The Triumph of the Risen Christ

by Rev. Sterling Durgy

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Reading the Gospels, it is easy to forget that many of the people present when Christ died and rose from the dead were more concerned with their personal lives than with Jesus. It is clear that people throughout the city of Jerusalem knew about Jesus, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, Jesus' dramatic entrance into the city, His ministry in the Temple, arrest, and crucifixion. He was certainly a topic of conversation for virtually all the inhabitants and pilgrims who had gathered there to celebrate the Passover (Luke 24:18). The proclamation that Jesus had risen from the dead was about to cause turmoil and division among them. But for most of them, life did not change. With all the drama, signs, and miracles that took place, the city, and most of the people in her, continued on very much as they had before.

The New Testament focuses our attention upon the events involving the proclamation of the Gospel and the establishment of the church, and it should. But it is also helpful to remember the circumstances under which these events took place. Paganism had an awesome, powerful presence in the ancient world. If it is true that the traditional paganism of the day had lost much of its grip upon the hearts and minds of the people, it is also true that the public observance of this paganism was deeply intertwined with public, commercial, and political life virtually everywhere in the Roman empire. Christians who entered a city faced powerful enemies. Jewish synagogues were islands of fellowship and support until they, too, became hostile and persecuted the Christians.

Life in the face of overwhelming pagan cultures was the rule of life for Christians for hundreds of years before Christianity became an established faith. Like us, these Christians sometimes felt loneliness, weakness, fatigue, and fear. Like us, they sometimes became weary of the stress and wondered just how God wanted them to serve Him in difficult circumstances. When they walked the streets of pagan cities, impressive pagan temples testified to the strength of pagan culture while Christians worshipped in houses and catacombs - often in secret for fear of losing their lives or freedom. Their triumph was that they lived in the confidence that the risen Christ had triumphed over the world on their behalf - enabling them to live out His victory in their day-to-day lives. The early proclamation of the apostles was accompanied by many miracles. They testified to the genuineness of the Gospel the apostles preached and the church they established (Acts 2:22, Hebrews 2:2-4, Romans 15:18-19, miracles related in the Acts of the Apostles). However, the victory of Christianity over paganism is all the more dramatic because it is also true that this victory did not come largely through spectacular works of God, but through the genuineness of the faith and character of the ones who placed their trust in Christ. Notice how victory comes in Revelation 12:11 and Revelation 21, 22 and how Christ tells the saints to achieve victory in Revelation 2-3.

Christianity does not rest upon the presence of spectacle but upon the genuineness of the triumph of Christ at the cross, before God's throne, and in believers through the presence of His Spirit. If it were otherwise, the history of the church would be a history of matching wits with every magician, witch, or sorcerer who seeks to mimic the true miracles of God (Exodus 7:8ff., Acts 13:4ff., I Corinthians 1:22-25).

Rather than rest in miracles and signs, our faith is to rest in the miracle of Christ's resurrection (Matthew 12:38-40). This is why Peter said, "let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (I Peter 4:19). This is why Christ said, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). This is why Paul says that in all the conditions of this world "we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" even when we are as "sheep to be slaughtered" (Romans 8:35-39). When Paul wrote to the Colossians, He did not elevate outward miracles, but said, "Christ in you, the hope of glory"(Colossians 1:27).

The second chapter of Acts records the beginning of the Christian church at Pentecost. In a time of remarkable events - the incarnation of Christ, the ministry of Christ, the crucifixion of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ -- Pentecost marks the division of human history in a manner that no other event will ever do - not because it is more important that those other five events, but because it flows from them. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the earthly evidence that the ministry of Christ had succeeded - in heaven as well as on earth - and therefore Christ's followers could be fully equipped to live and minister successfully for Him here on earth. Before Pentecost, Jesus taught, the disciples were to look for the fulfillment of Christ's promises at Pentecost (Acts 1:1-9). As Christ ascended into heaven, angels told the disciples that the next major event to look for after Pentecost was Christ's physical return (Acts 1:9-11). No other event in-between was necessary for Christ's disciples to be fully equipped to serve Him in this age.

The apostle Paul labored for Christ with an infirmity, a "thorn in the flesh," that was troublesome to him. When he asked God to take it away, God did not take it away, but answered, "My grace is sufficient for you" (II Corinthians 12:7-9). The present age, since Pentecost, is a time when God's provision for His people is sufficient for them to accomplish all that He has for them to do. We can and should rest in this confidence, devoting ourselves to trustful service rather than to seeking further signs that God has given to us what He has promised. We can and should be unshaken by those who might say our faith, our possession of the Spirit, or our Christian service is incomplete simply because God does not do "signs and wonders" at our beck and call. If He did, He would be something less than truly God, and we would be less than Christ's disciples.

Those whose spiritual "eyes" are fully open comprehend that God's servants are fully equipped to serve Him in this present age (Matthew 28:18-20, Ephesians 1:18-23, Colossians 2:1-15).

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume IV, Part 4, April 1996.

Copyright 1999 Sterling M. Durgy. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.