Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. And, as Christians confess all around the world, He ascended to Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty (The Apostle’s Creed). Jesus is risen and reigning as Lord over the whole universe at this very moment. That should rock your world.
The resurrection of Jesus and His established authority as the reigning Lord is essential to the Christian hope. The Christian hope is not a beefed-up model of moralism; it is not a baptized version of a New York Times self-help column. It is not even the hope of going to Heaven when you die. The Christian hope is nothing less than world transforming: Jesus Christ is alive and He is King.
There are tens of thousands of self-help books, social media influencers, philosophers, news reporters, politicians, celebrities, and thinkers, old and new, peddling a better way to live. We are told, that if we just follow the correct philosophical equation for life, then we will find meaning. The Christian hope comes against this idea sharply. We don’t need more moralistic rules for life whether they come from Plato or Instagram. What we need is for our world to be transformed by the risen and reigning Lord who knows our deepest needs, desires, and fears.
We know that there is an abundance of incredible extra-biblical evidence for the historical reality of the resurrection. And while these are profitable to examine, as good Reformers we will focus this article on what the Scripture teaches about the resurrection and its meaning.
The Resurrection is the great hope for the World.
In the first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul points out two important facets of the resurrection.
Jesus was resurrected as the first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means that we will also be resurrected with Him. We will not be left to die in our sin. His resurrection from the dead shows that He has power over sin and death and that His sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to atone for our sins once and for all. This means that all who believe in Jesus can have the assurance of salvation and eternal life with God. In the same way that the Old Testament offering of the first fruits affirmed a future harvest (Leviticus 23:9-14), the resurrection of Jesus confirms the resurrection of all the dead.
Paul also notes that Jesus was resurrected as a man. He writes, “since by man camedeath, by man came also the resurrection of the dead,” (1 Corinthians 15:21). This is a physical resurrection. The man-ness of our risen Lord tells us what our resurrection will look like. We will not be some wispy, ethereal, ghostly, floating beings, rather we will be physical and embodied. In the beginning, God created the material world as a good gift given to humanity in order to glorify and worship Him. These purposes are restored as our risen Lord resurrects the whole of the world, including the material parts of it.
Our sin has made a mess of God’s world. We don’t have to scroll through the headlines to understand that left to itself humanity has created a bigger mess than any one of us can comprehend. But God did not leave us in our darkness (Isaiah 9:2; John 1:5). Instead, He provided a light more glorious than we could have ever dreamed. He gave the only solution to the world’s problem: the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His reign in Heaven and on Earth. Jesus is not a director of a philosophy department. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).
Behold your king is coming to you.
This solution was planned by God from the beginning (Genesis 3:15). A cursory look over the Old Testament will show you that God’s people were always looking for the coming of a perfect and eternal King and Lord. This Lord would come from the royal line of David as promised (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 2, 110). All through the Old Testament, the people were looking towards their kings to be the fulfillment of these promises. The monarchs ranged from faithful but imperfect to completely idolatrous. And eventually, it got so bad that God took away all their kings and sent them into exile (2 Kings 24–25).
Despite the temporary end of the Davidic Throne, those who understood God’s promises like Mary, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna, knew that there would be a new king from the line of David who would sit at God’s right hand. They all pointed to Jesus as this king (Luke 1-2). Indeed, the New Testament specifically describes Jesus as the resurrected king who took His rightful place on the throne of David (Acts 2). Jesus’s life on Earth also confirmed this when He directly fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the coming king. Take, for example, Zechariah 9:9:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:
behold, thy King cometh unto thee:
he is just, and having salvation;
lowly, and riding upon a donkey.
As the Gospel of John records, Jesus entered Jerusalem a week before His death to shouts of rejoicing. People even declared Him the King of Israel as He walked before them seated on a donkey (John 12:13-15).
The gospel of the kingdom is here.
All throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus told his followers that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mark 1). As He came into the world, he preached the gospel of the kingdom and demonstrated its arrival. He taught His disciples how to enter this kingdom and how it would result in a new life for the world.
The restoring and transforming power of the kingdom was demonstrated visually, and physically, through His life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection. After His resurrection, Jesus declared that all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18-20). This is present and ongoing, not a future reality to be hoped for. Our Lord reigns now.
This reign begins with Jesus’s resurrection. Christ had to conquer death in order to take his place on David’s throne as the final king. And now as the final king, He is reigning until all His enemies are conquered (1 Corinthians 15:25). The Scripture also says that Jesus will have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the Earth; His reign promises peace to people and righteousness to roll down all the hills of the world (Psalm 72).
The Resurrection is the only hope for the world.
Going back to 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells us that if Jesus had not been resurrected, our faith is meaningless. If Christ had not been raised, we would worship a dead God. If Christ had not been raised we all would still be locked in sin and death and misery. Paul says that without the resurrection, life on Earth has no value.
But, as verse 20 so gloriously reminds us, Christ has been raised. He has been raised to reign over the whole cosmos. Jesus is alive and is Lord over you, whether you know it or not.
This is good news. As the risen and reigning Lord, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and has all authority in Heaven and on Earth. This means that He is able to intercede for us and protect us from harm and that He is able to work through us to bring about His will on Earth. As believers, we can trust in Jesus to guide and direct our lives and to use us to further His kingdom.
In addition, the resurrection and reign of Jesus give us hope for the future. Because Jesus has conquered sin and death, because He is the first fruits, we can have confidence that He will establish His kingdom fully and completely. This means that we can look forward to a future in which all things will be made right, and in which we will be able to fully experience the fullness of God’s love and presence. We can also work towards the Christian hope right now, knowing that the physical world and everything in it is also under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19-20).
So, work as the emissary of the resurrected and reigning Lord.
Paul finishes his reflections on the resurrection by giving Christians a charge. He writes,
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).
Knowing that Jesus is alive and reigning should spur us toward obedience to His word. It should also comfort us when things look bleak. He has all the authority in the world. He reigns over the politicians, the pundits, and the people who are against Him. We should live in great hope, for if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).