On this past Resurrection Sunday, I had the privilege to speak to Grace Bible Fellowship in Menomenee Falls, Wisconsin. What you will see below is a written version of the message that I gave to the saints gathered together there.
John 11:1, 5, 11, 18 – 27 — “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
“These things said He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
“Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
Let’s begin by looking at the despair and disappointment that characterized Martha at this time. There was a glimmer of faith, but a real sense of disappointment about the matter:
“Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”
If we go back to verse 6 in our text, we find that the emergency of the Lord’s friends was not His emergency: “He abode two days still in the place where He was.”
Can you not hear they despair and disappointment in Martha’s statement?
“Why Lord, did you not hurry here to save him! You failed us Lord! We trusted you and you failed us! I trusted you, and you failed me!”
We can hear this same disappointment from those walking on the road to Emmaus:
Luke 24:21 — “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel”
To Martha, all hope was lost, because the Lord did not come through for her as she expected, and it seems that she knows He could have. We do still see a small glimmer of faith in verse 22:
“But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.”
We can almost hear a sense of Martha asking the Lord to redeem Himself for this seeming failure to act quick enough. We can hear her demand that He redeem Himself for not being there when she needed Him the most. But we do know, from John 5, that He did not have to be there physically in person to keep Lazarus alive:
John 4:46 – 54 — “So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto Him, and besought Him that He would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
“The nobleman saith unto Him, Sir, come down ere my child die.
“Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.
“Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.
“This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when He was come out of Judaea into Galilee.”
The Lord could have just said the word and Lazarus would have been made perfectly well, even if light years away. His presence or absence was not the issue.
The Lord’s answer to Martha — He knew her thoughts — was so characteristic of Him. He spoke to her an absolute fact. But it was better than absolute fact: He spoke to her truth.
Now what was her thoughts and emotions at this time? Was she angry? Was she disappointed? Both?
His answer was not one to plead to her to change her mind, but a truth for her to believe:
“Thy brother shall rise again.”
We know the rest of the story. We know how it ended. He said that Lazarus would rise again. When would that happen? We know the story: it would happen in a few minutes. What did Martha hear?
“I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Martha had what we would call an “eschatological” hope. Give her credit, she knew her Bible. She knew her Bible facts better than many Christians today know. She probably knew and had heard something from one of these Scriptures:
Daniel 12:1 – 3 — “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”
Job 19:25 – 27 — “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after 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 not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
To give Martha some credit here, she had a “correct eschatology”. But these were far off events, or so she thought, and this was not what she needed. “I don’t need your eschatology class, Lord, I want my brother back. I wanted for my brother to not have died. You failed us Lord, and this is not comforting!”
Martha’s “correct eschatology” was not helping. Why? It did not help because it was only that. She knew the right doctrine about “end times”, but it did not drive her thoughts toward the true hope of the “end times”. The Lord had spoken previously about the resurrection, as a fact, and a real coming hope that was fully dependent on Him:
John 5:24 – 29 — “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
Martha’s correct view of “end times” (she had a “pre-millennial eschatology”) needed the truth to hold it together, and our wonderful Lord gave her that very truth that should drive our “end times” view:
“I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE”
“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). We study these things because they are about Him. He is held out as our hope.
The Lord explained a fact of utmost importance to Martha at this moment. The resurrection is not tied up in a far off, future event. The resurrection is in Him. He is the resurrection. When we are waiting for the resurrection, we are waiting for HIM.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:10, the “church of the Thessalonians” was praised that they learned to “wait for His Son from heaven.”
In Martha’s case, the Son from Heaven was right in front of her. Israel’s hope, the resurrection of the dead, was right in front of her!
Acts 28:20 — “…because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”
Paul’s defense before Israel throughout Acts always began with the subject of the resurrection of the dead:
Acts 23:6 — “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.”
Acts 24:14 – 21 — “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
“Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.”
Acts 26:4 – 8 — “My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”
Acts 26:22 – 23 — “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”
As an aside, some of these verses have been used and continue to be used to take people in two directions. One way is toward refusing that there is any “Pauline distinctive” revelation, and the other is toward the “Acts 28” position. If we believe our Bibles, we know that the Lord gave Paul a distinct revelation. Romans 16:25 – 27, Galatians 1:11 – 12, Ephesians 3:1 – 12, and Colossians 1:23 – 27 all make this fact plain. That is enough (there is more, but this is sufficient) to answer those who speak to the effect of “no distinctive Pauline revelation”.
For those who have went to the “Acts 28” position, the one thing to keep in mind is that “Paul’s gospel” did not come from nowhere. It did contain the “mystery truth” that was never before revealed until the Lord gave it to him to reveal, but it was built on the “gospel of God” that Paul was separated unto:
Romans 1:1 – 4 — “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead…”
2 Timothy 2:8 — “Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.”
How can Jesus Christ be raised from the dead?
Because He IS the resurrection and the life! In Him was life!
The hope of Israel — the resurrection of the dead — was not tied up in a “future eschatological event”, as theologians like to speak of these things, but IN HIM.
That is why we are not looking for an event. We are looking for the Lord!
Yes, according to Titus chapter 2, we are to “live … looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ”, but that is just the point — we are looking for Him!
