THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
By Pastor Glenn Pease
For the man who has everything there is now a solar-powered headstone. John Dilks, a computer engineer for Western Electric designed this headstone with a recording device and a video display screen, which will display a biographical account and a computerized photograph. Dilks Creative Tombstone Incorporated offers many options so you won't be just one of the crowed in the cemetery. You can get a voice-activated box if you don't want just anybody toying with your tombstone tapes. Other options include sensors to tell when a visitor is approaching, and when the grass needs cutting. He will even include a nozzle that will spray incense. For those who really think long range you can include messages for future generations, and so you will be able to speak some words of wisdom to your great, great, great, great grandchildren.
The potential of this device called "Imitations of Immortality" are nearly endless. And the cost is only 39,500 dollars, if you throw in the bulletproof glass to protect from vandals. Future generations will be going to the cemetery for multimedia presentations from the grave. Death will be to some degree swallowed up in this death denying Disney Land display of data. Technology has made it possible for modern man to talk from the tomb, and this gives him a sense of power over death.
This is all mere child's play compared to the game being played by the men described in the book The Tomorrow Makers. We are talking about the top researchers of our day who are convinced that downloading will happen in our lifetime. This means that man will be able to figure out how to make a copy of the human brain just like we now make copies of movies on videotape. The brain can be hooked up to a computer and a copy made, and then that copy can be put into a robot, which will then be controlled by that tape of the brain. When the machine wears out or becomes obsolete the brain can be transferred to a new model.
This is not fantasy. It is the serious research going on in Carnegie-Mellon, MIT Stanford, and in Japan. Many of these researchers have a passion to never die, but become immortal by means of downloading. They believe that this could be the last generation that will have to die. Hans Moravec says, "We are on a threshold of a change in the universe comparable to the transition from non-life to life." Modern man is truly excited about the potential of developing power over death, and why shouldn't he be, for death is no friend. Death is the final foe that man must somehow defeat if he is to live forever.
The problem is that man in his pride always wants to try the Moby Dick approach to life. Moby Dick is Herman Melville's classic about Captain Ahab's search for a fierce white whale. On the surface the novel seems like a story about whale hunting, but it goes much deeper. Some consider it one of the most deeply theological novels ever written in America. When Melville finished the book he wrote in a personal letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne, "I have written a wicked book." This was long before the "Save the whales" movement, and so he was not feeling guilty about the obsession of Ahab to get revenge on Moby Dick for his lost leg. He was feeling guilty because his book was really about God and man. The whale in all its brilliant whiteness was a symbol of God, and Ahab's obsession to hunt down the whale represents man's mad pursuit to reduce God to his slave in order to control God and use His power to achieve human ends.
The technological search for immortality is Captain Ahab at work. Man wants to figure out some way to live forever without doing it God's way. Man wants to be in control and do it his way. In other words, it is the same old story of a works salvation. Man does not want a handout and a salvation by free grace. He wants to get it by his own power, even if he has to capture heavenly power to do it. All of history is a power struggle between God and man, or Moby Dick and Ahab.
The good news of Easter is that the power to conquer death is already available to those who will humble themselves to receive it as a gift. The power of the resurrection is so much greater than anything man has even imagined. In the power of the resurrection of Christ there is available the power to give every person in history the gift of eternal life. And not merely mechanical life that is lived by a machine, but the life of a real person in relationship to other eternal persons, including the Person of the risen Christ.
We do have to give man credit, for he is on the right track. If man is going to live forever he must have a power source. The problem with science and technology is that it is limited to the power available in creation. That is mind- boggling power, but the Bible says it is but the work of God's finger. The Bible, on the hand, puts us in touch with the work of God's Son, and not just His finger, but His only begotten Son, and in the Son we are dealing with the power of the resurrection. This is power that is more than mind-boggling, for it is spirit-boggling. It is power so incomparable that Paul in this passage uses all the resources of the Greek language to make us realize that this was the greatest event in history for the sheer magnitude and might of this miracle. Paul assembles here the greatest array of terms for power that we find anywhere in the New Testament. Verse 19 is the power pack of the Bible. What did it take to get the body of Jesus back to life out of the tomb, and ascended to the right hand of God? Paul says it took-
1. POWER. The Greek word here is dunimis from which we get dynamite.
2. ENERGY. The Greek word here is energia.
3. MIGHTY STRENGTH. It took only the work of God's finger to create this vast universe, but when He raised Jesus from the dead it took even almighty God the flexing of His muscles.
