Resurrection (2)

In very many pages of Holy Scripture, the ceaseless activities of the devil against all that is of God upon earth are clearly portrayed. Nothing seems to damp the ardour with which he wages war against all that is good. Nor will his incarceration in the abyss during the millennial reign of Christ humble the pride of his evil nature, for the moment he is released he will be found with unabated zeal leading rebellion against his Maker (Rev. 20:2, 7).

When, after the Church has been caught up at the coming of Christ, Satan is cast out of the heavens, with all the more zeal will he pursue his wicked career upon earth, knowing that the time of his imprisonment is at hand (Rev. 12). The loss of his heavenly position will only incite him to deeds of more daring wickedness. There is no end to his God-hating activities but the lake of fire and brimstone, where his opportunities for working evil will have passed away for ever (Rev. 20:10).

Though his agents are everywhere, and working in every land for the undoing of the human race, his ceaseless, and most virulent attacks, are reserved for that which bears the name of Christ. It is in the circle of Christian profession that he has been most successful. When the true saints have been taken out of the way he will find the sphere of his most powerful operations in apostate Christendom. There the revived Roman Empire will astonish the world, and to the head of that imperial power he will give all his influence. These coming events are already casting their dark shadows upon the nations which profess the name of Christ.

But if we see the Christian profession, which is solemnly responsible to maintain a light for Christ, becoming largely traitorous to His interests, we can be thankful that the Holy Scriptures remain, and that we have the Holy Spirit to unfold their precious truths to our souls, and to strengthen us in contending for the faith once delivered to the saints. We have not been left to our own resources. Unfailing resources are in our living Head, unfailing power in the Holy Spirit, and unfailing fountains of eternal truth in the Holy Scriptures; that Word which He has magnified above all His Name (Ps. 138:2). Therefore we have no reason to fear the issue: “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20).

Still the conflict has to be continued, and with a foe who carries on his warfare under a false flag, and whose servants are clad in the uniform of soldiers of the Cross. He and his agents will quote Scripture, and bewilder you if possible with an imposing display of dead languages, and with many references to the Old Testament, through which they cannot find their own way, but that will not matter if you can only be misled.

Indeed, I have generally found that those who seek to pervert the truth prefer the Old Testament to the New. The New is too plain for them, for there the true and full light shines. Like owls and bats they prefer the gloom. There they are more at home. From the Old they cunningly elaborate a system of doctrine, in which the unwary can find no flaw, and the New they would have us read in the light, or rather the darkness, of their system. The Old, and that perverted, is to teach us the meaning of the New, instead of the New being used to make clear to us the meaning of the Old. The subtlety of the Serpent is manifest in this.

That no evil doctrine can be found in the Old Testament goes without saying, for it is the revelation of God, but in those ancient oracles God was hidden within a veil, and it was from the darkness where He dwelt that He spoke to His people. But in the New there is no veil, for God is in the light, and He is speaking plainly to men. The Old cannot be understood apart from the New, but the New needs no help from the Old to make its words intelligible. The power that would hold us in the darkness, now that the true light shines, is of him who was a “murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).

The precious and special truth with which I desire to occupy the reader has always in this dispensation been the great object of the enemy’s attack. It was upon the resurrection the first onslaught was made, when the gospel was preached at Pentecost (Acts 4:2). It was then opposed by the sect of the Sadducees—a small sect in that day—but now its name is legion. Alas! its emissaries crowd our thoroughfares, sit in the seats of learning, and lead the thoughts of the multitude.

It is not my intention to examine all that is advanced by the enemies of the gospel, in their vain endeavour to make it appear that God has been defeated in His own creation by Satan, who, however powerful, is but a creature—fallen, it is true, but in his pristine condition, “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” (Ezek. 28:19). Nor do I intend to examine every Scripture in which this great truth of resurrection is taught. One text is enough for the soul who knows God, enough to silence the devil also, though it may not silence men. Still I hope to refer to more than one, if God permit.

We are told by some that there is nothing in Scripture to support the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and that the body is never said to be raised. Scripture, it is affirmed, always speaks of the resurrection of persons. Now I make bold to say, that (leaving out “risen with Christ”) the body is always in view when resurrection is in question. It is never brought before us in any other way. The widow’s son of Nain. Lazarus of Bethany, and Christ Himself are witnesses of the truth of what I say. In every instance, what goes into the grave is what comes under the power of resurrection. Then we have in Matthew 27:52-53, the resurrection of bodies plainly stated. I defy any one to show me in any part of Scripture where resurrection is spoken of and the body is not in view.

But I am told that we must not say the body is raised, we must simply say the person is raised. But in the passage quoted from Matthew the body is said to be raised, and I am not wiser than God. In Acts 2:29 Peter says of David, that he “is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.” What has that to do with it, if the body is not raised? Without the truth of the resurrection of the body Peter’s argument falls to the ground: “Devout men carried Stephen to his burial” (Acts 8:2). How could they do that if Stephen was not there? But if Stephen was there Stephen shall be raised, and he who says Stephen was not carried to his burial says so in the very teeth of Scripture, as also does he who says that that same Stephen shall not be raised from the dead.

