A delay

Dear readers of Gems for Living,

I had knee replacement surgery last Tuesday, and this is the first time at my computer since then. I don’t know how long I can be here at one time, due to pain. Please keep me in prayer, and be patient for a week or so while I recuperate. I don’t know when the next Gem will be published, but I will return to my regular schedule as soon as I can.

In our Lord Jesus Christ,

Chip Norton

The Stolen Duck!

Ephesians 4:29-32

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It happened 39 years ago, when I was pastoring my third church, near Scranton, Pennsylvania. I preached a sermon that I called, A Portable Altar, based on the Exodus 27 description of the altar of burnt offering. It was a fairly large altar, about eight feet square and made of bronze. It was made in two pieces, the inner bronze grating had four metal rings protruding from the four corners through the bronze outer layer. Those rings were for two strong poles slipped through the rings so the whole altar could be carried by four to eight strong men! It had to be portable because the Israelites were on the move. They left Egypt and wandered for forty years in the Sinai desert – most of that trek because they had grievously sinned against God!

The main point of the sermon was that we can ‘construct’ an altar of offering at any time and anywhere! It is when we are engaged in something for God’s glory! It can be anything that is done with Him in mind – an offering to the Lord! I preached that sermon on May 1st, 1983. I’m sure of the date because I still have all my sermon notes in my four file cabinets. Here is where you might be placing your portable altar:

  • We might be sharing some encouraging Bible verses with a friend….That’s an offering to God on an invisible, but portable altar!
  • It’s when we bring a meal to a shut-in….That’s an offering to God on our portable altar!
  • If we serve with dedication as a deacon or teaching a children’s Sunday school class….That’s an offering to God on our portable altar!
  • If we pass an accident on the highway and feel led to pray for those involved….That’s an offering to God on our portable altar!
  • When we feel led to give extra to a visiting missionary for his or her ministry….That’s an offering to God on our portable altar!
        You get the idea!

In the middle of my sermon that day, I departed from my notes when I said, “There is a duck on the back porch of the parsonage next door!” Well, that got people’s attention! Here is the story about the duck…

The evening before, April 30th, my wife Hope and I decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful Spring evening just before the sun went down, and we drove over to McDade Park to walk the park paths. At the entrance a young couple, who were the park caretakers, were just getting ready to close the park for the night. We asked if we could walk for a bit on the trails. They graciously said, “Go ahead, we still have about half an hour of work before we leave. So off we went, hand-in-hand, strolling into the park!

We came to a pond where there were several ducks swimming or waddling on the grassy bank. They were of a dark color – wild ducks, I surmised. All of a sudden, a white duck (much like the one in the photo above) waddled right up to us, quacking away! It wouldn’t leave us alone! We would try to walk away, but it would waddle/run after us, still quacking!

We finally ‘escaped’ and went back to the gatehouse where the young couple were still at work. We told them of our experience with the white duck. Concerned, they said, “That duck was someone’s pet. It was dropped off here two days ago. But it won’t survive. The other ducks won’t accept it, and it will soon die.” I offered a solution. “I have a friend who has pet ducks. That friendly quacker will fit right in! Do you mind if I run back and get him?They were happy to accept my offer! So I trotted back, picked up the willing duck, and made it to the park gate just as the caretakers said they had to leave.

But here is where the portable altar comes in! Hope stayed with the couple at the gate while I went on my ‘duck-fetching’ operation! In the ten to fifteen minutes it took me to rescue the duck, Hope had the opportunity to share Jesus Christ with this young couple…who were not Christians, but open to Hope’s witness! Herportable altarwas erected right at that McDade Park gate!

That was the point of my impromptu sermon illustration!…………….However, things can go astray!

I was talking to Glenn, one of my parishioners, a couple of days later. He told me, “What were you preaching last Sunday? I wasn’t there, but I heard something you supposedly said that just didn’t sound right!

I asked him, “What did you hear, Glenn?

…that you broke into McDade Park after it was closed…..and stole a duck!” was his reply!

I was shocked! And I set the record straight in quick order! I had no idea who said this, and I really didn’t need to know. But I corrected the lie from the pulpit the next Sunday.

Now here is where the featured Scripture comes in, Ephesians 4:29-32:

     Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but 
     what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart 
     grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of 
     God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let 
     all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be 
     put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one anoth-
     er, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in 
     Christ also forgave you. 

