“HE IS RISEN!” BY KIANG P LEE

“He isn’t here! He has risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying.” (Matthew 28:6)

Greetings Friends wherever you are in the far-flung corners of the world! May the peace Easter brings be with you and your loved ones.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Even though Jesus told His disciples of His impending death and resurrection, for them it was too incredulous to be believed. Then when they heard from others that Jesus had indeed risen, it left them speechless. When He miraculously appeared before them, they were left gasping for breath. Jesus told one doubting disciple, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed” (John 20:29). Yes, the Christian life is a life of living faith. 

Paul said matter-of-factly, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor.15:17). Indeed, powerful words concerning the Christian faith. The cross would be meaningless if Jesus had not risen. We cannot believe the cross and deny the resurrection, they are one and the same expression of His Messiahship. His life and all the prophecies concerning His calling as the Messiah would have all been fiction, a fabrication, if His resurrection from the dead had not happened for real.

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Visitors at the Garden Tomb Where Jesus’ Body was Laid to Rest and Resurrected (Wiki Commons)

The unbelieving mind thinks of the idea of the resurrection as preposterous, originating in religious zeal that borders on the fanatical. A 2010 Barna Group poll showed that only 42 percent of Americans said the meaning of Easter was Jesus’ resurrection; just 2 percent identified it as the most important holiday of their faith. “More people have problems with Easter because it requires believing that Jesus rose from the dead,” said James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author. Yet, it is the only hope the Christian faith holds out to its followers. How do we prove to skeptics this cornerstone of Christian belief? Everything about Christianity hangs in the balance on this one focal point of the Christian faith – did Jesus die on His cross upon Calvary and rose from the dead as He and the prophecies said He would? (Psa.22; Isa.53; Psa.16, esp. V.10)

The New Testament account of the resurrection from Matthew’s gospel goes as follows, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” He said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me” (Matt.28:1-10).

The resurrection responds to the ancient quest for answers to the question of life, death, and the afterlife. Ancient philosophers, theologians, and sages have long sought to unlock the answers to them. There are only two certainties about life that no one can deny: life and death! Every day we experience these two opposite extremes of human reality – to exist (life), or to cease to exist (death)! Our awareness of death arise out of life itself. In other words, we would not know death were it not for life. Life always takes precedence. Humans are given to experience these twin realities not as a matter of choice, but because an external entity superior to man has determined this is how human existence is offered to man. (Heb.9:27) If you and I had a choice, life would be our natural and only option. Death is a curse we would avoid at all cost .

So, everything about human existence cannot be answered within our mortal frame of reference without an external involvement. So we are compelled to look outside ourselves for answers to life and death. Hence, our search for answers ends with an entity we call God. Or we may choose the path of atheism and conjure our own answers to the questions of life and death, like the theory of evolution, or any other hypothesis. Most religions accept the external input of a deity, only their beliefs differentiate them. So, the search for meaning about life, death, and the afterlife leaves us face to face with an entity we call God or Creator. God Himself knew this, or should I say stage-managed it, so humans have no other way but to turn to Him for important answers about life and death. Man is left face-to-face with his Maker.

If we concur on the above discourse about life and death, then we have arrived at the same logical conclusion about answers to them from our Creator. For Christians, His answer is articulated in His Son, Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection answers man’s eternal search to the meaning of life, death, and the afterlife.

God tells us He is the source of life – life originates and exudes from His divine Being. He is the spring of life. (Gen.2:7; 1 Sam.2:6; Act.17:25) If that is so, where did death come from? It cannot come from God for nothing but life proceeds from Him. Death was imposed upon man as a penalty for sin. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.6:23). When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, sin entered our human existence, and death followed. God told our first parents, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen.2:17). God gave us His Son so that through His death on the cross we may not have to face death ourselves. And through His resurrection we will receive immortal life.  

