Robert Jeffress - If Jesus Is Still Dead, So What?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Jesus was a great teacher and a humble servant. But the world has seen plenty of other great teachers and servants. Billy Graham, George Whitfield, D. L. Moody, just to name a few. So what makes Jesus different from all the others? Well, he was the only one to miraculously rise from the dead. And on this Easter Sunday, we're going to explore what is at stake if Jesus Christ didn't conquer the grave. My message is titled, "If Jesus Is Still Dead, so what"? On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
You know, somebody has well said, "Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Disprove it, and you have disposed of the Christian faith forever". Apparently the apostle Paul believed the same thing. The resurrection isn't just incidental, it is essential to the Christian faith. And today we're going to discover why, by answering the question in the reverse, if Jesus is still dead, so what? If you have your Bibles, turn to 1 Corinthians 15. Paul wrote to these Corinthian Christians, to answer a number of questions they had about a variety of subjects. But one of the things they were confused about was the resurrection.
You see, the teaching of the Sadducees, a sect of Judaism had infected the church. The Sadducees refused to believe in any resurrection. They didn't believe in the supernatural and that crept into the church. And so people begin to doubt the resurrection. Or even if they did accept Christ's resurrection, they thought that was a one off and none of us would ever experience it. So Paul clarifies the truth about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He begins by making the case for Christ resurrection. How do you know Christ really arose from the dead? Well, he talked about the evidence of scripture.
Look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul said, "Now I make known to you brethren, the Gospel that I preach to you, which you also received by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preach to you unless you believed in vain". That's just a warmup for the message. He said, "Here is the Gospel message that you received the Gospel in a nutshell". Verse three, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures".
The Bible says that Christ died not as an accident, it was all prophesied in the scripture. For example, in Isaiah 53, 700 years before Christ was even born, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would die for the sins of the world. Verse nine, that he would be buried in a rich man's tomb. Hundreds of prophecies that said the Messiah would die. That was the basis of the Christian faith. He died for our sins according to the scriptures and was buried, but it doesn't stop there. Our faith is also built on the fact that he was raised on the third day again, according to the scriptures.
The resurrection shouldn't be a surprise to the Jews, because it was prophesied for hundreds of years ahead of time. And Psalm 16:10, the Messiah said through the Psalmist, "For you, God will not abandon my soul to sheol, nor will you allow your holy one to undergo decay". In Job 19, Job the patriarch said, "And as for me, I know that my redeemer lives and that he shall take his stand one day upon the earth even after my skin is destroyed yet from my flesh, I shall see God". The resurrection was prophesied in the scripture. Within a few days and a few years of the resurrection, people by the thousands are not only proclaiming that truth they are giving their very lives for it. That's what a strong evidence for the resurrection is, the evidence of scripture.
Now, the second piece of evidence is the evidence of eyewitnesses, Paul says in verses 5 to 11. Testimony of eyewitnesses has long been considered one of the most reliable forms of evidence. Thomas Arnold, the historian from Oxford University wrote, "I know of no one fact in the history of mankind, which is better proved by fuller evidence than the great sign that God has given us, that Christ died and rose again from the dead". What is this eye witness testimony that's so strong? Well look at verse five. And that Christ appeared the Cephas, that was Peter, the apostle Peter. And then to the 12, the other disciples, and then he appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time. Matthew talks about that event as well. And he says, "Most of them are still alive. A few have died, but most of them are still alive. You can go talk to them".
And then he appeared to James. James was his half-brother. James as well as all of Jesus' family refused to believe in him while he was alive, but James became a believer after he saw his resurrected brother. And then he said, "He appeared to me," Paul said, least of all as one untimely born. He appeared to me on the road to Damascus years later, even after he had ascended into heaven. Paul said, "That is the certainty of the resurrection". But, what if, what if the resurrection is fiction? Does it really make that much difference? Paul says, "Yes". Beginning in verse 12 he gives us seven consequences of no resurrection. And he starts with the general argument and then comes to the very specific and very personal to you and me. What are the consequences of no resurrection?
Remember some in the church said, "There's no such thing as people coming back from the dead. This life is all there is". Well, if that's true, there is no resurrection, then Paul says, "The first consequence is, Christ is not risen from the dead". Look at verse 12. Now, if Christ is preached that he's been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised. Now, admittedly that's not rocket science, okay? If there's no such thing as a resurrection, then Christ hasn't been raised from the dead.
Some people in the church said, "Well, Jesus rose from the dead spiritually, there was a spiritual resurrection". But Jesus really wasn't a human being himself, he was more of a spirit, that's what the Gnostics said. No, the New Testament said, "He was live, flesh and blood". In first John 1:1, the apostle wrote, "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have beheld and our hands have handled concerning the word of life". John was saying, "Forget this spirit stuff, we were there. We saw him, we handled him, we touched him. He was a human being and he arose from the dead". If there is no resurrection, Christ has not been raised from the dead.
The second consequence, preaching is useless. And if Christ has not been raised, verse 14, "Then our preaching is in vain". There's no reason for me to be standing up here talking to you all if there is no such thing as a resurrection, there is no reason for you all to get up on Sunday morning and come to church and give your money like you do. If there is no resurrection, preaching is vain. If there is no such thing as the resurrection, the Bible is reduced to nothing but an Aesop fable. The Bible is nothing but a good and nice book about a nice man who went around saying nice things to people. Anybody want to hear that week after week? I sure don't. No, if there is no resurrection, all preaching is in vain.
Not only that, if there is no resurrection, third, faith is meaningless. Look at verse 14, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith also is in vain. Do you remember that faith you exercise to become a Christian? Do you remember that faith? That was just an emotion, it wasn't faith. You know that faith that you've told people about that sustained you in a difficult circumstance? That was a sham, it didn't exist. You know that faith that you said came alongside of you and empowered you when you lost that loved one? That's just your imagination. Faith is absolutely meaningless, Paul said, if there is no resurrection.
