Editor’s Note: We at IFWE wish you and your family a blessed Easter weekend.
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. The Apostle Paul himself makes this argument in his first letter to the Corinthians, some of whom were actually denying the concept of the resurrection. As Paul states, it is the resurrection of Christ that constitutes the foundation of our faith. It is the centerpiece of our theology.
Our hope as Christians is not only in the resurrection of Christ, but in our own resurrection, too.
Paul writes in Romans of “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). In this passage and others, Paul clearly teaches that God’s people are promised resurrection bodies, the fulfillment and redemption of our present physical life. The rest of the writings of the early Christian Church are completely in agreement with regard to this subject.
Waiting for the Bus?
Yet there seems to be much misunderstanding in the evangelical church today about what happens to people when they die. As my friend Richard Pratt often says,
We think that Jesus came to forgive our sin, make our souls sparkle, to sprinkle us with peace and joy so we can sprout wings when we die, grab a harp and join the eternal choir.
Many American Christians have embraced this type of escapist thinking. Sadly, they have been shaped by a false eschatology, which teaches that our eternal destiny is in heaven. From this viewpoint, our salvation is like a one-way bus ticket to heaven. The earth is only a bus stop. It does not really matter what we do while we wait for the bus.
The Bible teaches us a very different reality: heaven is actually the bus stop.
After our earthly death, it is in heaven where God’s people await the return of the King who will consummate the Kingdom, which Christ inaugurated at his first coming. Then he will fulfill the biblical promise of a new heaven and a new earth. Paul Marshall, in his book Heaven Is Not My Home, writes,
Our destiny is an earthly one: a new earth, an earth redeemed and transfigured. An earth reunited with heaven, but an earth, nevertheless.
Scripture teaches that the culmination of our earthly life is found at the end of the age, in the future resurrection of the dead, when the Lord will break through from heaven and establish his Kingdom upon the earth. John’s revelation speaks of the Holy City “coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:2).
Resurrection & the Biblical Doctrine of Work
The resurrection and the coming Kingdom of God bear great implications for our faith and work. When we talk with biblical clarity about the resurrection, we discover an excellent foundation and purpose for our vocational work in this present world—not, as some suppose, for an escapist piety. N.T. Wright states it like this in Surprised By Hope:
The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future.
This Easter we celebrate the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Our great hope is that because of what Christ has done on our behalf, we will not only be raised with him but will also reign with him in physical bodies, in a physical new heaven and new earth.
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