The Hope of Resurrection
There are many reasons why we call the day we commemorate the horrific death of Christ “good,” and many have set out to explain it. The explanation is always, and will always be rooted in the fact that His death is not the end of the story. It may not be surprising to us who have heard it many times, but the turn of events in this crucifixion story is unlike any other story.
Of all the glorious gospel truths we celebrate, the resurrection is one that does not make much of an appearance in the Old Testament in the form we see it in the New Testament. What we are shown in the Old Testament is a promise for the final restoration, a promised land. This place would serve as the eternal resting place for the people of God, free from all torment, war, and captivity. It is no stretch of the imagination or reasoning powers to conclude that these Old Testament realities are simply a picture of the salvation to come. But it is not a clear picture.
In the writings of the prophet Hosea, we have the clearest Old Testament glimpse of New Testament resurrection and the ultimate Promised Land: "Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him” (Hosea 6:1-2).
This is the entirety of Israel's story as God's chosen people; they disobey, receive discipline from the Lord, and then are restored. However, in Hosea’s prophecy, the restoration language is most explicitly resurrection language. Yet, even in every other Old Testament promise of restoration, God's people have always looked forward to the reality the resurrection produced.
However, no one in the Old Testament could fully understand the weight of glory the resurrection of Christ brought. It was a mystery hidden, a veil covering the light. It was, in an instant, revealed for all to see. And many did see. The Scriptures record Christ appearing to over 500 people after His resurrection.
The question remains: “What does this development in God’s redemption story mean for us today?
Of course, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians comes immediately to mind. “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:16-19).
The first benefit to believers is the efficiency of their faith. The faith they have in Christ is a real and working faith. It is a real trust in a real Christ that works. This faith truly brings Christ to them so that His atonement, righteousness, and obedience become their possession. Their sins are paid for, and the condemnation they incessantly face is removed. Their faith works because it is in a living Christ.
The second benefit of the resurrection is the preserving power of their faith. This faith takes the believer all the way through their life, through their death, and to the presence of God where His face forever shines upon them. They are not as those who perish, but they are guaranteed eternal life. The risen Christ is their eternal shepherd.
The third benefit is an eternal body. Later in the chapter, Paul points out that this earthly body must die like a kernel of corn in order for it to be raised into something new (1 Cor. 15:37). The resurrected body will be one that no longer bears the taint of sin. It no longer is subjected to the things of earth but will be able to experience the things of heaven in all its splendour.
The fourth benefit, and perhaps the greatest of all, is that death will one day lose its sting. It will be swallowed up in victory because Christ was victorious over death. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he states that if we are buried with Christ in His death—that is to say, trusting that His death atones for our sin—we will be raised with Him (Rom. 6:4). We will be raised not only in this life but in the next. In this life we experience many of the benefits of new life, but in the next we will experience them all to the full.
The reality of the resurrection gives those in Christ hope in this life because it displays God’s eternal power to bring about His eternal plan. It is an assurance-generating truth, and so it is no wonder that the thought of it produces great joy and hope in the hearts of all believers.