Jerry Bridges on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

What role, then, does the resurrection of Jesus play in the overall story of redemption? There are at least four major truths about the resurrection that teach us about its absolute necessity.

First, it proved that Jesus was indeed the divine Son of God. Paul wrote that “[He] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Actually it was impossible for Jesus’ body to remain in the grave. Just as it was impossible for the divine nature of Jesus to die because God cannot die, so it was impossible for the human nature of Jesus to remain dead because of its union with His divine nature. Peter said on the day of Pentecost: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). So it was not possible for Jesus’ body to remain in the grave. And in raising Him from the grave, God declared beyond all shadow of doubt that this Jesus whom lawless men crucified was indeed the divine Son of God.

Second, the resurrection of Jesus assures us of our justification. Paul wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (I Cor. 15:17). If Christ were still in the tomb it would mean God’s wrath was not satisfied, and we would still stand guilty before God. But as Paul also wrote in Romans 4:25: “[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” It is not that the resurrection accomplished our justification — Jesus’ sinless life and sin-bearing death did that — but rather it assures us of our justification. It was God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11), and by that act God declared that Christ’s atoning sacrifice had been accepted. The penalty for our sins was paid in full. The resurrection was God’s declaration that He had cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands (Col. 2:14).

Third, the resurrection assures us that we serve a living Savior who even now is interceding for us. The writer of Hebrews wrote that He always lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). Paul was even more emphatic when he wrote, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). The One who died for us now lives to intercede for us. When you are going through struggles of any kind, be it adversity that you face, or sin you are struggling with, remember that Jesus is interceding for you.

Fourth, the resurrection of Christ guarantees our future resurrection. In his extensive treatment of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:12–58, Paul wrote, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (vv. 20–23).

So … not only can we say, “He is risen indeed,” but we can also say with Paul: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command. …And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive…will be caught up together with them…and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16–17). Maranatha! “Our Lord, come!” (1 Cor. 16:22).

(Jerry Bridges, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ“)

Watch and Pray: Wisdom from J.C. Ryle

If you haven’t followed the coverage of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy this past week, it has been heart wrenching. People without power, entire cities under water and some dead as a result of this super storm. God, help those who have been impacted!!

I’ve heard experts saying we’ve never experienced a storm of this caliber in this area before. If fact, some noted that this is the third major storm to hit that region in under a year. When I hear the experts say “we’ve never seen a storm this severe” and “these super storms may be the new normal,” I can’t help but think about Christ’s own words about His return.

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:25-28)

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
(Matthew 24:7-8)

These verses and their immediate context plainly convey that natural disasters like earthquakes and the “raging of the sea” will be signs that Christ’s return is drawing near. In Matthew 24, Jesus chose a peculiar illustration to describe these signs: birth pains. Jesus meant that just as pain increases in intensity and frequency as birth approaches, so these signs will increase in intensity and frequency as His return approaches. And it’s happening…

I believe storms like Sandy are exactly what Jesus was talking about. He expected His followers would pay attention to signs – like this disaster – and understand that His return is approaching and that these signs will continue to grow worse and worse until He does. This doesn’t mean we start setting dates, but only that we pay attention. Or as Jesus said it, “Watch and pray.”

I’ve often wondered what it means to be a watchful Christian. What is the difference between the Christian who is watching and the Christian who isn’t watching? I’ve found great help from J.C. Ryle. Over a hundred years ago, he provided great wisdom on how to watch and keep ourselves in a state of readiness for Christ’s return.

Here are Ryle’s words in their entirety:

I exhort you to watch against everything which might interfere with a readiness for Christ’s appearing. Search your own hearts. Find out the things which most frequently interrupt your communion with Christ, and cause fogs to rise between you and the sun. Mark these things, and know them, and against them ever watch and be on your guard.

