeping the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth from the sepulchre they guarded. It was not men, but an angel from heaven that had frightened them. Surely the priests would forgive them under the circumstances.
What would the soldiers think now, when they listened to the turn-about-face of the priests? Instead of fearing the stealing of Christ’s body by His disciples, those same priests now bring out their money bags and hand out “large money” for the soldiers to say the disciples stole the body while they slept. Should this come to the governor’s ears—and who could keep it from them?—they would spend more money to persuade him and to secure them (Matt. 28:14). Thus this “watch” of soldiers given by Pilate to the Jews at their request, hoping to hinder any attempt of the Lord’s disciples from circulating a report of a spurious resurrection, became one of the most incontrovertible witnesses of Christ’s actual rising from the dead.
The soldiers were certainly not prejudiced in favor of the Jews. The report these guards gave to the elders of Jerusalem was as manifestly true, as the report those elders paid them to circulate was manifestly false. The investigating of the meaning of the broken seal and empty tomb did not commence with either the Jewish officials who demanded the securing of the tomb, or with the Roman Governor who gave the soldiers to assure it. The matter started with the appearance of the frightened soldiers at the temple, telling of the glorious angel who rolled away the stone and sat upon it. The way they told their story to the Jews showed how consternated they still were. There was no need to institute an inquiry into the truth of these words of the soldiers. The agitated fright of hardened, callous men needed no corroboration. The unquestioning silence of the Jewish elders showed how unhesitatingly they accepted the soldier’s report of what had taken place.
Thus, the first persons to whom the “watch” testified of the emptying of the sepulchre and the breaking of the Roman seal were
The Priests and Elders of the Jews.
The testimony to these blinded, obstinate rulers of Jerusalem was convincing in the extreme. Whatever their blindness before, they certainly knew the truth now. They had called Christ a deceiver when they fastened the tomb and sealed the stone. This probably was the honest conception of their perverted and obstinate hearts concerning Him. They would not listen to Christ’s words; they would not believe the testimony to His works; He gave no honor to their worthless religion and they utterly rejected and despised Him.
To them Christ’s confession of being the Son of God was blasphemy; with blinded zeal for their traditions they condemned Him to death with a good conscience. What a commentary upon the stubbornness of human superstition and religious bigotry! This report of the Roman soldiers was an alarming revelation to the priests. It was true and they knew it. What should they do now? To confess the truth would condemn them in all their previous opposition to Jesus of Nazareth. It would mean to confess He was true and that they sinned in sending Him to the cross.
It seems that they did not hesitate for a moment. They immediately added wicked lying opposition to their previous blinded zeal. Their eyes were open now. They thought Christ was a deceiver at Calvary; they knew that they themselves were deceivers now. Pride that refused to be humbled chose rather to descend to the basest lying and deception, than to admit the truth that now was so patent before them. It was not a few men who made this hasty decision. The soldiers first told their story to the priests; these priests told it to the elders, who counselled together before the lying story was put into the soldiers’ mouths. The whole action was as deliberate as it was false. There was no excuse now.
“Some of the watch came into the city (some of them probably ran away to hide) and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money to the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept. And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him and secure you. So they took the money and did as they were taught” (Matt. 28:11-15).
This report of the soldiers to the chief priests, and then to the elders, must have been after the lapse of many hours. The rolling away of the stone occurred before the break of day. The Sanhedrin would not be in session until later in the morning. The soldiers had evidently considered together the best course for them to pursue to preserve their lives, seeing they had apparently failed in their duty. They had done a great crime in the Roman army to fail to watch a sealed property. They were guilty of death, and doubtless they wanted to escape the penalty if possible. The chief priests and elders of the Jews showed the soldiers how their lives could be saved. It was a remunerative way to the watchers. The priests who would not put the silver of Judas into the treasury did not hesitate to take “large money” out of the treasury to further their lying schemes. This is the propensity of human nature, very religious one day and very wicked the next. Refusing very sanctimoniously to put the price of blood into the treasury on Thursday, but taking the price of blood, of hypocrisy, and of deceit, out of the treasury on Sunday! What loathsome wickedness for religious leaders of the people!
The soldiers took the money and did as they were taught. The soldiers circulated in Jerusalem the story that they were all sound asleep when the disciples of the Lord came and stole His body. Was it not strange that they should all be asleep? How did it ever happen that a whole watch of soldiers were so soundly asleep around the grave of Christ that His disciples could come and roll away that great big stone, and get away with the body, and not one of them ever waken to know what was happening? No sensible person would ever believe such a story.
When the priests gave the soldiers “large money,” they would say to themselves, “When they gave us so much, what will they not give to Pilate? It will surely satisfy him and secure our lives.” But did it? My guess would be that Pilate took the money from the priests but made the soldiers pay the penalty for conspiring in the lying hypocrisy of the Jews.
