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    Gaining the Keys of Death

    I do not propose to rest my hope of eternal life upon my own philosophy, or upon the philosophy of any other person, or upon a hoary tradition. I demand a more secure foundation than either of these furnishes. I inquire, therefore, whether there is a really satisfactory basis for the assurance that death has been conquered. I have looked upon the faces of my beloved dead, and have seen their lifeless forms con signed to their resting places in the city of the dead, and I have turned away with a biting grief in my heart which refused to be soothed by any theological dogma, no matter how ancient or how beautifully worded. I looked for some thing more satisfying, and I found it. Death does not end all. Christianity is the religion of hope, and that hope rests upon facts. Jesus of Nazareth, who is both Son of God and Son of man, died and rose again. These are the greatest facts of history, and these facts constitute an unshakable foundation for an intelligent faith in the life to come. The mystery of death has been solved.SOTW 63.1

    I shall not try to establish the certainty of the resurrection of Jesus by a series of labored arguments, as I do not think that is necessary, but I will call attention briefly to the ground of my own conviction that He did not remain in Joseph’s tomb. “We have been at the place called Calvary. We have seen the Man of Galilee hanged upon the tree. There He gave His life for us, and when all was over, His sorrowing followers laid His wounded body in a rich man’s sepulcher.SOTW 64.1

    It is now the third day after this, and I invite you to go with me to the tomb. What do we find? The tomb is empty. Those who visited it early in the morning did not find Him, although the grave clothes mutely testified that He had been there; but they were told in simple language, “He is not here, but is risen.” Luke 24:6. I know that I am treading on controversial ground, and that skepticism has a ready objection to every such statement; but I have found that all such objections can be met in a satisfactory way. The theories of body-snatching, of suspended animation, of vision and of illusion, will not survive candid examination. To account for the facts in the case on either of these theories of the rationalist is as difficult as to disprove the law of gravity while you are sitting under a tree with the apples dropping upon your head.SOTW 64.2

    We ought to note some of the facts. The former friends and associates of Jesus did not expect His resurrection (John 20:9), and would not believe the first report of it (Mark 16:9-14), but were later convinced by overwhelming testimony, and “were glad, when they saw the Lord.” John 20:20. The change in the attitude of these former followers of His was nothing short of marvelous, and cannot be explained on the ground of vision or illusion. When the mob came upon Jesus at night, “then all the disciples left Him, and fled.” Matthew 26:56. At His trial Peter, the leader of His followers, most emphatically ignored Him, saying, “I know not the man.” Matthew 26:74. They were all sorely disappointed when Jesus did not work some miracle to save Himself from the murderous intent of His enemies; and with Him they buried their hopes in Joseph’s tomb, and all decided to return to their former manner of life (John 21:2, 3), hoping doubtless in this way to forget their sad mistake concerning the Galilean and His mission. But the same Jesus who while with them in their boat had miraculously intervened to save them from losing their lives by shipwreck (Matthew 14:24-27), now intervened to save them from making shipwreck of their faith, and as their net held under the strain of 153 fishes (John 21:5, 6), so their faith held, although it embraced Him whom they had taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb (John 21:7). When he beheld the wounded hands and side, even doubting Thomas was led to exclaim, “My Lord and my God.” John 20:28.SOTW 64.3

    Under the guidance and in the power of the risen Jesus these men gave such testimony to the resurrection that thou sands were convinced by a single address, and the high priest was constrained to say, “Ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” Acts 5:28. The cowardly deserters had become the courageous defenders of the crucified and risen Jesus. What had wrought such a transformation? The living Christ had revealed Him self to them on ten different occasions, and they knew Him. I have these facts and much more as the ground of my faith in His resurrection, and the theories of unbelieving hearts do not shake it.SOTW 65.1

    Some one has said that the Christian church was built upon the empty tomb, and there is a suggestion of truth in such a statement, but I prefer to declare that the foundation of the church is the God-man who voluntarily permitted Himself to be laid in the grave, apparently conquered by death, in order that He might break the power of the last enemy, and be acclaimed as the conqueror of death. And the Christian church is the living monument of His victory. One must ignore some of the most significant facts in the history of nineteen centuries in the effort to deny the resurrection.SOTW 65.2