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Artist impression of Resurrection of Jesus (Wiki Commons)

So when God created Adam it would have been contrary to His nature and who He is to  subject him to death in any way, shape, and form. The totality of the environment in Eden was wrapped up in one element which defines who God IS: life, life, and life everlasting! Death is the exact antithesis of who God is in His nature. He declared Himself to His enslaved people in Egypt as “I AM that I AM” (Exo.3:14). It means ‘to be,’ which means to exist in everlasting life. Adam had life to its fullest and completest divine expression that a human can experience at the highest physical level possible! Adam existed in God’s presence, the Source of both spiritual and physical life. Adam did not know what death meant, it had no meaning with him, although he was warned of it. (Gen.2:17) It is impossible for God to make death happen because it is synonymous with sin, and God and sin (death) can never coexist. Adam and Eve existed in the ‘circle of life’ because God IS life!  Death was the result of disobedience imposed upon man as a consequence of sin. Death was man’s choice, not God’s! So, we understand the resurrection in relation to who God is in all His manifest Being: the fountain of everlasting life! Hence, man’s destiny will always be about immortality, and death is just a temporary blip until sin and death is removed forever.

Let me share an interesting information from ancient texts. Although not considered canon, these ancient texts are part of the heritage of Judaism and Christianity. In earliest patristic texts it was hypothesized that Adam existed in a state of human immortality in Eden. The premise upon which Adam’s human immortality is inferred comes from God’s own words at the time of man’s creation, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness…” (Gen.1:26-27). God’s image and likeness is not mortal but immortal. Human immortality was Adam’s natural condition of sharing God’s own eternal life (likeness). It was Adam’s only way of communing with God directly in a holy state of existence in Eden. 

The source of Adam’s human immortality came from his daily food he ate from the fruit of the tree of life. These passages from Genesis implies this premise, “The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen.2:9). After Adam’s fall, God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Gen.3:22, NLT; also Rev. 22:1-5). So, it is clear Adam “lived forever” in a form of human immortality he possessed which came from eating the fruit of the tree of life. 

It is made abundantly clear from the texts we have seen in Genesis that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil brought human death, and the tree of life was the source of human  immortality. Obviously the two trees are symbolic of the two realities of life we face everyday before God. The tree of life represents the Holy Spirit who imbued Adam with God’s divine Love and immortality; and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil stands for disobedience and sin through self-determination swayed by Satan’s deception which brings death. (Rom.8:11; Jam.1:15; Rom.6:23) Even today we cannot see the Spirit, but we see what He represents in life like Adam saw and ate from the tree of life. Paul dispels any doubt what the Spirit personifies to us in his letter to the Corinthian church teaching them to eat the “fruits of the Spirit”: Love, kindness, patience, self-control, joy, peace, not being envious and arrogant, generosity, hope, faith, etc. (1 Cor.13) “Eating” these fruits is synonymous with eating from the tree of life. 

The moment Adam ate the forbidden fruit and sin entered his life, his human immortality disappeared, and from then on he assumed nothing more than his mortal being that’s now conditioned to sin and death. The metamorphosis was sudden and immediate because light (God) and darkness (sin) cannot cohabit. In basic physics we know this to be obvious – note when you switch a light on in a dark room. Darkness instantaneously flees in front of light, and vice versa. You can say ‘in a twinkling of an eye’ “they realized they were naked” (Gen.3:7). Adam and Eve all of a sudden felt shame before God and hid for the immortal sinless image (Spirit/Love) which enabled them to live and commune with God in Eden had vanished – he was a mere mortal, in the spiritual sense, “naked.” The Bible says, “So they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” and hid among the trees from God. (Gen.3:7-11)

In the ancient text Adam said to Eve, “Do you not see these figs and their leaves, with which we covered ourselves when we were stripped of our bright nature?” (human immortality). (First Book of Adam & Eve, Chapter XXXVII, v.1) By hiding their nakedness they conceded they were not appropriately clothed or equipped in spirit for the Edenic environment where they dwelt with a holy and sinless God. Sadly, now they were fully mortal and sinful, making it impossible to live in God’s presence. Be that as it may, God’s purpose in humans to be vessels of immortality assuming His likeness (children) was never undone and remains man’s destiny. Note, when God told Adam, “You are made from dust and you’ll return to dust” (fully mortal), it was uttered ‘after’ and not ‘before’ Adam’s fall. (Gen.3:19). Before the fall they existed in God’s immortal “image and likeness.” (Gen.1:26-27) Whereas our first parents was not constrained by time and space due to their human immortality, now they were. 