There are several other Scriptures concerning gossip in the Bible. Some of them are here reproduced (these passages are from the English Standard Bible):

  • Exodus 23:1 – “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.
  • Leviticus 19:16 – “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
  • Psalm 15:1-3 – “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor….
  • Psalm 34:13 – “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
  • Proverbs 6:16-19 – “…the Lord hates…a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
  • II Corinthians 12:20 – Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “…I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish…that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
  • II Timothy 2:16 – “…avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness….
        You get the idea......

Or do you get the idea?
Make sure you have your story straight!
You can do irreparable harm!

The Same Way – A Different Way! Ezekiel 46:8-10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I was reading again the description of the Millennial Temple (often called The Third Temple) in Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48. One passage consisting of three verses intrigues me – Ezekiel 46:8-10:

     When the prince enters, he shall go in by way of the vestibule 
     of the gateway, and go out the same way. But when the people 
     of the land come before the Lord on the appointed feast days, 
     whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go 
     out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of 
     the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. He 
     shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, 
     but shall go out through the opposite gate. The prince shall 
     then be in their midst. When they go in, he shall go in; and 
     when they go out, he shall go out. 

First, I want to emphasize Luke 24:25 through 27, which is what Jesus told the two travelers on Emmaus Road the afternoon of the Lord’s resurrection:

     Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to 
     believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the 
     Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His 
     glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He ex-
     pounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning 

What Jesus was saying is that all the Old Testament Scriptures testify to the incarnate, crucified, and risen Son of God! So Ezekiel is prophetically speaking of Jesus Christ and His work when he mentions the prince in the above passage!

Here is the first question that arises: Why do the common people who are worshiping at the temple have to go out a different way from where they entered?

  • Why was Jesus here upon earth? He stated His purpose in Luke 19:10: “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.The lost is us – all human beings through all time since Adam fell into sin! (see Genesis 3:1-6).
     As it is written in Romans 5:12 – “...as through one 
         man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through 
         sin, and thus death spread to all men because all 
         sinned....Paul wrote in I Timothy 1:15 – “This is a faithful 
         saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ 
         Jesus came into the world to save sinners....✞   We are to come to Him in faith, believing... ...that He ...gave Himself for our sins, that 
              He might deliver us from this present evil age, 
              according to the will of our God and Father.” 
              (Galatians 1:4).

         ➔   ...that, according to Romans 10:9, “...if you 
              confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and be-
              lieve in your heart that God raised Him from 
              the dead, you will be saved.Jesus stated in John 5:24, “...he who hears My word and 
         believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and 
         shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death 
         into life.
  • This is a big change in the life of one who believes – from sinner to saint! (saint means one who puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ).
     Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:17, “...if anyone is 
         in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed 
         away; behold, all things have become new.And in Galatians 4:6 the apostle wrote, “...God has sent 
         forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out 
         ‘Abba, Father!’”  (Abba can be translated ‘Daddy’!).”

     ✞   By that Holy Spirit within us, we are to...walk worthy 
         of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every 
         good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
  • And so, in Ezekiel’s vision of the Millennial temple, the common person approaching the LORD comes in one way and goes out another way!
     ✞   Initially – one comes as a sinner, and goes out a re-
         deemed person!

     ✞   Continually – the believer comes to worship in one de-
         gree of growth, and goes out a more mature follower of 
         the LORD!

So why does the prince come in and go out the same way?

  • The prince represents Jesus! And Jesus is pure, holy, perfect, and complete from the beginning – and forever!
  • Jesus is God, God the Son! (see John 1:1, 14). As it is written in…
     ...Malachi 3:6 – “...I am the LORD, I do not change...!

     ...Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, 
         today, and forever...!

There is another precious truth about Christ from Ezekiel 46:10: “The prince shall then be in their midst. When they go in, he shall go in; and when they go out, he shall go out.As the prince shall be in the…midst of the common people, so Jesus, our Prince, our King…

  • …is…with you [His followers] always, even to the end of the age…! (Matthew 28:20).
  • …said in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you…!

Read your Bible in a new way!
It all reflects Jesus,
Our Prince, our King!

