The Power of Resurrection
Watchman Nee, The Glory of His Life, CFP white cover
That God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have 1 begotten thee. (Acts 13.33)
Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; ... that ye may know what is ... the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places ...: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Eph. 1.16-23)
For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body ...; and were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor.12.13)
Our intention today is to see and understand this matter of the power of resurrection. It is too big a subject to be fully covered in such a short treatment. We only desire to touch upon the central point concerning resurrection. And even in this respect we must hasten to make clear that it is something which no human speech can fully expound upon nor any man’s thought can thoroughly grasp. Words and thoughts are totally inadequate in the understanding of resurrection, for it is beyond the comprehension of human thoughts and words. We can only look to the Spirit of the Lord that He may grant us revelation and insight.
We must understand one thing before God, which is, that however perfect and good the creation of man is, he has yet to arrive at God’s purpose since he does not have God’s life. We may say that man’s creation is perfect and yet it is not completed. When God created all other things, He created them completed. Only in the creation of man has He not created to completion. True, from one viewpoint, man is perfectly created. Even so, the fact of his having had placed before him the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life suggests that man is not yet completed in his creation. Man as created is truly a living soul, but he still does not have in him the life that is represented by the tree of life. Let us see that the difference between man and the rest of creation is just here: that all other things, after their being created, had no need of anything having to be added on, since God had required no further demand of them; man, on the other hand, did require a further touch after creation—because God had, and still has, a special purpose for man. And this last touch of which we speak must be actively added on by man himself—which is to say that there needs to be added to him the fruit of the tree of life.
Unfortunately man adds to himself the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of the fruit of the tree of life. Let us underscore the fact that man as created is not complete since God has yet to obtain the man that is after His eternal plan. Even if he does not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, man still cannot satisfy God’s heart. In other words, whether the fact of his not eating of the tree of life is true of man before or after he eats the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he is nonetheless limited and incomplete. He may attain to the peak of humanity and still be unfinished so far as God’s eternal plan concerning him is concerned, for he does not possess the life of God.
Let us recognize that the purpose of God in creating Adam is not simply in His having made him a living soul by having breathed into a piece of fashioned clay. No, this is very inadequate. Man does not yet have the life of God. He has the created life all right, but he does not possess the uncreated life. He is bound by time and space. He is created to a certain point, but falls short of arriving at God’s full design. For this reason, since the time of Adam, God has been working towards obtaining a man in full accordance with His plan.
We notice that throughout the entire Old Testament period—ever since the time of Genesis 3 in fact—God had worked incessantly in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Samuel, David, and others for the sake of accomplishing what He had originally designed. We also perceive how God had actually apprehended those men and was able to finish His work in them. So far as God’s purpose in these men is concerned, we may say that they were apprehended by God. But so far as the man whom God designed to obtain in His eternal plan, none of them was sufficient. All these men reached a certain point but then stopped short of the goal.
But then came the New Testament era. The Son of God came to be a man: the Word became flesh. And this is the man whom God had always longed to have. The man whom He had planned to complete is now found. This man is none other than Christ Jesus. Let us always remember that Christ is the man whom God had continually expected through those many years. Christ is the complete man—God’s representative man and the typical man.
Nevertheless, while the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth there was restriction to His manhood. Though He was very different from the rest of the people on earth in that He had the divine nature and was a complete man, yet so far as the matter of power was concerned Christ suffered the limitation of a man in that He was restricted by time and space. When the four men brought a man sick of the palsy to see the Lord Jesus, they had to uncover the roof where He was in order to reach His presence (Mark 2.3,4). When the woman who had an issue of blood wished to touch Him, she had to press through the throng before she could do so (Mark 5.25-31). On the other hand, our Lord commended a Roman centurion on his great faith because he answered, "I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed" (Matt. 8.8). This man knew that he did not need to press through to the Lord’s side in order to touch Him, because he recognized the unlimited side of the Lord. Yet so far as the human side of the Lord Jesus went,what He manifested while on earth was rather straitened in character. This does not imply that there was any imperfection in His personality; it only refers to the fact of a restriction in the release of power. He could not have been more perfect in personality, nonetheless, the manifestation of His power does seem to have been somewhat restricted. But after He died and was resurrected the Lord Jesus did arrive at the peak of completeness.
