Every year on Easter millions of people will gather at churches all over the world to celebrate on a day that they think commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And yet, if you were to ask many of them why Jesus Christ was resurrected, I have a feeling you’d get quite a variety of responses.
Many people today believe that man has an immortal soul and that the soul never dies—that it goes right on living forever. And of course if that were true, there certainly wouldn’t be so much in the Bible about a resurrection from the dead—a resurrection from the grave.
Many people also believe that God’s plan of redemption was completed on the cross, or at the death of Jesus Christ. And yet if the plan of salvation was finished with His death, then why should there be a resurrection from the dead. Why should we celebrate a resurrection?
You’ve probably heard before that Christ died to save sinners. Even though that statement is never mentioned in the Bible, it’s often repeated. And if you think of it, even the laws of nature—even God’s creation—you can look around and see that death cannot produce life. Life produces life. Just a simple examination of God’s creation, as they say, can prove that.
Now in 1 John 3 and verse 4 it says that “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of law.” That’s what sin is. That’s the Bible definition of sin. And the wages we earn, for sinning, as it says in Romans 6:23, is eternal death. That’s what we earn—all of us—eternal death.
Let’s look at Romans 5 to begin with here, today.
Now it’s certainly true that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice pays that penalty of eternal death for us, if we believe and repent. But why was Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead? That’s the question that we want to consider here today. Why was His resurrection absolutely necessary for us to be saved from death?
In Romans 5 verse 8 it says, “But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ died for us—He paid the penalty in our stead, it says here in Romans 5. And since He paid that penalty for us, God can legally remove that penalty from us if we turn to Him in repentance and faith as other scriptures bring out.
Verse 9 says, “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” So that the method of reconciliation here is by the blood of Christ. This is what brings us to God as Mr. Armstrong explained in a booklet titled What Do You Mean Salvation?
He wrote, “The law stood over you. It claimed your life—you were under it. It took Christ’s life in payment instead of yours. The penalty stands paid! You are no longer under the law. It no longer has claim over your life! You are now under grace—undeserved pardon,” he wrote. “You are pardoned from paying the penalty, since Jesus Christ paid it for you! This is not your works. It is Christ’s sacrifice. You are now acquitted—justified—the slate is wiped clean of a guilty past! In other words—the barrier between you and God has now been removed! You are now, by Christ’s sacrifice, given contact with God—reconciled to Him!”
Now if you notice in this passage we’re reading in Romans, it doesn’t just end with that reconciliation, with that contact with God. You’ll note there that it says in verse 9, that we shall be saved. It’s important to note the tenses in this passage. Being now justified—this process of justification is ongoing, as Paul explains elsewhere, like in Galatians 2. And it’s leading to salvation. To a point where we shall be saved if we’re cleansed by that blood, washed, day in and day out. And of course to make that cleaning complete, we need the life of Christ, the power of God.
Verse 10 continues, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” See, we were enemies before conversion, but then God brought us to the truth. Opened our minds to the truth. Called us to the truth, as John 6:44 says. And then reconciled us to Him, through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Reconciled to God there is in the past tense. So if we’ve truly repented of our former ways, our sins, our transgressions against God’s law, and in humility and faith accept the blood of Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, and are baptized, then we are already reconciled to God. The barrier has been removed. We can have a relationship with God. Jesus’ death makes that possible.
But it does not save us! The death doesn’t save us. The death doesn’t impart life. Life does that. So many scriptures make that undeniably clear. We could never receive salvation from a dead Savior. I mean, Jesus Christ is living today. He has been resurrected, that’s true. But why? Why was He brought back to life?
Well verse 10 explains. Look at the end of it, just again it says, “We shall be saved by his life.” Now that’s the future tense. That’s the process that is ongoing. Saved by the resurrection of Christ, by the life of Christ. By Him living in us, Galatians 2 and verse 20. And also you can look at 1 John 5:11-12. Those are important scriptures to bring out on this subject.
1 Corinthians 15, we’ll turn over there instead. God has given to us eternal life that passage says in 1 John 5. And this life is in His Son. Jesus Christ is alive. He’s at the right hand of God. He is our high priest, our advocate, John wrote. Our intercessor, it says in Romans. He’s alive; He’s active; He’s working; He’s living in us by the power of God’s Spirit.
1 Corinthians 15 and verse 3, it says, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” I mean this is consistent with many other passages in the Bible. That the purpose of Christ’s death was to pay for the death that we deserve. He died, according to the scriptures.
Verse 4, it says, “And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” He was resurrected three days and three nights after he died; that’s the total time. I mean His period of being dead and buried can be specifically pinpointed in Scripture. You can again look on your own at Matthew 12:28-40, where Jesus gave us the sign of His messiahship, and that He would, like Jonah—as Jonah was three days and three nights in that fish—Jesus would for three days and three nights be in the belly of the Earth.
Now many people today believe that He was buried late Friday afternoon, and then there’s Saturday—that was the second day, they think. And then early Sunday morning, at sunrise, He was brought back to life. They think that that somehow encapsulates three full days, and of course it doesn’t—it’s barely a day and a half. He was in the grave, as we can prove with much of our literature, he was in the grave for three full days, three full nights. And that, as He said there in Matthew 12, is the proof that He is the Messiah—that He said it. I mean He said it before it happened, and then it happened.
