Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 2000
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 5: The Resurrection of the King
Lesson 146 – Unbelieving Responses to the King’s Resurrection
30 Mar 2000
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
If you’ll turn in the New Testament to Matthew 28 we’re going to deal with the unbelieving responses to the resurrection event. Throughout the years that we’ve gone through this framework I’ve tried to emphasize that each one of these events has always instilled a response. The first foundation event of Scripture, the creation, the fall, the flood and the covenant basically the world has tried to forget and to bury it. It has mythologized it, ridiculed it, and in all ways tried to discredit these events. The reason for that is because these events are revelation of truths that are hated and that the flesh, the fallen nature is at enmity with God, and the carnal mind cannot be subject to the authority of Scripture. So it always seeks in its creative perversity to generate some alternate explanation for all this. It behooves us as Christians to know the tactics of the enemy and to understand when these things are attacked, why and how they are attacked.
Then during the next stage of history, we said that during this period we have a period of time when the world is offended by the disruption, the idea that there can be one and only one group of people having the truth. That’s disruptive, that’s not democratic, we haven’t taken a Gallop poll on this, we haven’t approved it as a democratic society, so this is offensive to people. We could go on and on, but what we’re really doing now is studying the life of Christ and we’ve said that right from the very start, as Jesus said, “Who do men say I am?” Then the disciples said it’s this and that, and He said “Who do you say I am?” In other words, Jesus Christ, as all previous generations, engenders a response.
We studied His birth, we studied His life, we studied His death and now we’re looking at the resurrection. The birth, we said the issue there was the fact that given the nature of man, the nature of God, the act of creation, can you have the Creator/distinction come together in one person. The issue there, the litmus test is how people deal with the virgin birth claim. People answer that claim - that charge - with a cover-up, which was the fact that fornication was involved. So the explanation of the world is there was an act of fornication. Then we come to the life of Christ and because unbelief cannot stand the portrait of Jesus presented in the four Gospels it tries to explain the four Gospels in terms of a spin. So we could say that the response here is a lying spin; the church, in other words, created the New Testament and created its own portrait of Jesus. Then we come to the death of Christ and the response there is oh, that was an accident, something went wrong, or martyrdom.
Now we’re going to deal with the response to the resurrection. This is the scandal of the gospel and you can’t be neutral about this, you either accept the claims or we say there was an act of fornication with a cover-up by the church and an accidental death. This is the alternative explanation of Jesus Christ. It’s good to know these things because it forces people off the fence-sitting. People like to sit on the fence here; they can’t. You either sit on one side of the fence or you’re on the other side of the fence, and it’s good to know at least how the world system responds to this because you’ll get people all the time that say well I don’t believe there was any fornication. Well then do you believe in the virgin birth? Well no, I don’t really believe in the virgin birth. Well then what’s your explanation? It propels a response.
We’re going to study the responses to the resurrection. The first response to the resurrection is found in Matthew 28:11. This is one of the first responses to this event. “Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.  And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,” see what’s going on here, we’re going to have a little smoke-filled room discussion, how do we handle this hot potato politically? The world is a dark place and even in your own groups, your own businesses, I’m sure you’ve seen similar things. People who are in charge of things in the world usually don’t like the truth because the world is a nasty place for truth because if you adhere to truth you’re always at conflict somehow with the world system. So often you’ll see where leaders only want to hear the good side of something, never want to hear a problem. That’s why no problems get fixed, because many of the leaders always want the good story; I don’t want to hear bad news, I just want to hear good news. Well then you’re not going to hear how to solve a problem because you don’t even know you’ve got one. That’s how a lot of stupid decisions get made. It’s really not that they’re made; they’re just avoided until the last minute when the whole thing starts to unravel.
The other kind of situation you’ll see in senior level leadership in the world is this kind of sneaky business that goes on here in Matthew 28, don’t cope with the problem, don’t confront the problem, let’s just cover it up for now, we’re worried about political fallout here. So that’s what the story is. Right here in the pages of the New Testament you see one of these little conferences, the back room pow-wows. So they assembled, and now we’ve got the money for the payoff, a large sum of money for the soldiers.  “And said, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’  ‘And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.’” See the deal’s going on here. Nothing has changed down to the present day, the wheelin’ and the dealin’ in the backroom still goes on. It goes on in our country; it goes on in every country on earth. It goes on in big corporation after big corporation, same thing. It goes on in small businesses. It’s the same kind of stuff that goes on, and it was going on here.
Verse 15, “And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews,” and notice the last clause in this verse, “widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.” To what day? The day of the writing of Matthew. So we have here the first attempt at explaining away the resurrection. Obviously this is a claim. We’ve explained away the birth of Jesus as fornication. We’ve explained away the portrait of Jesus as a lying spin put out by the church. We’ve explained the death as an accidental martyr type thing. Now we’ve got to explain this absurd thing called the resurrection. They can’t get hold of the body so the nearest thing they can do is pay off the guards, so this is one of the payoffs, a payoff to the soldiers to spread a false issue. They’ve silenced them with a little cash—always follow the money. It was there, it’s still here today. Pay them off, get them out of here, let’s shut up, we don’t need this kind of story going around, it’s too controversial, etc.
On page 104 I quote John Chrysostom who shows you that when his dates, AD 349-407, 300 years later this theft theory is still going on, because Chrysostom in the third or fourth century, notice what he’s doing; he’s also having to deal with the theft theory. So it was a theory that had a lifespan of at least four centuries. He’s trying to show the resurrection was true over against the false claim. I’m just citing Chrysostom to show that the Matthew 28 theft theory was still prevalent in Chrysostom’s day. Chrysostom had to address it, so he says, “For indeed even this establishes the resurrection …. For this is the language of men confessing, that the body was not there. When therefore they confess the body was not there, but the stealing of it is shown to be false and incredible, by their watching it, and by the seals, and by the timidity of the disciples, the proof of the resurrection even hence appears incontrovertible.”