Just as the Thessalonians were waiting for His Son from heaven, so He is our hope. We are to live looking for HIS appearing. Over 100 years ago, a certain writer had this to say concerning the way that many Christians think concerning our hope:
And as to hope; well, the majority of Christians are waiting for many things which God has not given as objects of hope; while the one thing which He has definitely given as the object they not only are not waiting for themselves, but condemn those who are!
Some are waiting for death, which is not an object of hope, for people die without waiting for it.
Some are waiting for an outpouring of the Spirit of God, and not for the Son of God.
Some are waiting for the world to be converted, and not for it to be judged by the Son of Man at His coming.
Some are waiting for the return of God’s ancient People to their land, instead of the return of God’s Son to this world.
Some are waiting for the revelation of Antichrist, instead of the revelation of Christ.
While others tell us that the Lord’s coming was fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem, in spite of the fact here stated that these saints at Thessalonica were not waiting for Titus to come with his armies from Rome, but for God’s Son to come with His holy angels from heaven.
Some are content with Christ crucified; and, though knowing and rejoicing in the benefits of His death and passion, are ignorant of the truths connected with a Risen Christ, and our new resurrection life and walk in Him.
Still more ignorant are the great mass of Christians as to His coming again, and the fact that this is the great and “blessed hope” which is the portion of all who are in Christ.
So great and general is the ignorance that, when professing Christians boldly avow that they “take no interest in the coming of Christ,” they do not even know enough to see that they are exposing their ignorance as to their very standing, which God has given His people in Christ.
Even now, some look for “blood moons” which just so happen to fall on Israel’s feast days as “signs of the end”. We are not looking for “blood moons”. We are looking for the Lord!
Today, the world that calls itself “Christian” celebrates Easter, the day of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we do realize the paganization of this celebration, but what are we celebrating?
We are celebrating Jesus Christ, our hope!
HE has conquered death!
The “Easter” greeting: “He is risen — He is risen indeed” is not just a greeting! He, as risen, ascended, and glorified … and yet returning to catch us away to be with Him. This is our hope in this hopeless world! He is risen, and when Christ, Who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory! (Colossians 3:4).
Christ IS the resurrection and the life. This is the highest truth for every dispensation!
And what does this mean for us as we live…looking?
Romans 6:1 – 14 — “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, he died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
Look at verse 11 here:
“reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Look at Romans 8:11:
Romans 8:11 — “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
“quickened mortal bodies” speaks of a resurrection that is now!
“Attaining to the resurrection of the dead” as the apostle speaks of in Philippians 3:11 is a “now” proposition. We can, and are told, to walk in newness of life. Now!
How? Because Christ is the resurrection and the life, and we are IN HIM! What did we just read in Romans?
“that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection…”
Colossians 2:9 – 14 — “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power: In Whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, Who hath raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross;”
Complete in Him — the fact is that we, as believers in our Lord Jesus, are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, Who hath raised Him from the dead.
We also can look forward to a resurrection that is not a part of prophecy. Some might say that it is impossible for there to be a resurrection that is before the resurrection in Revelation 20:1 – 6 because that is the first resurrection, but that is simply not true. It is the first of two resurrections in that chapter. There already was a resurrection that preceded this, and we know of a future resurrection that will still precede this.
“Behold I show you a mystery”
“I would not have you to be ignorant”
Martha also did not think it possible for there to be a resurrection before the “resurrection of the just” or the first resurrection in Revelation 20. Remember that she said “I know that he will rise again the resurrection at the last day”?
But our Lord answered this correct, but faithless statement with that which is our real hope:
“I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE”
Now He said this to her before His resurrection. We live in the truth of the established fact of His resurrection. The gospel by which we are saved is this:
“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. And that He was buried, and that He rose again according to the scriptures.”
But our faith would be vain if He did not rise from the dead. He could not continue to be the resurrection and the life if He did not rise from the dead. The truth of His resurrection is that by which we can believe in accomplished redemption.
In believing in this accomplished redemption, we can be those that live “by faith”.
“The just shall live by faith”
The “war cry” of the Protestant reformation is instruction in how to live during the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Our greatest faith should be in the fact Christ shall return!
We live by taking God at His word. His word says that we are rised with Him by the faith of the operation of God. We live according to that truth. Our hope IS CHRIST. We live by faith IN HIM. If we have believed in the gospel that Christ died for our sins and rose again, we have been put in Him by the Spirit. Our identity is IN CHRIST.
Colossians 3:1 – 4 — “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”
Let us, this Resurrection Day, and all of our days, live as those who “love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
 Bullinger, Ethelburt W. “1 Thessalonians. Introductory.” The Church Epistles: Romans to Thessalonians, Cosimo, Inc, 2007, pp. 183 – 184.
I have really enjoyed this work by Bullinger, although he is often considered the “father” of the “Acts 28” dispensationalism that I have voiced disagreement with. He also does not seem clear in his distinctions in this quote regarding the “second coming of Christ” to earth and His coming in the air to catch away the saints. That aside, what he has to say here is profound, in my opinion.
 Incidentally, it should not shock anyone that “blood moons” or really, lunar eclipses, should happen on Israel’s feast days (Tabernacles, Passover). A lunar eclipse can happen only during a full moon, and a full moon is always on the 14th or 15th day of a (lunar) month. Sometimes we can think of these things and think it great that these things are discussed, but when they come and go, the faith of some is destroyed, and scoffers have yet more reason to scoff. So let us not get caught up in this “astronomy” or “astrology”, but look to the word to guide us in what to look for. We are looking for the Lord!