April 4, 2010

Easter, 2010

Acts 2, John 20:1-10

Let me give a short history lesson concerning Easter. The word Easter is the KJV substitute word for Passover, as found in the Geneva. In order to get the pagans to come into the Church of Rome, Rome absorbed the various pagan festivals and gods. These pagan holidays were renamed in a Christian manner. This goddess was named Eostere was from the Anglo-Saxon paganism.

The First Council of Nicaea was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine 1 in A.D. 325 in response to two agreements taking place in the church. The first was over the relationship of Christ to God the Father. The council reached this conclusion:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;...

The second point of contention was over the dating of Easter–should the date be according to the Hebrew calender which was established when Israel came out of Egypt, and followed the 12 lunar months, or should it follow the solar year, which is ours today. The decision established Easter after the solar year as a moveable feast, and not in relation to a fixed civil calendar as was the Hebrew calender, and varies between March 21 to April 3.

There is no more Scriptural justification for remembering Easter than there is to remember Christmas. However, since the world makes such a big noise over this day, for money's sake, we will put it in its proper context.

In John 20:1-10, John gives us his account of the resurrection. He out-ran Peter to be the first one at the tomb, with Peter close behind. Seeing the empty tomb, John stopped. Peter was bold, and went right in to the empty tomb, and John came in after him. According to his own account, John believed at this point. He does not say anything about Peter believing at this point.

Notice v. 9: though Christ had made it clear many times, the Spirit had not yet opened their eyes.

Rather than cover the many events we are so familiar with as recorded in the four gospels, I would like to skip ahead 50 days to the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. The book of Acts records for us not only the start of the new church, but also the basic doctrine upon which the new church was built.

The 11 Apostles had been assembled in a house where they prayed, and chose someone to take Judas' place to bring the number to 12. It was there that the Spirit of God descended from heaven upon them, and they began to speak with other tongues, as promised by the Lord in 1:8 when he said, But ye shall receive power of the holy Ghost, when he shall come on you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Evidently, when this happened, they left the house and went into a large public place in the city, and began to preach Christ.

V. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, men that feared God, of every nation under heaven.

Their bold activity drew the attention of the Jews who were in the city for the feast of Pentecost. The Jews assembled to the place where the Apostles where speaking to see what was going on. Peter was not going to miss the opportunity, so he gets up and starts preaching.

There are 15 nations listed as homelands for this multitude.

Observe: We hear much about some kind of ecstatic experience today which people try to pass off as being filled with the Spirit of God. We see here that filled with the Spirit results in boldness in the Lord's service, and preaching an unpopular message of Christ in a public place, even if the hearers mock the messengers, v. 13

Peter preached the first message after the resurrection, in which he preached the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. We could call it the first Easter message. In his short, to the point message, only 534 words in our English Bibles, he covers a great amount of material. He is preaching to Jews, men that feared God. They knew the Scriptures, so Peter did not have to develop the Old Testament prophecies. The men were pricked in their hearts, and ask Peter what they should do.

We will only cover a few of his high points.

Peter preached to a vast multitude of Jews who were in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, which was 50 days after the Passover. Christ had been crucified only 50 days previously, and many who head Peter that day had been present in Jerusalem when Christ was crucified.

Peters message is recorded in vv. 14-36, and he introduces his message by quoting Joel 2:28-32, vv. 17-21.

V. 17, Last days... The term last days was used in the Old Testament to refer to any time which was future from the time of the speaker. Gen 49:1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you [that] which shall befall you in the last days.

In the New Testament, the use of this term, last days, indicates the time of the Messiah. The New Testament term, last days, has no reference to the soon conclusion of all things. According to the New Testament, last days started with Christ and will close at the end of all things.

In other words, the Apostles saw the last days starting with the incarnation of Christ and covering the entire period of time until the end of the world. Vv. 34, 35, during this period, they expected the Kingdom of God to expand to cover the whole earth.

V. 17, I will pour out.., as you would water. The reference is to the Spirit being poured out as water would be poured out on dry, thirsty and parched ground.

Acts 2:17-21. Joel's prophecy spoke of the signs and miracles which accompanied the preaching of the gospel in order to confirm it.

V. 20, The day of the Lord... The judgment spoken of here is primarily His judgment against Jerusalem, 70 AD. But this term, day of the Lord, speaks of any day of God's judgment against evil in both Testaments, and concludes with the lat judgment.

V. 21. God promised through Joel that Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Paul also quotes this same passage from Joel in Rom 13:9-13.

Shall be saved contained a two-fold promise:

First, it spoke of safety in the day of the Lord's judgment against national Israel who rejected him and put him to death. Josephus tells us that over 3 million Jews perished in 70 AD inside the walls of the small town of Jerusalem. In this mass destruction, not one Christian perished. The Christians knew of the Lord's warning of Mat. 24 and fled when they saw these things start to come to pass. Therefore, they were saved from that day of the Lord's judgement.

Second, the promise of safety in the final day of the Lord—that day of His final judgment.

Peter's resurrection message starts with v. 22 and goes to v. 36. And we see in v. 37 that it brought great conviction upon the hearers.

Vv. 22-23. Peter continues his argument.

First, his call here is to the decedents of Jacob. They knew Christ because he lived among them.

Second, he points out that even though they saw the treat works, wonders and signs that the Father performed as proof among them, they killed Him anyway.

