SERMONS ON THE RESURRECTION
by B.H. Carroll
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live . For as the Father hath life in himself ; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” – John 5:25-29.
The occasion of the deliverance which constitutes this text was restoration to perfect health of a man afflicted for thirty-eight years with the infirmity of impotence, brought about by sin. The man’s vital powers were all so wasted that recovery by nature or by medical skill was impossible. The restoration, therefore, was a miracle, by a word, instant, permanent. Such a case of healing is equivalent to life from the dead, since it involves creative power.
Hence our Lord’s explanation of it in these words: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them ; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” It is in this connection that he utters these words of the text: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
Here, evidently, are two resurrections; one that now is, and one that is to come; one a resurrection of the soul from spiritual death, the other a resurrection of the body from physical death. Both resurrections are effected by the Son of God, who has become the Son of man, and following the resurrection from the physical death comes the general judgment.
This text, therefore, prepares the way for an orderly and complete statement of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. I ask you to read carefully every term of this statement of the doctrine. While the Scriptures describe the future restoration of Israel as a symbolic restoration (in the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel and in the eleventh chapter of the letter to the Romans), and while they describe the impartation of life to the soul in regeneration as a spiritual resurrection (as in the first part of this text, and in the second chapter of the letter to the Ephesians), they also declare that at the second coming of Christ there shall be a resurrection of the body, and a reunion of the raised body with the selfsame spirit from which death separated us ; that both the just and the unjust shall have part in this resurrection; that to the just it shall be a resurrection unto life, and the body shall be like Christ’s body, fitted for the eternal use of the sanctified spirit.
To the unjust it shall be a resurrection unto condemnation, and the body shall be fitted for the eternal uses of an unsanctified spirit; that this resurrection of the just and of the unjust shall be followed by the general judgment, whose final and irrevocable decree fixes forever the alignment and status of the whole human family. It is important to know that this statement of the doctrine forbids the restriction of the term “resurrection” to a figurative import, while it concedes the figurative usage of the word in some cases, and that it forbids the restriction of the term to any change whatever that the soul may undergo, though it concedes a spiritual resurrection ; that it forbids a restriction of the term to the resurrection of the bodies of the just, in that it insists that there shall be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
To avoid all possible ambiguity, even at the risk of tedious repetition, the resurrection of the dead, now under consideration, applies to the outer, not to the inner man . It means that the corruptible body shall put on incorruption; that the mortal body shall be swallowed up in immortality. It does not mean the spirit’s release by dissolution of the body, as a butterfly emerges into larger life by its escape from the chrysalis state. This would be to make death both the date and the means of the resurrection . It does not mean the quickening of the spirit in regeneration, nor any part, or process, or consummation of the sanctification of the spirit. Nor does it mean any gradual change taking place in the renewal of our bodies now by natural processes.
It announces a definite, instantaneous, future event, so entirely without what we call the realm of nature that it must be classed essentially as a miracle of supernatural power, indeed, the greatest of miracles. This general resurrection of human bodies is based entirely upon the resurrection of Christ’s body, to which resurrection of Christ his churches look back as the source of their light, and which irresistibly carries with it all other miracles of the Scriptures, and constitutes the irrefutable proof that these Scriptures are the inspired words of God, thus leaving no room for any misconception of the import of the doctrine.
Let us now carefully review its historic and philosophic foundations. We may rest assured that our Lord prescribed no arbitrary and unsuitable test of his divinity. When he selected the sign of Jonas as the one sign establishing his divine cre dentials and authenticating his doctrine as from heaven, it was because that sign and no other fitted the requirements of the case.
A profound philosophy will be found to underlie the necessity for this specific demonstration of his divinity and of the inspiration of the Scriptures. And what is that philosophy? The philosophy of a thing is the reason of the thing. What reason, therefore, imperiously demanded this proof of Christ’s divinity? The answer is easy to find, and when found is easy to understand. It consists of the following three elements:
First, the normal personality of the first man, body and soul, as originally created, with the purpose and provision of God that the body should be perpetuated. Second, the fall or death of that man, in both body and soul, through Satanic seduction. Third, the promise of a redeemer, the seed of a woman, who would destroy the work of the devil and restore man to his normal condition of soul and body. That is the philosophic ground of the text. The Scripture record, the Old Testament Scriptures, by which the Messiahship must be tested, clearly shows that the first man was a dual being. His body, indeed, was fashioned of earthly matter. His soul was inbreathed.