Who is it that they’re paying off here? Notice—the very people that were to prevent the theft. So that’s why it had to be a large sum to the guards, because basically they had to say that they were derelict in their guarding duties, they so screwed up that gee, these unarmed, untrained amateur Palestinians come in against the armed guards, all trained, and take away a body. I mean, what were these guys doing? They must have something in their iced tea all night. The point is that here we have a plot that is so incredible and Chrysostom laughs at it in the fourth century. Here you’re paying off the very people you paid in the first place to guard the body. Then the little cute thing that they added on in verse 14 was, “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble,” in other words, don’t worry guys, you admit you screwed up but we’ll cover for you. That’s the theft theory, pretty easy to comprehend.
On page 105 we’re going to cite some more things. This is the more common explanation of the resurrection: it’s a hallucination. There are a thousand different varieties of this one but you can categorize it for your own thinking and vocabulary as just the hallucination class of explanations. One of the things that the Holy Spirit does in Scripture is that there’s notices in the details of the Gospels that look at first glance like innocent little things sown in the text, but I believe the Holy Spirit sowed those things into the text because being omniscient He knows exactly what goes on in men’s hearts and He knows the kind of garbage and perversity that people come up with to try to cover over these things.
I’m sure this is one reason why in the Gospel of John and in some of the other Gospels there’s that funny little story about Jesus and His mother. It always seems like every time Jesus and His mother appear in the Gospels it’s not a relationship that gives you confidence that Mary does much intercession successfully. Why do you suppose that is in the four Gospels? Because what has happened in church history to make Mary the great intercessor. It’s because of Roman Catholicism. If you look at Roman Catholicism what you see is a redesign of the Trinity after an Italian family, momma goes to daddy and tries to intercede for the sons, a big Italian family. So the Italian Roman connection thinks of the Trinity operating the same way, except if you look at the Scriptures Mary wasn’t successful most of the time when she goes to Jesus in the Scripture about intercession. That is one of those little stories.
Here’s another interesting case. Turn to John 20:5, this is one of those little notices. John comes into the tomb faster than Peter, and this is John’s own report of what he sees in the tomb, “and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in.  Simon Peter, therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there,  and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.” Why would a little incidental detail like that be put in the text? What does that tell us about the resurrection? It’s as though the Lord, when He was resurrected, took this funeral cap off, folded it up and put it aside. This is not a hallucination going on; it’s a detail that one who’s hallucinating about the mysterious absence of Jesus here wouldn’t necessarily think of some little detail like that. It’s those little details that make this evidence credible. And it occurs in several places.
We’ve already gone to the Luke passage where He appears in the room and people are just blown away, and He says come here; remember the Thomas incident, that’s in John, doubting Thomas, here, put your hand in My side, and by the way, it’s “in” my side, so it was a deep wound. Those are all the little details. I believe the Holy Spirit puts those in the text to deliberately make this as difficult as possible for anyone to explain this away as hallucinations. Then we have 1 Corinthians 15, that’s a passage you want to remember, if you don’t have that in your mind prominently write it down it the notes, it’s cited here in the notes several times, but 1 Corinthians 15 is a major passage, it’s the major New Testament passage, it cites all the evidences, it shows you how many people, five hundred people saw Jesus, they must have all been smoking something and hallucinated at the same time and that’s how they thought Jesus rose from the dead. So this is the case of the New Testament building the truthfulness and the validity of the resurrection.
But to show you that the hallucination theory is alive and well, on page 105 I have this long citation from Carl F. H. Henry. Carl Henry has done a lot of good theology in the 20th century. It was Carl Henry who, after World War II, along with Billy Graham, Harold John Ockenga from Boston, Barnhouse from Philadelphia, these are the guys that basically are responsible for you all being here, because those are the men who held the line when there was a very long thin thread after the modernist debacle back in the 20s and 30s that had totally crushed scholarship of the conservative bent. Those guys held on to it. Carl F. H. Henry became the editor of Christianity Today and he was the one who, over the years, stood up in every forum in the country, intellectually, for the gospel of Jesus Christ, a man of good courage. By the way, his background wasn’t clergy, Carl F. H. Henry wasn’t clergy, he wasn’t a clergyman, he was a reporter, he was trained as a journalist, and that’s why this story is interesting.
Keep in mind what I’m trying to show in this quote. This is to show you how modern theologians handle the resurrection so you won’t be fooled when you hear somebody talk about oh, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus. These guys all do, not the resurrection you or I believe in, but they’re using these words. That’s why you can go to any church, The First Liberal Church anywhere, and you can be fooled on Easter morning because 99 out of 100 are all talking about the resurrection, the resurrection this and the resurrection that. But they don’t mean what you mean. So follow this if you will, and let’s look at what Karl Barth says. This is a conversation that happened between Carl F. H. Henry and Karl Barth. Karl Barth along with Bultmann and some other men, they are the men who are the titans of 20th century liberal theology in America and Europe. They built it; they are the guys who taught the guys who teach clergy in seminaries, except for some of the conservative Bible based seminaries. These are the giants.
When I was at MIT I remember one of the big speakers they had, Paul Tillich came down from Harvard and he filled the auditorium with a lecture on the absurdity of the question of whether God exists. And the Christian, oh, gee, that’s great and actually what Paul Tillich was talking about was a vague concept that he identified to be God, but it wasn’t the God of the Scriptures.
