Life in light of the resurrection
Published: 31 March 2018 (GMT+10)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is both one of the best-attested and most contested events of ancient history. But for those of us who place our faith in Jesus for salvation, the resurrection is far more than a historical event—it is a crucial basis for our future hope which should affect how we live our lives.
Our hope is not in this life
One encouraging lesson from the resurrection is that we do not have to look for perfect happiness, justice, or love in this life. In fact, those who do are inevitably disappointed. Rather, we can look forward to the New Heavens and Earth where all those longings will be perfectly fulfilled.
This is a crucial part of the answer to one of the most-asked questions—why does a good God allow bad things? God did not create the world to be full of suffering and death—that came about through Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). Christ died so that sinners can be saved when they believe. If we did not believe that one day He will put all things right, an important part of the message of redemption would be missing.
Not only can we tell suffering people that God did not design the world to contain the things that hurt them, and that Christ died to save them from their sins, but also that Christ rose from the dead, which points forward to the restoration of all things. Paul explains it this way:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan eagerly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8:18–24).
This resurrection is critical to our understanding of the current state of things. Jesus promised that the whole creation will be restored. But the restoration will be to a better state than we currently experience, because the effects of sin will be removed forever (Revelation 21:4). Thus, we can look forward to a future existence without any of the suffering that often characterizes our life on earth.
One implication of this belief is that our ultimate hope is not based in the systems of this world. When our political party or social movement doesn’t carry the day, we don’t have to be filled with existential despair, because ultimately, that’s not where our hope is grounded, anyway. This doesn’t mean that political and social involvement is unimportant; but it does mean that it isn’t our ultimate hope for fixing the world.
This life matters
Some skeptics say that Christianity encourages people not to take this life as seriously as they should, because, if we can look forward to a perfect eternal life, this one doesn’t matter. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Christians are called to do good works in this life, including civic involvement (Romans 13), providing for the poor (James 1:27), and being productive workers for the Kingdom’s sake (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We are called to these things even in contexts where they aren’t appreciated by the wider culture. And we’re told that these works matter from an eternal perspective, though there are different interpretations of how this will play out; and it’s likely that we can’t even fully understand this from an earthly perspective. The point is, this life does matter.
This world matters
Other skeptics claim that the Bible’s teaching about the New Heavens and Earth means that Christians don’t have to respect the environment now. Since it’s going to be destroyed and restored anyway, the argument goes, then why not overfish the oceans, dump our trash everywhere, and generally mistreat the environment?
However, the same Bible that teaches that the earth will be restored to a state reflecting God’s original intention for creation also teaches us to be good stewards of that creation (Genesis 1:26–30). The reality that the new earth will be completely restored is not permission to destroy this one. Rather, we are to be thankful to God for every aspect of His provision, and being good stewards of creation is one aspect of this.
Every person matters
One of the most basic commands Christ gave to His followers is the Great Commission—to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). The Bible teaches that God is pleased to save all sorts of people, from rich to poor, from kings to fishermen, from criminals to religious hypocrites. There is no sort of person who cannot be transformed by Christ, if they repent.
One reason any person can be saved if they believe is that we are all created in the image of God. We are also related to our Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ, though our mutual relative, Adam (Luke 3:38). This means that slaves aren’t sub-human as many ancient people believed—this is a major reason why Christians were behind the abolition movement. This also means that there are no “primitive” humans, as some early evolutionists believed. Rather, we are all closely related; we are all in need of the same salvation, and that salvation is available to us when we trust in Christ.
This also means that disabled people have equal worth in the eyes of God. This is important in an age where utilitarian philosophers are arguing for the selective abortion of children with Down Syndrome, and euthanasia of the sick and disabled is openly promoted.
The reality that shapes our lives now and eternally
The resurrection of Jesus is not an event that we only remember once a year; it should be a reality that permeates our life and worship. It was the most important theological points made by the Apostles and is the focus of each of the four Gospel accounts. Paul went so far as to say, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). He confidently affirmed it as a historical event which could be corroborated by many who were still alive in his day, including five hundred witnesses of a single resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:6). Yet it was far more than a historical event—it had earth-shattering theological implications.
So how shall we live out life in light of the resurrection? With joy, with peace, with humility, and with a confident expectation of the things to come.