The Empty Tomb & Resurrection: What the Bible Says about Easter
by Betty Miller
All over the world during the Easter season, multitudes will gather in churches to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and hear about life after death. Many will suppress a yawn and attend their “yearly church service” to please their spouse. Others will attend out of curiosity; still others, because it makes them “feel good” to think about the cycle of life and new things growing out of death.
Pastors will wax eloquent before large crowds, families will don their finest clothes and the children will gather Easter eggs. Easter is a time of joy and promise as the first blades of grass begin to peek through the shroud of winter. In the pastel climate of spring, eternal life is a popular subject. Yet, how many people will really stop to think about how they can obtain eternal life? How many people will actually know the truth and how to receive it? How many will give their heart and lives to God so they may understand who Jesus Christ really was and who He still is? What does His death and resurrection actually mean to mankind? Or ask themselves what the Bible says about Easter?
The Empty Tomb – Life After Death
A remnant of believers will celebrate Resurrection Day, knowing the real meaning of this season, but many more will simply be going through the tradition of a religious service. Religion cannot save anyone. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ the Son of God can give us life after death.
In today’s world, most people do not have a problem believing in the fact that the spirit is eternal. Even those who do not consider themselves “religious” often believe in some form of life after the grave. They just aren’t sure what it is, and many do not want to know. Hell is an unfashionable topic. New Age teachings have settled in almost every facet of our society with vague, cozy feelings of the “afterlife.”
We have read many documented accounts of people who have died in their physical bodies and have given testimony that they entered into a spiritual dimension beyond this life. Life did not cease for them. They then returned to their bodies to tell of their experiences. Some tell of seeing a “white light,” others give descriptions of hell; still others see Jesus or angels. What awaits us on the other side? This will be determined by what we did in this life. Just because people report they saw a “white light” does not mean they will go to heaven when they die. Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” There is only one way any of us will go to heaven and it is through accepting Christ as our savior. This is the message of the cross. Jesus died so that we could live and have eternal life. It is not our works that will save us. We must repent of our sins and ask Jesus to come into our heart and change us. Then we shall live and not die. John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Spirit, Soul and Body
In Daniel 12:1-4, Daniel talks of the end of the age where it says, “Many that sleep in the dust shall awake to everlasting life.” This “sleep” is referring to the physical body sleeping, not the soul or spirit. Our spirit is the “real us.” We are a spirit and have a soul (mind, will and emotions) that lives in a body. There is a cultic teaching that talks about “soul sleep” which is not scriptural. When people die, they do not enter into a state of eternal sleep, neither do they cease to exist. When we die, our body will go into the ground to decay and return to dust, but our body is not who we really are (Genesis 3:19). Our spirit, when we die, goes either to hell or to be with the Father in heaven. There is no in-between place, heavenly sleep or state of non-existence.
Many young people in our society have become morbidly preoccupied with the subject of death. “Punk” rockers are sending forth messages in their rock music that can cause some of them to receive demon spirits that drive these young people to commit suicide. They think by committing suicide they will escape living, believing that everything will end; but the Word of God clearly teaches that some go to everlasting life (heaven) or others to everlasting shame (hell). The body dies, but men’s spirits live on in one of two states: with God or with the devil. Some evil rock music even encourages suicide as a “ticket to hell.” These musicians don’t even try to deceive the people as to where they will end up. The deception is, they believe the devil will reward them. The truth is that Satan will not reward anyone with anything good for serving him. These deluded people will suffer eternal torment in hell with the devil and his demons, forever separated from God and His goodness.
Yet the troublesome question still remains — why must we die in the first place? The truth is, God never made us to die. Death of the body was not God’s original plan. It is the result of sin. When Adam and Eve committed the first sin (disobedience to God), sin entered into this world; as a result of it, every single one of us will face death at sometime. When we die, we will also face judgment before God. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible speaks of death as an enemy. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” In this world we are seeing death all around us: death by old age, disease, murder, suicide, accidents, disasters, famine and war. All of these have been brought on mankind because of sin and a fallen race. Death is an evil that produces torment, fear, hatred, suffering, agony, pain, grief and heartache. There is only one way that we can overcome both death and the fear of it; that is through the One who conquered death and the grave. The death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has now made a way for us to also conquer death. Romans 8:37: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
Aside from death in the body, the Bible also speaks of another death — spiritual death (the second death). This is the death Jesus is referring to in the above verse, and it is ultimately the death that He came to deliver us from. This death is eternal separation from God. It extends beyond our mortal bodies. It does not mean ceasing to exist, rather it means that we will exist forever in our sinful state. Though hell is a literal place of torment, the main source of its torment is the eternal separation from God. This is far more ghastly than anything we can imagine, just as heaven is more wonderful than anything we can conceive. God never created hell for mankind. It was created as a fiery prison for Satan and the fallen angels (demons). Men are going there because they have chosen to follow the devil and have rejected Christ. Matthew 25:41: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
From the time we are born to when we die, we are given the chance to choose our own destiny. No one can choose it for us, least of all God. He created man with a free will that He will not violate. All He can do is set before us life (which is only found in the provision of Jesus’ death on the cross), or death (which is found in rejection of Jesus). To choose the latter will in no uncertain terms lead to the second death.