Verse 5 it says, “And that he was seen of Cephas,” or of Peter, “then of the twelve.” And then drop down to verse 12. And it says, “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
So here we come to the central point of this chapter. It’s called the resurrection chapter by some. And people in Corinth were confused. They were believing in the resurrection of Christ, but they had stopped believing in the resurrection of the dead, as it’s mentioned here several times in this passage, the others—the saints.
Verse 13 continues, “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.” If there’s no resurrection of the firstfruits, or of the dead, then Christ isn’t risen.
Another biblical paraphrase says of this verse, or paraphrases this verse, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ still must be dead” (Living Bible). See that gets to the heart of why He was brought to life. Jesus said in the gospels, I am the resurrection and the life. The very purpose for His resurrection was so that we might have eternal life. Was so that we might be resurrected. His death, as we’ve seen reconciled us to His Father. But His life is what saves us. And if Jesus Christ was not brought back to life, if Jesus Christ was not resurrected to life, we have no hope for salvation.
Verse 14 says, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and you faith is also vain.” See if this is all a sham, or a hoax as Paul is explaining here. I mean why would Paul and why would so many others in the first century give up their lives for this truth, for this teaching, for this understanding. If Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain. Our faith would be dead without the life of Jesus Christ. It would just be a dead faith. A belief, a simple belief in Christ, a simple belief in His shed blood, and that’s it. But not the living faith that we need and that we can have by the power of God living in us through Jesus Christ.
Verse 15 says, “Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God.” I mean, if all this is true, he says, if this hoax is what you believe, then we are found false witnesses of God, he says. “Because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ, whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.”
You see the subject there; it’s not just about Christ’s resurrection in this passage is it. It’s about our resurrection. It’s about a resurrection of the dead, plural. The rest of us. As it says in this passage and others. Christ being the first of the firstfruits. The first so resurrected to eternal life.
Paul’s saying here that if there’s no resurrection of the dead, Christ simply would not have been raised himself.
Verse 16, “For if the dead rise not.” Now listen to this one; it’s a key passage here, these two verses. “Then is not Christ raised, And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.” Note that at the end of verse 17. What a key verse this is. Not only is our faith in vain, but we’re still in our sins if He wasn’t raised to life. We’re still without salvation if not for His resurrection to life. I mean if His death could conceivably still pay for the penalty of our past sins, if He were to just die, and if He was never raised back to life. But how could we be raised to life if it’s not brought to that reality through another life? Another living being?
Christ has to be alive, students, if He’s to be administering forgiveness for us daily. Helping us to overcome and to conquer our sins. I mean even after His sacrifice, before they could touch Him when He was resurrected, He had to be offered up and accepted before the Father, it says over in John 20, as that sacrifice for God. Without that resurrection and that offering thereafter, He couldn’t have assumed that role of functioning high priest that we have today, that we can go before today, to be made clean.
Verse 18 says, “Then they also which are fallen asleep,” or died, in other words, “in Christ are perished.” There would be no hope for the dead in Christ, without a resurrection from the dead. And that pretty much means that people like Abraham and Joseph, David, some of the other patriarchs that we’ve studied in these forums, they would remain dead and buried forever. And that’s all that they are right now. They’re dead. They’re waiting. They’re sleeping. They’re waiting for their resurrection. And what an exciting time it will be to get to know them and to meet them in the kingdom of God when we’ve experienced our resurrection to life.
Verse 19 says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” This is why the brethren at Corinth had gotten so far off track. I mean their focus was on this life, the flesh, the life we lead in the flesh. They had gotten so wrapped up in the cares of this life their mind was off of the future, where this life is headed, why this life is important, and how it’s in preparation for the next life. The way we lead our lives today, the way we yield to God and His power, is all to prepare us for the future. To prepare us for life in God’s Kingdom.
Verse 20 concludes, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Or the ones that are dead. Christ was resurrected just ahead of the rest. That’s what the Bible reveals. That’s the plain truth of the Bible.
The Church is spoken of in James 1:18 as the Church of the firstfruits, the firstfruits harvest. And Jesus Christ is spoken of in other verses as being the first of the firstfruits. He’s gone on ahead as the pioneer.
Let’s conclude over in Romans 8. Romans chapter 8. Jesus is our pioneer, our example. So many people misunderstand the death and resurrection of Christ today, and because of that, they don’t really understand what it means to be saved. They don’t really understand the process of salvation that’s going on. As I said earlier, Jesus Christ is not a dead savior; He’s a living savior. He did die, of course. He did make the ultimate sacrifice for us. He did die for us. But He lives in us and through us if we yield to Him.
Romans 8 and verse 10 expresses it well—these two verses here. “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” At conversion, of course, the self has to die. The old way of life has to die. We leave that dead and buried in that watery grave at baptism. Jesus Christ through God’s Spirit, then, after that, is what gives us life.
Now notice where it leads. Verse 11 says, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.” It’s the same process, in other words. What He went through, we go through. What He lived, we live. And the way that He was resurrected, we will be resurrected as well. That Spirit of God giving us that down payment of eternal life, and it all leading of course, to a resurrection into the Family of God.
How plain then, after reviewing these very basic scriptures, that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, to make it possible for us to be resurrected to immortality. ▪