The Promise of His Resurrection
Topic: Christmas Passage: Psalm 16:10, Psalm 2:7–2:8, Isaiah 53:10b, Isaiah 25:8–25:9
“THE PROMISE OF HIS RESURRECTION”
Psalm 16:10, Psalm 2:7-8, Isaiah 53:10b, Isaiah 25:8-9
If the Bible is the story of Jesus Christ from start to finish, as we believe it is, then...
...His birth has no real meaning apart from the life that He lived, and
...His life has no meaning apart from the death that He died, and
...His death has no meaning apart from His resurrection.
And that is where our month-long look at the promises of Christmas brings us this morning.
No, we have not moved the calendar ahead several months to Easter season. From the moment our Lord Jesus was conceived in the womb of His virgin mother, the empty tomb had been the sovereignly-determined purpose of His life.
Over these past several weeks, we have been looking at a number of the Old Testament promises regarding the coming, the birth, the life, and the death of Jesus. Every significant event of His earthly career was foretold by Hebrew prophets. He is thus their central focus. As the reader makes his way from Genesis to Malachi, it becomes clearer and clearer about whom the Old Testament speaks, as well as the destination toward which all of history has been moving and continues to move.
When He walked among us, Jesus testified that He was the key to understanding the entirety of the Scriptures. It was they which bore witness to Him (cf. John 5:39 and Luke 24:27). Specifically, they revealed the divine purpose for His birth, His life, and His death. The Bible is, therefore, a book upon which every page unfolds for us the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and tells of how it was accomplished by means of His sufferings and resurrection.
According to Jesus—as well as to those who were His apostles—when the Bible is interpreted correctly, it is not a collection of moral stories about how to improve one’s life. It is not a series of calls for social action, or visions concerning end-time events. Rather, the central message of the Scriptures is Jesus...specifically, as 1 Peter 1:11 says, it is about “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.”
It’s interesting to note that, despite the incredulous nature of Jesus’ resurrection, He mildly rebukes His followers for not anticipating that event before it happened. On one occasion, He sternly said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26).
But how could they have possibly known? The reason is because it had been prophesied and foretold in the Scriptures. While there are a number of allusions we could consider from the Old Testament, I would like to direct our attention to three texts that bear direct testimony to the preordained fact that not only would Israel’s Messiah rise from the dead, but in doing so would fulfill the sovereign purposes of God.
In what is perhaps the most direct preview of this dramatic event, we are told that...
The resurrection of Jesus attested to His immortal nature (Psalm 16:10).
Look with me at Psalm 16. This psalm is described in the superscription as a “Miktam of David.” And while the precise meaning of “miktam” is uncertain, because the term appears to be linguistically related to the Hebrew word (“kethem”) for gold, it is believed that this particular psalm was meant to be “highly prized” because of the “valuable truth” it contained. Given its relative brevity, it would have been easily memorized and frequently sung by faithful Jewish believers.
It has been described as a song of trust and confidence, as well as a confession of faith. The 19th-century Hebrew scholar, Franz Delitzsch entitled this psalm, “Refuge in God, the Highest Good, in the Presence of Distress and of Death.”
I call your attention to verse 10 in particular, where we read:
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.”
There is no doubt whatsoever that this statement is Messianic in character, given the fact that both Peter and Paul quote it in the New Testament in reference to the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, in his memorable sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2(:24), Peter applies this psalm directly to Jesus when he testifies that “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Let that sink in for a moment...and it will take a moment: it was impossible for Jesus to be held by death. His resurrection from the dead was a testimony to His immortal character.
In support of that astounding claim, Peter reaches back to Psalm 16, where he quotes nearly verbatim verses 8 through 11, saying,
“I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades.
or let you Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence” (Acts 2:25-28).
A careful analysis of David’s original words and the manner in which Peter employed them speaks to the fact that Jesus’ incarnation—in which He was born in a stable, was raised a humble setting, and lived simply and sinlessly among us—was intended by God to have been of relative short duration. The divine plan was for Him to accomplish the mission of dying for men’s sins, rising from the dead, and returning to the Father. As “God become flesh” (cf. John 1:18), there was no way possible that Jesus could be permanently held by the throes of death.
“Sheol”—or its Greek equivalent, “Hades”—was believed to have been the place where departed spirits went to await the final judgment. People die and their bodies decay. But such would not be the case with Jesus. The Hebrew word for “corruption” (“shachath”) is more commonly translated “pit” or “chasm.” It depicts “separation,” and probably has reference to being separated from God by death. Jesus would not experience that in way that other men do.