There was an inner and an outer man, and this dual being was the normal man. Both constituents are necessary to the make-up of man . Neither apart from the other constitutes a man. This is the first fact of human history, according to this Book, concerning the human race. The second fact is that by the appointed use of the tree of life, placed in the Garden of Eden, to which man had access as long as he was steadfast in his probation, provision was made for the perpetuity of his body, showing that God purposed that the body should live as long as the soul which inhabits it . Now, the intent of the Creator is the law of the creature. What purpose was in God’s mind when he made anything or any being is the law of that thing or that being, and when the Creator made man, making him dual, body and soul, and purposed and provided for the continuity of his body, that intent marks the boundaries of man and becomes the law of his being. His intent was that man’s body should live forever, and adequate provision was made for it. Now, such is man as he appears on the first sacred historic page. Look at him ! in the image of his Creator, partly mortal, and yet the mortal, by the provision of a probation, to become immortal, and body and soul live forever.
The third fact is that man failed in his probation through the seduction of the devil, and was cut off from access to the tree of life, lest, as God says, “He now eat of that tree and live forever.” The body, shut out from the means of perpetuity, hastened to dissolution. Thus the whole man fell. His soul by alienation from God became dead in sin. His mortal body, separated from the tree of life, returned to the dust as it was. It is important here to make clear the meaning of mortality and immortality as predicated of the body.
When we say the body is mortal, we do not mean that its constituent elements shall ever perish, matter is indestructible, — but we mean that the organism or form in which those elements cohere and constitute an animate form is mortal. When we say an immortal body, we do not mean that its particles of matter exist forever, though this is true, but we mean that the organism or form in which these particles of matter cohere lives forever as an animate form. It is quite important to note what is meant by the mortality of the body and immortality of the body. The body is a living organism. When, therefore, our Lord claimed to be the Messiah of the Old Testament he well knew what character of proof was requisite to establish his claim. Because the children of men were partakers of flesh and blood he likewise partook of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and through his death deliver them who all their lifetime were subject to bondage through fear. He must show that one traveler has returned from that bourne which swallowed up the bodies of all the rest. If he cannot show that, he is not the Messiah. He could not be declared the Son of God with power except by the rising of his body from the death, and this rising – mark this point – this rising must be to die no more. It must not be like the rising of the girl whose hand he took and the maid arose. She died afterwards. It must not be like the rising of the widow’s son at Nain, whom he spoke unto life and gave back to his mother. He died again. It must not be like the rising when he stood at the mouth of the sepulchre full of corruption and said, “Lazarus, come forth,” for Lazarus died again. The risen body must be made immortal.
Any resurrection like that of Lazarus, to be followed by death again, no matter how remote that death might be, would not meet the requirements of the case. The original man, according to God’s intent, was to have an immortal body. All mortality must be eliminated. He then, the first fruits from the dead, must be able to say, as he did say: “I am he that liveth and was dead and will die no more. And I have the key of death and of hell.” In no other way could he bruise the serpent’s head. In no other way could he win back all that man had lost, and restore man to the full fruition of God’s original purpose concerning him. Why, then, did he impose this test and no other? Because this and no other meets the requirements of the case. A Messiah who left out half of God’s original purpose has forever failed. A Messiah to save only a part of each man would not be the Old Testament Messiah.
There was, therefore, profound philosophy be hind his reply to a challenge for a sign adequate to authenticate his claim when he said, “No sign shall be given but the sign of the prophet Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and nights in the body of the whale, so must the Son of man be three days and nights in the body of the earth, and on the third day he shall rise again.”
The historic and philosophic reason of this test thus made, we next inquire on what ground may we rest the fulfillment of such a test. The test requires that a body which had died shall rise from the grave, rise immortal, rise to die no more. On what ground can you rest that test? From the nature of the test there can be but one ground, namely, the power of God. If there be a God, he is omnipotent. An omnipotent God can raise the dead.
