When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they *saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
“He is Risen.” The phrase is a celebrated slogan for believers of every age. It reflects what we come to celebrate on Easter. But as we say those words, and add our “He is risen indeed” affirmation, how deeply does the resurrection impact us. It must be more than just a mere slogan, it must be more than just a mere fact of history, and more than just a doctrine which we accept without much thought or much theological reflection. I want to take that common slogan and use it for our outline. “He” represents the person of the resurrection, “Is” represents the fact of the resurrection, and “Risen” represents the reality of the resurrection and its many implications for our lives.
The Person Of The Resurrection
In the same way that we can never get past the fact of the resurrection, we can never think that we can leave off thinking about the person of the resurrection either. The person of the resurrection is what makes the resurrection so meaningful. Without adequately identifying the person of the resurrection, we cannot claim the unique quality that the resurrection of Christ possesses. For example, there were others in Scripture that rose from the dead. Elijah in the OT performed a miracle in which he rose a widows son from death (1 King 17.17-24). Elisha walking in the mantle of his great predecessor Elijah also rose a woman’s son from the dead (2 King. 4.18-35). A dead man was thrown into the tomb of Elisha and upon touching Elisha’s bones he came back to life (2 Kings. 13.21). In the NT, Jesus rose multiple people from the dead (Lk. 7.13-15; Mt. 9.25; John 11.43-44). After Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew recorded that many of the saint’s bodies were likewise raised from their graves (Mt. 27.52-53). In Acts, Peter raised Tabitha, Paul raised Eutychus but none of these resurrections comprise the hope of the Christian faith (cf. 1 Cor. 15.19).
In addition to the biblical examples, there are also paganism claims to “resurrection” as well. During the Hellenistic period prior to Christ, there were several cults which people claim Christianity borrowed from for our version of the resurrection of Jesus. Isis, Cybele and Mithra. These cults all had some references to gods and goddesses being part of deities coming back to life after what seemed to be death. Osiris for example was said to have been killed and dismembered by his brother Seth in the Nile River only to be recovered and revived by Isis the mother goddess. How often have we heard atheist, agnostics, and skeptics of Christianity point to such examples in mythology to discount the Christian’s claim to originality for the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Of course these sorts of myths however fall miserably short of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
But the person of the resurrection makes all the difference in the world. Christianity is not claiming that something paranormal took place at the resurrection. Our faith is not built on the paranormal but prophetic. But again this only makes sense if we understand who the person of the resurrection is. Theologians have spilled endless ink through the centuries and now we could say use, up a lot of memory and “ram” to writes voluminously on the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the person of the resurrection that makes the resurrection more significant than any other resurrection, more important than any other miracle, and all-determining as far as our Christian faith goes. So who is the person of the resurrection?
The Son of God
Doing evangelism on college campuses for many years now, I can tell you that the example of mythology above shows the influence of not only post-modernism and pluralism, but historical revisionism and deconstructionism. In other words, all historical claims are suspect, equal, misrepresented and often unknowable as far as our skeptical world is concerned. This is why we need to carefully define what was meant by resurrection. First then, it is important to understand the Trinitarian nature of the resurrection. That it was none other than the second member of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, the Son of God the divine Logos who was in fact resurrected.
The reason that is so important is because it involves the deity of Christ, the preexistence of Christ, and the incarnation of Christ. As God’s Son, Jesus was God’s divine Word. In His pre-incarnate form, Jesus existed as the wisdom of God, the Word of God, the Logic of God. Proverbs tells us that He was in the beginning with God (Prov. 8.22-30; 1 Cor. 1.24, 30). John also tells us that the Word had a face to face relationship with God (John 1.1). Jesus Himself tells us that prior to His earthly mission, the Father and the Son had perfect fellowship, love, unity and mutual glory (John 17.4-5, 22-25). As God’s Son therefore, the resurrected Christ is no mere man, He is not a demi-god, He is not a ghost, He is not an angel as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, He is no mere prophet as the Muslims claim, He is not simply an enlightened man as Eastern Religions claim. He is God of very God.
