FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD

Rev.1:5 – and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood —

John saw a resurrected man on the beach of the Isle of Patmos. Jesus was not a vision or a spirit, He came to John bodily and physically. That in itself has huge implications. First, the Creator, God Himself, was standing in front of John as a human. God became a man for all time. He died for us and is ministering as a priest for us before the Father in heaven. Here, Jesus is saying that He was the first man to raise permanently from the dead. Several others had been raised from the dead throughout history only to die again and go back into the grave. Jesus was raised in a new incorruptible body. He was the first of an entire race who will experience this. His body is an eternal, immortal body. Someday I too will have one. Here is how Adam Clarke describes this.

“The beginning, the first-born from the dead. In 1 Corinthians xv. 20, Christ is called the first-fruits of them that slept; and here, the chief and first-born from the dead; he being the first that ever resumed the natural life, with the employment of all its functions, never more to enter the empire of death, after having died a natural death, and in such circumstances as precluded the possibility of deception. The arch, chief, head, or first, answers in this verse to the first-fruits, Jesus Christ is not only the first who rose from the dead to die no more, but he is the first-fruits of human beings; for as surely as the first-fruits were an indication and pledge of the harvest, so surely was the resurrection of Christ the proof that all mankind should have a resurrection from the dead.”

For John this could be personal. John was in exile and all of the other apostles had been martyred (or would be shortly). Jesus was telling him, as well as us, that the final and greatest enemy, death itself, had been totally defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the book of Revelation unfolds we see the final scene of the great plan of God. The dead will be raised, we will be given new bodies like His, we will be comforted by Christ, and will rule with Him for eternity.

LAZARUS

Jn.11:25-27 – Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.

I love the story of Lazarus. It was one of the last miracles in the ministry of Jesus and had to be the most important of all. After all, when Jesus turned the water into wine as His first miracle, we learned He would save His best miracles for last. Why is this miracle so important? First, Jesus always takes care of His friends. Are you a friend of God? That is what Jesus called His followers, they were His friends. This is what we are called to, friendship with the Lord. This is definitely our place of safety.

Next, we see a picture of why Jesus came in this miracle. Lazarus was dead, laying in the tomb for four days. There was nothing he could do to fix his situation. There was no doctor, lawyer, politician, or health consultant that could change these circumstances. Lazarus was dead. This is a picture of where all of us are without Christ, dead in our sins. The only solution? Jesus had to intervene and raise Lazarus and us from the dead.

We also see the way our circumstances effect others. When something happens in our lives it effects everyone in our world. Martha, Mary, and the whole town of Bethany were devastated by Lazarus’ death. When someone’s life takes a downward turn it effects everyone in our world. Seeing Lazarus’ family weeping outside his tomb is all too familiar. I have seen far too many parents, siblings, and friends weeping outside of hospital rooms, prisons, car wrecks, and rehabs. Our “deaths” effect everyone we know.

When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb their weeping was turned to joy. Lazarus was back. This is also a picture of what happens when Jesus brings us out of our misery, our death while we still live. Not only is our life resurrected, the joy of everyone we know is awakened. This is exactly what the ministry of Jesus is all about.

That brings us to Mary. Her weeping for Lazarus was over. Now she was crying tears of joy. It wouldn’t be long until these tears of joy would wash the feet of Jesus. She was beginning to understand who Jesus was and why He was their friend.

RAISED BECAUSE ?

Rom.4:25 – He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

This is one of those verses that I couldn’t quite understand for many years. The NASB is helpful in this verse, it brings out the fact that Jesus was raised “because of” our justification. We have an understanding of the importance of the cross, understanding the resurrection is also critical. According to this verse Jesus was raised because man had been justified, declared righteous, by the sacrificial death of Jesus. When Jesus was raised from the dead all of His sons and daughters were raised with Him. The resurrection was God’s declaration that man had been redeemed. Here is how the ESV Study Bible describes it.

