Jesus Christ's resurrection and its life-giving purpose is a consistent theme in the writings of His apostles. One of the most incisive passages concerning His resurrection is found in one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians:
"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.
"We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.
"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, New Revised Standard Version).
This is one of the most powerful statements in the Bible on the significance and indisputability of Jesus Christ's resurrection.
In a similar statement in the book of Acts, Paul defended himself before the Judean king Agrippa II regarding the resurrection of the dead, saying, "Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?" (26:8). Paul also boldly confirmed that even Agrippa was aware of the promise of the resurrection to eternal life for those who obey God (verses 6, 26).
The question for you is: Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Do you understand why Jesus had to be resurrected—and why the resurrection of the dead is the only avenue to eternal life offered in the Bible?
Immortality through resurrection
To the Christians in Rome, Paul explained the connection between God's gift of the Holy Spirit as the down payment on eternal life and the actual receiving of immortality at the time of the resurrection from the dead:
"But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you" (Romans 8:10-11, NRSV).
When will God actually "give life to your mortal bodies," as Paul stated? Notice Paul's own explanation:
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory'" (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
Writing to the Philippians, Paul also taught the importance of the resurrection of the dead: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will [when He returns to the earth and resurrects His followers from the dead] transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20-21). Paul is consistent about the resurrection of the dead and its importance to Christians.
Many more scriptures confirm God's commitment to the resurrection of the dead. Let's now learn more about the resurrection from the dead through Christ's example of a kernel of wheat.
Death, life, and a kernel of wheat
Jesus taught an important lesson about His death and resurrection through His analogy of a wheat kernel. He said to 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 12:24).
From the decaying kernel of wheat, a new, living plant emerges. Jesus, of course, is speaking of the life-giving benefits that the combination of His death and resurrection offer to mankind.
To the Christians in Rome, Paul pointed out that both Christ's death and resurrection were essential for us to receive eternal life: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 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 5:8-10).
Here Paul shows that Jesus' shed blood restores us to an acceptable relationship with God the Father by redeeming us from past guilt. But His atoning sacrifice only reconciles us to the Father. Paul then states emphatically that we are saved by Christ's life, which makes His resurrection essential to our salvation and validates again the wheat-kernel analogy.
The importance of Christ's resurrection takes nothing away from the importance of Jesus' death and shed blood for washing away our sins. Rather, these are complementary; they fit together (Hebrews 11:12).
We will be like Him!
The apostle John reveals that all who are resurrected to eternal life will become like Jesus Christ: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! . . . Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:1-3).
Paul describes the awesome change that will occur when the dead are resurrected to become like Jesus Christ: "There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; and the splendour of the heavenly bodies is one thing, the splendour of the earthly another. The sun has a splendour of its own, the moon another splendour and the stars yet another; and one star differs from another in brightness.
"So it is with the resurrection of the dead: what is sown as a perishable thing is raised imperishable. Sown in humiliation, it is raised in glory; sown in weakness, it is raised in power; sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is such a thing as a physical body, there is also a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:40-44, Revised English Bible).
This passage is describing a truly incredible change. That is why Paul also says: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:16-18, King James Version).
Knowing this, the apostle Peter near the end of his life sent these encouraging words to the congregational leaders of that time:
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" (1 Peter 5:1-4).
The glory and blessing of receiving eternal life is always linked to the return of Jesus Christ, to His second coming! Notice how strongly the apostle Paul stresses this fact:
"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
Jesus Christ is our living Savior. His resurrection was essential for us to share eternal life with Him. Those whose sins are blotted out by His death and who continue to faithfully obey God's Word are promised eternal life by a resurrection from the dead at His second coming! GN