Rochester, N Y, March 31, 1907


Pastor C T Russell preached here today at 2:30 p. m. at the National theater in defense of the Bible and the divine character, his subject being "To Hell and Back." We report his evening discourse on the Resurrection of Christ from the text, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that are asleep" (1 Cor. 15:20). He said:

The name Easter is of heathen origin, Easter being the name of a goddess of olden times. Similarly the days of the week are named from heathen deities, but under Christian influences these gradually have lost their heathen significance and gained a new meaning. Today throughout all civilized lands Easter Sunday is the remembrancer of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead on the third day after his death. To them that appreciate him

as the great Light sent into the world for man's deliverance to those who appreciate him as the Sun of Righteousness, which shall ultimately shine forth to the blessing of all the [HGL362] families of the earth to such there could be no more appropriate day named than Sunday to mark the day upon which he rose from the dead, and by a resurrection entered upon the new life which is yet to bring such blessing to all mankind. And as for the word Easter, is it not appropriate also, since the east, the sun rising, spiritually points us to the great Sun of Righteousness and his kingdom, the foundation for which was laid in the death and resurrection of Jesus?

In view of the fact that this day is so generally celebrated by Christians as the memorial of Jesus' resurrection, let us now examine the matter of the resurrection and ascertain why it is that an event of so great importance in the Scriptures is today considered of so slight moment by the vast majority of Christians. The difficulty seems to be that a change in theological beliefs has made void and meaningless the Bible teachings on the subject of the resurrection. In the days of our Lord and the apostles the belief amongst the Jews and amongst the Christian converts was general that death was as real with mankind as with the brute creation, and that man's hope of a future life consisted not in his possession of an indestructible nature, but in the promise of a resurrection.

It was clearly understood that death not only affected the body, but the entire man that the penalty for original sin was death in the full, complete sense of the word, in harmony with the decree "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Hence we find that amongst the Jews there were two principal classes one the Sadducees and agnostics who denied a resurrection and future life, and the other the Pharisees who believed the Scriptures, believed in the future life by a resurrection hope by the grace of God.

Our Lord confuted the arguments of the Sadducees that the dead were hopelessly dead and would have no resurrection by quoting the Lord's words to Moses at the bush, and pointing out that it would have been inconsistent for the Lord to say that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob if they were hopelessly dead as are the beasts that perish. Our Lord says that these words showed or proved the resurrection of the dead that from the divine standpoint Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not dead in the sense of being extinct. Our Lord further declared that the hour was coming in the which these ancient worthies, with "all that are in their graves, shall hear the voice of the Son of man and shall come forth". (John 5:28, 29)


St. Paul, it will be remembered, on one occasion was in the hands of a Jewish mob and perceiving that they were part Sadducees and part Pharisees, he divided the mob, and gained a part of it to his support by crying out, "For the hope of the resurrection of the dead I am called in question this day" (Acts 23:6). The Pharisees who believed in a resurrection at once insisted that St. Paul should not be persecuted by those who denied the resurrection the Sadducees and Agnostics. The same St. Paul, in the chapter from which our text is taken, presented the strongest possible arguments proving the resurrection showing that it is indispensable. St. Paul met the issue squarely and declared that none could be Christians who denied the resurrection who did not believe in it thoroughly.

The chapter opens with the declaration that the foundation for the gospel lies in the fact that Christ died for our sins and arose again on the third day. He recites the fact that this is well attested by the words of reliable witnesses. Then he says:

"Now if Christ be preached that He arose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ whom He raised not up if so be that the dead rise not, for if the dead rise not then is not Christ raised." Vs. 12-15. How clear and distinct this argument is. The apostle in so many words shows that any one who denies the possibility of a resurrection of the dead must deny the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and if this be denied the entire bottom falls out of the Christian faith. And if we acknowledge that Christ rose from the dead, and thus admit the power of God for the resurrection of the dead, then we have the foundation upon which to build a hope of our own resurrection in due time and of the resurrection of others that all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall come forth.