“Both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are necessary for forgiveness of sins and justification, raised for our justification. When God the Father raised Christ from the dead, it was a demonstration that he accepted Christ’s suffering and death as full payment for sin, and that the Father’s favor, no longer his wrath against sin, was directed toward Christ, and through Christ toward those who believe. Since Paul sees Christians as united with Christ in his death and resurrection, God’s approval of Christ at the resurrection results in God’s approval also of all who are united to Christ, and in this way results in their justification.”

Adam Clarke took it a little farther. He says that this is a title to eternal life in the bliss of fellowship with the Lord in heaven. Here is how Clarke describes this verse.

“He was raised that we might have the fullest assurance that the death of Christ had accomplished the end for which it took place; our reconciliation to God, and giving us a title to that eternal life, into which he has entered, and taken with him our human nature, as the first-fruits of the resurrection of mankind.”

What an amazing verse, we are not only forgiven for our sins by faith, we are connected to the life of the risen Savior. I was crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, raised from the dead with Christ, and I am seated in heavenly places with Christ. This is the point of Paul’s preaching in the book of Romans. We have touched the other world by faith, not only touched it, we have entered into the kingdom by faith in Christ.

RESURRECTION BREATH

John 20:21,22 – So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

It finally happened, the day Jesus was raised from the dead, man began to come alive once again. Since that first dark day when our first parents fell into sin up until the time of Christ, new life was only a hope and a promise; it had now finally become a reality. Jesus wasted no time, the very first day that He had been raised from the dead He met with His closest followers. Think about it, the blood for the cleansing of sin had been poured out and Jesus had been raised from the dead proving that man was now justified by grace through faith in the work of Christ at the cross. New life, resurrection life, had raised Jesus from the dead. He breathed this resurrection life on His disciples, “receive the Holy Spirit”. Life was surging through every part of them, they had been born again. Here are some thoughts from the Fire Bible on today’s verse.

“During Jesus’ last message to his disciples—he promised them that they would receive the Holy Spirit as the One who would regenerate them: “he lives with you and will be in you”. Jesus fulfilled that promise when he was with them following his resurrection. It is reasonable to conclude that Jn 20:22 refers to regeneration because of the phrase, “he breathed on them.” The Greek word for “breathed” (emphusaö) is the same verb used in the Septuagint in Ge 2:7, where God “breathed into his [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” ….John’s use of this verb suggests that Jesus was giving the Holy Spirit in order to bring life and “a new creation”. Just as God breathed “the breath of life” into the first man’s physical body “and the man became a living being” —a new creation—so Jesus breathed on the disciples and they each became a new creation in a spiritual sense.”

Today, we can receive this resurrection breath into our lives. When we do we are instantly transferred from one kingdom to another. We are no longer part of the kingdom of death, resurrection breath has made us alive.

HE IS RISEN INDEED

Rom.1:4 – who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

Jesus made some amazing claims during His ministry on earth. He said “I am the Bread of Life, I am the Resurrection and the Life, before Abraham was I am”. He also said things like “I have power to lay down my life and take it up again” and “if you drink the water that I have to give you will never thirst”. As C.S. Lewis said, “Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Son of God”. According to the Apostle Paul in today’s verse, the resurrection backed up all of these claims. The resurrection was the Father’s great declaration that Jesus Christ was His only begotten Son, there is no other conclusion that can be drawn. Maclaren speaks about God’s declaration in his comments on today’s verse.

“Still further, the Resurrection is God’s solemn ‘Amen’ to the tremendous claims which Christ had made….If the Cross and a nameless grave had been the end, what a reductio ad absurdum that would have been to the claims of Jesus to have ever been with the Father and to be doing always the things that pleased Him. The Resurrection is God’s last and loudest proclamation, ‘This is My beloved Son: hear ye Him.’….The old alternative seems to retain all its sharp points: Either Christ rose again from the dead, or His claims are a series of blasphemous arrogances and His character irremediably stained.”

In the first century, the power of the gospel being preached by the apostles was in the fact that they were eye witnesses, they had seen Christ physically after He had been raised from the dead. As a matter of fact, there were at least five hundred people who had seen Christ after He was risen. That was the power of the Apostle Paul’s words, Christ Himself, not a vision of Christ, appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road. Paul was instantly converted from being a strict Pharisee and a persecutor of the church. There is no other explanation for how the world was turned upside down by those first preachers. In the same way today, our testimony of Christ, when it comes from a personal experience with the Risen One, carries the power of the resurrection. The only conclusion; Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.