Pilate was disgusted when he gave the Jews the watch of soldiers to keep the disciples of the Lord from stealing His body from the tomb. Pilate’s own conscience told him Jesus was a Just Person. The supernatural darkness must have greatly increased Pilate’s fears. At the trial Pilate feared when he heard that Jesus said He was the Son of God; he was afraid that it might be true. Pilate knew that for envy the Jews had delivered Christ to him. Pilate’s wife warned him to have nothing to do with that Just Person, because of what she had suffered in a dream because of Him. The testimony of Joseph of Arimathaea when he went to Pilate to beg Christ’s body must have deepened these impressions. Who knows what Pilate asked Joseph, or what that honored counsellor told the Roman governor? The unexpected fact of so honored a gentleman as Joseph coming so boldly to beg for the body, could not help but raise the curiosity of Pilate to know why he should brave the wrath of the Jews to give an honored burial to Him whom the nation so utterly rejected. Joseph probably told Pilate what Jesus Christ was to him. The centurion who came to tell Pilate of Christ’s actual death was he who said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
After all this testimony, when Pilate heard from the lips of the priests that Jesus said He would rise again, there is every reason to think Pilate would fear this is what might actually take place.
When the soldiers’ story came to Pilate’s ears, would he believe it? He was too astute a man for that. Pilate would not believe a story so contrary to human reason. When the soldiers had to appear before him he would say, “What! All you men asleep at one time? All of you so sound asleep that you did not waken when the grave by which you were sleeping was broken into? If you were so sound asleep, how did you know what happened?” Those soldiers could not keep the truth from Pilate. He would get it out of them. What would Pilate do then? Hardened sinner though he was, he was not guilty of such hypocrisy and deceit. I doubt very much whether the money of the priests saved the lives of the soldiers.
All these happenings must have impressed the soul of Pilate with the fact of our Lord’s resurrection. It was a remarkable testimony to him. When Pilate was governor in Jerusalem, how could he be ignorant of the testimony that was so publicly given there of the resurrection of our Lord? Had the story of the sleeping soldiers not reached Pilate’s ears from others, I could not understand him not investigating the soldiers whom he placed at the tomb, to hear from their lips what actually happened.
All Jerusalem was stirred about Christ. Pilate had reason to be as deeply concerned as anyone. His natural superstition and curiosity would impell the governor to discover the sequel to the condemnation, death, and reputed resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Being so deeply involved, how could Pilate rest, knowing only half the truth? There is scarcely a possibility that those soldiers did not stand before their supreme ruler and master in Palestine, to tell him all they knew of the disappearance of the body of Christ from the grave.
Did the priests come to Pilate, as they promised, to bribe him to let the soldiers go? They were heartless enough to let the soldiers die if that suited their purpose. The soldiers would certainly tell Pilate all the truth before they were slain with the sword. Suppose the priests did come with their money to Pilate, what would he say to them? “You contemptible hypocrites, you know the soldiers were not sleeping, you know what happened; and now you want to silence the truth by such a story as this!” Unless the sight of the money would silence the lips of Pilate, words such as these would sting the ears of the priests.
I am sure that the story of sleeping soldiers and stealing disciples did not satisfy Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor. Pilate was one man in Jerusalem who must have known that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The soldiers who watched the grave and saw the heavenly visitor, and then took the hush money from the priests of the temple must also have known the truth. Whether either Pilate or the soldiers ever humbled themselves before God in confession is another matter. Some tradition says that Pilate was converted. If it were so, it was a marvel of the grace of God. If any of the soldiers were saved, it was in answer to His intercession who prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
If the elders of Jerusalem believed their own story of the disciples breaking the Roman seal and stealing Christ’s body, why did they not bring those disciples before the judgment seat to answer to this charge? When Peter and John witnessed so fearlessly before all the assembled rulers of Jerusalem of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 4:5-6), why did no one say a word regarding those disciples taking the body from the grave? Their silence in that mater should have convinced the listening people that the story was not true. The priests should have said to Peter and John, “Raised from the dead? Nonsense! You disciples stole the body from the grave when the soldiers were asleep.” No such charge was made. No such words were spoken. No member of the Sanhedrin had the temerity to make such a foolish charge in such a congregation, and in the face of the testified facts.
The resurrection of Christ needs no confirmation from circumstantial evidence. The evidences are there, and they are impossible to refute. The Jews to this day repeat the ridiculous story of the disciples stealing His body from a sealed tomb while a whole watch of soldiers were sound asleep. They all know that the sleeping soldiers were the first to broadcast the story. No sane person should receive such testimony.
The Miracles of Christ’s Death and Resurrection.