Watch against SIN of every kind and description. Think not to say of any sin whatever, “Ah! that is one of the things that I shall never do.” I tell you there is no possible sin too abominable, for the very best of us all to commit! Remember David and Uriah. The spirit may be sometimes very willing — but the flesh is always very weak. You are yet in the body. Watch and pray!

Watch against doubts and unbelief as to the complete acceptance of your soul, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus finished the work He came to do — do not tell Him that He did not. The Lord Jesus paid your debts in full — do not tell Him that you think He left you to pay part. The Lord Jesus promises eternal life to every sinner that comes to Him — do not tell Him, even while you are coming, that you think He lies. Alas, for our unbelief! In Christ you are like Noah in the ark, and Lot in Zoar — nothing can harm you. The earth may be burned up with fire at the Lord’s appearing — but not a hair of your head shall perish. Doubt it not. Pray for more faith. Watch and pray!

Watch against inconsistency of walk — and conformity to the worldWatch against sins of temper and of tongue. These are the kind of things that grieve the Spirit of God, and make His witness within us faint and low. Watch and pray!

Watch against the leaven of false doctrine. Remember that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. Remember that bad money is never marked bad — or else it would never pass. Be very jealous for the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Do not put up with a grain of error — merely for the sake of a pound of truth. Do not tolerate a little false doctrine — one bit more than you would a little sin. Oh, reader, remember this caution! Watch and pray!

Watch against slothfulness about the Bible and private prayer. There is nothing so spiritual, but we may at last do it formally. Most backslidings begin in the closet. When a tree is snapped in two by a high wind, we generally find there had been some long hidden decay. Oh, watch and pray!

Watch against bitterness and uncharitableness towards others. A little love is more valuable than many gifts. Be eagle-eyed in seeing the good that is in your brethren — and dim-sighted as the mole about the evil. Let your memory be a strong-box for their graces — but a sieve for their faults. Watch and pray!

Watch against pride and self-conceit. Peter said at first, “Though all men deny You — yet I never will.” And presently he fell. Pride is the high road to a fallWatch and pray!

Watch against the sins of Galatia, Ephesus, and Laodicea. Believers may run well for a season, then lose their first loveand then become lukewarm. Watch and pray!

Watch not least against the sin of Jehu. A man may have great zeal to all appearance — and yet have very bad motives. It is a much easier thing to oppose Antichrist — than to follow Christ. It is one thing to protest against error — it is quite another thing to love the truth. So watch and pray!

Oh, my believing readers, let us all watch more than we have done! Let us watch more every year that we live. Let us watch, that we may not be surprised when the Lord appears.

Let us watch for the world’s sake. We are the books they chiefly read. They mark our ways, far more than we think. Let us aim to be plainly-written epistles of Christ!

Let us watch for our own sakes. As our walk is — so will be our peace. As our conformity to Christ’s mind — so will be our sense of Christ’s atoning blood. If a man will not walk in the full light of the sun, how can he expect to be warm?

And, above all, let us watch for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. Let us live as if His glory was concerned in our behavior. Let us live as if every slip and fall was a reflection on the honor of our King. Let us live as if every allowed sin, was . . .
one more thorn in His head,
one more nail in His feet,
one more spear in His side!

Oh, let us exercise a godly jealousy over thoughts, words, and actions — over motives, manners, and walk! Never, never let us fear being too strict. Never, never let us think we can watch too much. [excerpt from Are You Ready for the End of Time? by J.C. Ryle]

On the night our Lord was betrayed, He asked his disciples three times to watch and pray and each time they fell asleep. And consequently, they weren’t ready for what was coming upon them. They failed Christ in His greatest hour of need.

Likewise, Jesus calls us to “stay awake” and watch for His return. Let this be a mark of true Christians in our time, that we are watchful and prayerful. When we see things like Hurricane Sandy, we strive to finish the work He’s given us to do with hearts burning, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Spurgeon on the Return of Christ

I’m increasingly convinced many Christians today have an incomplete understanding of Jesus. We emphasize his compassion, grace, and love – which are indeed precious truths – but ignore the weightier things He said, did and is. For this reason, I love to read history’s great preachers and teachers. They talked about things we don’t and said things many pastors today wouldn’t dare.

