AND THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-29-59 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled And the Third Day He Rose Again From the Dead According to the Scriptures. And the message is of a little different turn. Actually it is the testimony of the Word of God to the resurrection of our Lord from the dead. You can easily follow the message this morning, if you would like to, in your Bible. In the Book of Hosea – Daniel, Hosea – in the Book of Hosea, the sixth chapter, Hosea 6:
Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.
Our Lord and Savior brooded over the Holy Scriptures of God. He found in them the way marked in which He was to walk. He found in them the strength by which He did His work. He found in them the weapon by which He faced the great enemy Satan. In each one of the temptations, our Lord answered the tempter with the word, "It is written" [Matthew 4:3-10]. The Holy Scriptures were the texts by which He taught His disciples. How else can the Scriptures be fulfilled?
If anyone could have done without the Word of God, our Savior could have. But He found the strength of His life, He found the devotion of His way, He found the holy revelation of God written on the pages of the Holy Book.
The life of God in human flesh, the Word of God in human speech are indivisibly connected. According to the Scriptures Christ died, and according to the Scriptures Christ was raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:1-4].
It is thus with the Holy Scriptures of God as the blessed Lord Jesus read and pondered in the Book of Hosea. So many times does He quote from this book. And as the words entered into His soul, they became a part of the great dedication and consecration of His life.
And one tremendous instance of the use of the words of the prophet to ring through all of His own days and life and ministry is this passage in the sixth chapter of Hosea. "And the third day He will raise us up." And as He applied that Scripture to Himself, He personalized it. "And the third day,and the third day I will rise from the dead" [Luke 9:22]: That was so much on the lips of our Lord, "And the third day I will rise from the dead," until His enemies knew of it. And when He was buried, and His friends had forsaken Him, and His disciples had fled, His enemies had heard Him repeat it so many times until they went to the governor and said, "We remember how that deceiver said, ‘And the third day He will rise again’" [Matthew 27:63]. And in their consternation and terror for what might happen, they asked for a guard to seal the tomb and to see to it that by the authority of the Roman government, and by the power of the Roman legionnaire, that Christ was to stay dead.
But my point is, the words of the Scripture that the Lord used that became so part of His life, and this in Hosea is one: "And the third day, and the third day, be raised up from the dead" [Hosea 6:2]. It was in the assurance of the Holy Scriptures of God and the holy promises read in the Book that our Lord faced all of those tragedies of life that inevitably were prophesied for Him. He has in His heart a great assurance of a great victory, and it came from His brooding over the Word of God. It came from the writings of the prophets.
In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, for example, beginning at the thirty-first verse:
Then Jesus took unto Him the Twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.
For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spit on:
And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again.
And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
But He was just repeating what was written on the pages of the Holy Book. And the reason our Lord faced all of the sorrow and tragedy of the week of His passion with such triumph and such victory is to be found in the words of the holy prophets, "And the third day He shall rise again" [Hosea 6:2].
He did not face the cross as a stoic, "I will endure the bitter anguish, it will soon be passed. I will drink of the bitter cup, it is but for a moment." That would have been a brave, courageous thing to do. But it would actually have been a submission to defeat and to despair. But the Lord faced the week of His passion and the day of His cross with a great and a wonderful assurance, "The third day I shall rise again!" [Luke 9:22].
All through the ministry of our Savior, those words were on His lips. As He began His life’s work in the temple in Jerusalem, He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" [John 2:19]. They thought He was speaking of the temple of Herod. John said He was speaking of the temple of His body [John 2:21]. But they remembered it, "Destroy this temple, and on the third day I will raise it up."
And when He was nailed to the cross, they flung into His teeth that word they so well remembered, "Thou that destroyest the temple and raiseth it up in three days, save Thyself and us" [Mark 15:29-30]. We cannot help but feel in our hearts, "Lord, accept the challenge. Come down from the cross and strike terrified conviction in the hearts of these who blaspheme and taunt Thee!"
But no, it will be according to the Word of God: not a heroic Man in superhuman strength tearing Himself from the wood and coming down from the cross, a hero before the world; but it will be according to the Word of God – a limp, lifeless, helpless corpse taken down from the cross, wrapped, swathed in a winding sheet, laid in a tomb [John 19:38-42]. But on the third day according to the Scriptures, but on the third day breaking the bonds and the bar of death and standing forth to live before God and before men, our Lord, and King, and Savior, and God, according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:1-4].
It was thus that the great resurrection of our Lord was verified by the Word of God. One of the most astounding developments you can find in the life of Christ is how the Lord and the apostles turned to the Word of God for verification that He should live, that He should be raised, that He would be resurrected; and they did it when the Lord Himself stood there alive before them.
