For centuries death has always been mankind’s final enemy. Frankly, we are all mortal and will, one day, die. But something within us rebels and says , “There must be more to it than that”. As a christian, and follower of Jesus Christ, I have a hope in a future resurrection. Is this hope well founded or is it just wishful thinking? I hope, in this article, to state why I can be so convinced that my hope in a future resurrection is based on the reality of what happened to the one I follow, Jesus Christ.
The bible tells us that God, in the form of Jesus, came to this earth, with the flesh of a man but was cruelly put to death by his enemies. When they had him crucified by the romans they must have thought, “Well, that’s sorted that problem out!” But Jesus didn’t just ‘go to heaven’, he came alive again three days later with a resurrected, physical body and convinced even his most cynical disciple that this was none other than Jesus himself.
He is risen
Many books have been written on the subject, and so I will not repeat the evidence of the hundreds who were not deluded but knew that Jesus was really alive and had seen his physical body. This was no story made up by later generations to booster their religion, but the reason why those early followers had their hopes restored and why the church grew by hundreds, thousands and millions. It is the reason so many have laid down their lives willingly for what they believe to be true. Nothing else could have motivated a small group of scared followers to become a force which would change the history of the world.
He is alive today!
Jesus was the first to have been raised from the dead, permanently. Others had been restored to life, but like Lazarus had eventually died again. He is alive today! After his Ascension to heaven, he is no longer directly visible to us but his followers can know his presence with them. How can I make these bold statements? Because I have known the presence of Jesus in my own life!
To early Jewish believers, Jesus’ resurrection settled the argument between the pharisees who believed in resurrection, and the Sadducees who didn’t. They had actually seen someone, put to death by the Roman killing machine, physically alive and yet with a body with certain differences. Jesus was not a ghost and yet he could walk through walls. His new body wasn’t just a spiritual entity it was recognisably the Jesus they knew so well.
Thomas was not so sure. He said that he would have to thrust his arm into the wound in Jesus’ side before anyone could pull the wool over his eyes. But when the reality of a resurrected Jesus was before him, he instantly recognised Jesus and cried out, “My Lord, and my God”.
Why is resurrection important?
Why is so important that we believe in the resurrection? Could we not just follow the teachings of Jesus and consign miracles and resurrection to myth and legend? Paul made it clear that Jesus was the first to be resurrected and therefore there was hope for us all. He said:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14 NIV)
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (verse 19)
Following Jesus by his words and life is of course important and the eternal life which he offers us starts now. It’s not all about ‘pie in the sky when we die’. But following Jesus means abundant life here and now and ultimately to follow him through death and resurrection.
If I were to be wrong about this, if I have believed a lie, or if it were to be proved that I am deluded, my life would have been pointless and I would be pitied. Unless Jesus has actually been resurrected, my faith would be in vain and my trying to live by what Jesus said would be pointless.
A new body and a new earth
Paul and the early church clearly believed that Jesus Christ would be the first of many to defeat death and be resurrected into newness of life. I will not be a formless spirit sitting on a cloud in heaven. I can look forward to a new, physical body, ruling with Jesus in the new earth when heaven and earth are united under the Lordship of Christ.
What will my resurrected body look like. We only have a few clues:
- It will still be recognisable as me.
- No more sickness, death, sadness or weakness.
- A new structure for relationships.
- No more limitations of time or space.
- No longer living in a universe subject to decay (the abolition of the second law of thermodynamics).
In Jesus’ case the tomb where he was buried was empty afterwards so his resurrected body was essentially the same material as his former body. However if we are buried our physical organic molecules will soon be parts of worms, then birds, plants and even other human beings. If I am cremated my physical body will be scattered over the atmosphere and be a part of we call the cycle of life.
I do not see this as a problem. There is an essential me, different to every other person, which will be given a new physical structure when resurrected at some point in the future.
How and When?
How and when will this resurrection take place, and what happens to me in the meantime? Again books have been written and teachers have tried to explain. The bare minimum is to say that:
- One day in history, Jesus Christ will once again be visible in person on the earth.
- God’s will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Jesus Christ will bring justice to a world crying out for justice.
- There will be a new, or renewed earth.
- A new universe not subject to decay, must mean new laws of physics created by the creator of the present laws.
- Jesus Christ will be the ruler of all by love.
- We have the choice (now) to opt to rule with him in the new, or renewed, creation.
- Love wins!
Is resurrection important? You bet it is! The hope and future of the entire universe depends on it. Unless Jesus was resurrected, then it is futile to believe that I have any hope. My faith would depend on lies, my following Jesus would just become a moral code.
Death has been defeated. At the moment I am subject to decay and death but my future depends on the one who overcame death and gives hope of a glorious resurrection — a fulfilment I can only dream about.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11 NIV)