Recently, I realized I don’t think much about Christ’s resurrection and my own impending resurrection. I might talk about heaven generally. But I don’t think about the resurrection itself much. Even when I do, it’s hard to imagine people getting up from the dead and beginning to live again. We don’t talk about it much even in the church. We might at Easter or at a funeral, but it’s rare to hear it being talked about in our day-to-day conversations. I think this is because we tend to shrink the gospel to just this life, the here and now.
We tend to only focus on all the things God’s doing now, how He’s changing us, how He’s changing our relationships, and how His forgiveness of our sins is refreshing us and healing us now. We focus on what God has already brought into existence through Christ, but we don’t think about the future much.
But when we only think about now, we miss out on the best parts of salvation. We forget that the all the best parts for the Christian are yet to come.
It reminds me of getting engaged and married. I remember when I first asked Lauren to marry me. As soon as she said yes, in that moment, everything was different. Our lives, relationships, and life trajectory was altogether different. The engagement is a fun time, you get to talk about your future, dream and plan your life together. It’s great, but it’s just a means to an end. You’re not meant to stay in an engagement. It’s a time when you have all the problems with none of the benefits. You’re meant to move past it into marriage.
But could you imagine if I decided we weren’t going to get married, because we were enjoying the engagement so much? Engagement is meant to lead you to marriage. In the same way, this life is meant to get us ready for the next one.
At the moment you confess your sin and believe in the gospel, you’re saved. You now know God and begin to change, but you’re experience of what He’s already done continues to increase. Salvation starts in this life, but it carries and leads you onto the next.
Let’s look at the important and prominent role the resurrection plays in God’s salvation. No matter where you are, when you see the resurrection and what God is going to do for those who trust Him, it will make you want to obey more now.
Christ’s Resurrection Was Essential
His death accomplished salvation, but His resurrection is a beacon to the cosmos saying He won!
Before we can talk about our resurrection, we have to talk about Christ’s resurrection. The fact Jesus died and rose again is foundational to the Christian faith. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells us this truth is of first importance.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV)
Paul was writing this letter to a dysfunctional church in Corinth. There were disagreements of leadership, sexual sin, marriage problems, idolatry, and on and on. Paul addressed all of these, but at the very end he said they had to know one thing of first importance, that Jesus died and rose from the grave.
He went into great detail about the resurrection because he wanted them to know Jesus didn’t just resurrect spiritually, His physical body got up too. Hundreds of people saw the physical risen Lord Jesus who now reigns over everything in His resurrected physical body.
This is important because if Jesus’ resurrection didn’t happen, we are still in our sins. We haven’t been forgiven.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (ESV)
Jesus rising from the dead is absolutely essential to us being forgiven by God. If Jesus had just died, but didn’t rise, it would mean He didn’t conquer the curse of sin and death.
Death may feel like a normal part of life, but it’s not. It came in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and sin entered the world. Judgment came for our sin and rebellion, that judgment was death. So death and sin are linked to one another. If Jesus didn’t conquer death, then he didn’t conquer sin.
Jesus rising out of the grave wasn’t just a cherry on top. The resurrection is the sign that He did indeed pay for sin. His death accomplished salvation, but His resurrection is a beacon to the cosmos saying He won! Death could not hold Him. Through His resurrection we know the curse has been lifted for those who trust in Him. One day, death will be no more.
Jesus’ resurrection is essential. Unfortunately, this is where we stop. We think His work is finished and now we just enjoy it. His death for us means we wont die for sin, but His resurrection now means you get resurrected like Him.
We Share In Christ’s Resurrection
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (ESV)
Jesus is just the beginning, the firstfruits of God resurrecting every single one of His people.
Every human being is born under Adam and his leadership, so we share his fate of death. But now, when you trust in Christ, you come under His leadership and share in His fate, which is resurrection from the dead to live forever.
Having a resurrection like Christ is the ultimate hope of the gospel. In this life there will be moments where you see the Kingdom of God at work. These are snapshots of what God’s kingdom will be like. Marriages reconciled. People being healed and coming to Christ. But those moments quickly get replaced with the grim reality that this world is still broken. Those moments get flooded with suffering, discontent, strife and death and you’re reminded your resurrection hasn’t come yet.
Even the greatest works and power of God in this life cannot compare to His power in the next. In Jesus’ ministry He did incredible works. He would heal people who had been sick for years. In a moment, with His words they’d be healed. He even raised people from the dead. However, every person he healed got sick again. The widow’s son, the ruler’s daughter, Lazarus, all of them died again. Those works will not compare to His work after the resurrection. In this life, you only get glimpses of what’s to come. They are to remind us of where we’re going. But we’re not there yet.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV)
We can’t imagine what’s to come.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)
On the day of the resurrection you will finally see the kingdom of God in its fullness. The whole universe will be remade to display His glory in ways it can’t right now. We’ll get bodies with no more sin, suffering, sickness, pain or sorrow. Satan and death will be destroyed and our adoption will be complete.
Right now the people of God are legally adopted kids, but we’re still in a distant country waiting to get home. In that resurrection moment we’ll finally come home to our Father and enjoy all the rights of being His children.
N.T. Wright says in Surprised By Hope, “The claim advanced in Christianity is of that magnitude: Jesus of Nazareth ushers in not simply a new religious possibility, not simply a new ethic or a new way of salvation, but a new creation.”
