Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.


The author of the book When It Was Dark describes a situation in which a wealthy atheist decides to destroy Christianity. So he hires a venal archaeologist to create a fraudulent find in Israel, to bring to light the contrived discovery of the supposed remains of Christ.

The result is catastrophic. A new Ice Age descends on the earth. Hope goes out like a candle in the wind. Joy disappears from life. Missionaries return to their native lands. The lights in the churches go out, and the doors are locked for good. The law of Sinai is exchanged for the law of the jungle. The Sermon on the Mount gives way to savagery in the street. Hope dies—all because of a lie.

The fact is the tomb of Jesus was empty. So, is there a message from the empty tomb for us today? I suggest there are three.


Firstly, though the tomb was empty, it speaks a message of promise.

In the history of the world, only one tomb has ever had a rock rolled before it, and a soldier guard set to watch it to prevent the dead man within from rising: that was the tomb of Christ on the evening of the Friday called Good. What spectacle could be more ridiculous than armed soldiers keeping their eyes on a corpse? But sentinels were set lest the Dead walk, the Silent speak, and the Pierced Heart quicken to the throb of life. They said they knew He was dead; they said He would not rise again. And yet they watched! They openly called Him a deceiver. But would He still deceive? They remembered that He called His body the temple and that in three days after they destroyed it, He would rebuild it; they recalled too that He compared Himself to Jonah, and said that as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, so would He be in the belly of the earth for three days before rising again.

But they need not have worried because Jesus’ biography was written before He was born. From the sixth-century-BC promise that forecast the place of His birth (Mic 5:2), to the manner of his death (Ps 22:16–17), to not having his bones broken (Ps 34:20), and to being buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isa 53:9)—all these promises were kept. But there was yet another more dramatic promise: He would arise on the third day (Hos 6:2). True to the prophetic word, He emerged, escorted by an angel.

The fulfillment of those promises serves a double purpose. First, they authenticate Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, the Son of God; and second, those kept promises are the basis of our certain hope of resurrection and reunion with all those who have died in the Lord (1 Cor 15:51–55). The empty tomb is proof that God keeps— and will keep—His promises.


For many centuries innumerable people with tear-stained faces have stood beside yawning, open graves, and watched the remains of their loved ones lowered into the earth, wondering, Beyond the dark cavern of this pit, is there anything beyond?

Then, early on a Sunday morning as the first piercing rays of a reddening sky heralded the onset of a new day, the Son of God stepped forth from the grave and declared that there is something beyond, and that one day a heavenly Father will be waiting with outstretched arms to wipe away the tears and welcome us to a land where no one will ever say goodbye! How tragic it would be if it were not so.

But it is true. No bones of the Lord have been or ever will be discovered, for Jesus Christ on the first day of the week arose from the dead. He is alive forevermore!

The greatest historical evidence for any historical fact is that an institution be built upon that fact. The greatest and largest institution in the world, the Christian church, was built on a hole in the ground with nothing in it.

By contrast, you may go to the tomb of Mohammed, and they will tell you,

“Here lie the bones of the great prophet.” You may go to the tomb of Napoleon, and they will tell you, “Here lie the bones of the Emperor of France.”

You may go to Moscow and see the tomb of Lenin, and they will tell you, “Here lies the body of the founder of Soviet Communism.”

But you may go to the garden tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, and you can see for yourself that “here lie the bones of no one. He is not here. He is risen, as He said He would.” The message from the empty tomb is a message of hope.


The empty tomb is a message of promise, of hope, and of grace—amazing and astonishing—that the Creator of the universe would come and die for the creatures’ sin. We were born with a death sentence, for the wages of sin is death. And there, at Calvary, and at the tomb, those wages were paid in full—signed, sealed, and delivered. Signed in blood, sealed by the Romans, and delivered into the tomb. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. That atoning death was payment for our sins. What manner of grace!

Theologians divide the work of Christ into two parts: the humiliation of Christ and His exaltation, or glorification. The first He did for us; the second we do for Him. He left heaven for us. He endured the mockery of men. He endured the pain and agony of spikes driven into His quivering flesh. He endured death as our substitute. Vicariously in our stead, He did it all for us.

But now in His exaltation, He rises from the dead with us, and He calls us to rise with Him. He ascends into heaven and calls us to do the same. He sits at the right hand of the Father and invites us to take a seat. He judges the world and invites us to have a part in the judgment of the world. All these things, including our glorification, we have with Him. What manner of grace!


Do you know that you can experience resurrection right now in this life? “You have been quickened [made alive] which were dead in trespasses and sins,” says the Bible (Eph 2:5).

You can experience a spiritual resurrection. If you do not know that resurrection of a changed life, you will never know the resurrection of the body unto eternal life. Have you experienced that transformation?

Today, roll away the stone from the door of your heart and ask Him who came out of an empty tomb to come into your empty heart and fill it with His joy, His hope, and His grace. Then you will know that when they lower you into the ground, it will not be the end. You will have the joyful hope of resurrection in a land without sorrow or tears. Let’s pray.

Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University