The Religion of the Empty Tomb
Jul 12, 2013 6590
Sometime around 31 AD, just outside Jerusalem, something happened that changed the course of history. It still divides people today, and it will determine their eternal destiny. Did Jesus rise from the dead or did He not? That the tomb was empty is beyond question. Even the Roman guards confirmed that it was empty. But why?
Believers in Jesus multiplied and conquered the Roman Empire because they believed that the tomb was empty because Jesus Christ had risen, proving that He was indeed the Conqueror of Death. And they had plenty of witnesses who had seen Him risen. I call this “the Religion of the Empty Tomb,” and this is the very essence of Christianity.
The Religion of the Empty Tomb teaches that when Jesus came out of that tomb, He had accomplished something that no one else had done, or ever could ever do. After Jesus’ perfect atonement for our sins on the cross, through His resurrection He irrevocably confirmed His victory of salvation and eternal life. Although after His resurrection, Jesus had ascended to the Father in heaven, He had promised His church that He would be among them through His Spirit, empowering them, gifting them, encouraging them, guiding them, and teaching them.
But in Christianity today, there is also another religion. I call it The Religion of the Dead Messiah. Christians who follow this religion actually believe that Jesus is still in the grave! They won’t tell you so with their words, but they will tell you so with their behavior and their attitudes. And the strangely sad reality is that what most of the world understand to be traditional Christianity is really the Religion of the Dead Messiah; it is not New Testament Christianity at all!
Churches who follow the Religion of the Dead Messiah act as if they are alone in this world. And so it is up to them to work it out; and yes, the focus is on works! These Christians sadly tend to have lots of committees, boards, policies, attitudes, and traditions that often harm the kingdom of Jesus rather than opening up its borders to sinners. They tend to forget that it is the risen Christ Himself who has claimed the position of the head of His church, and because of that all human wisdom, plans, and work must be subservient to the risen Jesus.
The New Testament portrays a church that was literally empowered by the presence of the risen Christ in their midst. As you read the book of Acts and the epistles of Paul, you can feel the excitement! The presence of the living Jesus was not only confirmed by the gifts of the Spirit, but especially in the personal experience of every believer who had chosen to follow Him. This was an experience of assurance, joy, excitement, and power. You see, knowing that Jesus is alive transforms the way that you see life, and the way that you see yourself.
We are called to do more than just acknowledge that Jesus is risen; we are called to celebrate through our lives and our deeds. The proclamation of the gospel started off in the world with 12 people. The only thing that was special about these 12 people was that they had met, not just Jesus the carpenter, but Jesus the risen Lord. Because when you really know that Jesus is alive, you cannot help being both irrepressibly excited and peacefully assured.
So I invite you to ditch the Religion of the Dead Messiah. I want to welcome you to the Religion of the Empty Tomb. There’s no signature required, no long creed, no fancy dress code. All you have to do is meet Jesus. Yes, He is alive!