Two men ran through the streets of the city each trying to be the first to discover if it was so. The last few yards the lead changed several times but when they turned the last corner and arrived on the scene they both stopped. One leaned over and looked into the space and noticed a neatly folded pile of linen cloths. He was astounded and backed away not believing what he saw.
His friend moved into the space, tucked his head and went in. He saw the same neat pile of linen cloth and a single handkerchief lying separate. He too was stunned.
Then the other joined him inside, and seeing an empty, rock-carved room came to realize something beyond human belief had occurred. At that moment, he saw and he believed.
These two men, Peter and John, were standing in the empty tomb where a little more than three days and three nights earlier, the dead body of their master and teacher, Jesus of Nazareth had been placed.
They had come to an empty tomb and their lives were transformed. Jesus was not there, He had risen from the dead. All things had changed.
Have you looked into that tomb? Have you seen that Christ is indeed risen? Have you been transformed by this event?
Join us on Beyond Today as we look at "Christ's Resurrection: Our Hope of Life."
I am a Christian, but I do not observe Easter.
Now, I know that this holiday traditionally commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection defines the Christian faith. But Easter Sunday traditions, like colored eggs, bunnies and parades really obscure the rich meaning of this event. Unfortunately, many observe Easter Sunday without really understanding the actual timing and the full truth of Christ's resurrection.
Many others do not believe Christ was either divine or that He was even resurrected from the dead. Perhaps you feel the same way or you may be confused about this important subject.
As the traditional Easter Sunday approaches, many will observe this day without really considering what they are trying to keep. Easter hides the vital truth about Christ's resurrection and its deepest meaning.
Is it time for you to consider whether Christ rose from the dead and if He did, what that means for your life? If He did not rise, then Christianity is a pious fraud. If He did, then it makes all the difference in the world.
Now we have covered this subject in past Beyond Today programs. "The Easter Charade ;" "Easter Exposed " are two episodes that you can find archived on our BeyondToday.tv site. In these programs we carefully examine the false Easter traditions in the light of the Bible.
You should look into this subject. The Good Friday and Easter Sunday traditions do not hold up to the light of Scripture. Christ was not killed on a Friday and by the time the disciples came to the tomb on Sunday morning, He was already resurrected—the night before.
In today's program, we are not going to cover this territory again. Rather, we are going to focus on the key truth that is covered up by the Easter traditions. That truth is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after being in the grave for three days and three nights.
Christ's resurrection is a defining teaching of the New Testament. So let's examine Jesus' resurrection here today, directly from Scripture, without traditions that have been added later.
The resurrection of Christ formed a central part of the announcement that the apostles took to the world. Peter's first recorded sermon spoke to the very fact of Jesus' resurrection in Acts 2 where he said,
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
"This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
"Therefore let all the house of Israel [now assuredly know]know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:22-24; Acts 2:29-33; Acts 2:36).
You see, these men and women saw the resurrected Christ, handled His wound and received teaching from Him about the Kingdom of God for 40 days following His resurrection. They saw and accepted this as a fact that confirmed their faith and enabled them to take the gospel to the peoples of their day.
Their testimony, written in Acts and the epistles of Paul, are accepted by scholars as firsthand evidence that is sound and admissible proof of Christ's resurrection.
Paul showed the resurrection was central to the Christian hope when he wrote this in 1 Corinthians 15:
He said,"...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."
And in verse 12 he says, "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say [that/omitted] there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
Let us pause there for a moment. You see the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate, after Christ's death, and they requested a security guard around the tomb so that the disciples would not come and steal the body to claim a resurrection. These Jews remembered Jesus said that He would be raised after three days and nights in the tomb. Pilate gave them a guard, and the stone was placed in front of the opening. The authorities knew this, both the Roman and the Jewish, so they took necessary precautions.
In Matthew's account, he goes into detail to show that there were eyewitnesses to an earthquake and an angel of the Lord descending and rolling back the stone. The guards shook with fear to the point that they were nearly frozen into inaction.
These guards, and keep in mind they were not Christ's disciples, these guards went and they reported what had happened, and what they saw with their own eyes to the authorities. They were bribed by the officials to keep quiet. The point is this: this event was a commonly known fact among the Jews for many years.
People knew about the resurrection of the one called Jesus. There were multiple eyewitnesses.
