Christ's Victory Over Death

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John 20, Matthew 27, 1 Thessalonians 4
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 7

Christ’s Victory Over Death

(John 20, Matthew 27, 1 Thessalonians 4)

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: I am not a baseball fan. The games seem slow and endless. No doubt many readers will disagree. Imagine a baseball game (or football, or hockey, or boxing) that never ended. Would you be satisfied with that? Apply that thinking to the contest between good and evil. If the righteous dead immediately go to heaven, why would we need a resurrection? If the answer is that you need a body in heaven to go with your spirit, why can’t that body be supplied to you in heaven? It is not as if you are getting your decayed body back. There is a “victory” logic supporting the idea of soul sleep that we will explore this week. That victory starts with the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible!

  1. Doubtful Thomas
    1. Read John 20:19. What is the attitude of Jesus’ disciples after His crucifixion? (It is an attitude of defeat. They are afraid that they, too, will be killed by the authorities.)
    2. Read Acts 1:6. Just as Jesus is about to return to heaven, after His resurrection, the disciples ask this. Tell me what this adds to your view of the mental attitude of the disciples in John 20:19? (They must have been absolutely devastated. They had visions of being rulers in Jesus’ kingdom on earth. Now they are huddled together terrified that the current kingdom will kill them.)
    3. Read John 20:20-21. What are the disciples sent to do? (They are sent to report victory! Jesus’ victory over death. The peace of the gospel.)
    4. Read John 20:22. Why did Jesus give the disciples the Holy Spirit immediately after He gave them their mission? (The Holy Spirit was essential to their work.)
    5. Read John 20:24-25. Why does Thomas disbelieve? Does he think his fellow disciples are all liars?
    6. Read John 20:26-27. Why did Jesus make this extra effort to convince Thomas?
    7. Read John 20:28-29. Let’s consider the importance of Jesus’ appearance. Do you think other disciples would have taken the same view as Thomas if they, too, were not present when Jesus first appeared?
      1. Let’s change the entire story line. Assume that after Jesus died His Spirit returned triumphant to heaven and Satan was thus defeated. Would all of the disciples be like Thomas? (It seems impossible to claim otherwise. It was Jesus’ appearance that turned them from cowering behind locked doors.)
      2. If Jesus’ resurrection is essential to belief, how essential is our future resurrection to belief? (If Christianity was only a series of spirits secretly slipping away to heaven, it would be harder to take the claim seriously.)
  2. Others Arose
    1. Read Matthew 27:50-53. Notice that this happened immediately upon Jesus’ death. Why? (These are all tangible proof that Jesus is the Messiah and He has defeated death. The temple curtain separating the Holy from the Most Holy is torn. The sacrificial system is at an end. People are raised to life. Satan’s claim over our lives is at an end.)
    2. Read Matthew 27:54. What is the impact of these events on the secular soldiers? (They believed that Jesus was God.)
    3. Look again at Matthew 27:51-52. If these saints were raised to life immediately upon the death of Jesus, why didn’t Jesus fly straight off the cross and go to heaven surrounded by angels in glory? (Jesus’ rest in the grave makes absolutely no sense except for the point about the Sabbath rest of victory. Just as Jesus rested to celebrate His creation of the world (Genesis 2:1-3), so Jesus celebrates the victory of His rescue of the creation.)
  3. Victory Celebration
    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. What is the reason for these verses? (Verse 18 says that they are to encourage us.)
      1. Encourage us about what? (Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. We are given hope that the dead will rise again. Because Jesus arose, so we can have confidence that we will arise from the grave.)
        1. Why would Christians need this encouragement if the spirits of the departed were already in heaven? (Either the idea of conscious spirits being in heaven is not true, or it is so hard to maintain such a belief that we need this encouraging word.)
    2. Read Hebrews 9:28 and Revelation 1:7. Does this sound like a conclusion - where we have clear winners and losers?
      1. Think back to the Introduction. Is the final resurrection like the end of the game where we have a clear winner and clear loser?
      2. When the saints that we discussed in the prior section came to life at Jesus’ death, was that a preview of the final victory?
    3. Read John 14:3.If our spirit in heaven is fully conscious and can converse with Jesus, would this statement about Jesus coming again to “take you to myself” make any sense?
    4. Read Revelation 22:12 and Matthew 16:27. What do these texts say is at least part of the reason for Jesus’ Second Coming? (To settle affairs regarding what humans have done.)
      1. Does this sound like an end-game tally of the score?
      2. What does this tell us about a belief that humans go to heaven or hell before the final score is tallied? (It undercuts that idea.)
    5. Read John 6:39-40. What is the “all” that has been given to Jesus? (Jesus is talking about His followers.)
      1. What then is being raised up “on the last day?” (Jesus’ followers.)
        1. If the spirits of Jesus’ followers immediately go to heaven, how does it make any sense to speak of them being raised up in the last days?)
    6. Read Revelation 20:11. What does it mean that “earth and sky fled away?” (Read Revelation 21:1. It tells us that at some point heaven and earth “pass away.”)
    7. Read Revelation 20:12. Do these dead include the righteous? (The mention of the Book of Life argues for that.)
    8. Read Revelation 20:13-15. Is this “game over” for the controversy between good and evil? (Absolutely.)
      1. Does the description “standing before the throne” sound like a description of spirits, or bodies? (Clearly bodies.)
      2. If the declaration of the final judgment takes place at(or just after)the Second Coming of Jesus, is that consistent with the spirits of saints already living in heaven, and having lived in heaven for thousands of years? (It is inconsistent with the spirits in heaven claim.)
    9. Read Revelation 20:4-6. How does this time line fit in? (This must be before the event we just read about in Revelation 20:13-15.)
      1. How many resurrections do we have? (Two. A first for the righteous and a second for the wicked.)
      2. How does that relate to the Second Coming of Jesus? (“Pre-millennium” believers, of which I am one, understand that at Jesus’ Second Coming the righteous who have died will be resurrected, and the righteous living will be taken to heaven(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)and live a thousand years. After that the New Jerusalem will come down to earth, the wicked will be raised and their judgment declared. God will destroy the old earth and create a new one on which the New Jerusalem will rest.)
    10. Friend, the great controversy between good and evil is coming to an end. It has a very dramatic conclusion. Because Jesus rose we know that at His Second Coming we will rise and go with Him to heaven. Will you choose Jesus now? Why wait?
  1. Next week: The New Testament Hope.