Among the many roadway signs you encounter while traveling, perhaps the most important provide warning to potential hazards and needed guidance to destinations. Many times I have been delighted to point to distance signs and reassure my impatient passengers that we are on the right road and that, according to the sign, our destination is drawing near. Similarly, in Acts 17:30–32 the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s infallible and trustworthy sign concerning a future destination for those who will inherit the glory as well as those who will not.
The Sign of Future Judgment
Some roads we travel can become so routine and common that warnings signs are often overlooked or discounted as very unlikely to occur. One such sign is “watch out for falling rocks.” After passing through such a zone safely numerous times the sign becomes irrelevant and insignificant. Paul encountered a similar response by some of the Athenians that mocked when Paul spoke of the resurrection (Acts 17:32). They labeled the apostle as a seed-picker (translated babbler in verse 18) or one who picks up scraps of knowledge here and there like a bird picked up left over seed for sustenance. The message of the resurrection was still relatively new at that time, but in the information age it is generally known among unbelievers and other religions as a fundamental Christian doctrine. Many people have heard and embrace the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and remain indifferent and unmoved by like a routine warning sign. That is, when God says, “Danger, Destruction and Misery Ahead” there is no real consequence if one just doesn’t believe it is true. Paul however declared that God has “…appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
We most often think of the resurrection as God’s sign of salvation and future glory (Romans 4:25) rather than future judgment. Paul asserts that God raised His Son as proof that He will judge the world in righteousness. Scripture again and again affirms that judgment is coming and that wrath is God’s just retribution against sin. Consider 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “…whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. Also, Romans 5:9, “…we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Finally, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In keeping with Acts 17:31, each of these passages speaks of God’s future judgment against sin (an appointed day) and the man ordained as the standard (Jesus Christ) by which the world shall be judged. Think about it, all human beings will be judged by God’s holy, inflexible, and impeccable standard…Jesus Christ.
The Sign of Righteousness
One indicator of a growing economy is the display of “help wanted” signs in store fronts. The advertisement for help means that demand is outpacing supply at least in terms of human resources. However, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s sign that no help is needed. In fact, no help is allowed. This was the first problem that Paul recognized in the ignorant worship of the Athenians in their religious devotions. Paul therefore declared unto them the True and Living God that is both creator and Lord of heaven and earth and that He is not worshipped with men’s hands as though he needed anything seeing He giveth to all life, breath and all things (Acts 17:25). He concludes his discourse with the proof that God is not worshipped by men that meet His needs but that His own demands are fully satisfied by the God-man Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Godhead bodily and the believer is complete in Him (Colossians 2:9 – 10). God’s righteousness demands a sacrifice that honors the glory of His all sufficient grace. When men seek to worship God by nature, the result is a god constructed by our vain imagination that we can satisfy with our self-righteousness and works. According to Paul, such a god is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device (Acts 17:29) or thoughts. To think of God this way is to reduce Him to human standards and belittle His righteousness and glory. Jesus came to live and display the standard of righteousness that honors God and His law. If this is true, why was the death of Jesus actually planned and carried out by His Father as judgment against sin (Acts 2:23, Revelation 13:8, Acts 4:27 – 28, Romans 8:32)? Is it right to condemn a just man to death? When Pontius Pilate sat down in the judgment seat and knowingly condemned an innocent man, was not God at the same time judging righteously on His throne carrying out His own sentence through Pilate? Is this a double standard or was Pilate’s unjust sentence of a righteous man in some way a just sentence by God of a guilty man?
Pontius Pilate (along with Herod, the Jews and Gentiles) was serving his own self-preserving and sinful interests in his unjust sentence in knowing that Jesus was innocent from all charges. However, God was at the same time carrying out and serving His own righteous purpose and the good of sinners by justly charging Jesus with the sins of fornication, idolatry, adultery, immorality, inordinate affections, desires of the flesh and mind, etc. While Jesus did not actually sin, the sins of those He represented at Calvary were laid to His charge. God’s sentence was just because Jesus was legally made to be sin though He never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15). As Isaiah records, the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all! Jesus willingly gave Himself to redeem sinners from all iniquity. As the song writer penned those glorious words, “In my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with His blood hallelujah what a Savior.” By the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all those that He represented will be judged by His life. No wonder Paul encouraged the saints in Colossians 3:1 – “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” The perfect standard by which all men shall be judged is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The difference in the result is that those who are raised with Christ and in Christ are united to his death, burial and resurrection. By being attached to Christ as a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) means His substitutionary death paid the penalty for all our sins, His life is our life and his righteousness is our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) before God the Father. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!
All judgment has been placed into the hands of the Son (John 5:22). The life of Christ that was tested by God (Isaiah 28:16) and approved by resurrection is the same life that will be used to measure all those outside of Christ. If the death of Jesus Christ was received by God as the standard of payment and satisfaction for the law as demonstrated by resurrection, then the same resurrection is also God’s sign that He will judge un-forgiven sin by the same man He ordained in that He raised him from the dead. The holiness of God demanded judgment against sin in order to redeem His people from all iniquity and the holiness of God will demand judgment against sin in all those who are un-redeemed. Finally, the resurrection of Jesus is God’s sign of confidence and hope for those that believe.
The Sign of Assurance
What is your response to the sign of Christ and His resurrection to the right hand of God? How would you respond to a road sign that reads, “Danger, Bridge Out Ahead?” If you trusted the person who gave the sign and were thankful for it, you would stop the car and turn in the opposite direction. That turning in the bible is called repentance toward God or a turning from the wrong pathway. But this turning could be a turning to another destructive pathway of sin and death (2 Corinthians 7:10) unless it is coupled with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. True repentance or forsaking our way and thoughts is a turning to the narrow pathway of mercy and life in Christ (Isaiah 55:7, Matthew 7:14). Paul makes it clear to the idol worshippers at Athens that the only way of avoiding future judgment is the righteousness of Jesus Christ as demonstrated by His death and resurrection. The personal assurance of being united to Him and His righteousness is faith and repentance. While the resurrection is a fact that any man may examine and know historically, the assurance of future glory is for those the Holy Spirit unites and draws effectually to the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you received the assurance of God’s sign by repenting and turning to Jesus Christ?