Later on, having embarked upon the first of his missionary journeys, Paul would also cite Psalm 16:10 at the time that he preached the Gospel to those in Pisidian Antioch. There, speaking of God, he said, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption.” He then went on to explain that David, the writer of this psalm, was not ultimately referring to himself when he wrote those words. “For David,” Paul added, “after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption” (Acts 13:35-37). In other words, David spoke of Another, that greater One to whom all of the apostles—as well as His followers to this present day—would bear witness.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead attested to His immortal nature. What’s more...
The resurrection of Jesus assured His eternal inheritance (Psalm 2:7-8, Isaiah 53:10b).
While we are in the Psalms, turn back a few pages to Psalm 2. While this psalm is not ascribed to David, Acts 4:25 reveals that he was indeed its author. Some see this as a coronation hymn written in the aftermath of the covenant promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7(:14ff). It is clearly another of those psalms which previews the life and career of our Lord Jesus. Allow me to direct our attention to verses 7 and 8:
“I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
And the ends of the earth your possession.”
This is possibly the most direct reference to Christ found anywhere in the Old Testament. The interpretative license taken by most translations when they capitalize the “S” in “Son” certainly hints at that. And the word “begotten” makes us think immediately of John 3:16...at least as most of us learned it from childhood. In drawing that parallel, however, we may be tempted to think of it only in terms of His birth. After all, that’s what the word “begotten” generally means.
But because Scripture is always the best source for interpreting Scripture, we are better off letting Paul explain for us what is meant by the phrase, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Standing before the same group in Pisidian Antioch that we referenced a moment ago, Paul preached Christ to them and said,
“God raised him from the dead...And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us his children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”
It’s hard to find a clearer commentary than that. As Paul points out, because Jesus was the “Son...(who was) begotten” of God, He has been granted an everlasting inheritance, made certain by His resurrection from the dead. Look again at Psalm 2, verse 8,
“Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
And the ends of the earth your possession.”
Let it be known to all that Jesus Christ is the exclusive Lord of heaven and earth, and that He will one day “judge the world in righteousness.” We can be certain of this because He has been raised from the dead (cf. Acts 17:31). Psalm 67:4 urges us to reflect upon the great truth that He will one day “judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” As Paul writes elsewhere, this One has been “highly exalted...and bestowed (with) the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
What a grand and glorious prospect of this Christmas Eve! And yet it gets even better when we read in Isaiah 53:10—that amazing passage which addresses the enormity of the price Christ paid to accomplish God’s plan of salvation for hell-deserving sinners like us—that...
“when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.”
That brief statement needs to be kept within the context of the entire “Song of the Suffering Servant” (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Here we are told that with God’s acceptance of the Servant’s sacrifice for sin, two things happened. Taking them in reverse order, His life would be “prolonged.” In other words, it would be extended beyond the grave. Not even death—mankind’s “last enemy” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26)—would prevent its perpetuity. But in addition, to His life being “prolonged,” He would gain for Himself a people...a people for His own possession (cf. Titus 2:14). They would be called His “offspring,” His spiritual “seed.”
If you have turned from sin and are trusting the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as the full and final payment for your sin, then you are included among His “offspring.” You are a part of the eternal inheritance granted to Jesus Christ by His Heavenly Father. Such a “great and precious promise” (cf. 2 Peter 1:4) has been assured by His resurrection from the dead.
That is why the angels declared to the shepherds on the night of His birth, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord...Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:10-11 and 14).
While Christmas Day centers upon the birth of one special Child, God’s ultimate purpose was and remains the “rebirth” of countless others. And that leads to one final point. Jesus’ resurrection attested to His immortal nature, and it assured His eternal inheritance. But also...and most gloriously so,
The resurrection of Jesus annihilated the curse of sin and death (Isaiah 25:8-9).
We read in Isaiah 25, verses 8 and 9 that...
“He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’”
In addition to Old Testament prophecies such as this, Jesus repeatedly spoke of His impending death and resurrection with His disciples. He told them that, yes, He would be killed, but “on the third day be raised” (cf. Matthew 16:21 and 17:22-23). Hosea (6:2) the prophet had also said as much by previewing the work of the Messiah through the experience of Israel. In life and in death—and in life again!—Jesus would prove to be the “true Israel” by fulfilling the will of God where the nation had failed.
The 17th-century theologian John Owen wrote a difficult-to-read (but well-worth the effort) book entitled The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. It is basically a polemical work designed to show, that the doctrine of universal salvation is unbiblical and destructive to the Gospel. The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that not everyone will be saved from death and its curse. In keeping with the season, let me say as lovingly as I can that it is not those who kneel before His manger, but those who bow humbly before His cross, who will be saved.