Paul said that Christ was seen by all 12 of the apostles. He was also seen by over five hundred people who in turn gave eyewitness testimony to thousands! (1 Corinthians 15:3-7 and Acts 1:12-26 [Matthias chosen to replace Judas])
The point is this was not done in a corner. It was not covered up and then dragged out to dress up an effort to create a church that the disciples wanted to start.
Think about this. These unlearned fishermen, tax collectors, women, they were the least likely of people to do a new church start-up in their day, especially on the story of a man who had been crucified like a criminal and then resurrected!
Paul makes the case to these members in Corinth in 1 Corinthians that they have a Savior, and a hope of salvation. He wanted there to be no doubt in their mind of this truth.
For you and I, there can be no doubt as well. Paul goes on to show the implications of a faith without a resurrected Savior back in 1 Corinthians 15. Let's read it again.
He says, "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty... And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."
What Paul was saying is this: Either Christ rose from the dead or He didn't. This is a deep issue of faith for a believer. Our modern world is geared to rip from our mind and from our heart any belief in God and even more so that Jesus of Nazareth was the divine Son of God, sent to this earth, born of a woman—died and was resurrected to life eternal and sits today at the right hand of the Father waiting for the signal to return in all power and glory.
It is the most important of matters in this life for you and for I to resolve. With this truth—everything matters.
You know, faith for me has been a really a lifetime project, just as I am sure it has been for you. It began in my youth and I had once had an unusual opportunity to think very deeply about this in Jerusalem, walking over the same land where Jesus lived and taught.
This is the so-called Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. Years ago it was identified as the tomb where Jesus was laid after His death. But further study has proven this not to be the case. And while not the tomb of Jesus, it does give an idea of what a rolling stone tomb of the first century A.D. looked like. The empty tomb today can be viewed in Jerusalem and it serves to illustrate what the disciples' saw—an empty tomb where once Jesus had lain.
Years ago, while in Jerusalem for a summer of work and study, I used to walk down to that site and sit for a time thinking about the impact of the resurrection. In a rock-cut tomb like this, you can imagine all the events described by the gospel writers. Christ's body was carried and laid out on a piece of rock. Oils and special herbs were rubbed on the body and wrapped in fine linen cloth. And the rock was rolled across the entrance and darkness settled in the room. Three days and nights passed in silence and darkness. And then, at a precise moment, a flash of light penetrated the dark and life returned to the body—not the same physical life but a spiritual life beyond what any human had experienced. The fullness of God energized the lifeless form and what was, vanished. Christ had risen from the dead and mankind had a Savior.
Without a resurrection, Christianity is nothing more than a human philosophy on par with all the other creeds and teachings. With the resurrection there is nothing else but this central fact and truth. With it there is everything. All things have become new and are possible.
This is such an important subject. We've got a booklet today that we think will help you to understand another dimension of this. The booklet is The Church Jesus Built . This free Bible study aid thoroughly covers some of the main reasons Christ came to earth in the flesh. It covers the subject with Scripture and it opens up new understanding for many. Jesus Christ is the most misunderstood figure in history. His teachings have been both accepted and denied. His life has been used to support everything from socialism to capitalism. He was considered radical in His day yet by today's standards, His teachings seem out of date. What is the truth?
You'll want to study this booklet with your Bible to learn more about the church Jesus founded and how to find the one with Christ as its head, carrying out His work today. Get your free copy by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. Or go online to BeyondToday.tv .
And here's something for you who have e-readers like the Kindle or the iPad. This booklet and others are available for download off of our website. Just do a search with the booklet name on the site and you can download it for free to your reader. It's the quickest and the most direct way to get to the booklets that we have.
Now let me tell you about an event that you will want to mark on your calendar. The United Church of God is sponsoring a series of Kingdom of God Bible Seminars . These are being held in major cities in the United States, Canada, Australia and around the world. At these seminars you will hear in depth presentations about the central Bible teaching of the Kingdom of God.
Each seminar is different. If you attended the last one you're not going to want to miss the next in the series. Go to BeyondToday.tv . Look for the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link and you'll find the seminar near you and you can register to attend.
Now before His death, Jesus had a meal with the disciples commonly called The Last Supper. You're probably familiar with the depiction of this scene by the famous Renaissance painter, Leonardo DaVinci. What Christ and His disciples sat down to and have was really a Passover meal. But during the meal Christ made some significant changes.