God is just getting started in this life. All the greatest blessings are yet to come! @t_david
The Myth Of Here And Now
Like I said earlier, we tend to shrink the gospel to this life and neglect these great realities. There are all sorts of negative reasons we do this, but let’s discuss a more nuanced one.
We neglect the resurrection because we want to believe and know God cares about this life. We want to show that God isn’t just concerned about the future, but that He’s concerned about now.
There is a myth that Christians can become so heavenly minded that they neglect the world around them and are of no earthly good. We buy into this idea that if you think too much about the life to come, you’ll neglect this one. You may have had an experience with someone who would talk about heaven or hell a lot only to watch them neglect others.
Then you see other people who didn’t focus on heaven out love them. None of us want to be these types of people. So we buy the lie that to spend too much time thinking about this incredible future and our resurrection decreases our ambition, love and service in this life. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Actually, the exact opposite is true. There is no one in this life that is genuinely thinking about God’s coming kingdom and their resurrection that isn’t actively serving in this life. So many of us in this room are sluggish in our love, service, and sacrifices, precisely because we rarely think about the resurrection and are so inundated and ingrained in this life that we don’t know how to live for the next one.
In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis says, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
The reality of the resurrection always has and always will embolden the people of God to obey His word at great cost to themselves, for the good of others, and to the honor and worship of Jesus. When you deny, forget, or pay no attention to the resurrection you become sluggish and your desires for God become apathetic.
If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Corinthians 15:32b (ESV)
If there’s no resurrection then yes, spend this life on you, get as much as you can and enjoy it all as long as you can. This is the logical conclusion of thinking there’s no resurrection. This happens so often within us that our desires shrivel up and all we can do is focus on self and sensuality. Our desire to risk anything decreases, because why would you, all you have is now. Ultimately our hearts begin to drift. We become most concerned with having the best experiences, relationships, and everything here and now.
The Impossible Cost
We don’t mind obeying and trusting God when what He’s asking us to do is what we love to do. Obedience is easy in those moments. We wrestle, complain, and procrastinate when He says to do something that will actually cost us something. That’s when we begin to create a theology of this god who would never challenge us or ask us to do anything that would cost us something. He loves us too much to allow us to lose something, right?
Not every command of God feels impossible, just the ones that require a cost, where you know you’ll lose something if you obey. It’s difficult to forgive someone; you might lose a sense of justice. It’s difficult to be generous with your wealth; you might lose a sense of security, power, comfort, or status. It feels impossible to express sexual desire only in the way God has ordained it, within a marriage; you might lose a sense of pleasure, intimacy and acceptance.
When all you have in mind is this life, following Jesus should feel impossible. If there’s nothing more coming for us, then why should we risk anything? Why not try to find a way we can follow Jesus and lose nothing? But when you read the gospels, this incredible Jesus wants everything. He isn’t asking for a part of your life, He demands everything. He calls us to lifestyles that would make no sense without the resurrection. He commands us to do things that only make sense if there is a resurrection of glory coming for us.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:19 (ESV)
Am I Living In Light Of The Resurrection?
The fuel for radical obedience now is our radical resurrection to come. @t_david
This question has been haunting me this summer. Am I living a life that only makes sense in light of the resurrection? Am I living a life that would make no sense if the dead weren’t being raised? Is my bank account, schedule, relationships, and hope in suffering of such a quality that they don’t make sense if this life is all there is?
What is the answer for you?
It’s a difficult question to ask. By asking it you’ll see a lot of sin you didn’t know you had. I’ve been learning that I’m treating my time and energy level as if I need to hoard some and take care of myself. I put these unconscious limits on how much energy and intentionality I’ll use for God’s kingdom advancing in this city. If I’ve put in this much time and worked this many hours, then no one can ask anymore of me. I justify my lack of evangelism because of my busyness. For all the ways I think I’m bold and courageous, I’m still terrified of death. It still dictates a lot of my decisions.
The solution is to get your eyes off of yourself and look at the resurrection. The truth of my coming resurrection is what sets me free from clinging to lies. It’s the coming resurrection that breathes life into my weariness and fear to keep fighting. It’s the eternal future that Jesus has secured for us, that He promises for us and that He will bring to pass for us that cause you to keep giving yourself away.
It’s the only reason to give more energy, more love, more money, more reputation, more time, more status, more plans and more dreams away. The resurrection is not warranted by your life, but rather Jesus’ life. Resurrection will happen not because we’ve been good, but because He has.
The fuel for radical obedience now is our radical resurrection to come.
The Future To Come
I want to close with how Paul closes in 1 Corinthians 15 with an incredible vision of the future for of every Christian. If you believe and trust in Jesus, this will be your future.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV)
This incredible picture of resurrection, in a moment God is going to say, “Get up! Rise forever my people!” That is your future. No matter the suffering or darkness that overwhelms you, this will be God’s final word for you.
When you open those new eyes of yours in the New Heaven and New Earth, the first thing you’ll realize is that everything you gave, spent, and sacrificed in this life wasn’t actually lost. At the first moment of eternity all that you lost will be gain. That’s why we give and are steadfast and immovable now. None of it will be given away or spent in vain.
This article is a transcript from a sermon originally preached at The Austin Stone Community Church. You can find it and the video here.