The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, April 15, 2022

It’s Friday, April 15th, 2022.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Special Good Friday Edition of The Briefing: The Politics of the Empty Tomb

Christians around the world refer to this day as Good Friday. That is particularly in lands dominated by Western Christianity rather than by the ecclesial calendar of Eastern Orthodoxy. Of course, when we talk about Good Friday, there’s a history to the use of that term because it’s actually the Friday we dare to call good because we are, after all, on this day, memorializing and commemorating the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. We’re just reminding ourselves that this took place in space and time and history for our salvation. And thus it is important, from time to time and on the annual calendar of the church year, that we just remember.

There are two great festivals of the Christian year. Even Christians who are not following a liturgical calendar generally do look at these two feasts, these two festival days, and recognize their importance. Because even in the annual passage of time and even as churches are, every Lord’s day, gathering in light of not only the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, but even more so the resurrection and the empty tomb, the reality is that we need to confront the truth of the incarnation. That massive glorious truth that the babe born in Bethlehem is a savior who is Christ the Lord. We need to remember that in a way that human beings, prone to forget, need to remember with a commitment on the calendar. Christmas is not true just on Christmas Day or in the Christmas season, but nonetheless, it is good for our memory. It is good for our souls.

Also, the festival of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we are considering the resurrection of Christ… Again, every Lord’s day is actually the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason that Christians gather for worship on the first day of the week is because of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. But as we think about what Christ did for us in those saving acts that are represented by the cross and by the empty tomb, it is good in every sense that we give ourselves to that memory.

On The Briefing, day by day, we look at the big issues, controversies, challenges, that Christians face and we seek together to think about how Christians should think and act responsibly and consistently with Scripture, thinking through the lens of a Christian worldview and addressing these issues. And you might say that, well, as we’re thinking about the cross and the empty tomb, one of the things we need to understand is that they are non-political. We are, for this day, for these days, simply bracketing politics. I want to come back and say, no, that is not the case. What I want to talk about today is the politics of the empty tomb.

Now, the first meaning of the empty tomb for us is made clear by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, when he writes about the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. He makes very clear what is at stake. In verse 17 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who also have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people, most to be pitied.”

So the first significance as we think about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the fact that we are indeed redeemed from our sins by the grace and mercy of God, through the atoning sacrifice, the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. But the acts by which we are saved include not only the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, but the father raising him from the dead on the third day. The apostle Paul, as elsewhere we find in Scripture, the apostle Paul makes absolutely clear that the cross without the empty tomb means that our sins are still upon us. The empty tomb means that the gospel is true. That salvation is found in Jesus Christ.

As the apostle Paul began that chapter in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul spoke of the gospel and he spoke of the two issues of greatest priority that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scripture. Where, you say, is the politics? What’s political about that? Are you talking about today’s headline politics? No, I’m talking about politics at its essence. I am talking about the ordering of the entire cosmos and the rightful rule. That’s why we talk about the politics of the empty tomb.

There is no statement that is more essentially political than what we find in Philippians 2:9–10. Speaking of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ and Christ’s obedience to the father even unto death, the apostle Paul writes in 9–10, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. So that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” You say what’s political about that? Everything about that is political. It is the most essential politics. It has to do with who, in the end, bows the knee to whom.

And what you have here is the apostle Paul declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord and that that means that, eventually, every single knee shall bow and every single tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The ultimate politics is in answering the question who at the end bows to whom? And this means every single human being who has ever lived. Every single human being. The quick and the dead, as described in scripture on the day of judgment. Every single human being, regardless of any other characteristic. Every single human being who lived in any epic of all of world history, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

So who in the end is the ruler overall? It turns out that it is none other than the crucified and resurrected Christ. You’ll notice that the apostle Paul is speaking here of a sequence. Of a sequence that includes the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. He humbled himself, the apostle Paul says here in Philippians 2. Taking on humanity. But he humbled himself all the way to obedience at the cross and, therefore, God it has highly exalted him and given him the name above every name. It is for that reason, in light of Christ’s obedience, that the Father has decreed that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. This is the very same politics that turns out to be the politics of the Great Commission. Because after all, they’re concluding in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke politically. He said, “All authority has been given to me.” And then of course, Christ told the disciples that they are, in light of his authority, all authority under heaven and earth, they are to go into all the nations, telling of Christ, teaching the gospel.