Third, though these men thought they themselves were the determining factor, it was done because it was God's plan. They were tools in the hand of a Sovereign God.

Fourth, though it was God's plan, they were the ones who were held accountable before God.

Here we have the so-called free will of man vs the sovereignty of God, a situation we will never understand until we see Christ.

Peter wanted the Jews who killed Christ to understand that Christ was not an "innocent victim" of a crazed crowd. Rather, God the Father was moving according to his eternal plan. Christ was slain because the Father gave Christ over to them, and Christ yielded to the Father's perfect will for Himself.

There is a distinct difference. He did NOT yield to the crowd or even to the civil authority; rather, He yielded to the Father's will for His life. Jn. 3:16.

Peter here makes it clear that Christ came to redeem fallen mankind, and his death, burial and resurrection was absolutely necessary for redemption. It was all in God's perfect eternal plan. Therefore, these men who killed Christ only worked praise to God. Sinful man may think he is in control of the situation as he rebels against God, but he is only carrying out God's plan. Though the wrath of man will praise God, sinful men will be held accountable for their actions.

Many popular preachers today avoid messages that might offend too many people. But notice Peter's message. He clearly lays the charge of murdering the Son of God at his hearer's door. He names sin very pointedly and, even though they were acting according to God's plan, they are accountable for their sin of murdering the promised Messiah.

V. 24 tells us that it was not possible for death hold Christ. It would have been contrary to the word of God for the grave to hold Him.

Let me give 7 reasons why was it impossible for Christ to remain in the grave.

1) Christ was the Prince of Life.

Ac 3:15, And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

2) Christ had life in Himself. (In fact, He is life.)

Jn 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

3) Christ had power both to lay down His life in death and take it up again.

Jn 10:18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

4) In order to destroy the devil, who had the power of death, Christ had to rise from the dead.

Heb 2:14, Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

5) In order to destroy the fear of death from his people, and thus the power of the devil, Christ had to raise from the dead.

Heb 2:15, And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

6) The devil's main work is death and destruction. In order to destroy that work, Christ had to rise from the dead.

I John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

7) Christ had to die and be raised from the dead in order to be exalted to the throne of His father David over the people of God, as well as over all creation.

Eph 1:20, 21 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set [him] at his own right hand in the heavenly [places], Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

Application:

It was impossible for Christ to remain in the grave because it would have violated Scripture. Even in death, the Scriptures cannot be violated.

Sin has consequences, death. Yet, whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Here are 7 impossibilities for us based upon the impossibility of death to hold Christ.

1) It is impossible for His people to remain dead in trespasses and sin.

Eph 2:5, 6 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:

2) It is impossible to be separated from God's love.

Rom. 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord..

3) It is impossible to be separated from the promises of God. When we meet their conditions, it is impossible to separate us from the result.

If we obey God's Word then there is no way we can avoid reaping the promised results. If the word of God was and is strong enough to make it impossible for death to hold Christ or his people, then think of the Scripture's strength to bring His Word to pass for our good.

Be not weary in well doing for we shall reap if we faint not. This promise has the same power behind it as what Christ had behind Him which raised Him from the dead. Gal. 6:9; Phil. 1:6; II Thess. 3:13 &c.

The promise of the resurrection should be great exhortation to continue in his word, for the power of the resurrection is available to us.

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

There are hundreds of promises in this book for us. Those promises have the same power and assurance behind them as what Christ had to raise Him from the dead. God's Word is real; God's word is powerful; God's word is so sure that it was impossible that Christ should be held by death and the grave.

4) It is impossible to separate us from His mercy, grace and forgiveness if we will return to Him.

Prov. 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh [them] shall have mercy.

5) It is impossible for the grave to hold those who have trusted Christ as their Substitute, Lord and Saviour.

Eph. 1:12, 13 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

1 Cor 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept.

On the negative side,

6) It is impossible to separate us from the result of sin. Certainly, we can claim forgiveness through Christ, but the physical results will continue. One can stop drunkenness through the power of the resurrected Christ, but that stopping will not stop the liver problems.

Gal. 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

VD is spreading like wild fire. Certainly, one can get saved and have the victory over immorality, but salvation will not solve the disease that he or she acquired during those unsaved years.

Sex infection gonorrhea risks becoming "superbug"
Kate Kelland, LONDON, Mar 29, 2010

(Reuters) - The sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea risks becoming a drug-resistant "superbug" if doctors do not devise new ways of treating it, a leading sexual health expert said.

7) It is impossible to avoid death and the final judgment at the throne of Christ.

Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Every man, woman and child will answer to the resurrected Saviour for their every deed done in the flesh. Of course, the redeemed will go on to eternal life with the Lord, the lost will go on to eternal torment prepared for the devil and his angles.

Acts 2:24, just as it was impossible for Christ to stay in the grave because of the laws of God's Word which were involved, it is impossible to separate us from the results of the same laws. This should greatly encourage us as we look around at the confusion and turmoil everywhere.

By the resurrection of Christ, God proved that He is in control of all events which take place in time and space.

By the resurrection of Christ, God has proved that it is impossible for the laws established in His word not to work for us or against us, according to our relationship with the resurrected Christ.

By the resurrection of Christ, we are assured that every person will stand before him in final judgment.