The Significance of the Resurrection
Jerry A. Collins
It is significant and essential that Christianity explain and teach the necessity of the death of Jesus Christ as the only means of our salvation. When we present the gospel (good news) to anyone we must always include the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sin. But does this truth offer hope? We have more than just a sacrificed Savior, we have a risen Lord who was resurrected from the dead. That makes Christianity distinct from every other religious faith. If we neglect this part of the good news, we offer a powerless gospel that cannot change lives. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most significant event and truth there is. How do we know the resurrection of Jesus Christ happened? How do we answer those who deny the resurrection and what significance is there to it?
1. Why believe in the Resurrection?
THE HISTORICAL ARGUMENT
Believing the gospel (good news) includes ‘standing’ and ‘holding firmly’ to belief in Christ’s resurrection vs1-2. Otherwise our faith is ‘in vain’. There are several eyewitnesses to Jesus resurrection. Paul reminds us of his own conviction that Jesus died for our sins and was buried which verified his death, and he appeared to others, which verified his resurrection. Peter is the first male witness and was joined by the remaining disciples composing Jesus immediate circle vs3-5. Then he appeared to 500 believers, most of whom were still living at the time of this writing some 20 years since the resurrection and could be consulted. In case some denied the resurrection as simply followers of Jesus who just wanted to believe he rose again, James, the half brother of Jesus, and Paul came to faith because of the appearance of the resurrected Christ (cf Jn 7:5 with Acts 1:14; Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-11). Apparently the ‘apostles’ were a wider body than just the twelve all of whom also witnessed the resurrected One vs6-7. Then Paul includes himself as runt of the litter of eyewitnesses because he felt less deserving since he had been an opponent of Christ. But this backdrop magnified the grace of God in the gospel toward sinners and motivated him to work harder and suffer more to see Gods power change lives. In the final analysis it is the message not the messenger that is important vs8-11.
(1) Without the resurrection there is no good news.
(2) Our belief in resurrection is grounded in historical evidence.
2. THE LOGICAL ARGUMENT
Some might claim that no one dead could experience physical resurrection vs12. This claim presents many problems. (1) To deny physical resurrection is to deny the resurrection of Christ vs13. We would only have a dead leader something no different than other religions. (2) Denying resurrection took hope out of the gospel and faith useless vs14. The object of our faith would only be in a dead man. (3) The apostles would be charlatans and liars since their message uniformly affirmed Christ’s resurrection vs15-16. (4) Salvation would only be a state of mind with no corresponding reality since we would still be left in our sin alienated from God vs17. (5) Loved ones who have died have perished forever in eternal punishment vs18. Death has won. (6) Pleasure seekers are right to live for the moment because our sacrifices would only become cruel, self-inflicting jokes. vs19.
(1) If there is no resurrection then our faith is senseless.
(2) If no resurrection we should live for this side of the grave.
3. THE THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT 15:20-28
Speculation can give way to affirmation. Christ is the preliminary installment of what is a guarantee for us vs20. The father of mankind Adam in his sin brought death to all of us. But because of Jesus’ obedience resurrection will come to all who believe vs21-22. Now there will be a sequence of events that unfold the final end in vs23-28. (1) Christ’s return for His people 1 Thess. 4:16 vs23. (2) Then Christ will deliver His kingdom to the Father. No time frame is specified but other passages indicate that this is the rapture and then the millennium periods. vs24. (3) Death as the ultimate opponent will be nullified vs25-26. It is not human bodies that will be destroyed but the destroyer of bodies, death itself. (4) Then the new creation will be ushered into existence and the resurrected Christ and His people will share that experience forever vs27-28.
(1) Our destiny as believers is bound up in the destiny of Christ.
(2) We can have a confident hope of our eternal destiny in the resurrected Christ.
4. THE EXPERIENTIAL ARGUMENT 15:29-34
Because of our propensity to believe in life after death, unless we believe that Christ’s resurrection makes it possible, we will be prone to concoct some false view like those proponents of a baptism for the dead view in vs. 29. Paul's experience is a forceful statement of his conviction about the certainty of the resurrection vs30-32. Many times his life was in peril 2 Cor. 6:4-5; 11:23-28; at least once he thought he would die 2 Cor. 1:8-9. The point is ‘why face that if this life were all there is?’ The warning of vs33-34 is to not associate with teachers who deny the resurrection! They should be avoided at all costs because even though they claim to speak in the name of God, they are ignorant of God and listening to them may cause you to sin against God.
(1) The truth of the resurrection gives us boldness to teach it in spite of cost.
(2) Our teachers should believe in the physical, literal resurrection of Christ.
Now another question is addressed.
2. What is the nature of our Resurrection body? 15:35-49
Someone was asking this question in vs35. One objection to belief in anyone’s resurrection might be its incomprehensibility. (1) Resurrection is compared to a seed that sprouts into a plant vs36-37. The metamorphosis of a seed into a plant is not comprehensible but real. The seed though directly linked to the plant is remarkably different from it in the end. So too is the relationship between our natural body and our resurrected one. (2) Our natural body is earthly our resurrected body is heavenly vs38-41. Just like there are differing kinds of bodies in all of Gods creation, including animal kingdom and planetary system, so too differences between our earthly body and our spiritual body. (3) Natural body is perishable and eternal body is imperishable vs42-44. This body we possess was seeded as a decaying, temporal, imperfect and weak body. However, it will give way to an eternal, perfect and powerful body. Like a seed sown in the earth and the plant which emerges from it, there is continuity but significant difference between our present body and our resurrected one. (4) Just like we have received the earthly natural body and nature of Adam, we will be given the heavenly spiritual body like Christ vs45-49.
(1) Our new bodies will be spiritual ones. They will be material bodies directed by the Spirit not dominated by our flesh anymore. It does not mean our bodies will be immaterial and invisible.
(2) Our new bodies will be supernatural ones. They will originate from a supernatural source making them eternal and imperishable bodies.
3. How do those who have not died at Christ’s coming get resurrected?
The argument has so far indicated that mere flesh and blood will not enter the eternal state. Our natural body will have to give way to a supernatural one vs50. (1) Living believers will be changed just like dead ones are when Christ comes for us vs51-52. A ‘mystery’ is something that was not revealed in the Old Testament but now is. Both the dead and the living believers will be instantaneously transformed into their resurrection bodies. The trumpet blast will signal the appearance of Christ. (2) Deaths power and hold over us will be forever broken vs53-54. The temporal and imperfect will be exchanged for the eternal and perfect. (3) Death came because of rebellion against God and the Law was a mirror portraying our inability to change vs55-57. But through the obedience of Christ comes our victory and life everlasting! (4) Faithful service for Christ is not futile since it pays eternal dividends. vs58.
(1) The next event in Gods plan is the Rapture.
(2) In meantime the resurrection must motivate us to live for the other side of the grave.
1. There is evidence for the resurrection. Not only do we have the OT we also have the testimony of eyewitnesses.
2. The resurrection is necessary. Without it we are still dead in our sins and Christ would have no future reign.
3. The resurrection is proven. The conviction of the apostles as well as Paul willingly endangering their lives daily is proof that these men were convinced as eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ.
4. The resurrection includes a physical one. While our transformed bodies will be more than mere physical bodies, they will not be less than physical bodies. Even resurrected Christ ate, touched, spoke, scars and was called by Christ ‘flesh and bones’.
5. We must have supernatural resurrection body if we are to ever live in God’s presence.