You would think the very presence of the Lord was proof enough that He would rise from the dead, but the great proof of our Lord that He was raised from the dead was not His very presence – though He did eat before them and shared with them in the meal – but the great sublime affirmation that He was to be raised and that He did live in their sight was that the prophets had said so, that it was written in the Word of God. The testimony of God was higher than that of men. And the foresight of the prophets was surer than the actual eyesight of Simon Peter and the apostle John and the rest of the apostles.
For example, in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, when the Lord appears before them, and He says, "Handle Me, and see that it is I Myself: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, such as you see Me have." And He showed them His hands and His feet. And when they still didn’t believe and wondered, He said, "Have you here any meat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and of an honeycomb. And He did eat before them," the resurrected Lord [Luke 24:36-43]. And He said unto them, not, "Here I am alive. Believe. Handle Me and see and believe. This is conclusive and final. I am alive. Look and see!" No! He said unto them:
These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me.
Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.
And He said unto them, Thus it is written, that He should die, and that the third day He should be raised from the dead.
The great proof of the living Lord was not the eyesight of Simon, it was not the eyesight of John, it was not the presence of the Lord Himself; for a man’s eyesight might be deceived, and a man’s touch might mislead, and the voice of the risen Lord might be an illusion. But the Word, and the testimony, and the affirmation, and the prophecy of God was sure and does stand forever! [Isaiah 40:8].
It is an amazing thing in this chapter when our Lord chides His apostles for their lack of unbelief. Then He stands there before them alive, and that He is raised from the dead. He says unto them, "O, foolish ones, anoetos, O, one’s not knowing" – you have it translated "O fools" – "O ones not understanding; O ones not knowing, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe" [Luke 24:25]. What? "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe." Not what the women said who were early at the sepulcher; not what the angel said who announced that, "He was not here; He is risen from the dead" [Luke 24:6]. Not what Peter and John said who went into the sepulchre and saw all of the linen clothes arranged just so [John 20:3-7]. "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe." Not the testimony of these who had seen Him:
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to have entered into His glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
The great witness, the great testimony to the resurrection of our Lord is not the sign of Him alive! It is rather the testimony of the Holy Scriptures of God who spake in the Prophets that He should rise again the third day! [Hosea 6:2].
That’s the most amazing thing I think I’ve ever found in the Word of God! Why, it is an astonishing thing. It is an amazing thing. It is a wonderful thing that the witness of the prophets should be surer than the eyesight of the apostles. And when the apostles preached, that’s the way they preached, "Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" [Luke 24:27]. In the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures [Luke 24:44-45].
Now look how they did it. I have an opportunity to take the preaching of the apostles; I just take one instance. In the life of Simon Peter as he wrote a personal testimony of the transfiguration, the glorification of our Lord, he says:
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the Excellent Glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice, which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount. But we have also a more sure word of prophecy!
[2 Peter 1:16-19]
Why, what an astounding way to preach! Simon Peter says:
We were there and saw Him transfigured. We were there and heard God’s voice saying, This is My Son beloved, in whom I am well pleased. And we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we make known unto you these great facts of Christ –
but, he says –
Though I stood there and heard Him and though I stood there and saw Him and though the voice of God the Father reverberated through the heavens declaring Him to be the Son of God, we have a more sure word!
[2 Peter 1:16-19]
What could be more sure than for a man to see with his eyes and hear with his ears and handle with his hands? Simon Peter says the more sure word is that of the prophecies:
Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first –
this above all, this verse –
That no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.
That is it is sealed, enigmatic for the astute and those who ferret out the deep things of God? No!
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man –
these secret people who know things just revealed to themselves, no –
But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
[2 Peter 1:19-21]
It is an open prophecy and any man can read it; it’s an open Book. Read it for yourself, the more sure word of prophecy: that Jesus was raised from the dead is history, but the foresight of the prophet was far before the historical event itself. History was early at the sepulcher to bear witness to the fact that He is raised from the dead. But the prophet did outrun the historian, and hundreds and hundreds of years before stood there in adoration and wonder at the sepulcher and said, "And the third day He shall rise from the dead."
Ah, what a thing! What a thing God hath written large here in His Book. Surer than the announcement of the angels, "He is not here; He is risen." Surer than the announcement of the apostles, "We have seen Him, He is alive!" Surer than the testimony and the eyesight of the witnesses who looked upon Him is the foresight of the prophet who stood up to say, "And the third day He shall be raised from the dead."
What a Book I hold in my hands! Now I have said all that to try to say this: our assurance of immortality and our assurance of resurrection lies in the Word and in the promise, in the immutable unchanging Word of God.
