The Significance of the Resurrection

Romans 1:3-4
by Derek Gentle

Every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That's why Scripture refers to it as the "Lord's Day." We mark this event in a special way on Easter. But what does it mean?

Romans 1:3-4 says that the resurrection makes certain declarations about the person and mission of Jesus Christ, saying that He was, " . . . Declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." The resurrection is the definitive statement about Christ. It designated and "definitely marked Jesus off" (Robertson) - "in a striking, triumphant and miraculous manner" (Amplified). In fact, as you read the book of Acts, you keep reading references to the way the early church carried the gospel. There are remarks such as, "The apostles gave witness to the resurrection"- not the cross, the resurrection. Lots of people had been crucified; only one had come back from the dead. The new life proved the death had meaning.

The resurrection vindicates Jesus' identity as God. He is "declared to be the Son of God". He was not raised in order to become God. Jesus already was God, and had for an eternity past, existed as God. The resurrection vindicated His claims to Deity. Jesus had refused to exercise His rights as God - to be recognized, to be worshiped, to be understood, to be obeyed. Only those to whom God chose to reveal Him had the eyes to see. But now, how do you argue with someone who was previously dead?

In the 1700's there were two young intellectuals by the names of Lord Littleton and Gilbert West. Both were lawyers and both rejected the claims of Christ. One day in a conversation it was concluded that Christianity stood on two foundations: the resurrection of Jesus and the conversion of the apostle Paul. Should these two stories be disproved, the rest of Christianity would fall with them. Gilbert West agreed to write a book disproving Jesus' resurrection and Lord Littleton agreed to write a book disproving that Paul was converted by hearing a voice from heaven. No problem, they thought. But when they got together to share their progress reports, they each had to confess that the evidence was winning them over to the other side. In fact, when it was all over, there were two books: Lord Lyttleton's The Conversion of St. Paul and Gilbert West's book, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, arguing that the resurrection is a fact of history.

Conversely, the resurrection is the first stage in the exaltation of Christ as man. As God, He needed no exaltation. How can one be raised up when He is higher than the heavens? He already is up! As God, in the ascension, He merely resumed His place of glory. Yet, while on earth as man, Jesus had to be tempted, tested, and proven. He "became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him" (Philippians 2:8-9). The Man Jesus was exalted in His resurrection, His ascension, and His enthronement.

The resurrection declares that Jesus is Messiah. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ [Messiah]" (Acts 2:36).

I read of a Rabbi a number of years ago who said that he believed in the resurrection of Jesus. He thought that it was in the category of Elijah and Elisha being used of God to raise people from the dead. Other Rabbi's were quoted as saying that this could not be, one stating something along the lines of, "Doesn't he realize that if Jesus rose from the dead then it means that his other claims are also true?" Yes, exactly!

The resurrection declares that Christ's sacrifice was accepted - Jesus was, "Delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:25). "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (1st Corinthians 15:17).

The resurrection makes the new birth possible. Death cannot give life. The cross secured atonement, but it takes a living Savior to apply salvation. "We have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1st Peter 1:3 RSV).

The resurrection brought about Christ's continuing intercession for His people. "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). We will never sin or fall without deliberately climbing right over His heavenly intercession.

The resurrection makes our own resurrection possible. "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead" (1st Corinthians 15:20-21). Firstfruits refer to the first part of the harvest to come in. It represented the rest of the harvest yet to come. When an automobile manufacturer designs a new car they will, before going into mass production, first come out with the prototype. Christ is the prototype, the firstfruits, of the resurrection. He is the first of many to follow. All those who are His will be raised like Him.