GLORY: From Death to Life

Last week (CLICK HERE), I wrote about the birth of Christ. We went back to 650 years prior when it was prophesied, and continued on to His death. We learned that the whole reason Christ came to this Earth was to die in obedience to the Father so that we might live. While we covered the timeline of His life to death, for this article, I would like to cover his death to life.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. (Matthew 27:50, NASB)

And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. (Mark 15:37, NASB)

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:46, NASB)

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:30, NASB)

I think it’s safe to assume we all know the basics of the story of Jesus. We hear of His birth every year at Christmas. We all know He was sinless and that He died for our sins. While I don’t plan on beating a dead horse, I would like to get into a few more details that are often overlooked by your average Christmas and Easter churchgoer.

Have you ever stopped to ponder the method of capital punishment known as crucifixion? It was a brutal form of death. Nails were driven into your wrists and feet. You would be forced to support your body weight on either the nail in your feet or hang by the nails in your wrists. After a little while of hanging by the arms, cramps would begin to occur. The cramps would cause your chest muscles to go numb. It would be possible to breathe in but breathing out would be next to impossible. The cramps and flaming of the muscles would make it difficult to even use your legs to alleviate some of the breathing difficulties. The buildup of carbon dioxide would finally ease the cramps which would then make it possible to lift with your legs using nothing but the nail in your feet as leverage. While the pain was unbearable and it was a challenge just to breathe, this alone was not what would normally kill the person. After some time, a guard would come up and break the legs of the person hanging. This would extinguish his ability to press up with his legs so that he could breathe. While already dealing with muscles on fire and scourged flesh, he would now have to endure the pain of broken legs and the thought of knowing he would have no way to breathe. He would hang by his arms until the cramps came back. He would breathe in but not be able to breathe out. He would then die of asphyxiation.

Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. (John 19:31-33, NASB)

While the thieves hanging on either side off Jesus both had their legs broken, Jesus was already dead. There was no need to break His legs to speed up the process. As we covered last week, this was a fulfillment of prophecy that no bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20). However, we also see that Jesus apparently had enough energy to speak in a loud voice and speak His last important words. They were not mere whimpers or whispers. They were loud and bold so that everybody could hear. Why then did He die so much faster than the other two? Was He weak? Not at all! If anything, it’s because He was stronger than anybody could ever be. While the thieves were at the mercy of the soldiers and the cross, Jesus was at the mercy of no one but Himself.

And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:51-54, NASB)

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18, NASB)

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. (Matthew 27:50, NASB)

While Jesus died on the cross, it didn’t have the power to take His life. According to Scripture, no man took His life, but He laid it down on His own authority (John 10:18). He alone chose His time of death. Jesus was only on the cross because He knew what had to be done. He could have called more than twelve legions of angels to put a stop to it. To get a better idea, a legion was roughly 6,000 soldiers. In other words, Jesus said He could have instantly called more than 72,000 angels to use at His disposal. However, that was not His purpose for being on this Earth. We know from Matthew 26:38 that He was deeply grieved and had the fear of the pain He was about to go through but this did not stop Him. He had a mission and there was only one way to accomplish it: death by crucifixion. Again, we see Jesus telling His disciples that nobody could take His life from Him. The Father had given Him the authority to lay down His own life. Matthew 27:50 aligns with this perfectly as it says Jesus yielded up His spirit. He laid down His own life and yielded up His own spirit. He did not die before the others due to being weaker. He died before the others because He chose the time at which He would yield His spirit. He fulfilled the Scripture by going to the cross, fulfilled the Scripture by speaking His final words, and yielded up His spirit at a time of His choosing to finish the fulfillment of Scripture regarding His death.

There were some during the apostolic age who rose the dead (Matthew 10:8; Acts 24:21). They were given this authority by Christ Himself. While being miraculous, the resurrection of Christ was very different. While the other resurrections were performed by another person under the authority of Christ, He didn’t need someone else. He resurrected Himself (John 10:17-18). So what exactly took place during the resurrection?

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NASB)

First, we see He appeared to quite a few people. At one point, he even appeared to 500 people at once. If over 500 people came up to you declaring they saw Skillet at a concert, would you not believe that there was a Skillet concert? It only stands to reason that if so many people make a claim and testify to being eye witnesses to this claim, it probably happened. Why then did so many people still not believe?

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, NASB)

Even with all the eye witness accounts, many still refused to believe it and thought it was crazy talk. Paul, going with their reasoning, tells us that if this is true, we are all to be pitied as we have been teaching a false god. Some had even died for this false god and were cut off for all of eternity. Thankfully, it doesn’t end there. He continues in verse 20 with:

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20, NASB)