The Four Gardens of God – IX Revelation 21:5, 6

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The fourth of The Four Gardens of God is the recreation of Edenic (Garden of Eden) characteristics in the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21 and the first five verses of 22. Our featured Scripture is just two verses, Revelation 21:5 and 6:

     Then He who sat upon the throne [God Himself] said, “Behold, 
     I make all things new.” And He said to me [John, the apostle], 
     “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said 
     to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Begin-
     ning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of 
     life freely to him who thirsts.”

The LORD made all things new at the beginning. The Garden of Eden contained everything that humanity would need to live a full life in fellowship with God. But it was lost when our first parents disobeyed their Creator and ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil! (see Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-6; 22-24). He will reestablish Eden again when He creates …the new heaven and a new earth…” (Revelation 21:1). Although this ‘fourth Garden of God’ is not named ‘the second Garden of Eden,the revealed characteristics of this fourth garden are what was manifest in the first garden of Eden!

Resident Human beings there will be perfect!

  • Adam and Eve were created in the image of God – perfect! (Genesis 1:26). There was no sickness, injury, or death. They were designed to live forever!
     In the new Garden of God, we will be like Jesus: “...we 
         shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 
         3:2 – see also Philippians 3:12; I Corinthians 13:12). 

     We are told in Romans 6:9 concerning our Lord, “...Christ, 
         having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no 
         longer has dominion over Him.” (Romans 6:9 – see also Rev-
         elation 1:18). Jesus said of His own followers in... 

         ➔   ...John 5:24 – “Most assuredly, I say to you, he 
              who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me 
              has everlasting life, and shall not come into judg-
              ment, but has passed from death to life.”

         ➔   ...John 10:28, “...I give them eternal life, they 
              shall never perish....
  • God had told Adam in Genesis 2:17 that, “…in the day that you eat…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…you shall surely die.
     ✞   The moment Adam and Eve ate, death came!Their spiritual connection with the LORD died 
              immediately! For when God came to fellowship 
              with them, “Adam and his wife hid themselves 
              from the presence of the LORD God among the 
              trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8).

         ➔   Physical death caught up with them many years 
              later (see Genesis 5:5).

     Romans 5:12 – But through Adam, death infected us all!...just as through one man sin entered into the world, 
         and death through sin, and thus death spread to all...
         because all sinned.
  • Not only was physical death introduced when our first parents sinned, but sickness and disease began…
     ✞   ...leading to degeneration of body and mind, which in 
         turn leads to death!

     But we are told in Revelation 21:4, “...God will wipe 
         away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more 
         death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no 
         more pain, for the former things have passed away.

All nature, yes, all creation was affected by the curse of sin! For Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8:18 through 23:

     For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are 
     not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be re-
     vealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation 
     eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the 
     creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but be-
     cause of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation 
     itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption 
     into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know 
     that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs 
     together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the 
     firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within 
     ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption 
     of our body.
  • It is implied in Scripture that before sin entered into the world, all animals, reptiles, fowl, sea creatures, even insects lived in peaceful harmony!
  • Much of that implication is from the description of the animal kingdom in the new heaven and earth described in Isaiah 11:6 through 9 (International Standard Version):
     The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard will lie down 
     with the young goat. The calf and the lion will graze togeth-
     er, and a little child will lead them. The cow and the bear 
     will graze, and their young will lie down together, and the 
     lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play 
     over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his 
     hand on vipers' dens. They will neither harm nor destroy on 
     my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge 
     of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden…” (Genesis 2:9). Partaking of this tree’s fruit produced eternal life, according to Genesis 3:22. For this very reason God expelled our sinful parents from the garden of Eden!

  • That reason is found in Genesis 3:22, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he…take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever — …. Can you imagine someone totally given to evil like Hitler or Osama Bin Laden living forever?!
  • But in the New Jerusalem, the tree of life is not only restored, but multiplied!In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2)

Rivers were an important part of the garden of Eden, as well as the fourth Garden of God!

  • In Genesis 2:10 a river is mentioned that “…went out of Eden….” There is very little information given in Genesis 2 about this river, but we are told that “…it parted and became four riverheads.” They are named…
...Pishon, which means dispersive in Hebrew.

...Gihon, which simply means stream.

✞   ...Hiddekel which is thought to be the Tigris River.

