Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
March 31, 2002
What is the most important event in all of human history? The answer to that will depend on what
the individual believes is important. A military historian might point out to any one of many significant
military battles. An American historian might point out to any one of many events that mark the
founding of this nation. An egotist might point out the date of their own birth or some other event in
their life. A devoutly religious person might point out the date of birth of the founder of their religion, or
some significant event in the founding of that religion. Even in Christianity, many people will point out
the birth of Jesus as the most important date in history and then emphasize the point in the way they
celebrate Christmas. But none of these events, including the birth if Jesus, is the most significant event
in all of human history.
The fundamental question of mankind is not related to someone’s birth, for babies being born is an
every day occurrence. It is not related to someone living a significant life that changes the lives of others.
Many people have done that. It is not the death of any particular person or even a mass of people. People
die every day. The most significant event in all of human history is the one that gives people the hope of
conquering their ultimate enemy, which is death. That event is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead. That is the event that we celebrate today.
The Resurrection Event – Matthew 28:1-10
Turn to Matthew 28:1-10 where we read the resurrection story. Jesus had been crucified on Friday as
the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was buried that evening and laid
in the grave all that night, all of Saturday and with the dawning of Sunday morning, He came back to life
and walked out of the tomb.
1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first [day] of the week, Mary Magdalene
and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an
angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his
appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; 4 and the guards shook for fear of
him, and became like dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid;
for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just
as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He
has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him;
behold, I have told you.” 8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to
report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took
hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus ^said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word
to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.”
The story is very familiar to most of us, but it is still thrilling to read it. What an exciting morning.
Certainly the sight of the angel was frightening. So much so that the guards shook and “became as dead
men.” Mary was also afraid, but the Angel of the Lord calmed her and then pronounced the most
wonderful news in history. She was looking for Jesus who had been crucified, but the Angel said, “He is
not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” Jesus had
conquered death as He said He would. Jesus’ promises were true. Man now had hope of eternal life.
This resurrection hope is at the heart of the gospel message. The conquering of the consequence of
sin, death, demonstrated that Jesus’ atonement by His own blood for our sin was adequate to redeem us
and restore us to God. Man could be forgiven of their sins through faith in Jesus Christ and given the
assurance of eternal life. The good news of the gospel is that your sin can be forgiven and you can escape
the eternal consequences of death. Like Jesus Christ, the grave will not hold you, but you will be
resurrected to new life. Sin and death have been conquered. Christians need not fear them.
Many passages speak of the hope of resurrection. Paul understood that this hope was a central aspect
of the gospel, and so he used it in his defense before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23 stating in verse 6, “I am
on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead.” Immediately there arose a dispute between the
Pharisees present, who believed in a future resurrection, and the Sadducees who denied it.
Peter also marks the centrality of the hope of resurrection in the gospel message in 1 Peter 1:3-5
where he states, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great
mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in
heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be
revealed in the last time.”
What exactly is this “living hope” those who are born again have through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ? As Peter explains here, it is in reference to the promises of a future inheritance which will be
imperishable and undefiled. It cannot end and it cannot be corrupted. What exactly is it? Paul gives a
good definition in 1 Cor. 15
In verse 35 Paul raises the question that some might ask. “How are the dead raised? And with what
kind of body do they come?” In verses 36-49 Paul uses the analogy of planting a seed to explain how the
dead are raised. You do not sow a whole plant into the ground, but just the grain of seed, and from that
seed will come a whole plant that is radically different from the seed. The physical body will be placed
into the grave upon death, but the resurrection body that will come from it will be radically different
from it. Paul explains this in some detail by comparing the different kinds of bodies and flesh there are
that we are familiar with – men, beasts, birds and fish. Each has a different type of body and flesh from
the others. The same is true of the Sun, moon and stars. Paul further points out that the physical body is
suited for life here on earth, but that we will need a spiritual body for life in heaven.
