April 24, 2011, Easter

The First Easter Message

It was not possible

We have the resurrection story in John 20. There we see that John was the first disciple to arrive at the tomb, closely followed by Simon Peter. John held back while Peter went into the empty tomb, and then John went in after him.

Up to this point, they did not fully understand the scriptures that said Christ must rise again from the dead, though it was clearly stated in passages such as,

Psalms 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

When John saw that Christ was gone, he believed. John does not say anything about Peter.

But the experience in the garden is not our message today. I want to ahead 50 days to the Day of Pentecost a 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.

Let us consider the first gospel message that was preached after the resurrection of Christ. Because of its contents, we could call it the First Easter Message. This message was preached by Peter, who had been the first one into the empty tomb after Christ rose from the dead.

The entire message is in Acts 2:13-36

We cannot cover all of Peter's short message, so we will only develop one point:

V. 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

Peter preached to a great multitude of Jews who were in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. They were devout men, out of every nation under heaven. There are 15 nations listed as homelands for this multitude.

The 12 Apostles were assembled in a house. The Spirit of God descended from heaven upon them, and they began to speak with other tongues.

Evidently, when this happened, they left the house and went into a public place. Their activity in the public square caused those present to gather around to see what was going on.

Peter was not going to pass up the opportunity to preach the new Gospel of Christ, and he did.

Notice that being filled with the spirit is simply power for service and boldness to preach the unpopular message of Christ before the mockers, 2:13.

Vv. 17-21, Peter opens his message by quoting the Old Testament, Joel 2:28-32.

V. 17, Last days.. This term, last days was used in the Old Testament to refer to any time which was future from the time of the speaker:

Genesis 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. Peter, John and Jude calls the time in which we now live the last time. 1 Pe 1:5, Jude 1:18.

1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

It is called the last time, or the last days because we are now in the last and most perfect dispensation of the things of God, and no other is to be looked for until the consummation of all things. The next event in history after Christ's bodily resurrection is the final coming of Christ

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

The New Testament usage of last days has no reference to a soon conclusion of all things. The last days have already lasted over 2,000 years, and we must assume the last days may last another 2,000 years. They 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 to the end of the world. 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.

Micah 4:1-5 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. 2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. 5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.

Acts 2:17-21, speak of the signs and miracles which accompanied the preaching of the gospel in order to confirm it.

V. 20, great and notable the day of the Lord speaks generally of the Lord's judgment against sin. The judgment spoken of here is primarily His judgment against Jerusalem, 70 AD. But this term, day of the Lord, also extends to any day of God's judgment against evil. It will conclude with the last judgment.

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

This is a two-fold promise:

First, safety in the terrible judgment against Jerusalem which would come in less than 40 years. Those who believed fled from Jerusalem, and were "saved", or spared.

Second, it is a promise of safety for all of the elect in the Lords final day of judgment against sin.

Vv. 22-23, ye men of Israel. Peter is speaking to the literal descendants of Jacob, among whom Christ walked. He tells them that though they saw Christ's actions and knew he was a man apporved of God, they killed Him anyway.

V. 23, Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,

Christ did not set up a physical kingdom, as they expected him to do. Rather, he came to establish his spiritual kingdom through those the Father would give to him. Throughout history since Christ, it seems that the physical, worldly kingdom has prevailed over God's kingdom.

Very seldom are we allowed to see behind the scenes of the actions that take place here on the earth as God works his eternal plan. We did get a glimpse with Job, David, Nebuchadnezzar, and several other not so well known men. Here we see God working his eternal plan through his son, and the crucifixion.

Peter tells his listeners that in killing Christ, they fulfilled the purpose of God. It was God's plan from the beginning of history. However, though they accomplished God's everlasting purpose, they would be held accountable.

His hearers did not try to excuse themselves nor blame another, such as Rome.

Rather, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter..., men and brethren, what shall we do? God held them accountable for their evil deeds, and they were convicted of their sin.

They understood that Christ was not an "innocent victim" of a crazed crowd, but that He was slain according to God's plan. Nor was Christ's willingness to die simply an example of love for men to follow,

1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us...

This is a good, non-offensive Easter message,

But we must continue, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The wages of sin is death, eternal torment in the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels–a very offensive message.

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, John 3:16.

Peter is making it clear that Christ came to redeem mankind. It was in God's perfect eternal plan, as these men who killed Him 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. The wrath of man will praise Him, yet sinful men will be held accountable for their actions.

V. 23, have crucified... Though Rome carried out the crucifixion according to Roman law, it was the Jews who forced Rome to do the deed. Though Rome did it, the Jews were held accountable, and were harshly judged.

If we think preachers today are strong, look at what Peter does here in his message. He clearly lays the charge of murdering the Son of God at his hearers' door. He names sin very pointedly and, even though they were acting according to God's plan, tells them that they are accountable for their sin of murdering the promised Messiah.

V. 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

It was impossible for the grave to hold Christ.

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.)

John 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 and take it up again.

John 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) Christ came so that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death. Therefore, death could have no power over him, for death was subject to him.

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) Christ came that He might destroy the fear of death, and thus the power of the devil from over God's people.

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

We see this lack of fear of death throughout the world today, as Christians stand up to the persecution of the followers of Mohamad, and from other followers of the wicked one.

6) Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, whose main work is death.

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:

For us:

It was impossible for Christ to remain in the grave because it would have violated Scripture. Even in death, it was impossible for Christ to violate the word of God; therefore, how much more is it impossible for us to violate Scripture.

Here are 7 impossibilities for us based upon the impossibility of the grave 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:

We have been emphasizing Sanctification in Romans. It is impossible for those who have been given new life in Christ to remain in and enjoy sin.

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, whether good or evil.

It is like the football player who has the football...

If we obey God's Word then there is no way we can avoid reaping the blessed results. If the word of God was strong enough to make it impossible for death to violate the word of God; if the word of God was strong enough that it prohibited Christ from remaining in the grave, then think of the Scripture's strength to bring His Word to pass for our good.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
2 Thessalonians 3:13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

These three promises, and the 363 other promises in Scripture have behind them Christ's resurrection power.

His resurrection that is remembered today should remind us that his many promises have the same power behind them that turned a utterly hopeless situation (hopeless to his followers of the day) into an extremely victorious situation.

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 turn from our sin and turn 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 placed their faith in Christ, as defined by Paul in Romans:

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.

Here are two negative impossibilities:

6) It is impossible to separate us from the result of sin.

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

7) It is impossible to avoid death and the final judgment of God.

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

Christ is risen, and now sits in the place of all authority. All judgment has been committed to him. Therefore, 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, and the lost will go on to eternal torment with the devil and his angles.

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Acts 2:24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

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.

First, we should be greatly encouraged in the midst of the confusion and turmoil everywhere.

Second, it should also motivate us to look for opportunities to witness for Christ to those lost around us.

Third, by Christ's resurrection, God proved that He is in control of all events which take place in time and space.

Fourth, by the resurrection of Christ, God has proved that it is impossible for the laws established in His word not to work, whether they be blessing or destruction.