“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” - Isaiah 53:5
As we come near to our Easter celebration, we are reminded again of the incredible power of the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. We will never “get beyond” the cross, grow out of it, graduate to a “higher level.” There is no higher level than the cross, no greater lesson. It is the cross and it will always be the cross. And without the empty tomb, the cross itself would have been emptied of its power to save and give hope. It would have been merely the tragic end to a promising ministry, and Christianity would have been dead in the cradle. So, the cross and the empty tomb are both the Alpha and the Omega of the Christian life.
The prophecy from Isaiah 53 concerning the cross and the empty tomb is one of the greatest of the entire Scripture. For its clarity on substitutionary atonement, it cannot be surpassed. Yet even this clear prophecy has from time to time been misunderstood. Even the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 who was reading this majestic prophecy had to have help understanding it. So, when Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”, the eunuch answered, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him in his chariot.
One of the most common misunderstandings of Isaiah 53 in the Christian church today concerns the healing ministry that flows from the cross: “By His wounds we are healed.” The “Word-Faith” movement, part of a larger trend generally called the “Health and Wealth Gospel,” claims that this prophecy guarantees perfect physical health for every Christian in this present age, if we merely have “enough” faith to claim that healing. A bitter corollary of this false teaching is that any Christian who is not healed (or who does not affect a healing for a loved one) is failing to receive the healing that Christ intends to give for one simple reason: they don’t have enough faith. This adds the bitterness of personal spiritual failure to the already great bitterness of the trial itself.
This view fails to distinguish between the present age and the age to come. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The “former things” represents our present order in a sin-cursed world, from which there are only two possible escapes—death and the Second Coming of Christ. Concerning death, Hebrews 9:27 says it is appointed for us to die, and that is something that the “Word-faith” and “Health-wealth” gospel cannot remove.
The problem of sickness, pain, suffering, and death is absolutely pervasive: there is not a single organ, part of the body, or bodily function that is untouched by sickness in the human race. Somewhere, there is a human being suffering disease in any part of the body you may select to study. And there is not a single human being who makes it through this world without suffering some pain and sickness.
"...the cross and the empty tomb are both the Alpha and the Omega of the Christian life."
Even Christ’s miracles of healing were only meant to be temporary signs, pointing to two far greater healings He intends to give: perfect spiritual healing through forgiveness of sins and regeneration of the soul, and perfect physical healing by the resurrection of the body into the New Heaven and the New Earth. These are both perfect and eternal and far outweigh any temporary physical relief of some present sickness or pain.