    “No human being that ever trod the earth has left behind a representation of himself more clear and living, and more certain in its truthfulness, than is that which we possess of Blank Page Him who was known at first as ‘the prophet of Nazareth in Galilee;’” and no human being has ever exerted such an influence upon humanity and upon human history, and no one has ever left and is still leaving behind him in the annals of history such incontrovertible evidence of his living presence and unconquerable power. The events of nineteen centuries testify to the truthfulness of the announcement of the ascended Lord to the apostle John on the isle of Patmos: “I am the first and the last, and the Living One; and I became [margin] dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Revelation 1:17, 18. He was nailed to the cross, but He is still alive. The resurrection makes the connection between these two statements.SOTW 65.3

    It was no mere vision when Stephen saw “Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55. Jesus was really there, having been raised from the dead and having ascended to heaven. The experience of the apostle Paul on the Damascus road cannot be satisfactorily disposed of by labeling it “hallucination;” for not only was there the audible voice declaring, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:5), but the blinded eyes bore convincing testimony to the reality of the divine glory. Acts 9:8.SOTW 67.1

    Furthermore, the New Testament documents, written from twenty to sixty years after the crucifixion, deal with the resurrection as an established fact, and interpret its meaning to us. To them Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection, as plainly appears from their own statements:SOTW 67.2

    “If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we witnessed of God that He raised up Christ; whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:14-17.SOTW 67.3

    Every forgiven sinner who knows in his experience “the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:16), is a living witness to the reality of the resurrection. A dead Christ cannot be a saviour from the bondage of sin. A dead Christ cannot flood the soul with His own glory, and impart grace for acceptable service. For my own part I am abundantly convinced that the same Jesus who wrought His divine works of forgiving grace and saving mercy in Judea and Galilee and Samaria, has wrought in resurrection power to deliver me from the thralldom of sin, and to impart a new life of victory. To this I gladly testify.SOTW 67.4

    We must not overlook the most significant fact that He who died as our representative was also raised as our representative, and that His resurrection is the assurance of our resurrection. God “made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:5, 6. This is true of every Christian, and will be demonstrated in experience at the last day. And even as to our present life, “from the great fact that Christ has risen from the dead, proceed all the influences by which Christians are made in life and attainments, here and hereafter, like Him.” And so we may each join in the earnest desire of the apostle Paul, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10. In fact, this resurrection power is cited as being the measure of the power to be revealed in the believing Christian to give him the victory. Ephesians 1:19, 20.SOTW 68.1

    I must not forget to mention that the death and resurrection of Christ, the last Adam, has changed death into a sleep for all members of the human family, whether they believe on Christ or not. The representative principle still prevails: “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22. The marked distinction between the righteous and the wicked is not fully manifested until after the resurrection. They all sleep, but “the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs 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 judgment.” John 5:28, 29. The death which is our common lot here, is not the penalty for Adam’s sin, as has already been pointed out, but it is the consequence, and a universal consequence. The punishment which is meted out in the judgment, is due to the all inclusive sin of rejecting Christ, who offers Himself self as the Saviour, and so rests wholly upon the act of each individual, rather than upon the one act of the generic man, the first Adam.SOTW 68.2

    Christ was raised from the dead. Death has been conquered. The hope of the future life rests upon a solid basis. “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14. The resurrection forms the link between our life in this mortal body, subject to temptation and trial, and our life of eternal joy and perfect blessedness in the immediate presence of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, for “we shall see Him even as He is.” 1 John 3:2.SOTW 69.1

    The risen Christ is the holder of the keys of death and of Hades, having gained them through His own death and resurrection. I have surrendered all to him, and He is the Lord of my life. If it be His will, I will rejoice to be among those who will greet Him with exceeding joy when He comes with the clouds; but if not, I shall sleep in confidence of the resurrection, “for I know Him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to guard that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12.”Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57.SOTW 69.2

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