Many people claim they died and went to heaven and then returned to planet earth. That might be their story but it carries no authenticity from the Bible. The first clue we have that their claim is dubious is because of the passage we have in Luke 16 about the rich man’s death and him going to hell and the poor beggar dying and going to heaven. By implication, Jesus teaches that no one can go to hell and then to heaven, go to heaven and visit hell, go to either heaven or hell and then return to earth. The Bible teaches that death is final, thereafter the individual’s soul resides in either heaven or hell depending upon whether they surrendered to God’s rescue plan or not. Throughout the history of the Bible … Genesis to Revelation, very few people who died were raised to life. Nothing is said about them going to heaven whilst dead. I am going to list these people and you are welcome to research the text yourself.
(1) Elijah the prophet raised the son of the widow of Zarephath who had died. (1 Kings 17:17-24).
(2) Elisha the prophet raised the Shunammite woman’s son from the dead. (2 Kings 4:18-37).
(3) After Elisha had died and was buried. Grave diggers were burying another man when Moabite raiders came along. Rather than face these raiders they threw the dead body into Elisha’s grave. As soon as the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up. (2 Kings 13:20-21).
(4) Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. (Luke 8:40-56)
(5) Jesus raised Lazarus of Bethany from the dead. (John 11:1-44).
(6) Various saints experience a mass resurrection when Jesus died. They exited their tombs and entered the city once Jesus rose from the dead. (Matthew 27:50-53).
(7) The apostle Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. (Acts 9:36-43).
(8) Paul raised Eutychus of Troas from the dead. (Acts 20:7-12). None of these people lived forever once raised to life. They all died again. The Creed now says … “The third day He rose from the dead”. Jesus’ resurrection is the most important fact in the whole rescue plan of God. If He did not return to life, His incarnation and death would be useless. These need the resurrection to hold the Gospel message together.
1) Isaiah prophesied Messiah’s resurrection. God, speaking through Isaiah in language we are able to understand, says:
Isa 53:10 Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
2) Jesus predicted His resurrection.
Jn 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
3) Jesus’ resurrection fulfilled. Matthew and Luke have their accounts of the resurrection as does John. He tells us that early on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene visited the tomb and found the huge stone that was rolled in front of the tomb’s opening, moved away and the entrance was open. She ran off to tell Peter and John, and told them that the Body of Jesus was removed from the tomb. These two ran off towards the tomb. John arrived first and saw only the linen, not the body (John 20:1-8). Yet verse 9 says
Jn 20:9 They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
The tomb was empty, but where was the body? Verse 9 is startling but then would we have reasoned differently? The two disciples returned home whilst Mary remained at the tomb crying. There she sees two angels in white, sitting where Jesus had laid. A conversation started, but soon another person stood there. She thought this was the gardener. It was the Risen Jesus … (John 20:10-17). Once Jesus departed:
Jn 20:18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
She was an eye witness that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus showed Himself to the disciples and many others over a period of time.
4) What does Jesus’ resurrection mean? There are a number of things to consider …
(1) The significance of the Passover Festival being held in Jerusalem. The Passover was a festival God required for the people to remember Israel’s deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. Every year they celebrated. Many were very religious, yet for most this was just another ritual. God was bringing the Levitical Priesthood and their animal sacrifices to an end. Read the first three chapters of Malachi as see how the “religion’ had decayed and how God’s anger rejected the people. The Gospel was God’s rescue plan to replace the Levitical Priesthood and the sacrificial system. You need to get this … it’s was Passover time. This is why the crosses needed to be cleared before sunset, the time the Sabbath started … and this Sabbath was celebrating the Passover. Jesus died the day before the Passover and rose on the third day, the day after the Passover. Jesus passed over the Passover making it null and void. He rose on the first day of the week instituting a new day of worship. The principle of the Sabbath Day remains, but now it is the Lord’s Day in honor of Jesus’ victory over the enemy (satan, world, flesh, sin) setting believing mankind free from the bondage of satan. There is much to consider still, yet for now, “He arose, He arose, hallelujah … He arose”. Have you ever thought what Christianity would be like without Jesus’ resurrection from the dead?
O God, our Father, Thank You for the way You have shaped the Gospel sequences. Thank You that Jesus’ resurrection was substitutional just like His death. Thank You for our spiritual resurrection being born again. Thank You for victory in Jesus. Amen.