The fact that a man or woman, boy or girl celebrates Christmas no more makes that person a Christian than does touring the United Nations make one a head-of-state. It is only by acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (cf. Acts 16:31) that one is “delivered...from the domain of darkness and transferred...to the kingdom of his beloved Son...(and) have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
But “death” remains alive for those without Christ, and that is something to be greatly feared (cf. Hebrews 2:15). Death pursues us everyday that we live. It haunts us when we cannot sleep at night. And it enslaves us at every turn. Death is not natural. It was not part of God’s original design, but fell upon the world when sin made its damning entrance in the Garden of Eden. Every illness and infirmity we face reminds us of its lurking presence. There is no way we can escape its claim on us...
...No way, that is, apart from Christ. Only He has been to the “other side,” and has come back to tell us about it. Only He has paved the way for us to arrive at our “hoped for” destination. Only He promises to come again and receive us unto Himself so that where He is we may be also (cf. John 14:1-3). And when He returns, as Isaiah has written,
“He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.”
The bodily resurrection of Jesus points us not only to the fact of our own resurrection, but to the restoration of the entire creation. Jesus Christ came and died to “reverse the curse” and to make “all things new” (cf. Revelation 21:5). When He comes again—and He will—the physical earth will be renewed to its pristine quality...the condition in which it existed before the Fall. Paul alludes to this in Romans 8(:19 and 21), saying that “The creation waits with eager longer for the revealing of the sons of God...the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption.”
Isaac Watts wrote the words we sing so often at this time of the year:
No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
In Revelation (21:3-4) we read that “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
- We once saw Jesus in the Scriptures as a prophesied Messiah, for whom we waited.
- Then we saw Him in a manger as a tiny Babe, before whom knelt and adored.
- But in time we saw Him as a dying Man upon a cross, from whom we turned away.
- But then we Him as a resurrected Lord, and our hopes were renewed.
- Soon we will see Him as a conquering King, before whom we must and will bow.
In 1985 a group entitled “The Jesus Seminar,” consisting of one hundred and fifty scholars met to dispute the historical accuracy of the Scriptures, including the historical veracity of Jesus’ life and death. According to these modern-day theological thinkers, the empty tomb is but a fiction. Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead. Instead, they concluded with all their worldly wisdom, the resurrection was based merely upon the visionary experiences of some of His deluded followers.
One of the founding members of “The Jesus Seminar” and one of its principal spokesmen, said,
As a child, I took it for granted that Easter meant that Jesus literally rose from the dead. I now see Easter very differently. For me, it is irrelevant whether or not the tomb was empty. Whether Easter involved something remarkable happening to the physical body of Jesus is irrelevant.
That man, Marcus Borg, died three years ago. I am certain that by now his theory regarding the reality of Jesus’ resurrection has undergone significant revision. I can say that with confidence because of what Paul has written near the end of his first letter to the Corinthians. I quote:
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain...And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins...If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19-20).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a vital link in the total chain of God’s sovereign program, without which the entire plan would come apart. Christmas, the beginning of the story, has no meaning without the resurrection, its grand conclusion.
As we bring this message to a close, I would like to share with you a lengthy quote from the pen of Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founding president of Dallas Seminary. I first read it as a seminary student and have recalled it many times it through the years. I trust that you will think about it in terms of why you will be celebrating Christmas:
Had not Christ arisen—He by whom all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, He for whom things were created, who is before all things, and by whom all things consist...—every divine purpose and blessing would have failed, yea, the very universe and the throne of God would have dissolved and would have been dismissed forever. All life, light, and hope would have ceased. Death, darkness, and despair would have reigned. Though the spiritual powers of darkness might have continued, the last hope for a ruined world would have been banished eternally. It is impossible for the mind to grasp the mighty issues which were at stake at the moment when Christ came forth from the tomb. At no moment of time, however, were these great issues in jeopardy. The consummation of His resurrection was sure, for omnipotent power was engaged to bring it to pass. Every feature of the Christian’s salvation, position, and hope was dependent on the resurrection of his Lord.
How well do you know this Christ whose victory over death explained the purpose for His birth? There is no greater gift that could be given at this (or any other) time of the year than the gift of eternal life that comes by trusting in Him (cf. Romans 6:23). The Bible says that “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).
As you kneel before the manger, notice and reflect upon the shadow being cast by the cross that would await Him. Without that empty cross and the empty tomb in which His body was laid, there is no reason to celebrate Christmas...or any other day, for that matter.