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By Dr. Nelson S. Perdue
Calvary was the watershed of the divine plan of salvation. The crucifixion was the fulfillment at a point in time of a divine purpose determined in the counsel chambers of eternity before the creation of the world. It was there that the Triune Godhead determined that Jesus would be the sacrificial Lamb for the salvation of man. Long before creation, Jesus pledged Himself to the ignominy of the cross. Peter tells us that He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” to be the sacrificial Lamb. (I Peter 1:19-20) John in Revelation 13:8 says that Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” God anticipated the fall of man in the garden before it ever occurred and made provisions for his redemption and restoration.
Every animal that was sacrificed on Jewish altars was sacrificed in anticipation of the cross. They were only a type pointing to the real. The altars that reeked with blood for 4000 years were leading to the altar of the cross erected on Golgotha. There the final and only sufficient sacrifice would be offered. As Oswald Chambers said, “The cross did not happen to Him, He came on purpose for it.” He was facing the cross throughout His entire life in this world. Isaiah prophesied His gruesome death 700 years before Jesus came into this world. When the time of fulfillment came they did not take His life; He voluntarily gave His life a ransom for all. The cross was a deliberate goal of His whole earthly life. It was not the nails that held Him on the cross, it was man’s sin. “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
However, His death and burial was not the end of the story. Early in the morning on the first day of the week, those who came to the sepulcher found the stone rolled away. “The angel answered…I know that you seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said” (Matt. 28:5-6). The long journey that led Him to the cross did not end there. He was not only “delivered for our offenses” but He also was “raised again for our justification.” Easter day followed Good Friday as morning follows night. One stated that “if Jesus had not risen from the dead God would have done something.” How foolish, such a statement, in light of scripture that tells us “If Christ be not raised then is our faith vain.” He is risen and He lives today.
H. E. Schmul writes: “The promise of a resurrection is based upon the unimpeachable character of God, the impregnable rock of His unfailing word, and the immutability of His timeless purpose.” If Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead not only is our faith vain but the glad hope of immortality is only a dream. One cannot imagine the despair a husband or wife would suffer as they would give their companion the final kiss in this world; or as a parent who would lay their child in the cold earth. The hope of immortality and a reuniting is the only thing that sustains us as the clods of dirt are shoveled on an open grave. Thank God for the promise “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth on me though he were dead yet shall he live.”
The greatest miracle of all history was wrought in His resurrection. “He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:4) His body under went a strange and mysterious change; it became a spiritual, resurrected body. He never lost His identity as He was seen and recognized by over 500 people in His post resurrection appearances. He had robbed the grave of its victory and removed the sting from death, and brought life and immortality to light by His own glorious resurrection. The empty tomb is prophetic of the time when all tombs shall be emptied. He is the firstfruits of them that slept, He will be followed by a mighty host, “for we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.”(I Thes. 4:14)
The message of the cross is the hope of our redemption and supreme evidence of the love of God for fallen man. It is the basis for our forgiveness and cleansing. But we must not leave it standing “on a hill far away.” It is more than an historical event it must become an experience in our hearts. While it is true that He alone could bear the sin of the world and He alone could provide reconciliation to God through the blood of His cross. The hymn writer said, “there is a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me.” We must, as Paul did in fact and by faith, “be crucified with Him.” We must experience the crucifixion of our own self-centeredness and be identified with Christ. “Whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14: 27) There is a further promise that “if we be planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5) We not only can know Him and the power of His resurrection in this life but we can know the bodily resurrection in the life to come. God’s eternal purpose in the death and resurrection of Christ was to establish a new headship for the human race, deliver us from all sin, and reinstate our broken relationship. Then one day when we have finished our race on earth, death will not be able to keep its prey. This corruption will put on incorruption and this mortal will put on immortality and we will ever be with our Lord. Hallelujah!
May our testimony be as Haldor Lillenas penned in his poem.
“When the lengthy tale of time at last is told,
When the burning suns have faded and grown cold.
Thou my body sleeps beneath the rain swept sod,
I shall still be singing on the hills of God.”