Easter: comfort and responsibility

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When Jesus Christ died on the cross He called out “It is finished”. His body was broken and His blood shed. The great work of atonement was completed. God’s justice was satisfied. Satan’s power was defeated. Eternal life has been gained for His people. Everything that needed to be done was done. What a great blessing for those who believe!

God was well pleased with Jesus Christ’s death. God accepted that Jesus Christ had accomplished everything necessary to give His people eternal salvation. God therefore raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in heaven. God “worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion” (Ephesians 1:20-21).

But God does much more. We were dead in sin, unable to do any good. However, God raises all believers from the dead with Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:12 and Ephesians 2:4-7). As a result of Jesus Christ’s resurrection the Holy Spirit is sent; He raises us up to a new life of true holiness and good works. By His death and resurrection Jesus Christ also gives to us the fruits of His perfect obedience, so that we are now perfectly righteous before God. Finally, Christ’s resurrection is to us a sure pledge of our glorious resurrection. What rich blessings!

Why does God bless us in this way? John 3:16 answers this question: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But the most important reason is revealed in 2 Corinthians 4:15 “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” Let us therefore thank the Lord each day for the precious gift of the resurrection and all its consequences.

Easter brings us the joyful message of salvation. However it also brings a very serious message. The full joy has not yet come. We are still in the midst of the battle; sin remains in us and in the world. Furthermore Satan wants to harm the church.

Jesus Christ says, “For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12). This battle is no small matter. Satan knows he cannot harm Jesus Christ. He cannot enter heaven to accuse the believers. But he is able to attack the church on earth. However, his power is limited because nothing can cut the covenant bond between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. Jesus has bought the church with his blood and now she belongs to Him. Satan however still tries, furiously at that. Revelation 12:15 says that “the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.” Satan uses many ways to draw the church away from her Saviour. He causes confusion, division and grief; he brings temptations. History shows the church often suffers immensely; it is torn by heresies, division and persecution. Church history is written with tears and blood. The battle is serious.

But we do not despair. Indeed we are comforted because Jesus Christ guards His bride. In difficult times He always provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus Christ also prays for His bride (John 17); God answers by surrounding His church with His power and compassionate care. He preserves her till the end. That is also evident from church history.

Put your full trust in Jesus Christ; believe He will preserve you. Remember what He promised: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).

This comfort should, however, not lull us into a false sense of security. Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead, gives further serious instructions to His church. In Revelation 2:10 He says, “the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Similarly, the apostle Peter says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Here are calls to be faithful, sober and vigilant because Satan is enraged with the church, and makes war with the believers “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17). In this war Satan uses several weapons, including temptations and persecution. In “Western” countries Satan uses the weapon of temptation very tactfully and effectively. For example, he tries to convince the believers that there is not even a spiritual war, but that life is laid back, easy; look at all the blessings you have, he whispers. If this does not work he will try distraction to draw attention away from the war. Either way he tries, with success, to convince believers not to worry about any spiritual battle. In so many churches there is little appetite to talk about or engage in the spiritual battle.

When the battle rages, when the church is tested in the fiery crucible of persecution or temptation, true thoughts are revealed. He who does not carefully listen to Jesus Christ’s voice and follow Him will not be sober or vigilant, and therefore not be truly comforted.   Instead he will be felled by the storm. If one does not seek and obey Jesus Christ he will not find rest. Many have fallen in the spiritual battle because they were sucked into the vanity and sins of the world.

If you do not shelter in God alone, if you are not faithful, sober and vigilant, you can expect only misery.

Yes, be comforted and joyful by the gospel of Easter. But recognise the seriousness of Easter too. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

 

J Bruning