BORN AGAIN BY RESURRECTION

1 Peter 1:3 – 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,

Peter knew exactly what he was talking about. He was there the very evening after Jesus had been raised from the dead with the other disciples. They were shaking in their boots (I mean sandals) when Jesus walked through the wall right into their room. They saw the wounds in His hands, feet, and side. It wasn’t a vision or an apparition, Jesus was there in flesh and bone. That’s when the born again thing happened, just as the Father had breathed life into Adam at his creation, Christ breathed life into Peter and the other disciples. “Receive the Holy Ghost”, Jesus declared. Peter was never quite the same after that, he had been born again by the breath of the resurrection that first Easter evening. Here is how John Gill describes this verse.

“by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; which may be connected either with the act of begetting again; for Christ’s resurrection is the virtual cause of regeneration, or regeneration is in virtue of Christ’s resurrection; had he not risen from the dead, none would have been quickened, or made to live, or have been raised to newness of life: his resurrection is the exemplar of regeneration; there is a likeness between them; as his resurrection was a declaration of his sonship, so regeneration is a manifestation of adoption; and as Christ’s resurrection was his first step to glory, so is regeneration to eternal life; and both are wrought by the same almighty power: or the clause may be connected with the foregoing, “unto a lively hope”; for the resurrection of Christ is what is the means of, and lays a solid foundation of hope….”

So Easter is a celebration of our new life, we have been born again by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Peter wrote this epistle many years after Christ’s resurrection he still had the resurrection life and power surging through his body. It was that same power that fell on him on the Day of Pentecost; just a stronger, more potent dose. Today, this resurrection life can be received by anyone who hungers for something real. Call on His name, just maybe He will walk into your room.

JESUS SNORTED

Jn. 11:33 – When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,

 

You could say that this miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, brings the ministry of Jesus to a place of culmination. You could call this the defining moment of Jesus’s life and ministry. Lazarus is Everyman, laying in his tomb of his trespasses and sins. He is a picture of the tragedy of man’s fall into sin and the terrible ramifications that the fall brought on all of us.

Look at the picture painted by the Apostle John in this verse. John could see this scene in his mind’s eye like it was yesterday (it had probably been 50 years before he wrote about it). He describes Jesus groaning or snorting in anger. What is John describing? He is showing the Lord’s hatred of the consequences of sin. This miracle shows the solution. Christ Himself is the answer, He alone is the Resurrection and the Life. Here is how Bishop Ellicott describes this scene.

 

 

“The word rendered “groaned” occurs, besides in this verse and John 11:38, three times in the New Testament…the original meaning of the word is “to snort, as of horses.” Passing to the moral sense, it expresses disturbance of the mind—vehement agitation. This may express itself in sharp admonition, in words of anger against a person, or in a physical shudder, answering to the intensity of the emotion. In each of the passages in the earlier Gospels the word is accompanied by an object upon which the feeling is directed. In the present context it does not go beyond the subject of the feeling. Here it is “in the spirit”; and in John 11:38 it is “in Himself.” Both mean the same thing; and point to the inner moral depth of His righteous indignation; the object of it, however, is not expressed.”

This story tells it all, Jesus became a man because we were all rotting in our tombs of sin and shame without a way of escape. He came to call us out of sin and to break its hold on our lives. Just as it was in Lazarus case, our troubles trouble Him, He despises what sin has done to us all. He has come to rescue us totally and finally through the power of the Resurrection.

THE LAND OF THE DAMNED

John 11:25,26 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

This has to stand right at the top as one of Jesus Christ’s greatest miracles. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. That’s right; FOUR DAYS !!! If you believe the Bible is true and more than just allegories you have to admit, this is over the top. Lazarus body had begun to decay and had to be restored, whatever sickness he had contracted had to be healed, not to mention his spirit was no longer in his body. Lazarus was finished. There was nothing Lazarus could do to fix it, none of his friends could help, as a matter of fact there was no doctor that could straighten out this mess. Lazarus was passed any possibility of being helped.

