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Happy Easter! He is Risen!
The incredible history and significance of the Resurrection
Happy Easter! Today is the day Christians all over the world celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. The original Easter Sunday represents the greatest miracle in the history of the world—a miracle that changed human civilization more than any other event in history. More than the invention of the printing press, the automobile, electricity, the internet, smartphones or anything else.
Without the resurrection, every one of Jesus’s claims about Himself would have been meaningless. Without the resurrection on Sunday, there would have been no proof that His death on Friday would have saved us from our sins. The resurrection of Jesus is the lynchpin of the Gospel and of our faith.
Here is what the apostle Paul had to say about it:
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.—1 Corinthians 15:12-23
This passage offers a beautiful explanation of how significant the resurrection of Jesus is to our faith. “If Christ is not risen,” Paul writes, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
Millions of Christians are gathering today in worship and celebration. Thousands of pastors are delivering messages about hope and salvation. But if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all those messages would have no meaning. All our words of worship would be empty.
Without the resurrection, we have no message of hope to proclaim. We have no proof that our faith is any different from the attempts of Islam or Hinduism to explain the world and give meaning to human lives. Without resurrection, our faith is futile.
But today we celebrate because Jesus rose again. The Bible says there were many eye witnesses who saw Him die and who later saw Him after He rose from the dead.
Power Over Death
When Paul wrote this chapter of 1 Corinthians, he was addressing some murmurs within the church at Corinth that Jesus hadn’t been resurrected at all. For context, most scholars believe Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written around 53 or 54 A.D., following his missionary efforts there around 50 A.D.
This was 20 years after the resurrection! Two decades had passed, and this was a time period where there weren’t newspapers or encyclopedias or internet search engines to consult about historical events. In fact, the earliest of the gospels, the Gospel of Mark, likely wasn’t written until 66 A.D.
So everything the earliest Christians knew about Jesus was passed along through preaching and word of mouth, in conversations at home or with shopkeepers or at the well. The truth about Christ’s resurrection was talked about constantly, from one believer to another.
Paul must have gotten word, however, that some church members were questioning the resurrection, even though it’s a fundamental of our faith. He wrote this letter, in part, to stamp down the rumors that Jesus hadn’t really been raised from the dead.
That’s why, earlier in chapter 15, Paul listed all the people who had seen Jesus after the resurrection:
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.—1 Corinthians 15:3-11
That’s a big list! We often forget that, after Jesus rose, He stayed on the earth for another forty days before He ascended into Heaven. The women at the tomb saw Him. Peter saw Him. The other disciples saw Him. “Doubting” Thomas touched His wounds. At one point, the resurrected Jesus appeared to five hundred of His followers!
He wanted to make sure that His resurrection was undeniable and that those who would lead His church into the future knew they were serving a risen Savior. He also appeared miraculously to Paul himself on the road to Damascus. He was known as Saul at the time, and that meeting with the risen Christ changed his life. It became the foundation of Paul’s message as he traveled all over the Mediterranean as a missionary.
It is still the foundation of our faith today. Our faith in Jesus isn’t just built upon doctrine, liturgy or tradition. It is built upon the proven power of God over death, hell and the devil. It is built upon the truth of the resurrection as the most significant event in human history.
A Harvest of Souls
And Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope that one day our bodies will be resurrected also. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:53, Jesus is the “firstfruits” of those who will be resurrected from the dead. Jesus died on the Feast of Passover and He was resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits, also known as Shavuot. It marked the conclusion of the period of harvest.
The harvest, in this case, was a harvest from the dead! In rising again, Jesus defeated death. As believers, we will never die! Our bodies may experience death, but our souls enter the presence of God.
When a believer takes his or her last breath on earth, the next instant they take their first breath in Heaven. When our eyes close here, they open in God’s presence. When our senses dull here, they come alive there.
Even though our spirits never die, our bodies will die one day—if we die before Jesus returns. But even then, our bodies will not stay in the grave or in an urn forever. They will be resurrected in a glorified and eternal state at the return of Jesus.
Here is what the apostle Paul wrote about this:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.—1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
I don’t know about you, but those words—“we shall always be with the Lord”—are definitely a comfort to me.
God’s Perfect Timing
The resurrection of Jesus has changed everything and has given us hope for this life and eternity. Death has no more power over us! With that in mind, we only have two choices: life here or life in Heaven. Death isn’t an option anymore. It is only life forever for us because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
As you celebrate Easter, remember that the miracle of the resurrection is the miracle of God’s supreme power over every force of death and hell. As it stirs your faith, let it also stir you to proclaim, like Paul did, the good news of Jesus. As we await the return of Jesus, the most important thing we can be doing is to share the hope of the resurrection with everyone we know, praying that lives will be saved. God’s timing is perfect. If He is waiting to initiate the Rapture, then He is waiting for more people to come to know Jesus.
This Easter, please know how grateful I am for each of you and how I pray for you every day. May you know the hope and joy of Christ’s resurrection today and every day.
Happy Easter! He is risen!