We read about it in 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul wrote this. He said, "I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
Now you see the events of Christ's death took place at the time of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. The festival is first described back in Exodus 12 at the time Israel left Egypt under Moses. Christ's death and His resurrection breathed new meaning into this festival.
The apostle Paul summed up this festival in eloquent language to a group of believers in the city of Corinth. His intent was to teach a non-Jewish, Gentile church that God's festivals were to be observed with new meaning and relevance.
In chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians he says to them, "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
Christ, our Passover, fulfilled the symbol of the lamb traditionally killed as part of the Old Testament Passover service. His sacrifice, once for all time, was planned from the foundation of the world.
Christ was laid in a new tomb, cut from rock, probably a rolling stone tomb common to the first century of Jerusalem. The Gospels tell us the disciples had to hurry to get this done since the Sabbath was coming on. What most misunderstand about this Sabbath is that it was not the weekly Sabbath, but it was actually the first Day of Unleavened Bread, an annual Sabbath, a part of this Holy Spring Festival.
Christ told the disciples He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. This came to pass exactly as He had foretold. It was the one sign that He gave to the skeptics that He was the Son of God, the Messiah.
Now when the disciples came to the tomb that morning, they found it empty. The prophecies had come true. The Holy One had not seen corruption. Scores of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled with this event. The disciples would over the coming weeks piece it together and come to understand that this Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah.
They set out on the commission to take the gospel to the world and to make disciples. They took the good news of the Kingdom of God to the world of their day. We see this fascinating story in the Book of Acts and through the teaching of the apostles; we learn the importance of Christ's life and resurrection to our hope of salvation and eternal life.
Christ's death paid the penalty for sin. That judgment is lifted from us when we repent and accept Christ's sacrifice and blood shed for the remission of sins.
And this begins the process of salvation for us. But our hope of eternal life as part of God's family, in the Kingdom, lies in the life of Christ in us. And understanding this vital key is critical.
Look at what Paul writes in Romans as he conveys this truth.
In Romans he says, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation" (Romans 5:8-10).
Verse 10 gives us something to talk about. Many times well meaning religious people focus on Christ's death and do not bring into proper perspective His life.
There is focus on His passion and His death, a very important part of God's plan. Christ's death provides us with the sacrifice necessary for the reconciliation with God and the forgiveness of sin. Very important!
But this only begins the process. That Christ lived again, was resurrected from the grave and lives today is necessary for us to have any hope of eternal life. We are saved, and salvation—eternal life—is a gift of God by grace.
Now comes the important point. Follow on in the following verses from Romans.
Paul says, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?"
You know, today sin is a word that we really don't like to talk about. Don't like to admit it. People don't want to admit to conduct that's wrong, that violates the law of God. Our physically saturated world dulls our sensitivities to a spiritual dimension of life that's real. We can think the physical is all there is to life. The existence of spiritual laws that govern how we live—that's right—I said govern our life, it's an alien thought. Man is a physical being with a spiritual dimension that allows us to connect with God and have a relationship. These same spiritual laws, when obeyed, enable us to live successfully, free of a lot of the pain and suffering brought on by bad decisions and behavior.
Sin is why God sent His Son to live and to die for us.
And Paul goes on. He says, "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
"For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
"For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God" (Romans 6:3-6; Romans 6:10).
Now in this passage, Paul provides us a vision of how to live once we have repented of living contrary to the spiritual laws of God, and made a choice to obey God and turn from a life and from a culture of death to one that puts us squarely on the road to eternal life. To begin this life, this journey, is to begin to live as we have never lived previously. It is a new life. We are alive to God in Christ.
This new life is about Christ in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. It's about a different approach and a different attitude toward life than we would have without that help. It's about a choice that we make to become free from sin and its consequences. It's about deciding to stop the destructive behavior of addictions to whatever may currently enslave us. It's about deciding to forgive others and letting go of past hurts and moving on in life. It's about deciding to avoid the people, the places, the attitudes and the temptations that keep us in the holes of life.
Now our free offers today of the booklet about the church and about the magazine that we have, make this subject very clear.
When you call today and request the booklet, you're going to also be given the opportunity to have a free subscription to our magazine, The Good News . Six issues a year. And each issue includes many subjects on prophecy, Christian living and biblical teaching. Your knowledge of the Bible, of God and of His great plan for your life will grow with each issue of this important, this vitally important magazine.
You can receive this free magazine by calling the toll free number: 1-888-886-8632. Or go online at www. BeyondToday.tv.