The recorded miracles of the death and resurrection of Christ are united in one story. There was the darkness over all the land for three hours (Matt. 27:45); there was the rending of the veil of the temple from the top to the bottom (Matt. 27:51); and there was the appearance of the dead in Jerusalem from the opened graves after His resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53). A second earthquake is said to have occurred when the angel rolled the stone from the grave (Matt. 28:2).
Not only were these incidents witnessed to by the disciples immediately, the account of them was written in the gospel according to Matthew not more than seven years after they happened. This gospel was circulated and read for thirty years at Jerusalem before the destruction of the city and temple.
Had this writing not been true, would such matters of common experience have been declared? What a blow to Christianity it would have been to write about a three hour’s darkness over all Palestine if it did not take place! How could disciples of Christ witness to earthquakes that no one knew anything about? Those incidents were too recent and too generally known to be refuted. None of the enemies of the Lord at that time disputed the fact of these things. Would they not have done so had they not been true?
Christ and Christianity were not popular in the land, nor among the people where the gospel had its beginning. Christianity was not carried along by popular acclaim, Christianity had to face the opposition of prejudice and bigotry in the very city where Christ was crucified and where He rose from the dead.
When the priests of the temple were such implacable enemies of the gospel of Christ, if the veil of the temple was not rent from the top to the bottom, do you think those priests would not have borne united testimony to this lie? What stronger case could they have brought against the genuineness of the gospel of Matthew than by declaring the record of the rending of the veil to be a lie? When no mention of the rending of the veil being false was made by any of the priests of the temple in their bitter discussions with the Lord’s disciples, all must know that this testimony was true.
To perform the ministrations of the temple, the veil had to be sewed up again, then the place of the rent would certainly show. The first gospel to be written and circulated, containing the account of the rending of the veil of the temple, proves that witness to be true. No Jew ever denied it in the days of the Acts.
If the veil were rent, none but God could do it. It was a miracle for God to do it without tearing the temple apart. The veil was not fastened securely to the walls of the building that spread apart, and so rent. The veil was hung freely from the top, and only fastened there. An invisible hand took hold of the veil at the top and tore it with infinite force to the bottom. That hand was the hand of God. Why did He do it then, except as a testimony for Christ, and against the priests, who in blind zeal for those outward things nailed the Son of God to Calvary? It was what Christ said about the temple that brought upon Him the rage of the priests. In rending the veil God witnessed to His Son, and against them.
The deep seated prejudice that, after finding the veil rent by the hand of God, proceeded to bribe the soldiers to circulate a lie to hide the testimony to our Lord’s resurrection, was the evidence of enmity and hatred that refused to be convinced or enlightened. When the priests of Jerusalem took these steps of blindness and opposition to Christ, there was absolutely no hope for the nation. God had spoken, but they refused to listen. He whom God sent from heaven, they utterly hated. Pride compassed them as a chain, binding them hand and foot, through the dogged perversion of their will. They would not come to Christ that they might have life. Now they would not believe that they might be saved.
The Linen Clothes.
“Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:40).
“Peter therefore went forth and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. The other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; and the napkin that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home” (John 20:3-10).
The seemingly unimportant detail of the linen clothes, that wrapped the body of our Lord, being left in the tomb, though unnoticed by the women, was a convincing proof of resurrection to both Peter and John.
It was not merely the fact that the linen was there, although that was a matter to arrest attention; but the place of the linen of the body, separated from the napkin of the head, and the way the linen was wrapped together —these forced upon the observant disciples the conviction of their Lord’s resurrection.
Had the body of Christ been carried from the grave, linen clothes would have gone with Him. There would have been neither time nor purpose to remove the wrappings of the body.
However, had the hand of man removed the linen from both body and head, all would have been thrown on a heap in the grave. But here lay the linen of the body where the body had been, and the linen of the napkin where the head had been. Not only were the parts separated, but the linen was “wrapped together.” Just as the hands of Joseph and Nicodemus had wrapped the folds of white linen around the body of their Lord, there they were still. Without disorder, the linen that formed the napkin around His head, was still there, folded as those loved ones had left it when they placed Him in the sepulchre. No human hand could have folded the linen so, without a body to wrap the bands around. No one but the women had been to the sepulchre, and certainly no one had had time to fix the clothes of burial in this peculiar fashion. What purpose would any person have had to attempt to wrap the linen in this way even had it been possible?
Those linen clothes were a miracle. Both Peter and John knew without a doubt what they meant. The body that was wrapped in those garments had disappeared from them without disturbing them any more than a spirit would have done. Resurrection had taken place. Although Peter and John did not yet know the Scripture that He must rise again, those linen clothes convinced them absolutely that their Lord rose from the tomb.