The resurrection of Jesus was no snap even for God. It was not a mere saying let there be life and there was life. It took the exertion of infinite energy to accomplish this miracle of all miracles. Every miracle of the Bible falls into the category of minor miracles in comparison to the only miracle in its class, which was the mega miracle of the resurrection. When we are talking about the power of the resurrection we are talking about the power of the Source. This is power at its greatest, and this is the peak and pinnacle of power. There is no concept of power that rises above it, for it is the ultimate demonstration of God's power. God operates on different levels of power just as we all do. Isa. 52:10 portrays God as rolling up His sleeves and flexing His muscles. "The Lord will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of the Lord."
It is not as though omnipotence is stretched by harder projects, but just that even omnipotence has to exert greater energy to accomplish certain things, and the ultimate exertion of power was when God raised Jesus from the dead. Right away this should provoke a question in our minds-why should it take so much of God's infinite power to raise Jesus from the dead? After all, there were other raisings from the dead in both the Old and New Testaments. They were marvelous miracles and rank among the greatest miracles, but there is no stress that they took special power to accomplish. This forces us to see the resurrection of Jesus as totally different from all other resurrections. All the others were really resuscitations. The spirit was restored to the body and they went on living for a time, but they all eventually died again. There was escape and postponement of death, but no real conquering of death in all the other resurrections.
In order to see the uniqueness of the resurrection of Christ we need to see the uniqueness of His death. Nobody ever died like Jesus. Many died on the cross, but no one ever died tasting death for all people. On Jesus was laid the iniquity of us all, and Jesus died for the sins of the world. The Bible says He actually became sin for us. He who knew no sin took on all sin, and He took on the wages of all sin, which was death. He was the only man who never deserved death, and yet He is taking on Himself the death that all other men do deserve. This is the one and only ultimate death. Most die for themselves; some die for their friends, and a few die for a larger group, but nobody ever died for all people but Jesus.
When death took Jesus He was the most dead person that ever was. No other person in history had ever been so dead, for He was held in death's grip by trillions upon trillions of sin that made Him the rightful possession of death. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus picked up the tab for every sinner that ever was or will be. This one of a kind radical death demanded more than a mere restoration of the spirit and the body. This demanded an all out, head on confrontation of the power of heaven and hell, of light and darkness, of life and death. This was not the battle of the century, but this was the heavy weight champion of the universe, which would determine the destiny of the universe and all who have ever lived. Raising Jesus was equivalent to raising every person who had ever died.
Raising others from the dead was like reaching over the fence and plucking a apple from the tree of an enemy and bringing it back to your side of the fence. Raising Jesus was more like an all out evasion into enemy territory to take every orchard and every tree and every apple into His possession. Paul says that Jesus led captivity captive. All who were under the power of Satan were liberated, and Jesus became the conquering King over hell itself, and He took possession of the keys of death and hell. What a powerful victory when the most in bondage to death person who had ever existed, not only gets free himself, but becomes the Lord over death with the right to grant freedom to all He chooses.
This was not a mere miracle, but the mega miracle of all time. This took the wisdom and power of God in full strength. God pulled out all stops and exerted power like never before to rescue His Son and complete the plan of salvation for mankind. We celebrate the power of the allies that gave us victory over the axis powers. We celebrate the power of science that gives us so much in the way of convenience and pleasure, but our ultimate celebration of power is the power of the resurrection. By this power our Lord became the Lord of all other powers in the universe, and thus assuring us that the story of history will have a happy ending for all who acknowledge His Lordship. By the power of the resurrection Jesus became Lord of the past, the future and the present.
I. THE RISEN CHRIST AS LORD OF THE PAST.
Ordinarily it is true that even God cannot change the past. Whatever has been has been, and even omnipotence cannot make it so that it never was. Even if God blots it out and no longer remembers it-it still was. So basically the past cannot be changed, but the power of the resurrection was so great that it did change the past. Paul wrote, "As in Adam all die so in Christ shall be made alive." The whole past of human history has been based on Adam's fall, but because of the resurrection of Christ that is all different now, for even the past generations come under the Lordship of Christ, and they will live because of His power, and they will be judged by His power.