Here’s an important word from C.H. Spurgeon, that great London preacher, who is still considered one of the most articulate wielders of the Word who ever lived.

But who can endure the day of his coming . . . ?  (Malachi 3:2)

Christ’s first coming was without external pomp or display of power, and yet in truth there were few who could endure its test. Herod and all Jerusalem with him were stirred at the news of the wondrous birth. Those who supposed themselves to be waiting for Him showed the fallacy of their professions by rejecting Him when He came. His life on earth was like a winnowing fan that sifted the great heap of religious profession, and only a few could survive the process. But what will His second coming be? What sinner can endure to think of it? “He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). In Gethsemane when He said to the soldiers, “I am he,” they fell backward. What will happen to His enemies when He will reveal Himself more fully as the “I Am”? His death shook earth and darkened heaven. What will be the dreadful splendor of that day when as the living Savior He will summon the living and the dead before Him? O that the terrors of the Lord would persuade men to forsake their sins and kiss the Son in case He is angry! Though a lamb, He is still the lion of the tribe of Judah, tearing the prey in pieces; and though He does not break the bruised reed, yet He will break His enemies with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. None of His foes shall stand before the tempest of His wrath or hide themselves from the sweeping hail of His indignation. But His beloved blood-washed people look for His appearing with joy; in this living hope they live without fear. To them He sits as a refiner even now, and when He has tested them they shall come forth as gold. Let us examine ourselves this morning and make our calling and election sure, so that the coming of the Lord may not be the cause of fearful expectations. O for grace to discard all hypocrisy, and to be found of Him sincere and without rebuke on the day of His appearing.

[Taken from Morning by Morning, entry for October 15th]

10 Things Jesus Really Said About His Return

Another false teacher recently joined the historic cohort who arrogantly thought they had figured out when Christ will return. This is tragic on two levels. First, there are many who were duped. Tons of people believed his prediction and invested time, energy, and money spreading it.  Secondly, it’s tragic that many will now move toward the opposite extreme. They suspected Jesus wouldn’t return anytime soon and now see this false prediction as confirmation he really isn’t. This is an equally tragic mistake. Jesus said a lot about his return and one of the overarching messages was His followers should keep themselves ready and waiting.

Here are 10 things Jesus really said about his return.

1.  No one knows the day or the hour of my return.

In Mark 13:32, Jesus had been teaching his disciples about his return and says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Luke records it this way, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Lk 12:40).

Jesus told his disciples even He didn’t know exactly when He would return.  At this point in history, God the Father knew the exact number of years, months, days and seconds until Christ would return and Jesus didn’t. We need not speculate about future details Christ himself didn’t know.

Also, Jesus applied this truth to their lives, “Be ready.” Jesus didn’t know if he would return in their lifetimes, but his command to them is his command to us almost 2,000 years later. Keep watch. Stay awake.

2.  There will be several signs, increasing in intensity, as my return draws near.

Christ’s followers should pay attention to the signs of his return. They should speculate about the exact day or hour but should pay attention to natural events and recognize the potential fulfillment of Christ’s words as they happen.

Jesus promised there would be wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes in various places (Matt 24:6-7). And also, “signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk 21:25-27).

Additionally, Jesus used the term “birth pains” to describe these signs. Like the pain of childbirth, these signs will get more intense and frequent as the day draws close. When we see increasing numbers of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, Jesus instructs, “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). Once again, Jesus instructs us to pay attention to the signs of His return in order to be ready when He comes.

3.  Pray for the strength to escape the things that are going to take place.

In Luke 21:36, Jesus taught his followers, “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” From the context, the “escaping” Jesus refers to is escaping from the judgment and wrath God will bring upon those who have rejected Christ.  Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for the strength to escape. Too many believe Christians will escape by default, but Jesus told his disciples to pray for strength to escape, and so we must.

