The Key to Understanding the Bible
“And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb” Luke 24:2
The stone rolled away from the tomb opened up an entirely new world. A brave new world! The evangelist Luke captures this new reality by telling us that Jesus, whose resurrection from death had opened the tomb, afterward opened the eyes of the Emmaus disciples to understand the Christ’s suffering and glory from Moses and all the prophets (Luke 24:31). Then they understood what Jesus had told them, for He had opened the Scriptures to them (Luke 24:32). Later that day Jesus opened the minds of his disciples to understand all that Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms had intended concerning Him (Luke 24:45).
In other words, the open tomb becomes a symbol that finds its meaning in the human suffering and divine glory of Jesus. The fact of the resurrection opens our understanding to the meaning of the Scriptures. The resurrection is the key that unlocks the Bible. It breaks the seals of the ancient scrolls and solves the riddles of revelation. The stone rolled away from the tomb opens up nothing less than the door to a new creation.
For the evangelists and apostles, Christ’s death and resurrection opened the door into entirely new dimensions of reality, a new world of both space and time. The altogether appropriate symbol of this brave new world is “the open door,” an entryway into a heretofore unimaginable world After Christ’s death the first impassable door that was unexpectedly opened up was the veil of the temple, which was suddenly rent asunder from top to bottom (Matt 27:51). The temple veil symbolized the separation of God and man. The Holy of Holies, protected behind the veil, represented the Edenic garden of the presence of God, and the cherubim woven onto the veil (Exod 26:31-33) recalled the angels who barred Adam’s reentry into the paradise of the pleasant garden (Gen 3:23-24). The rending of the veil opened “a new and living way” (Heb 10: 19-22) for man to reenter the presence of God and to partake of the fruit of the tree of life (Rev 2:7). In other words, the door was opened that had for so long separated God and man. In addition to the temple’s torn veil, the middle wall that had partitioned the temple and divided God’s people was likewise taken down (Eph 2:14-22), opening up the way for the Jew and the Gentile to be reconciled as one body to God, the new mystery now brought to light (Eph 2:16, 3:3-6).
These remarkable new ways were opened in the temple only because—most miraculous of all—the stone door that sealed the tomb was rolled away (Matt 27:66-28:2), opening up the way from death to life (Matt 28:5-6). Jesus’ resurrection thus clarified His claim to be “the door” (John 10:7), for His resurrection directly opened the once impassable barriers separating God and man, Jew and Gentile, and life and death. As a consequence, an entirely new world—full of wonders—opened up.
Emblems of this new world are seen in the eternal city with its gates that are never shut (Rev 21:25) and the open door that could not be closed which Jesus sets before His people (Rev 3:8). Locked doors in this present world miraculously open, according to this new dimension of reality, as Christ appears and stands in the midst of His disciples, who had previously barred the doors shut (John 20:19, 26). Prison doors incarcerating God’s people are likewise miraculously made to open of their own accord, releasing the apostles from their prisons (Acts 5:19, 12:10). The iron gate automatically opens before Peter (Acts12: 16), and Paul and Silas are released as the doors of the Philippian jail open up before them (Acts 16:26). Moreover, God opened a wide door of opportunity for His apostle (1 Cor 16:9), an open door of the word (Col 4:3) an open door of faith (Acts 14:27), and an open door for the gospel to be made accessible to the Gentiles (2 Cor 2:12). In short, a new and wonderful new world opened up, filled with heretofore unimaginably free and open access for the people of God. The resurrection represents the dawn of a new and wondrous day.
Now the resurrection inaugurated this new aeon by the raising of the new and eternal temple of Christ’s body (John 2:19). The raising of the final temple marked the end of Israel’s exile with a greater and more perfect priesthood (Heb 9:11-12) and the simultaneous raising of the fallen tabernacle of David’s royal kingdom (Acts 15:16). Jesus comes with the keys of death and Hades (Rev 1:18) to inaugurate the last days foreseen by all the prophets (Acts 2:17, 3:24).
The Scripture opened with the divine command for man to be fruitful and multiply and likewise for man to rule over the beast. This command represents the telos, the end or purpose of God to be accomplished in time. This goal is the largest and most expansive linear motion in all of Scripture. It anticipates the end foretold in the beginning, namely, that the earth should be filled with mankind and that the beast should be subdued (Gen 1:28). For the apostle Paul, history will find its culmination in the resurrection of the last day, the great event that will simultaneously fill the earth with godly men and women while destroying death, the sting of the serpentine beast (1 Cor 15:22-26, 55-56).
This linear direction to history, set in motion in the beginning (Gen 1:28), is interrupted, however, by the serpent ruling over the man in the garden. The great revolt brings about death and reduces human life to the vanity of the cycle that describes man as created out of dust only to be made into dust again (Gen 3:19). The natural order was thus subjected to vanity, and man’s experience was made to move inexorably from life to death in an endless and fatal cycle of futility. One generation goes and another generation comes. Like the natural order, the sun rises and the sun sets. The wind blows northward and then southward again in a circular course. There was nothing new under the sun. The natural horizons bounded the imagination of man, consigning all ephemeral life to vanity, obliterating the memory of the former things, and causing the latter things to be forgotten. As Solomon lamented, “All is vanity! There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:1-15).
But then a greater than Solomon comes, saying, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rev 21:5). Jesus comes forth in resurrection power with the keys of death and the grave as the Living One who was dead but now is alive forevermore (Rev 1:18). The resurrection thus breaks the endless cycles of the vanity of life and death by establishing the linear trajectory of life to death to life again. Jesus’ resurrection thus changes the very character of time itself, expanding the horizons of man’s imagination from the natural to the supernatural. The apostle therefore speaks of the proper sequence of time, with everything in its own order. Christ becomes the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming. After this comes the end (1 Cor 15:24), when all creation is delivered from vanity (Rom 8:18-21). It is the resurrection that gives hope (Rom 8:20, 24-25), delivering us from the fear of death (Heb 2:14-15) by promising that mortality will one day put on immortality, teaching us that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor 15:53-58).