In the power of the resurrection Jesus changed the whole relationship of God and man. Jesus was always the Son of God for all eternity, but it was as Spirit and not as man. When He was raised from the dead His manhood became a part of His eternal being, and not just His incarnational being. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and Jesus was flesh and blood. His humanity was not immortal. If it would have been He could not have died. The God-Man union of the incarnation was a step on the way to the complete union of God and man for eternity, and the completion took place by the power of the resurrection. It fused together the God-Man partnership forever. Before the resurrection Jesus was capable of dying and having His human nature divided from His divine nature. After the resurrection this was no longer possible for His humanity and deity became one forever.
So radical was this event that nothing like it ever happened before, for on Easter we have the birth of the Son of God. Jesus experienced a new birth in the power of the resurrection. Never before had there been a being composed of immortal manhood and eternal deity. That is why Paul makes Easter the day of God's receiving a new Son into His family. He writes in Rom. 1:3-4, "Regarding His Son, who as to His human nature was a descendent of David, and who threw the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead." The resurrection declared Jesus to be the Son of God, says Paul. But He was always the Son of God wasn't He? Yes He was, but not as an immortal man. He was made in the power of the resurrection something He had never been before, and so He was a new being. He was the first of His kind, and the first fruits of a whole harvest of the redeemed who would become immoral people.
God had never had a Son like the risen Christ. This was the goal of incarnation and the cross, and it was prophesied in the Old Testament. Paul in Acts 13:32-33 makes this point in his preaching. "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm, you are my Son: Today I have become your Father." The day of Christ's resurrection was the day He became the Son of God, and God became His Father in a way that never existed before. The past was radically changed. Christmas was when God came down to manhood. Easter was when man was lifted up to Godhood.
Power is associated with Easter more than with Christmas because it took an enormously greater amount of divine energy to lift man up than for God to come down. Christmas is God born from the womb as the Son of Man. Easter is man born from the tomb as the Son of God. Easter fulfills the purpose of Christmas, and it completes God's goal of more than restoring man to God's fellowship, but of incorporating Him into the family of God as His immortal children. Man lived in bondage to death all through history. It was the inevitable, inescapable and irreversible foe, but Jesus brought life and immorality to light.
We do not know fully what Peter was getting at, but it is clear that he is saying that the risen Christ is Lord of the past when he writes in I Peter 3:18-20. "He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah." Easter changed all the past because it made Jesus Lord of the past.
Peter is teaching that the power of the resurrection enabled the risen Christ to go back into the past and by preaching seek to change that past. We do not know all that this implies. It is just another of the mind-boggling hints as to the power of the resurrection, and of how it made the risen Christ Lord of the past. Next we see-
II. THE RISEN CHRIST AS LORD OF THE FUTURE.
Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in verse 18 is that "The eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you." There was a play in New York called, "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever." Easter is that clear day for the Christian. It was the day that opened up forever for mankind. Not only was the stone rolled away from the tomb, but the clouds were rolled away from the sky and man was permitted to see the invisible and infinite destiny of humanity in Christ.
Three astronomers at the University of Arizona found two more galaxies at least 17 billion light years away. They feel that man is coming close to seeing to the very edge of the observable universe. But no matter how powerful a telescope man can build, he can never see forever. This power is found only in the risen Lord who is the Lord of forever, and who alone can open up to us a vision of the eternal destiny of the believers.
Paul does not give us any description of eternity here as he does elsewhere, but he does say something crucial in verse 21 where he describes the power of the resurrection, which was also the power of the ascension which seated Jesus at the right hand of God in the heavenly realm. Paul adds in verse 21, "Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."
The power of the resurrection catapulted Jesus, the eternal God-Man, to the pinnacle of power for all time and eternity. The whole political structure of the universe was changed forever by the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God. He was not just the chief executive officer, or the president, or the chairman of the board, but He was King of Kings and Lord and Lords as absolute head over everything and everyone. Man was given dominion over the earth by God in creation, but by the power of the resurrection man in Christ was given dominion over the entire universe. Now the future destiny of everything and everyone is in His hands. He got the whole world in His hands, and greater yet, He has the whole universe in His hands. Our faith in a fantastic and fabulous future is founded upon this fact of what the power of the resurrection did to the person and position of our Lord.
