III. The Resurrection is Saving
A third reason why the resurrection is important is because the resurrection is saving. That is to say, what occurred in the resurrection was necessary for our salvation. It is not just the work of Christ on the Cross that accomplishes salvation for His people. The bible is clear that everything Christ accomplished on the cross was sufficient to accomplish man’s salvation, but in order for it to be effective Jesus had to be raised from the dead. Look at just a sampling of the ways that the resurrection saves…
a. It provides Life
The resurrection provides life for God’s people. Jesus gave a glimpse of this in John 11:25 when he said,
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” (John 11:25, ESV)
This “lasting” life is significant because the bible teaches that we don’t even have “initial spiritual life.” Because of our sins we are by nature dead to the things of the lord and completely unable to respond in repentance and faith to the work of Christ (Eph 2:1). In other words, before Jesus can give us everlasting life He has to first make us alive. In John 11 Jesus makes it clear that he is able to do this. In 1 Peter 1:3 we learn how he is able to do this:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3, ESV)
Just as Jesus was our representative in his death, so too in our resurrection he represents us and consequently is able to provide us with new spiritual life.
b. It provides Forgiveness
Another way that the resurrection saves is by providing us with forgiveness. From a biblical perspective forgiveness is essentially letting something go. We can let something go because we know that God is the ultimate judge and he will work justice. God, however, cannot forgive unless justice is done. This is where the cross comes in. Jesus dies on the cross to release us from the penalty of sin and cleanse us. But just as importantly Jesus also had to be raised for our forgiveness. Acts 13:37-38 makes a direct connection between our forgiveness and Jesus’ resurrection:
“but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,” (Acts 13:37–38, ESV)
Similarly, 1 Corinthians 15:17 says,
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, ESV)
This is an amazing statement! Had the resurrection never occurred then the work on the cross would have been ineffective. It requires all the work of Jesus, including the cross and the empty tomb, to effectuate our salvation. This is also seen with respect to our justification.
c. It provides Justification
Justification refers to the work of God whereby he declares us to be righteous in His judgment based the work of Christ. This is the flip side of forgiveness. Not only are our sins remitted, but the righteousness we need is supplied to us in Jesus. If we only had forgiveness without justification we would be in trouble because we still wouldn’t have the positive righteousness that is required in God’s kingdom. This righteousness comes to us through the work Jesus did for us on the cross… and in the resurrection! Romans 4:25 explicitly states this:
“who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, ESV)
Jesus was raised for our justification. The cross and the resurrection were necessary to save us. This is because the resurrection means that Christ’s sacrifice was effective. It was good enough. Our sins deserve an infinite punishment because they are transgressions against an infinitely Good God. This is why hell last forever. The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead means that he accomplished what we would have spent eternity trying to accomplish. He was an infinitely good sacrifice, which is why he didn’t have to be punished for an infinite amount of time. The resurrection makes this clear. Furthermore, it because of the resurrection that Jesus is able to apply the sacrifice that he made on the cross. Hebrews 10:12 teaches that Jesus made a once for all sacrifice that will never have to be done again, and then he went before the throne of God with that sacrifice:
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” (Hebrews 10:12, ESV)
Just as the OT priests would kill the sacrifice and then take it into the altar, so too Jesus died and a sacrifice and then took that sacrifice before the Heavenly altar. As it says in Hebrews 9:23-24
“Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:23–24, ESV)
It is the work of Christ in his death and his life that provides us with forgiveness and justification.
d. It provides Reconciliation
Because the work of Christ has accomplished forgiveness and justification it only makes sense that it also provides us with reconciliation. If we were formerly at enmity with God, then by the work of Christ we are now reconciled with Him. This work of reconciliation also requires the resurrection. Romans 5:9-10 explains,
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:9–10, ESV)
The argument here is from the greater to the lesser. Since God was able to do the great work of reconciling us to Him while we were his enemies, then it is obvious that He will be able to the lesser work of keeping us reconciled. This ongoing assurance of reconciliation comes through both the “death of his Son” and “his life.” He makes provision for our reconciliation and he will continue to do so.
e. It provides Mediation
The continued provision for reconciliation is most notable seen in Christ work as our High Priest. That is to say, Christ makes sure that we remain in a right standing with God by continually interceded for us. This is a ministry that Jesus is uniquely qualified for because of the resurrection. Hebrews 7:23-15 shed some light on this for us,
“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23–25, ESV)
Because of the resurrection Jesus isn’t like those other priest who kept dying off. He eternally holds the office and fulfills the duties. That’s why he is able to “save to the uttermost.” The resurrection qualifies him for this ministry, and it also allows him to remain continually active in it. Romans 8:34 puts it this way,
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34, ESV)
Because of the resurrection Jesus is no at the right Hand of God instead of a tomb in Jerusalem, which means he is able to intercede for us.
The NT clearly teaches that the resurrection is necessary for our salvation, which makes it important. In fact, in this respect, the resurrection is of the utmost importance. You cannot be saved apart from the resurrection or without acknowledging the resurrection. That what Paul taught in Romans 10:9-10:
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9–10, ESV)