The Son of David
Second, this means that the divine Son of God, the preexistent One needed to come in the flesh in order to die and rise again. This is precisely what Paul says. He is, “a descendant of David according to the flesh”, it is He who was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (cf. Rom. 1.3-4). The literal Greek here is expressing Jesus’ resurrection not from death but from the dead ones (νεκρῶν). This is another way of saying that Jesus the son of David is the “first fruits” of the resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15.23). The resurrection is tied to David himself in many passages of Scripture; especially in the Psalms. Although the word “resurrection” is not used, the theology of resurrection is certainly used. David’s life and David’s lineage existed chiefly to point to Christ and to direct us towards the monumental event of the resurrection. First, this is seen by God’s promise of a perpetual throne (Ps. 89). This was promised to David and Israel at that time and fulfilled by Jesus Christ:
Luke 1:32 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;
This is why God had promised to perpetuate the throne of David. Second, this is also part of God’s covenant with David known as the Davidic Covenant. It was for God’s eternal purposes to be fulfilled in Jesus to whom the Davidic throne was promise:
Psalm 89:3–4 3 “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4 I will establish your seed forever And build up your throne to all generations.” Selah.
The person of the resurrection is the divine, Davidic, Son of God who was promised the throne of His father David; a throne which He ascended to through the resurrection (Acts 2.30-31). As the divine Son of God, Jesus comes to us from the realm of endless days (Mich. 5.2). He is the preexistent One who is the Father of eternity and eternal with the Father (Is. 9.6). As the Son of David He is also the one that the prophets inquired about and predicted through the Spirit of Christ (1 Pet. 1.10-12). The person of the resurrection is none other than the Messianic Mediator between God and man (Is. 42.1; Heb. 8.6). Through the resurrection, Jesus is declared to be the Son of God in power meaning that it results in His total and absolute exaltation and glory (Heb. 2.9).
The Fact Of The Resurrection
George Eldon Ladd rightly said, “The fact of the resurrection, as it is portrayed in the Bible, is impossible for many modern people to accept” (George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) 353). The key to this phrase of course is, “as it is portrayed in the Bible.” But this begs the question of the fact of the resurrection and how we establish the fact of the resurrection. Do we subject the Bible to scientific investigation in order to look to external sources like Josephus, Tacitus, and others to validate the claims of Scripture? Do we have to belief that the resurrection was in fact a historical fact or is it enough, as many claim today, that all we need is to believe in the resurrection whether it happened or not? Of course evangelical faith is impossible without a real, physical, historical, actual, literal resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This was what Paul had in mind when he wrote his letter to the Corinthians;
1 Corinthians 15:12–19 12 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? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
The truth is, the whole of the Christian faith hangs upon this article of the resurrection for Paul. Paul readily admits that if Jesus of Nazareth did not actually rise from the dead than his entire ministry is vain. But not only is his preaching vain, Paul assures them, “your faith also is vain.” To claim that the resurrection is not a fact of history means that you directly oppose God himself. It is to say that God’s own record, His prophecies, His word, His promises and therefore His glory and honor can be completely discarded! This is why, a historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ must be inextricably bound to the essence of God’s revelation and our faith. The scientific approach simply will not do, not because there are no historical records that we can look at, there are, but because the resurrection is not a brute fact that stands alone. The fact of the resurrection is a climacticfact.
The Reality Of The Resurrection
The person of the resurrection is the divine Son of God, the son of David who took on human flesh as our Messianic Mediator. The fact of the resurrection is bound to the essence and the totality of our faith and means that God’s own testimony must be discarded if the resurrection did not in fact take place. However, when we say, “He is Risen” what are we saying? What does the resurrection mean? There are several dimensions of the reality of the resurrection that must be explored.