Adam and mankind no longer had access to the tree of life, “After God drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen.3:24). Outside of Eden mankind had no choice but to be sustained by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that’s to say, man will live through self-determination as to what’s right and wrong swayed by Satan’s deceit and falsehood. The dominion they were given over this earth was taken from them for they had effectively handed it to Satan who would rule through sin and death. God promised to send a second Adam in His Son, who would come to defeat the enemy, reclaim the earthly dominion for mankind as King and Lord, and take humanity to his rightful eternal destiny. (1 Cor.15:45; Gen.3:15).

Think about this a moment, when God declared to Adam, “if you eat from it (forbidden fruit) you will certainly die,” it is no different from saying, “as long you do not eat the forbidden fruit you will surely never die.” So, it’s logical to conclude that Adam had existed in a form of human immortality which never tasted death – as long as he remained faithful. But man is given to choose because freedom is the flip-side of Love, and “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). Without freedom there is no Love, nor is there Love without freedom. So, if Adam had chosen not to eat the forbidden fruit, would he have tasted death? No, there was only one road which leads to death – eating the forbidden fruit. Adam had human immortality by feeding himself off from the tree of life. Death is not merely the cessation of physical life, it is a way of life which produced death in all its manifest expression we see around us today. We see death in the sorrows, heart-aches, hatred, unhappiness, greed, treachery and pretense, pain and suffering, sickness and disease. It is the ‘circle of death’ in the devil’s world which is the opposite of the ‘circle of life’ which existed in Eden.

Adam Possessed Human Immortality in the Garden of Eden (Pic: Wiki Commons)

Moreover, since immortality is not limited to nor constrained by time and space, the Bible does not state the “time” frame Adam and Eve remained faithful prior to their fall. For this reason the Genesis account of the fall appears “sudden” as if it occurred immediately after human creation. Not so, since they existed outside of time and space, it’s not possible to quantify “space-time” between Adam’s human immortal existence and his human mortal life (fall). In other words, eternity is not constrained by time and space and always “exists” in the present, there is no past or future, only the present. Hence, the fall appeared like it happened shortly after creation, without realizing that an eternity had “existed” between Adam’s human immortality and human mortality (fall).

If Adam fell directly after creation, then we would have to conclude the devil was more powerful than God. Also, we would be compelled to surmise what the devil offered Adam was far superior than what God offered them. That’s just preposterous, and we know that is not true. What can be far superior than an unending life of abounding joy in Paradise? The Psalmist said, “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (Psa.84:10, NLT). With God a day is reckoned as a thousand years. (Psa.90:4) God’s power and sovereignty is without question, and what God offers man is incontestable. Satan cannot offer man immortality, perish the thought, how can he when he was created like man, except he was made an archangel and chose to become the adversary. Immortality cannot be conferred by the created but by the uncreated – God!

For all we know, our first parents remained faithful and lived in complete and unbound joy in God’s presence for quite some “time” before their fall to Satan’s deception. Remember, it had to take deceitfulness and cunning on Satan’s part to wrest Adam and Eve away from God’s Love and Paradise. But all it took was just one bite of the forbidden fruit, and we can assume Satan may have tried more than once to draw them away but without success. But it happened nonetheless, and that is why Jesus, the second Adam, had to come and die on the cross and be resurrected to restore man to his legitimate birthright to immortality.

Time and space became a reality only after sin and death entered human existence. From then on no mortal human could exist in God’s presence as Adam did before the fall. God told Moses upon Mount Sinai, “you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live.” (Exo.33:20; also 1 Tim.6:16). The lost world of Eden was a unique place on earth where God communed with humans in a form of immortal existence which did not exist outside Eden. Eden was and still is God’s plan for mankind. In future, Eden will cover the whole earth and God Himself will dwell among humans. (Rev. 21 & 22) So we see why the resurrection of Jesus to immortality is vital to God’s plan for mankind upon this earth.

