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"Risen with Christ"

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          The two most important holidays on the Christian calendar are Good Friday and Easter.  They are the most important to God because it’s in the events we celebrate this weekend that he most fully reveals who he is—his glory.  In giving his Son to die on the cross as a substitute sacrifice for sinners, God shows the fullest expression possible of the extent of his love, mercy and grace.  But on the cross God also most fully reveals his holiness and hatred for sin that brings his wrath. In his holiness and justice God hates sin so much, that on the cross he punished it by crushing his Son who went to the cross to receive the punishment for sin for all who would trust in him.  In Jesus’ resurrection, we see the awesome power of God because in the resurrection, God’s validated the claim that on the cross he defeated humanity’s most feared, most efficient and most brutal enemy, death.  God broke the power of death that day for all those who trust in Christ. For them, death has been reduced to a temporary state.  The New Testament compares death to sleep for the believer because it’s not a permanent condition.

          In addition to what these events communicate about God, Jesus’ death and resurrection are the two events which most profoundly impact or bless those who follow Christ.  Today, we want to look at Paul’s great resurrection chapter in First Corinthians 15 to see the comprehensive impact the resurrection has on the life of the believer.  The goal is to increase our joy and gratitude as we examine more closely how the resurrection of Christ brings an explosion of blessing to the believer—having an eternal impact.  A summary statement of Paul’s theology of resurrection is in First Corinthians 15:22 where Paul writes, “22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”  All human beings are “in Adam” in at least two ways.  First, we are “in Adam” in the sense that we inherit his humanity—we belong to his race.  In that sense we are—as the Narnia stories and movies remind us—“children of Adam.”  However, we are also are “in Adam” in the sense that we inherit his sin—which he brought into this world through his disobedience and sin brings death.  That’s what Paul means when he says, “For as in Adam all die...”  We inherit Adam’s sin and therefore we all die because death is the penalty for sin.  God’s intent however is that humans will live forever in bodily form and the resurrection of Christ made that possible.  The resurrection of Christ demonstrates that on the cross, Jesus broke sin’s power to keep people dead.  That’s the good news Paul writes about in the second half of verse 22, “…so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  For those who are in Christ—that is--those who have been united to Christ through faith, they inherit, not the curse of sin, but the blessings that bring life. 

          One of the main burdens of Paul in this passage is to show that there is a direct and causal relationship between Christ’s bodily resurrection and the bodily resurrection of all those who trust in him which they will experience at his second coming to earth.  Paul says in verse 20, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  “Firstfruits” is the first of a handful of agricultural terms Paul uses to explain the resurrection.  It refers to the first ingathering of the harvest that guarantees, not only the fact that the rest of the harvest will occur, but firstfruits also guarantee the quality of the rest of the harvest.  If the firstfruits of the cucumber harvest are healthy and plentiful, that serves as a guarantee that what will follow will also be healthy and plentiful.  When Paul says that Jesus is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection, he is saying that Jesus’ ground-breaking bodily resurrection not only guarantees the resurrection of those who follow him in faith, but by looking at Jesus’ resurrection body, we can see the kind of resurrection body believers will have.  Paul wants these Corinthians, who were mistaken in their understanding of Jesus’ resurrection, to know that if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, then no one has any hope of being raised from the dead because Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection that alone guarantees the full harvest of resurrected followers of Christ.

          The first and most basic impact or blessing of the resurrection of Jesus is that it guarantees the bodily resurrection of his church at his second coming.  That’s pretty well known, but perhaps you haven’t thought about the fact that Christ’s resurrection is already showing its life-giving power in his church through the spiritual resurrection of believers.  That is—Not only does the resurrection of Jesus guarantee the bodily resurrection of his church, it also guarantees and is manifest today in the spiritual resurrection of his followers.   For the believer, Paul tells us this spiritual resurrection has already occurred and he ties that to the resurrection of Jesus.  Paul, speaking of our spiritual condition as unbelievers, says in Ephesians chapter two, “1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …” He is speaking here of spiritual death, not physical death, but we received from Adam, BOTH spiritual and physical death.  We must remember that Adam died in two stages. First, he died spiritually the moment he sinned.  God told him in Genesis 2:17, “17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Adam died spiritually when he ate the fruit, but it was a long time before Adam died physically for his sin.  The resurrection of Jesus liberates the believer to be brought back to life and that too is in two stages.  First, the believer is made alive spiritually—the spiritual death that Adam suffered in the garden when he sinned, is reversed.  Then, in the future, the physical death that Adam’s sin brought will be reversed when the believer’s body is resurrected.  Just as Adam died in two stages—the spiritual and then the physical death, believers are raised to life in those two same stages.  Just as Adam through his sin is completely responsible for the two stages of human death, Christ—the second Adam is completely responsible for the two human resurrections to life through his victory on the cross and resurrection.