4.  It will seem like a normal day.

In Luke 17:26-30, Jesus compared the day the Son of Man will be revealed to God’s judgment in the days of both Noah and Lot. In both these times, people were going about the normal business of life: eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, and building. In the midst of this apparent normalcy, God’s judgment and wrath fell. Jesus said this is what it will be like when He comes. It will be a great cosmic interruption that will be like lightning which “lights up the sky from one side to the other” (Lk 17:24).

5.  I will repay everyone for what he has done.

In the last chapter of Revelation, Jesus told his followers He is coming and “bringing his recompense…to repay everyone for what he has done” (22:12). Matthew 25 describes the scene when Jesus will sit on his glorious throne and all nations will be gathered before him to be judged (31-33). All people will stand before Jesus and give account for what they did in life. How glorious it will be to stand confidently in the imputed righteousness of Christ in that day.

6.  Not everyone who expects to make it into Christ’s kingdom will.

Some of the most sobering words of Jesus are about those who will not be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” What could be worse than hearing these words from Jesus?

At the end, there will be many people who will think they are in because of their ministry credentials. And Jesus will say, “I never knew you” and call them “workers of lawlessness.” Their repentance was in word only. They acted like followers but didn’t have a saving relationship with Christ based on faith and repentance as the foundation of their lives. Jesus said there will be many people in this terrifying condition, living their lives thinking they were in and finding out in the final analysis they weren’t.

7.  There will be great persecution and many will fall away.

Jesus promised great persecution would break out against his followers and would cause many to fall away (Matt 24:9-10). It’s relatively easy to follow Christ when things are going well, but when times get tough we find out what we’re made of. Is our faith in Christ only as strong as the comfort we enjoy? If God’s enemies come and take everything will we cling to Christ or fall away? Jesus promised many would make the incomprehensible choice to fall away.

8.  Because of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold.

Jesus promised that sin would lure many away from Him (Matt 24:12). These are people who once loved Christ warmly who have cooled in their affections for Him. They’ve traded in their desires for Christ for worthless idols. Sex, money, power and other false gods have replaced the love of Christ in their hearts. Their love grows cold as they lose the war against temptations to sin. Stoking the heart’s fiery love for Christ must include destroying the wet buckets of sin that can so quickly quench it. True Christ followers must repent often and much.

9.  Be on guard, keep awake.

Jesus continually told his followers to stay awake, to watch their lives, and to be ready for his return. In Matthew, Jesus gave four parables to explain how and why his followers should be prepared for his coming: the homeowner and the thief (24:42-44); the good and wicked servants (24:45-51); the 10 virgins (25:1-13); and the talents (25:14-30). In each of these parables, Christ described readiness with working to complete the work Christ gave us, namely fulfilling the Great Commission. Every Christian is to diligently use the gifts and opportunities God provides to reach the world for Christ.

To be awake is to be ready and willing to do Christ’s will. In Gethsemane, Jesus’ disciples slept instead of joining Him in prayer. They weren’t doing what Christ asked but slept. In the same way, many Christians today are asleep to Christ’s will. They don’t seek him or ask for his direction. Instead, like the disciples in the garden, they sleep. Hear the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Awake, awake, put on strength” (51:9).

Peter says it well, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8).

10.  I am coming soon!

Four times in the book of Revelation, Jesus said to the churches, “I am coming soon!” (Rev 16:15; 22:7,12,20). It was originally meant as an encouraging word to 1st century Christians suffering by the hands of Rome and has continued to encourage Christ’s followers throughout the ages. Christians in every generation are to hold tightly to the promise that Christ will return soon.

As the writer of Hebrews reminds, “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb 9:28). Like young children eagerly longing for Christmas morning, Christians eagerly wait for Christ to return. In doing so, we live out Paul’s wonderful promise to the church in Thessalonica, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17). Nothing is greater than to be with Jesus Christ always and forever.