The Stone Rolls Away by BalazsSo often in Christianity, we focus on the fact that Jesus came to die. Jesus died for you, we often hear. We also hear, Jesus’ main purpose for incarnating was to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And more, Because Jesus died for me, I do not have to pay the penalty for my sins, because he paid it for me.
These are all correct. They all properly indicate the purpose and significance of why Jesus came and why he died. And when Easter rolls around every year, we also emphasize his resurrection. But often, we tend to emphasize the fact that he rose again more so than the purpose of his resurrection. Further, we tend to emphasize the purpose of his death more so than the purpose of his resurrection.
So, what is the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection? What is its significance? Isn’t it enough that he died for our sins? Didn’t that death on the cross satisfy everything God wanted him to do? Why did he have to resurrect from the dead afterwards?
The resurrection of Jesus is an inseparable act in Jesus’ redemptive work for mankind. Without the resurrection, Jesus’ work of redemption is incomplete.
When Paul spoke about the main importance of the gospel he preached, he said,
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
It was not just the death and burial, but the resurrection as well that was of first importance. The writer of Hebrews shares the same sentiment when he lists the resurrection as an elementary and foundational doctrine of the faith (Hebrews 6:1-2). Paul goes on to teach that
if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
What does Paul mean that if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then we all are still in our sins? Jesus’ resurrection opened the way for our ultimate salvation. This is why Jesus is called the “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). If God did not grant Jesus resurrected life, then that resurrected life, that salvation, would not be available for anyone else. It should be noted that in Christian theology, the salvation of mankind is not complete until we are resurrected from the dead in our resurrection/spiritual bodies (Romans 8:23).
Paul further explains the purpose for the resurrection:
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
Paul is saying that just as Adam’s sin brought the penalty of physical death to the entire human race, so then the resurrection of Jesus now opened the way for all to be made alive. If Jesus is not resurrected, then there is no offer of eternal life to anyone.
Further, as Jesus was the first to be raised from the dead, the firstfruits, his resurrection body is indicative of how we will also be when we are resurrected from the dead:
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49)
John echoes a similar sentiment:
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
Everything we have discussed to this point is indicative of what it means that Jesus was raised for our justification:
[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
“Justification” is a theological term that means forgiveness—to be declared righteous as if having satisfied the law’s penalty (meaning that God gave the penalty for your sin to Jesus, and you got his righteousness, being declared sinless in God’s sight). In other words, it means that in raising Jesus from the dead, God was declaring that the offer of salvation is open to any who believe. If God does not raise Jesus from the dead, then there is no forgiveness.
There are other purposes for the resurrection as well. Some of the main ones are:
1. God declared Jesus to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. Paul tells us that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The resurrection basically sealed the deal that Jesus was who he claimed to be. By the resurrection, God confirmed Jesus’ claims that he was the Son of God.
2. The resurrection proves God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice. If for some reason there was something about Jesus and his life that would have caused him not to be the sinless, perfect sacrifice, then God would not have resurrected him.
3. It is through the resurrection of Jesus that we are able to be born again (1 Peter 1:3-5; Romans 6:4).
4. Jesus’ resurrection is a victory over the devil.
5. Jesus’ resurrection is a victory over death (Romans 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Jesus defeated death by his resurrection, and this victory is ours as well when we resurrect.
In conclusion, the resurrection of Jesus is an essential part of the Christian faith. So essential, in fact, that without it there is no salvation.