Thursday, April 8

What the Resurrection Means for Believers

We've already looked at what the resurrection of Christ means to the world--that it is proof that Christ is the rightful Lord of all. Now, I'd like to look at some passages of scripture that tell us what the resurrection means to those of us who are believers--to those who have been united with Christ through faith in Him. When we read the epistles of the New Testament, we often find the thought of believers being joined with Christ and receiving personal benefits from that union. Believers are in some way included with Christ in His death and resurrection, and that inclusion with Christ changes things for us. What exactly does being counted with Christ in His resurrection do for us?

First of all, Christ's resurrection means that we can be certain that we will be resurrected after we die:

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. (1 Corithians 15:20-23 NET)

In the same way that being included with Adam brought us mortality, belonging to Christ assures us that we will rise again after we die. Christ's present resurrected life is a promise to those of us who belong to Him that we will one day be brought with Him into that resurrected life. The first sheaf of the harvest has already been offered (see Leviticus 23), so the harvest is consecrated and the rest of the fruit will follow on the day Christ returns.

His resurrection was the resurrection of His body, so ours will be a resurrection of the body, too. The sort of body in which Christ walked the earth after His resurrection, and the sort of body with which He ascended and now rules from heaven, is the same sort of body that we will have when we are raised at His coming. Paul answers the question as to what type of body the resurrected one will be by telling us that the earthly body that dies and is buried is like a seed which grows up into something much more glorious than the seed that was planted (1 Corinthians 15:35ff):

It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living person"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust, and like the one from heaven, so too those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15: 42-49 NET)

Our resurrected body will be a reproduction of the one the "man of heaven" has. Just as our union with Adam in his death brought us perishable bodies, our union with Christ in his resurrected life will bring us imperishable bodies. The mortal will become immortal, and we can sing along with Paul and Isaiah:
Death has been swallowed up in victory .

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

This is the hope we have. We will be raised in incorruptible bodies to live forever with the One who takes us with Him in His resurrection. We can rejoice in this glorious truth, but that is not all that Christ's resurrection means for us. His resurrection changes things for us right now in the life we live as believers. The resurrected life that comes into its fullness at our glorification when we receive our resurrected body, is, in a lesser sense, already within us.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you are saved! and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.. (Ephesians 2:4-6 NET)

We have been made alive together with Christ. A new sort of life has begun within us--a recreated life:

Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. (Romans 6:4,5 NET)

Our new life is grounded in our association with Christ's resurrection. Because we are "in Christ", we are new creation. We have begun to live in the realm of the resurrection, where sin has no dominion. The old things have passed away, and the new things have come. The changed life we have--the life in the Spirit--comes to us by way of Christ's resurrection, and our new association in the resurrected life calls us to live according to this new reality. It calls us "to bear the image of the man of heaven".

Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth.... (Colossians 3:1-5a NET)

The things we loved and the passions we followed as the old sort of person we were, we are urged to put aside, for now we have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. (Colossians 3:10). We must clothe ourselves in the power of the resurrection and live according to the fruit the Spirit produces within us. As men and women of the new life, we need to present [ourselves] to God as those who are alive from the dead and [our] members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. (Romans 6:13 NET) We can do this knowing that there is no reason for sin to defeat us, for we are working out the victory over sin that is already a reality in Christ's resurrection, a victory that will come to its wonderful consumation when we are raised with Him when He comes again.

Christ's resurrection proves to all that He is Lord, and it is through His resurrection that He becomes Lord in truth to those who belong to Him.

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!