The emblem of the cross is seen all over the world in the display of church steeples and crucifixes worn around people’s necks. However, many people do not know the real meaning of the symbolism of the cross and what it means to those who look to the event of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection for their salvation. The cross is the greatest symbol of love that was ever shown to this world. It speaks of a perfectly innocent man, who was brutally tortured in the most scandalous of deaths, for a world that spit in His face. We are just as guilty of crucifying our Lord as the people who actually did it because we have sinned and it was for sin He was crucified.
Anyone who would call God unloving for “sending” people to hell, has never really understood the cross. We are the ones who chose to sin! Yet, God in His great mercy, made a glorious way out of the inevitable result of our sin for us. He took it upon Himself, and it cost Him more than we can imagine – His Beloved Son. God put all of the sins of the whole world upon Him and punished Him in our place. This is a profound mystery, but it is the central message of the gospel – that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him wouldn’t die in their sins, but could inherit eternal life through faith in Him (John 3:16). 1 Peter 2:24 says Jesus bore our sins in His body, not in His spirit. He is the eternal and sinless Holy Spirit. (Jesus did not die spiritually. The Scripture in 2 Corinthians 5:21 which says, “For he hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin…” means He was made to be a “sin offering” for us, not that He literally became sin.)
However, if that was all that took place, the story would have a very bitter ring to it indeed. Preaching just the death of Jesus is only half the message. The gospel (good news) is that Jesus is alive today!
What is the Significance of Jesus’ Resurrection?
Jesus is the only man that ever came back to life from the grave. Every religion in the world outside of Christianity has a grave or tomb where their leader is buried. Only in the Bible is recorded the tomb that was found empty because Christ rose from the dead and is alive today!
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: Luke 24:1-7
We often think of the cross as the end, but without the resurrection, we have no Christianity. It is the resurrection that makes the Christian religion different from any other religion. Some portray Jesus still on the cross, but He’s not there any more; He’s alive in His resurrected body! Hallelujah!
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 1 Corinthians 15:16-23
The Resurrection of Christ Declared Four Things:
- Acts 2:32-36 says Jesus is Lord and Christ because of the resurrection.
- Romans 1:1-4 declared Him to be the Son of God with power.
- Ephesians 1:19-23 says Jesus is the Head of the Church.
- John 11:25 says He is the Resurrection and the Life.
Only one has ever been resurrected thus far, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus overcame the grave, this resurrection is now available to every one of His followers. It is not the same thing as being raised from the dead. This is an eternal resurrection. Some people, such as Lazarus (John 11), were raised from the dead but not resurrected (as they eventually died again). There have been many documented cases of people dying and coming back to life. Though this is glorious, the resurrection to eternal life with Christ is different; it is the final state of those who have trusted in Christ. Revelation 1:18 says, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
Jesus spoke these words also in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Death of the body is not anything that the Christian should ever fear. If we are in Christ when our body dies, we will face an existence that will make our time on earth seem pale and shadowy. Some Christians will even escape death if they are alive at the second coming of Jesus to the earth. In that day, those that are alive will receive their glorified bodies right after the dead in Christ are raised and receive theirs. That day is approaching quickly and that is why the Lord is warning all of us to be ready. The hope of the church is the resurrection.
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…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?…’ But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
What are some of the things that those who have been redeemed can expect to find in our next life?
Philippians 3:20-21 says Jesus will change our “vile” bodies. What will our glorified bodies look like when we get to heaven? We have some clues by noting the characteristics that Jesus’ body had when He rose from the grave. Our glorified bodies will appear different. We will therefore recognize each other by the spirit. What we really look like on the inside will be apparent to all. Jesus’ body could go through walls (John 20:26). It felt like ours; Thomas touched it (Luke 24:39-40). On the road to Emmaus, the disciples didn’t recognize His new body and He vanished in front of them (Luke 24:13-32). Jesus even ate with His disciples. In our glorified bodies, we don’t have to eat for sustenance, but we will be able to eat for pleasure (Luke 24:39-43, Matthew 26:29). It will have no pain, no sickness, no aging, no restrictions (with the power of translation), and be able to appear in different forms.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, of what God has prepared for those He loves. Surely there is nothing in this life that can hold a candle to the surpassing greatness of living in Christ – living in the very One who is the source of all life! How foolish we are to let the cares of this life, the god of unbelief, and the temporary pleasures of sin keep us from knowing Him.
What the Bible Says About Easter…and our Victory in the Cross
When we celebrate Resurrection Day (Easter), we acknowledge that we are sinners, saved by grace. The greatest truth of the cross is that when we accept Christ as our savior, a wonderful exchange takes place. Jesus died so we could live. We can now live in victory in this earth. As we identify with His death, we also identify with His life. Jesus became poor so we could become rich in His blessings. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says,“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” He took our sickness and infirmities so we could receive health. He took our curses so we might receive His blessings. He gave us peace for anxiety; love for hate; joy for sorrow; faith for fear; goodness for evil; temperance for lust and the list could go on. He took our hell and gave us heaven. We didn’t deserve it but He did it for us because of His love for each of us!!
The Easter holiday is the most triumphant celebration of grace and life that we will ever experience on this earth! It is a celebration of God’s goodness, love, and His awesome power. It holds the promise of not only eternal life to all who are willing to humbly receive it from Him; but also for a victorious life in this earth through the power of His Holy Spirit. We can spend eternity in our heavenly home with Jesus and all the saints of all the ages if we receive this wonderful gift of love!
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:9-13
In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death. Proverbs 12:28
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