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VIII. Coming to the Resurrection

Rev. Herman Hoeksema

I am the resurrection and the life. --John 11:25.

Salvation is resurrection from the dead. This statement is not to be understood as having reference only to the final, bodily resurrection in glory to which believers look forward as the ultimate realization of their hope, but to the whole of salvation. Also the salvation that is the inheritance of believers by faith in Christ here in the world is very really resurrection from the dead. He that is saved by faith is raised from the dead, and this resurrection will be perfected in the day of Christ, when this mortal shall put on immortality, and the last enemy shall be destroyed.

That this is true may easily be demonstrated from Scripture. Christ Jesus is the revelation of the God of our salvation that quickens the dead. In creation He reveals Himself as the One that calls the things that are not as if they were; in Christ He is known as the One that raises the dead, Rom. 4:17. Hence, "if thou shalt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Rom. 10:9. And therein, that God raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places, He revealed the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, Eph. 1:19, 20. And even now it is true that God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together with Him, Eph. 2:4-6. "Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Eph. 5:14. And the Lord Himself declares: "Verily, verily, I say unto you The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." John 5:25.

Hence, Christ stands before us in the gospel narratives as the resurrection. In all the mighty signs and wonders which He performed, and by which He cured the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, made the deaf to hear, and the lame to leap with joy, He revealed Himself as the resurrection. Especially is this true, of course of those signs by which He recalled the dead to this earthly life, the mightiest of which is the raising of Lazarus. Yet these were but signs, and they were all fulfilled when He broke the bonds of death and hell, and appeared in glory, Victor over all the power of the grave and corruption. Then His word to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, was fully and mightily realized: "I am the resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." John 11:25, 26.

This truth, that salvation is resurrection from the dead, and that, too, through Christ Who is the resurrection, is great importance for a true understanding of the general theme we are discussing: "Whosoever will may come." It should help us to find the correct answer to the question whether the sinner has in himself the will to come to Jesus. For there is in this truth a threefold implication, which we must briefly discuss. First of all, if salvation is nothing less than resurrection from the dead, it should be evident that before a sinner is saved he is very really in the power of death. Secondly, we ought to consider what it means that Christ is the resurrection. And, finally, it is plain, that the dead sinner must be brought into contact with the living Christ, the resurrection, in order to be saved.

The sinner apart from Christ, we said is dead. This is not only the plain presupposition of the truth that salvation is resurrection from the dead, but this is also clearly taught in Scripture throughout. The sentence of God upon the sinner is: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Gen. 2:17. And that sentence was executed literally and on the spot, so that the natural man is now dead through trespasses and sins, Eph. 2:1.

But what does it mean that the sinner is dead? What, then, is this death in whose power the sinner is held, and from which he can never deliver himself? Death, we understand, is no annihilation. Nor is it a state of unconscious existence. It is rather a state of corruption, suffering, and misery under the avenging justice and terrible wrath of God. It concerns our whole being. In a spiritual sense death is corruption of the soul and of the spirit of man, so that all the powers of his soul work in opposition to God. In death man's understanding is darkened, so that he does not know the good but loves the lie, and he is utterly devoid of true wisdom. His will is perverted, so that he does not, and cannot desire and choose for true righteousness and holiness in the love of God. All his inclinations are impure and defiled, so that he lusts after iniquity. In death, man's heart, whence are the issues of life, instead of being filled with the love of God, is moved by enmity against him. And this is indeed, the state of the natural man of the sinner apart from Christ. He is carnal. His nature is after the flesh. And they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh... for to be carnally minded is death... because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." In the physical sense, death is the corruption and disintegration of the organism of the body. And also unto this death man was delivered up immediately after the fall. The power of death operates in his members, reveals itself in many diseases and defects of the body, and finally drags man to the place of utter corruption. And so, he very really was plunged into eternal death, the state of complete desolation of soul and body in hell, for God's fierce anger pursues him, and there is no way out.