Not only that forth, if there is no resurrection, all Christians are liars. Look at verse 15. Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God because we testified against God that he raised Christ whom he did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. Paul is saying, "I and all other apostles, every one of us is a liar if in fact Christ wasn't raised from the dead. Because we've testified that he has been risen from the dead". Do you believe that about all of the apostles? That they were liars, think about it. Anyone who has ever proclaimed the Christian resurrection is a liar. Do you believe that? And not are they liars, that godly grandfather, or grandmother or mother or father who led you to Christ, every one of them is a liar as well. That is the consequence of no resurrection.
Fifth if there is no resurrection, you are still in your sins. Look at verse 17, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still in your sins. That is your sins have not been forgiven if there is no such thing as a resurrection. You say, "Well, what does my forgiveness have to do with the resurrection"? Well, it has everything to do with it because what the resurrection tells us about Jesus Christ.
Listen to me, the resurrection told us two things about Jesus Christ. The resurrection first of all verifies the deity of Jesus Christ. It is the signal proof that Jesus was who he said he was the Son of God. Romans 1:4 says, "Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead". It's the proof that he is who he said he was. If he had remained in that grave, then Jesus Christ would have been no different than you and me, but it was the proof that he was the Son of God. The Bible says, the resurrection verifies the deity of Christ, but secondly, the resurrection verifies the sufficiency of Christ to pay for our sins. Romans 4:25 says, "He who was delivered over because of our transgressions and was raised up because of our justification".
Remember that word justified means, it's a courtroom term, it means to declare not guilty. And by Jesus' resurrection from the dead, we were declared not guilty in the eyes of God. Why? Because the resurrection was proof that God had accepted Jesus payment for our sins. Had Jesus remained in that tomb, it would have meant that he, like every other person, was dying for his own sins. But the fact that God raised him up and he escaped death, meant that, he died for our sins. Now listen to me, to pay off somebody else's debt, you have to be debt free. To pay off somebody else's sin, you have to be sin free and only Jesus Christ was sin free. And that's why he said, "It is finished, paid in full". That's what the resurrection did, it verified that the sufficient sacrifice of Christ was accepted by God.
Number six, what is no resurrection mean? If there is no resurrection, all of our Christian loved ones have perished. Verse 18, then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. The Bible uses falling asleep to describe what happens to a Christian when he dies. It's not his soul that dies, his soul goes immediately to the Lord, to be absent from the bodies to be at home with the Lord. But our physical body falls asleep until the resurrection. Paul said, "If there is no resurrection, then those who have died in Christ, those Christian loved ones have perished". That word perish doesn't mean just died physically, that would be repetitive. The word perished literally means, to be damned forever. Remember, if there is no resurrection, then nobody's sins had been paid for. And that means those of your loved ones who claim to be Christians and have died, they are burning in hell right now. They are experiencing the same torture, the same hell as Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson. Do you believe that about your Christian loved ones? Such an idea is preposterous, but that is exactly the consequence of no resurrection.
And finally he says as a climax, "If there is no resurrection, our lives are most miserable". Verse 19, if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. He's saying, if there is no resurrection, if this life is all that there is, we who are Christians are the most miserable people in the world. Have you ever heard people say, "Well, you know, if I come to the end of my life and I discovered that all of this was just a myth, I'm still glad I'm a Christian because I've lived the best way possible". Have you heard that before? Rubbish, the apostle Paul says. If you're really a Christian, it means you've sacrificed something. You can't be a Christian without sacrificing something. I'm sure Paul thought about what he had sacrificed, the beatings, the stonings, the imprisonment, the shipwrecks. He said, "If I find out that there is no resurrection, then I am the most miserable person in the world because I've given everything to follow a risen Christ".
We are of all people most miserable. That is the result of no resurrection. But Paul doesn't stop there. Look at verse 20, he says, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead. There is no doubt in my mind I've seen him. He has been raised from the dead, and not only that, he is the first fruits of those who are asleep". He says in verse 22, "For as in Adam, all die". But here's the way of escape, "But in Christ all shall be made alive". What does it mean to be in Christ? It means to put your faith and trust in Jesus, that is who is in Christ. As in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive. Jesus said it this way in John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live again".
Now folks, whatever you do, don't move, don't leave, don't rustle your papers, you listened to me for these next three minutes, because your eternal destiny hangs on your understanding of what I'm about to say. The only people who are going to be raised again and escape God's judgment, are those who have believed in Jesus. But most people don't know what it means to believe in Jesus. They think to believe in Jesus means to believe the right things about Jesus. That he was the Son of God who died on the cross for the sins of the world and he rose again on the third day. They think, if I believe those things, that's all I need to do. No, you can believe all of those things with all of your heart and go straight to hell when you die. There has to come that moment of faith when we kneel before a holy God, and we say, "God, I know I am a sinner. I know I deserve your punishment. I don't have any hope in myself. But I believe, I trust in I cling to the fact that Jesus died on the cross for me, that he took the punishment from you that I deserve and right now I'm clinging to, trusting and putting my whole weight upon what Jesus did for me to save me from my sins".
And the Bible says, the moment you say that to God and mean it with all of your heart, you are in Christ. You are in his hands. John 10:28 Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish. No one shall snatch out of my hands those whom the Father has given me". That's what it means to be in Christ. And those who are in Christ have eternal life. I give eternal life to them. It is their quality of life that begins right now and it extends throughout eternity. Jesus said it this way, "Truly, truly, I say unto you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death unto life".