“When the question period began,” in other words he had gone to hear a lecture by Karl Barth, and it was a press conference, and people from the United Press, Associated Press, and the radio stations were all there to hear this eminent European theologian from Switzerland. “When the question period began, I asked about the factualness, the historicity of the resurrection.” This is a good model for us. Here’s a mentor, and it’s right for us to ask questions; it’s right for us to ask questions aggressively, in a public forum going, and he’s doing this. But notice how, this is a skillful question. Watch how he sets up Barth. “‘Over at the table are newspaper reporters,’ I noted, ‘the religion editor of United Press International, the Religious News Service correspondent, and the religion editors of the Washington papers. If they had these present reportorial responsibilities in the first century, was the event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ of such a nature that covering it would have fallen into the area of their reportorial responsibility?’ ”
Why did he ask the question this way? Think, why is Henry asking the question in sort of a convoluted way? Why doesn’t he just ask Barth “do you believe in the resurrection?” Why doesn’t he ask it that way? Because the guy would say yeah, I believe in the resurrection, and nothing would be clarified. So here’s a mentoring example of how you want to carefully, you’ve got to know enough about the other side so you don’t get smoke blown in your face. You often times get smoke anyway, but you’ve got to ask a question crisply, politely, courteously, graciously but skillfully, because what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to find out what’s going on with this person, do they or don’t they believe. And here’s an example where he doesn’t come out and ask him, oh, do you believe in the resurrection? Oh, you do, oh well okay; they’re a Bible-believing Christian. No, he’s not a Bible-believing Christian but you’re not going to tell that by asking a simple question.
He’s pinning him down. He says look, there are the reporters and I’m asking you if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, are you saying that you believe the resurrection is such that United Press International would report it as a news story, as something that’s happened. We might say if there were people there with cameras, Dr. Barth, do you believe in the resurrection such that those video cameras would record it? That’s the question, and that’s why you heard me back when we went through the Sinai thing, do you believe Moses and the Ten Commandments? Yeah, I believe Moses and the Ten Commandments. Do you believe the Ten Commandments so that if you had a tape recording at the foot of Sinai it would have recorded in Hebrew God speaking? Is that what you believe?
Well, no, Moses went up on the mountain, he had this inspiring thought and he brought it all down to the people, that’s what I believe. That’s not what the text says; the text says God spoke in the Hebrew language so a million people heard it. You see, it’s easy to say Moses got this idea of the Ten Commandments, because some geniuses existed in history. But if on the other hand you make the claim that the Ten Commandments such that you could tape record it in Hebrew in the middle of a mountain valley, of a voice coming down the mountain, now you’ve got a problem. Now all of a sudden we’ve got a God who speaks and reveals Himself in history. Whoa, tough stuff now. That’s why this quote is important. It gives you an example of a wisely asked question and watch what happens. Barth’s stuck now. He can’t squirm out of this one.
“That is, was it news and history in the sense in which the man in the street understands new and history?’ Barth became angry.” You bet he became angry, all of a sudden the cloth got ripped off here, now he’s got to expose himself by admitting in front of the United Press International and the news reporters and the religious editors of all the Washington papers what the guy really believes. “Since I had identified myself as editor of Christianity Today, he retorted, ‘Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?’ Rather taken aback, I replied only by quoting the Scripture text ‘yesterday, today, and forever,’ certainly a hurried misappropriation. Barth then responded to the question obliquely:” by saying “ ‘the resurrection had significance for the disciples of Jesus Christ! It was to the disciples that He appeared!’ But that wasn’t in the question at all. On the way out the United Press correspondent remarked to me, ‘We got his answer. His answer was no.’ ” Had he not done that, would a United Press reporter who hadn’t gotten into the details of theology, would he have picked up what was going on? No, it’d have been on the 6:00 o’clock news Barth’s a believer, because the reporters aren’t trained to pick this up. So it has to be smoked out with clever questions, driving them to the point where they must admit what they don’t believe. “Karl Barth thus rejects the fact of the resurrection.”
Now a quote from Clark Pinnock who I wouldn’t quote today so much, this is the early Clark Pinnock, he’s kind of off in his recent books. “The offensive character of the resurrection as a literal event reversing the normal course of nature,” notice how careful Pinnock is here because he’s dealing with grease again, this theological slime and grease from liberalism, so you’ve got to get specific. So he says, “in decomposition of a body in death remains equally strong for the new theology. The insistence of both Tillich and Bultmann on its symbolic non-literal meaning is well known. Tillich admits the existentialist encounters which led the disciples to apply the resurrection as a symbol to Jesus crucified. He even lists the physical theory as a possible explanation for faith in the New Being. But candidly he regards it as a crude rationalization developed rather late in the first century.”
Remember what we said? What did we say that the life of Jesus, the portrait of Jesus Christ that you see in the Bible, where did it come from? It didn’t come from Jesus, it came from the church that invented this and embellished this Jewish carpenter story and got more and more miracles attached to it, until finally the picture of Jesus that we get out of the Bible is just the result of the spin that the church put on it. That’s why he says “late in the first century,” see, it took them decades to generate all this material.
“He much prefers a new theory of his own, which he wishes to distinguish from the simply psychological explanation. The real miracle was the creation of faith in the New Being,” that’s Tillich’s code word for God. Look at this, “The orthodox alternative he treats with disdain as ‘absurdity compounded with blasphemy.’ ” Get a load of this; this is perversion, the same kind of perversion going on today. I mean, we can tolerate everything except the truth, and the truth is identified as falsehood. He not only says that we’re wrong as orthodox people, he’s saying that we’re blaspheming. Excuse me, on what criteria are you saying that I’m blaspheming? I thought we got rid of all the Bible. “Perhaps it is more apt to turn this pejorative expression onto the implications of his own thesis which depicts the disciples confusing their inner experience with an even in the past, deceiving both themselves and Christians since.”
Now we begin to pick up the theories of handling this resurrection event. We’ve got the theft theory, now we have the hallucination theory. Twenty or thirty years ago Hugh Schonfield came out with a book called The Passover Plot, you still see this around and from time to time you’ll read about it when the reporters in Time and Newsweek have nothing else to do and they’re assigned to do some religious thing and they’ll go dig around and find Schonfield’s book and they’ll trot it out every fifteen years because everybody forgot fifteen years ago what it was and now it’s a new theory. So this shows up from time to time. I’m quoting from this too because these are the ideas that the people on the sidewalk get half-baked. I’m trying to take you more to the sources so you know the sources and can identify when you hear these things and you hear people mouthing this stuff, okay, I know that one, that’s the theft theory, and it’s sort of nice in the conversation when somebody comes up with one of these ideas and they think they’re original and you can say, oh yea, that’s Chrysostom’s theory, I read about that in Chrysostom, that was in AD 400. It’s just kind of a nice way of putting them down getting them out of the way so you can get the conversation on to the next topic.
