Tomorrow, millions of people will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Multitudes of people will likely do so, however, without much awareness of its full significance. They will do so because many preachers, theologians, and other Bible teachers have given noticeably limited attention to a key aspect of the significance of the Resurrection.
Although various aspects of the significance of the Resurrection have received considerable attention, especially its being a key element of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-5), one NT emphasis has not. Four passages, one in each major section of the current topical arrangement in most Bibles today, point to an important truth that should receive much more current attention than it has (John 2; Acts 17; Rom.14; Rev. 1).
John records Jesus’ forceful actions to cleanse the temple when the Jewish Passover was near (John 2:13-22). Seeing people who were defiling the temple through their mercenary activities (2:14), Jesus judged them by expelling them and violently disrupting their activities (2:15). He also judged them by ordering them to remove the offensive elements from the temple and to stop making His Father’s house a “house of merchandise” (2:16).
Seeing His actions, His disciples recalled the Scripture that said, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up” (2:17). By recording both Jesus’ commands to the people and what the disciples remembered, John points his readers to Jesus’ judicial agency on behalf of the Father.
The Jews responded to Jesus by asking Him, “What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (2:18). They thus demanded of Him a sign for His authority to act as a judge on behalf of God to do what He did and say what He said.
Jesus responded, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). He thus informed them that His raising up His body after His death at their hands would be the sign of His judicial agency to cleanse the temple as He had.
In his Gospel, therefore, John records teaching from Jesus Himself that His resurrection would attest to His having been the Father’s Agent of judgment for dealing in this manner with these who had defiled His Father’s house. John adds that following the Resurrection, His disciples remembered what Jesus had said on this occasion and believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had said (2:22). Writing this, John teaches that the disciples believed that the Resurrection signified that Jesus was God’s judicial agent.
Luke’s record of Paul’s evangelistic ministry in Athens reveals teaching from Paul that closely corresponds to Jesus’ own teaching. At the climax of his evangelistic message at the Areopagus, Paul informed his audience of a key evangelistic significance of the Resurrection: By raising Jesus from the dead, God has proven to all men that He has fixed a day in which He will righteously judge the world through the Man whom He has appointed, Jesus (Acts 17:31). Because God has proven this to all men, He commands all men everywhere to repent (17:30).
Recording these statements, Luke attests to the universal significance of the Resurrection as God’s proof to all men that Jesus is His judicial agent. Both John and Luke, therefore, provide teaching about this key significance of the Resurrection.
Paul highlights the significance of the Resurrection for believers’ not judging one another in certain matters over which they differ (Rom. 14). As part of his explanation for why believers are not to judge one another in these areas, he says, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ . . . Let us not therefore judge one another (Rom. 14:9-13).
To instruct us not to judge one another in these matters, Paul makes a key statement about the purpose of both the death and the resurrection of the Messiah—He experienced both so that He might be the Lord both of the dead and the living. The immediately following statements make plain that one of the purposes of the Messiah’s death and resurrection was that He might be the Judge of the living and the dead!
Paul, therefore, joins John and Luke in teaching this key significance of the Resurrection. We thus have explicit teaching about this truth’s significance in the first century for Jews (proof of Jesus’ authority to cleanse the temple – John 2), all men (basis for God’s universal demand that all repent – Acts 17), and believers (stop wrongly judging one another – Rom. 14).
John’s opening teaching in Revelation includes how the glorified Jesus ministered truth to him about His death and resurrection: “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, ‘Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death’” (1:17-18). Jesus comforted John by informing Him about His being alive forevermore though He had been dead. He added that He had the keys of hell and death, which communicated that He had authority over these aspects of God’s judgment of sinners. Juxtaposing these statements, Jesus linked His resurrection with His judicial authority.
Recording this teaching, John informs believers once again about the significance of the Resurrection for Jesus’ judicial agency. With all four sections of the NT setting forth this teaching, we should heed what the Spirit highlights for us.
On this Easter and forevermore, we should make known to everyone that God has proved to them through His raising Jesus that Jesus is the God-appointed Judge of the living and the dead! We should also praise God for proving that truth to all men and heed what else this truth means for us as believers (stop judging one another wrongly – Rom. 14; not fearing – Rev. 1).