Like I said before, I believe this is a real historical event with real people involved. A man who had been dead for four days came out of his tomb totally alive. As a matter of fact, Lazarus is seen later that week at the dinner table with Jesus and his friends and family.

Even though this was a real life event it also carries within it a powerful, shocking message for all of us. Lazarus is seen in this account as a representative of all of us. Just as Lazarus was dead and rotting in his tomb, all of us are born in a state of dying, actually rotting in our transgressions and sins. We are all born in a hopeless state. We can’t fix ourselves and there is no person or resources in all the earth that can bring us out of our tomb of death. Our only hope is that Christ Himself will come and stand outside our tomb, weeping and calling out our name. COME FORTH!!!! He cries as He calls your name out of the regions of the damned. He not only forgives our sins but breaks the power of death that has ruled us all our lives. His resurrection power brings us out of the tomb of death and brings us into the world of the living.

Some people wear their death better than others. They dress up their corpse and prop it up to try to convince the world (and themselves) that they’ve got this and they are not that bad. All along, the corpse is stinking just like Lazarus. The only solution is for resurrection life to enter us and bring us out of the land of the damned.

THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION

Eph. 1:18,19 – having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.will-oey-253882.jpg

We are resurrected together with Christ. This is not just a theological truth but a reality that effects every part of our life. We are not only crucified with Christ, we are raised from the dead with Christ. That resurrection power is working in us since the first day we accepted Christ. He started the work, the work continues everyday, and He will bring the work to completion. This is what Paul had in mind when he said that “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me”. That is the resurrection life that we live in today. Here are some thoughts from Albert Barnes on today’s verse.

“The “power” referred to here, as exercised towards believers, does not refer to one thing merely. It is the whole series of the acts of power towards Christians which results from the work of the Redeemer. There was power exerted in their conversion. There would be power exerted in keeping them. There would be power in raising them up from the dead, and exalting them with Christ to heaven. The religion which they professed was a religion of power. In all the forms and stages of it, the power of God was manifested towards them, and would be until they reached their final inheritance.”

This power effects our testimony, we are no longer living lives overcome by sinful habits. This resurrection power effects our health, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us and makes our mortal bodies healthy. This resurrection power effects our ministry to hurting people, it is the power of the resurrection, the power of the Spirit, that lives in us and testifies of Jesus through the power of signs and wonders. Our world is desperately in need of the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus. For far too long our generation has been offered powerless substitutes. So Lord, open our eyes that we can see this great power that is living in us because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION

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“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. ”
MATT. 28:5–7”
I recently watched a movie about the very end of the Apostle Peter’s life. It covered his arrest under Nero in Rome and ended at his death. In this movie it showed Peter ministering to an officer in the Roman army. This officer was asking Peter how he knew that Jesus was the Son of God. Peter carefully described Jesus death and then he told the soldier, “I saw Jesus after He was raised from the dead, I ate with Him. He was alive”. That pretty much answered all of the questions, either Peter was a liar (along with 500 other eye witnesses) or Jesus is the Son of God. The Resurrection is the guarantee of our Christian faith. Here are some thoughts from Tozer on the resurrection of Christ.

“The Christian church is helpless and hopeless if it is stripped of the reality and historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The true church of Jesus Christ is necessarily founded upon the belief and the truth that it happened. There was a real death, there was a real tomb, there was a real stone. But, thank God, there was a sovereign Father in heaven, an angel sent to roll the stone away, and a living Savior in a resurrected and glorified body able to “proclaim to His disciples, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth!”
The power of our Christian faith rests on the resurrection. It is because of the resurrection that we are born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have the power of God operating in our lives. This power is the omnipotent power of God. This power effects not only our spirit but our mind and body as well. Since the resurrection happened 2000 years ago how can we be sure today? As we hear the word of God or read the word of God our faith in the resurrection becomes as real as Peter’s. We don’t see Him with our physical eyes but our spiritual eyes are opened wide by faith and we experience this resurrection for ourselves.