“It is by no means a novel theory that Jesus was not dead when taken from the Cross, and some will have it that He subsequently recovered.” Now look at where Schonfield traces this back to. “The idea was used in fiction by George Moore in The Brook Kerith and by D. H. Lawrence in The Man Who Died.” So he goes back in the history of literature. “We have only to allow that in this as in other instances Jesus made private arrangements with someone He could trust, who would be in a position to accomplish His design …. There is no cause to doubt the crucifixion of Jesus, or that He had assistants to aid him in his bid for survival. We may accept that one of them was a member of the Sanhedrin, and we may agree to speak of him as Joseph of Arimathea, even if we cannot be positive that this was his name …. The first stage of the present action was the cross. We are told that there were bystanders there, and that one of them saturated a sponge with vinegar …. There was nothing unusual for a vessel containing a refreshing liquid to be at the place of exhaustion, and it presented no problem to doctor the drink that was offered to Jesus ….”
“Directly it was seen that the drug had worked. The man hastened to Joseph who was anxiously waiting for the news. At once he sought an audience with Pilate … and requested the body of Jesus … Jesus lay in the tomb over the Sabbath. He would not regain consciousness for many hours, and in the meantime the spices and linen bandages provided the best dressing for his injuries …. A plan was being followed which was worked out in advance by Jesus Himself and which He had not divulged to his close disciples.” Evidently He didn’t disclose it to any of the disciples because we don’t read any of it in the New Testament. “What seems probable is that in the darkness of Saturday night when Jesus was brought out of the tomb by those concerned in the plan He regained consciousness temporarily, but finally succumbed.”
The problem is, how do you simulate resurrections if Jesus died from His wounds? Another thing that I didn’t put into the quote, the problem was that Jesus didn’t count in the plot; the conspirators here didn’t figure that the soldier was going to throw a spear, and that was an accident that happened and that kind of screwed up their plans. By the way, this is something else to observe, watch the text. Our God is so smart and so slick in the way He moves. The one thing that happened to Jesus that didn’t happen to the other guys was that the soldier speared Him.
You see the theory has a problem with that, so when you read these theories, all of a sudden you realize they take pages, now how do we explain the fact that gee, the plan went awry because the soldier threw the spear. But in the real event God had the soldier throw the spear so that the observation in the text says water and blood came out, and that gives an idea of the severity of the wound and the condition of Jesus medically. So yeah, the soldier threw the spear and he had no consciousness of some voice saying go throw the spear; God wasn’t pulling like a puppet on that soldier to throw the spear. In just God’s marvelous say He is so sovereign and yet allows for this human response. That soldier at exactly the right time did something that he didn’t do to the other two guys. And it was exactly the kind of thing that produced the evidence for the genuineness of the crucifixion. So he has a problem with it, because obviously if Jesus died and the plot went wrong, now we’ve got a problem, how does He rise from the dead?
“A likely explanation of the circumstances is that all along, beginning with the young man first seen at the tomb by the women,” who was an angel by the way, “one and the same man was being seen, and he was not Jesus. This man was bent on fulfilling what was perhaps a promise to Jesus when he lay dying after his removal from the tomb …. There was no deliberate untruth in the witness of the followers of Jesus to His resurrection.” Get a load of this; after you get through all this, the whole thing’s a big fabrication. So now you got Christianity built on a total fabrication at its core. So now he has to back up and say well, yea, because he wants to keep the morals, he wants to keep the good things of Christianity, so now he’s got to have a problem here with all of this. “There was no deliberate untruth in the witness of the followers of Jesus to His resurrection. On the evidence they had the conclusion they reached seemed inescapable …. Neither had there been any fraud on the part of Jesus Himself. He had schemed in faith for His physical recovery, and what He expected had been frustrated by circumstances quite beyond His control.”
Do you see what’s happening here? Here we have an act, the resurrection; that is being sucked up. You know that picture I keep drawing of the amoeba, and here we have the resurrection, and what’s happening to unbelief? It’s surrounding it; yes it’s a stupid thing, we can laugh at it, but do you see what unbelief is trying to do? It’s trying to get a grip on this whole thing and explain the whole thing away. It always does that; watch for that. It’s always either we strategically envelop it with the Word of God, or unbelief strategically envelops it, one or the other wins.
That’s the way in which unbelief denies the resurrection. But what I want to also show you is that even if we prove the factuality of the resurrection, unbelief still has a way around it. This is one of the brilliance of Van Til’s insights, who taught apologetics many years at Westminster up in Philadelphia. And that is he emphasized again and again that we Christians have to be careful that we don’t deal with isolated facts. You can’t say look, let’s concentrate on the resurrection. See, here’s the resurrection fact, we’ve got this one fact, and we focus everybody’s attention on this one thing, and then maybe over here we have the virgin birth, or over here we have something else. What Van Til warns against is that if you stick an isolated fact from the Scripture out here into the world, what strategic envelopment is going to happen? It’s going to be enveloped, just like we’ve seen here with some crazy idea.
So even if the world had proof that Jesus did rise from the dead they would seek to neutralize it. Why? Because the carnal mind is at enmity with God, it can’t stand the truth, so it’s got to always, everywhere, all the time, envelop it and try to neutralize it. So I have this one section in here because we want to look at and anticipate a move on the part of the opposition. On page 108 here’s the dialogue from Van Til’s book, and it’s kind of a neat little story here. It’s a fascinating book; he has a section in here on the conversation of three men, Mr. White, Mr. Black, and Mr. Gray. Mr. White is a Bible-believing Christian. Mr. Black is an overt unbeliever. Mr. Gray wants to walk on both sides of the fence. It’s a fascinating series of conversations between Mr. White, Mr. Black and Mr. Gray. Here is Mr. Black responding to Mr. White and Mr. Gray’s ideas of the resurrection. Just follow this.