What is resurrection? Resurrection is the fact that God has gotten a man—the kind of man which He had long expected. While our Lord Jesus Christ was on earth He was a perfect man, nevertheless this perfect man was somewhat circumscribed. The man whom God had desired from the foundation of the world is not to be so confined. What God looked for was resurrection. In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Christ transcends all limitations. Thereafter nothing can restrict Him anymore. While He lived on earth Christ had the possibility of death. But after His resurrection death could no longer touch Him. Death and the possibility of death are both destroyed by Him. His word to the apostle John long after His resurrection is: "I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore" (Rev. 1.18). He will never die again since the possibility of death is destroyed by Him. Men can no more crucify Him; this possibility of death no longer exists. Now this is called resurrection.
Resurrection means that the man whom God in eternity sought to obtain is now found in our Lord! "Thou art my beloved Son, this day have 1 begotten thee," says God. This announcement does not refer to Bethlehem; rather, it points to resurrection. When Christ was born in Bethlehem God was not able to make this announcement; after Christ is resurrected, however, God can publicly say so (see Acts 13.33). Let us therefore remember that even though the Lord Jesus was perfect in nature, character, and conduct while living on earth, He was nonetheless restricted until resurrected. Afterwards, however, all limitations were gone. And thus resurrection signifies that here is a man who has broken through all the limitations of man. The man whom God was always seeking to find is at last found on the day Christ was raised from the dead.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is different from the resurrection of other people mentioned in the Bible. For example, in calling Lazarus out of the grave the Lord Jesus recalled Lazarus to his former living situation in the world. Colloquially speaking, Lazarus’ soul returned to his body. He was still bound with grave clothes, and unless he were loosened from them he could not walk properly (John 11.44). He was therefore merely restored to his fleshly life. It was a resuscitation—something quite unlike the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. What made Peter and John believe in the resurrection of the Lord? Note that on the first day of the week, after having heard the report of Mary Magdalene, they ran to the tomb, entered in, and saw "the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, that was upon his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself" (John 20.6-8), and nobody was inside. And hence they believed. Lazarus, on the other hand, was still wrapped in grave clothes; his body was yet bound by cloths. But the Lord was not bound by them; nothing—absolutely nothing—can restrict Him anymore. Before His resurrection, He too was subject to restrictions of the flesh and matter. But after His resurrection, He is no longer under restriction; He has broken through the grip of death. No limitation of any kind can hold him back.
One brother has spoken well when he once said this: "To the risen Lord, it is not a matter of His coming or going but a matter of His being seen or not seen." Formerly, He came and He went. Now, He neither comes nor goes. Today it is a case of whether or not we see the Lord, whether or not we have revelation. When people receive revelation, they will see; but when they do not have revelation, they will not see. With revelation they will touch the Lord; without revelation they will not be able to touch Him. Hence the question is not in the Lord’s coming or going, but is in our seeing or not seeing. The problem of coming and going no longer exists since such restrictions are gone, because our Lord has been raised from the dead.
After the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Thomas had doubt in his heart. He expressed it this way: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe"; but the Lord said, "Be not faithless, but believing"; and after Thomas answered with "My Lord and my God", the Lord said to him: "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20.24-29). Today it is no longer a matter of our touching Him with the hand, it is a touching Him with faith. And whoever has faith shall touch Him. Christ is today the Lord of resurrection; therefore His former straitened situation is past. We must use faith to touch this risen Lord. If we believe, we shall see Him. It is not because He is not present; rather, our naked eyes are unable to see Him. Today neither time nor space is any longer a problem. Although the greatest limitation with human beings is time and space, in our day these things cannot stand in the way of our Lord. Consequently, the current question is whether we believe. Whenever we look at the Lord with the eye of faith we shall see Him.
The story in John 11 of the raising of Lazarus from the dead gives us much helpful understanding. We may recall the moment Martha saw the Lord. She declared to Him: "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (v.21). The Lord said to her, "Thy brother shall rise again" (v.23). How did Martha respond? "1 know this will happen at the last day," she said. Being a Jewess, she believed what the Jews held concerning the resurrection at the last day. The Lord therefore declared to her: "I am the resurrection, and the life" (v.25). In the mind of Martha, resurrection and the last day are joined in one; but the Lord shows us that with His being here, the problem of the last day no longer exists. Since He is the resurrection and He is here, the matter of time is past. In resurrection neither time nor space nor any other limitation constitutes a problem.
