L.W. Sloat

Resurrection is the theme of the Easter season, the message of the Easter hymn. But what does resurrection mean?

Resurrection does not mean the impartation of new direction or of renewed energy to a process which is essentially continuous with the past. It concerns no life which carries through or emerges from a pseudo-death. Nor does it feature some pseudo-life, some continuing impression or influence, which rises wraithlike from the dust and ashes of a past that is beyond recall.

Resurrection is an event, the instilling of life into that where life did not exist. It is the insertion of the powers of self-movement and self-determination into a body that was before mere substance, mere thing. It is an event, external, historical, clearly visible in its consequences, an occurrence of time and space.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was of this sort. Possessed of true human nature, of flesh and blood, of desires and needs, He stood before the Council and was condemned. The soldiers led Him to unfriendly Golgotha. They nailed His body, living, to a wooden cross. He hung there. He died there. Physical life departed from that human nature. Attached to the cross was a dead corpse. There was no more life in that which hung there, than in the dried wooden beams to which it was nailed, or the metal of the nails. Others took the body down, wrapped it in linen, laid it in a tomb. The stone was rolled in place. He had been crucified, was dead, buried.

Then resurrection occurred. The mighty power of the Creator God intervened in time and space, and produced a result in the external world. Life was imparted to that which was dead. The powers of self-movement and self-determination were again made active. An event occurred. It is dated. It was the third day. It was very early in the morning. It was in Joseph's garden.

And the power that intervened, and the life that resulted, could ignore linen clothes, entombing walls, the heavy stone at the door. That stone was not rolled away to let life out. It was rolled away to let the world look in and see that death had been vanquished, that He was not there, for He had risen, as He had said. He was crucified, dead, and buried . . . the third day He rose again from the dead.

It is interesting that the New Testament speaks of the one who trusts in Christ in similar terms. A resurrection has taken place. Though it has happened in the realm of spiritual, rather than physical, existence, it has nevertheless happened. For that realm is also real. And we were dead. There was no capacity to see or hear the Kingdom of God, no ability to will the will of God, no power to love God.

But something happened to the one who believes. An event occurred. The power of God intervened. There came life in place of spiritual death. There was a new birth. There is a new creature. The believer is alive to God. He is united to Christ the source and fountainhead of life. He is a branch, nourished by the Vine.

And because he is united to the living Christ, he also partakes of the death of Christ. He partakes of Christ. The righteousness of Christ is his. He was crucified with Christ, buried with Him. The death of Christ is his. And the victory of the resurrection of Christ is his also.

Hence, resurrection is not limited to a spiritual experience. He who has been made spiritually alive by the power of God shall, by that same power, when this sin-drenched flesh has been laid aside, and when the purpose of God has been fulfilled, be raised in the resurrection at the last day. The corruptible will put on incorruption. And the mortal will put on immortality. And we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.

Thus, because It is written so in Scripture, the whole believing Church has confessed from its earliest day both the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the bodily resurrection and everlasting life of all who believe in Christ.

Reprinted from the Presbyterian Guardian, Volume 22, No 3, March, 1953. The OPC Committee for the Historian has made the archives of the Presbyterian Guardian available online!


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