FREEDOM FROM DEATH
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Eagle Point, OR. April 15, 1984)
Easter Sunday. This is the time of year in which the Jews held their Passover feast, the 14th day of Nisan corresponding to our April. Jesus was crucified on a day before the Passover and rose from the grave on the third day, and therefore you have people commemorating his resurrection on this day.
The word Easter is found in the KJV in Acts 12:4, and is a mistranslation of the term Pascha (πάσχα) which referred to the Jewish Passover feast.
Easter was originally a Teutonic or Germanic goddess of the dawn (Easter or Estra, from where we get our compass heading of East). The East is the dawn. She was worshipped and sacrificed to in April and some say she was associated with the ancient God Astarte of the Chaldeans. This would also make her the Ashtoreth of the Canaanites, the consort of Baal; Ishtar of the Babylonians; Pallas Athene or Venus of the Greeks; Minerva of the Romans and Isis of the Egyptians. These all were associated with the second planet from the Sun, Venus.
Easter was the celebration of the new life in the spring and so astronomically it was held on the Vernal Equinox or March 20-21, the first day of Spring. That is why fertility symbols, the rabbit and the egg, are used in the observance of this pagan holiday. So today the time of the resurrection Sunday is determined as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox (which is when the Sun, in its apparent motion, crosses the celestial equator at the first point of Aries on the celestial zodiac or the ecliptic).
There is not any trace of an Easter celebration by Christians in the first century, but the story goes that some Jewish Christians continued to observe the Passover - while holding Jesus as the true paschal lamb, and so they began celebrating the death and resurrection of the Lord in April. Pagans who became Christians began linking this celebration (with the help of the Catholic church) to their Easter festivities.
We know that the Roman Catholic Church did this also with the pagan Winter Solstice celebration and turned it into Christ-mass, and a pagan worship and celebration of the dead after harvest, turning it into "All Saints Day" or "All Hollow's Eve" - our Hollowe'en.
Of course Christians in the Lord's church have no compulsion to observe Easter as a religious Holy Day, nor any particular day as a recognized Holy Day that is to be observed by the commandment of God - because he has not commanded any such thing. In fact there is a negative against such practices.
Let no man therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, intruding into the things which he has seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast the head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, will increase with the increase of God.
Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods: but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how do you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire to be in bondage once again? You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.
These days that they observed were the same days that we observe today but we have given them "Christian" sounding names.
So while we do believe in and observe the commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Lord, it in not once a year on a pagan holy day or even a Jewish holy day - but rather as our Lord himself commanded us, on the first day of the week (every Sunday) even as we did this morning in the Lord's Supper.
The teaching of the resurrection began in a veiled way in the Old Testament with hints of it in Job and other writers.
"And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."
It was not fully revealed until Jesus came and proclaimed over and over that this thing would be accomplished in him, this thing that every man has longed for, and yet no man had ever experienced. Death was the ruler over man. Every man from Adam on, had no power over this fate that befalls us all. All men must submit to the "law of death" despite how hard he tries not to.
But then came a man; being truly the son of man, and yet unlike any other man, because he was the beginning of a new race of men over whom the "law of death" has no power.
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and they shall become one flock, one shepherd. Therefore does the Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment I received from my Father."
After Jesus laid down his life - those who crucified him remembered what he had said.
Now in the morning, which is the day after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered together unto Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, 'After three days I rise again.' Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest haply his disciples come and steal him away, and say to the people, 'He is risen from the dead:' and the last error will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard: go, make it as sure as you can." So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, the guard being with them.
Then came the third day, Sunday morning. The first time any man had ever come back to life, to never die again (thus conquering death) happened when Jesus rose from the tomb.
Now late on the Sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And look, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was as lightning, and his clothing white as snow: and for fear of him the guards shook, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, "Do not fear; for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, even as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples, He is risen from the dead; and look, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see him: look, I have told you." And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word.
