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The Vanishing Power Of Death

Confronted By The Risen Christ

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | April 19, 1992

Selected highlights from this sermon

For the last 2000 years, many have tried to discredit the resurrection of Jesus. They have discounted history, hoping to put Jesus back into the tomb. Hume, Marx, Freud, Voltaire, and Darwin have all attempted to undermine the reality, ministry, and necessity of Christ. Yet, while they perished, Jesus still remains. 

Of course, as all of us know, we worship the risen Christ. We believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some people have said that the resurrection is a myth, and I like what Vance Havner says. He says, “If it’s a myth, then I am mythtaken, mythtified, and mitherable.” [laughter]

But I want you to know today that not everyone is glad that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Not everyone rejoices because of it. Throughout history, there have always been those who have wanted to keep Christ confined. They wanted to keep Him in the tomb, and that’s why in Matthew, chapter 27, the passage that I read… If you turn to it just for a moment (Matthew, chapter 27) we see that Pilate got together with the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they decided that they would keep Christ in the tomb, and they had a guard. They would watch the grave, lest someone would steal the body. And in Matthew 27:65 it says, “Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard. Go and make it as secure as you know how.’” Evidently, they didn’t make it secure enough because, in the next chapter, it says in Matthew 28:2, “There was a severe earthquake. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it, and his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow. The guards shook for fear.” Matthew 28:5, “The angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here for He has risen just as He said. Come, see the place where he was lying.’”

Even though they set a guard, they could not confine the risen Christ. When Jesus arose there was no way that the stone and the seal that was on the stone could prevent that resurrection. And throughout history, there are those who have used different kinds of stones to prevent Christ from rising. They wanted to keep Christ in the tomb. I’m going to give you some examples.

For example, I think of David Hume who took the stone of philosophy. And Hume decided that by writing an article on miracles, which has become famous, miracles (That article is one.) in which David Hume said that they were impossible to occur. “A miracle cannot occur,” said David Hume. His reasoning basically was this. He said that nature acts according to uniform laws. All history, he says, proves that resurrections do not occur. Therefore, since we have uniform testimony against resurrections, the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be an exception to the rule. Therefore, it did not occur. How do you like that for logic?

How well did David Hume do in keeping Jesus Christ in the tomb? All elementary students in philosophy know that that is circular reasoning. He began by assuming the conclusion. He said, “All of nature teaches us that there is uniform experience against resurrections.” How does he know that? Possibly there was an exception. David Hume didn’t do very well because there is no philosophical argument that anyone could ever advance to keep Christ in the tomb. It’s not possible.

Why did Hume fall into that error? He was a philosopher. The word philosopher means a lover of wisdom. It’s too bad that David Hume didn’t know Colossians, chapter 2, verse 3, in which it says of Christ, “In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Jesus has all the hidden treasures. How can Jesus Christ be kept in the tomb by philosophy when He Himself is Lord and king of philosophy? It can’t be done.

I think, for example of Karl Marx who took the stone of politics, a political theory, and rolled it in front of the tomb and tried to keep Christ there. Marx was reared in the Rhineland of Germany. At the age of six was baptized a Lutheran, and said some mighty beautiful things about Jesus Christ as a teenager. But then he teamed up with Engels, and together they wrote The Communist Manifesto, and then after that Marx traveled to Great Britain where he spent a lot of time in the British Museum, using the library there to write Das Kapital. Marx said that all religion was nothing more than the opiate of the people and that he believed it could be exterminated.

Marx himself elevated himself to the stature of God and wanted to destroy the world. Let me read one of his poems. He said:

With disdain I will throw down my gauntlet

full in the face of the world,

and see the collapse of this pygmy giant

whose fall will not stifle my ardor.

Then will I wander Godlike and victorious

through the ruins of this world,

and giving my words an active force,

I will feel equal to the creator.

The writings of Marx captivated the imagination of Mao Tse-Tung in China. He believed that the twenty-seven sprawling provinces of China could be unified under Marxism. And in the revolution which consummated in 1949, the Peoples Republic of China was formed under the banner of Marxism. As a matter of fact, Mao Tse-Tung later began what was known as the Cultural Revolution. It was the greatest attempt ever made in history to literally redefine human nature and come up with a new breed of human beings that would have no religious sentiments.