It is important that we bear in mind that this state death in which man plunged himself by his willful disobedience is a legal state i.e. it is retribution, it is punishment, it is the execution of a divine death sentence. It is not natural for man to be dead and to die. Nor is it a mere, natural result of his sin. It is true, the wages of sin is death, but only because divine justice causes sin to pay that wage. It is God that kills. Sin is the transgression of God's law. It is rebellion. It is ethical evil. It is rebellion against the living God. And God is good. He is just. He allows no creature to deny His goodness with impunity. He maintains himself in all the glory of His goodness, of His divine perfection, of His righteousness and justice, His truth and holiness, over against the sinner that departs from Him, and raises the rebellious fist against Him. He reveals His unchangeable perfection to the sinner by making him unspeakably miserable by causing him to experience that there is no life and joy apart from God. He pursues that sinner everywhere and constantly in His wrath, until he sinks away in everlasting desolation. God is the terror of the sinner. God, from Whom the sinner can never escape, from Whom he cannot hide himself in all the wide creation, Whom he may deny in his folly, but Whom he, nevertheless, meets at every step, and with Whom he will have to do unto unending ages of ages,--that God is against him, and causes him to experience His fierce and holy anger! That is death!

Now, Christ is the resurrection! This means that He is the power that overcomes, and completely destroys, our death. And as the cause of our death is the righteous and holy wrath of God, it implies that Christ is the power whereby we are translated from this state of divine anger and burning wrath, under which we pine and die, into a state of favor and grace with the living God. And as the ground of the wrath of God that is against us and pursues us unto death, is our sin and guilt, the truth that Christ is the resurrection means that He is the blotting out of our sin, the obliteration of the handwriting of our sin, and that He is our perfect and everlasting righteousness with God. Christ is our resurrection because He removes the cause of eternal death and misery, namely sin; and, clothing us with perfect righteousness, makes us the proper objects of God's blessed favor. And as there is death in, God's wrath, so there is life in His favor!

But it means more than that. Christ is the resurrection also means that He is the quickening power, and that in Him there is life out of death. Life is the operation and action of our whole being, of body and soul, of heart and mind and will and all our desires, in harmony with God. Just as death is enmity against God, so life is to love Him with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. Just as death is darkness, so life is light. Just as death is folly, ignorance, the lie, so life is true wisdom, knowledge of God, the truth. Just as death is perversion of the will, so life is the harmony of the will with the will of God. Just as death is corruption, impurity, defilement of all our desires, so life is purity of heart, the longing after the living God. Just as death is the state of being forsaken of God in His wrath, so life is the most intimate fellowship with God in His blessed favor. Just as death is unspeakable misery and desolation, so life is purest joy and blessedness. This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent, John 17:3. And Christ is that life out of death! He is light out of darkness, righteousness out of unrighteousness, truth out of the lie, knowledge of God out of ignorance, wisdom out of folly, glory out of shame, hope out of despair, joy out of misery, heaven out of hell! He is the resurrection and the life!

One more observation must be made in this connection. He is the resurrection. And resurrection is not a return to a former state but a passing through death into a more abundant life than was ever known before. It is, first of all, an entering into a completely victorious life, that is for ever delivered from death. In the first Adam there was a life that could be lost. He was mortal. In the last Adam there is a life that is victorious over death, that can never be lost. Death has no more dominion over Him. The shadow of death can never touch Him any more that is the resurrection. And, in the second place, resurrection-life is heavenly: it is the highest possible realization of the blessed fellowship with God, a seeing face to face, and a knowing even as we are known in the heavenly tabernacle of God. That Christ is the resurrection signifies that He is the power that raises us from the depth of hell into the glory of heaven!