It is these simple details, so artlessly told, that convince the thoughtful reader of the truth of the story. Who would have imagined such a peculiar detail as linen clothes left undisturbed in the tomb? No concocted story would have introduced anything so unlikely, or so unusual. This is not in the province of imagination, as any balanced judgment must admit. Hallucination might account for some erratic imaginations, but not for an account of undisturbed burial garments in the grave. When our Lord left behind Him in the tomb the fragrant linen that love and honor bound to Him for burial, He showed how completely resurrection left the former condition of His humiliation behind.
When our Lord comes, we too shall receive a body of glory like unto His body; then, all the evidences of our weakness will be forever left behind. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
“The Lord is risen; with Him we also rose,
And in His grave see all our vanquished foes.
The Lord is risen: beyond the judgment land,
In Him, in resurrection life, we stand.
The Lord is risen: the Lord is gone before, We long to see Him, and to sin no more! The Lord is risen: our trumpet shout shall be, “Thou hast prevailed! Thy people, Lord, are free!”
Paul the Apostle, formerly Saul of Tarsus.
Luke, the beloved physician, tells the whole story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in the ninth chapter of his inspired book of the Acts. Threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord were so completely occupying the thoughts of persecuting Saul that the breath he breathed was saturated with this unmitigated enmity. He was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). This was the blinded zealot who was smitten to the earth when nearing Damascus.
“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” “Who art thou Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:4-5). “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (v. 6) “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou earnest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized… Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus” (v. 17-19). “But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (v. 22).
This conversion to Christ has been told by Saul again and again. Standing on the stairs of the castle adjoining the temple in Jerusalem, after being mercilessly beaten and almost torn asunder by the infuriated Jews, Saul made his defense and told the story of his conversion to the Lord Jesus. The substance of this stirring address is found in Acts 22:1-21. Nothing but truth could account for this Hebrew of the Hebrews telling the story of the revelation of Christ to his soul. Saul had been just as mad as his accusers were this day, and for the very same reason. Grace to Gentiles! A Savior for Gentile dogs! “Away with such a fellow from the earth!” (Acts 22:22)
In Acts 26 Paul the apostle tells the same facts to king Agrippa and to the company assembled with him. He ended by confessing, “Having therefore obtained help from God I continue unto this day, witnessing to both small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23).
What Paul had already suffered, what his present testimony exposed him to in the presence of his bitter brethren, show plainly that Paul knew the truth of what he testified, that Jesus was the Christ and that He rose from the dead and that he himself had been with Him. No vision or dream would give such indomitable strength to witness and to suffer. No philosophical reasoning would so powerfully have impressed his hearers. The Living, Resurrected Christ was the one all-absorbing reality to Paul the apostle, who was before, the blaspheming Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, perhaps the most violently bitter enemy Jesus Christ ever had.
Saul of Tarsus was in Jerusalem during the eventful days of the death and resurrection of Christ. He tells us himself that he was brought up in Jerusalem “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3). This Gamaliel was said to be “a pharisee, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people” (Acts 5:34).
Gamaliel must have had authority in the council, for when the rest took counsel to slay the apostles for their testimony to the resurrection of Christ, he “commanded to put the apostles forth a little space” (Acts 5:34). So many things had happened since the council in which Gamaliel sat had delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate, that this doctor of the law was determined that now the Sanhedrin must proceed with caution. But whatever the master, Gamaliel, might be slow and cautious in inflicting upon the witnesses of Christ, his student, Saul of Tarsus, was most rabid in accomplishing whenever he had the opportunity. When the apostles were in the hands of Gamaliel he commanded that instead of putting them to death, they should wait and see whether or not this work were of God. But Saul of Tarsus said of himself, “I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” (Acts 22:4).
The testimony of Nicodemus and of Joseph of Arimathaea had been entirely lost on Saul of Tarsus. What Saul thought of the supernatural darkness during the last sufferings of Christ and of the earthquake at the ninth hour we do not know. Neither the foolish story of the soldiers at the grave of Christ nor the unflinching testimony of Stephen and other Christians seemed to make the slightest impression on Saul. He was still “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). There never had been a more striking example of persistent bigotry and blinded zeal for traditional superstition than was seen in the early days of Christianity in Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee. Saul was exceedingly zealous of the traditions of his fathers, and exceedingly mad against the Christians.
Did Saul believe in the actual resurrection of Christ? Of course he did not. The whole soul of Saul rebelled against even listening for one moment to any testimony to what was to him so hated an impossibility. He shut his eyes to Stephen’s radiant countenance and he shut his ears to Stephen’s forceful words and held the garments of those who wanted their arms free to cast the stones that crushed the life out of the first martyr of the church. The zeal of Saul was both deaf and blind but it was sincere and full of energy because of the perverted teachings of his tutors. Saul was not a hypocrite. Saul could crush to death helpless men and women with a good conscience; he imagined he was serving God when he was tormenting those who were the true children of the Almighty.
