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The Persecuted Church

 

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The Resurrection:  a fact not easily Ignored

The resurrection, Not since the creation of the world was there a witness to such a miracle. No day in history has been more controversial and challenged by skeptics.

The New Testament documents are reliable eyewitness accounts (1 Jn.1) ,  remains only to show that they affirm that Jesus died and rose from the dead a few days later. Luke states he interviewed the eyewitnesses and received a complete understanding to write an accurate account so that Theophilus as well as us today can be assured.

Throughout the ministry time of Jesus he raised several people from the dead. One which was dead for 4 days. These were people who were actually dead with rigamortis setting in. These are not descriptions of near death experiences.

Jesus announced numerous times during His ministry that He was going to die. Right after Peter confessed Jesus as the Son of the Living God Matt 16:21 “ From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. In Matthew 17 He said the son of man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men and they will kill Him and the third day he will be raised. 20% of the Gospels are devoted to this overall teaching of his death and resurrection (mentioned 175 times in the NT. It is the theme of the Gospel accounts. Matt 20:18-19, Matt. 21:37-39; Mark 8:31, 9:31; Luke 9:22, 18:32-34, Luke 24:44-47; John 2:19-22,6:51, John 10:17-18).

While the resurrection is plainly taught in the O.T. the rapture is considered a mystery. Isa. 26:19 “Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

In Hosea 13:14 “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!

It is found in even the oldest book of the bible Job when he stated he would one day see his redeemer in his flesh.
Job 19:25-27  For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! So this has been the hope of all who believed and served the Lord.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” The resurrection is the hardest part to accept, It was not accepted with many Greeks such as in Acts 17 They were angry at Paul when he got to that point .

Acts 17:18-20 states that “Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” This was meeting place where the Greeks and others from outside would gather to hear the latest trends in philosophy.

Paul told the philosophers that God “has given proof...to all men Acts 17:31-32 “Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.”

To be brought back into the same body to live in was absurd to some of the philosophers of their day, and it still is ours. It was so much easier to believe in reincarnation and receive a whole different body.

Did He really Die ?

The extent of Jesus' injuries are a clear indication that He must have died, he had no sleep the night before, he went through two trials. He was beaten several times and whipped 39 times by a whip of leather throngs with either lead balls or nails and glass, most did not survive the whipping.  When first whipped the  heavy thongs cut through the skin as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the muscles which produce arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The skin of the back is ripped wide open hanging in pieces. The entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn bleeding tissue.  The centurions would finally stop the beating when the prisoner is just short of death. They then put a robe around him and it adhered to the open wounds.

A crown of thorns were pressed into his head (these were big sharp thorns pressed into the scalp, a very sensitive area to bleeding). Then they struck his face and hit him with the stick on the head. After tiring of their sport of mocking him they quickly removed the robe after it dried on the wounds causing excruciating pain and the wounds would again begin to bleed. By now he was in shock and very weak.

He was then brought before Pilate and the people who insisted on his crucifixion. He was given a cross beam to carry over his shoulders on his open wounds weighing what some say was over 100 lbs. He was so weak he collapsed on the way to his own crucifixion his loss of blood and strength is now life threatening. Jesus was no weakling. Many times he exhibited stamina beyond normal ability. He got up consistently in the Mornings to pray and he lasted far beyond the disciples. When they were sleeping at night, he was praying. Yet he still was human and was weak and tired like anyone else, but he did not let this interfere with fulfilling Gods will. He live to do God’s will.

The Romans see this and picked someone else to help him carry his cross. He walked up the Mount to Golgotha a 650 yard journey being totally exhausted.  There would be a tremendous loss of blood from being on the cross for more than six hours. The victim crucified would constantly press themselves up on a plate under the feet in order to keep breathing. Doing this for 6 hours could kill even the healthy.  He mustered up every bit of strength left to stay conscious.  If he had swooned from exhaustion on the cross he would have suffocated.

Jesus finally declares, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” And having said this He breathed His last “He gave up His spirit”( he dismissed it). Jesus' death cry was heard by the eyewitnesses who stood near. The Romans who were professional executors pronounced Jesus dead. The scripture states when they broke the legs of the two thieves (who were not whipped or beaten) the Guards came to Jesus and were convinced that Jesus had already died.

The Roman piercing of Jesus' side with a spear from which poured out blood and water is proof of His death. This is proven medially that he had a ruptured heart. If he had not already died, this spear thrust into his heart by trained executioners would have surely brought death.

The New Testament witnesses understood the background against which the resurrection took place. The body of Jesus, in accordance with the Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth, in 75 lbs. Of aromatic spices, mixed together to form a gummy substance, which was applied to the wrappings of cloth about the body. He was then placed in a sealed tomb cut in the side of a MT.. A large stone approximately two tons was rolled down into place by means of levers against the entrance of the tomb. It was then taped and engraved with a Roman seal. If broken was punishable by death. In his condition considering the possibility that there was some mistake and was buried alive. He would have died from no immediate medical attention for blood loss, shock, lack of food, water, and three days in a musty tomb wrapped up like a mummy.

F. F. Bruce, professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, says concerning the value of the New Testament records as primary sources: “Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.”

If this was not true then what his disciples believed and preached of his coming alive again was a bold lie. This would have gone against all that Jesus taught them when he was alive. He always spoke of truth, they were taught to have integrity. On the other hand the Roman soldiers were paid off to lie about the resurrection (Mt.28:11-15).