Our Lord is risen. When the disciples met behind closed doors Jesus came into their midst and manifested himself to them. He could enter without opening the door (see John 20.19, 26). He also appeared to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. And just as they began to recognize Him, He vanished from their sight (Luke 24.31). This is the marvel of resurrection. He has transcended time, He has transcended space. In just one second He can touch the ends of the earth from here or wherever. No longer can it be said that it will take three to five years to do a certain work or eight to ten years of prayer for a certain thing to happen. What can be said instead is that here is One who transcends time and space. He is the risen Lord.
Christ lived on earth for thirty-odd years. Humanly speaking, he advanced in wisdom and stature (Luke 2.52). But, after He is resurrected He demonstrates the perfect power of God. This power has already broken through the greatest limitation of all—which is death. His life transcends time and space. His life breaks through death. Hence, He is the Living One. Human beings are limited by death, but our Lord is not subject to such limitation. This is the resurrection of our Lord.
We all realize that death is a great limitation. All living things come to an end at death. Be it a blade of grass or a tree, its greatest limitation is death. A dog or a cat may be our pet for three, five, or a few more years. It is very clever and quite useful. But it cannot live on forever. Its life is limited. It is finished at death. And the same is true with human beings. No matter how capable the foolish rich man planned ahead, we read how "God said unto him, Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be?" (Luke 12.16-20) When death comes, one loses all. When one is living he may do many things and make himself very useful, but his usefulness ceases with death. As regards the Lord, however, death no longer exists. It is broken through by the Lord. Death cannot hold Him in—for this holding is limitation; and resurrection has thrust aside this greatest of all limitations. Neither gate nor city nor mountain can block resurrection. Neither yesterday, nor today, nor tomorrow can arrest resurrection. Our Lord is not just living, he in fact dies no more. He not only will not die, He also has no possibility of dying. He is the Living one; and He was dead, but He is now alive forevermore (Rev. 1.18). For Him, all limitations have truly passed away.
Resurrection is the power of God: "According to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all . . . not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Eph. 1.19-21). After His resurrection the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father, far above all. He is far above every name that is named. He is far above all in this world as well as in the world to come. The man whom God had planned to have but had failed to apprehend since the foundation of the world is now found in the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. What God looked forward to possess, was a man who would be like Him. Before this became factual, He had not gotten whom He had planned for. The God who is is indeed far above all, but He also wants a man to be far above all. Until there is a man who is far above all, God’s purpose is not fulfilled. After our Lord was raised from the dead He was received to the Father’s right side. Not only the restriction of death is abolished, but all other limitations are overcome. And God has now obtained the man of His plan.
We need to see that the Lord Jesus came to be a representative man. His life on earth for thirty-odd years is representative, and so is His life after resurrection representative in nature. What He represents on earth during those thirty and more years is the moral standard of man—or more accurately, God’s moral demand on man.
What He expresses to His disciples in the forty days after His resurrection is the power God will give us. So that on the one hand the Lord Jesus represents God’s ideal man who reflects the proper moral and spiritual conditions which God requires of man. Should He have come to this world and not died for us nor atoned for our sins, the Lord by so coming would have condemned us because we have all come short of the glory of God. He alone is a man who has the glory of God and who has satisfied God’s glory. He is the ideal person. By comparison, we are all sinners and are all unqualified, because He is the moral standard for every one of us. On the other hand, after His resurrection the Lord Jesus represents even more the ideal man of God. We have already commented that when God said "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" it did not refer to the birth at Bethlehem but to resurrection. On that very same day the Lord Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, "Go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God" (John 20.17). This indicates to us that our becoming sons of God also commences at resurrection.
God needs not only moral people but also powerful people. People having a proper standard of morality cannot alone satisfy God’s heart; they also need to possess tremendous power in order to satisfy Him. Since the day He was born in Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus never once came short of the glory of God. This shows that He is a moral person of the highest standard. But after His resurrection—that is, from the time God said "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee"—He manifests also the other side of His personality, He is a man of power. Hereafter there is no question of time and space, nor a question of any kind. The entire problem lies in whether or not people can see.
