Article 2019-05 Resurrection: the Central Message
Chapter 55: Resurrection: the Central Message
The message of Christ’s resurrection is the central pillar of the gospel, without which it is empty and futile. There is a difference between resurrection and resuscitation. A resurrection body has many capacities, different from our present ones. Resurrection and instantaneous change yield the same glorified bodies. Eternal life is not a prolongation of earthly life, but a total renewal of it. There is a first and a second resurrection to come.
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith … And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Cor. 15:13,14,17-19)
Paul spoke often to his younger colleagues about Christ’s resurrection. The apostles preached about Christ’s resurrection everywhere: Peter in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul wherever they went. Paul wrote about it to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians. With the resurrection faith in Christ stands or falls. If people do not believe, it often is because their faith breaks on the rock
of the resurrection doctrine. Few have problems with ‘God’, as long as it doesn’t become personal. Behind ‘God’ as impersonal force people can hide. More people have problems with God having a Son; even His existence is being doubted. Telling that Jesus was once dead but is now alive is what most people reject. If they still listen after Christ’s resurrection was preached to them, they will believe the rest as well.
Belief in a literal bodily resurrection, first of Christ, then of His people and finally of all others is a non-negotiable of the gospel. Denying Christ’s resurrection is not smart: it’s a historical fact, witnessed by too many to be fake. Denying a future resurrection for all who expect salvation from Christ removes the core of the gospel and makes faith futile. Denying the resurrection means: having nothing to believe in. Either one has the gospel, including the resurrection, or one has nothing. The resurrection must have a prominent place in our preaching, in local evangelism as well as in cross-cultural missions, following the example given us in the New Testament. Here are some more facts:
The word resurrection should not be confused with the word resuscitation. The latter means a temporary coming back from the dead after having died. Resuscitated people still have a mortal body and will eventually die again. Biblical examples are Lazarus, the young man from Nain and Jairus’ daughter. There are also Old Testament examples: both Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead. The function of such resuscitation is the glorification of the Omnipotent God Who has power over death. Resuscitations still occur, e.g. in frontier mission contexts.
Resurrection on the other hand means, that one never dies again. Jesus was the First and until now is the only One Who was resurrected. When He rose from the dead He received a resurrection body, which differed from His former body in many ways. It was a real body that could be touched and fed, and be recognized by His disciples. It was a body of flesh and bones; without blood, which He had shed at Calvary. His body was no longer bound to time or space and has a solidity that passes through walls. It has no more need for food, drink, sleep or oxygen. It cannot be hurt or die. Yet He is still human. On God’s throne sits a Man Who at the same time equals God.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven … and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16,17)
When Jesus returns, the people that died in Him are resurrected. Those in heaven receive new glorified bodies, similar to that of Jesus. This is the first resurrection. Right after that, the believers on earth will be changed in an instant and also receive their new bodies. Then the Church of all times and all places is united as the Bride of the Lamb, standing before Him, radiant, without spot or wrinkle, ready to rule with Him forever.
Eternal life in a resurrection body cannot be compared to life on earth. For many, the latter is miserable and eternal continuity of it would be bad news. Eternal life in a biblical sense starts when one is born again, and is completed at the moment of resurrection or instantaneous change. Such life knows no more suffering, pain, grief, tears or death; it will always be joyful, happy, enthusiastic, energetic and in fellowship with God. It will never be boring. We shall have tasks that fit us, with challenges that we meet eagerly. No assignment will be too hard. We will be the doctors and lawyers of the nations, going around healing, abolishing unrighteousness and injustice, for a thousand years of peace under Christ’s rule on earth. During that period the devil will be locked up in the pit.
… there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1,2)
“Well done, my good servant!” his master replied, “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge …” (Luke 19:17)
Many wonder about and fear to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, but that is not necessary. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Christians will not appear before His judgment seat to be sentenced, but to be appraised and rewarded. Only people who refuse to believe in Him have to fear His judgment.
There are two resurrections. The first is beautiful, the second will be terrible for most. It takes place at the end of the Millennium of peace. When it happens, all damned people will be raised eternally, not for life, but for death. They died once, now they die a second time. Based on the works of their lives as recorded in God’s books, they will be condemned, except some whose names are in the Book of Life.
When the damned are judged and sentenced they are removed from God’s presence. A new era starts: the New Heaven and the New Earth. Then nothing will ever remind us of sin or suffering. What started in Morningstar’s heart is for ever abolished.
Discussion & dialogue
- Discuss how the resurrection can best be explained to Folk-religionists, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in a contextualized way, that is: understandable and relevant for them
- Which 7 of the 10 themes feature in this chapter? How? (Answer: see Teacher’s Guide)