St. Paul was not the man to quibble nor to dodge issues because some of his hearers we lacking in faith. Mark the force of his argument in the succeeding words, culminating in our text. He says, "If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised; and if Christ be not raised your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." Vs. 16-18.

Mark his argument, Christian faith will be vain without the resurrection of Christ. Why? we ask. If it be true that good men go at once to heaven in the moment of death, how could faith in Christ's resurrection affect their interests either one way or another? How could the apostle say, "They that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished," if He rose not from the dead? Ah, dear friends, the difficulty is that during the "dark ages" the Lord's people seriously departed from the scriptures and from the facts, giving heed to false doctrines, heathenish doctrine to the effect that when a man dies he is not dead, but more alive than ever before, and hence needs no resurrection from the dead. This heathenish error, engrafted upon Christian theology long ago, has become so interwoven with the body of Christian faith and hope that it has gradually perverted the same and made of none effect the scriptural teaching of the necessity for the death of Christ, the necessity for His resurrection, the necessity for His coming again and the necessity for the resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

We are only getting awake to a realization of the confusion that has come to us through this neglect of the Word of God and acceptance of platonic philosophy. Surely no one can read thoughtfully this argument of the apostle presented in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians without being convinced that the writer believed that all who go into the tomb must sleep until the resurrection [HGL363] morning. Moreover they must see that this sleep is a figure of speech, which signifies that really the dead are dead, but are reckoned to be asleep because of the promise of a resurrection. Mark the apostle's statement that if Christ has not risen from the dead those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished that is to say, those whom we thought of as sleeping in Christ, and waiting for the Millennial morning for the Master's call to come forth from the tomb are not really sleeping but really dead, if so be that there has been no redemption accomplished for them, if so be that He who died at Calvary stayed dead and did not rise from the dead on the third day as He foretold He would, and as the apostles declared He did so, they being witnesses.


Our text is the summing up of the apostle's argument: he assumes that he has convinced any Christian who is inclined to doubt the value, the necessity, the fact of Christ's resurrection. He says in effect: We Christians acknowledge this fact that Christ did rise from the dead: this is the very foundation of our faith. And more than this we believe that He was the first-fruits of them that are asleep. (R V) Note carefully the thought here expressed that Christ's resurrection was a first-fruits or sample in some respects at least, of a resurrection that is to apply to others. Note the statement that He is the first-fruits of them that are asleep. The meaning is plain; the world of mankind had been dying for more than 4,000 years when the apostle wrote these words. Adam and all his posterity in death would have been hopelessly dead, extinct, as the brute beasts, had it not been for the divine sin and death.

Intimations of this coming redemption and deliverance were given as far back as Eden when the Lord said that ultimately the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head implying that the victory of sin and death over Adam and his race would not be perpetual but be reversed. The same divine grace was still more clearly stated to father Abraham in the words, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." It was in view of these words which were further corroborated and reiterated through the prophets, that the people of Israel came to have hope in a resurrection of the dead, build their hopes upon Messiah's power. The apostle's argument is that Jesus is the Messiah, that by His death He paid the ransom price for father Adam and redeemed him from his death penalty and thus incidentally redeemed all of his race, since all were condemned in Adam, while in his loins.


The revised version makes this text still more clear than the common version. The words, "them that are asleep," should leave no doubt in the minds of any as to what the apostle meant. The sleeping ones, the dead, were still dead, still asleep, when he wrote, although this was years after Jesus had died for our sins and risen from the dead. Later on in this same wonderful resurrection chapter the apostle shows clearly both how and when all these sleeping ones shall be called forth from the tomb. He points out a first resurrection of holy blessed ones who shall come forth in the resurrection spirit beings, heavenly beings. This class will constitute the first resurrection, or, as the apostle puts it, they will share in "His resurrection," because they have shared also in His sufferings and in His death.

