Making A Difference In The Nation's Capital Through Prayer And Action

Day 2: The Grave

Apr 2, 2021

Countdown to the Resurrection

A Prelude to the Triumphant Victory

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord! So penned Robert Lowrey in 1874 as the first refrain in his immortal chorus, Christ Arose!

Jesus is dead. His body removed from the cross and placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. A stone now blocks access to the grave, Pilate has granted the Sanhedrin a guard for three days at the tomb and the stone is sealed. The disciples are in hiding and feeling great trepidation.

What is next?

The Bible is actually silent about that time in which Jesus was in the grave. We do know, however, that while Jesus was on the cross, he spoke hope into the heart of a thief crucified alongside him. Luke shares this intimate exchange with us: “Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise'” (Luke 23:42-43).

The word paradise is Persian in its derivation and is often used to convey heaven. It is also used to describe what was known as Abraham’s bosom, that is, the respite of the righteous dead awaiting the resurrection.

Many believe while his body was in the grave, Jesus descended into Abraham’s bosom and declared the mystery of the Gospel and their impending deliverance from the abode of the dead. At the same time, there is a text in Peter that may speak to what was happening in the tomb.

Peter declares, “He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits…” (1 Peter 3:18-19).

These cryptic words are difficult to understand. There are several different views as to what is meant. For our purposes here, we will look at the description of Peter’s meaning found in the Expositors Bible Commentary as they paraphrase his words: “To sum up, the thought…may be paraphrased as follows: "He was put to death in the human sphere of existence but was made alive in the resurrection sphere of existence, in which state of existence he made a proclamation of his victory to the fallen angels … As for the pastoral significance of these verses, it is one of comfort because through suffering Christians go on to victory. Those who oppose Christians will be defeated.”

And that is our focus: While the body of Jesus lay in the tomb and the disciples languished in uncertainty, believing their enemies had prevailed, something powerful was possibly happening. Victory was being declared and the opponents of the faith would soon writhe in defeat.

As the Apostle Paul declares to the Colossian church, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15).

What does this mean? Again, according to the Expositors Bible Commentary, “The picture, quite familiar in the Roman world, is that of a triumphant general leading a parade of victory. The conqueror, riding at the front in his chariot, leads his troops through the streets of the city. Behind them trails a wretched company of vanquished kings, officers, and soldiers—the spoils of battle. Christ, in this picture, is the conquering general; the powers and authorities are the vanquished enemy displayed as the spoils of battle before the entire universe. To the casual observer the cross appears to be only an instrument of death, the symbol of Christ's defeat; Paul sees it as Christ's chariot of victory.”

This dark and tragic vision of Christ in the tomb is only a prelude for the triumphant victory of Jesus over his enemies. That’s why, in his pastoral discourse after the Passover, he tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). And again, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Jesus was giving his disciples insight into what was about to happen and what it would mean for them. In spite of how things may appear, in spite of the pain, the loss, the disillusionment of the grave, they are to place their hope in the Lord.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

As Holly Lebowitz Rossi once wrote in Guideposts: “King spoke these words in a Washington, D.C., address in February 1968, just two months before he was assassinated in Memphis. They echo across the decades and endure as one of the most positive messages of the great civil rights leader’s legacy—that the challenges that weigh us down today should never dissuade us from imagining a better, more just, and more love-filled future.”

We may not understand what is happening at any given moment, but our trust, our faith, our hope is in the Lord. God will use my disappointment as an appointment to reveal His glory through my life.

Paul acknowledges that when he tells the Philippians, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).

Yes, I am bound in chains. Yes, my future is uncertain. And, yes, this may be difficult for those who love me to accept or understand. But I want you to realize during these challenging days what is ACTUALLY happening: The Praetorian Guard now realizes I’m in chains because of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, because of my chains, the church in Rome is brimming with confidence and preaching the Gospel without any fear of repercussions.

Why? Because if God is for us, if God is with us, who can stand against us?

And that even counts for a thief being executed for his crimes. Even in that dark moment, he reaches out to Jesus in faith – and that confession transforms his eternity.

This has been such a difficult year for so many. COVID and the draconian lockdown orders that too often accompanied the pandemic have brought pain, suffering, business and financial loss, the loss of critically needed church fellowship, deprivation of the affection of loved ones for too many in nursing homes and death. And yet, even in all of that, God is at work. All of that personal loss is not the final word. Remember the words of Jesus to His disciples; Don’t let your hearts be troubled. You’re going to have trouble in this world. But, I have overcome the world. Whatever you may be facing, He is with you. Your present circumstances are not the final word.

Even death is not the final word. As the Apostle told the Thessalonians, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

As believers, our future in in Christ, who has triumphed over death, Hell, and the grave!

So, as your missionaries to Washington, DC, we encourage you to press on. The Lord is with you!

And it is that message of faith in Jesus Christ that we prophetically declare to our national public policy makers. For those who trust God and strive to uphold biblical values in government and daily face ridicule, scorn, persecution and threats, we say. “Do not grow weak in well-doing, for in due season you will reap your reward.”

It may look dark now, but tomorrow is Sunday – the resurrection is at hand.

Faith & Liberty is an evangelistic ministry, taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nation's top elected and appointed officials. Our mission is simple: To bring the Word of God to bear on the hearts and minds of those that make public policy in America. We rely on your support to accomplish this important ministry. Thank you for your generosity.