The fondest hope of mankind had now become a historical fact; and from this moment on the good news of this event has been proclaimed all over the world. Jesus had fulfilled everything God had promised of the Jewish Messiah, and now in his resurrection he entered into a new mode of existence and became the Christ of the whole world.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which he promised afore through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name's sake;
The word "declared" here is ORIZEIN (orizein) meaning "boundary". It means to install, establish or demonstrate by a sign. So Jesus was established as, and demonstrated to be, the Son of God.
This was done with power - there is not anything requiring more power than to raise a man from the dead and lift him up to the throne of God in glory.
And this was in accord, or agreeable to, the Spirit of Holiness. This is probably the action of the Holy Spirit on Jesus during his earthly existence. Jesus' whole human nature received the seal of consecration to the will of God.
This is the same idea in:
"...who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God"
Jesus entered on his human life by a simple birth, and in this state as a son of David he let the Spirit of Holiness reign over him. And because of this he was admitted by the resurrection into the glorious life of son-ship. There was an immense transformation in Jesus. He left, in the tomb, his particular relationship to the Jewish nation and the house of David. He has now appeared, through the resurrection, freed from all earthly distinctions to take up a relationship to all mankind; the Christ of all humanity, the Lord of all.
This appears to be the same action the Holy Spirit has in our lives as we live like Jesus. We are being sanctified by the Spirit, i.e. made holy, so that we might share in the resurrection. (Heb.12:14) exhorts us to "follow after (or pursue) holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." We need to let this be that which we prize the most; what makes us excited about living.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this cause the world knows us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is. And every one that has this hope set on Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.
We purify ourselves because we expect one day to appear with Jesus in the resurrection and looking just like him. We let the Spirit of Holiness reign over us.
It will be the Holy Spirit's job - like he raised Jesus from the dead, to also raise us up from the grave because he has dwelled in us and sanctified us.
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you.
A better translation might be "...because of his Spirit who dwells in you."
Therefore our resurrection from the grave would be in agreement with the holy nature and character that the Holy Spirit worked in us during our lifetime. The same idea can be found in:
...him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay: whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be held by it. For David says concerning him,
"I beheld the Lord always before my face;
For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope:
Because you wilt not leave my soul unto Hades,
Neither wilt you give your Holy One to see corruption.
You made known unto me the ways of life;
You shalt make me full of gladness with your countenance."
"...Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
...and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly realm, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one coming:
This great fact of a resurrection is the crowning hope of the faith of Christ. The reason for this is that it is because Jesus rose from the dead as the Son of Man, then it is also demonstrated that we too will, one day experience the same thing.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
Jesus was just the firstfruits of them that slept. Remember, "firstfruits" are a taste of the coming harvest, a pledge of more to come. So that those in Christ will follow in fact and experience the same thing Jesus experienced. You can look at this principle as a New Creation.
So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly
In Adam we die physically because he, as he was all of mankind in a singular form, brought the consequences of his sin upon the whole race. At that point he was the whole race. And since we partake of his human nature, we also partake of the consequences meted upon his human nature. Now that is in the physical creation.
In the spiritual creation you have the same principle. Jesus is the second Adam or the new Adam. He is now the new "model man" from whom the whole race in Christ takes their form and image. We are "conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren:..." (Rom.8:29)
Paul's point is - have you borne the image of the earthly Adam? Yes? It you are a Christian, just as surely will you bear the image of the heavenly Adam. You have the same idea expressed in:
- 17. For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ.
One man's offence has caused all this death. Does death reign? Up to this point, Yes. Can Adam cause your death, Yes? Much more can Christ give you life through the gift of justification. Just as surely as death has reigned in a powerful way - even more so, do we as Christians by spiritual life reign and are victorious over death through Christ.
18.So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life.
19.For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.
Just as death is universal - even so this spiritual life, to no less extent, can also be universal.
20.And the law came in, so that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded even more:
Far from bringing into the world a remedy for sin, and a way to stop death - the Law just compounded the problem by making what Adam did in the offence to abound through the rest of his brothers. But this just made God's grace super-abound.
