“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Rev. 1:18, NKJV)
A full tomb means a futile faith. Faith is not in faith. Faith is founded on fact. If Christ’s resurrection is not a fact, our faith is groundless. Jesus’ work on the cross did not work. We open the box of the gospel to find it without power, no ability to save. We have believed a lie. We have lied to others. We are to be pitied like those who have invested in a scam.
But Paul doesn’t leave us in such a miserable state. He quickly goes on to say: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). All those horrors that Paul listed if Jesus hasn’t been raised being are turned on their head. Christ is risen. The hope of the gospel is real and extends into the age to come. Death is conquered. The bondage of sin has been broken.
If our trust is in Christ for these things, then our trust is founded. Our belief in the resurrection of the body that we assert later in the third section of the Apostles’ Creed is legitimate. The cupboard of hope is not bare. We who have hoped in Christ receive every blessing bound up in Him because He lives.
The Creed expresses this reality of hope by saying the Jesus “rose again from the dead.” While that is a true statement, one used elsewhere for Christ’s resurrection (e.g., Acts 10:41; 1 Thess. 4:14), it might be more helpful to understand Jesus as being raised (e.g., Acts 3:15; Rom. 6:4, 9), again looking to Jesus in His true and full humanity.
Just as we will be raised from the dead, Jesus as man, as our representative in humanity, was raised from the dead by God (Acts 3:15; Rom. 8:11) in declaration of the satisfaction of His justice, and vindication of His saving work. In fact, Paul puts it a way that is strange to our ear. He speaks of Jesus “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25).
So much are we as the redeemed of the Lord identified with Jesus in His crucifixion and resurrection that Paul says this: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). Jesus’ justification is our justification. His vindication in respect to the requirements of God’s law is our vindication. His resurrection secures and anticipates our resurrection. (excerpted from The Christian’s Creed, pp. 97-99)
- Why is it important that Jesus was actually raised from the dead?
- How does the justification of Jesus in His resurrection relate to us?
Father, we thank You that You who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies through Your Spirit who dwells in us.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.