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the stumbling blocks of unbelief. Infidels think there are things in the Bible that are stumbling blocks to faith. Those who know the Bible best have never found these stones of stumbling in its pages. When unbelief blindly walks its obstinate way, if it allows itself to run into the facts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, I cannot understand how it can dispose of this obstacle to unbelief. What explanation could atheism give to the remarkable change in such a remarkable person as Saul of Tarsus, from violent and conscientious opposition to the gospel of Christ, to a lifelong self-denying and self-sacrificing devotion to that same gospel? What wrought this change? What made Paul the apostle out of Saul the persecuting Pharisee? Paul himself says it was the fact of Christ’s resurrection. Saul of Tarsus met Christ on the Damascus road. Jesus of Nazareth in resurrection spoke to Saul in such a way that there was no possibility of mistaking either the Person or the message.
Paul’s Testimony in His Epistles.
The apostle Paul refers to the resurrection of Christ in each of the epistles he wrote to the churches. That resurrection was a great fundamental fact to Paul. It had a most prominent place in all his witnessing in the synagogues of the Jews. To Paul the resurrection of Christ confirmed, as the seal of God, the Deity of the Lord’s person and the fact of His miraculous works.
The first epistle written by Paul was to the newly saved Gentile church of the Thessalonians. The last epistle this veteran evangelist wrote was to his fellow-laborer and son in the faith, Timothy. In both these letters Paul makes prominent mention of the resurrection of Christ. A raised and living Christ at God’s right hand was Paul’s thrilling confidence when he commenced his preaching in Damascus and Thessalonica, and the same glorious fact filled his soul when he knew his course was run.
This is what Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians so shortly after their conversion:
“Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom HE RAISED FROM THE DEAD, even Jesus which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10).
This is what he wrote to Timothy from his prison in Rome when his work and warfare were done:
“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8).
When Paul gave the church at Rome, by the Spirit’s inspiration, that masterly treatise on the gospel which we call, “The Epistle to the Romans,” he commenced by telling us that “the gospel of God” was:
“Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD” (Romans 1:3-4).
In this same gospel epistle we are told that the resurrection of Christ was for our justification (Rom. 4:25); the resurrection of Christ has ended for the believer the dominion of sin (Rom. 6:4-14); we are married to Him who was raised from the dead to bring forth fruit unto God (Rom. 7:4); He who was raised from the dead maketh intercession for us in heaven, so that we shall never be separated from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:34-35).
In the epistle to the Corinthians we have that imperishable 15th chapter on the resurrection of Christ and of His people. The facts adduced could not be refuted then, and they cannot be refuted today. When that declaration was written, the greater part of five hundred witnesses were still alive. These were men and women who had seen Christ, talked with Him, and even handled Him, these appearances occuring over a period of forty days. With the greatest emphasis possible Paul wrote, “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (v. 20).
When the Galatians were being corrupted from the sincerity of the gospel by law-keepers, Paul commenced his faithful epistle to them by giving a statement of his apostleship and authority from God; He wrote:
“Paul an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead”) (Gal. 1:1).
A more marvelous unfolding of the power of Christ’s resurrection, both in Him and in us, could not be found than that in the first chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians. That putting forth of the exceeding greatness of God’s power will be seen in heaven forever. It was far more stupendous than the work of creation.
There are references to the resurrection of Christ in the epistles to the Colossians and to the Philippians that might well exercise our hearts. To the Colossians Paul wrote:
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).
In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes his own ambition in these stirring words:
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Phil. 3:10).
Everything that Saul of Tarsus as a zealous Jew would have died for, he counted but “dung” for Christ. The soul of Saul burned with a zeal for the traditions of his fathers that was a consuming ambition. When he considered that Jesus of Nazareth and His disciples were contrary to these traditions he was “exceedingly mad against them.” Saul of Tarsus, before he was saved, would not allow himself to consider for one moment any testimony to the resurrection of Christ. No witness of men or of miracle had the slightest weight with him. It seemed that after Stephen’s death, nothing whatever could penetrate the armor of blinded bigotry with which he was encompassed. Saul of Tarsus was as great an enemy to Christ as ever breathed. When God by His miracles and signs, with the testimony of His servants, goaded Saul, as a master would a stubborn ox, then Saul kicked against the pricks. Not a dart reached his perverted conscience until the Lord Himself appeared to Saul and spoke to him with a voice that could not be mistaken. He answered, “Who art thou Lord?” What a question for a praying Pharisee! What a confession for a “Hebrew of the Hebrews!”