Here is further corroboration then that our Lord was not risen from the dead a man, but, as the apostle declares, He was "put to death in the flesh, He was quickened in the spirit a spirit being." Or, as he again declares, "Him hath God highly exalted and given a name above every name." Of Him the apostle again declares, that He is the second Adam the second life giver and head for the race, and he adds, "Now the Lord is that Spirit." He assures us that our Lord was manifest in the flesh at His first advent in order that he might suffer death on our behalf in order that He might pay the ransom price for Adam and his race by dying the just for the unjust to sacrifice Himself as the man Christ Jesus. His resurrection, then, was in the nature of a reward for His obedience unto death and placed Him back again on the spirit plane and far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named "the express image of His Father's person." Eph. 1:21; Heb. 1:3


In a special sense Christ was the first-fruits of all who ever died in the sense that He was the first that should rise from the dead, as the Scriptures so plainly declare. Some have confusion on this point when they think of some three cases in the Old Testament and as many in the New Testament in which the dead were brought back to life before our Lord's death and resurrection. The explanation of how Christ could be the first that should rise from the dead, without ignoring these Scriptural cases, is a very simple one. According to the Scriptures, life and death are opposites; hence the very beginning of the working of death and imperfection in any being vitiates his life to that extent. He is no longer a living being but a dying being. From this standpoint Adam's dying began the moment the death sentence was pronounced against him, although he did not fully succumb to the death powers for nearly 930 years.

Christ Jesus Himself was the first one to come under the power of death and be raised completely out from under that power to full perfection of life and being. He was therefore in the highest and fullest sense of the word "the first-born from the dead" and "the first that should rise from the dead" (Acts 26:28), as our text declares, He became "the first-fruits of them that are asleep." This expression "first-fruits" surely has in it the thought of "after fruits" that as Jesus was the first to come completely from the power of death, so eventually others will be fully delivered.

The Apostle James (1:18) speaks of the church, "the body of Christ," saying that in God's plan "we should be a kind of first-fruits unto God of His creatures." Here we have an elaboration of the same thought, Jesus Himself was the first-fruits of all, and the church adopted and begotten of the Holy Spirit as the body members of the glorified Christ are declared to be with their head "a kind of first-fruits." This shows most distinctly that there are others besides the church for whom a blessing is in reserve a blessing of rescue from the power of sin and death by a resurrection. The Apostle Paul refers to this same participation of the [HGL364] church with her Lord a little later on in his argument. After pointing out that the blessing of the Lord is to be upon two classes, a heavenly class and an earthly class, the one as the stars of heaven the others as the sands of the sea, and after pointing out that the church, the "elect," is to constitute this heavenly class of the first resurrection (vs. 40-44), the apostle proceeds to indicate that the resurrection of the church will bring the elect into the image and likeness of their Lord and Redeemer as spirit beings, while the resurrection of the world will bring them to the standard of human perfection represented in father Adam. He says, "As in the earthly such are they also that are earthy; as is the heavenly such are they also that are heavenly." Continuing to speak of this heavenly class, the elect church, he says, "As we have born the image of the earthly we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." He proceeds then to point out a mystery or secret, assuring us that in the resurrection the Lord will complete that work of "change" which He has already begun in us in that our minds, our wills, have been renewed, "begotten again."

Progressing the apostle shows that it will be after the church shall have experienced this change from mortal to immortal conditions, from earthly to heavenly conditions that the promise of God through the prophet will have fulfillment, namely, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O, death, where is thy sting? O, grave (hades) where is thy victory?" (vs. 54, 55.) thus eventually the death of Christ operating first for the deliverance of the elect to the heavenly conditions will be made available to the world of mankind during the Millennial age to earthly conditions; to the intent that death itself may be swallowed up in victory that the power of the grave shall no longer prevail against the human family who have been "bought with the precious blood," but that all who will accept the divine favor then extended to them may come to a full victory through Christ over sin and over death and have everlasting life all others dying the second death from which there will be no redemption, no resurrection.