Another ancient text states that after Adam’s fall, he was consumed with inconsolable grief for all they had lost. Of course he was, he had just lost all of Paradise for a bite of the forbidden fruit. But more so because Paradise had a lasting impact on their lives, and to lose it was indeed a heart-rending experience. It reminds us of the story of Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentils. Without question, Jacob was at fault for deceiving his brother. Adam wanted desperately to return to Eden but to no avail – can light and darkness cohabit? Adam had lost not only his human immortality, but the glorious life in Paradise he shared with His wife Eve basking in God’s enduring Love. Why is there is a tendency with humans to take the status quo for granted then gradually slide into a subtle form of contempt and folly? (Rom.2:4; Heb.12:15-17, ESV)

I don’t think we could imagine the truly magnificent life they had in Eden with all the power and glorious activities divinely conferred upon them. They communed face to face with God and angelic beings. They had power to control the elements like the weather, and more. Jesus gave us a glimpse of this when he changed water into wine, walked on water, and controlled the storm besides all the miracles He performed. And the grief-stricken episodes Adam suffered many days, weeks, and months, and the remainder of his life, revealed in no small measure to the Paradise that was lost to Adam and mankind. No human have since experienced the life God had originally designed for man apart from Adam and Eve. Only a future resurrection made possible by Jesus who has led the way for humans by His own resurrection, will bring man back to his former estate and God-ordained birthright. (Rom.8:29; 1 Cor.15)

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Garden of Eden – Paradise Lost (Wiki Commons)

Today we are experiencing a world of sin and death outside of Eden. We look all around us and  world events seems apocalyptic. Everywhere we see sin written on the script of people’s suffering, pain, and death. God’s heart aches for mankind. The answer is in God’s divine Love. Having lost the divine likeness God created humans to possess, He now calls upon man to seek his true destiny in returning and regaining the glorious life that is his rightful birthright through Jesus and His cross. Paul, by saying, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor.15:22), he was declaring God’s purpose of reversing the effect of Adam’s fall through Jesus His Son, and bring man back to his first estate in Paradise.

When Jesus was resurrected He effectively raised man to his former glory of human immortality in Eden. Only this time, on this side of Eden, we have Jesus in the role of man’s High Priest seated at God’s right hand, performing the ongoing task of Savior and Warrior on man’s behalf. (see my previous post dated March 01 2016, “Easter 101 – Know The Full Story”). This is necessary so Jesus will remove the effect (penalty) of the tree of good and evil (sin/death) forever. Jesus’ parting words to His followers were, “Go, and spread this good news from the Father to the whole world, and make believers of everyone, and I will be with you to the end of time” (Mark:16:15; Matt.28:20, emphasis mine).

The Bible speaks of our own resurrection where the sting of death no longer reigns over us, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:51-55). We have come full circle and brought back to our Edenic birthright through Christ who is the firstborn of many humans made human immortal. (Rom.8:29)

File:Fountain of Eternal Life.jpgFountain of Eternal Life,” Cleveland, Ohio, Depicting Resurrection to Immortality (Wiki Commons)

As for death, the Bible says this, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor.15:55-57). Yes, that victory is the resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. His resurrection signals the human triumph of true life over sin and death.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die” (john 11:25). Jesus died the death of all of us on His cross so we may live – yes, even in the grave death’s gripping tentacles has no power over us – death has been defeated in Christ’s death and resurrection.

John was made to see a vision of this future Edenic paradise on earth where God will dwell with His human children, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 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: And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place” (Rev.21:3-4; 22:1-6).

The world we read in the above passage of scripture cannot possibly come to pass without the resurrection of God’s people to immortality. This is the new earth transformed into an Eden-like world. The tree of life will be there, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil will be no more, for Jesus has defeated sin and death once for all time. This is the wonderful and glorious message of Jesus’ own resurrection to bring mankind to a world so staggering and spectacular beyond words. This is what we celebrate during Easter. This is the essence of the Gospel.

Paul ends with these encouraging words of Love from our heavenly Father, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor.15:58).

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on bulamanriver@gmail.com. Thanks for visiting.

Blessing:

Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessings of the season of Easter and Passover be with you all and your families, and may God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, help you to receive Jesus as your personal Savior and live the “Triune Life” in the Spirit. May the Spirit enliven you and make all things concerning you possible in Triune Living as a Bulamanriver.*

Kiang,                      

* Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. To read the many facets of life of the Bulamanriver, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com where you can order a copy of my Book.

See the BULAMANRIVER Video at: http://youtu.be/8uA0Bq7UoYA

All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.

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