✞   ...Euphrates River meaning in Hebrew rushing.

These last two rivers have figured in Bible history for thousands 
of years!
  • Back on March 22nd, 2013 I wrote a Gem called Ezekiel’s Miraculous River! This is the river that is mentioned in Revelation 22:2 above. I would challenge you to read that early Gem, and see why I call it Miraculous! Here are three of the reasons:
     ✞   The source of the river was a trickle from the east en-
         trance of the temple. But it gained strength and depth 
         quickly with no other obvious means of input! (see Ezek-
         iel 47:1-5). I believe these next two Scriptures from 
         Ezekiel are references to the multiplied tree of life.

         ➔   “...there, along the bank of the river were very 
              many trees on one side and the other.” (Ezekiel 

         ➔   “Along the bank of the river, on this side and 
              that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food
              ....They will bear fruit every month, because 
              their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit 
              will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.” 
              (Ezekiel 47:12).

     ✞   The waters of this river bring healing wherever it flows! 
         Ezekiel 47:8 through 10:

             This water flows toward the eastern region, goes 
             down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it 
             reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it 
             shall be that every living thing that moves, wher-
             ever the rivers go, will live. There will be a 
             very great multitude of fish, because these waters 
             go there; for they will be healed, and everything 
             will live wherever the river goes. It shall be that 
             fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; 
             they will be places for spreading their nets. Their 
             fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the 
             Great Sea, exceedingly many.

     Verse 1 of Revelation 22 opens the chapter describing the 
         New Jerusalem thus: “And he [the angel mentioned in Revela-
         tion 21:9] showed me a pure river of water of life, clear 
         as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb.This is Ezekiel’s Miraculous River!

The most significant point of both the garden of Eden and The Fourth Garden of God is that the LORD God is there!

  • Genesis 3:8 – “And they [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” This gives the idea that God regularly walked in the garden to fellowship with His highest creation – human beings!
  • Revelation 22:3-5:
         And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God 
         and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall 
         serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall 
         be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: 
         They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God    
         gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

This is the Fourth Garden of God!
Oh, What a Heritage every Christian Has!
Let Us Prepare…
And Live for Him Here and Now!

The Four Gardens of God – VIII

I Corinthians 15:20-23

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The resurrection was the Father’s stamp of approval on the Son’s sacrifice! It was as if He was saying:

     “You gave Your life as payment for the sins of mankind. Your 
     perfect sacrifice is accepted. Your followers now are cleansed 
     from their transgressions and they partake of Your righteous-
     ness.[see I Corinthians 5:21] You will rule as Lord and reign 
     as King over those redeemed by Your blood.”

We have the hope of eternal life because of what our Lord did for us! But there is more………

In the three previous Gems, we have focused on some of the great implications of Jesus’ resurrection. Let’s consider I Corinthians 15:21 through 23:

     But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the 
     firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by 
     man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the 
     dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall 
     be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the 
     firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.

What does Paul mean by calling Christ the firstfruits? He is remembering what is written in Deuteronomy 26:1 through 10. Here is what it says in verses 1 through 3, and 10:

     ...when you come into the land [of Canaan, the Promised Land] 
     which the LORD your God is giving you...that you shall take the 
     first of all the produce...and go to the place where the LORD 
     your God chooses....And you shall...say...“I have come...and 
     brought the firstfruits of the land which You, O LORD, have 
     given me.” Then you shall...worship before the LORD your God.

The firstfruits offering was given to God as a faith offering! It was presented to Him in anticipation that the LORD would give a large and fruitful harvest following the presentation of the first produce of that season. It was also a sign to remind His people that God rules over all, including the harvest!

Now, if Jesus was the firstfruits of the resurrection, that means a large harvest just like the firstfruits is following! And the Scriptures tell us the same:

  • John 12:24 – Jesus said, “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” He was talking about Himself dying (the single grain of wheat) to prepare for the salvation of many (much fruit). Any gardener knows the much fruit produced is a copy of the single grain planted! As the resurrected Jesus is, so shall we be!
  • I Thessalonians 4:14, 16, and 17:
         For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even 
         so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus....
         For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a 
         shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the 
         trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 
         Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up 
         together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in 
         the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Termed the Rapture, this takes place when Jesus comes to receive His own, just before the final seven-year Tribulation begins! (see Daniel 9:27). Then Jesus returns with His redeemed ones to begin His thousand-year reign upon the earth.