Paul gives further explanation of the nature of the resurrection body in verse 50-53 saying, “50 Now
I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable
inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and
the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the
imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Those that are alive at the coming of Jesus Christ will not have to taste physical death, but they will
be instantaneously changed from having a perishable body to an imperishable one, from mortal to
immortal in the twinkling of an eye. How fast is the “twinkling of an eye?” It is the amount of time it
takes for light to travel through the cornea of the eye to the lens and be reflected back through it. In that
same time period those that had previously died will have their physical bodies raised and changed into
Some ask how that can happen if the body has already decayed or if the burial has been at sea or if
the body has been cremated and the ashes scattered. While it would pose a difficulty for us to gather
back the material substance in an effort to resurrect the body, if such was needed, that would not be a
difficulty for God. However, the nature of the resurrection body is of such a nature that I do not believe
the physical molecules that once made up our bodies need to be gathered together in such a manner. The
spiritual body will be of a different substance than our current physical bodies.
We really only know a few things about our future spiritual bodies. They will be imperishable. They
will be immortal. They will be like the body that Jesus displayed after His resurrection. It had some
physical aspect for Jesus invited Thomas to touch His hands and side (Jn. 20:27). In addition, Jesus
walked along with the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13f) and prepared breakfast for his
disciples on another occasion (Jn 21:12f). Yet, Jesus was able to suddenly appear in a locked room (Jn
20:19, 26), and suddenly disappear while others were watching (Luke 24:31). He also rose into the air
and then past the clouds at His ascension (Acts 1:9-11).
Paul then concludes his explanation about the resurrection body in 1 Cor. 15:54-58 with a statement
about its ramifications and how we should live in light of its promise. “But when this perishable will
have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the
saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death,
where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to
God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be
steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain
in the Lord.”
The Resurrection Importance – 1 Cor. 15:12-20
It would seem that the importance of the resurrection would be understood without saying, but in
Paul’s day, such a question was genuine. The New Testament had not yet been written down and when
someone challenged the truth of the gospel, they could not turn to it to read a first hand account of the
events. Many of the believers were relying on second, third and later testimonies of the gospel. Had they
heard and understood correctly? Did someone mislead them? Paul addressed this question on the
importance of the resurrection earlier in 1 Corinthians 15 starting in verse 12.
“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that
there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has
been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15
Moreover we are even found [to be] false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He
raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not
raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless;
you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we
have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Paul’s answer here settled the question on the resurrection, yet there are still those around in our time
that claim to be Christians, yet, do not think it to be important at all. Some forcefully deny it. Such
people are also those that deny that the Scriptures are true and by all life evidence demonstrate that they
are not followers of Jesus Christ. They are not Christians for belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a
core part of the gospel message and Jesus was seen after His resurrection by many people (1 Cor. 15:4-8).
The answer to such denials is still the same. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then He was a
liar who is now dead and therefore cannot keep any of His promises. He cannot bring you into a
relationship with God the Father. He cannot forgive your sins. He cannot grant you eternal life. Your
hope in Him would be false and you would be still in your sins. As Paul states, if that were true, “we
would be of all men most to be pitied.” The only hope that is worse than no hope, is a false hope, because
if you have no hope, you will keep looking for it somewhere. A false hope leaves you complacent.
Paul continues on in verse 20 with the proclamation that gives us true hope. 20 But now Christ has
been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. We can have confident assurance in
this fact and therefore all the promises based upon it.
The Resurrection Difference –
The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes all the difference in the world in distinguishing both Him
from all other men who have every lived and Christianity from all other religions.
Consider all men who have ever lived including those who have founded some religion, whether
great or small. Have any of them been raised from the dead according to their own word? The answer is
no, and the response of unbelievers to the resurrection is proof of how silly they think it is.
Recall the response of the Athenian philosophers when Paul mentioned the resurrection of the dead.
Some sneered at him and others put him off (Acts 17:32). The response is still the same today. The
“elite” of society turn their noses up at the thought of Jesus’ resurrection. For them, it is a quaint
religious story, but only a story and not historical truth. Other religions are adamantly against the
resurrection. Islam denies Jesus resurrection by denying His death. They claim Jesus ascended, like
Enoch or Elijah, without dying. Judaism rejects Jesus’ resurrection and in doing so they also reject their
Messiah. The seeds of this were sown at the time by the Jewish religious leaders (Matt. 28:11-15). They
still give the same arguments. Hinduism and the other eastern mystical religions deny it by proclaiming
reincarnation instead. Paganism also rejects it.