That sight of Christ in resurrection; that revelation of Jesus of Nazareth in the excellent glory; that declaration that Jesus was Jehovah turned the world of Saul of Tarsus completely upside down. Such a perfect reversal of all that made up a bigot’s life had seldom been seen. Inside and out, Saul of Tarsus was now the very opposite of all that he had been before. The resurrection of Christ that he had rejected with all the bitter hatred of his passionate soul, now he accepted with repentance and devotion that were as deep as his flaming opposition was before.
Who could account for this radical and complete change in a man like Saul of Tarsus apart from the confession that what Saul said of himself was true? Who could find a reason to explain the fact of the adherance of Paul to his confession of Christ’s resurrection, in the face of a whole life of loss, and shame, and suffering, and isolation, and death, for that testimony, without the acknowledgement that the astute and honest Paul knew that Christ’s resurrection was a reality?
Paul’s inspired testimony and Paul’s undaunted life are proofs of the fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Men like Lord Lyttleton and Gilbert West with giant intellects but honest hearts have faced the problem of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and losing their infidelity as Saul did his blind religion at the feet of Christ have risen to proclaim that Jesus who was crucified rose again the third day and that Jesus Christ is Lord. Thousands have done what the reader should do. Millions have done what Paul by the Spirit says every man should do. I stop with Paul’s imperishable testimony:
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
The Promise of His Resurrection in the Scriptures.
“And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that THE PROMISE which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that HE HATH RAISED UP JESUS AGAIN; as it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:32-33).
This fact that the resurrection of Christ was promised in the Old Testament scriptures, is one of the unanswerable proofs of this foundation truth of our salvation. Peter and Paul in their early recorded testimony quoted at least four places in the Psalms and one in Isaiah where the resurrection of Christ was foretold. These references are suggestive. They tell the story of why Christ rose again.
Peter in Acts 2:25-28 quotes from Psalm 16:8-11:
“For David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.”
Peter also commented upon this question as follows:
“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us until this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up; whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens; but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath, made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:29-36).
Here Peter shows that David could not have been speaking of himself; but was most assuredly speaking of Christ who in death saw no corruption. None other but Jesus of Nazareth has died without seeing corruption. The words of Psalm 16 can be explained in no other way than by applying them to Christ, whose soul was not left in hell, nor did His body see corruption.
The Path of Life
The dying Savior who passed through death, speaks in Psalm 16:11 and says, “Thou wilt show me the Path of Life.” The great achievement of the Christ of Psalm 16 is this opening of the Path of Life. He went down into the depths of death, but He came up again. He entered Satan’s stronghold, but He could not be imprisoned there. He was held on the cross by His love, but He could not be holden of the cords of death.
The path of life was through death. The path of life is the path of resurrection. Death is no longer “straitly shut up” like Jericho. Since our Lord died and rose again, there is a way from death unto life. He is the Captain of our salvation, He overcame every enemy, He “spoiled principalities and powers.” Now the path of life to His people is the path of faith. There is a way from death unto life simply by believing on His name.
“Verily, Verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE” (John 5:24).
A Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Peter quoted from Psalm 110 where our Lord is acclaimed as a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. This psalm commences with a prophecy of resurrection. These are the words of Peter as he witnessesd in Jerusalem:
“For David is not ascended into the heavens, but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool” (Acts 2:34-35; compare Psalm 110:1).
The first words of Psalm 110 were quoted by our Lord to the Pharisees when He asked them this question, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” (Matt. 22:42); they answered immediately, “The son of David.” Then Christ asked them this question, “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool?” No man then was able to answer Him a word. The scriptures they treasured and trusted in revealed that the Messiah would be the Lord.
This verse that proves Jesus to be the Lord implies His resurrection. It was when He was raised from the dead that He was bidden to sit at God’s right hand. The honored title Lord was given to Him then by God.
This precious Psalm that looks at Christ the Lord in heaven at God’s right hand says of Him “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). Here is a further blessed truth associated with the resurrection of Christ, His eternal priesthood. Not only did He come out of death to blaze the path of life for us, He ever lives at God’s right hand for us, to be the needed High Priest of His people. The life He gives is eternal life. It is life in its fullness when we receive it. It is life that obtains its perpetual freshness and power from Him who sits for us in heaven. He is the Captain of our Salvation bringing us there, and for us He sits an eternal Priest upon the throne.
Since our imperfections are so many, what a blessing to have a perfect High Priest to represent us! If we cannot trust our own faithfulness, we surely can trust His. If we cannot save ourselves to the uttermost because of our utter helplessness, He who ever lives to make intercession for us is most perfectly able. (See Heb. 7:25). That is the very reason He rose again. That is the very reason He is on the throne of God. We needed a Priest who was God as well as man. God to be majestically able, and man to be sympathetically willing. This is Christ Jesus our Lord in resurrection.