  • Romans 6:5 – “…if we have been united together in the likeness of His death [see Luke 9:23], certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection….” To further explain this, we will continue with I John 3:2…

I John 3:2 – “Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.We shall be like Him in eternally perfect physical bodies adapted to full spiritual living! Think about it….

  • Jesus was horribly mistreated the last full day of His pre-resurrection life!
     ✞   He was manhandled! (see Matthew 26:57; 27:2).

     ✞   He was slapped and hit by the Jews (see Matthew 26:67), 
         and by the Roman soldiers! (see Matthew 27:29, 20; Mark 
         15:16-19; John 18:22).

     ✞   His beard was ripped out! (see Isaiah 50:6).

     ✞   He was flogged by the Romans! (see Matthew 27:26; Mark 
         15:15; John 19:1). 

         ➔   The Romans were not limited to 39 lashes, as 
              were the Jews (see Deuteronomy 25:2, 3; II 
              Corinthians 11:24).

         ➔   Some criminals died under the Roman lash, it 
              was so brutal! We can get an idea of the bru-
              tality of the whipping from the prophesy of 
              Psalm 129:3 (Easy-to-Read Version): “They beat 
              Me until I had deep cuts. My back looked like 
              a freshly plowed field.✞   He was crowned with thorns! (see Matthew 27:29; Mark 
         15:17; John 19:2, 5).

     ✞   He was forced to carry the heavy crossbeam of the cross! 
         (see John 19:17). Jesus could not continue to do this in 
         His weakened condition. So the Roman soldiers “...com-
         pelled Simon a Cyrenian...to bear the cross.” (Mark 15:21).

     ✞   He was crucified! (see Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:25; Luke 
         23:33; John 19:18). 

         ➔   According to Psalm 22:14, “...all My bones are 
         [pulled] out of joint...” perhaps Jesus’ shoulder 
         joints popped out of joint when they stretched out 
         His arms to reach where the nails had made previous 
         holes from when others were crucified before Him. 
         The Romans used the same crossbeams and uprights 
         time and again.

         ➔   “...My heart is like wax; it is melted within 
              Me.” (see John 19:34).

         ➔   “...My tongue clings to My jaws...” due to ex-
              treme dehydration (see John 19:28).

So brutal was the treatment doled out upon Jesus, we are told in Isaiah 52:14 (Contemporary English Version): “Many were horrified at what happened to Him. But everyone who saw Him was even more horrified because He suffered until He no longer looked human.

  • But what were Jesus’ characteristics after He was resurrected?
     ✞   He was healed, whole, and energetic! For instance, in Luke 
         24, Jesus walked with two disciples to Emmaus. Although it 
         is not totally settled where Emmaus was located, the most 
         promising site is about 18 miles from Jerusalem.

     He was not restricted by place, since He could appear and 
         disappear at will! (see Luke 24:31). He even entered locked 
         rooms! (see John 20:19; 26).

        Gravity no longer had a hold on Him! (see Acts 1:9).    
  • He now lives forever (see Romans 6:9; Hebrews 7:24, 25), with the Father in heaven! (see John 16:28; Hebrews 12:2).

…and…when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2). We will be immortal, having spiritual/physical bodies, just like Jesus! And we will be with Him forever! (see Matthew 26:29; John 14:2, 3).

So remember, Christian…

Jesus is the firstfruits,
We are part of His great harvest to follow!

The Four Gardens of God – VII

I Corinthians 15:13-20

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It has been three weeks before I could publish a new Gem! When I took my computer to be cleaned of some troubling downloads (or uploads, or whatever they are!) it took awhile to be accomplished. What surprised me is that the techs cleansed 56 versions of malware, spyware, and other bad stuff! By the way, I had no idea how I managed to get them loaded on my computer! But I am now back in business!

So let’s get back to examining Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 15:13 through 20, concerning the resurrection! We are in this study because the resurrection happened in the Garden of the Tomb! (See The Four Gardens of God – IV for some of the reasons I believe that this is the tomb where Jesus was buried). Here is our featured Scripture:

     ...if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not 
     risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty 
     and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false wit-
     nesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised 
     up Christ, whom He did not raise up— if in fact the dead do not 
     rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 
     And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still 
     in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ 
     have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we 
     are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from 
     the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fal-
     len asleep.