“ ‘Now as for accepting the resurrection of Jesus,’ continued Mr. Black, ‘as thus properly separated from the traditional system of theology,’ ” what he’s saying, in other words I don’t accept the spin about the resurrection, I don’t accept that, but just considering it as an isolated fact of history if something mysterious happened in the tomb to this one body, “I do not in the least mind doing that. To tell the truth, I have accepted the resurrection as a fact for some time. The evidence for it is overwhelming. This is a strange universe. All kinds of ‘miracles’ happen in it. The universe is ‘open.’ So why should not there be some resurrections here and there? The resurrection of Jesus would be a fine item for Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Why not send it in?”
See what he’s done? Isolated the resurrection. What did we say as we started this chapter about the resurrection? It has to be considered in the light of prophetic … remember we went back to the Old Testament and fit the resurrection into the Old Testament. In that passage of all passages, 1 Corinthians 15, notice how Paul says “we delivered first unto you how Christ rose from the dead according to the Scriptures,” … according to the Scriptures! Paul did not just talk about an isolated event that occurred in the city of Jerusalem with one tomb and one body, as though it could have happened to anybody. It just happened to the Jewish carpenter’s body, but it could have happened to Mr. Jones’ body, it could have happened to Mr. Frank’s body. That takes it away from the overall context. That’s what we’re talking about.
If you’ll turn to Exodus 32 I want you to see the perversity and deceitfulness of trying to explain away things of Scripture. People will say well, if you could prove the resurrection factually I would believe. The answer is, no you wouldn’t, not apart from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has to open minds, the Holy Spirit may use a good argument, the Holy Spirit may use a bad argument, the Holy Spirit may use Scripture, the Holy Spirit may use your testimony in someone’s life, the Holy Spirit may use a book. The Holy Spirit has many different ways He can work, as we’ve all seen. How many people in this room came to Christ the same way? I’ll bet if we had a testimony here tonight of every person who trusted the Lord Jesus Christ every one of us would have trusted Him differently, under different circumstances, with different things, and some of them just incredible … incredible stories of how we were led to the Lord. That’s the Holy Spirit.
So the point is, the Holy Spirit has to open the heart. It doesn’t mean don’t have a good message; it doesn’t mean don’t make the gospel clear, it just says after you’ve said that and you’ve done your very best to give the very best testimony, the very clearest message you could possibly give, even after all that, that itself apart from the Holy Spirit will not regenerate a heart. It will not bring conviction. We always have to prayerfully depend on the Lord to do that.
Here is a classic in Exodus 32:1. What have the people just seen, just experienced? They walked through the Red Sea on dry land. They saw the greatest superpower’s military machine wrecked, drowned in the Red Sea. They’d just heard the Word of God speaking from Sinai so forcibly they said oh, Moses, tell Him to turn it off, you go up there and talk to Him; it put the fear of God into all of them. So this is what these people experienced. Did they have any doubt in the factuality of the Exodus? Did they have any doubt on the factuality of God speaking from Sinai, or the noise they heard from Sinai. Look what happens here. “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain,” like he stayed a million years, “the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’”
Verse 2, “And Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives,” etc.  “Then all the people tore off the gold rings,” it’s humorous in the Hebrew,  “And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ ” Were they denying the factualness of the Exodus? No, but what had they already begun to do? Here we go, they took the fact of the Exodus and they began to envelop it in a framework of unbelief. Now it wasn’t the God of Scripture that promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it was the new god that they had made, a god of their own understanding, but they’ve got the explanation now, by human speculation apart from divine revelation we have come up with a final explanation for the Exodus, and here it is. So they create their own god, etc.
This is a dramatic illustration from real history of how within a matter of days and months after real revelation, historical revelation, a clear message, with God Himself speaking in Hebrew, not just Moses, this is what happens. So it is amazing, it’s an indictment of all of our sin natures, what our sin nature is capable of doing is amazing. We will look back from eternity in the presence of the Lord and say how could I have been so stupid and so blind as to struggle with this Word of God thing, where was my head.
Turn to Acts 17 in the New Testament and page 108 in the notes. We want to summarize what is behind, what is offensive about the resurrection in particular. Everything about the Word of God is offensive, but what we want to deal with is, what is the particular area of offense? What does threaten people with? Do you know what the world’s most threatening piece of literature is? It’s the Bible. Look at all the lawyers squirm when you bring it out. It’s just proof positive of the offense of the Word of God to the unregenerate heart. What is offensive in particular?
Acts 17:30-32 because Paul is using the resurrection in this Areopagus address and he’s not talking about the cross. It always fascinates me that here’s a gospel presentation but no mention of the cross of Christ. And if you did this today I’m sure in a lot of fundamental circles people would say well you never got to the gospel because you never mentioned the cross. Why didn’t Paul mention the cross? Think. What was the issue? Why do people put a false spin on the cross? What’s the hidden background issue of the cross? The justice of God. So if people don’t have any sense of the justice of God you can talk cross until you’re blue in the face and there’s no need for the cross if they’re not hearing you. There’s no need for the cross because I’m okay, you’re okay, all we have to do is repent a bit and feel sorry and we’re going to be acceptable to God. We don’t need all this blood stuff. Remember the Muslim the other night; he says we don’t have to go through all that mechanics.