Paul says Christ is the first fruits. The first fruits of a harvest was a sample brought to the priest as an offering to the Lord. The farmer was not allowed to harvest the rest of his crops until after this offering had been made. In the same way, there was no resurrection until the first fruits had been brought forth. Christ was the first fruits. He alone made it possible to be raised unto eternal life with the Father. Many people teach of Christ. They say all you have to believe is that He is the Son of God. The movie The Passion of the Christ portrayed the death of Jesus. Catholics wear a crucifix around their neck as a reminder of what He did for them on the cross. Unfortunately, if left at this point, it amounts to nothing. Without the resurrection, there is no salvation. This is why an empty cross is a more accurate symbol and is actually the one used by Protestants. As my old pastor used to say, a hole in the wall to represent an empty tomb would be the most accurate of all. Christ is no longer on the cross. He is no longer in the grave. As important as His death may be, His resurrection is even more so.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:50-53, NASB)

This is something I missed for the longest time. Although I had read Matthew countless times, I never really noticed it even though it’s a huge event. The dead came out of their graves and went into the holy city. Imagine seeing your dead relatives come up to you one evening to talk. You look around and see your neighbors are being visited by their dead relatives as well. It’s absolutely amazing. I have no idea how I never really saw this in Scripture. How could I skip this part in my brain? While it may look like all this happened upon the death of Christ, we need to carefully look at the text. It speaks of the death of Christ, moves into people rising, and then goes back to speak about the death. This almost appears contradictory to the teaching of Christ being the first fruits. The thing to pay attention to is in verse 53. It says, “and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” Christ raised himself and appeared to many. In the meantime, there were others who had previously died and were now walking into the holy city. Talk about amazing! One other thing to notice is the fact that all who had previously been resurrected likely died again at some point. They were brought back to life in an earthly sense but this was temporary. At some point, they surely would die again. They had surely been resurrected but not in the same sense as Christ. He was now in a glorified and eternal state that we will all one day see.

One day, there will be a literal changing of the body upon the resurrection. Scripture calls our physical body perishable and mortal whereas our next body will be imperishable and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:22, 51-53). In John 20:26, the disciples were frightened and in hiding behind locked doors. Jesus had just been crucified and the disciples feared they would be next. Nevertheless, Jesus appeared in their midst. There are some out there that teach our glorified body will be able to pass through walls since Jesus somehow appeared inside a locked house. I do not necessarily subscribe to this theory as it is not what the text says. It simply says he stood in their midst. Regardless, the glorified body of Christ was certainly nothing ordinary. While I can’t confidently teach that Jesus could pass through walls, I can say He could do something even greater. First, Luke 24:31 alludes to the fact that He could hide His appearance and make Himself appear differently to others. Second, it says He vanished from their sight. I think a better interpretation of His standing in their midst despite a locked door is that He just appeared. Just as He could vanish, He could reappear somewhere else. He didn’t have to pass through a wall. He just appeared where He wanted to be. According to Philippians 3:21, we will all have this same glorified body upon our resurrection.

Not only do we have a physical resurrection and change to look forward to someday. We also have a spiritual resurrection. The difference is that one happens the moment you become a believer in Christ and receive the gift of saving faith while the other will take place at a later time. I can only imagine what that time will be like!

More important than any speculating over what our glorified bodies will be like, we all need to acknowledge the work that Christ completed as well as what the Spirit continues to work in us even now. Before Christ, we were spiritually dead. After Christ, we have a newness of life (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17). We once were dead, but we have since become regenerated and renewed (Titus 3:5). It’s not speaking of a physical death but rather a spiritual one. We must die to ourselves and be raised in Christ. This is the symbolism represented at baptism. We go under as if we are being laid in a grave upon death. We come up cleansed as if being resurrected in the new life of Christ. Baptism is a representation of what occurs at the moment of salvation. The day will come when we will experience this in the physical as well but it is only because Christ did it first to make it all possible.

I can think of no better way to close this article than with the encouragement put forth by the apostle, Paul.

but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58, NASB)

We’ve already won and we have something great to look forward to so stand fast in all you do and trust in the Lord!

~ Travis W. Rogers

JESUS: That Sweet Name Above All Names

My heart is inditing a good matter… my tongue is the pen of a ready writer (Psalm 45:1). In a world full of darkness, error, and confusion, the Christian seems to constantly be engaged in a war of innumerable fronts. Satan’s legions are wide and varied, dawning many different uniforms under many different generals, but united in their rage against the singular banner of Truth. Accordingly, the Christian can become quickly overwhelmed, feeling compelled to muster all his strength over and over again as he sees the One he loves ceaselessly attacked. But the Beloved smiles upon His ransomed, and in the heat of the battle says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 28:11). He reminds us that it’s our privilege to do the service of the Lord, and that it’s out of the abundance of His kindness and mercy that He allows us to pick up His banner and share the honor of His cause. But were we all to fail, He would not lose an inch of ground, and we need not fret for His sake as though He needed anything. So, when He calls us to rest, we may sheathe our swords with confidence, knowing that He that sits in the heavens shall laugh at the raging of the heathen, and we may return to our Rock and Fortress for the refreshment of our souls. As we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection, I invite the Christian to lower his sword and look to the One for whom he fights, like an infantryman gazing longingly at the picture of the one who waits back home. Or rather, since our sword is the Word of God, let us handle and look upon it unsheathed – a sword so well-polished that it flashes back our reflection better than any mirror, and whose glistening brilliance reveals the glories of its Maker. Through His Word we may see Him. Let us come and adore
Him.

