April 3, 2015

Sunday’s Coming: The Resurrection and Unbelievers

by Mike Riccardi

Sundays ComingOver the last three days, as we look forward to Resurrection Sunday, we have been considering the biblical and theological implications of the resurrection of Christ. On Tuesday, we examined the significance of the resurrection as it relates to the person of Christ. On Wednesday and Thursday, we took a look at eight implications the resurrection of Christ has for believers in Him. Because of the resurrection, the believer enjoys the blessing of regeneration and deliverance from the fear and slavery of death; the resurrection is the foundation of justifying grace, the guarantee of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the present intercessory ministry of Christ, the ground of our sanctification, power for holiness and for ministry, and the guarantee of the promise of a resurrection body of our own, free from sin and decay.

But this morning I want to ask: what does the bodily resurrection of Christ say to the unbeliever? What is the significance of the resurrection for those of you who remain outside of Christ? Whether you’re an atheist or agnostic; Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion; or even if you call yourself a Christian but have a mere outward attachment to Christ—you would regularly attend church, and even read the Bible and listen to sermons—but you have no vital union to Christ, no living relationship, and you still cling to your sin and aim to be lord of your life. What is the significance of the resurrection for you?

The Proof of Judgment

In the first place, the resurrection is the proof and guarantee of God’s coming judgment.

Acts 17:30–31: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere [must] repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

The empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathea stands throughout the ages as the sure guarantee and reminder of the coming Day of Judgment. And you, dear reader, are going to be there. And Christ your Judge is going to be there.

Only God Can Judge MeThese days you see people walking around with shirts and hats and some even with tattoos that say the most ridiculous thing: “Only God can judge me!” Do you ever see that? As if to say, “You don’t dare pass judgment on me or my sinful lifestyle! Only God can judge me!” I can’t for the life of me figure out why in the world that is a comforting thought to them.

My friend, God will judge you. He has fixed a day when He will judge the whole world! And His standard will be righteousness, measured not by how good you’ve been in comparison to other people around you. No, He will judge all the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed. The standard of righteousness by which you will be judged is the standard of Christ’s righteousness. Of perfect righteousness.

And when you stand before Him to answer for your life, what are you going to present before Him? Painted eggs and a stuffed bunny? The filthy rags of your own so-called “good works,” mixed with the filthiness of unrepentant sin? My friend, you have no hope if you are trusting in yourself to avail with God in the Day of Judgment! The only hope for the forgiveness of sins and for reconciliation with the Father on the Day of Judgment is to be clothed in the perfect righteousness of the risen Lord Jesus Christ—to have the perfectly righteous life of Jesus Christ counted to be yours, because your filthy life of sin and shame has been counted to be His on the cross.

And both of those “countings” or “reckonings” happen through repentance and faith alone. That’s why the text says that God is now declaring that all must repent. If you remain a stranger to the grace of God, I call you to turn from your sin, and lay hold of Christ on this Good Friday.

The Ground of Gospel Mercy

Because that same empty tomb that is God’s pledge of certain judgment, is also the empty tomb that is the solid ground for the offer of Gospel mercy.

  • Romans 10:9 – “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  • Acts 5:30–31 – “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance…and forgiveness of sins.”
  • Acts 13:38 – Because Christ did not undergo decay, but was raised from the dead: “Therefore let it be known to you that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, things from which you could not be freed through the Law.”

The resurrection is God’s vindication of Christ. It is the proof that what He accomplished in His life and death had been accepted as a full payment of sin—that all of the Father’s righteous wrath has been satisfied! The resurrection is God’s receipt that full payment has been made—that all that is necessary for your salvation has been accomplished by Christ! It only falls to you to abandon your hope of entering eternal life on your own merits. Receive the resurrection life of Jesus Christ by trusting in Him alone.

John 11;25-26

What Jesus said to Martha on the day He raised her brother from the dead, He says to you today: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Do you believe this?

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • John Azar

    Excellent work Mike, I thank God for you & your ministry.

    • Thanks brother. I’m glad this ministered to you. I’ll see you tomorrow when we celebrate the resurrection together!

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  • 4Commencefiring4

    You asked a good question (What does it mean to the unbeliever?), and I can recall–many years ago–my answer to something similar before I was saved. When asked by my then-girlfriend the more general question of who I thought Jesus was, my answer was rather dismissive (and I’m sure insulting to her):

    I said (approximately) that I believed that Jesus was probably a real person, and that he came on the scene and did some amazing things for awhile, and then went away. But as to who he really was, or where he came from, I didn’t know. And frankly (my dear), I didn’t much care.

    Now, shall we have pizza tonight–again? And that was it. (And no, we didn’t ever marry. Lucky for us both).

    So what does it mean? For some, an interesting glitch of history that will never be explained; for others, a kind of supra-myth, and others a fairy tale for fools. And for believers, the proof of heaven and eternity itself.

    • I understand the point you’re making, but you’re answering a different question than I asked.

      When I ask the question, “What is the significance of the resurrection for the unbeliever?” I’m not asking the unbeliever what he thinks the resurrection means, subjectively, for him. I’m asking what the resurrection means for him, objectively — not “according to him,” subjectively.

      In that sense, then, the resurrection is the proof of heaven (and hell) and eternity itself for all people, whether they embrace that reality or choose to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

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  • Jason

    Very good write up. The resurrection is fantastic for believers, but we’re not the only ones being brought to stand before Christ for inspection.

    An interesting observation I had back while pondering the “problem of evil” is that God actually promises the very perfect world unbelievers say would exist if God were who He claims to be (Revelation 21:4).

    It’s a good way to bring the problem of evil argument right back around to the gospel. God not only COULD make a perfect world free from pain, He will do exactly that. However, to do that, He will have to remove the cause of the suffering. The reason we’re all stuck waiting is because He’s patient (2 Peter 3:9) and you can’t live in a perfect world without first having the lake of fire.

    The whole problem of evil is actually just people being upset that God is patient with them…