When the wife of one of America’s most prominent men died a decade ago he found himself in deep distress, not only because of his bereavement but also because he had no sustaining Christian faith and no assurance or understanding about the future.

In desperation he went to one of America’s leading clergymen, a man who has preached and written on Christianity from the extreme liberal position for many decades.

What did he get? For an hour he heard a dissertation on why Christ’s resurrection was not a physical one, only “spiritual.” Needless to say he received neither comfort nor hope.

Through God’s overruling providence this man encountered another minister, strong in faith, warm with love, able to explain Christian truth with deep conviction. The bereaved man turned to the Bible and to the hope to be found there through faith in the risen Christ.

The Resurrection is a cardinal doctrine having to do with the person and work of Christ. It, along with the doctrine of the Cross, is an essential of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul says in the beginning of First Corinthians 15, that great chapter on the Resurrection: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”

In Romans 10:9 Paul gives the basis of salvation in these words: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

To “spiritualize” the Resurrection is to say that it did not occur.

To “spiritualize” the Resurrection is to do violence to all the evidence, not only biblically but also historically.

To “spiritualize” the Resurrection is to deny statements of the Bible that are perfectly clear and cannot possibly lend themselves to any other than a literal interpretation.

In other words, to “spiritualize” the Resurrection is to rob Christ and his written Word of truthfulness and meaning.

To his troubled and doubting disciples our Lord said: “See my hands and my feet that it is I myself, handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” To give yet further convincing proof that his was a physical body that had arisen, he asked for food. Then we are told: “He took it and ate it before them.”

From a historical standpoint the Resurrection is one of the best attested of all events. The course of history was changed, the Gospel was now complete. Belief in the Resurrection, because of “many infallible proofs,” became the cornerstone of the disciples’ preaching. Again and again they bore testimony to the Resurrection in these words, “of which we are witnesses.”

Indirect proof of the actual Resurrection of Christ is found in the changed attitude of the apostles. Once fearful and scattered, these ordinary men, unlearned, lacking in personal influence, went out to face the Jewish and Roman leaders without fear, bearing testimony to the one they knew to be alive because they had seen and talked with him. And this knowledge made of these simple fishermen, and their likewise unremarkable associates, flaming evangels who went out to preach Christ crucified, dead, and risen, regardless of the cost.

Were these disciples deluded and misguided? Were they preaching about a dream, an apparition, a “spiritual” experience divorced from physical fact or actual observation? The evidence is so overwhelmingly against any spiritualization of their observations and subsequent actions that we must conclude that Christ rose from the dead with an actual body that could speak, walk, talk, eat, and be touched. Some have sought support for rejection of a physical Resurrection in Paul’s words in First Corinthians 15:37, “And what you sow is not the body which is to be.” However, the entire thrust of this chapter is to show the actual Resurrection of our Lord and our hope of eventual resurrection to be with him.

That the resurrection body of our Lord possessed qualities not noted during his earthly ministry appears evident. After the Resurrection he passed through locked doors and appeared and vanished at will. Furthermore, his disciples did not at first recognize him. These aspects of his resurrection body should make us realize how little we understand of what God has in store for us. But of this one thing we can be assured: Christ showed himself to his disciples—up to 500 of them at once—with a body that had physical characteristics of identification and action that were incontrovertible.

It is not necessary to argue that the body in which our Lord appeared to his disciples is the glorified body in which he will again appear, but the witness borne at his Ascension was “that same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

The Apostle Paul saw the risen Lord on the Damascus road. It was an overwhelming experience and he claims it as a seal of his apostleship: “Have I not seen the Lord?” he says to the Corinthian Christians. Later he speaks of the fact of the Resurrection and adds, “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”

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The Cross is the determinative point of man’s redemption from sin, while the Resurrection is the crowning and visible evidence of the efficacy of that redemption. One cannot “spiritualize” Christ’s death at Calvary as merely a loving example, nor can one “spiritualize” his Resurrection as an ethereal apparition by which credulous and frightened men were led to believe they had seen the Lord.

The physical Resurrection of the Lord is a glorious fact in which lies our own hope of glorified bodies with which we shall appear in his presence. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.… And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:14–17).

How shall we react to this? “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18).


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