Do You Know Why Christ Lives?

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Do You Know Why Christ Lives?

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Jesus Christ's death was crucial to our salvation. Without it, we would all still bear the guilt—and the penalty, eternal death—for our sins. Jesus, however, is not a dead Savior, but a living one. What is the importance of that fact to us?

When Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea helped place His body in the tomb. ". . . There was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before" (Luke 23:50-53).

Three days and three nights later, just before sunset on the weekly Sabbath, God resurrected Jesus from His grave (see "Does Easter Really Commemorate Jesus Christ's Resurrection?). Coming to the tomb before dawn the next morning, Mary Magdalene found it empty and beside it an angel who explained that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Matthew 28:1, Matthew 28:5-7).

Standing before the tomb, Mary lamented the loss of her Master and Teacher. She noticed someone nearby she thought was the gardener and spoke to Him about the body of Jesus: "Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away" (John 20:15).

Jesus simply spoke her name. Suddenly she realized who this was—Jesus Himself, alive again! She must have spontaneously tried to hug or grab Him, for He told her: "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17, New International Version).

Later that day Jesus ascended to the Father; He then showed Himself to His apostles, who observed His wounds (John 20:19-20). Eight days later He appeared to them again and asked doubting Thomas to come forward and touch Him—to place his hands and fingers on Jesus' scars and even place his hand in Jesus' side—so that he would believe Jesus had indeed been resurrected (John 20:26-27).

The resurrection of Jesus was an enduring act of love on the part of the Father. Amazingly, His ascension to and acceptance by the Father was acted out symbolically in an annual ritual known in the Old Testament as the wave-sheaf offering. This harvest metaphor tells us much about the living Christ and His role in God's plan for the rest of humanity.

Firstfruits of the harvest

Many centuries earlier God had instructed the Israelites to keep His annual Holy Days and festivals (Leviticus 23:1-4). During one of these festivals, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, God instituted a special ceremony called the wave-sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:10-14).

In Israel, before the spring barley harvest could begin, this ceremony was to be conducted on the first day of the week during the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:11). The first sheaf of barley from the spring harvest was cut and given to the priest, who would then wave it before God as a special offering. This sheaf is directly tied to and represents Jesus' resurrection, His ascension to God's throne, His acceptance by the Father and our hope for salvation.

It clearly was "of the firstfruits of your harvest" (Leviticus 23:10), the very first part of the crop harvested. Remarkably, this wave-sheaf offering shows Jesus' role as the firstfruits of the salvation of all mankind.

Notice the apostle Paul's statement about Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:20: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (emphasis added throughout). He goes on to explain: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).

Notice that Paul uses the term "firstfruits" to describe the relationship of Jesus Christ and His resurrection to that of all the other godly believers who will follow Him in the resurrection at His return. Jesus is the first of many who will be resurrected to immortality just as He was!

Jesus' sacrifice makes possible the harvesting of all humanity, and His resurrection begins the harvest. Just as the wave-sheaf offering had to be offered before Israel's spring harvest could begin, so Jesus Himself had to be offered—and accepted by the Father as the only acceptable sacrifice for sin—before God's harvest of humanity could begin. He thus became "the origin of God's creation" (Revelation 3:14, New Revised Standard Version) and "the author [source and sole agent] of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9).

Jesus taught that God's plan for harvesting all humanity would begin with Himself. Shortly before His death He told some of His disciples: "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain" (John 12:23-24). He would have to die and, like a seed, be planted in the ground. But through His death and resurrection, ultimately many others would be given life in their own resurrection from the dead.

No human being could be harvested to salvation until after Jesus was resurrected. Jesus likened salvation for His Church to a grain harvest: "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38). We must never forget that the death of Jesus Christ justifies us before God and reconciles us to Him, but we must also remember this: We can only be harvested or saved by His life. Paul makes this very clear: "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:10).

Why Christ must live in us

Christ's life is of unparalleled importance to all humanity. God accepted His death as the atoning sacrifice to pay the penalty for all of humankind's sins. But the story doesn't end there. If we are Jesus' true followers, God the Father views us as righteous through the living Christ living in us—through the power of God's Spirit.

This is vital to understand. The Bible tells us that the normal human mind simply cannot obey God in the way that He requires (Romans 8:7). We need spiritual help. And that help to obey comes through the Spirit of God, by which Christ and the Father live within the hearts and minds of true Christians (compare 1 John 5:3; Romans 5:5; John 14:23; Ephesians 2:22).

By living in us through that Spirit, Christ assists us in living according to God's truth in our everyday lives. Paul explains it this way: "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts" (Romans 6:8-12).

He expressed this thought in slightly different words in Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (King James Version).

In other words, Paul had surrendered his will to that of Jesus Christ, and he saw his life as one in which the living Christ was also living and working mightily within him through the indwelling presence of God's Spirit (Colossians 1:29). He did not rely on his meager efforts to obey God on his own, "but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness [obedience] which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection . . ." (Philippians 3:9-10, KJV).

Continually serving His saints

King David, in an inspired prophetic psalm, indicates what the Father said to the living Christ at His ascension to the throne of God following His resurrection: "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool'" (Psalm 110:1).

Christ Jesus is now making intercession for us at the Father's right hand (Romans 8:34). "Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man" (Hebrews 8:1-2). We can access His help for many needs. Probably none of those needs is more important than our need for help to continue in God's righteous mind-set and behavior in the face of Satan's continual assaults and efforts against us (1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:10-17).

In summary we are told: "Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

"For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:14-18, New American Standard Bible).

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16).

We now can see that both Jesus' death and life are indispensable to our salvation. They are complementary. One is not complete without the other. If your understanding stops with Jesus' death, you are missing out on the benefits of Christ's life—as our High Priest and constant help.

Study your Bible diligently and discover the profound truth of the living Christ-alive not just in heaven, but within His people.