So much of Christianity rests on the New Testament! And, according to Paul, our faith in our Savior rests on the resurrection! The apostle wrote in verse 14 of our featured Scripture, …if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.

I Corinthians 15:14 – “…if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty…” If you read again The Four Gardens of God – IV and V, you will see that the writers of the New Testament books emphasized the reality and importance of the resurrection!

Were these Biblical authors fooled into thinking the resurrection of Christ really happened when it didn’t? NO!

  • Consider the eleven apostles, four of whom wrote most of the New Testament! Remember that of the original eleven apostles remaining after Judas’ suicide, ten of them faced torturous deaths, and the eleventh, John, faced persecution and imprisonment on the Isle of Patmos! Why would they face such fates when they would have quickly come to the realization that Jesus was not resurrected?
  • If there had been no resurrection, the Roman soldiers could have produced Jesus’ body and settled the issue, an issue which went on for centuries to bedevil the Roman Empire!

One of the greatest proofs of the validity of the New Testament writings concerns the Roman persecution of the followers of Christ. In over two and a half centuries, from the Roman emperors Nero to Diocletian (54 — 313 AD), over five million Christians suffered martyrdom rather than deny their risen Lord Jesus! Why?

This information presented below is copied from the website of Robert Clifton Robinson, Christian author, philosopher, and apologist (robertcliftonrobinson.com). In an article entitled, “Historical Evidence that Proves the Resurrection of Jesus” (there are also links to other significant articles), Mr. Robinson states the following based on the written record of the ancient Roman senate:

     The Romans were very tolerant of every religion, except Chris-
     tianity. The Roman Emperors determined that Christianity was a 
     terrible superstition, in which its followers believed in the 
     impossible: their leader had risen from the dead....

     In Roman thinking, superstition was not regarded in the same 
     way that it was in most other cultures. The superstition of 
     Christianity was viewed by the Romans as corrosive to society. 
     In the minds of Roman leaders, the idea that a man could have 
     risen from the dead was so disturbing to the mind that a per-
     son would likely go insane. This would result in a loss of his 
     humanity, and the entire structure of Roman life would erode 
     into chaos.

     Only when Romans encountered Christians who insisted that Jesus 
     had been raised from the dead, did they find it impossible to 
     tolerate their strange and dangerous religion. In the minds of 
     the Romans, anyone who could believe such things were already 
     insane and worthy of death. To allow people to populate nations 
     for whom they ruled, with these intolerable views, the entire 
     Roman Empire could be jeopardized.

Why would five million believers go to their deaths if they could avoid such a fate by denying their allegiance to Christ and return to Roman religion? It was because they knew…

  • …that they had a Leader who was alive to lead them, guide them, empower them, and to give them ultimate victory!
  • …that because Jesus rose from the dead, it also meant, even if it cost them their physical life, He would raise them in perfection, just like Himself! (see I John 3:1, 2).

Were the authors of the New Testament books liars and deceivers? NO!

  • I Corinthians 15:14 – “…if Christ is not risen…your faith is also empty.” As Mr. Robinson wrote in the article mentioned above: “Remember that the resurrection and a belief in Jesus Christ are inseparable. Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity.” Think about the promises that Jesus made to His followers, promises that depended upon His resurrection. Did He tell them boldface lies?
     Matthew 24:44 – “...you also be ready, for the Son of 
         Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.Matthew 25:31 and 32 – “When the Son of Man comes in 
         His glory....All the nations with be gathered before 
         Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a 
         shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.Matthew 26:29 – “...I say to you, I will not drink of 
         the fruit of the vine from now on until that day when 
         I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.Matthew 26:32 – “...after I have been raised, I will 
         go before you to Galilee.Mark 10:33 and 34 – “Behold, [in] Jerusalem...the Son 
         of Man will be betrayed ...the chief priests and...
         scribes...will condemn Him to death, and...deliver Him 
         to the Gentiles to mock...scourge and...crucify. And 
         the third day He will rise again.” (see also Luke 9:22; 

     Mark 13:26 and 27 – “...they will see the Son of Man 
         coming...with great power and glory....He will send 
         His angels, and gather together His elect from the 
         four winds....Luke 9:26 – “...whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, 
         of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in 
         His own glory, and in the Father’s and of the holy an-
         gels.” (see also Luke 12:8, 9).