When I was a student, I fell into the drift of thought of higher criticism, which ought to be called "destructive criticism." You know it’s hard to walk through a coal mine and not get dirty. And it’s hard to fill your mind day and night with those things and not get into your soul. Well, in my studying I got into the drift of the higher critic. What saved me was I was also pastor of a little country church. Oh, I do not know what would have become of me had I not been anchored with those devout, Bible-believing people who never heard a word of Greek, who never heard a word of Hebrew, who never heard of the Tubingen school or of the critic Bauer or Wellhausen, who had no idea what higher criticism was. But they knew the Book, and they knew the Lord.
Well, bless your heart! I was out there with my little country church, and I made a statement before my people. And I said, "The resurrection is not taught in the Old Testament Scriptures, the resurrection is a later development in the course of Judaism and is not to be found in the Old Testament Scriptures." You wouldn’t believe that I would ever even have thought a thing like that, much less say it!
Well, bless her heart, I had in that church a dear old sainted mother in Israel by the name of Meddis, Mother Meddis. And she was down there on the second row, and when I said that, she spoke up in meeting. Now, she loved me very, very much, and all the people did, and there was no affront in it at all. What she said, she said out of the deepest love of her heart. She said, "Why, pastor, wait a minute, pastor!" She said, "The Old Testament Scriptures are filled with the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ."
Well I said, "No, you are mistaken. There may be a few later additions but it’s not in the Book itself. It’s not in Judaism itself."
She said, "O, pastor. But you are mistaken!"
And she started to turn through the Bible, and I said to her, "Listen here. Wellhausen says, the Teubingen school says, and all these higher critics say there is no resurrection in the Old Testament."
And that dear old saint said back to me, "I don’t know what those men say. All I know is what God says! God says in the Book the resurrection."
Well, I can’t believe as I look back upon those days, I can’t believe how we can be misled; I want to show you how misled I was. I haven’t time but just to read a few. But we’re going to read some of the passages in the Old Testament of the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead. Listen to this, why, you can just read this and shout and sing and clap your hand and rejoice in the Lord. Listen to the Word of God:
For I know, for I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though through my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold.
And yet they say, "No resurrection!"
May I turn quickly to another? Psalm 16:10: "For Thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption."
May I turn again? Isaiah 26:19: "Thy dead shall live,My dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for the dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead."
I turn again, Ezekiel 37: "And lo, a great valley full of dry bones, and the Lord said, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, I do not know, I do not know; and He said to me, Prophesy and say to these dry bones, Hear the word of the Lord." And what did the Lord say? "The day shall come when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" [John 5:25]. Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will cause breath to enter, and ye shall live" [Ezekiel 37:3-27]. Then you have that marvelous vision.
I turn again to Daniel 12:2: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt."
I read again in Hosea, the same chapter that the Lord read so much: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O Death, I will be thy plagues; O Grave, I will be thy destruction" [Hosea 13:14]. And in the Septuagint translation, as Paul quoted it, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?" [1 Corinthians 15:55]. All of it in the Holy Scriptures of God. Oh, how we can be misled! How we can be misled.
I conclude, for our time speeds away. How do you know that there’s any ultimate victory beyond this hour and this day of tears, and age, and sorrow, and ultimate death if He tarries? How do you know? I know in the same way that Jesus knew, reading the Word of God. I know in the same way that the apostles knew, reading the Word of God. And with what assurance and with what blessedness and with what glory can we face an inevitable future? Singing a song, praises on our lips, glory in our hearts:
Brethren, I would not have you without knowledge concerning them that are asleep in Jesus, that you sorrow not, as others who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain under the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall be raised first:
Then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord: and so shall we ever be with our Savior.
[1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
But I show you a mystery; We may not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.
We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.
For this corruptible, this dying, decaying body must put on incorruption, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; and this mortal must put on immortality.
And when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, then shall it be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death, the last enemy to be destroyed, Death is swallowed up in victory.
[1 Corinthians 15:50-54]
How do you know? By the Word and the promise of God: "The flower fadeth, the grass withereth: but the word of God shall stand forever" [Isaiah 40:8].
When I awake at 3:00 o’clock in the morning, maybe worried, just open the Book and read the promise, it hasn’t changed. When I’m old and feeble, when I’m young and tried, it still is ever the same, building our hope and our life, living our days and facing the vista of the future on the Word and the promise of God in the Book.
Now in this little moment that we tarry and sing this song, somebody today to give his heart in faith to Jesus, somebody to come into the fellowship of the church, would you make it now? Make it this morning’s hour. In this great throng, in the balcony round about, down these stairwells, at the front or at the back, and on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the pastor, "Pastor, today I give my heart in faith and in trust to Jesus." Or, "Today we’re coming into the fellowship of the church." One, somebody you, or a family you, on the first note of the first stanza, make it now. Make it now, this morning, while we stand and while we sing.