Today's Broadcast

The Resurrection of Christ

A Message by R.C. Sproul

How can Christians be so confident that there is life after death? What gives us such assurance? The Apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear for those who have any doubt. In this message entitled "The Resurrection of Christ," Dr. Sproul explains the greatest hope for those who have placed their faith in Christ.

From the series: Objections Answered

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The Hope of Christ's Resurrection

  2. devotional

    The Resurrection of Christ

  3. devotional

    Attaining the Resurrection

The Hope of Christ's Resurrection

As we continue our look at the hope of life after death in relation to suffering, it is important to note that we can have hope in our suffering only if there is an afterlife—a place where all that is wrong with this world will be set right. Much of the suffering that we endure is unjust. People slander us, besmirching our good names without just cause. Others are jealous of us and thus act with hatred toward us. In this world, the righteous do not always win. Often, the wicked prosper (Ps. 73:3). If our suffering is to have any meaning and purpose, this cannot last forever. Without a Judge to perfectly dispense rewards for righteousness and punishments for evil, suffering for righteousness' sake is in vain. There is no transcendent good or evil. Everything is permissible because no one will ever be held finally to account.

In our postmodern context, many people might say that there is no such thing as absolute good or absolute evil, but precious few really believe that. People still cry out for justice to be done. Almost no one lives life without any restraint at all. Individuals from all kinds of backgrounds say that "everything happens for a reason." Belief in right and wrong endures in practice if not in principle.

Yet, the persistence of such a belief is not evidence in itself that an afterlife exists and that God will judge wickedness and reward holiness. Moreover, belief merely that there is a deity does not answer the question as to which god is the true one. Thankfully, the Apostle Paul gives us evidence for both the afterlife and that God will judge the world in righteousness. First Corinthians 15:3–34 lays out an argument that shows how the resurrection of Jesus confirms that there will be a final resurrection of the dead and that the Lord will judge the world in perfect righteousness. Everything hangs on Jesus' being raised from the dead. It is not that there might be another viable contender for the one true God if Jesus has not been raised. No, if Jesus has not been resurrected, there is no divine Judge and no divine judgment. So, we might as well do whatever we please (v. 32). Yet, it is certain that Christ has been raised from the dead. The Old Testament points to Him and the witnesses to His rising from the dead testify to the veracity of His resurrection (vv. 3–8). Our faith that there is a God who gives meaning to all our suffering because He will sit in judgment is no mere fancy. It is supported by solid evidences.

The Resurrection of Christ

Today we conclude our brief look at the work of Christ with a short study of His resurrection. Since our study has emphasized the work of Jesus as a man to merit righteousness for us and to atone for sin, let us first remind ourselves of the connection between our Lord's resurrection and those aspects of His work. As we noted in our examination of Romans 4:25, that Jesus was "raised for our justification" is proof that His life and death were acceptable to God. Our Lord's resurrection is His vindication, the declaration that He indeed was perfectly righteous and was therefore a suitable offering to turn away the wrath of God and also the firm basis upon which we can be declared just before the Father. If Jesus had stayed dead, it would have proven that death had a rightful claim over Him, and since death has a rightful claim only over sinners, Jesus' remaining dead would have meant that He was a sinner and not our Redeemer.

In 1 Corinthians 15:20–28, Paul considers other benefits of our Savior's resurrection, namely the defeat of death and His being raised to life as the firstfruits of the resurrection of His people. Here we see the Christus Victor motif of the atonement and resurrection—Christ as the conqueror of our enemies death and sin. Operating under the sovereignty of God, death is our foe. It is even God's foe as well, for He is the Lord of life. By our sin in Adam, we granted the right for death to claim us as part of the divine curse. By His righteous life, Christ destroyed any claim that death had over Him and those who are united to Him. Death threw its worst at our Lord, killing Him. But our Father was working in the midst of all that, using death as His instrument to pour out His wrath on our sin and raising Christ to life to prove that this wrath had been satisfied. By defeating the power of death, Jesus rendered it powerless over His people.

Thus, Jesus is the "firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (v. 20). Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification, yes, but He was also raised for our own resurrection. In other words, because Christ was raised from the dead, we will be raised as well. One day, our physical bodies will be resurrected, and we will be glorified, just as Jesus was. We have been united to Christ, having died to sin, and that union means that we are also united to Him in the resurrection (Rom. 6:5). Our bodies will not remain in the grave forever. At the last day, our spirits will be reunited with them to live forever in the new heavens and earth.

Attaining the Resurrection

When God revealed the Mosaic law to Israel, He did not give it as a means for sinners to earn the kingdom of heaven. After all, it was revealed after the nation was redeemed from Egypt (Ex. 20:1–17). Moreover, the Law’s sacrificial system proves that the Lord knew His people would fail to obey His regulations perfectly. But if the Law is not a means for sinners to save themselves, why did God reveal it at all? Romans 7 and Galatians 3 give one set of answers to this question. Our Creator revealed the Mosaic law to remind us that righteousness before Him demands perfection; to show us that sinners cannot meet this standard; and to make us long for a sinless Messiah who can keep the Law perfectly in our place.

The Law does not give sinners the power to conquer sin. Only the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6; 8), the One whom Christ poured out upon His people so that we, by faith, can share in “the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10–11), enlivens the believer to live a godly life. Jesus died for all those who trust in Him, but we must never forget that He rose from the dead for His people as well. God resurrected Him from the dead for our justification — to prove Jesus atoned for sin (Rom. 4:25) — as well as for our sanctification. Jesus was raised to God’s right hand that He would have power and authority above all other powers and authorities, empowering His people to defeat the sin that ruled them before they believed in Him (Eph. 1:15–23).

But though we experience the power of our Lord’s resurrection today, we still wait for that final day when this power will be consummated in our resurrection and glorification. This is what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:10–11, a passage that is exceedingly difficult to translate into English. The Apostle is not revealing doubt about his future reward in the new heaven and earth when he expresses his hope to attain the resurrection “by any means possible” in verse 11. Instead, the uncertainty involves the physical route by which he will be prepared for resurrection. At the time he wrote, Paul did not know if he would gain his resurrection body at the final judgment after dying as a martyr, after dying of natural causes, or by being alive when the Savior returned. But he did know that the righteousness imputed to him by faith in Christ alone guaranteed that resurrection would be his.

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