Here Paul is going to deal, not with the cross because that’s an advanced truth, but he goes to the resurrection, but resurrection is not an isolated fact. Notice how he weaves it in. Verse 30, he says, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance,” i.e., the times of the Gentiles, “God is now declaring to men,” in other words, He didn’t do this before, this is new, He’s declaring to all men “that all everywhere” all culture groups, all linguistic groups, this is an absolute cultural… how would the relativist put this, I bet they would call this cultural imperialism, because this is going to every people group, you’re not being considerate of these people, they’ve got their own…
[blank spot] … he’s saying that God says that you’re all dwelling in a time of ignorance, ever since the fall away and Babel with Noah, the whole Noahic civilization has been in ignorance, now he’s calling to all men that they “should repent,” and why?  “because” - now watch the framework, here’s the sandwich for the resurrection, and this is why the resurrection is not treated as an isolated event. Here’s the resurrection but it’s bracketed inside a structure? What is the structure in Acts 17 that the resurrection is set into? Look what he does, verse 31, “because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Do you see that the resurrection is put into a larger frame of reference of the end of history? What does that mean? The ultimate accountability. Here all men are accountable. Ultimate accountability. So that’s the context of the resurrection.
That tips us off as to why there’s a grand conspiracy to cover up the resurrection. If the resurrection is clearly perceived and truthfully perceived it is a reminder to the human heart that this is going to happen to you. This is the unavoidable last stop on this train. The resurrection is where everybody gets off; the resurrection is the end of the story. You’re coming to the end of the story, and you’re going to have to give an accounting at the end of the story. Oh I don’t want to hear that. So what do they say? Verse 32, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer,” so Paul had a problem. Did he fail in his evangelism? No. He no more failed than you do when you witness to members of your own family that are the hardest ones to witness to. You feel thwarted, you feel defeated, look at Paul. How many people of Jesus’ own brothers and sisters believed on Him while He was alive? From what we can tell, there’s no report in the New Testament, they doubted Him. What’s the matter; He didn’t live a Christ-like life in His own family? Surely not. It was because of the blindness, the timing of the Holy Spirit and everything else. The point is that when you see the resurrection in Scripture remember verse 31, it is set in the context of the end times; it is a signal that the last chapter of history is now being written.
Go to the notes, page 108. “As a ‘preview’ of the ultimate goal of history, the resurrection confronts each one of us with our future permanent state.” We’re going to get into the doctrine of the resurrection but to preview that so that you’ll get the full force of what I’m saying here, if you remember when I did the diagram on the good/evil, I had that split in the road, at that split, that is where permanence takes place. In other words, at that point we have a permanent status quo, never ever, ever, ever to be changed again, no more falls, and no more grace, and no more gospel and no more redemption, permanent status quo. That’s what the resurrection does. The resurrection seals the doom of the damned and it seals the security of those who are saved. It is a very sobering thing when it’s considered.
I’m doing this because you’ll to hear all kinds of Easter sermons and it’s nice and wonderful, but if you listen to them, they’re always talking about the resurrection gives hope; good message, the resurrection gives hope. How much hope did it give the Athenians? When the resurrection was preached in its Biblical context, yes, it does give hope to those who want fellowship with God forever and ever, yeah. Does it give hope to everyone? No, because it’s a message of doom, it’s a message that resurrection will happen and once you’re resurrected you’re either resurrected unto life or resurrected unto damnation; once it’s happened, no more changes. You can’t turn in the ticket, no refunds, it’s all over. That’s very sobering to understand that, and it’s that permanence, that sudden end of choice that is so scary about resurrection.
I have two quotes here from Dr. Pilkey about resurrection. One of them we read at the Q&A last week, but there’s a lot of insight in this. The first quote, page 109, deals with the fact that the resurrection kind of thing was anticipated by the Egyptians. Most of you have read about the pyramids, you go down there and they had all kinds of food where the Pharaoh’s were buried and this kind of thing. Quite clearly the Egyptians believed in an afterlife and quite clearly they believed in a physical afterlife because they didn’t believe that it was spiritual food; it’s real food, the grain is still there. So they must have anticipated that these guys in these tombs would rise up and be hungry and want something to eat. Now it’s a crude thing, but the point is, doesn’t it show permanence? And doesn’t the Egyptian architecture show the fact that we want to build forever and ever and ever. See, this was known to the sons of Noah in the early history.
If you follow this quote, “[The resurrection] sheds eternal light on the heroic dimension of human existence. The connection between the grandeur of the Egyptian pyramids and Egyptian beliefs about resurrection is quite apparent. Men have also known, through the subjective power of the human spirit, that they are destined for one kind of immortality or another. Those who doubt the resurrection are to be pitied because they have allowed the elegiac spirit of mortality to take possession of their souls.” I love this sentence, “Doubt of the resurrection is the intellectual correlative of simple depression.” “Doubt of the resurrection is the intellectual correlative of simple depression,” in other words, there’s no purpose; history is not going anywhere, there’s no final goal, etc. “and modern materialist skeptics have sunk below the level of the Noahic pagans.”
The next quote: think of this in light of Acts 17 which we just studied. He’s talking about C. S. Lewis and his rational approach. “Lewis’ apologetic approach, grounded in reason, is not well adapted to those parts of the world where apostasy has advanced so far that anarchy reigns,” we’re close to that, “and Freud’s ‘dark power of the Id’” for those of you who don’t remember Freud, Sigmund Freud, Jewish psychologist and psychiatrist, and atheist had this explanation that the core of all human existence is the sex drive, and everything was sexual, deep down the whole motif of human existence is sexual. The “‘dark power of the Id’ vies for immediate social supremacy.” What he’s saying here is that where you basically have paganized societies decaying, the nice gentleman apologetic doesn’t often work, just because you don’t have gentlemen, you don’t have people willing to sit down and reason together. I’m sure you’ve all that experience, the more you get into Scripture and try to have an intelligent conversation, they just don’t get it. That’s what he’s talking about.