          Paul says in Ephesians 2:4, “4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us ­[past tense] alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him ­[past tense]  and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,”  That speaks of the believer’s spiritual resurrection and Paul says that our spiritual resurrection is directly related to the resurrection of Jesus.  We were spiritually dead in our sins, but when God made us alive through the spiritual rebirth that comes with believing in Jesus, he not only made us alive, but he also spiritually “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  When we trusted Christ, we spiritually became one with him—IN CHRIST and because we are united to him through faith, where he goes, we go.  In his resurrection, he ascended to the throne of God; so all who believe in him are spiritually speaking, seated with him on that throne—raised to a newness of life with spiritual power and grace to live for him.

          That means that for the believer, there has already been a spiritual resurrection in this life and it is rooted in Christ’s bodily resurrection.  Second Corinthians chapter four shows us this separation between the material/bodily realm and the spiritual realm.  He says in verse 16, “16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  Do you hear those two realms or dimensions?  Our outer self—this material body—is showing the decaying effects of sin—it smells of death.  All our bodies are in a terminal state.  Unless Jesus returns before we expire, we will all die because the victory over physical death that the resurrection of Jesus guarantees will not occur until Jesus comes back.  But the inner self—the spirit—that has already experienced resurrection because of Jesus’ resurrection.  Our inner self is being renewed—constantly being transfused with life through the Holy Spirit because of Jesus’ resurrection.  Our spiritual life in Christ is a partial realization of what Jesus guaranteed for us when he rose from the dead and will be completed when Jesus comes back to earth.  

The application for believers is—we should be thankful for the resurrection of Jesus, not only for what that will do for us someday when Jesus comes back, but for what the resurrection has already done in enabling us to be spiritually raised with Christ—being made spiritually alive with the capacity to know and love God and serve him in supernatural power.  Because we are spiritually alive, we can live a new kind of life—made possible by the resurrection of Jesus.  The new spiritual life a believer has in Christ is a down payment—a Firstfruits if you will—on the future physical resurrection.  The question we must ask is—does my life give evidence of the fact that part of me has been raised from the dead?  One would think if part of you were dead and is now alive, that would be clearly recognizable.  There will be a profound difference when our physical bodies experience a resurrection.  Surely, there will be a very noticeable difference when our spirits move from being dead to God, to being alive to him.

          A second impact or blessing of the resurrection is—it gives the believer genuine hope for a future, glorified resurrection body.  By “hope” I mean hope as the Bible uses that word.  Biblical hope is not a wish or a strong desire.  It means “to wait with expectation and patience.  Biblical hope is stable and steadfast because it knows that what it is hoping for will come as God has promised.  This future bodily resurrection is the second stage of life believers receive because Christ rose from the dead.  Paul asks two questions about the resurrection of believers in verse 35 and his answers fuel our hope, “35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”  He answers those questions in the next several verses and these truths also should have an enormous impact both in this life, as well as at the return of Christ.  Paul answers the question beginning with verse 36 and says, “36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.”

          First, let’s look at how the dead in Christ will be resurrected bodily.  Paul again uses a metaphor taken from agriculture to illustrate his point.  He says, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 3”   He tells us that the dead body of the believer that is put into the ground is like a seed and though that “seed” is somehow connected or related to the body that will be raised; the two bodies are very different.  Like an apple seed is very different than an apple tree  but both are of the same substance—they are both “apple” in their DNA.  Paul says that’s what the believer’s resurrection is like.  There is a real relationship between the body that dies and is put in the ground and the one that will be raised.  The dead body of the believer is not replaced with a new body; it is redeemed into a much superior body.  The human body was created by God as good and is in some way reflective of the image of God.  Therefore, would not destroy it. The human body will be a glorious thing when the all the corrupting effects of sin are removed.  In the resurrection, the believer’s body will be redeemed like the believers soul was redeemed in this life.  The human body when it is glorified will be something to behold.  The incarnation implies that not only did Christ greatly condescend when he came to this world as a baby; it also tells us something about the glory of the human body because Christ considered it worthy to take on and Christ will remain in a glorified human body for all eternity.

