The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White, , at sacred-texts.com
The disciples rested on the Sabbath, sorrowing for the death of their Lord, while Jesus, the King of glory, rested in the sepulchre. The night had worn slowly away, and while it was yet dark, the angels hovering over the sepulchre knew that the time of the release of God’s dear Son, their loved commander, had nearly come. And as they were waiting with the deepest emotion the hour of his triumph, a strong and mighty angel came flying swiftly from heaven. His face was like the lightning, and his garments white as snow. His light dispersed the darkness from his track, and caused the evil angels who had triumphantly claimed the body of Jesus, to flee in terror from his brightness and glory. One of the angelic host who had witnessed the scene of Jesus’ humiliation, and was watching his sacred resting place, joined the angel from heaven, and together they came down to the sepulchre. The earth shook and trembled as they approached, and there was a mighty earthquake. The strong and mighty angel laid hold of the stone and quickly rolled it away from the door of the sepulchre, and sat upon it.
Terrible fear seized the guard. Where was now their power to keep the body of Jesus? They did not think of their duty, or of the disciples stealing him away. They were amazed and affrighted, as the exceeding bright light of the angels shone all around brighter than the sun. The Roman guard saw the angels, and fell as dead men to the ground. One angel rolled back the stone in triumph, and with a clear and mighty voice, cried out, Thou Son of God! Thy Father calls thee! Come forth! Death could hold dominion over him no longer. Jesus arose from the dead. The other angel entered the sepulchre, and as Jesus arose in triumph, he unbound the napkin which was about his head, and Jesus walked forth a victorious conqueror. In solemn awe the angelic host gazed upon the scene. And as Jesus walked forth from the sepulchre in majesty, those shining angels prostrated themselves to the ground and worshiped him; then hailed him with songs of victory and triumph, that death could hold its divine captive no longer. Satan did not now triumph. His angels had fled before the bright, penetrating light of the heavenly angels. They bitterly complained to their king, that their prey had been taken violently from them, and that he whom they so much hated had risen from the dead.
Satan and his angels had enjoyed a little moment of triumph that their power over fallen man had caused the Lord of life, to be laid in the grave; but short was their hellish triumph. For as Jesus walked forth from his prison house a majestic conqueror, Satan knew that after a season he must die, and his kingdom pass unto him whose right it was. He lamented and raged that notwithstanding all his efforts and power, Jesus had not been overcome, but had laid open a way of salvation for man, and whosoever would, might walk in it and be saved.
For a little, Satan seemed sad and showed distress. He held a council with his angels to consider what they should engage in next to work against the government of God. Said Satan, You must hasten to the chief priests and elders. We succeeded in deceiving them and blinding their eyes, and hardening their hearts against Jesus. We made them believe he was an impostor. That Roman guard will carry the hateful news that Christ is risen. We led the priests and elders on to hate Jesus, and to murder him. Now hold it before them in a bright light, that as they were his murderers, if it becomes known that Jesus is risen, they will be stoned to death by the people, in that they killed an innocent man.
I saw the Roman guard, as the angelic host passed back to heaven, and the light and glory passed away, raise themselves to see if it were safe for them to look around. They were filled with amazement as they saw that the great stone was rolled from the door of the sepulchre, and Jesus was risen. They hastened to the chief priests and elders with the wonderful story of what they had seen; and as those murderers heard the marvelous report, paleness sat upon every face. Horror seized them at what they had done. They then realized that if the report was correct, they were lost. For a little they were stupefied, and looked one to the other in silence, not knowing what to do or say. They were placed where they could not believe unless it be to their own condemnation. They went aside by themselves to consult what should be done. They decided that if it should be spread abroad that Jesus had risen, and the report of such amazing glory, which caused the guard to fall like dead men, should come to the people, they would surely be enraged, and would slay them. They decided to hire the soldiers to keep the matter secret. They offered them much money, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept. And when the guard inquired what should be done with them for sleeping at their post, the priests and elders said that they would persuade the governor and save them. For the sake of money the Roman guard sold their honor, and agreed to follow the counsel of the priests and elders.