It is a fallen world, and evil is powerful. There is so much suffering and injustice, and it would be intolerable if we did not have the hope of a risen Lord who will make sure that evil will not win. There is a happy ending of the story of history for all who get in on the power of the resurrection by faith in Jesus. Paul says it so clearly in Rom. 10:9, "..if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Our eternal destiny is determined by plugging into the power of the resurrection. If you are linked to the Lord of forever, you will also live with Him forever. You can see forever by the power of the resurrection-that power that made Jesus Lord of all the past and all the future. Helen Rogers Smith wrote,
He lifted from the dust,
The cross of shame;
And gave to it a glory and a name
To live forever in the hearts of men-
And bring them comfort, faith and peace, again.
He lifted from the depths,
The soul of man-
Oppressed by toil and wrong since time began;
And gave to it a dignity and worth,
In Him revealed, above the wealth of earth.
He lifted from the grave,
Triumphant over pain and grief and strife;
Our hope and stay along a war-worn way,
Whose end is-Christ!
The focus of all is on Christ, for the power of the resurrection has made the risen Lord, Lord of the future. We don't have to be concerned about the past, and be puzzled about how people will be saved who lived before Christ and never heard of a Messiah. Jesus is Lord of the past, and He will settle all such issues wisely and compassionately. We do not need to be concerned about the future and wonder how the world's mess will all get straightened out. The Lord of the future will also take care of all these issues. Our only concern should be for the present where we can make choices that either put us in contention with or cooperation with the power of the resurrection. So let's look finally at-
III. THE RISEN CHRIST AS LORD OF THE PRESENT.
We look back at the scared cross and ahead to the second coming, but let us not forget to look up to the sovereign crown, for Jesus reigns now as Lord. The idea of waiting for Jesus and His future kingdom is a hindrance if it causes us to be blind to the fact that His kingdom is already here. Just because spring is not yet here in all of its fullness does not mean it is not here, and so it is with the kingdom of our Lord. He is already the head of everything and Lord of all. Everything that will be is already to some degree a reality. Paul makes this clear in Eph. 2:5-6 where he says that God "...has made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.." We have already been resurrected from the dead, and we have already been raptured into heaven to reign with Christ. The head is already there and so the body is guaranteed to be there. It is so certain that it is already a reality.
The challenge of the Christian life is to tap into the power of the resurrection and make the future certainty a present reality. This was the longing and the goal of the Apostle Paul. He wrote in Phil. 3:10-11, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." This profound passage is worth a message in itself, but we can only take note of the fact that Paul linked his own future resurrection to his present knowing of Christ and the power of His resurrection. The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now, and by the power of the resurrection we can also now be victorious Christians. Easter power is a now power, for it is the power to defeat vices and defend virtues.
Notice that the power of the resurrection is just a potential power in our lives. It is the power that is already changed the whole past and the whole future, but it is not an automatic power in our present. If that was the case, Paul would not be longing to know this power. It is like the power you have in your home. It does not work regardless of what you do. You have to plug things in and turn them on. You have to have knowledge of power and how to make it work for you to get the benefit of it. So it is with the power of the resurrection. You need to pray for it, seek it and strive to know how to be a channel for it. If Paul did not have it all together, and if he was still longing to know more of how he could be a channel of this power, we do not have to feel bad that we are not there yet. But we should feel bad if we do not long as he did to know Christ better and to know the power of His resurrection. He is the source of all the power that can make us persons of power in the present.
In the power of the resurrection our past is forgiven and our future is guaranteed, but what about right now? As channels of resurrection power what might we do and be right now that would exalt the living Christ and give Him victory over the forces of darkness in this present evil world? The power of the resurrection is to make us agents of beauty in an ugly world. It changed the ugliness of the cross into an object of beauty. It is the power that enables us to love our enemies, and to do good unto all men. It is the power to forgive 70 times 7, and the power to be patient and kind, and to be all that love is. It is the power to change all of our relationships and make them more positive. It is the power to be what God wants us to be.
The power to live for now is the same as the power to live forever, for it is power of the resurrection. That is why the Christian life continues where it began. We are saved by faith in Christ. In Christ alone is the power to live forever. But Paul longed for the power of the resurrection in his present life because he still lived in the flesh and had struggles. He cried out in Rom. 7, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" And he answers his own question, "Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." The power for time and eternity is in the power of the resurrection. If you want to live before you die, and then after you die, your only hope is the living Christ. May God help us all to be like Paul in our longing to experience the power of the resurrection.