It’s also really important for us to recognize that in that classic chapter in 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 15, in which Paul focuses so intensely upon the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we looked first at the fact that the apostle Paul said, “If Christ is not raised, then we are still dead in our sins. We are of all people most to be pitied.” But you’ll notice, immediately after that, Paul gets to the politics of the empty tomb. This is what Paul writes beginning in verse 20 of 1 Corinthians 15, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. The first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order. Christ, the first fruits, then it is coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end. When he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Again, notice it’s essentially political. It is about reign. It is about rule. It is about authority. It is about lordship. We are told that it is the crucified and now resurrected Lord who is not only the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, but he is also the one who will, at the end, deliver the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule, every authority, and power. Such amazing language. Rule, authority, power. The world thinks that it owns. The world thinks that it controls. The world think that it determines rule and power and authority. And there are earthly powers, but the biggest truth for Christians to recognize is that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ means the eventual end of all of those earthly powers. Every nation, every empire, every government, every president, every prime minister, every potentate, every earthly judge, every emperor, every empire. But you’ll notice that right there in verse 24, again, you have the word ‘kingdom.” We are told that, at the end, the son delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power, for he must reign. That’s political language. He must reign. He will reign universally. He will reign unconditionally. He will reign eternally.

By the time we read through the New Testament, it becomes clear that the church is stuck in a political situation. We face a political challenge. We are actually waging a political war. And you say, well, again, does that mean politics? No, it’s not just about politics and the world system. It is about the biggest politics of all, which is cosmic. In Ephesians chapter six, the apostle Paul reminds Christians, beginning in verse 12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” So to be a Christian, to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, is to be a citizen of a heavenly kingdom in which we find ourselves… all, every single one of us… drafted into this political struggle. It is a struggle that is ultimately not against flesh in blood, but against principalities and powers. The language here again is just incredibly political. Early Christians in the first century of Rome would recognize this language as the language claimed by Rome itself, and here you have the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to come back and say, no, here’s the politics of the empty tomb. At the end of the day, it will not be Caesar. It will be Christ Jesus who rules.

Our understanding, our Christian biblical, theological understanding of the politics of the empty tomb, takes us all the way into eternity in a new heaven and a new earth. Revelation 21 begins with these words. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe way every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away.'”

By the end of this chapter, we will know about the new Jerusalem. And you’ll remember that it’s political too. In verse 22, “And I saw no temple in the city. For its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun nor moon to shine on it for the glory of God keeps this light and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. And its gates will never be shut by day and there will be no night there. They will bring into it–that is the new Jerusalem, the holy city coming down from heaven–the kings of the earth will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations.” Just consider that. Just consider how essentially political that is and just consider how liberating that word is. All around us and all throughout human history, there are empires and emperors. Kings and kingdoms. There are powers that be. But as the biblical worldview and as the promise of the gospel makes clear, there will come a day when every single one of those kings will show up once again. They will show up to bring their glory to the new Jerusalem and to give that glory to God.

And the rule of God in the kingdom of Christ in this new Jerusalem… Again, it will be so perfect that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore for the former things have asked away. What’s included in those former things? Well, just about everything you see. Every material object. But it’s not just that. It’s not just the objects. It’s not just the landscape. It’s not just the stuff. It is also the powers. The powers that be. The powers of this present evil age, as Paul writes. We’re talking about legislatures and city councils. We’re talking about school boards. We’re talking about voluntary associations. We’re talking about empires. We’re talking about kingdoms. We’re talking about nations. We’re talking about countries. We’re talking about presidents and prime ministers. The former things will pass away. Now, seeing all this in light of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ does not mean that empires and kingdoms and presidents and prime ministers and laws and policies and politics in this life don’t matter. No, they do matter. But Christians need to recognize there is no government on earth, there is no earthly power, that will ever be able to wipe away every tear. That comes only in the kingdom of Christ.

The politics of the empty tomb bring us back to the fact that Christ does reign and he has put all of his enemies under his feet. Eschatologically, at the end, we will get to see that and glorify God for it. We’re looking forward to that day when every eye is dry and every tear is wiped away. And we live this life, as Christians, not only in the knowledge of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for us on the cross and the fact that the Father raised him from the dead on the third day and salvation comes to all who come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of sins and believe, but we also know that we are citizens now of a heavenly kingdom. We are in this world, but we’re not ultimately of this world. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and we must be ultimately about the politics of that heavenly kingdom. As much as we recognize that we are in this world and we are living among these earthly kingdoms for God’s pleasure, for this moment, we also recognize that we are looking forward to that day when we will join all of those knees bowing and all of those tongues confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

The politics of the empty tomb also brings us to our current responsibility as well as our future hope. The apostle Paul ends that great chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, with this political statement, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast. Immovable. always abounding in the work of the Lord. Knowing that, in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” And as we conclude on this truth, the reason that we as Christians can talk about the politics of the empty tomb is because the tomb on the third day was empty.

Lord willing, there will be opportunity next week and in weeks to come to give further consideration to how Christians should think about the issues of this world. The politics, the economics, the culture, the morality, you name it. But it is important for Christians, from time to time, to just remember that even as we have this earthly responsibility and we are confronted by earthly issues, our hope is in Christ. Our ultimate confidence is in no politics of this world, but only in the politics of the world to come. That is the politics of the empty tomb.

May you and may those you love gathered together as the Lord’s people on this day, that like every Lord’s day but in a special way, celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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