The Resurrecton: A Truth Worth Remembering

On Sunday, April 5, 2015, we will celebrate once again the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Throughout America there will be sunrise services, Easter breakfasts, dramatic re-enactments, magnificent choirs and thousands of messages proclaiming the importance of one of the most significant events in all of world history, Jesus Christ raised from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures. Yet for many that message, and its varied applications, will be forgotten by the end of the day and it will be back to the normal routine on Monday morning. Resurrection Sunday will be but a distant memory.

Pastors and longtime church members will identify with the truthfulness of these remarks, as they have lived them many times.  But the obvious question is why does this happen? How is it that people can hear the Good News of the Gospel and remain indifferent or reject outright Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? 

It has been suggested that to know God as He truly is, is to love Him. In other words, it is impossible to know God accurately and completely and not love Him. In a like way, I believe people reject Jesus, and His claims upon their lives, because they do not really know Him.. Their understanding of Jesus is distorted and/or incomplete. I would add to that they do not fully appreciate their own condition, as fully incapable of meeting God’s standard for righteousness, and the consequences of their refusal to believe in a personal devil and a literal hell. Only when we know God as He truly is, understand our true condition apart from Him and acknowledge the results of our choices can we make good decisions.

In a classic "Twilight Zone" episode from 1960, an American on a walking trip through central Europe gets caught in a raging storm. Staggering through the blinding rain, he chances upon an imposing medieval castle. It is a hermitage for a brotherhood of monks. The reclusive monks reluctantly take him in.

Later that night, the American discovers a cell with a man locked inside. An ancient wooden staff bolts the door. The prisoner claims he is being held captive by the "insane" head monk, Brother Jerome. He pleads for the American to release him. The prisoner's kindly face and gentle voice win him over. The American confronts Brother Jerome, who declares that the prisoner is actually none other than Satan, "the father of lies," held captive by the Staff of Truth, the one barrier he cannot pass.

This incredible claim convinces the American that Jerome is indeed mad. As soon as he gets the chance, he releases the prisoner—who immediately transforms into a hideous, horned demon and vanishes in a puff of smoke! The stunned American is horrified at the realization of what he has done. Jerome responds sympathetically. "I'm sorry for you, my son. All your life you will remember this night and whom you have turned loose upon the world." "I didn't believe you," the American replies. "I saw him and didn't recognize him"—to which Jerome solemnly observes, "That is man's weakness…and Satan's strength." (Kevin Stump, The Plain Truth, (Mar/Apr 2001)

Hitchcock’s dramatization of the American’s encounter with the devil is just one of thousands of representations that have left the undiscerning American confused and reluctant to take seriously any discussion of a personal devil. Yet, there is as breadth of life experience that validates the Bible’s teaching on the existence of hell and the torment that awaits those who go there.

In his book, To Hell and Back, Maurice Rawlings M.D., writes of his experience as a cardiologist at the University of Tennessee. In the course of their emergency room work, Dr. Rawlings and his colleagues interviewed more than 300 people who claimed near-death experiences. What made Rawlings' study distinct is that the interviews were not conducted months or years later but immediately after the experiences had allegedly occurred—while the patients were still too shaken up in the immediacy of the moment to gloss over or to re-imagine what they had experienced.

Nearly 50 percent of them reported encountering images of fire, of tormented and tormenting creatures, and other sights hailing from a place very different from heaven. In follow-up interviews much later many of these same people had changed their stories, apparently unwilling to admit to their families, maybe even to themselves, that they had caught a glimpse of something like what the Bible calls hell. Dr. Rawlings concludes, "Just listening to these patients has changed my life. There is a life after death, and if I don't know where I'm going, it is not safe to die.” (Daniel Meyer, Preaching Today)

Healthy people may think that it is nice that there is a cure for cancer but those that have cancer want all the details about the cure, including where to sign up for treatment. For most Americans the resurrection of Jesus is a nice bit of information but of little personal interest because they are unaware of their spiritual cancer and its consequences. We would do well this Easter Sunday to remind people of their true spiritual condition apart from Jesus, and the fate that awaits those who remain indifferent to the Gospel, before we proclaim the glory of the Resurrection. In doing so the Resurrection of Jesus will become a truth worth remembering every day of the year.