Gospel Enigma – IV

September 24, 2014
I Corinthians 15:1-4

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

Let’s continue with the Enigma of the Gospel – “a perplexing or baffling matter….” – Webster.  We have seen the simplicity of the Good News in Acts 16:31:  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….” (Acts 16:31).  Yes, it can be that simple and still be effective to save the humble repentant!

But it is also very complex.  And we have used I Corinthians 15:1 through 4 to show this aspect:

    Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you,
    which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are
    saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you
    believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also re-
    ceived:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and
    that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to
    the Scriptures….

There are still two more declarations to consider that Paul makes “according to the Scriptures…” – “…Christ…was buried, and…Christ…rose again the third day…

•    Verse 4 – “…Christ…was buried…according to the Scriptures…”  There is no detail in the Bible that is not important, for if God did not think it important, He would not have included it in His Word!  As it says in II Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness….

So why is it important to know that “…Christ…was buried…”?  Oliver B. Green, in his commentary on I Corinthians, states why:

    The second point is that He was buried – “according to the Scriptures
    (Isaiah 53:9).  The fact that Jesus was buried is essential to the doctrine of
    His bodily resurrection “according to the Scriptures.”  Isaiah prophesied,
    “He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death.”  
    Therefore it was imperative that the body of Jesus be put in the grave, even
    though afterward the tomb was found empty.

Unsaid here by Paul, but emphasized in the gospels by Jesus Himself, are the three days the Savior was entombed (see Matthew 12:40; 27:63; Mark 8:31; 14:58; and John 2:19).  Why three days?  In Jewish tradition, third century AD scholar Rabbi Eleazar ben Eleazar ha-K.appar (Talmudic form – Bar Kappara) is cited concerning this in Midrash Rabbah, Genesis [C:7 (994)]:

    Bar Kappara taught, “Until three days [after death] the soul keeps on returning
    to the grave, thinking that it will go back [into the body]; but when it sees that
    the facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons it [the body].

In other words, the three days of Jesus being in the tomb ensured that He was really dead!  This would emphasize the miracle of Him rising from the dead, especially in Jewish minds.

There is also the theological debate concerning what happened to the Lord’s spirit during those three days.  In Ephesians 4:8 through 10, Paul wrote:

    When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to
    men.  (Now this, “He ascended” — what does it mean but that He also
    first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is
    also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill
    all things.)

David had prophesied this in Psalm 16:10 (quoted by Peter in Acts 2:27), “…You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”  In place of Sheol, Peter used Hades.  Both refer to the realm of the dead – for the wicked and for the righteous. (see Luke 16:19-31).  In that “…He led captivity captive…,” apparently Jesus went to Paradise (see Luke 23:43) to claim the righteous souls who were in ‘captivity’ waiting to be transferred to heaven, the place of the Father’s throne.  But in I Peter 3:19 and 20 it says, “…He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah….”  This may refer to the Lord’s announcement to the pre-Genesis flood damned that their fate was sealed by their rejection of God’s patient call to repentance – spanning 120 years before the deluge came (see Genesis 6:3).

Yes, it is complex!  Especially the last subject covered in this blog.  Christ’s activity during the three days of His bodily death have been argued for centuries!  But it is all part of the Gospel, and we will continue with Gospel Enigma on Friday.

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