If it was all a lie when the disciples were preaching the resurrection in Jerusalem, all the Jewish or Roman authorities had to do is say “Wait We have the body it’s right here.” They could have easily recovered the corpse, put it on a cart displaying it in victory through the city of Jerusalem, saying here is your Messiah? This action would have halted Christianity immediately. But there was a very simple answer to this. They didn’t produce his corpse because it was Gods victory for mankind. They didn’t  because they did not have the body. It was stolen all right, not by man, but by God who raised him from the dead just as he promised.

The disciples were just as astounded by this event since when he had died they had lost all hope. The transformation of the disciples from cowards to bold martyrs proves some kind of miraculous event convinced them. We often hear comments that Jesus was seen alive after His death by His friends and followers who already believed. Not so, he also appeared to those who were hostile against his message. No informed individual would regard Saul of Tarsus as being a follower of Christ. It was this encounter with a risen glorified Christ that convinced him Jesus was his Messiah. Unbelievers knew of it, even Jesus' half brothers James and Jude who thought he was out of his mind when he was alive, became believers from this event.

Christ appeared not just to individuals but to groups, including one gathering of more than 500 people. Paul said that many of them were still alive and appeals to asking them about these events to prove it to anyone who questions it. They were first hand witnesses, and today we would call what is written a primary resource.(1 Cor. 15:6). The 11 appearances were at different places. Some were in the garden by the tomb, some were in the Upper Room where the disciples gathered. Some were as far away as Galilee another was on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Each appearance had different circumstances and words spoken to the eyewitnesses continuing prove he has risen. John 21:14 “This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.” They were meticulous in recording the events,  how they transpired and what was said.

Within 40 days after Jesus had 11 separate recorded appearances to numerous different groups of people.

Paul asks the question by what body we will be resurrected in. Jesus Himself said His resurrection body was one of “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39; 13:37)

Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:50, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. . . “ The Apostle Paul turns to the subject of transformation. The body that we now possess is not suitable for the heavenly kingdom it is fallen. It is corrupted, subject to disease, and decays. Only that which is pure, incorruptible and immortal can enter heaven, this is why there must be a change. Paul answers the question of what kind of “body” believers will have in the resurrection (vs. 35). It will be a “spiritual body” (vs. 44). He proceeds to tell us a mystery which involves the change that all believers will go through, The corruptible will put on incorruption , and mortality will become immortality. This implies a conversion of our same physical bodies to a body with heavenly qualities. We will have a complete change to make us suitable for our new environment. Jesus offered His resurrection as a proof of His claims of who he is. (John 2:19-22; 10:18). That no other sign would be given to that unbelieving generation this was their las. (Matt. 12:40).  If Christ did not rise in the same physical body placed in the tomb, then the Resurrection loses its significance as evidence for His claim to be God. The apostles pointed to the post resurrection appearances of Jesus as, “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3). The Resurrection was the center of their preaching to the Jews as well as the Gentiles.

The early church was adamant on this. Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165) said plainly: “The resurrection is a resurrection of the flesh which dies.” As for those who “maintain that even Jesus Himself appeared only as spiritual, and not in flesh, but presented merely the appearance of flesh: these persons seek to rob the flesh of the promise.” Justin even insisted that Christ's ascension shows that it is possible “for flesh to ascend into heaven.” Tertullian declared the resurrection of the flesh to be the church's “rule of faith,” saying it “was taught by Christ” and only denied by heretics.”

Athenagoras In his treatise on “The Resurrection of the Dead” concluded that God's “power is sufficient for the raising of dead bodies, and is shown by the creation of these same bodies. For if, when they did not exist, He made at their first formation the bodies of men, and their original elements, He will, when they are dissolved, in whatever manner that may take place, raise them again with equal ease: for this, too, is equally possible to Him.”

Against all heresies Chapt.4. Cerdo, Marcion, Lugan, Apelles.” A resurrection of the soul merely does he approve, denying that of the body.” “He reinstated in heaven His spirit only. This man denies the resurrection of the flesh.”

Mishna Sanhedrin 10:1 “He who maintains that the resurrection is not a Biblical doctrine has no share in the world to come.” (this was an accusation against the Sadducees)

The apostle Paul in 1 Cor.15:14-19 gives a list of consequences that follow a denial of the physical resurrection. V.14 “If Christ did not rise, then our faith is useless, empty, vain.” V.15 The apostles including himself are false witnesses of his death and then no one rises, we have no hope. Vs.16-17 “Our faith is false and we are still in our sins;” Vs.18 Our departed loved ones are lost gone forever Vs.19 “We are the most to be pitied of all men    so why live this way.” Vs.20 but he has raised and he is the first raised unto eternal life.

Writing after the Resurrection, John declared that Jesus “came [and remained] in the flesh” (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). The body that emerged from the tomb Sunday morning was the exact same body that went in the tomb. He also showed His crucifixion scars on his hands and side on two occasions because of doubt. Thomas he said “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). He fell down and confessed him as his own Lord and God. Jesus said because you have seen you believe blessed are they that have not seen and yet believe.”

When God created the world there was no man there to witness this event and record it. When God became a man and they witnessed his miracles yet they needed faith to understand. When Jesus raised from the dead it became a witnessed fact of history .

We all share This hope of the resurrection that believe in Christ. It is the 3rd point of the Gospel the seal that attests to the Genuineness of Christ. He is the forerunner to the greatest event since creation, and we will all share in it one day. To God be the glory.

 

 

 

 

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