It really should not be surprising that these various religions deny the resurrection, because to accept
it would be to acknowledge that Jesus is superior to the founder of their religion.
Moses was a great man by all standards, and Judaism reveres Moses. However, Moses died and was
buried by the Lord in the valley opposite Beth-peor (Deut. 34:5,6). It is not known where his grave lies,
but his body is still there and will remain there until the resurrection of the righteous. Moses was a great
prophet, but he himself pointed to a greater prophet to come in the future (Deut. 18:14-19).
Islam claims that Muhammed is the last of the prophets and superior to all former ones including
Moses and Jesus. This is actually a silly claim even on its surface since several of the prophets which
Islam recognizes, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, all received their revelation
directly from God, while Muhammed got his revelation second hand through an angel, supposedly
Gabriel. Muhammed does not compare to Jesus in any substantive manner. Muhammed was obviously a
very influential man, but he was just that, a man. He lived and died and remains dead to this day. All
Muslims know and believe this. Why did Muhammed die? Because death is the consequence of sin and
Muhammed was a sinner even by his own admission. Jesus by contrast was sinless. No one was able to
bring a valid charge against Him. He was crucified under the charge that He had blasphemed in equating
Himself with God. That would be blasphemy except for the fact that it is true. Jesus is God in human
flesh. Jesus died to pay the penalty of man’s sin. He then rose from the dead proving His claims to be
Where is Buddha? In his grave. Where is Confucius? In his grave. Where are the Hindu gurus of the
past and where are its present gurus heading? The grave. Where is Joseph Smith and Brigham Young? In
their graves. Where is Joseph Rutherford? In his grave? Where is or where soon will be Helena
Blavatsky, David Berg, Sun Myung Moon, Victor Paul Wierwille, Herbert W. Armstrong, Mary Baker
Eddy, Charles & Myrtle Fillmore, each of them founders of various cults? The grave.
There are only three people who ever lived that are not in the grave – Enoch, Elijah and Jesus. Enoch
and Elijah were translated directly to heaven. Only Jesus was resurrected, and only He can offer the hope
of resurrection to His followers. That makes true Christianity very different from every other religion.
Only true Christianity can speak with confidence about what lies beyond death, because only Jesus
Christ has been there and returned to tell us about it. Only true Christianity can speak of its hope as
being confident assurance for it has already proven His promises to be true with the power of the
resurrection. The hope of all other religions is only a wish for a better place than present, or at least the
avoidance of hell, because their founders, leaders and priests have not and can not fulfill their promises.
None of them have been on the other side of death, conquered and returned to tell their followers with
assurance how to also conquer death.
Those who promote reincarnation may claim that they have died and have now returned, but there is
no proof of such. There is ample proof for Jesus’ resurrection by the testimony of first hand witnesses
and the radical changes in their lives following it. Reincarnation and resurrection are mutually exclusive.
Either the soul transmigrates through a series of bodies or the soul only has one physical body which will
be resurrected. It can not be both. The resurrection of Jesus is proof that reincarnation is false.
The resurrection sets Jesus Christ apart from every other person who has every lived. His
resurrection sets true Christianity apart from every other religion.
The Resurrection Identification – Romans 6:1-12
Finally, for the true Christian, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is something with which we are to
personally identify in recognition of the radical change made in that faith in Jesus brings, and in hope of
our future resurrection. Paul states in Romans 6:1-12, “1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in
sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do
you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was
raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if
we have become united with [Him] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also [in the
likeness] of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him,] that our body of
sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed
from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that
Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10
For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Baptism was commanded by our Lord just prior to His ascension in Matthew 28:19,20 as part of the
Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and
lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Baptism does not save nor does it give us extra
grace. Baptism is our personal identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As
we go down into the water we identify with his death and burial and proclaim the death and burial of
who we used to be and our old way of life. Coming out of the water we identify with His resurrection
and proclaim the breaking of the bondage to sin that we might walk in newness of life.
This morning we have two young people, a brother and a sister, that have made professions of their
faith in Jesus Christ and desire to identify with Him through baptism.