The Empty Tomb: Six Statements on the Meaning of a Risen Christ

empty-tomb1. A risen Christ declares to the universe that Christ is the Son of God with power.

Romans 1:4 – Christ “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.”

A risen Christ is a declaration to all everywhere that Christ is the giver of life, the source of life, and is not subject to death because it is impossible for Him to be held in its power. Why? Because Christ is God. Christ is the Son of God with power. As the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s nature, Christ is fully God, possessing the same eternal, sovereign, supreme, transcendent almighty power God Himself possesses. As one ancient commentator summed it up: “His resurrection gloriously displayed His [indescribable] power, as the Conqueror of death, and by His power also evinced [or proved by undeniable evidence] His dignity as the Son of God” (Haldane).

2. A risen Christ displays an obedient Christ.

John 10:18 – Jesus says, “No one has taken it away from Me [i.e. His life], but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment [i.e. the commandment to lay down and take up His life] I received from My Father.”

Why did Christ rise from the dead? The same reason Lazarus rose from the dead; because God commanded Him to so rise.

3. A risen Christ declares Him to be Head of the Church & Ruler over all things.

Colossians 1:18 – “He [Christ] is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.”

Christ is head of the Church. He alone calls the shots. He alone is in charge. To Him alone, therefore, are men to bow. Pastors, priests, or popes are no heads. When they command that allegiance due only to Christ, they usurp the only true Head of the Church and are guilty of a tremendous prideful crime against the High Court of Heaven. This must not be, for the Scriptures are clear. Jesus is the Head of the Church.

That Christ, risen from the dead, is Ruler over all things, one has only to read Ephesians 1:22 – “And He [i.e. God] put all things in subjection under His [Christ’s] feet.” Christ is the King of the universe. He sits upon His throne, even a Davidic throne, and He places His feet on the footstool of the entire world. He reigns so that all things, all events, all peoples, every storm, every sorrow, every accident, every fall, every tear, every pain, every joy, every molecule, every atom, every good thing, every bad thing, every death and all death, every choice, every thing that ever comes to pass, and everything that ever is, is in subjection to and according to the decree of King Jesus.

4. A risen Christ proves Christ completely satisfied the wrath of God for the elect.

I see three verses that nail this down. The first is Isaiah 53:11 which says: “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.” The second verse is Romans 3:25 which says that Christ was a propitiation [an offering that satisfies the wrath of God]. And the third verse is Romans 4:25 – It speaks of Christ as the One “who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

“You know,” writes Thomas Chalmers, “that when the prison door is opened to a criminal, and that by the very authority which lodged him there, it [proves] that the debt of his transgression has been rendered, and that he stands acquitted of all it’s penalties. It was not for his own, but for our offences that Jesus was delivered unto the death, and that his body was consigned to the imprisonment of the grave. And when an angel descended from heaven, and rolled back the great stone from the door of the [tomb], this speaks to us, that the justice of God is satisfied…” In other words, “Who can lay a charge against God’s elect?” All who by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone are justified on account of His death alone (Romans5:9). Their sins have been wiped away. Their every transgression has been nailed to the cross. And Christ’s righteousness is imputed, transferred, placed to their account. They will never know wrath because it was spent in full on their Sweet and Suffering Substitute.

But as precious as all these things are, they’re not the main thing. The main and ultimate thing in why Christ is a risen Christ is that:

5. A risen Christ displays the glorious perfections of God.

Ultimately, everything God does God does to glorify Himself. God does what He does to make much of God. Raising Christ from the dead is no different. Romans 6:4, halfway through the verse –

“…Christ was raised through the glory of the Father…”

This means that God’s perfections, His perfect and awesome characteristics, were on display in and through raising Christ from the dead. A risen Christ magnifies the glory of His supreme sovereignty. It was the will of those who crucified Him to finish him off once for all. But God, the Most High Ruler, delivered Him over and raised Him up according to His predetermined plan and His sovereign purpose.

6. A risen Christ also displays the glory of His surpassing power.

Ephesians 1:18 – “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which he brought about in Christ, when he raised Him from the dead.”

God raised Christ from the dead by ‘the surpassing greatness of His power.’ When God spoke the Rockies into existence, that was power. When God spoke and the Himalayas were, that was power. When God flicked the universe into being with His little finger, that’s power. But, says the apostle, when God raised Christ from the dead, He did so according to ‘the SURPASSING greatness of His power.’

 

That Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures is all about Christ. The Gospel is not, therefore, about what we must do. The Gospel is not about our attempts to live a better life. The Gospel is about what God did in Christ. I cannot overstate this. The Gospel is not about what we must do; it’s about what Christ did. It’s not about our work for God. It’s about Christ’s work in obedience to God for us. It’s about the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But it must be asserted forcefully and purposefully: the glory of God in the face of Christ demands something. The Gospel demands something from us. That which Paul preached to the men of Athens in the first century is all the more in force in the 21st century. “…God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, [WHY?] because He has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness through a Man He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.

A risen Christ furnishes proof there is a day of reckoning. A risen Christ means a Day of Judgment looms; that there yet remains wrath to come. A risen Christ therefore demands that sin be regarded as that which stores up wrath against us, that we turn from sin and keep turning from sin, that we turn to Christ and keep turning to Christ, and that we trust Christ alone and keep trusting Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sins and the perfect righteousness God demands from all without exception. Therefore, be repentant! Let’s turn from our sins, beloved! Let’s be turning from our sins. If you have never begun, begin. If you have begun, keep turning. And as you do, never ever forget: a Risen Christ proves more than the coming judgment. A risen Christ – O let this sink deep into our souls – a Risen Christ proves beyond all doubt that God is more than happy with His Son’s payment for our sins. He was delivered up for our sins. But He was raised for our justification.

They found the stone rolled away. The tomb was empty. The linens used which bound His dead body, folded in a place by itself, were all that remained. The providence may have seemed impossible; but the evidence was undeniable. Who, then, shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. And God is happy.