The Red Guard traveled throughout the length and breadth of China, and they tried to rid it of every single vestige of Christianity. They closed every church in China. They even went through the graveyards, and if there was a cross on a tombstone they chiseled it out. They were going to once and for all change the disposition of human nature.

Back in 1949, it was estimated that there were three-quarters of a million believers in China. How many are there today in China that have believed in Jesus Christ? The estimates are that perhaps the number is 20 million, maybe 25 million, maybe even 50 million believers in China. Marx and Mao Tse-Tung did not do very well in keeping the grave closed. How could they keep Jesus Christ out of politics when He Himself was the one upon whom the governments of the world would rest? It was predicted in Isaiah that the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

And in the book of Revelation, it says that before the Lamb many are gathered and they sing a new song, saying, “Thou art worthy to take the book of life and to open it, for Thou hast loosed the seals thereof.” And it says, “I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and glory and honor and blessing.’ And every creature which is in heaven and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them I heard saying, ‘Blessing, glory and honor and power be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.’”

How in the world did Marx think that he could keep Christ at arm’s length when Christ is king of politics, and will be the ruler throughout all generations and throughout all ages, and even today is ruler, but He has delegated it to men who are messing things up? But He’s coming back to straighten it out.

Then I think of Sigmund Freud. He rolled the stone of psychotherapy in front of the grave and tried to keep Christ confined. You know that Freud said that religion was nothing but a figment of people’s imagination. It was the projection that all of us have in our minds, driven by aggression and our sex drive, and having some things that we couldn’t explain. And our desire for a father image created the idea, said Freud.  And so Freud believed that psychoanalysis would be the answer to people’s mental problems.

A few years ago Time Magazine had an article, or I should say a cover story, on psychiatry. And the picture was that psychiatry itself today is on the couch. “It’s in trouble,” Time Magazine said. It’s in trouble because it doesn’t have any evidence… Secular psychology and psychiatry has no evidence of being able to cure anyone. There are at least 200 conflicting theories regarding the nature of man, and the entire field is in disarray.

Well, it’s too bad that Freud didn’t understand that Jesus Christ is the master psychoanalyst. It says in the Gospels that when people believed on Him, He did not commit Himself unto them for He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.

My friend, Jesus not only understands human nature. He knows what the heart is like. He said that from within come evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, thefts, covetousness. Jesus knows what the heart of man is like, but Jesus not only knows the problem. He also is the cure for the problem. And Jesus Christ is able to reach down and to take somebody who came through an abused childhood, and enable that person to be healed emotionally down deep inside in a way that Freud could never do.

How could Freud possibly do away with Jesus Christ when Jesus is the master counselor, the wonderful counselor, Jesus being the master psychoanalyst and Lord and king over psychology?

I think, for example, of Voltaire who took the stone of culture and thought that by using that stone he could keep Christ confined. Voltaire was very critical of the church of his day, and not without reason, but Voltaire rejected Jesus Christ. He rejected the Bible. He predicted that in less a hundred years the Bible would be a forgotten book. But before he died, Voltaire said these words, “I am abandoned by God and man. I shall go to hell.”

Someone else said that before Voltaire died he actually made the statement, “There is no use now telling me there is no hell, for I am already feeling its flames,” Voltaire said. And though he predicted that in a hundred years the Bible would be obsolete, a hundred years after his prediction, Voltaire was dead and the house in which he lived was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society so that Bibles could be spread throughout Europe.

How could Voltaire ever make such a big mistake to think that he could keep Jesus Christ confined, that he could take Jesus Christ and confine Him to the tomb so that He would be forgotten about? Voltaire evidently forgot that Jesus is the king of culture. He is the lily of the valley. He is the bright and the morning star. He is all wisdom. He is ethics. He is morality. He is salvation. He is everything that culture needs. And Voltaire forgot that.

Then I think of Charles Darwin who took the stone of science and he put it in front of the grave, and said that that’s it, Jesus will no longer be necessary. Darwin himself, by the way, believed in God, but by believing that evolution could explain origins he made it easy for the next generation of scientists to say that there is no God, that life began by a fortuitous combination of atoms. I was always hoping I’d have a chance to use that word. And Darwin said, “That’s how life began.” And other people bought into the theory and they said, “We can explain life without reference to God,” and today evolution is in disarray.

