One of the great cardinal doctrines of the Orthodox Christian Church is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, in bodily form, and subsequent ascension into Heaven. This backbone doctrine of the Christian Church validates everything Christ Jesus said and did, everything. Had Jesus been a liar, a lunatic, a fraud, a good man who was just a man, then he would not have met God’s bar of perfection. He would have died in his sins like any other leader. But he didn’t remain in the grave – he was resurrected by the power of God! Let us consider what Paul the Apostle said in what is commonly referred to as “The Great Resurrection Chapter” in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15. Let us consider 1 Corinthians 15:1-19.
Resurrection Essential for Salvation
1. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
Salvation in the kingdom of God is entirely possible, and entirely accessible. God has made a way. Men do not have to worry or wonder about their standing with God – because of the Resurrection the claims of Christ are validated – there is a heaven, there is a Father who loves us, there is victory over sin and the grave. We don’t have to believe in vain, but we can believe the gospel and be saved.
The Resurrection is an Apostolic Teaching
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
Paul the Apostle wrote this as being from the Lord himself. Be clear that Christ died for our sins. He didn’t just die, he died for our sins. This is the testimony of scripture. Further, he was buried in a tomb. Roman guards were stationed outside of this tomb lest anyone try to steal his body. But again, and we read it in all of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) that Christ was raised from the dead. The early church saw it, preached it and taught it. It is a cardinal teaching in Christianity.
The Resurrection was Witnessed by Hundreds
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
There are a lot of so-called Christian religions that promote independent teachings absolutely opposed to many if not all of the major doctrines of the Orthodox Christian Church. They have secret groups of leaders who determine what the organization will believe. No one gets to meet them. No one gets to question them. Some other groups promote the teaching that they’ve somehow gotten a “special word from the Lord” and that if you only send in a love offering they’ll pray for you. But Jesus did what he did in front of everyone. He didn’t appear to just a few chosen people – no! He appeared to all of the disciples, the church leadership, and over 500 other people as well! So much for the exalted elite leadership of many organizations prancing around making claims and telling others what to do without themselves being challenge. Jesus did what he did before hundreds and hundreds of people. Lots of people were witness to his resurrection. It’s not a doctrine dreamed up by some knucklehead in Tulsa, Oklahoma or “revealed” to 10 men in some obscure corner cubbyhole.
The Resurrection Opens the Door for All
9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
Saul was a religious zealot. He persecuted the early Church, using the legal system to imprison Christians and separate families. He even went so far as to hold the coats for those who stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. Then on the road to Damascus he encountered Christ and was converted. His name was changed to Paul and he became the most influential apostle of them all. Had there been no resurrection then there would have been be no one confronting Paul on the road to Damascus. But because there was a risen Savior, there was a confrontation, and Paul’s life was changed forever. He who had formerly wasted the church became its greatest pillar (Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.) The risen Christ changes the lives of men and women – all men and women who call upon Him. It is God’s grace in the lives of people. The door is open for all, even the “least of the apostles.”
The Resurrection Validates the Claims of Christ
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
Whatever Christ said you can count on. Whatever he said regarding doctrine, the kingdom of Heaven, how to relate to others, how to raise children, how to live as a married couple, how to handle issues, ways to conduct your affairs – everything he said you can count on. He never lied, he only pleased the Father, and he was resurrected from the dead. He said that through his own sacrifice a New Testament would begin – one that would be perfect and need not be repeated. Animal sacrifices would now be unnecessary. Oppression would be through. Defeat would be through. Despair is through. He is coming back again to this earth. Victory in Jesus over sin is a reality. The resurrection validates all of the teachings, actions, promises, and claims of Christ.
The Resurrection of Christ is the Hope of the Church
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
The “Blessed Hope” of every Christian is the return of Christ. Heaven is always our hope, and the return of Christ is our blessed hope. If Christ remained in the grave, as did every leader of false religions, then there would be no difference between the Christian Church and a do-good organization. If you want to engage in the fairy-tale of earning your salvation by always doing your best, or by logging enough ministry hours for your organization, then go ahead. Go ahead and be miserable. There is no hope in that message.
In Christ’s day, Paul’s day, and to the present day, there are those who oppose the gospel and oppose the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ. Today many organizations that call themselves Christian prefer to put their faith in the doctrines of men and salvation by works. They deny the resurrection in part because it contradicts their own man-made doctrines designed to keep people in bondage and guilt; the constant striving to “be good enough” to merit God’s favor.
One day you will make that trip from life unto physical death. The death rate is still 100%. Regardless or our medical science progress, health and fitness initiatives, and consciousness of safety, one day we will all cross that bridge. And when you do know this – that those who have taken Christ as Savior, who believe and receive the message of salvation, who are trusting in Christ entirely and are putting no faith in their own good works to earn salvation, will make heaven their home. They will be resurrected at the time appointed, by the power of God and the testimony of scripture. Our faith is not in vain because of the resurrection of Christ. Death is an enemy, no question about it. But further on in this fifteenth chapter we read The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. In the last chapter of the last book of the Bible we read: Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Beloved, you need not fear death. Because of the Resurrection of Christ your faith in Christ and in the gospel is not in vain.