“Confrontation with such satanic power was the specialty of Charles Williams. The final form of apologetics is supernaturalistic, apocalyptic, and” notice the third noun, “judgmental. It threatens” keep Acts 17 in mind, “it threatens the enemies of Christianity with the consequences of unrepentant death,” what’s that mean? Going to the end of the station without a ticket, “unrepentant death.” The resurrection reminds us that history is going to come to an end; that’s why it is offensive. Now it’s not saying that we have to be gross about it, it’s not saying that we have to be nasty when we talk this way. What he’s saying is that that’s the way Paul acted at Athens, because he was in a deeply pagan society and he spoke of the resurrection as the end, and the fact that the end is already ending because you’ve got one guy already going into eternity with a resurrection body, the Lord Jesus Christ. So the end of history is imminent. “It threatens the enemies of Christianity with the consequences of unrepentant death, requiring them to choose heaven or hell today and experience one or the other tomorrow …. Although most apostates are infuriated by threats of judgment, the human conscience remains open to this very elemental sort of conviction ….” Blow away the smoke and everybody agrees to this.
“In Christian apologetics, the greatest of all doctrines is the resurrection of the dead, an idea so powerful that it, rather than sex,” referring to Freud “holds the key to the mystery of human existence. Wherever it is clearly conceived as a metaphysical reality,” what does he mean by that? It’s not an hallucination, it’s not just an idea, it’s an actual physical thing that takes place in history, a metaphysical reality, “wherever it is clearly conceived as a metaphysical reality, resurrection annihilates every premise and every conclusion of the Marxist, Freudian, and Darwinian schools of thought. It erases the premise of Marxism by positing a version of humanity independent of the natural food chain,” what is he saying there? What’s a Marxist basically believe? That economics and material things determine happiness.
That’s why you want the dictatorship of the proletariat, that’s why communist students would give their lives with great dedication to communism, and the conquest of the world, because they thought they were bringing in a materialist paradise. But the resurrection, the body isn’t dependent on food; it’s not going to be destroyed because you don’t have your orange juice in the morning. The resurrection body doesn’t care about a fat wallet. So the resurrection is a literally existing state of humanity that is independent of all these things that the Marxists and the social engineers are busy dealing with. The resurrection walks through a wall, I don’t care for your doors. So that’s what he means here.
“It erases the premise of Marxism by positing a version of humanity independent of the natural food chain; it cancels the premise of Freudianism by furnishing a degree of vitality so absolute that temporary sexual euphoria loses all meaning,” in other words, this a permanent, as you were, ecstatic existence, it doesn’t depend on what my hormones are doing this morning, it doesn’t depend on my body chemistry. My happiness is built into the resurrection body because it was built to be in the presence of God. So there’s this ecstasy of existence. “It cancels the premise of Freudianism by furnishing a degree of vitality … and it destroys the whole point of evolution,” this is a great quote, “it destroys the whole point of evolution by bringing mankind to absolute physical perfection in an instant of transformation.”
What does Paul say about they shall be instantly changed? No million year change. How does that happen? How does it happen, what happens to the molecules, what happens to the energy field? What happens to this decomposed human body? Boom, all of a sudden it’s there, not a million years; it doesn’t even take an hour and fifteen minutes. It’s suddenly there. That’s what he means, the resurrection, if you conceive of it, look at how powerful this idea is, and why it’s deeply threatening.
Finally, the last page in this section, Chuck Colson, I had to throw this quote in here because it’s so apropos for our own day, to show how the fall of the Soviet Union, at the end of the Iron Curtain, what was the subject that was dealt with right smack dab in front of Mikhail Gorbachev as he was reviewing the armies of the Kremlin as they marched by the reviewing stand that all of you remember in the cold war, they used to have the military units of the Soviet, they always had their rockets and they would walk by, some of them goose-stepping as they went by, and you’d have this stogie old group of guys up there all in black coats, with the red flags, and in the back you had this fantastic picture of Lenin. This went on year after year. But look what happened, this didn’t make the papers by the way.
“As the throng passed directly in front of [Mikhail Gorbachev] standing in his place of honor, the priests hoisted their heavy burden toward the sky.” This is some orthodox Christian priests. It was a big cross. “The cross emerged from the crowd. As it did, the figure of Jesus Christ obscured the giant poster faces of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin that provided the backdrop for Gorbachev’s reviewing stand.” And then they began to shout, “‘Mikhail Sergeyevich!’ one of the priests shouted, his deep voice cleaving the clamor of the protesters and piercing straight toward the angry Soviet leader. ‘Mikhail Sergeyevich! Christ is risen!’ In a matter of months after that final May Day celebration, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.”
How appropriate, the last military review in front of the Kremlin. Who was it at the end of the parade but some Christians that held up the cross and said Christ has risen, and the Soviet Union fell apart. I think that’s a wonderful, eloquent portrayal of the role of the resurrection in history. That’s one you won’t read in Time Magazine, however.
We’re kind of finishing up here the life of Christ because we’re going to get into the doctrine of glorification and that’s it. In the Fall we’ll start with the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit so we’ll have a whole other area. Any questions?
Question asked, something about is it a new body, or is He going to take the decaying body and somehow bring it back together, … people have been burned and there’s very little evidence …: Clough replies: Or cremation. All we have is the fact that in Jesus’ case, which is the only case we’ve got to observe, it appears the pieces of His mortal body disappeared, which is kind of an interesting observation. There wasn’t any skeleton left, there wasn’t any flesh left, the linen and everything else was all collapsed, so all the mass that made up his legs, arms, His torso, etc., was gone. So the resurrection body wasn’t something that okay, there’s His resurrection body, there’s His natural body, now it’s decayed so now the resurrection. It seems that He resurrects … now the problem is in practical terms, we may be carrying carbon molecules from a thousand other people’s body in our body, because people decayed and died and you had chemical decomposition, and people grow food on the lot and the roots go into the debris from the bodies underneath, and you’re eating your carrots and you know … it gets into all those things.