A leading scientist in the trial in Arkansas some time ago concluded that even though he didn’t believe in Jesus Christ, he said he was forced mathematically to believe in God because life could not have evolved. If not just a possibility if given enough billions of years, but he says, “Life absolutely could not have evolved, that there must be a God to get it started.”

And Dr. Paul Lemoine, the editor of a French encyclopedia, said very candidly that “Evolution is a fairytale for adults. It is a house of cards held together by ropes of mist.”

Why would Charles Darwin make such a tremendous mistake to think that he and other scientists could confine Christ and keep Him in the tomb when it says in Colossians 1:16 regarding Christ, “For by Him were all things created both which are in heaven and which are on earth, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things were created by Him and for Him, and in Him all things consist.” Jesus is creator. Jesus is king of science. How can science keep the king of science in the tomb?

I want you to know today that kingdoms come and kingdoms go, but Jesus Christ lives. Centuries come and centuries go, but Jesus Christ lives. Kings are crowned, and kings are uncrowned, but Jesus Christ lives. Skeptics laugh, and skeptics mock, but Jesus Christ lives. Emperors decree His extinction, but Jesus Christ lives. He lives because He is King, king over the whole earth. And I want you to know that because Jesus is king, you shall someday confront Him. You will confront Him. Every single human being in all the world will confront Christ at some juncture. Muslims will confront Him, Hindus will confront Him, Protestants will confront Him, Catholics will confront Him, atheists will confront Him, agnostics will confront Him. The educated, the uneducated.

There are at least two instances given in Scripture when men and women will confront Christ. It says in Philippians, chapter 2, that “Someday every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Every single one.

People who gave no thought regarding Christ here on earth will confess Him as Lord and as King. People who thought that they could keep Him in the grave by rolling one stone upon it after another will someday discover that they will have to acknowledge Him as king and as Lord even though they may be lost forever. In one moment of time, they will confess Him to be Lord. That’s one time when everybody will be confronted with this living Savior.

There’s another time and that is that Jesus said that He would judge all men. He says, “The Father has committed all judgment unto the Son,” (the Scripture says) and someday everybody is going to stand before Jesus Christ, and everyone will be judged by Him and they will either go into heaven or they will go into hell. They’ll go to one of those two places forever. You see, you were created with an indestructible soul, and once God created you there is no way getting out of the fact that you are going to live somewhere forever. Now forever is a mighty, mighty long time. It’s a long time. You just think of a little bird coming to the Earth every million years and taking a few grains of sand and taking those grains to another planet. Every million years the bird shows up and takes a few more grains of sand. Do you realize that this entire Earth will have been moved to another planet if that were to happen, and eternity will not have, strictly speaking, begun because you can’t begin something for which there is no end? That’s a long time.

And the way you will be judged is your response to Jesus Christ. Not your response to the church, not your response to your own attempts to live the Christian life, not whether or not you put forth an extraordinary amount of effort to be good. The Bible says that when Jesus died on the cross that His death was a sacrifice for sin. That’s what Good Friday is all about. Jesus died as the sin bearer so that those who believe in Him, those who trust in Him might be saved. But it’s not trust in Jesus and baptism too. It’s not trust in Jesus and your own efforts, and communion, and this, and your prayers, and this and that. It is trust in Christ who alone is the sin-bearer who died for sinners, and who receives those who believe and trust in Him alone. That’s the category of people that will go to heaven. The other people will be lost in eternal perdition in a place that the Bible calls hell. That’s a very sobering thought, but Jesus is judge, and Jesus is king.

Now, I must ask you what stones have you been rolling in front of the tomb to try to keep Jesus at arm’s length? There may be some of you here who have taken the stone of ignoring Jesus Christ, and you say, “As long as I ignore Him, respectful of avoidance… As long as I stay away from Him and don’t get too close, I can compartmentalize Him and put Him away.” I want you to know that that stone will not work because you must confront Him, and confront Him you will.