Redemptive-Historical Impact Of The Resurrection
To say that the resurrection is a “climactic fact”, means that the resurrection is more than a miracle, more than the power of God on display, more than Jesus having authority over death, more than a supernatural event; it is a redemptive-historical event. In fact, the resurrection, as I have often pointed out in many places, is the greatest of all redemptive events in the redemptive history of the Bible.
We may need to reflect on some of Scripture’s historical and redemptive events to get a picture of the saga of redemption in our minds and to understand the reality of the resurrection and its place in the unfolding of God’s redemptive story. The creation of world ex nihilo. The creation of mankind in God’s image. The great flood of Noah that rescued eight souls and destroyed untold millions. The confusion of the world at the Tower of Babel. The election of the first patriarch and with him the creation of a nation, Israel. The Exodus under Moses with its terrible plagues and spectacular signs and wonders. The giving of the Law accompanied by thunder, lightening, fire and angels. The erection of the Tabernacle, the meeting place of God with His covenant people. The creation of a kingdom and a dynasty under David. The building of the great temple, the house of God under Solomon. The redemption of a remnant from captivity in Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Israel’s history is tethered together by one redemptive event after another. But none of these events compare with the momentous event of God incarnate dying and rising again! If the gospel of Jesus Christ is the NT message, the resurrection is its capstone. Nothing so altered biblical preaching like the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (cf. Acts 17.18). The early church saw the resurrection as nothing less than the inauguration of a new age, the end of the ages (cf. 1 Cor. 10.11), and a new creation (Gal. 6.15).
Personal-Salvific Impact Of The Resurrection
Nothing draws out this principle of the new creation like the personal-salvific impact of the resurrection. Scripture teaches that the resurrection of Jesus is the basis of our regeneration:
1 Peter 1:3 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Ephesians 2:5–6 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Just as the resurrection of Jesus ensures our regeneration and our spiritual life, the resurrection also secures our justification.
Romans 4:25 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
This means that the resurrection is the vindication of His payment for our transgressions. If our transgressions ensure that Jesus was delivered over to the cross to die for us, the resurrection ensures that Jesus having been raised from the dead will result in the justification of God’s people. God accepts the payment that was made by the Son so that His justice is fully satisfied and we are fully justified.
This means that in the resurrection our lives, our salvation, our freedom from death, our victory over death is represented and implied by the sacred bond that exists in our union with Christ. The Spirit is also the basis of our sanctification. The resurrection being the basis of our right standing with God in justification is consequently the basis of our sin-destroying empowerment through the same Spirit that raised Jesus (Rom. 8.11), the Spirit of Holiness (Rom. 1.4). Paul understood the implications of this union not only with Jesus’ death but with life after death:
Romans 6:5–7 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
Romans 8:11 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Why? Why does the resurrection result in such transformative power in the life of the believer, or at least, it should? The reason comes back to what the resurrection of Jesus Christ is. It is not only the dawning of a new day, a new age, and the end of the age, it is the intrusion of the world to come into our world now. A realized eschatology where the powers of world to come have already begun to show up in our own hearts and lives. This is what Scripture refers to as a new creation:
Galatians 6:15 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Theologians speak of the ethical dimensions of the resurrection because this is precisely what God intends for the resurrection to do for us. That is to change us, to make us holy, to make us Christlike. It results in God’s holy creative power in our lives:
Colossians 3:1–4 1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:10 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—
Ephesians 4:23–24 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
“He is Risen” means that the divine Son of God, the Davidic Messiah Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead as it was predicted in the Scriptures in fulfillment of God’s promises in real time and space thereby bringing redemption to its apex and inaugurating a new creation, the breaking in of the age to come in the lives of God’s people who have been newly created in Christ Jesus for good works in the display of resurrection power and life.
Sermon notes are personal pastoral notes and not intended for grammar perfection. If you have questions about certain parts, please contact us.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.