When the Tomb Becomes Womb
... Words Holding in Them the Power of the Resurrection
SOMETIMES THE HOLY SPIRIT draws us to a Scripture that's beyond our full grasp of understanding and keeps us there. We wait before it until it works something of its power and purpose into our lives. That's the way it's been with Acts 2:14-36 where we find the first word released upon the church after the Holy Spirit of promise came. Peter delivered that powerful first message and drew upon four powerful texts from the Old Testament--Joel 2:28-32; Psalm 16:8-11; II Samuel 7:12 and Psalm 110:1.
Think of it. Those were the Scriptures the Holy Spirit wanted first brought to the attention of the newly Spirit-baptized believers.
The people in Jerusalem said the disciples were drunk after the Holy Spirit came upon them, but Peter told what really was happening. He said the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 was being fulfilled.
Then, taking a further step in a new boldness that had come upon him, Peter spoke regarding the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In doing this, he drew from Psalm 16. As we look at what he said, we are going to find out why Jesus could not remain dead in the tomb. In finding this, we will discover some amazing insight as to what will preserve us in the time of trouble soon to come. It will even reach to where we are now and bring within us a powerful release of resurrection life.
THE 16TH PSALM HAS CAPTURED MY ATTENTION. It contains words the Lord Jesus took with Him into the tomb. Famous kings have been buried with their jewels, but nothing of so much value has ever gone into any kingly sepulcher as what went with Jesus into His. It broke the dominion of death.
Into one ancient Egyptian pharaoh's tomb they also put some grain. When men discovered it thousands of years later and planted it, it sprouted. The death of the tomb could not overcome the germ of life in the grain. But that was like a spark put against a nuclear bomb when compared with the germ of eternal life that was in the tomb with Jesus.
Psalm 16 is a Psalm of David, the ancient King in Israel with whom God made a Covenant regarding his Seed. This Psalm contains the prayer and confession of that Seed, the lord Jesus, that would be His upon entering the stronghold of death. Powerful and intensive, it contains words so potent that even Hell itself could not withstand them.
The words of that Psalm reach beyond the Lord Jesus to alight upon us who are joined with Him in the end of the age. They bring us through the darkness of tribulation, even death itself, to stand with the Lord in His Day.
Not in some magical sense--like a fetish held in the bosom of a religious devotee--but as they lodge in our minds and spirits, the words of the Psalm will release life in us. They can find their place in us by the Holy Spirit as we study them, meditate on them, and bring our thoughts into line with them.
NOW, LET'S GO TO PENTECOST where Peter was declaring the first word to the new Spirit-filled church. He began by speaking a rhéma word: Hearken to my words (rhematá)--Acts 2:14. As he moved into this second part of his message, he spoke a lógos word: . . hear these words (lógous)--Acts 2:22. In this passage, the meaning of lógos reaches beyond the meaning of rhéma. Rhéma means a spoken word. Lógos means a spoken word plus the idea behind it. A lógos is like a seed containing a germ of life ready to reproduce itself when planted. (Oh, what we could say here!)
Peter's words became pregnant with resurrection life. They brought over on the church that which, later, Paul would expound and explain in Ephesians and Colossians. As we go into this powerful passage--Acts 2:22-28--we will take it verse by verse, just opening its words, praying the Holy Spirit will make them alive to us.
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
Approved is from the Greek apodedeigménon. Too difficult to pronounce, it means "pointed out, displayed, held forth."
He was Jesus of Nazareth, Nazareth being the lowly town where He spent the early years of His humanity. Its name means "Branch." There was nothing glorious or stately about His upbringing, yet He performed more miracles and wonders and signs than any person who had ever lived. He was the root out of dry ground, the tender plant Who had no form nor comeliness and no beauty to make Him desired--Isaiah 53:2. He threatened no one except the proud who raised themselves above Him, but could perform none of His works.
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
Although the wicked hands that killed Jesus moved out of the enmity of wicked hearts, they were powerless to move beyond the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.
Counsel is from the Greek boulé; a word designating the will of God which cannot be broken. It is the will arising out of His Godly determination and eternal design. Here, it is backed by the purposes of His decree in Psalm 2:7-9 that gave the nations to His Son. Thus, the hands that took Jesus to death moved only as God allowed them. They could not go beyond His determinate counsel.
Oh, what this says to us when we commit our way to the determinate counsel of God--His perfect will--for our lives!
The wicked act of those who killed Jesus became sanctified. What a principle of Kingdom life worked here! Jesus was so committed to the purposes of God that nothing could take place with regard to Him--even a wicked thing--unless it was made holy by God.
24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
God raised Him up. There are six distinct words throughout the Greek New Testament translated raise up. The one used in this verse, anístemi, means "to cause to stand up" as one victorious over the enemy.
God raised up Jesus, having loosed the pains of death. What a powerful row of words! What a revelation! Having loosed is from lúsas, the Aorist Participle form of the Greek Verb lúo. The Aorist form gives this meaning: "having untied, unbound, unfastened." It tells of a finished work accomplished the instant Jesus came alive.
The pains is from the Greek tas hodínas which means "the throes that come upon a woman in the travail of birth." What insight! Death became a womb when Jesus went there.