The apostle refers to Christ as the first fruits twice in this connection but evidently with a difference. In our text he speaks of Christ Jesus as "the first fruits of them that are asleep," while in vs. 22, 23 he draws a different picture in which he again speaks of Christ as the first fruits, here, however, signifying the entire Christ, Jesus the head and the church His body. He says, "For as all in Adam die even so all in Christ shall be made alive, but every man in his own order." He then divides off these orders of the resurrection and referring to the first order, namely, that of the church, (Christ the head and the elect His body) he styles these the first fruits, gathered during this Gospel Age. With the completion of these first fruits the second coming of Christ will take place and then will come the great harvesting of the world, the great ingathering from all the families of the earth the great time of blessing to all who were cursed in Adam and redeemed by the blood of Christ. Such as will be saved during the Millennial Age are here briefly referred to as "they that are Christ's at His coming" that is to say those who will become His during His presence, His parousia during the Millennial Age under the ministration of the mediatorial kingdom of the Millennial Age. That this is the apostle's argument is evident from the verse following which says, Then will come the end of the plan of salvation when the kingdom under the whole heavens will be restored to the Father, all wrongful authority and power having been put down and brought into subjection to God.


In proportion to our knowledge on any subject is our opportunity for joy and blessing therein. And thus it is that those of the Lord's people most clear in their knowledge of His word have the greatest joy and blessing in connection with every feature of His truth, including those precious things represented by this Easter Sunday. To these the import of the day is one of spiritual exhilaration and refreshment, their faith grasps the fact that our race condemned to death because of sin has been provided by the heavenly Father with a Savior and a great one that this Savior has already given His life as our ransom price, and been raised from the dead by the power of God to that high glorious station in which we recognize Him as King of kings and Lord of lords, possessed of glory, honor and immortality. We hail Him as the one who is to be the Lord of all in His coming kingdom and who is already the Lord of our hearts; Lord of all those who have heard and tasted of the grace of God, by faith, in advance of the world.

This Easter Sunday means still more than this; it speaks to us of our "adoption" through faith, to be "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord" in Hhis heavenly inheritance and glory and work of the Millennial kingdom. It bids us wait with patience for our share in the resurrection which will complete the grand Easter morning, and following which the "Sun of Righteousness will shine forth with healing in his beams," to bless the sin-benighted world of mankind, "to give them beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for the spirit of heaviness and mourning;" to bid them to look up, and to help them rise up in the glorious restitution, which the Lord has promised shall be made available to "all the families of the earth." Acts 3:19, 21

Not only Easter Sunday but every Sunday celebrates the resurrection of our Lord and head and reminds us that we also are "risen with Him to walk in newness of life," and assures us that when all the members of the "elect" are completed, when all the trials and difficulties and testings and provings, the chiselings and polishings shall have been accomplished in us, the worthy shall be gathered by the Lord as His "jewels" and be manifested with Him in the glories of His kingdom. Let us wait with patience, with hope, and be of good courage and rejoice in any present privileges of suffering with Christ, in faithfulness to Him and the teachings of His word. Let us be assured by the words of the apostle, "God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love, in that ye did minister to the saints and do minister." (Heb. 6:10) Let us be assured that every sacrifice made in the interest of the Lord's name and honor and cause and for His brethren's sake and in co-operation with His work of now electing the church will be appreciated by Him who readeth the heart and who knoweth them that are His; and who is giving to us such "exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might become partakers of the divine nature." 2 Pet. 1:4 [HGL365] "O! how precious, dear Redeemer, Is the love that fills my soul, I am thine and have this tokenWhile I'm running for the goal."

"Lo! a new creation dawning; Lo! I rise to life divine; In my soul on Easter morning; I am Christ's and Christ is mine."

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