JESUS. For the Christian, these two syllables are always far too few. By the time they pass from his lips, he immediately hungers for them again. What the world takes in vain, the Christian cherishes as the very keys to Heaven. He stakes his souls in those five letters, and if he were bound to never utter anything else, he would be content. He loves that Name, because he knows what it means: Salvation is of the LORD. It’s what Jonah cried out in the belly of the whale immediately after foreshadowing the death, burial, and resurrection of our King (Jonah 2:9). What Jonah only saw in shadows and types in his day, the Christian knows and lives, “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).

The Christian – wishing that the Savior’s Name would not so soon depart from his mouth – hastens to add Lord, and proclaims the Lord Jesus. He is not just his personal savior, but the Lord of all – King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is the One to whom every knee will bow and every tongue will confess to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11). He is that very LORD from whom salvation comes. He is the One to whom every planet, star, and galaxy does obeisance as they follow the course He mapped out for them. His is the hand that gardens every flower, molds every mountain, and fills every spring of water. He is the One who “changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him” (Daniel 2:21-22).

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist

Colossians 1:16-17

Heralded by Lord, Jesus is then magnified by His Office, crowning His full title as The Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus came to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, and whoever truly believes this is born of God (1 John 5:1). To believe this is to believe that He accomplished the Office of the Messiah, and that – for His people – He has fully and completely trodden under foot the serpent who caused our ancestors to fall (Genesis 3:15). It’s to believe that Jesus is that rod out of the stem of Jesse who would “smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips […] slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4), causing the wolf to dwell with the lamb in peace together (Isaiah 11:6). It’s to believe that He is that servant, the BRANCH, that would remove the iniquity of the land in one day (Zechariah 3:4, 8-9).

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

He is the redeemer who has saved His people, the One promised to make His own Soul an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10).

He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed

Isaiah 53:5

Out of all the works of our God, this one is the greatest. Nowhere have the Divine Attributes intersected so perfectly than with the beams of the Cross, where perfect love was manifested and perfect justice was satisfied. The Christian knows that he’s worthy of death. He looks upon the lifeless corpse of his Savior hanging on the Cross – that beaten, bloody Body forsaken by God and man, and groans, “that should have been me… I deserved that!” The Christian knows he has sinned against a Holy God, the most Pure, Majestic, Good, and Righteous Being that could ever be comprehended, and who exceeds comprehension altogether. But this Jesus, He was the only One who didn’t deserve to suffer at all. Man has committed uncountable atrocities since his fall, bathing himself in injustice and evil devised against others without a cause, but this was the only time when the Victim was truly innocent. This is the Man who never once did any wrong, never once dwelt on an impure thought, never once harbored an ulterior motive for His own advantage; He is that very Pure, Majestic, Good, Righteous and Holy God in the flesh! And what unimaginable suffering! Besides the taunts, the humiliation, the nails, the asphyxiation – besides all that, the sweet communion He enjoyed with His Father was severed in His humanity, when He became “sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). And so He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). So amazing is His love, that He was willing to lay aside the most blessed and wonderful joy to save the souls of His friends, who had done nothing but treat Him like an enemy. But praise be to God, the separation would not last, and He would rise from the grave with the souls of His people, and open the seals of the book that remained untouched for millennia.

How agonizing it must have been for John to see the book waiting in the hand of God – the book that would end in the perfect consummation of the Divine plan – yet there was none who could open it, or even so much as look at it! One by one the mightiest, wisest, and most pious of the human race vainly tried to open the book, but the standard had been given long ago: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully” (Psalm 24:3-4). And so, one by one all fell short, and “no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (Revelation 5:4). But then an angel heralded the Good News, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:7).

Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof

Revelation 5:5

Jesus has come to claim His place. He has ascended into Heaven bearing His scars as trophies, for in them is declared that the penalty due to His Bride, the Church, has been paid, and with His own blood He has bought her. It is finished (John 19:30). What man could never do, God did Himself. No man could ascend into the hill of the LORD, so He became Man and ascended it Himself. No man could open the book, so He became Man and opened the book Himself. No man could reach God, so He came down and offered Himself for us, and in His flesh bridged the gulf between the finite and the infinite. He has opened the first seals already, and with the end of the seals will come that blessed and holy reign that God has promised so long ago.

Brother or sister, whether or not you’re able to attend church this Easter, let your mind dwell on your Lord Jesus this Sunday. His tomb is empty and He sits on the right hand of the Father, and if you’re in Christ, you’re seated with Him even now (Colossians 3:1). As you read through the Gospels, know that the One you see there is the very Jesus described here, the very Lord of all, the very Son of God in the flesh. Pour over His words, mediate upon them, cherish them, love them – His teachings are God’s teachings, and His ministry is God’s ministry. And so, too, will you see Him in the teachings of the Apostles, Prophets, and Moses, for they were authored by the same Holy Spirit that filled Christ, and there’s no division between them. Let us learn more of Him, and strive to better worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. The more we learn of Him, the more we will see that it’s indeed our reasonable service to present our bodies “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).

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