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Hope from the Empty Tomb, Part 2

April 1, 2018

In part 1, I analyzed Mark 16:1-8, the resurrection narrative of Mark’s gospel, to show how some women followers of Jesus discovered His resurrection, and the effect it had on them. Here in part 2, I’ll explain what happened in this resurrection and why Christians achieve salvation and hope from it.    

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was an event where His human soul reunited with His human corpse after three days of death, resulting in reanimation. This was the work of the Triune God, for God the Father (Acts 2:24, Romans 6:4, 1 Corinthians 6:14, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:20, Hebrews 13:20), God the Son (John 2:19-21, 10:17-18), and God the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11) had a role.

 

The resurrection was physical (and not merely appearing to be physical, as the early church heresy of “Docetism” states), as His corpse was not present in the tomb (Mark 16:6, Luke 24:1-3, John 20:2, 6-7), He was able eat and drink with others (Luke 24:39, 42-43, Acts 10:41), and had the ability of being touched (Matthew 28:9, John 20:27). Jesus is also considered the “first fruits” (an agricultural term where the first product in a group represents the rest of the products) of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:20 because His new body represented the type of body His followers will obtain from their resurrection: an imperishable, glorious body which is lead by the Spirit and not by the flesh (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Therefore, although the new body is physical, there are differences between it and the old one.

 

We have information of the resurrection body because Jesus made appearances to others: to Mary Magdalene according to John 20:11-18, to Peter according to Luke 24:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:5, to the eleven remaining apostles according to Luke 24:50 and Acts 1:4-9, and to 500 followers according to 1 Corinthians 15:6. This would prove to the original readers of those passages that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, since they could ask the living witnesses about it.

 

So as you could see, this event had to be nothing less than a miracle, and Christians have an extremely good reason to rejoice in it today, as this resurrection produced three things for them: spiritual regeneration, justification, and hope in a future resurrection of their own.

 

1. Spiritual Regeneration (being “born again”). Because Christians have been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20) and “raised up” with Him (Ephesians 2:5-6), they have been given a “new life” in the Spirit of God (1 Peter 1:3), where God’s own Spirit takes residence in the believer and sanctifies them, producing “spiritual fruit” (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control) in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Being spiritually regenerated is also the only way one can fellowship with God and please Him, for those in the “flesh” (sinful, human nature) cannot do so (Romans 8:8). Tragically, those who cannot fellowship with God will eternally perish, so salvation is for those who obtain this “new life”.

 

Hence, those who believe in Christ are “born again” and are able to live life in the Spirit, leaving behind their life of sin, because Christ was raised from the dead.

 

2. Justification (being declared righteous before God). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), which means we die because we sin. This wasn’t the case for Jesus: although He took the world’s sins on the cross, He didn’t stay dead. He was raised back to life because He had paid the penalty for sins, so there was no need for Him to remain dead. He was also raised because the Father was pleased in His obedience (Philippians 2:8-9), and by resurrecting Him, the Father publicly declared that Jesus’ mission was complete; the sins of the world were paid for, so He was freed to go.

 

Christians benefit from this action because they are “united” with Christ (John 15:5) and it was their sins which were forgiven by the Father when He resurrected Jesus. Therefore, since the resurrection was a declaration that Jesus was justified by the Father, it was also a declaration that Christians are justified by the Father. It is for this reason Paul writes in Romans 4:25 that Jesus “was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification”.

 

Both these doctrines of spiritual regeneration and justification are foundational concepts of Christianity, for there would be no “new life” of the Spirit without regeneration and no righteousness before God without justification. And since we all die in our sins without the “new life” and righteousness, Christians cannot achieve salvation without them.  

 

Therefore, because the resurrection of Christ produces both spiritual regeneration and justification, and these are essential to the Christian faith, then the resurrection of Christ lies at the heart of Christianity and not one person would have been able to be reconciled to God had Jesus remained dead in the tomb. This is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 that the Christian’s faith is worthless if Christ had not been raised (not just worthless, but plain stupid. Who would get up on a Sunday morning to meet with others and worship a dead guy?) and they “are of all people most to be pitied”, since they would eventually die in their sins.

 

However, since Jesus did indeed rise from the grave, those who believe in Him have meaningful faith and should not be pitied, since they obtain spiritual regeneration and justification. They also receive…​

 

3. Hope in a future resurrection of their own, because they have been justified and regenerated through Jesus’ resurrection. Along with this logical conclusion, believers in Christ can be certain of their glorious state from Paul and his letters to the Corinthians: he writes in his first letter that God will raise them like He raised Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:14) and writes something similar in his second one (2 Corinthians 4:14). He even commits a section in his first letter to marvelously explain the resurrection of the believers (1 Corinthians 15:12-58). So, Christians can be confident and have hope in receiving a resurrected body like Christ’s in the future.  ​

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because Christians have this hope, they can conquer any affliction which comes their way, as they know they’ll come out victorious in the end. They know that with their resurrected bodies, they’ll one day live in a world with no sin, pain, illness, or death. The final victory goes further than this resurrection though, as the biggest hope for a Christian isn’t being raised from the dead in an incorruptible body, but the physical return of their Lord Jesus Christ (this is called the “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13). Those who claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will live with Him and their Heavenly Father, with their glorious, resurrected bodies forever (those who don’t make this claim will also get a resurrection, but not one of “glory”, but one of “destruction”, as they will be “thrown into the lake of fire” when God judges this world according to Revelation 20:11-15. If this describes you, please turn away from your sins and put your trust in Jesus Christ). This hope would be impossible to have had Jesus not been raised from the dead.  

 

So let us celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Christ, and God not just today, but every moment of every day, for it was so essential to our faith that salvation cannot exist apart from it and we would be dead in our sins. Let us be like the women at the end of Mark 16:1-8 and be astonished at the fact that Jesus of Nazareth currently lives. Mulling over Christ’s resurrection should engender hope in a future where we will gain glorious bodies and live with Him for eternity, so think of it always.    

 

And when you do, you’ll realize that one day our extremely broken world will be just a memory.

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