We’ve had a couple opportunities to visit the East Coast of the United States. On one occasion we wandered through a cemetery and were fascinated by the names and dates which went back to the early beginnings of our nation. We also got to spend some time in Europe one summer where I was interested in locating some of my Norwegian roots. In Norway, there is usually a cemetery located next to a church, and the churches often have the only records of genealogies. Again we were intrigued by the names and dates on the grave markers. I have also conducted many grave-side services in our local area in Montana. As we wander around the cemetery we see many familiar names which bring back memories of families and individuals we have known.
No matter where the cemetery is located, the graves and grave markers reveal several facts. One of them is recorded in the Bible in Heb. 9:27 where we read: “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” You will recall that when God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He warned them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, saying, “…for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Well, they disobeyed, and ate, and as a result experienced separation from God (spiritual death) and eventually died physically (separation of body from soul and spirit). Not only did they die, but we read in Paul’s letter to the Roman believers: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). So, cemeteries world wide are a reminder of the truth of God’s Word and of the penalty of sin, which is not only spiritual death (separation from God) but physical death.
Another fact revealed by the grave markers is that death is no respecter of age. I have had grave-side services for still-born babies and for those who had reached the century mark and every age in between. Before the Flood of Noah people lived much longer (an average of 912 years), but they still died. Death is a real enemy and it affects all. All our medical advancements will never find a cure for death. It is a spiritual, not a biological problem. Only God, the Creator of life can defeat the enemy of death.
An additional observation from the cemeteries is that, unless a body has been exhumed for some reason, it is still there, or at least the remaining bones of the deceased are. And if you were to visit the graves of the founders of the world religions, you would discover the same thing—occupied tombs! The Brahmans who established Hinduism in India all died and remained that way. Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), who split away from Hinduism and founded Buddhism died in 483 B.C. and his body remains in the grave. If you go to Mecca, you can visit the grave of the founder of Islam, Muhammad. His remains are still there. The same is true of Confucius, great teacher and editor of the classical writings of China who died in 479 B.C. There is, however, a very significant exception, for if you were to visit the location of the death and burial of the founder of Christianity, you would only find an empty tomb!
When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave of their beloved Jesus who had been beaten, scourged, crucified and buried in the rich man’s tomb, they found that the large stone had been rolled away from in front of the tomb. The angel who had rolled the stone away “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. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead…” (Mt. 28:5-7). Those words stir my heart every time I hear them. Jesus, God the Son, came to earth to “taste death for every one…Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:9,14,15). Jesus conquered death just like He said He would, and He did it for me, for you, and even for the the thief who hung on the cross next to Him. Jesus’ resurrection was proof that God the Father was satisfied (propitiated) with Jesus’ suffering for the guilt of our sin. Paul wrote: “He was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Ro. 4:25). That is, He died for our sins and was raised to prove “It is finished” as He cried out from the cross. The empty cross and empty tomb speak of our full salvation through Jesus Christ. We need not, nor can we, add anything to what Jesus accomplished on our behalf, for “He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).
All the religions of the world can offer you is a plan of works on your part which they say may give you a chance to achieve a better afterlife. They can offer no real hope or assurance. The same would be true of Christianity if Jesus had remained in the grave. Paul wrote: “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ (died physically) have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. BUT NOW CHRIST HAS BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD…For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Cor. 15:15-22). Christianity hinges on the fact of the Resurrection. “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord (i.e., believe He is truly God in the flesh), and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Ro. 10:9).
So, there is some really “Good News” (the meaning of the word “Gospel). Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers: “Now, I make known to you, brethren, the gospel…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures” ( I Cor. 15:1-4). To the Romans Paul wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Ro. 1:16).
Have you responded positively to the “Good News,” the gospel of Christ? Have you put your trust in Him and His death on your behalf and believed that God raised Him from the dead. If so, you have eternal life and will not come into judgment but have passed out of death into life (Jn. 5:24). If you haven’t, I encourage you to do so. `
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Hallelujah!!