12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12–14, NKJV)
Paul had not yet won the prize to which he aspired. He was pressing toward it, chasing after it as one runs to the finish line to win the crown (1 Corinthians 9:24). The prize he sought was “the resurrection of the dead” unto eternal life (Philippians 3:11). Not many years later, he wrote, “I have finished the race…finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day…” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul did not believe in the impossibility of apostasy; He believed in the possibility of faithfulness. He had been forgiven of his past sins – God remembered them no more (Hebrews 10:16-17). So, he would not be hindered by them in his quest. He was “reaching forward to those things which are ahead” – he did not yet hold the prize, he was not “already perfected.” But, he pressed forward, knowing that his crown of righteousness was certain in Christ, as he remained loyal to Him (Philippians 3:8-10). Are you faithfully running your race to attain eternal life? If you will do so, you will be victorious in Christ Jesus.
31 “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31–32, NKJV)
The Sadducees attempted to justify their false doctrine of no resurrection with what they thought was an insurmountable dilemma (read Matthew 22:23-28). Without hesitation, Jesus said, “You are mistaken (deceived, footnote), not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (verse 29). Please notice that Jesus made His made the case for life after death from the present tense of the verb, “I am” (verse 32). Jesus regarded the tense of the verb as being inspired by God and worthy of note. Since God said at the burning bush, “I am the God of Abraham…,” Jesus expected them to draw the necessary inference (conclusion) that humans continue to exist after physical death. We must approach Bible study with the utmost respect and care, for it is God’s word, not man’s (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Even the tense of a verb is not without significance. And, please be aware that Christ expects us to use necessary inferences to know the Scriptures and avoid being deceived by error.
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18, NKJV)
The rock upon which Jesus built His church is not Peter; it is the confession Peter had just made: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Without this great truth, there would be no church, no “called out” body of redeemed souls who are purchased by the blood of the Son of God (Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:22-23; 25-27; Rev. 5:9-10). It is an obvious, yet neglected truth, that the church belongs to Christ. The church does not belong to you or me, or any other person. Therefore, no one has the right to alter it, abuse it, disrespect it, discount it or corrupt it with the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:22; Matt. 15:7-9). The death of Jesus did not prevent the building of His church. Indeed, His death and resurrection declares His great power over sin and death. The church is the result of Christ’s great victory over sin and death. So, rather than minimizing the church as an afterthought, or as a non-essential, personal choice, let us praise God for the church of Christ and the heavenly blessings Christians have in Christ (Eph. 3:10-11; 1:3). There is only one church, and that is the church we must choose; the church which Christ built. The churches of men are not, and never will be, the church of Christ.
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. (Mark 16:14, NKJV)
How much evidence do you need before you will believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God? Jesus rebuked the eleven apostles for their continued unbelief in the face of multiple streams of evidence. There was the teaching Jesus gave them before His death; He told them repeatedly He would die and be raised (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; Lk. 24:6-7). The empty tomb had been reported to them by Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9-11). Peter and John had seen the empty tomb (Jno. 20:1-10). Two disciples reported to them of seeing Jesus (Lk. 24:33-35). Still, the eleven did not believe, until Jesus appeared to them, rebuking them for “their unbelief and hardness of heart” (Mk. 16:14). The world has the evidence they, at first, refused. Jesus will not personally appear to each person so they may believe. The evidence has been left for us to come to the necessary conclusion that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Jno. 20:30-31). “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jno. 20:29). Does that blessed number include you?
5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,” (Luke 24:5–6, NKJV)
The resurrection of Jesus is the keystone of the gospel; without it, Christians have no faith, no forgiveness, and no hope (1 Cor. 15:17-19). Yes, He is risen! At the same time, one must admit the New Testament does not speak of, describe or command an “Easter” celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. No churches in the Bible had Easter services. There is no Easter holiday found there. The religious holiday called Easter developed as men moved away from following the apostles’ teaching, and added their traditions and decrees to the Scriptures. The Council of Nicea (325 AD), called by Emperor Constantine, decreed celebrating the resurrection of Christ (the “Christian Passover”) should be on a Sunday; it was the 7th century before the Catholic Church decreed rules assigning its annual date. Yet, all the while, God’s word continued to say nothing about such a religious holiday. God’s word does, however, say that God does not accept the traditions of men as true worship (Matt. 15:7-9; Col. 2:20-23). Christians honor Christ’s resurrection weekly, by our worship on the Lord’s Day – the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:19–22, NKJV)
The Christian’s hope in Christ goes beyond the here and now; it reaches into eternity. Our hope “enters the Presence behind the veil” – into God’s holy and heavenly habitation (Heb. 6:19). The future resurrection of all the dead is at the heart of our hope; without it, our faith crumbles (1 Cor. 15:12-19). The empty tomb of Jesus is an ever-present witness to the fact that the dead will be raised. Indeed, His resurrection from the dead was the beginning – “the firstfruits” – of the dead (v. 20). Just as the firstfruits of the field foretell the harvest to come, the resurrection of Jesus signifies the future resurrection of all the dead. Bodily death came into the world as a result of Adam (Gen. 3:19). Bodily resurrection will happen because Christ was raised. Christ’s prediction of our resurrection is assured by His resurrection (Jno. 5:28-29). The Christian’s hope will be realized on the great hour when “all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jno. 5:28-29). Our hope is secure. Death is not the end.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (1 Corinthians 15:50, NKJV)
Even though Jesus taught plainly that His kingdom “is not of this world” in John 18:36, many souls continue to believe His kingdom will be established as a future world government, with Jesus ensconced on His throne in Jerusalem. However, Jesus said His kingdom would come into existence “with power” during the lifetime of those who heard Him teach (Mk. 9:1). His kingdom was established through the powerful events recorded in Acts 2. His kingdom is His church (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 16:18-19). When Jesus returns on resurrection day, He will deliver the kingdom to God the Father, not set it up on the earth (1 Cor. 15:23-26). At that time, with resurrected, immortal bodies, we will enter the heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18). Our mortal, corruptible bodies will not inherit heaven. The kingdom of God is incorruptible and not of this world. Even so, only with resurrected, immortal bodies will God’s people pass into eternal life (1 Cor. 15:52-56). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).