IMPERATIVES OF THE EMPTY TOMB
by Wayne S. Walker
As we consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we see that the empty tomb is more than just a fact of history. It is an even about which and upon the basis of which each person must reach conclusions and make decisions. The Bible affirms that there was an empty tomb (Mark 16:1-7). What does the empty tomb mean? What does it tell us? Here are some imperatives of the empty tomb.
The first is that Jesus is risen. Why do we believe that George Washington was the first President of the United States? No one alive today was around at that time, yet we accept it as a fact because of incontrovertible eyewitness testimony in historical records. Likewise, we have substantial testimony in scripture that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. A couple of angels said so (Matthew 28:5-6). Mary Magdalene was the first to see Him alive and reported it (John 20:11-18). Several other women also saw Him after His resurrection and told their story (Luke 24:9-11). Two disciples met Him on the road to Emmaus later that same day and ran back to Jerusalem to share their news (Luke 24:33-43). That evening He appeared to the ten apostles (John 20:10-15).
A week later he appeared to the apostles again, this time with Thomas, who had been absent before and doubted, present (John 20:26-28). On one occasion He appeared to over five hundred people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). And one of the greatest opponents of Christ’s way, Saul of Tarsus, saw Him on the road to Damascus and became a believer as a result (1 Corinthians 15:8-11). One might choose to challenge the integrity of these witnesses, and we shall look at that idea in a future article. But there can be no doubt that there is sufficient testimony to establish at least that something dramatic happened which caused all of these witnesses to give their testimony.
The second imperative of the empty tomb is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Peter had made such a confession based on the evidence that he had even before the resurrection (Matthew 16:13-16). However, since we were not alive then, John tells us concerning the miracles of Christ that "these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31). These miracles of Christ surely include His resurrection. In fact, Paul affirms that Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).
The third imperative of the empty tomb is that the word of Jesus is true. He said that He would be raised from the dead (Matthew 16:21). And He was! After His resurrection, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to His apostles (John 15:26, 16:7). This promise was made by His authority as the So nof God, which fact, as we have seen, was declared by His resurrection. The Spirit revealed His word to the apostles and prophets who recorded it for us as the New Testament scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:12-13, Ephesians 3:3-5, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Thus, the scriptures teach that because of Jesus’s resurrection, we can trust Him and His word for salvation (Romans 5:10-11).
The fourth imperative of the empty tomb is that Jesus is the Head of the church. Following His resurrection, He claimed to have all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul affirms that it was when God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places that He gave Him to be head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:20-23). The fact that Jesus is the Head of the body, the church, is directly connected to the fact that He is the firstborn from the dead, which means that He was the first to be raised from the dead never to die again (Colossians 1:18).
The fifth and final imperative of the empty tomb is that there will be another resurrection. When Jesus ascended into heaven following His resurrection, two angels promised that He would return (Acts 1:11). When He comes back, all will be raised and judged (John 5:28-29, Acts 17:30-31). Of course, at that time the wicked will be punished and the righteous rewarded (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, 1 Peter 1:3-5). And our hope for this future resurrection from the dead is based on the resurrection of Christ from the dead. "But if the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:11). This is what the resurrection of Christ and the resultant empty tomb mean, or should mean, to the Christian. (—taken from With All Boldness; Aug., 2001; Vol. 11, No. 8; p. 19)