Death is from tou thanátou. Thanátou alone means "death," but it has its Definite Article tou with it here. This makes it "THE Death." Jesus did more than simply die, He entered the realm of Death where its dominion was strong and broke the power of its government.
It was not possible that Jesus should be holden of death. Here again is a powerful string of words. This means there was no power in all the realm of death enabling it to retain its government over Jesus. The phrase was not possible is from the Greek ouk dunatón. This means there was no dynamic force--no energy, no strength, no power--sufficient in death to prevail against Jesus.
NOW, WHY DID NOT DEATH HAVE POWER to hold Jesus? Peter gives an amazing answer in the next verse.
25a For David speaketh concerning him...
Because of something David said, death could not hold its prey. What power was given over to the words of that man! From what we know of him, he was a weak sinner like the rest of us. How could it be that his words held so much power?
Peter, under that anointing of Pentecost, said David was a Prophet--Acts 2:30. Prophets bring words from the heavens into the earth. Upon their spoken release, they become a creative force to accomplish heaven's determinate counsel. But David was more than a Prophet; he was the first King in Israel chosen of God. He also was a man with whom God made a Covenant. That Covenant held in it the powerful promise that God would establish the throne of David's Seed forever--II Samuel 7:12,13.
If the Throne of David's Seed was to be established forever, that Seed must gain the triumph over death. Therefore, more than all the words of all the other Prophets, David's words carried a power and an authority with them. Because of the Covenant, his words entered the realm of death and laid hold on its power.
Now, what did David say that became so powerful in the tomb of Jesus?
THERE FOLLOW NOW IN PETER'S WORDS those powerful words from David's Psalm that went with the Lord Jesus into the tomb. The power of eternal life burst forth out of them, wrenching the government from death's hand. This released new life and authority into God's Kingdom on earth.
25b I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved.
This comes from Psalm 16:8 where we find it as I have set the Lord always before me. We are dealing with two languages here, the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament. They are both different in their expressions, yet both fine and special in their distinctions. They help us see two aspects of the same diamond of truth.
I have set the Lord... means "I have determined to have Him always in my vision." I foresaw the Lord... means "I held Him vividly present before me through every occasion." The Lord Jesus knew this secret. He lived with His heavenly Father ever vivid to His mind. He said, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do--John 5:19.
Death itself could not turn Jesus from beholding His Father. Even in the hour of His being forsaken, it was the Father Who turned from Him, not He from the Father.
In so dark an hour, the word of Psalm 16:8 sustained Jesus. It reached through death and separation from God and brought Him safely to the Father's right hand. The Lord Jesus fought and won a fight no person had ever fought and won. He reached a place no person before Him had ever reached. In doing this, He opened the way for us who follow.
We turn our hearts now toward Him Who is our forerunner--Hebrews 6:20. We behold Him and see Him sustain us in whatever dark hour approaches us.
How do we behold Him? David begins giving us the answer in Psalm 40:1. I waited patiently for the Lord: and He inclined unto me... The heart that waits for Him beholds Him.
26 Therefore did my heart REJOICE, and my tongue was GLAD; moreover also my flesh shall rest in HOPE: (Psalm 16:9)
Take note of the three words emphasized. They show what Jesus held on to in the darkness and hopelessness of death. He never had to give up His Joy, His Gladness, or His Hope. These three powerful commodities of God's Kingdom came with Him through death--to be ours.
27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Psalm 16:10)
This is a statement of ultimate faith. It reaches into the most hopeless situation any person could face--death itself.
Leave is from a Greek word meaning "to abandon, to leave behind, to forsake."
Soul is from the Greek psúche, that ordinary word for "soul" used over a hundred times in the Greek New Testament to name the ruling power of human life every living person shares. It originated in God's gift to Adam, which gift he defiled before passing it on to us. Jesus took to death this same power of life. In doing that, He purified it for us.
Neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption might be better rendered, "Neither will you give Your Holy One over to the stronghold of corruption." Jesus entered the stronghold of death--both in soul and in body--and broke its power for us in both these dimensions. He released a new kind of life for His Kingdom people.
Corruption is from the Greek diaphthorán. It means "the decay of death, the dissolution of the human body." Jesus did not go through this. There was not enough power in Hades to bring decay to His holy body. This is not the case with us. We have sinned and carry the seed of corruption with us. But at the last day, we shall receive a new body which, like His, will not undergo corruption. What a hope is ours because of Him! Cannot this be the secret of our standing in the last dark days?
28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. (Psalm 16:11)
This verse is so full we can't cover it here. Jesus had it with Him in the tomb. We can take it with us into the darkness and death of any situation. Think of it! There is no end to the possibility it affords.
The ways of life lead through death. The Apostle Paul knew this. It was the secret of his triumph in prison when he wrote Ephesians and Colossians. His situation--hopeless and dark as it was--became for him a birth canal into the life that Jesus had released for him.
Because of Jesus, Paul's prison became a womb from which something living burst forth that continues alive today. Indeed! It was no tomb to confine the man of God!
Whatever we face, even if it tries to lock us into the stronghold of death, can become a womb for our birthing into a greater place in God.
Again--what a hope is ours!
What is the secret of this hope? It's that we yield ourselves to the Lord Jesus and the triumph He won for us.
Why, it's something like worshipping Him! It's like waiting patiently for Him till we see His countenance. Oh! Oh! Oh! What a hope!
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