HE IS RISEN!
K. V. Varghese, Ampat
The story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is recorded in all the four gospels and is well known to many. Resurrection means rising from the dead and living again. Both Old and New Testaments record the deaths of ordinary people who were brought back to life, only to die again, sooner or later (1Kgs.17:22; 2Kgs.4:32-35; Lk.7:12-15; 8:49-56; Jn.11:39-44 and Acts 9:37-41).
The Old Testament believers did not have a clear picture of resurrection. They believed in Hades or Sheol, the world of the dead, and knew that all people, rich or poor, good or bad, eventually die and go to Sheol (Job 3:13-19; Psa.88:1-5; Isa.38:18, etc.). However, believers in the later part of the Old Testament era were given the revelation that there was everlasting life and everlasting damnation (Dan.12:1-2).
In the New Testament times, the Sadducees, a sect within the Jewish religion, did not believe in continued existence of the soul after death, the bodily resurrection of the dead or the existence of angelic beings; but the Pharisees believed in all of these. In spite of their differences, they were united in opposing Jesus and His teachings.
Death is a consequence of sin, and therefore salvation from sin must include victory over death, if that salvation is to be complete. It must involve the resurrection of the body to a new and glorious life (Rom.8:22-23). By dying on the cross and rising triumphantly three days later, Jesus conquered sin and death. Every believer in Christ, who is the ‘firstfruits’, can now look forward to the final salvation of soul and body (1Cor.15:20-23).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most celebrated event in the history of the world and is the essence of Christian faith and Christianity. It is repeatedly declared as the most important link in the events that brought salvation to the human race.
Paul, in his exposition on the mystery of resurrection, states in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ is not raised, we have no basis for faith, for preaching, for forgiveness or for joy. But, because Christ is alive, we have reason for all these and much more. Further, if Christ is not raised from the dead, we are still in our sins and the most miserable of men. If Christ is not raised, we are confined to death and eternal separation from God. The risen Christ reminds us that our own resurrection was secured by His physical resurrection. In other words, the guarantee of our resurrection is Christ’s resurrection.
At salvation, God gave us Christ to live in us as a permanent resident. The life of God is in the Son, and because we have the Son, we have God’s life (Jn.11:25).
Jesus repeatedly pointed out that He was not only to die, but also to rise from the dead. But His disciples displayed a lack of understanding. Therefore when He met them after His resurrection, He proved to them beyond a doubt that He was truly alive and had a glorified body that enabled Him to appear and disappear at will.
When they got the news of the Lord’s resurrection, the timid and confused disciples came out of their hiding and began proclaiming the glorious news fearlessly. Later, on the day of Pentecost, Peter boldly declared, “But God raised Him up having loosed the pangs of death because it was not possible for Him to be held by it (Acts 2:24).
Saul the persecutor was transformed into Paul the builder when he met the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. He claimed that his vision of the resurrected Jesus gave him the assurance of eternal life.
We cannot over-emphasise the importance of the resurrection of Christ, which is the foundation for the salvation of man. Paul places this event above all others in relation to our salvation, and says even the death of Christ would have been ineffective if He did not rise again.
Being united with Christ through faith, believers share in the resurrection life of Christ. Jesus anoints them as His witnesses who are to “come and see” and “go and tell” that Jesus is risen and lives forever! Mere affirmation of our faith by reciting the Apostolic Creed or the Nycene Creed that “the third day He rose again according to the scriptures” is not enough. We are called to obey His commandment to go into the world and preach the good news to all creation (Mk.16:15).
Today, one wonders why some churches, even though founded on faith in Jesus Christ, do not give resurrection the importance they give to the birth and death of Christ!
It is only through the resurrection of Jesus that believers have the assurance of a future resurrection. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; by His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time” (1Pet.1:3-5). “Through Him you have confidence in God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory so that your faith and hope are in God” (1Pet.1:30). This new order of existence will begin at the return of Jesus Christ, when the physical resurrection of those who died in Christ and the physical transformation of those who live in Christ will take place. (1Cor.15:51-53); 1Thes.4:15-17;etc.) The Christian’s expectation at the resurrection is for the changing of his whole personality into the likeness of Christ (1Jn.3:2).
When the trumpet sounds, are you sure of being included in the first resurrection? (Jn.5:28-29; 1Thes.4:15-17).