There’s been a movement in church history, that’s why the Christians historically have had mixed feelings toward cremation. In many worlds … my Japanese daughter-in-law says in Japan you’ve got to be cremated, they don’t have enough space for the people to be buried, so cremation is it. But in some areas the pagan cremation, I’ve read, I’ve never been able to chase this down but there’s been pagan notions of trying to prevent the resurrection by cremating, that it was conceived as a method to defy God, you’re not going to resurrect me to damnation because I’m going to burn the body, you’re never going to get the pieces left. There’s that theme. I don’t think that militates against cremation, for the reason that cremation, yeah, reduces the body to ash, but what does it reduce to eventually in the ground anyway. You either get burned or you get eaten by earthworms, so what’s the difference?
The idea though is that the resurrection body does correspond in some way to our present body. What shapes our body? We are so materialist that we think our body shape and all features in this body are there because oh well, something is due to my DNA. Well that’s true, but that’s not sufficient because the DNA dies at death. So the shape of our bodies are expressions … there must be some continuity there with the resurrection body, although we don’t know what it is.
Think for example in Jesus’ case. His natural body disappears; there’s no mass left, there’s not even ashes on the tomb that are reported, there’s not a scratch. I mean, the funeral parlor would be in trouble because the body disappeared here. Where did it go? And then when you look at His resurrection body, what do you see on His hands? You see the scar in the side. So doesn’t it look like the resurrection body does have a continuity with the natural body? Yeah. But then there are all kinds of neat questions. What is the age of the resurrection body look like? I thought one of the neatest speculations I ever heard was the same age Adam and Eve looked like when they were created, young adults. That’s just the way God made the body to start with, so we presume that that was the old creation, then the new creation. Isn’t that a relief for everybody? What happens to babies who are born and then die before they ever reach adulthood? Presumably, the same thing. So it’s all speculation. All we have by way of fact is what we read about Jesus’ body because that’s the only one we’ve ever seen.
Question asked: Clough replies: Do you mean at death? At the Rapture? [person says both] There’s a sequence here, a good question being asked about the sequence of what happens, when we die we’re absent from the body and face to face with the Lord. And then what about the resurrection? Well, clearly in the Rapture, which is the resurrection, and there it’s a transformation in 1 Thessalonians. Paul said that those who are alive and remain till the day of the Rapture, they’re instantly translated. That’s another interesting point. At the Rapture you’re walking around in a mortal body and then in an instant of time it’s transformed into an immortal one. What happened to the mass and the molecules of the previous body? It looks like they get transformed rather than being created ex nihilo. So maybe these resurrection bodies are literally created out of the mass from the earth or something, I don’t know. But there is that transform that occurs.
Now at the Rapture, Paul says those who are asleep, those who have already died, then they receive their resurrection body. So no one receives any resurrection bodies until that first resurrection starts. It hasn’t started yet. Jesus is the first echelon of the resurrection and then it moves out from there. What body do we have when we die? That theologians usually say the intermediate body; we don’t know what it is, because Paul … remember when Paul reports that experience he had when he went to the third heaven, and he puzzled himself by what happened there, and he says I don’t know whether I was in the body or out of the body. So it’s like apparently you feel like you have your body, but it’s not your resurrection body.
What kind of a body is it? I have no idea, but it’s there, and the example of it is … you have an example in the Old Testament. Remember the witch of Endor story, where Saul seeks the witch, and she goes through her conjugating and she’s going to conjure up the spirit from the dead, and then she looks and all of a sudden there is a spirit from the dead, which shows she’s probably a phony because obviously she wasn’t expecting what happened, and all of a sudden what happened is Samuel appears from the dead, and he’s wearing clothes. That always intrigued me; he had an intermediary body, where’d he get the clothes from for it. But you have it, you’re not nude, so that’s comforting. So in this intermediate body state it appears we have clothing and it’s sort of like a body but it’s not the resurrection body that happens at the Rapture forward.
Question asked: Clough replies: In Jesus’ case. The problem is … it looks like from the evidence of the grave and the empty tomb that Jesus natural body was actually transformed, much like Paul says is going to happen at the Rapture for those who are still alive, in an instant he says, in an instant you will be transformed. So it’s not like you have a thousand bodies left over. Think about it, if the resurrection body is not related to the present body in that case, why don’t you have the debris of the present bodies lying around. You don’t, it’s gone, so that seems to me to argue that it’s a transform of some sort. That’s weird, because like it was pointed out what do you do with all the people that died. I have no idea, but remember you have those passages in the book of Revelation, the sea gave up the dead that were in it, that’s talking about drowning people, and I guess you’d have to say for the people burned to death or people who were killed in war, incinerated in a nuclear bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the earth will give it back, because after all, in the final analysis, what’s that wonderful picture that we have in Genesis? God reaches down in the dirt and He molds the body, and whhoooo, He breathes into it. So He’s taking from the earth, we are a people of the earth. But in the resurrection body it’s said that whatever this resurrection body is, it’s also of heaven. Now what that means, we’ll have all eternity to digest, but at least you won’t have to worry about aspirin and pain in the resurrection body.
It’s a source of endless speculation but it’s good that we think in these terms, even just tossing these kinds of questions around cleans our minds of denying the physical-ness of it. Yes, we can’t answer the questions, but your questions are very good because they focus your thinking that this is a physical body we’re talking about. Not like Karl Barth, Bultmann, and all the liberal guys that yak, yak endlessly about this resurrection, and all they’re talking about is hallucination. This is not hallucination.
Question asked: Clough replies: I know of none, about organ donations, I know of none. [Same person says something else] Clough says: Yes, medical science. I don’t see … because the body, the material body is destroyed and it’s not being done out of disrespect in those cases, it’s done as an act of love, my son is in medical school and what has he done. The first whole semester he’s dating somebody’s cadaver, he has his little man and he takes him apart, every week he’s taking something apart, and that’s how he learns the human anatomy. I don’t think I’d want someone taking me apart. But the worms will do it if the medical students don’t, so …
Okay, I think we’ve speculated enough tonight.