There are two aspects in which a dead saint is viewed: one, as present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), the other, as buried in the grave. It is to this latter aspect that resurrection applies. We are told that Christ died, was buried, and was raised (1 Cor. 15). The angels bid the mourners, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matt. 28:6). It does not say that He died, went to Paradise, and was raised. No, the resurrection is connected with what went into the grave. And it is so with all others as well as with Christ: “All that are in the graves shall hear His voice” (John 5:28-29).

I know I shall be met with the statement that we must make an exception in the case of our Lord. But the Spirit of God will not allow us to do so, and the Apostle will have none of it. He says, “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen” (1 Cor. 15). And throughout the whole Scriptures resurrection occupies itself with that which is buried in the grave.

That the resurrection is that of persons nobody in his senses would deny, but death is that of persons also; and yet it is only the body that is really dead, as we read in James 2:26, “The body without the spirit is dead.”

The spirit cannot be said to be dead, for it passes into the presence of the Lord, and in that state “lives to the Lord” (Luke 20:38; Rom. 14:8)—a state very far better than the best state of a servant of God upon earth, whatever enjoyment of heavenly things he may have, or however sweet to him the service of Christ may be (Phil. 1:23). This being so I need scarcely say that to fall asleep in Christ has only reference to the body, for were the spirit asleep it could not be spoken of as better than going through this world in the unspeakable enjoyment of the love of God, and in His service who loved us and gave Himself for us. The Lord says of Lazarus, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep,” and He went to the grave where Lazarus was, and called with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” If the spirit of Lazarus was that which slept, why not go where his spirit was? why go to where the body was? Stephen commended his spirit to the Lord, and then fell asleep. His spirit left his body, and the body was dead, but seeing that our Lord by His death has removed the sting, which is sin, we are only said to sleep when we die.

Therefore, though the resurrection is of persons, it is persons who come out of their graves; and to say that it is not is not true. It is a falsehood, root and branch—a lie of the devil. It denies the gospel, it makes God a liar, and destroys the souls of men.

Hard words! somebody will say. But which words are the harder? the words that make God a liar, or those that make man one? For the Apostle expressly declares that if Christ be not risen he has borne false witness (1 Cor. 15:15), and filled the ears of perishing creatures with soul-destroying lies. But if Christ is raised and we are to be raised in His likeness, what about the man who denies it? I cannot regard this as a mere defective apprehension of the gospel; it is a virulent attack upon the power and blessing of divine truth.

But someone will say, Nobody denies either the resurrection of Christ or that of others. But I reply, Christ left the grave. This is the only kind of resurrection I find in Scripture. I do not read of any resurrection out of hades, though the souls of those who go there will be brought back out of that condition. But resurrection itself always refers to the body. A man may talk till he wearies both himself and everyone else about the metals and the gases that go to make up this earthly frame, and of all that happens to it in the grave, but when he has finished he will find that he has not effaced one line of God’s revelation, which says, “All in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.”

The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee that we shall be raised, and our resurrection shall be after the pattern of His (2 Cor. 4:14; Rom. 6:5). Seed-time and harvest, winter and spring, day and night, sleeping and waking, keep this mighty truth everlastingly before our souls. May we not forget it. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” “Behold, I show 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. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15).

ENQUIRER—We sent your note to the writer of the paper on Resurrection in our August issue, and the following is his reply, which we trust will make the point quite plain. [—Ed.]

However important the subject of resurrection may be, and its importance cannot be exaggerated, for without it there is no gospel, I have very little to add to the paper to which your correspondent alludes.

I would, however, draw attention to the fact that figures which are used in Scripture to illustrate great truths must not be taken in a too literal way. The great thing is to find out the mind of the Spirit of God in the figure He uses. To do this we must not stop at the end of verse 38 of the chapter (1 Cor. 15), but read on to the close of verse 50.

The object of the figure used is to show that there is a clear distinction between that which is sown and dies in the ground and that which is evolved from it; but we must read the rest of the chapter to see what use is made of these remarks. In verses 39-41 we are reminded that there are many kinds of flesh, and we are not to suppose that all flesh must be of the same nature and character.

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, with their different glories; and even heavenly bodies have not all the same glory, for one star differs from another star in glory.

Having thus prepared us for what he is going to tell us concerning the question asked by the “fool” of verse 36, he comes directly to the resurrection, and says, “So also is the resurrection of the dead,” What is raised is very different from that which was put into the ground; even as the seed sown differs from that which is produced from its quickening. That which is sown in corruption, dishonour, and weakness, is raised in incorruption, glory, and power. It was sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. This is what is meant by the statement, “Thou sowest not that body that shall be.” When we come to resurrection we see that it is the identical body that was put into the ground that is raised, but very different in glory and character. By the power of God the natural is changed into spiritual, the earthly into heavenly, the water into wine; the corruptible puts on incorruption.

It is a work similar to that which takes place with the living, by which the mortal puts on immortality. Just as truly as we shall be changed and caught up to meet the Lord in the air, so shall those who sleep in Jesus be raised in glory and be caught up together with us. And as nothing shall be left behind of those changed and caught up, so nothing shall be left behind in the grave of those raised in incorruption, power, and glory. We shall have a resurrection like Christ’s, for ours shall be after the pattern of His, and in His tomb nothing remained but the grave clothes when the stone was rolled away. Is it so that we must ask our brethren in Christ the same question Paul asked Jews and Pagans in the presence of King Agrippa? “Why should it seem a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?”