When Jesus as he hung upon the cross, cried out, It is finished, the rocks rent, the earth shook, and some of the graves were shaken open; for when Jesus arose from the dead, and conquered death and the grave; when he walked forth from his prison house a triumphant conqueror; while the earth was reeling and shaking, and the excellent glory of heaven clustered around the sacred spot, obedient to his call, many of the righteous dead came forth as witnesses that he had risen. Those favored, resurrected saints came forth glorified. They were a few chosen and holy ones who had lived in every age from creation, even down to the days of Christ. And while the chief priests and Pharisees were seeking to cover up the resurrection of Christ, God chose to bring up a company from their graves to testify that Jesus had risen, and to declare his glory.
Those who were resurrected were of different stature and form. I was informed that the inhabitants of earth had been degenerating, losing their strength and comeliness. Satan has the power of disease and death, and in every age the curse has been more visible, and the power of Satan more plainly seen. Some of those raised were more noble in appearance and form than others. I was informed that those who lived in the days of Noah and Abraham were more like the angels in form, in comeliness and strength. But every generation has been growing weaker, and more subject to disease, and their lives of shorter duration. Satan has been learning how to annoy men, and enfeeble the race.
Those holy ones who came forth after the resurrection of Jesus appeared unto many, telling them that the sacrifice for man was completed, that Jesus, whom the Jews crucified, had risen from the dead, and added, We be risen with him. They bore testimony that it was by his mighty power that they had been called forth from their graves. Notwithstanding the lying reports circulated, the matter could not be concealed by Satan, his angels, or the chief priests; for this holy company, brought forth from their graves, spread the wonderful, joyful news; also Jesus showed himself unto his sorrowing, heart-broken disciples, dispelling their fears, and causing them gladness and joy.
As the news spread from city to city, and from town to town, the Jews in their turn were afraid for their lives, and concealed the hate they cherished towards the disciples. Their only hope was to spread their lying report. And those who wished this lie to be true, believed it. Pilate trembled. He believed the strong testimony given, that Jesus was risen from the dead, and that many others he had brought up with him, and his peace left him forever. For the sake of worldly honor; for fear of losing his authority, and his life, he delivered Jesus to die. He was now fully convinced that it was not merely a common, innocent man of whose blood he was guilty but the blood of the Son of God. Miserable was the life of Pilate; miserable to its close. Despair and anguish crushed every hopeful, joyful feeling. He refused to be comforted, and died a most miserable death.
Herod’s heart grew still harder, and when he heard that Jesus had arisen, he was not much troubled. He took the life of James; and when he saw that this pleased the Jews, he took Peter also, intending to put him to death. But God had a work for Peter to do, and sent his angel and delivered him. Herod was visited with judgment. God smote him in the sight of a great multitude as he was exalting himself before them, and he died a horrible death.
Early in the morning before it was yet light, the holy women came to the sepulchre, bringing sweet spices to anoint the body of Jesus, when lo! they found the heavy stone rolled away from the door of the sepulchre, and the body of Jesus was not there. Their hearts sunk within them, and they feared that their enemies had taken away the body. And, behold, two angels in white apparel stood by them; their faces were bright and shining. They understood the errand of the holy women, and immediately told them that they were seeking Jesus, but he was not there, he had risen, and they could behold the place where he lay. They bid them go tell his disciples that he would go before them into Galilee. But the women were frightened and astonished. They hastily ran to the disciples who were mourning, and could not be comforted because their Lord had been crucified; they hurriedly told them the things which they had seen and heard. The disciples could not believe that he had risen, but, with the women who had brought the report, ran hastily to the sepulchre, and found that truly Jesus was not there. There were his linen clothes, but they could not believe the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead. They returned home marveling at the things they had seen, also at the report brought them by the women. But Mary chose to linger around the sepulchre, thinking of what she had seen, and distressed with the thought that she might have been deceived. She felt that new trials awaited her. Her grief was renewed, and she broke forth in bitter weeping. She stooped down to look again into the sepulchre, and beheld two angels clothed in white. Their countenances were bright and shining. One was sitting at the head, the other at the feet, where Jesus had lain. They spoke to her tenderly, and asked her why she wept. She replied, They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
And as she turned from the sepulchre, she saw Jesus standing by her; but knew him not. Jesus spoke tenderly to Mary, and inquired the cause of her sorrow, and asked her whom she was seeking. She supposed he was the gardener, and begged of him, if he had borne away her Lord, to tell her where he had laid him, and she would take him away. Jesus spoke to her with his own heavenly voice, and said, Mary. She was acquainted with the tones of that dear voice, and quickly answered, Master! and with joy and gladness was about to embrace him; but Jesus stood back, and said, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God. Joyfully she hastened to the disciples with the good news. Jesus quickly ascended up to his Father to bear from his lips that he accepted the sacrifice, and that he had done all things well, and to receive all power in heaven, and upon earth, from his Father.