          Paul writes in Philippians 3:20, “20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Christ has a glorified human body in heaven and when the church is raised, the believers will have a body like his.  A logical question is—“if believers don’t get their new bodies until their resurrection when Jesus comes back,, what happens to them in the time between their death and their resurrection?”  Paul speaks to this in Second Corinthians chapter five.  He writes, “6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  The relationship is clear—if we are at home in these bodies, we are not physically with Jesus, but instead are living here on earth. But when we die, we will be with Jesus and away from these bodies—no one is home in a dead body.  In other words, the moment a believer dies, his/her spirit goes to be with Jesus—as a disembodied spirit.  “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

          Paul teaches this in verse four as well. He says, “4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Paul calls this physical body a “tent” and because it is fallen, it becomes a burden to us and we inwardly groan to be further clothed with a new body “so that what is mortal—[subject to death] may be swallowed up in life.  By implication, Paul is saying that when a believer dies in the Lord, they are with Jesus, but they are “unclothed”—that is, without a body until the resurrection.  I explain this at the graveside of every believer who has died.  When you visit the graveside of a believer, know that the resurrection of Christ has transformed that plot of ground from a final resting place to a launching pad for a new, resurrected body.  Right there in that spot, that body—or what is left of it--will be transformed and resurrected.  Then the believer can be “clothed” with their resurrection body.  Jesus says in John 5:28 that this resurrection will happen when “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out…” That describes a resurrection of dead bodies that come out of their tombs or graves or caskets or vaults or urns.

           A second question Paul asks in verse 35 is, “With what kind of body do they come?”  He answers beginning with verse 39.  39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.  That’s Paul’s way of saying that though the resurrection body will be in some way related to the dead body—it is different—very different.  Like the difference between an apple seed and an apple tree.  In fact, Paul goes back to that seed sowing metaphor in verse 42.  42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”   In short, he lists four crucial differences between the dead body that is sown in the ground and the body that is raised. 

First, the body sown in the ground is perishable—it rots or de-composes because sin does that to the body—it corrupts it like it corrupts everything else.  Jesus’ body was incorruptible—not subject to decay and the believer’s resurrection bodies will be as well.  Second, the body that is sown is sown in dishonor.  Dead bodies are riddled with the effects of sin and that is dishonorable.  This is one reason why we bury them—they speak of sin and the fall and the last enemy, death—all of which are dishonorable because they are products of the fall.  The new resurrection bodies will be completely redeemed. That means there will be no trace of sin or its effects on these redeemed bodies.  As we have seen, they will resemble Jesus’ glorious resurrection body and that means it is raised in glory.  The dead body is sown in weakness.  Again, the power of sin and death are at work in our bodies even now.  Men reach their physical peak around age 18.  After that, as a general pattern, the body begins to wear down and become weaker—we can’t do the things we used to do. 

That’s the effect of sin and the fall—death is at work in our bodies and that brings weakness—subject to damage, disease and death. The second body will be raised in power. That is—there will be zero residual effect of the sin to weaken these bodies.  They will never lose their vitality—never grow old, never be subject to damage—there will be no diseases or wheelchairs in heaven.  They will be raised in power.  Michael Horton, in his Systematic Theology writes, “In its present condition, this body cannot withstand the glory of the heavenly city; it must be glorified, as Christ’s body was, in order to participate…in the age to come.  Flesh and blood cannot endure the joys of Zion. Nevertheless, our bodies will be changed, not replaced.  Finally, Paul says it is sown a natural body—that which is of this world, while the  new body will be raised a spiritual body.  Don’t misunderstand; Paul is not talking about a ghost or a phantom here.  These are real BODIES!  Part of what this entails is that these bodies will not be subject to the limitations of this natural realm—gravity, resistance, time and space or any of the other natural forces that limit what these natural bodies can do.  A second impact of Christ’s resurrection is the sure hope of a new resurrection body.

A third and final impact or blessing of the resurrection is—the completion of the believer’s salvation.  The Bible teaches that salvation is not simply a one-time event, “I was saved on March 3, 1978.”  Believers surely have been saved in the past but we are also  presently being saved—Paul tells us in Philippians chapter two to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”  The Bible also teaches that there is a future aspect of our salvation when everything that the cross and resurrection of Christ have begun in this world will be completed or brought to fulfillment in heaven.  The fact that our salvation is not now complete is obvious on many levels.  First, our bodies are not yet redeemed—they age and die.  Other than that—other evidences abound.  We still sin—we are not completely made holy or sanctified in this world.  The process has started because of our spiritual resurrection, but it’s far, far from complete and progress is very slow and requires much grace. Third, there are texts in the New Testament that tell us that believers have an inner sense that their salvation is not complete and they palpably feel this burden of incompletion.  We already saw 1 Corinthians chapter five, “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.”  That speaks to the sense that we know these bodies are not what they will be and we groan for that future reality.  Romans 8:19 tells us, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”  The glory of the totally redeemed, resurrected and glorified church is so striking, so compelling, so glorious that Paul says the creation waits with longing for the moment when our salvation is complete.  In verse 23, he continues, “And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the Firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await for adoption as sons.”