     Luke 21:27 – “Then they will see the Son of Man coming 
         in a cloud with power and great glory.Luke 22:28 through 30 – “...you are those who have con-
         tinued with Me in My trials....I bestow upon you a king-
         dom...that you may eat and drink at My table in My king-
         dom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of 
         Israel.John 6:40 – “...this is the will of Him who sent Me, 
         that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may 
         have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the 
         last day.John 10:17 and 18 – “I lay down My life that I may take 
         it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of 
         Myself. I have power to lay it down, and...to take it 
         again. This command I have received from My Father.John 11:25 and 26 – “I am the resurrection and the life. 
         He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 
         And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.John 14:2 and 3 – “I go to prepare a place for you. And 
         if I go...I will come again and receive you to Myself; 
         that where I am, there you may be also.John 14:18 and 19 – “I will not leave you orphans; I will 
         come to you. A little while longer and the world will see 
         Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will 
         live also.John 15:26 – “...when the Helper comes, whom I shall send 
         to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth...He will tes-
         tify of Me.John 16:7 – “...I tell you the truth. It is to your advan-
         tage that I go away; for if I do not...the Helper will not 
         come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

How could a dead Christ fulfill such promises? But He fulfilled (or will fulfill) every one of them! If His followers had faith in what Jesus told them, He was a masterful liar! And if their crucified leader remained dead, then their faith in what He told them was empty – all a lie! And those falsehoods producing empty faith were passed on to us!

  • But…
     ...as Jesus testified of Himself in John 14:6, “I am the 
         way, THE TRUTH, and the life...” (emphasis mine).

     ...Peter, quoting Isaiah 53:9 in I Peter 2:22 (Contempor-
         ary English Version), wrote, “Christ did not sin or ever 
         tell a lie.✞   ...Jesus could even stand before His enemies and say to 
         them,Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46). And 
         no one could!
  • Paul sums up his negative argument in verses 15 through 18:
     Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have 
     testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise 
     up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not 
     rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your 
     faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who 
     have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

The implications of the witness concerning the resurrection being false are horrendous! Whether the disciples were fooled or deceivers, the results are the same:

For the Bible plainly tells us…

  • …in Romans 4:22, 24, and 25: “…righteousness…shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
  • …in Romans 10:9: “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

We are told in Hebrews 11:6 (International Standard Version): “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently search for Him.

  • One must have faith to believe in Jesus and His resurrection!
  • If it is that important, that one must have faith to believe in Jesus and His resurrection; and if such heart belief in His resurrection is a determinate of our salvation, and if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we are not saved and our faith in the risen Lord is totally empty!
     ✞   ...we are fools, deceived by a lie!

     ✞   ...our Savior’sbody rotted in the grave! 

     ✞   ...Jesus is not the promised Messiah!

     ✞   ...His death on the cross meant nothing!

     ✞   ...we are lost in our sins and headed for hell! 

     ✞   ...there is no hope whatsoever either for us or for those 
         before us who have died believing!

There is one more Gem concerning this third Garden of God!

The Four Gardens of God – VI

I Corinthians 15:13-20

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The resurrection took place in the third Garden of God, the place where Jesus was buried and rose from the dead three days later! As we saw in the last Gem…

  • …the resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament!
  • …Jesus predicted it several times during His ministry!
  • …His followers preached and testified of it in the book of Acts!

Here is Paul’s summation of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15:13 through 20. He brings it from a negative point of view to accentuate the positive!

     ...if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is 
     not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching 
     is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found 
     false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that 
     He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up— if in fact the 
     dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is 
     not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; 
     you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen 
     asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have 
     hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now 
     Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits 
     of those who have fallen asleep.

Although from the book of Acts, I listed several examples of preaching the resurrection, there are more instances of such ‘preaching’ (in the epistles). Ten of 21 epistles (plus the book of Revelation) directly mention the resurrection! I will give one example (with Scripture) from each of the books, and list other references if there is more than one per book.