21.in order that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul is saying to the Christian, "Are you going to die in Adam? Just as certainly as you know you are going to die - just as certainly will eternal life be had in Christ."
Like we say, "The only sure things are death and taxes." Well add to that, Life eternal in the resurrection.
We think: We are born --- so, we die.
Think about it. Is there death? --- then, there is a resurrection!
If there is death, then there has got to be a resurrection.
The reason Christians will rise from the dead is because mankind was never meant to die and see corruption. God did not want that. He intended us for glory. But because of sin God could not allow it. Our course was cut short or interrupted. Instead of going on to glory we have to die and go back to dust.
Jesus came and fulfilled everything God intended for man to be, he is the divine ideal of man, and so through him we have a remedy for sin and, once forgiven, we can continue on our course to which God has called us, and grow into mature sons of God in the likeness of Christ himself, and obtain the inheritance and glory that God in His good pleasure intended for us all along in Jesus Christ.
For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creature was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it in hope, that the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For in this hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopes for that which he sees? But if we hope for that which we do not see, then do we with patience wait for it.
In this hope we were saved. That is what salvation is all about - the resurrection to life. The new life in Christ has been started in us who have mortal bodies - but soon by God's power through the Holy Spirit, that holy life will be clothed with an immortal body. This is the hope of a Christian. It is the only hope that the world has ever seen, worthy of the name "hope". Look at:
For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. For truly in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life. Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Being therefore always confident, and knowing that, while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight); we are confident, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing to him.
"Wrought us"! That is why God made us Christians. In this hope we were saved. This is what was meant for us. That is why Jesus went through it all before us. That is why he has become what he is now - so that we can behold him, and follow after, and be like him. The earnest of the Spirit is the down payment of the Spirit of life in Christ that we have now - which looks forward to the resurrection. Spiritual life now = Spiritual life then.
This expectation or hope is a spur for the Christian to live a holy life and be part of that resurrection.
...knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God. Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
This hope is an anchor of our souls that keeps us from straying from our Lord - because it takes endurance to reach the resurrection.
And we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence unto the fullness of hope even to the end: that ye be not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham, since he could swear by none greater, he swore by himself, saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men swear by the greater: and in every dispute of theirs the oath is final for confirmation. Wherein God, being minded to show more abundantly unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us: which we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and entering into that which is within the veil; where as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
But what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. But what is more, I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, the one from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God based on faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I follow after, if indeed I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not yet count myself to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything you are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal to you: only, to what we have attained, by that same level let us walk. Brethren, be you imitators together of me, and take note of them that so walk even as you have us for an example. For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven; from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who will change the body of our humiliation, making it conformed to the body of his glory, according to the energetic working of his power even to subject all things unto himself.
If that hope is not yours today, then it can be, by a simple faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for you, changing your mind about your life lived without God. Through faith be immersed into Jesus Christ and allow him to give you a new life - a resurrected life, like the one he lives now, but here in your mortal body. Then through an abundant supply of God's grace - you can run the race of your life that is before you and finally in the end goal - receive that crown of life with which he so much wants to reward you.
If you are a Christian already and have lost that hope - don't turn away from the very one that can help you overcome the problems in your life. The answer is basically the same. If your heart is in rebellion against God, then humble yourself before your father in heaven and he will lift you up. Pray, confessing honestly all your faults and God will faithfully forgive you and help you with your heart.
Martha therefore said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that, whatever you will ask of God, God will give it to you." Jesus says to her, "Your brother shall rise again." Martha says to him, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes on me, even if he should die, will live; and whosoever lives and believes on me, by no means will ever die. Do you believe this?"
Jesus is the life. He can give you life now - a life that will bridge the great expanse of death and decomposition, and will, through his power, one day see death vanquished - the victory won, and life forevermore in Jesus Christ.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.
~ Invitation ~