Angels like a cloud surrounded the Son of God, and bid the everlasting gates to be lifted up, that the King of glory might come in. I saw that while Jesus was with that bright, heavenly host, and in the presence of his Father, and the glory of God surrounded him, he did not forget his poor disciples upon earth; but received power from his Father, that he might return unto them, and while with them impart power unto them. The same day he returned, and showed himself to his disciples. He suffered them then to touch him, for he had ascended to his Father, and had received power.
But at this time Thomas was not present. He would not humbly receive the report of the disciples; but firmly, and self-confidently affirmed that he would not believe, unless he should put his fingers in the prints of the nails, and his hand in his side where the cruel spear was thrust. In this he showed a lack of confidence in his brethren. And if all should require the same evidence, but few would receive Jesus, and believe in his resurrection. But it was the will of God that the report of the disciples should go from one to the other, and many receive it from the lips of those who had seen and heard. God was not well pleased with such unbelief. And when Jesus met with his disciples again, Thomas was with them. The moment he beheld Jesus he believed. But he had declared that he would not be satisfied without the evidence of feeling added to sight, and Jesus gave him the evidence he had desired. Thomas cried out, my Lord and my God. But Jesus reproved Thomas for his unbelief. He said to him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.
So, I saw, that those who had no experience in the first and second angels’ messages 1 must receive them from those who had an experience, and followed down through the messages. As Jesus was crucified, so I saw that these messages have been crucified. And as the disciples declared that there was salvation in no other name under heaven, given among men; so, also, should the servants of God faithfully and fearlessly declare that those who embrace but a part of the truths connected with the third message 2 must gladly embrace the first, second and third messages as God has given them, or have no part nor lot in the matter.
I was shown that while the holy women were carrying the report that Jesus had risen, the Roman guard were circulating the lie that had been put in their mouths by the chief priests and elders, that the disciples came by night, while they slept, and stole the body of Jesus. Satan had put this lie into the hearts and mouths of the chief priests, and the people stood ready to receive their word. But God had made this matter sure, and placed this important event, upon which hangs salvation, beyond all doubt, and where it was impossible for priests and elders to cover it up. Witnesses were raised from the dead to testify to Christ’s resurrection.
Jesus remained with his disciples forty days, causing them joy and gladness of heart, and opening to them more fully the realities of the kingdom of God. He commissioned them to bear testimony to the things which they had seen and heard, concerning his sufferings, death and resurrection; that he had made a sacrifice for sin, that all who would, might come unto him and find life. He with faithful tenderness told them that they would be persecuted and distressed; but they would find relief in referring to their experience, and remembering the words he had spoken to them. He told them that he had overcome the temptations of the Devil, and maintained the victory through trials and suffering, that Satan could have no more power over him, but would more directly bring his temptations and power to bear upon them, and upon all who should believe in his name. He told them that they could overcome, as he had overcome. Jesus endowed his disciples with power to do miracles, and he told them that although wicked men should have power over their bodies, he would at certain times send his angels and deliver them; that their lives could not be taken from them until their mission should be accomplished. And when their testimony should be finished, their lives might be required to seal the testimonies which they had borne. His anxious followers gladly listened to his teachings. They eagerly feasted upon every word which fell from his holy lips. Then they certainly knew that he was the Saviour of the world. Every word sunk with deep weight into their hearts, and they sorrowed that they must be parted from their blessed, heavenly teacher; that after a little they should no more hear comforting, gracious words from his lips. But again their hearts were warmed with love and exceeding joy, as Jesus told them that he would go and prepare mansions for them, and come again and receive them, that they might ever be with him. He told them that he would send them the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to guide, bless and lead them into all truth; and he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
1 See Revelation 14:6-8. Explained in chapters 23 and 24 of this book.
2 See Revelation 14:9-12. Explained in chapter 28 of this book.
See Matthew 27:52-53, chap. 28; Mark 16:1-18; Luke 24:1-50; John chap. 20; Acts chap. 12.