  • Romans 1:3 and 4 – “…Jesus Christ…declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead….” (see also Romans 4:24; 6:4, 5, 9; 7:4; 8:11, 34; 10:9; 14:9).
  • I Corinthians 6:14 – “…God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.” (see also I Corinthians 15:4, 12-21, 35, 42-49).
  • II Corinthians 4:14 – “…He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus….” (see also II Corinthians 1:9; 13:4).
  • Galatians 1:1 – “Paul, an apostle (…through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)….
  • Ephesians 1:20 – “…He [the Father] worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead….” (see also Ephesians 2:6).
  • Colossians 3:1 – “If, then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” (see also Colossians 2:12, 13).
  • I Thessalonians 4:14 – “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (see also I Thessalonians 1:9, 10).
  • II Timothy 2:8 – “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” (see also II Timothy 1:9, 10; 2:11).
  • Hebrews 6:1 and 2 – “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ…not laying again the foundation…of the doctrine…of resurrection of the dead….” (see also Hebrews 7:15-17).
  • I Peter 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead….” (see also I Peter 1:21; 3:18, 21).
  • Revelation 1:5 – “…Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead….” (see also Revelation 1:18; 2:8; 20:6).

Let’s continue with studying I Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.So much depends on the living Christ!

  • He is the One who conquered…
     ✞   ...sin! I John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faith-
         ful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from 
         all unrighteousness.” (see also Psalm 32:1, 2; 85:2; John 

     ✞   ...death! II Timothy 1:10 – “...our Savior Jesus Christ...
         has abolished death and brought life and immortality to 
         light through the gospel...” (see also Revelation 1:5 – 
         Contemporary English Version).

     ✞   ...the devil! Hebrews 2:14 – “...as the children have 
         partaken of flesh and blood, He [Jesus Christ] Himself 
         likewise shared in the same, that through death He might 
         destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the 
         devil...” (see also I John 2:13, 14).

     ✞   ...hell! Revelation 1:18 – “I am He who lives, and was 
         dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I 
         have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (see also Revela-
         tion 20:14).

     ✞   ...the fear of death! Hebrews 2:14 and 15 – “...through 
         death He might destroy him who had the power of death...
         the devil, and release those who through fear of death 
         were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
  • It was the living Christ who ascended to the Father and sent back the Holy Spirit…
     ✞   ...to help believers! John 14:16 through 18; 16:7:

             And I will pray the Father, and He will give you 
             another Helper, that He may abide with you forever
             --the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot re-
             ceive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; 
             but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will 
             be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will 
             come to you....Nevertheless I tell you the truth. 
             It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I 
             do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; 
             but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

     ✞   ...to indwell every Christian! Romans 8:9 (English 
         Standard Version) – “You, however, are not in the flesh 
         but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells 
         in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ 
         does not belong to Him.” (see also I John 4:12, 13).

     ✞   ...to recreate sinners into the likeness of Christ! 
         II Corinthians 3:18 (Contemporary English Version) – 
         “So our faces are not covered. They show the bright 
         glory of the Lord, as the Lord's Spirit makes us more 
         and more like our glorious Lord.” (see also II Cor-
         inthians 5:17)

     ✞   ...to eternally seal those born of God through Christ!

         ➔   II Corinthians 1:21 and 22 (Lexham English Bible) 
              – “...God...sealed us and gave us the down payment 
              of His Spirit in our hearts.”

         ➔   II Corinthians 5:5 – “Now He who has prepared us 
              for this very thing [heaven] is God, who has given 
              us the Spirit as a guarantee.”

         ➔   Ephesians 1:14 – “...the Holy Spirit...is the guar-
              antee of our inheritance....✞   ...to guide and teach Jesus’ followers!

         ➔   Isaiah 30:21 – “Your ears shall hear a word behind 
              you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”

         ➔   John 14:26 – “...the Helper, the Holy Spirit...will 
              teach you all things, and bring to remembrance all 
              things that I said to you.”

         ➔   I John 2:27 (Contemporary English Version) – “Christ 
              has blessed you with the Holy Spirit. Now the Spirit 
              stays in you, and you don't need any teachers. The 
              Spirit is truthful and teaches you everything.✞   ...to produce the fruit of the Spirit in every child of 
         God! Galatians 5:22 and 23 (Lexham English Bible) – “...
         the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, 
         kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self con-

Can we begin to see
how important to our Christian faith
is the resurrection?