When Death Blinked

The Apostle Peter preached the very first sermon on the Resurrection of Christ. Ironically, it was not on Easter, but on Pentecost. There, before the crowd that assembled, Peter proclaimed these words concerning Jesus of Nazareth, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24 ESV)

Where did death come from? Has death always existed? Is it merely a natural piece of our universe? Death is the product of sin. We have to return to the book of beginnings and hear God’s warning to Adam and Eve. The Lord warned, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 ESV) There in the Garden of Eden, a land of innocence, purer than any infant you shall ever encounter, the shadow of death lingered in the background. The warning was simple: the consequence of sin is death.

The Apostle Paul makes this connection more explicit. In the book of Romans, he writes, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12 ESV). Where sin is present death inevitably follows. Where death presides, sin has left another of its victims. Again, the Apostle Paul writes, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV)

So we return then to the initial question: why was death unable hold on to Christ? Rev. Daniel M. Doriani writes, “The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope because it proves that death is not the last word.” In the resurrection of Christ, we find that sin, in all of its horror and tragedy, is conquered by the work of Christ. Where sin is absent death cannot maintain its grip.

In the resurrection of Christ, we find the clearest evidence that Christ satisfied God’s demand for perfect justice. The resurrection verifies that Christ’s offering of Himself was accepted by the Father. “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16) The resurrection of Christ was not merely a bare historical fact. He was truly raised from the dead but this act is ripe with symbolism as well. It was the vindication or justification of all that Christ had said concerning Himself. The resurrection makes it most clear that Jesus has conquered death once and for all and that He is forever righteous.

Returning to Peter’s Pentecost sermon, we are reminded that Christ’s resurrection was the work of God the Father. The Father raised Christ in glory. His very act of raising His Son forever verifies His acceptance as the Holy One of God. “‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam [that is Christ Jesus] became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV) Christ exudes life for He is Life itself (cf. John 14:6).

Why did Jesus have to be raised from the dead? Jesus had to rise from the dead to demonstrate His victory over Satan, sin, and death. What good is that though? The resurrection of Christ vindicates not only His righteous sacrifice, but it clearly demonstrates the identity of Christ as the Son of God, as the King of Kings, as the Lord of Lords.

As Peter’s Pentecost sermon demonstrates the knowledge of the resurrection of Christ leads to a crisis of our hearts: What shall we do with such knowledge? The Apostle Preacher as the Arch-herald answers this very question: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39 ESV)