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. What if Jesus never died?

WHAT IF JESUS NEVER DIED?

 

Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV)1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

Introduction.

Two years ago during Easter I did a sermon on the glory of the resurrection. We saw that Paul made a few bold statements in 1 Corinthians 15 of the implications if Christ was not raised from the dead. We saw statements like we will still be in our sins, our faith is in vain, our preaching is in vain, the dead in Christ will not rise and of all people we are the most to be pitied. Then Paul makes this bold statement in 1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV) 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

As I was thinking what I need to preach this Easter Friday before we share around the communion table, for some reason this them came to mind. Now, I would like to believe that the Lord by His Spirit led me to this theme, although I do not want to be too presumptuous. I then went ahead to advertise the title of this sermon on our website, and now to prepare. I then realized that I have bitten off our much more than what I can chew. If John Piper could write a book of 128 pages with the title “Fifty reasons why Jesus came to die” somebody could easily write 500 pages on the implications for us if Jesus did not come to die. Just think if you took these 50 reasons and swung them around to the negative and looked at the implications of Christ not dying based on each of those reasons. We can go on and on. So, my initial intention was to type out a plain and simple topical sermon on the theme. The problem is where do I begin and where do I end. We can start for example with the Jews and the law. Now we are gentiles and therefore some of the implications will be different for us. I don’t believe it as simple as to say that if Jesus did not die that you and I would have to participate in the sacrificial system. But what is true for both Jews and Gentiles and surely the crux of the matter, is that if Jesus did not die, then we are still in our sins and we know that the wages of sin is death.

Somebody in an atheistic debate I was participating in a while ago, asked me the following question. “Why the cross, why did Jesus not just come and preach His message and gain followers for Himself that way?” I then considered various texts for this morning and thought I would answer the title of my sermon form one text only and that is Hebrews 1:3b: “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

The Hebrew writer here has told us quite a bit in summary of history. He uses very short explosive statements to talk about long ago, without unpacking too much, he makes reference to the task of the prophets without again unpacking anything except that God spoke through them, then a very short statement of the Father now having spoken to us through Christ, again very little, and then he tells us about Christ being Creator and Heir of all things without again unpacking, and then who Christ is without saying much again and then what Christ came to do without any unpacking and then Christ’s present position. This section is pregnant with information that just needs to explode.  While much of these words explode in the rest of Hebrews, Theologians because we have the New Testament can write volumes and volumes on just these four verses.

So as we think of the meaning of Easter and as we think about the question that I asked in my title, let’s allow for a little mini-explosion on verse 3b. What would have happened if Christ did not die?

Point 1. We would never have beheld God’s glory.

Hebrews 1:3b: “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

The reason that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, is because He rose, the reason He rose is because He was buried, the reason He was buried is because He died, the reason He died is to save us, the reason He had to save us is because we have sinned, the result of sin is that we did not see God’s glory, but now in Christ we see God’s glory, because He came, He lived, He died, He was buried, He was risen and He is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Hebrews 1:1-4 is all about Jesus, and without Jesus you would never behold God’s glory. Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV) reminds us: 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Christ paid the price so that Christ could be our prize.

Hebrews 1:1-4 is all about Christ. According to these four verse he is the reason and the mediator of creation, He is the heir of all things, He is the radiance of the Glory of God, He is the exact imprint of God’s nature and He upholds the universe by His power. Now, how do you get an exact imprint? You can only get an exact imprint if it looks exactly like that which caused the imprint. So Christ taking on the form of man is none less than God.

So what would have happened if Jesus did not die? We would never in this life have had any way to behold the glory of God fully. Do you realize that without the death of Christ we would never have understood the Glory of God? No angel could present it to us, no man could have died for us. Even though the heavens proclaim His glory, we know that the whole of creation is in decay, so how can a decaying creation reveal God’s glory to us? Even though you can see God’s glory revealed even in a Tsunami, there is always something wrong about it. You cannot fully appreciate the Glory of Him who is the God of creation by looking at that which is fallen. We needed something more. Let me substantiate it on the basis of Scripture.

John 1:14 (ESV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

You cannot read these few verses from Hebrews and miss the fact that the very Christ who lived as a human on earth is actually all this section claims. The one who died on the cross is actually the one to whom is attributed all that this section claims. Think again, God’s mouthpiece, Creator, Heir, radiance of God’s glory, exact imprint of God’s nature, seated at right hand, superior than the angels and a Name above all names.  So what if Jesus did not die. Well, based on Old Testament teaching we would have no Saviour and we know that based on Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) that says: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, ” we would have no Saviour and we would therefore have no forgiveness, and the wages of sin which is death would be our future.  We also know that the only reason Christ could pay for our sin was because He was sinless, otherwise He would have to pay for His own sin.