Paul is saying that in this life—we know by faith that we are adopted by God as his child.  But when we are resurrected and meet Jesus, we will know and experience our full status as an adopted as a child of the King of the universe.  Our adoption, accomplished by Christ on the cross, will not be fully enjoyed until we are raised from the dead.  In this life, the believer at times feels alienation from God for a variety of reasons—our sin, illness, spiritual attack and other things.  In glory, no sense of alienation will remain—we will relate to God in the perfect intimacy of a Father/child relationship untouched by sin.  Another aspect of the incompleteness of our salvation is one we mentioned earlier.  That is, we still sin which means the part of our salvation where we are transformed to live like Christ, completely impervious to the power of sin—that is not yet complete.  The Bible teaches that will happen when we meet Jesus at the resurrection.  First John 3:2 says, “2 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.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ could not possibly have more impact on the life--past, present and future of the believer.  When you woke up on this resurrection day, did you thank God for the promise of a new body—the promise that one day you will be like Jesus—the promise that your progress in holiness so far is because you have been raised with Christ?  This is the way believers should think about the resurrection.  But there is however another resurrection that will also have a tremendous impact—a unimaginably negative impact--on all of those who have not placed their trust in Jesus in this life.  That is—the resurrection of the lost.  It’s not only believers who will get a new resurrection body. Jesus says in John 5:28, “28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”  Paul in Acts 24:15 teaches, “15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”  All resurrection in the New Testament refers to a bodily resurrection.  However, this bodily resurrection of judgment and its purpose are vastly different than the resurrection of believers.  Believers experience a resurrection to everlasting pleasures at the right hand of God.  Unbelievers will be resurrected for this reason:  so that they might suffer eternal torment, not only mentally, emotionally and spiritually, but also… physically.  

Unbelievers at the judgment will be given a body so that they will have the capacity to suffer bodily torment.  Very little else is said in the Bible about this resurrection and frankly, we don’t need to know any more than that.  Some might think, “This seems sadistic—giving a person a body for the purpose of bringing torment upon it.”  It’s not sadism, its justice.  Sinners sin against God not only with their minds and their wills and their emotions, but also with their bodies.  These physical bodies sin against God in the corrupt or profane words we physically breathe out.  They sin by lusting and coveting with our eyes, they sin through sexual activity outside of marriage—those and many more sins involve the body.  It would therefore be unjust for God to not give the lost sinner a body to punish a body –a body that is related to the body that sinned against him. Because their bodies sinned against a holy God, their bodies must suffer judgment from a holy God. 

With that, let me close with an appeal to those of you that have not placed your trust in Christ—those who are still living for yourself instead of God and his glory—those whose sins have not been forgiven and those who have not been made spiritually acceptable to a holy God through faith in Christ.  If you do not have a love relationship with Jesus, you need to do your part today before he comes back to judge the living and the dead. Paul says of that day “…the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Jesus hung on a cross as my substitute to pay the penalty for my sins.  All you need to do is look to him in faith and place your trust in him—rely on him to save you from the penalty of your sins and show your sincerity by repenting of your sins.  He will forgive you—totally wipe out the record of all the crimes you have committed against him.  Not only that—he will give you a new resurrected spirit that will love him and increasingly want to do what he says.  You will know joy—real, deep down joy for the first time in Christ.  And you will have the right to claim all the promises of God as his dear child—promises that include a new, glorified body that will live with Jesus in heaven—promises like the transformation of your gravesite from a plot of ground to a launching pad and the promise that you will one day be made perfect, like Christ and enjoying him for all eternity.  For those who are in Christ, these blessings of the resurrection of Jesus should be a profound encouragement.  For those who are not trusting in Christ, come to Christ today—look to him in faith and he will be faithful to save you from your sins and the comprehensive and eternal judgment you deserve.  May God give us all the grace to live in the light of the resurrection of Christ, enjoying all its blessings, now and in the future.


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