Head of the Corner.
In Acts 4:10-11 Peter charges the Jews with the death of Him whom God raised from the dead, saying:
“This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.”
This quotation is from Psalm 118:22. Here then is another blessed fact of Christ’s resurrection; He is the stone “set at nought” by Israel’s builders, whom God has made the absolutely necessary “head of the corner.”
God has a building, and Christ is the foundation (Isaiah 28:16) upon which it rests. Christ is also the “precious corner stone” making the wall beautiful and holding the building together (Isa. 28:16). The Lord Jesus is also the “headstone” (Zech. 4:7), without which the building could never be complete.
When our Lord rose again He commenced to build God’s city (Isa. 45:13); He laid the foundation and built His church upon Himself (Matt. 16:18). Christ in resurrection is “the Living Stone” (1 Pet. 2:4), to whom we come, and by whom we are built up as “living stones,” a “spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:4-5).
Israel stumbled over Him because of His poverty and apparent weakness. The lack of expected glory caused Christ to be despised and rejected. He was not the kind of a Savior Israel looked for and they were offended in Him. He was nevertheless the very One foretold and described. When Israel refused Him and crucified Him, God exalted Him and made Him “the head of the corner.” There can be no lasting building without Him. No city, no tower, and no temple will eternally abide that does not have Christ for its stability and Christ for its glory.
Raised to be King.
Paul, the apostle, preaching in the Jewish synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia showed how the second Psalm foretells the resurrection of Christ. This is what Paul said, “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:32-33).
In this Messianic Psalm our Lord is seen as raised again to be a King.
“Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:6).
Jesus our Lord was raised to reign. He who in death wore at Calvary the crown of thorns, shall yet wear at Jerusalem the crown as King of kings. He who tasted the deepest shame shall yet know the highest honor in the place where He was crucified.
The Jews rejected the title Pilate wrote upon the cross. “Write not the king of the Jews” they protested, “but that He said, I am King of the Jews” (John 19:21). Pilate would not change the writing, but said, “What I have written, I have written.” So the superscription remained as before, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Israel gritted their teeth in anger, but the words over the cross of Christ proclaimed the nation’s guilt. They crucified their King.
If Israel would not acknowledge her king, God looked down from heaven and said, “My King, yet have I set MY KING upon My holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:6).
In resurrection our Lord is King. If not King over us who form the Bride, the church, yet nevertheless King to us. There is no other King but the One who wore the crown of thorns. No other head deserves to wear the crown of glory.
Israel for her blessing waits that day of repentance when she shall say with loud Hosannahs to the King, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 21:9). Then shall Jerusalem put on her beautiful garments and know both joy and peace. Then shall be that springtime for the Bridegroom and the Bride when at last the winter will be past and the rain over and gone. Then the flowers will appear on the earth and the time of the singing of the birds will have come. What a Jubilee of Hallelujahs that will be! Then will all Israel sing that psalm of Solomon, resting in peace under His shadow; then shall all oppression be forever past and all the prayers of David the son of Jesse be ended (See Psalm 72).
The sure mercies of David.
“And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:34).
The last sentence of this verse is quoted from Isaiah 55:3. Chapter 55 is one of Isaiah’s noted gospel chapters. Like the Lord it is full of grace and truth. There is water, wine, and milk, for the thirsty and the dying. There is salvation on the easiest possible terms, it is simply to incline the ear and come. There is the promise of every thing new. The sure mercies of David are the gracious gift of God.
Paul, by the Spirit, tells us that these mercies are secured and presented through the resurrection of Christ. It is because God raised Him from the dead that these mercies are possible. They are mercies that are sure upon the faithfulness of God, mercies as great and wonderful as God Himself. They are mercies that should impel us to present ourselves to Him.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).
The whole first eight chapters of the epistle to the Romans tell the story of these mercies of God. They are bestowed upon prodigals. They include the best robe, the ring, the shoes and the fatted calf. The mutual joy of the father and the son begins but never ends. These mercies of God include His loving forgiveness, and His lavish kindness. These mercies in the epistle to the Romans leave us not only justified and glorified, but children in the bosom of the Father, and joined to Christ as a Bride to a Bridegroom. They tell us of no condemnation and of no separation. They leave us in the wealth of Christ’s unmeasured and unwearied love where no enemy will reach us forever. When I read the eighth of Romans I say with a Canadian farmer, “Ain’t them grand words?”
These then are the Promises of the Old Testament of Christ’s resurrection quoted by Peter and by Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. They tell the reason why He rose again. It was for our sakes He ascended up on high. He opened the path of life. He became a perfect High Priest for the preservation of His people. He brings as a glorious inheritance the sure mercies of David to us. The One who does this is King of kings and Lord of lords forever. He alone is worthy, all honor to His name!