It is the Christ of the Scriptures Who is the resurrection. None other! Ah, how miserable are the substitutes modernism offers for this Christ of the Scriptures! How absolutely devoid of power are those substitutes to save out of death! Or of what avail to the dead is a dead Christ? Of what avail to the dead sinner is a wonderful teacher, a good example, a man of principle, a Christ for whom we must make this world a better place to live in? The Christ of the Scriptures is the resurrection! He is such first of all, because He is the very Son of God, co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Ghost. From everlasting to everlasting He is God! And as the eternal Son He is life, and He has life in Himself. To Martha He said: "I am the resurrection and the life." And to the Jews in Jerusalem he said on another occasion: "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." Exactly because He is the life, and because He has life in Himself, He could be the resurrection. And He actually is the resurrection, because He entered into our deepest death, and destroyed it for ever. For, He was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be the Head of His Church. And as such He became flesh, and united Himself with us, that He might taste death in our stead and in our behalf. Our sins He took upon Himself. The whole burden of our iniquity He bore. And with the load of our sins upon His mighty shoulders He willingly descended into the darkness of death, bore the wrath of God in perfect obedience, blotted out all our guilt, and obtained for us eternal righteousness. And thus He fought the battle with death, and overcame the enemy. Being the life and having life in Himself, it was impossible that death should hold Him. The shackles of death He broke, and He issued forth into life immortal. But still more. For He ascended up on high, and received the promise of the Holy Spirit, thus becoming the quickening Spirit, in order that He might be the resurrection for all His own. Thus the Son of God, Who has life in Himself, come in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, took away the cause of our eternal death and misery, was delivered for our transgressions and raised for our justification, and is become the true resurrection, by Whom we may be quickened from death unto everlasting life!

It is plain, then that we must come to Him, to Jesus, Who is the resurrection and the life. Outside of Him, there is nothing but death; in Him there is life out of death. It is evident that, in order to be saved, we must have contact, a living contact with Him, in order that the power of His glorious life may destroy the dominion of death in us, and we may be translated from death into life. For, as the Lord said to Martha, when He was about to recall Lazarus from the grave: "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die." We must come, therefore to Him, in order that out of Him we may draw life for ever.

And "whosoever will may come." O, yes, there is no exception to this. If you come to Christ as the resurrection and the life, you shall never be put to shame. No one ever came to Him, nor shall anyone ever come to Him, that did not receive righteousness and life!

But again we ask the question: how shall we come to Jesus, the resurrection? How shall sinners that are dead in themselves seek and establish contact with that power of life? Shall preachers be sent to them to proclaim to them that Jesus is the resurrection, and that He is willing to impart His life to them, that He is waiting for them somewhere, that He is earnestly begging them to come to Him, that He is watching for the signal on their part that He may go ahead and quicken them? Shall we say to men that He can do no more, and that if the dead will not come to Him, the resurrection will never come to them? And shall we thus persuade the dead to take action at once, before it is too late? That is, in substance, the gospel, or rather, the corruption of the gospel that is being proclaimed rather generally in our day. But how absurd! And how utterly impossible! You might as well proclaim that on the day of the final resurrection Christ will send some so-called evangelist to persuade the dead to come out of their graves, that they may be glorified! Such a perversion of the gospel denies, after all, that man is really dead, and that Christ is really the resurrection. It preaches a death that is more powerful than the resurrection; a resurrection that must fail if death does not give its consent!

But thanks be to God, the quickening action proceeds freely and sovereignly from the resurrection! Christ is first! "The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live!" Mark you well, it is the mighty voice of the Son of God that speaks. He calls, and Who shall resist? His mighty Word is quickening. By His Word the dead are raised. The resurrection comes to the dead, before the dead come to the resurrection. And when they have been quickened, called out of their sleep of death, they come, humbly, willingly, by the action of their God given faith, and consciously draw out of Him righteousness and life for ever! And they look forward to the hour, when they shall hear His voice once more, calling them out of the dust of the earth into the glory of the final resurrection!

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Last modified, 26-Apr-1998