Oh! Resurrection is such a profound thing that what we are saying here is merely touching its surface!
Acts 2 shows us clearly what resurrection is. It also reveals to us what is the Holy Spirit. Resurrection rids us of the imprisonment of death. The Lord of resurrection transcends all things. What, then, is the Holy Spirit? As the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead, He was exalted by the right hand of God to be seated at God’s right hand. As he arrived at the right hand of the Father, He poured forth the Holy Spirit. And hence we can rightly say that the power of the Holy Spirit is the power of resurrection. The Lord locates resurrection and its power in the Holy Spirit who in turn brings it down to earth. Today we have no way to separate resurrection from the Holy Spirit. Whoever encounters the Holy Spirit encounters resurrection. That which was poured forth from heaven on the day of Pentecost and which the disciples saw and heard is the Holy Spirit. Why was the Holy Spirit given? To testify that the Lord has been resurrected. Does the Holy Spirit testify only in words. No, everyone who has met the Holy Spirit knows that the Lord Jesus has risen.
When the Lord was on earth some had leaned on His bosom, some had received things from His hand, some had touched the border of His garment, some had had their feet washed by Him, some had had their bodies raised by Him, and had had their eyes anointed by Him with spittle and clay. Today, though, he is risen—He is in the Spirit. The Lord whom we now may see is what those who had touched Him or were touched by Him on earth could not see. He whom we see today surpasses the One whom they saw on earth. For today we have met the Lord of resurrection. Those who knew the Lord Jesus on earth might say He advanced in wisdom and stature. They might recall how they met Him when he was only 12 years of age or when He was 30 years old. They might relate His history, who his brothers were, and who were His parents. But the Lord we now meet transcends this being "advanced in wisdom and stature": He transcends all boundaries; even the last boundary—death—has He also transcended.
How can the church continue on for nearly two thousand years? Because there are always people who see the Lord of resurrection. For almost 20 centuries, here and there are many saints whose inner state is bright because they have seen the Lord inwardly. We acknowledge that we are not as clear towards the outward Christ as were those people who lived in the age of the Four Gospels. We do not see what they saw. We do not know, as they did, the exact appearance of the Lord in the flesh. Nevertheless, our knowledge of Him today is clearer than those people in the time of the Four Gospels. Our inner state is much brighter than theirs. We have touched the Lord inwardly.
What does the Holy Spirit do on earth today? He communicates the risen Christ to men. If anyone should say he knows the Holy Spirit but not resurrection we will answer that this is impossible. For today this Christ transcends all space, time, death, and every limitation. The Holy Spirit is that Spirit who has raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. The power of the Holy Spirit is therefore the power of resurrection. Wherever the work of the Holy Spirit is, there is the manifestation of the power of resurrection. Where the Holy Spirit is, there is resurrection.
"And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1.22,23). Do we see what the church is? While the Lord Jesus was still living on earth He was the perfect man, but He was yet to be the Head of the church. For at that time He himself was still under restriction, and the possibility of death continued to be on Him because He had not as yet broken the power of death. Had the church become His body at that time, the church would have likewise come under such restriction. Not until the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead does he become the Head of thechurch and the church become His body. But now, just as He has transcended all things, so too does the church transcend all things. It is true that while the Lord was on earth He was full of power. If we possessed only the power which He possessed while on earth we might perhaps feel sufficient, but God considers it inadequate. Having broken the greatest limitation of all which is death, the Lord Jesus is resurrected. And God puts all things in subjection under His feet and makes Him Head over all things to the church. Thus the church becomes His body. Only after the Lord is resurrected does the church become His body. And thus the Head and the body share the same nature; they are completely one. As the Head is far above all, so the church is far above all. As Christ is beyond any limitation, so the church is beyond any limitation.
With respect to ourselves individually, we of course are still in the flesh; we are therefore subject to the restrictions of space and time. But so far as the nature of the church is concerned, she is the body of Christ—the fullness of Him who fills all in all. She is the vessel for the resurrection life of Christ; hence she may experience the power of Christ’s resurrection. May we continually remember this, that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves" (2 Cor. 4.7). On the one hand we cannot deny we are only useless earthen vessels; but on the other hand we must also see that since God has given us the resurrection life of Christ, faith calls us to experience this power of resurrection. Church history tells us how the church has experienced this resurrection power—here a little and there a little. It may further be said that the church is being built up on the foundation of resurrection. So that one day the saints shall be raptured, their bodies shall be redeemed, and then shall they fully and perfectly manifest this power of resurrection.