Another stone that you may use is the stone of blaming Him. Ignoring Him. Blaming Him. Some people are angry at Jesus Christ and they say, “Because you have given me the circumstances of life that I’m experiencing, I will not respond to you. I will not investigate your claims. I will simply blame you in anger.” But that stone will not keep you from having to confront the risen Christ. You cannot use the stone of ignoring Him, the stone of blaming Him, the stone of distrusting Him. And you can distrust Him in many ways. You can distrust Him by going your own way, or by adding to what He has done, and saying that “This, too, contributes to my relationship with God and my salvation.” And so you trust in Christ and something else. That is a form of distrust. Is that what stone you have rolled in front of the tomb? I want you to know that you cannot confine Christ. You can’t confine Him.

What about the stone of insulting Him? Insulting Him by your indifference and by your own attitude of disinterest and unbelief. Listen to me carefully. It would be better for you to try to blow the mountains over with a puff of air than to keep Christ in the tomb. It would be better for you to try to sink a battleship with a pea shooter than to try to keep Jesus Christ in the tomb. It would be better for you to try to take all the water that is in the world on all of the oceans and to confine it in an eye dropper. That would be more sensible than to try to keep Jesus Christ in the tomb because Jesus Christ has risen and you must confront Him. Either you receive Him in this life, or you worship Him in the life to come, separated from God forever, yes, but acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and as King. And no stone that you roll in front of the grave, no stone can somehow keep Him away from you for He is the risen Christ, and He will not be put away by anyone. Christ. Lord. King. God forever.

You may be saying, “Well, where is He that I might meet Him? Where is He? We have not seen the risen Christ? We do not look upon His body today for He ascended into heaven, and He is coming again in tremendous power and glory. “But in between time where is He that I might meet Him?” you say.

A number of years ago there was a man who left the city of Chicago here and went to Kentucky where he wooed and won a woman to be his bride, and they lived here in the city of Chicago. But during childbirth, something very severely took place in this woman and she became mentally ill. At her best, she was just a bit demented, and at her worst, she was a raving maniac. So he moved out of the city of Chicago here into one of the suburbs, hoping that some of the complaints of the neighbors that they had against her might subside if not vanish altogether.

And one day someone suggested to him that he should go back to Kentucky. Maybe if she saw where she grew up something would snap and she might be all right. So he decided it was worth a try. So he took her and put her into the car for the long trip to Kentucky. Hand in hand they walked through the old homestead where memories hung on every corner. Hand in hand they walked through the meadows, past the flower beds and all of the places she had known as a girl. But unfortunately, it didn’t help.

So he put her into the car for the long trip back to Chicago. But as they were nearing the city he suddenly noticed that a deep sleep came upon her. It was a sleep that was more peaceful and restful than she had had in many days and in many months. So when they arrived here, rather than taking her out of the car, or rather than waking her up, I should say, he took her out of the car. He gently lifted her up and took her into the home and put her upon the bed and sat beside her.

Eight to nine, nine to ten, ten to eleven, eleven to twelve into the wee hours of the morning he sat there until the sun came through the window and stroked her face. And suddenly she woke up and she said, “My husband! I’ve been on a long journey. Where have you been?” And that dear man, speaking out of days and weeks and months of anxious waiting said, “Darling, I haven’t been anywhere. I’ve been right here and I’ve been waiting just for you.”

Where is this risen Christ that you might confront Him? Where is this king that you might meet Him? The answer is that He is right here today waiting just for you.

Stones cannot hold Him, lies that are spoken about Him cannot detain Him, excuses do not in any way deter Him. He is king and He is Lord, and confront Him you must. And today you can confront Him where you are. Open your life to him. Receive Him as Savior, as king, that you might be with Him forever, confessing Him to be Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Hume couldn’t do it, Marx couldn’t do it, Freud couldn’t do it, Voltaire couldn’t do it, Darwin couldn’t do it, you can’t do it, I can’t do it. No one can keep Him in the tomb. He’s the living Christ waiting right now just for you.

Let’s pray.

If you have never received Christ personally into your life, or you doubt whether or not you have, why don’t you take this moment and say, “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I know you are Savior and King. I know you are waiting just for me, and I now receive you as my own. I let go of everything and trust only the risen Christ. In faith, I believe that you have received me.”

Our Father, we pray that throughout this auditorium many shall have prayed that prayer, and that you will bring them to a point of assurance that they belong to you and will belong to you forever. Rid them of every vestige of that which is wrong and distracting and show them only Christ, risen King, Lord, Savior, we ask in His name, Amen.



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