We have seen that there is ample evidence for the Resurrection
of our Lord,
that few events in ancient history are supported by such abundant testimony,
and that the whole of the New Testament is unintelligible
and the early history of the Christian religion incredible without the Resurrection.
We have now to see what the Resurrection meant.
We know how our Lord rose from the dead.
We have to see why He rose from the dead.
First, He rose that He might conquer death.
Death in its relation to the body is the same for men as for other animals.
But the death of a man differs from the death of a horse or a rabbit.
The death of a man is the violent separation of the body from the immortal spirit,
the rending asunder of the person.
For the body is not, as Plato taught, merely the prison of the spirit.
It is a necessary part of the human person, which is not complete without it.
To be deprived of one's body is a mutilation.
That mutilation is the punishment of sin:
the wages of sin is death
It is useless to guess what form death would have taken if man had never
We have to deal with man as he is, not with man as he might have been;
and for man as he is, death is a punishment.
When our Lord rose from the dead never again to die,
He overcame the power of death.
He became "the first fruits of them that slept",
for as He rose, so we shall rise (I Cor.15.16, 20).
Apart from Him we are under the power of death.
We must die, and we have no certain hope of rising again.
But if in this life we are united with Him and share the risen and victorious life that He gives to us through the Holy Ghost, we are no longer under the permanent control of death.
We must still die, but death -
that is, the separation of spirit and body
will be no more permanent for us than it was for Him.
It is, however, of no use to us to be told that He survived death,
but His body mouldered in the grave.
If that had been all, He would not have overcome death.
We did not need Him to tell us that the spirit is immortal.
Plato and many other pagans have believed that.
It is the resurrection of the body,
not the immortality of the soul,
that is promised to us by the Resurrection of our Lord.
Unless the body were destined to rise again,
the spirit, though immortal, would still be separated from the body.
Man would still be rent asunder.
But the Resurrection of our Lord brings to us the good news
that what is rent asunder by death is to be joined together again.
It is as complete persons,
not as disembodied spirits,
that we are to be united with God in Heaven.
Second, our Lord rose from the dead
that He might conquer Satan and the powers of evil.
The chief purpose of the Incarnation was to deliver man from slavery to the Devil, into which he had fallen by his own fault.
The Devil is not a rival god like Ahriman in the religion of the ancient Persians.
Satan and his devils were created by God and created good, but by their own fault they became evil and induced man to become evil too.
Hence Satan became the master of mankind.
We have only to look around the world to see that he is still the master of mankind, except where the Resurrection of our Lord has broken his power.
Our Lord, by rising from the dead and bringing into the world the power that is only given to those who are free from the control of death, broke the power of Satan.
Wherever men accept the gospel of the Resurrection and receive through baptism the power of the Resurrection, they cease to be under the power of Satan.
The history of the Church, properly understood, is the history of this deliverance.
In Christian missions the Resurrection can be seen at work breaking the fetters that bind men's spirits and therefore, very often, their bodies.
Hence we believe that our Lord has reconciled us to God by breaking the
power of Satan over us, and making possible our restoration to what God meant
us to be.
This breaking of the power of Satan was brought about by His death and Resurrection, not by His death alone, for His death without His Resurrection would have been merely the defeat of good by evil, of God by Satan (Rom.6.3-11; Eph.2.4-6).
Our nature was made by our sins incapable of restoring itself;
therefore our Lord took to Himself a perfect human nature;
in it broke the power of Satan over mankind,
and by incorporating us with Himself made us partakers of His nature.
So the "old man", the corrupt human nature, is gradually rooted out of us,
and the "new man", the risen nature of Christ, takes its place.
This process can be seen wherever the power of Christ is active,
especially in the mission field.
Third, the Resurrection was the beginning of the glorification of our Lord's
His body was glorified.
It was no longer weak, mortal, corruptible (I Cor.15.42-44),
but glorious, immortal, incorruptible.
Yet it was the same body that was crucified.
His human spirit was glorified.
He was still Man, but Man raised to the right hand of God.
This process was completed at the Ascension, but the Resurrection began it.
Fourth, the Resurrection was the means by which we also shall rise again
and the pledge that we shall do so.
St. Paul says,
If the dead be not raised, then is Christ not raised;
and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain
appealing to the present power of the Resurrection like any modern missionary.
This was a new thing in the world.
Both Jews and Gentiles believed in personal survival, a
nd some of them in the immortality of the soul,
but Christians believe in the resurrection of the body
(so did the Pharisees: Dan.12.2; Acts 23.8).
But the Resurrection of our Lord does not promise us perpetual life similar
to that which we have here, as expected by ancient pagans and modern Spiritists.
Eternal life is something different from our present life,
but something that we can begin to enjoy in this world (St.John 4.14, 10.28).
It is life in union with God,
life that only those who have experienced it can understand,
life that alone is life indeed.
It is one of the gravest defects of modern Christian preaching and practice
that we are afraid of being "other-worldly".
The Christian religion is not merely a program of social reform.
This life, and all that is in it, is important only because it is the school in which we are trained for our real life hereafter.
The modern world does not believe in any life beyond the grave.
But this unbelief cannot be reconciled with the Christian religion.
If there is no resurrection, "we are of all men most pitiable" (I Cor.15.15).
Therefore it is useless to pretend that our attitude towards social or political
reform can ever be the same as that of people who have no belief in a future
Christianity is not Christianity if it is not otherworldly.
Happiness in this world for us or for others is not our principal aim, but eternal life here and hereafter and our hope of this depends on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
[For the connection between the Resurrection and the Atonement, see pp. 167-171.]