What more of a perfect offering could you want for sin than God in the flesh? So if Jesus did not die, there is nobody else who could, as only Christ is the exact representation of God’s glory and any smaller sacrifice would be too small.

Point 2. We would still be personally accountable for our sins.

Hebrews 1:3b: “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

Now we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ was not raised we are still in our sins, and our faith is in vain. At the same time we can say that if Christ did not die we would still be in our sins and our faith would be in vain. In short we would waste our lives. I wonder if we sometimes understand just how bad the effects of sin are.  Sin is a reality. It's a power in the world. It moves in the heart. It moves in the will. It moves in the world. It takes hold. It's got a grip on every human being. It's an awful thing. It kills and everybody in this hall this morning is infected with it. We're all infected by it. It is like a disease. And it's lethal. We will all die physically. He has not willed to remove that aspect of the curse. What is it? How bad is it? The book of Hebrews helps us some in this regard.

Hebrews 3:14-19 (ESV) "14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief."

There are three things from this section that I want us to see about the ugliness of sin.

2.1 Sin is rooted in unbelief.

Look at verse 19. 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” Now, we know that this talks about the reasons the Jews did not enter the Promised Land.  These are people who died in the desert. Why did they die in the desert? Simply because they did not trust God. Why did they so often go against the will of God? Because they relied on their own wisdom and lived for their own desires instead of trusting in the wisdom, love, power and provision of God. They would rather go back to Egypt instead of forward to Canaan. That is a sign of unbelief, and that unbelief was based on their personal experience in the desert at that time instead of in a future hope in the promises of God. That is why the Hebrew writer says: 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Can I ask you? Are you still holding onto your original confidence in Christ, or do you think your own ways are better? “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

2.2  Sin is rooted in  disobedience

The Greek word for is hamartia. That simply means to miss the mark. Disobedience is one of the clearest evidences of wilfully missing the mark. Those who live like that will not enter into God’s rest. Now if Christ did not die there would be no remedy for this. But Christ did die to bring us from disobedience into the realm of obedience.

2.3 Sin provokes God’s anger.

Some Christians still believe that the God of the New Testament is a loving God while the God of the Old Testament is an angry God. Let me tell you this. In the Old Testament God was angry at sin and in the New Testament God is angry at sin. Now, something we all need to know is that the cross is not just a sign of God’s love, but it is the outflow of God’s anger. We are sinners, right, God is angry at sin, and the anger that God feels against sin is what brought Christ to this earth and to the cross. If Jesus did not die, then you and I will have to die for our sin. There is another thing from this text alone that would be true if Jesus did not die on the cross.

Point 3. We would not have enjoyed purification.

Hebrews 1:3b: After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

This part of verse 3 is really a summary of the gospel. The two words ‘after making’ or it can be translated ‘had made’ are critical. If Jesus did not die He would not have made. The fact that Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father is because He came to do what He set out to do and that was to die in your and my place as a purification for our sins. Do you realise as a believer that the purification Christ made for your sin was for your sin, past, present and future. Now because this is true, it does not mean that you can continue in your sin, as you do not want to treat the blood of Christ cheaply and trample it under your feet. But if Christ did not die, there would not be purification for any of your sins, past, present and future. Christ has made, means He did it once and for all. Our sanctification was purchased fully in the offering of Christ once for all. Now, I know that we are not Jews, therefore we would never have fallen into their culture and category. But think about this, if the Jesus did not die, the Jews would still have to sacrifice annually.

But for us. Look at what you have in Jesus Christ who died for our sins. Hebrews 7:27 (ESV) “27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Hebrews 9:11-12 (ESV) 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:25-26 (ESV) 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” I think you get the message. Christ has made purification for our sins once for all. If Christ did not die, there would be no purification at all as we cannot do it for ourselves as all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Maybe a good verse to end this sermon on Easter Friday morning is Hebrews 10:10 (ESV) “10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

No Christ on the cross, and there is no sanctification. But because Christ died we have one offering, once for all, for all sin and it is finished.

So, we can continue on this theme. This sermon was really just an appetiser. But if Christ did not die, you and I would not have beheld the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. If Christ did not die, we will personally still have to account for our sins, and we know that the wages of sin is death. It is a wage, which means sin is hard work and you are paid for it. If Christ did not die then there would be no eternal purification once and for all. We would have to find new solutions on the run, and there are none.

But Christ did die, and we beheld His glory, our sins are no longer for our account and Christ has declared us righteous before the Father once and for all.

Hallelujah!

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 18 April 2014