In addition, I really encourage you to visit our website. We're now producing daily videos on breaking news and important topics. Join us throughout the week for BT Daily and get additional material to help you better understand life.
I'm now joined with my fellow Beyond Today hosts, Gary Petty and Steve Myers, as we go deeper into this subject.
Why is it a challenge for a person to believe in Christ's resurrection?
[Gary] You know, Darris, I think it's because we live in such a secular society; that people tend to take the Bible and make it a myth. They may believe that Jesus actually existed as a person, but they don't really, truly believe in His divinity. And one proof of that is a number of years ago, the novel The Da Vici Code and the movies that it spawned—which actually took Jesus and simply made Him a good man where He got married and had children. There really was no crucifixion. No resurrection. And a lot of people actually believe that. Millions of people actually believe that novel was true.
[Steve] I think it has a lot to do with being eye-witnesses. We weren't there. We haven't seen it. And so without experiencing it for ourselves, we tend to minimize it and think well maybe it didn't happen after all.
[Darris] That eye-witness is an incredible testimony and the truth of the Scriptures, really directly point to that.
[Steve] It is amazing how many times it says that Christ was seen after the resurrection. Even preaching the Kingdom of God for 40 days afterwards and seen by hundreds. Five hundred at once, you mentioned!
[Darris] Christ made sure that He was seen enough times that day in that age for that to be understood. All of that being true, I think that the most important aspect of proof comes by the doing and by the life of Christ in us.
Galatians 2:20, Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ;[and] it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." That's a powerful scripture.
[Gary] Well, for those who don't accept that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is divine... You know when we make statements like, we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and that's as real to us as any relationship we have in our lives. And yet for people who don't have that, they don't know what we're talking about. That scripture you just read, Christianity is more than just believing in Jesus Christ. It is following Him as a brother. It is worshipping Him as the Son of God. It is imitating His life and it's actually having a relationship with Him.
[Steve] I think one of the stories that relate to the resurrection, of course revolves around doubting Thomas. Everyone knows the story of doubting Thomas. And he hadn't seen Christ yet and so he doubted the whole thing. He just could not believe it because he hadn't seen it. And so Christ finally appears to him and when He does, He makes that point so clearly because Thomas says my Lord, by God—when he finally sees Him and touches Him with his own hands. And yet Christ makes that amazing point where He says, blessed are those who haven't seen and yet believe.
And that's us! We haven't physically seen Him but it makes it no less real. I mean Christ is everything. Galatians 2:20 brings that home that He is our Savior. We're to die to our old selves and become like Christ. And so that's the reality of it. The reality of the resurrection is that Christ lives in me.
[Darris] That's what Paul was saying. The life I live, I live by faith or the faith of Christ within me. That's just a powerful concept; takes a whole lifetime to come up to and to understand.
[Steve] Changed lives. I think it comes down to changed lives. Being a part of the true faith means my life can be changed. I don't have to have the same worries, the same concerns, the same perspective that would override us otherwise. You know because of the faith of Jesus Christ, we can be different. We can live a different life. We can be a different person.
[Darris] If a person is wanting to escape the traditions that have surrounded all of this, what's the best way to get to the clear, unvarnished truth, from Scriptures of Christ's resurrection and the meaning of His life today?
[Gary] You know, first of all, just go back and read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. See what those people wrote from that time period about Jesus and like in the case of John from his person experience. When you read through that, what you see are people that captured the meaning of His life and what Jesus shows us is how to worship His Father. His whole ministry was about how to worship His Father. If you really want to worship God? You really want to understand God? You have to understand Jesus Christ.
[Darris] Remember our free offers today: The booklet, The Church Jesus Built and our bi-monthly publication, The Good News magazine. You can call right now: 1-888-886-8632 and request your free copy and your subscription. Again, that's 1-888-886-8632. Or go online at www.BeyondToday.tv .
All of this is talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ—the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Its meaning for you is far greater than anything you can learn by the religious traditions that obscure the real meaning of the event. When we understand it within the completeness of the life and the death of Christ, it completely changes everything.
The disciples found an empty tomb. He was not there. He had risen and today Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, the Head of a spiritual body called the Church. He is directing the work that you are watching right here at this time on this television program. Keep watching us. Check out what we say with your Bible, and then you decide.
Join us next time and remember to keep praying "Thy kingdom come." For Beyond Today , I'm Darris McNeely.