Therefore to the Sadducees, when they denied the doctrine of the resurrection, he said: “You do err, not knowing the scriptures, neither the power of God.” Let me read you the foundation on which this doctrine rests. To Moses God said: “I kill and I make alive.” In the book of Samuel God says: “The Lord killeth and maketh alive. He
bringeth down to the grave and he bringeth up from the grave.” Therefore, in sending out his apostles, and knowing what intimidation would be brought to bear upon their naturally cowardly natures, he pointed out to them the true objects of fear and said: “Fear not him who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but fear him who after he hath killed the body can destroy both soul and body forever in hell.”
Well might you doubt if one affirmed that man could raise the dead . Well might you be skeptical if one affirmed that Nature by her own inherent powers provides for the resurrection of the dead. But in the language of the great apostolic logician, “Why should it be thought by you a thing incredible that God should raise the dead? “It is incredible that man can raise the dead. It is incredible that nature provides for a resurrection. It is incredible that God should raise the dead. And the doctrine of the resurrection rests exclusively upon the power of God, and whoever denies the doctrine of the resurrection errs by not knowing the power of God.
And to what purpose is all the vast array of testimony from human scientists declaring that they cannot find the resurrection of the dead by telescope, or microscope, or scalpel, or crucible? What fool ever said they could? Their investigation can not go beyond the realm of nature. The resurrection is without the realm of nature. Confessedly it is supernatural.
And do you suppose that any Christian would rejoice or vaunt himself if the resurrection by scientific demonstration could be proved and located in the realm of nature? Mark the words. Listen to the statement. Let it sink down into your hearts. When scientists can make that proof they have destroyed Christianity. Does any skeptic on scientific grounds suppose for a moment that he harms Christianity by his failure to find the resurrection in nature? Let him disabuse his mind. If he wants to shoot a gun that will crumble all the foundations of Christianity, let him prove by a scientific demonstration the resurrection of the dead.
The sole value of the resurrection as a test of Christ’s divinity and of the inspiration of the Scriptures lies in its supernaturalism. It must essentially be by a miracle. It must be something that God only can do. Any man may say, “I lay down my life,” but only Jesus Christ could say, “I lay down my life and I take it up again.”
It is pertinent to close this discussion by introducing the witness of prophecy. Let us look at some of the prophetic facts, for a fact does not stand by itself . It is sure to cast a shadow in some direction. It is not merely a memorial post of a past event, but a future forecast. It indicates what can be.
With this view let us look at a series of facts. First, all miraculous cases of healing in both Testaments. The element of miracle enters where the powers of nature and of science stop. Any kind of bodily or mental sickness beyond the recuperative powers of nature and also of medical skill that is cured, must be cured by a miracle, and that miracle will have an important signification. When such a case is healed in a moment of time by a word or by a touch, it involves the exercise of creative power, and forecasts the redemption of the body. It argues not only divine sympathy for physical and mental pain, not only hints at the intrinsic value of the human body as an integral part of the normal man, but it prophesies the ultimate salvation of the body.
Hence a characteristic feature of the Old Testament Messiah is that he himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses. Hence the prophet says, “At his coming the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing.”
Hence, when John in prison was doubting and sent his disciples with the inquiry to Jesus, “Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another?” it happened while his messengers stood by that Jesus cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight, and he returned this answer:” Go your way. Tell John what things ye have seen and heard. The blind receive their sight; the lame walk; lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised up; the poor have the gospel preached to them. Blessed is he who shall find no occasion for stumbling in me.”
In other words, the proof of the Messiah is the helping of the human body by counteracting the dreadful effects of sin upon the human body, and shall the Messiah’s work stop at temporary relief?
Shall he by touch give sight to an eye that shall one day be blind forever? Shall he speak to an unhearing ear that after all will never listen to the minstrelsy of heaven and the hosannas of redemption? Shall he call Lazarus from the grave and beat back corruption for a few years, and then that body go back into the grave forever?
These facts have a prophetic phase. They point from partial relief of human suffering to complete relief of human suffering. Precisely the same sign becomes the credential of Christ’s apostles. “As ye go, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name they shall cast out demons. They shall pick up serpents. They shall be exempt from the poison and shall be able to recover the sick.”
