What the Resurrection Teaches Us
The basic message of the gospel, as Paul described it, is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by” Paul himself (1 Cor. 15:3-8). Let us note that an important part of that message is the resurrection of Jesus; this was taught the very first time the gospel was preached, with Peter noting the resurrection of the Christ was prophesied and was fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 2:23-24, 30-32).
Later that same day, the Sadducees were upset that the apostles “taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 3:15; 4:2); they taught it because it was, again, part of the basic message of the gospel. They would continue to teach and preach the resurrection of Jesus, as eyewitnesses (Acts 4:33), to the Gentiles when God first sent the message to them (Acts 10:39, 40), to the idolatrous people of Athens as Paul sought to teach them about the God they did not know, and the Christ whom He raised up from the dead (Acts 17:18, 32), and throughout the world, wherever the gospel went (Acts 13:27-37).
Some religious organizations deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus [the Jehovah’s Witnesses; You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, pp. 143, 144]; others argue “that Jesus did not actually die during the Crucifixion. Rather, he simply ‘swooned’ and fell unconscious while hanging from the cross. Later, while he was in the tomb, he recovered from his injuries and was resuscitated.” [Hill, Kate, The Physical Death of Jesus Christ: The “Swoon Theory” and the Medical Response.]; still others claim it was simply a ‘mass hallucination’ of the purported eyewitnesses, due to a strong desire to see Jesus once again; and of course, we know the religious leaders of the first century circulated the story that Jesus did not rise, but that His disciples had stolen His body and merely claimed He had been raised (Matt. 29:11-15). With all these contradicting claims about the resurrection of Jesus — or the denial of it — what are we to believe, and why does it matter?
Well, yes, the bodily resurrection of Jesus does matter, and for multiple reasons. The apostle Paul named just a few in his first letter to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 15:12-19); let’s note the consequences of denying the bodily resurrection:
1. If there is no resurrection of anyone, then Christ was not raised.
2. If Christ was not raised, then the preaching of the apostles and first-century disciples was meaningless, and so is our faith in Him.
3. The apostles were false witnesses.
4. We are still in our sins.
5. Those who have died in Christ have simply died, never to rise again.
6. Christians have no real hope beyond this life, and we are, of all people in the world, to be pitied most of all because we believe in a lie and have only a false hope.
But the Bible plainly teaches the bodily resurrection and its importance; we would do well to learn from what those Scriptures teach us about the resurrection of Jesus. Let us note just a few points.
God Declared Him to be His Son. In his introduction to his letter to the brethren in Rome, Paul described himself as a servant of Jesus, called to preach the message of Jesus Christ, who had been “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:1-4). It might not be obvious as to why this is true, so let us consider for a moment: How did the resurrection “declare” Jesus to be God’s Son?
Throughout His time on Earth, Jesus made multiple claims to be the Son of God (John 10:36; John 17:1; Mark 14:61, 62); with that being the case, if He was not God’s Son, then God would not have raised Him up from the dead because He would have been a liar and an impostor. But, God did raise Him from the dead, and by so doing, essentially told the world, “His claim to be My Son is true!”
So, the first thing we must learn from the resurrection is that it verified the claim of Jesus that He was indeed God’s Son.
His Resurrection is the Assurance of Our Resurrection. After Paul refuted the lie of no resurrections at all, he then noted, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming’” (1 Cor. 15:20-23). In these words are some important points about how His resurrection relates to ours:
1. His resurrection from the dead was the “firstfruits,”; that is, He was the first to be raised and never die again.
2. The term firstfruits not only indicates it was the first, but that signaled the fact more would come afterwards. In this case, Christ’s resurrection was the first of its kind, but it also meant there would be many like His at some point later. Paul notes our resurrection from the dead will happen at His coming.
Let us learn from the resurrection of Jesus that it gives His disciples the hope and assurance that they will also one day be raised, never to die again.
Jesus Will One Day Be Our Judge. This may sound like an odd thing to learn from His resurrection, but it most certainly is something we must learn. As Paul concluded his message to the idolatrous people of Athens, he noted that God had overlooked idolatry amongst the Gentile nations for many years, “but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30, 31). Let us note this: God appointed Jesus to judge the world, and the fact God raised Him from the dead is the assurance to anyone who thought otherwise that He most certainly will fulfill that role.
In the same way Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and God verified it by the resurrection, let us note that Jesus also positioned Himself as the Judge in the end (Matt. 25:31-46; John 12:47, 48), determining who will be rewarded and who will be punished. And, like the claim to be God’s Son, if this claim [to be the final Judge] was false, God would not have raised Him up, else God would be vouching for a liar and impostor.
The fact is, Christ being our Judge is part of the message taught to the first-century disciples. Paul told the brethren in Rome, “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. 14:10), and he would say much the same thing to the brethren in Corinth, writing, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
Let us learn from the resurrection of Jesus that He will most certainly be our Judge, in the end — just as He said He would. The important question now is this: What will He say to you and me when we stand before Him? — Steven Harper