A brief survey of church history during the first century might be helpful in this matter. In that first century the gospel was spread by a few Galilean fishermen. According to their personal conditions they were unlearned common people with little courage. Consider Peter, for example. Though he was the strongest among the twelve disciples, yet on the night of the betrayal of the Lord he dared to follow only at a distance. After his arrival at the courtyard of the high priest he could not stand the inquisition of a slave girl and so denied the Lord three times. This amply proves that he was as weak and cowardly as the other disciples. Nevertheless, when Pentecost came and the Holy Spirit descended, Peter and the eleven apostles stood up to speak. He no longer acted like a timid and unlearned fisherman.
Furthermore, the apostles performed many wonders and signs (Acts 2.43). When they were persecuted by the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees—the twelve having been seized, threatened and forbidden to proclaim the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—their response was: "We cannot but speak the things which we saw and heard"; and they were so bold for the word of the Lord that when the people who judged them "had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled" (Acts 4.1-21). They had been transformed from weakness to strength. The reason is none other than that they had known the power of the resurrection of Christ. They no longer lived by their natural life. They lived by the power of that resurrection.
Again, when Stephen was stoned by the people for the sake of the word of the Lord, he had no animosity against them and instead cried out with a loud voice: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7.60). Such power comes from resurrection life.
When Paul and Silas were cast into the inner prison they neither despaired nor fainted in heart. Instead of moaning and weeping they "were praying and singing hymns unto God" (Acts 16.25). As a result, the entire household of the jailor believed in God. Such power is truly the manifestation of the power of the resurrection of Christ in their lives.
Even so, to know the power of resurrection requires revelation. How we need the prayer of Ephesians 1: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; ... that ye may know what is ... the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead..." Here we are told what kind of power it is that God works in those who believe. It is the power which God wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. In other words, just as God raised Christ from the dead in order that he would not be held by death but instead break through all limitations, so God will manifest the same power to us who believe.
We thank God that the church has actually experienced this resurrection power. Our regeneration is by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter l.3). When we preach and people accept the gospel, this is the fruit of resurrection. The Lord has declared: "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28.18). He has also stated that "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18.20). If two or three shall agree on earth as touching anything, they may also manifest this power of resurrection. Whether it is regeneration or spiritual growth or godly exercise, it is all a demonstration of resurrection power (see Rom. 8). We know from 1 Corinthians 15 that the secret of Paul’s having "labored more abundantly" (v.10) and having been able to "die daily" (v.31) is in resurrection (the theme of the entire chapter). Does not Paul reiterate the same idea in 2 Corinthians 11 by saying: "In labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers ...; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, there is that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches" (v.23-28). What power sustains him in willingly enduring these things? It is the power of resurrection. We are further shown in Philippians 3 that the reason why Paul is able to know "the fellowship of his [Christ’s] sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death" is in his being able to "know him, and the power of his resurrection" (v.10).
Among God’s children we can discern a great many similar experiences. Some may be in sickness, but they are able to lift up their heads and praise the Lord when they know this power of resurrection. Some may—at the moment of intense pain, tribulation and humiliation which naturally speaking is "beyond their power"—find strength to endure because of the power of resurrection. Just as the Scripture says, "We are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair" (2 Cor. 4.8). All these experiences prove one fact, which is that "the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves" (2 Cor. 4.7).
May we continually keep in mind that whatever is the nature of the Head will be the nature of the body. We must ask God to give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we may experience the power of resurrection, for the church ought to enjoy the resurrection power of God on earth. The resurrection life of Christ is already in us. We should ask the Lord to open our eyes that we may know the strength of His might in us. We should be strong in the power of this resurrection. Then shall we be delivered from today’s feebleness, inability, self-love, self-pity, and the flesh. We may transcend all these things without being entangled, influenced, and limited.
How immense is resurrection. We can neither express it fully in words nor understand it completely in thoughts. Nevertheless, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the Great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of an eternal covenant—even our Lord Jesus—grant to His church the spirit of wisdom andrevelation abundantly, so that the church may know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Amen.