The most striking object-lessons of Messianic and apostolic days, the scenes that leap to the eye, not summoned by artful contrivances, but that spontaneously put themselves upon the arena be fore the human sight when we think of Christ and when we think of his apostles, is that great crowd of sufferers, the halting lame man, the groping blind man, the straining deaf ear, listening for some sound of mercy ; the shriveled arm, endeavoring to be whole again ; the broken-hearted mothers, holding out babes flushed with fever; the friends climbing upon the roof and letting down through the tiles, laid aside, the paralyzed body. Oh! look at them! And in apostolic days see how they bring their sick and helpless ones and lay them down, that even the shadow of Peter may fall upon them.
In Paul’s day notice how they timidly touched his body with their handkerchiefs and carried them off to some helpless ones that could not come and could not be brought. Now, with all miraculous healings of both Testaments is another class of prophetic facts, that class which reconveys to bankrupted nature lost power. Behold Hannah, the childless woman, the reproach in Israel, unable to present as her successor any child. “Lord, have mercy on me.”
Behold Abraham, his body as good as dead, and all hope of the world dependent on a successor to Abraham, and now comes by divine power, not by some skill of medicine, not by any inherent recuperative power in nature, but by the power of God, there comes ability, as if one had never had a bankruptcy of his natural powers. Still more striking are the recoveries from actual death. Let us look at them. A widow with an only son — how many here have just one? — and the bright little boy was out in the field one day following his father, and the sun was hot, and he had a sunstroke, and they brought him home and put him on his mother’s lap, and he moaned and died. He was dead! Dead! It was not a case of suspended animation. He was dead. And after a long time God’s prophet comes, not with healing medicaments, not with powerful restoratives, but in the name of God, and trusting in the power of God. He prostrates himself on the body of the child and cries out into the world where the spirit has gone, “Come back, O spirit, and reanimate this body,” and it came.
Again, Elisha died, the great prophet, and he was buried, and the enemy were hovering around the borders, and a man had died while they were watching for the force of the enemy, and they were trying to bury him in a hurry, and while they were picking up the body to carry him out someone cried, “To arms; they come! They come!” And they hastily gathered up the dead man and dropped him down in Elisha’s tomb, and when his body strikes Elisha’s body he wakes up and rises and comes out of that grave himself.
See the little girl, thirteen years old, dead, with the flush just fading, so lately has she died, and Jesus comes and puts his hand upon her head and says, “Little girl, I say unto thee, Get up.” And she arose. He meets that funeral procession – Life meeting Death. He sees the widow, her son on the bier, and commands them to stand still, and puts his hand upon that body and says, “Young man, arise,” and he gave him to his mother.
And when other mothers, with hearts as badly broken, in grief as deep and immeasurable as hers, shall come from the millions of graves where sleep their sons and daughters, and say: “O my Saviour, these bodies of the dead, shall they never be given back to us?”
And when he stands before the grave of Lazarus, where corruption is rioting, and the offense of corruption fills the air with its loathsome smell, Jesus in a voice of authority penetrates the charnel house, in a tone that pierces the dull cold ear of death, wakes up Lazarus and the shrouded dead comes forth. Look at these facts.
I will briefly mention three other facts, and they are far more significant than any which have been cited. I go back to the time when Enoch walked with God. There was that man, soul and body, here on earth, and Enoch came to where men usually found death, and Enoch was translated that he should not see death . Enoch’s body went to heaven. And shall it remain alone in heaven forever? Shall the body of no other saint join Enoch’s body?
Elijah, the great prophet, who once prayed to die, is now informed that he shall never die, and while walking in the field God summoned him. The flashing chariot of heaven came down for the honored guest, and by translation, by transfiguration, by instant elimination of all corruption and all mortality the body of Elijah goes to heaven. Shall those two alone be in heaven?
Here is another fact, the only fact in the world apart from the resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ that exactly fits the case. I quote from the gospel of Matthew at the death of Christ. There was a great earthquake, and the rocks were rent, and graves were opened, and many of them that had fallen asleep came out of the tombs, and after Christ’s resurrection showed themselves, alive in the holy city, to die no more.”
Now that is the prophecy of fact. O man, into whose heart the breath of doubt as cold as the wind from the icebergs of the North comes to chill every warm hope that has a promise of life, why should it be a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?