Psalm 16:8-11 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
When David wrote the 16th Psalm. He was not writing about himself. Instead, he was writing about the one who was to come. One who would be born physically a descendant of David. There are several places in the Old Testament that speak of the resurrection. However, this passage is used in Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2:25-28) as evidence for the resurrection Jesus Christ.
Later, Paul would use the same evidence. We usually do not think of the Psalms as prophecy but clearly, they are. A promise was given in Psalm 16 and it was not given to David instead it referred to the Messiah. It could not have referred to David because he died and was buried and therefore saw corruption.
The promise was that Jesus would not see corruption. Let’s look at Paul’s use of the Psalm. Acts 13:30-35 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “ ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
Paul is speaking to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. In this sermon, he gives a quick summary of the people of Israel. He obviously assumes that the Jews in the synagogue knew about John the Baptist. John preached a baptism of repentance and stated that he was not the Messiah. Instead, he pointed to one who would come after him — namely Jesus!
The rulers of the people of Israel did not recognize the Lord of Glory. Even though they could not prove any guilt against him, nor could Pilate the Roman ruler, they crucified him. After his crucifixion, he was laid in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead. Then, Paul moves on quoting the 2nd Psalm and the 16th Psalm as evidence that the Messiah would be raised from the dead.
The promise was that Jesus would not see corruption because…
Jesus was the firstfruits of the dead. Let’s look at Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
This passage is part of a greater teaching that begins with Paul’s summary of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-19). In that summary the word of God tells us that 1) Christ died for our sins, 2) he was buried, 3) he was raised to life on the third day, 4) after his resurrection Jesus appeared to hundreds proving himself to be alive and beyond corruption.
Paul goes on to explain that if Christ was not raised from the dead then our faith is empty. Paul concludes his summary with, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” The fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead and as such is the firstfruits of those who belong to him by faith in his name. Based on all of this, Paul concludes that in fact Christ has been raised from the dead! Not only raised from death to life eternal but, also, he becomes the firstfruits of the dead.
Let me explain. The term “firstfruits” refers to the beginning of a harvest. The firstfruits give a promise of what is to come. If we are the harvest that is to follow these “firstfruits” we can expect to have resurrection bodies like his when God raises us from the dead. Several times in the New Testament Jesus’ resurrection is linked to our final bodily resurrection (for example 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14). All of this gives us the promise of having a body like his. When he returns we shall be like him.
After his resurrection, Jesus was so perfect in body that he was not quickly recognized by his closest followers. He did have the scars in his hands, his feet and his side. Those scars are an eternal reminder of his suffering and death for us. He was raised in glory, not horrible disfigurement!
John, in his first little letter, tells us that “when he appears we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2) This does not indicate that we will have scars or imperfections! The “firstfruits” is sown perishable and is raised imperishable — incorruptible — and perfect. If we are to be like him, as the Scriptures promise, we will also be “imperishable”. As such our new bodies will not wear out or grow old or ever be subject to any kind of sickness or disease. The resurrection proves our perfect deliverance along with the creation that God will deliver at the end. Just as there will be a new heaven and a new earth so we will have new bodies.
Jesus’ suffered and died on the cross to deliver us from our sin. Remember, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was buried in the grave to prove his death and he was raised eternally perfect to prove his eternal life and to grant us that same life.
He who died for our sins was raised to justify us. Let’s look at Romans 4:23-25 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
The “him” mentioned in verse 23 is Abraham. Who, along with Sarah his wife, believed God and that belief, or faith, was counted to him as righteousness. Abraham, therefore, became the father of all who would believe as he did. Having our sins forgiven is the first half of the truth taught here. Faith accepts the fact that Jesus, our Lord, died for our sins and was raised for our justification.
Justification is a difficult concept. I will try to explain it in a way that can be understood and yet remain true to the word. He died for our sins but he was raised for our justification.
Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology, p 723, gives us a definition of justification: “Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.”
I once heard a preacher say that justification can be understood as: “just as if we had never sinned”. This is not because of any goodness in us or any right things that we have done it is completely the work of God.
Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, in the tomb and in his resurrection, we are declared not guilty of our sin eternally by faith in him. Justification is a legal declaration by God setting us free from sin and death.
When Martin Luther discovered the truth of justification by faith alone, he became a Christian and overflowed with the newness of joy found in the gospel. The change in him led him to confront the justification by works that was taught commonly throughout Christendom and ultimately to begin a new movement that, combined with the other reformers, created Protestant Christianity.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a common theme in the preaching of the first-century church. In order for Jesus to justify us there had to be evidence of the power of God that is shown in the resurrection.
Doctor Luke tells us that “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs,” and that Jesus spent some 40 days with his disciples after the resurrection (Acts 1:3). All of this was to prove that he was really alive and not just some avatar or ghost. When the disciples watched him ascend into heaven and a cloud took him out of their sight the angels had representatives to watch them and remind them “This Jesus… will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
We must remember that…
He who was raised will come again. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures. When his work on the cross was done he was buried in the grave as evidence of his death. This was no swoon that he would awaken from later. One thing, absolutely certain, is the Romans knew how to tell when someone was dead. Jesus’ human nature died on the cross. His divine nature left his body when he paid the price for our sin. Doctor Luke records it this way: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). John, the beloved apostle, adds to this “he said, ‘It is finished, and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
Several times in the Gospels Jesus talked about his return. He warned them “You also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). The writer of Hebrews wrote that Christ “will appear a second time not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). The book of Revelation frequently refers to Jesus’ coming again. At the end of the book, Jesus promises “Surely I am coming soon.” To which John replies “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22: 20).
During the last few days of his human life…
Jesus promised we would be with him. John 14:2-3 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
There are several truths that we can take away from this passage. First, heaven is a real place! Jesus referred to it as “my Father’s house” and that would clearly be a specific place. It is very clear that when Jesus ascended into heaven he went to a real place.
When Stephen was martyred he was allowed to look into heaven and see the glory of God as well as Jesus standing at the right hand of power (Acts 7:56). He was looking into a spiritual dimension that really exists in our space/time universe.
When Saul of Tarsus was struck down on the road to Damascus a light from heaven shined around him and the living Lord Jesus spoke to him! (Acts 9:3).
Heaven is a real place and those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will find it is their final home. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension give us assurance on that topic. Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, we will be able to join with him at the marriage supper of the Lamb and there will be a great multitude who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Now, I hope I don’t confuse you when I say that…
We are already raised with him. Let’s look at Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
It is an understatement to say that our way of understanding is completely different from God’s. 700 years before Jesus’ birth Isaiah wrote: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9). David understood how incomprehensible God is when he wrote: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). Now let’s look back at the Ephesians 2 passage. The verbs here are all in the same tense. We have been “made alive” together with Christ. We have been raised up with him. We have been seated with him in heavenly places. In God’s view, we are already in heaven. He can see what we cannot because his vision is not limited by time and space the way ours is.
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven guarantee us that our inheritance is secure. He took our sins into his own body and nailed them to the cross. He took them to the grave and left them there. Jesus said, in those last days with his disciples, that he gave his glory to the disciples (John 17:22). From that point forward they were glorified. In the same way, all of those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are called, justified and glorified (Romans 8:29-30). Our senses might deny these facts but I would far rather trust God and his word over my feelings. If God views us as in heaven we should agree with him and live heavenly lives on earth on our way to join God’s understanding of us. I hope you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and have believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.