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It Was Impossible for Death to Keep its Hold on Him

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

     Thank you for listening to this Words of Life broadcast as we share the Word of God and as speaker and listener alike that we may apply the Word of God to our lives and share its truths with others.  The title for the lesson is: “It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

     Our major text is in the book of Acts chapter 2 and verses 22 through 24.  Please listen to the Word of God.

“Fellow Israelites listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

This is the Word of God.  May he add his blessing to the public reading of his Word.

     Bible scholar Hank Hanegraaff in his very book entitled “Resurrection”, writes about the transformation that occurred after the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ: “What happened as a result of the resurrection is unprecedented in human history.  In the span of a few hundred years, a small band of seemingly insignificant believers succeeded in turning an entire empire upside down.  As has been well said, ‘they faced the tyrant’s brandished steel, the lion’s gory mane, and the fires of a thousand deaths,’ because they were utterly convinced that they, like their Master, would one day rise from the grave in glorified, resurrected bodies.

     While it is conceivable that the disciples would have faced torture, vilification, and even cruel deaths for what they fervently believed to be true, it is inconceivable that they would have been willing to die for what they knew to be a lie.”  Well said.

     The apostles declared the great truths that Jesus Christ was put to death on a Roman cross; but that ‘God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep it’s hold on him?’  But why was it impossible for death to keep its hold on him?  There are many reasons, let’s consider a few:

Because of Christ’s divine power and authority:

     Jesus himself stated in the gospel of John chapter 10 verses 17 and 18 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, But I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father.”  Note that Christ repeated the words “to take it up again” twice in two verses.  This meaning that he had the power and the authority to take up again his life after death.  His death on the cross was not the end but instead the beginning of his glorified, incarnate life into eternity.

     Jesus also stated authoritatively in the gospel of John chapter 11 verse 25 “I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”  So, Christ asserted that no resurrection or eternal life exists apart from the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Christians have this great hope which we now believe by faith that we will live even though we die.  Resurrection from the dead bodily is not just theology; it should be personalized trust in Christ that it will come about exactly as he affirms.

     Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ has the power and authority over death and the devil.  Hebrews chapter 2 verses 14 and 15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

     The Son of God had to become human with flesh and blood so that he could die and rise again, in order to destroy the devil’s power over death.  In Christ, we need not fear death ultimately, because we know that death is a doorway into eternal life.  Into a glorious eternal life with God.

     For the believer death leads to victory because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we who die in Christ, will also be resurrected out from amongst the dead.  Consider First Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 54 it says: “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.’”

     Furthermore, ‘It was impossible for death to keep it’s hold on him ‘because of God’s promise and purpose.  And God’s promises and purposes are never, ever thwarted.

     Consider the gospel of Luke chapter 24 and verse 46 “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”  ‘It is written’ refers to the Old Testament whereby the death and resurrection of Messiah is alluded to in for example, in the sixteenth Psalm and in Isaiah the prophet chapters 52 and 53.

     Christ himself promised his resurrection in the gospel of John chapter 2 and verses 19 through 21. “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’  The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’  But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”

     Therefore, death could not keep its hold on Jesus.  He is alive forevermore!  And billions of professing Christians on this earth who believe in the resurrected Christ and continue to worship him.

As eyewitnesses of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ they were in fact transformed.  For example: 

     Peter, James and Paul were not the only ones transformed by the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.  But according to Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland an entire community of at least ten thousand Jews were willing to give up the very sociological and theological traditions that had given them their Jewish identity!

     For example, the Sabbath, the 7th day of the week was Judaism’s day of assembled worship, of rest, for thousands of years.  However, Jewish followers of Jesus Christ changed that traditions in the early, apostolic church.  And why?

     Consider the gospel of Matthew chapter 28 and verse 1 that says: “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.”  Because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on a Sunday these Jewish believer began assembling for worship and rest on Sunday, the first day of the week.  This they did in celebration of the resurrection of their Lord and Savior.

     Also, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ these Jewish believers ceased animal sacrifices, or at least being involved in the animal sacrifices.  Hebrews had been taught from the time of Abraham that they were to sacrifice animals as the symbol of atonement for sin.  They understood that Jesus was the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” the cumulative sin of the world.  John chapter 1 and verse 29 the words of John the Baptizer.  So, animal sacrifices became obsolete in their minds and hearts.  The new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ is superior to the old covenant by the blood of goats and calves.  As according to Hebrews chapter 9 verses 11 through 15.” Why did they change after thousands of years of traditions?  Because they believed in a risen Lord Jesus Christ and were transformed by this wonderful truth.

     ‘It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.’  Believers today continue to be transformed trusting in a Risen Savior as Lord over death.  Yet many today believe any bodily resurrection from the dead is nonsense – only for fools or ignorant people.

     Michael Faraday was no fool and certainly not ignorant.  Michael Faraday was one of England’s greatest chemists and physicists.  He discovered the principal of electromagnetic induction among other scientific discoveries.  When Faraday was nearing death, some journalists questioned him as to his speculations for a life after death, Michael Faraday stated, “Speculations!  I know nothing about speculations.  I’m resting on certainties.  I know that my Redeemer liveth and because he lives, I shall live also.”   Well said.

     We must believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  This is not optional; it must be a core belief of saving faith.  Consider Romans chapter 10 and verse 9 that says: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

     We should always understand and believe and share with others that Christianity begins where all other religions end – with the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

So, do you believe?  Do you believe and have you been transformed in the risen Savior?  Have you made your faith obedient by repenting of your sin, confessing him as Savior and Lord, being baptized, immersed into him for the forgiveness of sin that you might also become born-again, born from above, born anew, indwelt by the Holy Spirit to persevere in your faith when we can see the risen Lord one day face to face. 


        David Johnson is minister of Sellersburg Church of Christ. He resides in Sellersburg, IN.

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