Friday, April 6, 2007

What Does it Mean?

In posts to come, I want to share the case for the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus--the facts that lead many to conclude that the event celebrated this week is the most well-attested occurrence in ancient history. When I do that, I'll do so without assuming that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

But first, I want to share some of the ramifications of Jesus' resurrection, some of the things proven or implied by it. For this, I will refer to Scripture itself. That is, I will examine what Jesus' first followers (Paul, John, Peter, and such) believed to be the practical implications of the fact that Jesus came alive after being dead for part of three days. (I am indebted to my friend and colleague Tom Gender for compiling this list and the associated Scriptures.)

As I alluded to in yesterday's post, the resurrection proves the power of God. Paul writes to the early church at Ephesus, I pray that you will know "the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead..." (1:19-20).

Second, as seen in Romans 1:4, Jesus "was declared to be the Son of God... by his resurrection from the dead." This is reaffirmed in Peter's sermon recorded in Acts 2:22-24. By raising Jesus from the dead, God confirmed that Jesus was his Son and affirmed (put his stamp of approval on) Jesus' teachings. These teachings include Jesus' claim to be the only way to the Father, to be redeemed, to experience eternal life.

According to Roman 6:9, the resurrection proves that Jesus lives eternally: "We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him."

Likewise, Jesus' resurrection proves that his followers will also be raised. "God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power" (I Cor. 6:14). "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body..." (Phil. 3:20-21). "So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory" (I Cor. 15:42-43).

Fifth, Christ's resurrection proved the reality of the incoming kingdom of God (which was Jesus' central message). According to Revelation 11:15, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." (Cue the choir.) Following his resurrection, Jesus is granted "all authority on heaven and earth" (Mt. 28:18) thus fulfilling the role reserved for the Messiah (see Psalms 2, 72, and 89). According to Colossians 1:24,
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible... all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Sixth, Scripture clearly sets forth that the resurrection means that Jesus will judge the world. As the apostle Paul said to the men of Athens (Acts 17: 31), "He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." In Acts 10:39-42, Peter shares the same understanding, "God raised him on the third day... and commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead."

Importantly, it is the resurrection of Jesus upon which our redemption and forgiveness hinge. "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (I Cor. 15:17). "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Rom. 4:25).

But resurrection ensures not only forgiveness but new life for Christ's followers. "Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his" (Rom. 6:4-5). As Peter has it (in I Pet. 1:3), "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."

Moreover (a ninth implication in this quick review of what the resurrection of Jesus means), the creation itself will be restored eventually as a result of the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the teaching of Romans 8:19-21 (see also Isa. 65:1, 66:2, 2 Pet. 3:13, and Rev. 21:1).

So, the resurrection is kinda a big deal, huh? Seems like there's a lot riding on it. If you're like me, you can sometimes gloss over those words about resurrection as you're reading through the New Testament (especially in Paul's letters, where he sometimes strings phrases together in such a way that you can miss the argument). I'd like to challenge you (and myself) this year to focus and meditate on the many practical ramifications that flow directly out of the fact that the Creator of the universe raised Jesus of Nazareth (and him alone) from the dead some two thousand years ago.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hadn't thought of it, but I agree with you. We (I) tend to gloss over the word and concept of resurrection. Thank you for the good reminder to reflect..