Monday, April 9, 2012

6 Reasons it was Impossible for Death to Hold Christ

Acts 2:24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

God the Father raised His Son Jesus from the dead. The Greek word we translate "since" denotes reason. We could easily translate it "because." But why was it impossible for Jesus to be held by the power of death?

Here are 6 reasons from the text of Scripture:

1. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because Jesus exhausts the curse of sin.
Acts 2:24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
The phrase ‘agony of death’ means literally the birthpains of death. Death is horrible. It is the curse for sin. It is the due punishment.

In the Old Testament, the grave was personified as ‘Sheol’. It was described as having cords that would strangle you and caused great distress.
Psalm 116:3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
When God raised Jesus, he put a stop to this.

The Bible says “the wages of sin is death.” The point is that Jesus completely paid the debt and so once the debt was paid he could not be held by the power of the debt.

If we would try to pay off our own debt, we have to suffer eternally in the torment of hell. Why? Because we sinned against God who is infinitely holy and an eternal person. The torment of hell on a sinner who refuses to repent will be forever.

Christ could suffer one time on the cross and pay for our sins. He was only held by death for three days. It was three days in order to show he had really died. But on one cross in a period of six hours or so, he could exhaust God’s wrath for sin.

Why? How could an eternal punishment for sin be exhausted in about six hours? Because of the nature of the person suffering: He was the eternal Son of God.

God the Father raised Jesus up from the death because his wrath for sin was exhausted by the work of Christ as our sin bearer. If Jesus continued to be held by the agony of death it would have been injustice of continuing to suffer when the punishment was exhausted or it would have meant that sin was not fully paid for. Since sin was fully paid for, God the Father raises Jesus up from under the curse.

2. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because in life and on the cross he had offered perfect obedience and trust to His Father.
Acts 2:25 “For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
To say “I saw the Lord” is an expression of trust. While the words were original of David, David is speaking them prophetically. The "I" becomes Jesus in the fulfillment.

You see Jesus did not go to the cross cursing God, or complaining to God. “Oh God why could you let this happen to me.” --that is how we complain--and who are we? We are nobodies, made from dust. Insignificant with no right to challenge God, even Job had to learn he couldn’t challenge God.

But Jesus was the Son of God--and yet He perfectly and fully trusted the Father. He exercises this trust in perfect humanity. This perfect trust and obedience is what every child of Adam has failed to do. Jesus keeps the first commandment trusting God, loving him wholly with all his heart, soul and mind.

In the garden he said “Not my will but yours.” He entrusts himself to the Father's plan.

On the cross he said “into your hands I commit my spirit.” He trusts the Father, setting the Father before himself in perfect obedience.

Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

He was a Son but he went through an experience of ultimate obedience--‘learning’ not in the sense that he lacked knowledge, but learning as in going through the trial.

Because Christ in His humanity offered perfect righteousness in the form of perfect human obedience and trust--God could raise Him. The full obedience of Christ merits the resurrection and makes it impossible for death to hold him.

Death cannot hold Jesus because Jesus acted righteously. Therefore God raises Him up in resurrection and declares: This is My SON! He is vindicated and righteous!

3. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because the Father will not eternally abandon the Son.
Acts 2:25 “For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
While David wrote this Psalm, it is a prophecy about Jesus. Jesus looked forward to always being back in the presence of God.

This is why in John 17:
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him...
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
So on the cross, in all the shame, we see Jesus glorifying the Father. He is winning eternal life for those given to him.

But then He will return into the glorious presence of the Father.

While the Son could be cursed--this curse could not last forever. The future for the Son involved an 'always in God's presence.' So he endures the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him. The Son trusts the Father and trusts that he will once again have the Lord “always in my presence.”

Why will the Son always be in the Father's presence? Because He had this glory from all eternity past--He must be restored to life and restored to this glory. While the Second person of the Trinity can bear the wrath of God and this disruption of fellowship, God the Son cannot be cut off and exiled from the eternal glory he shared with the Father since before the foundation of the Word. God the Son cannot be abandoned eternally to the grave. The Son knows the promise he has: Acts 2:28 “You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’”

While for a point in time the Son came to know the full wrath of God for sins, the hope that the Son looked forward to was the restoration of being made full of the gladness of God's presence.

The gladness could not be a mere disembodied state because of the other promises of God.

4. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because the Father promised to restore Jesus in the flesh to His presence.
Acts 2:26 ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will live in hope;
Psalm 16 is God's Word of prophecy through David. As prophecy it is a promise of God himself about what he will do for his Messiah.

What is the nature of the resurrection body? It is a physical body.

Christ’s body of flesh does not stay in the grave. It is raised up and transformed to have indestructible life. But the hope of the resurrection--Jesus’ hope is “my flesh will live in hope.”

In the physical body Jesus will dwell in God’s presence. The body did not stay in the grave. Jesus came bodily back to life.

So 40 days after the resurrection, Jesus’ physical resurrection body which is corporeal, goes to heaven.

For the first time, a man in human bodily form goes into the very gates of heaven and enters into God’s presence on our behalf.

5. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because God promised that Jesus’ body would not see corruption.
Acts 2:27 Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. 28 ‘You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’

The phrase 'abandon my soul to Hades' should not be understood as Jesus descending into hell. Rather it is the idea of Christ’s life being under Sheol or the grave’s power.

Jesus cannot stay dead because God the Father cannot abandon God the Son. The power of God the Father cannot leave God the Son under the power of the grave.

Jesus needed to have a resurrection of His body because God promised to David that the Messiah’s body would not see corruption. It does not take very long for the body to begin to decay. Being in the grave for three days, Jesus' body was clearly dead but the decay and corruption of the body in the grave did not have time to set in.

So Jesus’ resurrection body had to be his old body made alive again because if his old body was in the grave it would go through decay and turn into dust.

Making known the ways of life doesn’t mean simply the soul goes to heaven--rather it means that Jesus walked around in a body that could be touched and could eat. It has physical form.

It means the tomb was empty and if the tomb wasn’t really empty and Jesus really didn’t come back to life all Christians are liars and God did not keep his word.

6. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because the Father had made an oath to King David.
Acts 2:29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 “And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.

How do we know this is Psalm is prophecy? Because David’s body did see decay. His body still was in the grave. The cords of Sheol still entangled His physical body.

The oath God made appears in the David Covenant in 2 Samuel 7 but is reflected on throughout the Old Testament. In Acts here, Peter is alluding to Psalm 132:11--
Psalm 132:11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. 
Jesus had to be raised bodily from the dead so that as he is set on the throne he could rule in the body. His body, according to its human lineage had to be from the line of David. It had to be a new creation form of the same original body that was conceived in the virgin Mary. It had to be this same body, albeit transformed into indestructible life, so that David's seed [e.g. offspring/descendant] would be the one ruling.

God was keeping His oath to David.

While I believe when David died, he went into God’s presence in heaven, he was not in God’s presence in the flesh. He was still awaiting a future resurrection. But David trusted that would but one of David’s descendants on the throne. And God does this in Jesus.

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