Types in the Old Testament.
“I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Gen. 22:5).
“By faith Abraham offered up Isaac… Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb 11:17-19).
In the raising of Isaac “in a figure” there is a type of resurrection securing all the promises of God. Every promise would have failed had Isaac been slain and not raised up again. David, Solomon, Joseph, Mary, Christ, were all of Isaac “according to the flesh.” Solomon and Joseph through whom the title descended to Christ; and David and Mary through whom Christ came “according to the flesh,” were all the children of Abraham through Isaac.
“In a figure” Isaac died, and “in a figure” Isaac rose again. “After the Spirit” Isaac was Abraham’s only son whom he loved. Isaac brightened with hope the future of Abraham even as he filled with joy every passing day. The name Isaac means laughter, and God made both Sarah and Abraham laugh with deep and lasting joy in the possession of Isaac. When Abraham yielded Isaac, he gave his all. Abraham had the honored privilege many generations before Christ of giving a type of the God of all grace who, “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”
The Ark of the Covenant.
“And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.” (Josh 3:17).
“And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over, that the ark of the Lord passed over, and the priests in the presence of the people” (Josh. 4:11).
In this type of resurrection the covenant people were brought into the covenanted inheritance. There everything was new—new food; new experiences; new leadership; new life and new warfare. The old things of the wilderness were passed away, and in Canaan all things had become new.
The ark went first into the water and remained in its depths “until everything was finished” (Josh. 4:10). The ark coming up out of the waters, after the people had all passed over, gives the type of Christ our Lord dying for us, and also of our dying with Him. “I am crucified with Christ,” Paul wrote to the Galatians (chap. 2:20). “Quickened us together with Christ… And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” the same Paul wrote to the Ephesians (chap. 2:5-6). These facts of the death and resurrection of Christ and of our association with Him are beautifully illustrated in the passing of the ark and the people through the Jordan into the land of God’s promise. This is the peculiar message of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
“And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10).
“So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord… So the people of Nineveh believed God” (Jonah 3:3-5).
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40).
In the prophet Jonah and what happened to him we have a type of resurrection providing a message and a messenger for Gentiles that mercy might reach them.
“And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4). “And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry” (v. 13).
In this type you see resurrection providing rest. The name Noah means rest. Noah (rest) came out of the ark (death) on the day of Christ’s resurrection. The ark rested and our Lord rose again on the seventeenth day of the seventh month. When the ark rested it was the first month of the seventh century of Noah’s life. This was the rest century. So the resting of the ark and the exit of its inhabitants into a new and restored earth were a type and a promise of the new creation from the resurrection of Christ. It was a new beginning in the days of Noah with judgment gone and with God’s promise for the future. It was a new beginning when our Lord rose again; the beginning of a life which was eternal with blessings that the old creation never could have provided and a promise of security and government that the law never could have guaranteed.
The Sheaf of Firstfruits
“When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave if (Lev. 23:10-11).
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). “Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (v. 23).
This sheaf of the firstfruits waved before the Lord on the first day of the week was the promise of the coming harvest. It was God’s own type of Him who rose early in the morning on the first day of the week. The one sheaf seemed to say, “There is a harvest of others coming just like this one.” It was waved before the Lord for His pleasure and delight. That sheaf was the fruit of God’s own giving and it was a foretaste of the joy of coming harvest.
The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of our own resurrection in our own order. The joy of harvest had a triumph all its own; the sheaf of the firstfruits was the herald of this imminent jubilee. The joy in heaven when Christ our Lord ascended there, (Psalm 24:7-8) will be repeated when His people ascend there with Him (Psalm 24:10). This is all one harvest, the sheaf of the first-fruits and the sheaves that follow are all one resurrection accomplishment and glory. Resurrection associates us with Him (Eph. 1:20-2:1) “raised Him from the dead … and you who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Resurrection assures us of being like Him when He comes. “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Thus in type in the Old Testament the story of Christ’s resurrection is told. There is a note of triumph, of promise and joy in all these pictures of His rising from the dead. Before the morning with its singing there is the long night with its darkness. Before the springtime with its gladness there is the winter with its coldness and its death. Before the lovely butterfly with its painted wings there is the crawling caterpillar with its life of lowliness and shame. Before the jubilee with its liberty and blessing there were the long years of servitude and labor. The weeping endures for the night but joy cometh in the morning. He who is “the resurrection and the life,” will dry all tears and drive all sickness and death far away. The feast with Lazarus and his friends sitting at the table with Him will never end. The fragments of that feasting will never be gathered, for the fullness of His royal bounty will never be depleted. “So shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).