IV. The Resurrection is Foundational
A fourth reason that the resurrection is important is because the resurrection is foundational. Because the resurrection is necessary for our salvation it is the key to the establishment of the church. It is not a stretch to say that the resurrection is foundational to the establishment, the growth, and the effectiveness of the church.
a. It was foundational the sending of the disciples
The fact that the resurrection is foundational to the establishment of the church is demonstrated by an examination of the church in its infancy. After the death of Christ the disciples were not exactly thrust to the forefront, at least not yet. Even though they were prepared beforehand by the instruction of Christ, the disciple found themselves unable chart a course forward after the crucifixion. After Jesus’ death they did the two things that they did best, the moped and the fished. Unfortunately neither of these activities was very productive in the establishment of the church.
Then, the resurrection happens and Jesus spent forty days showing himself and explaining the mission to the disciples. It was during this time that Jesus commissioned the disciples and then sent them out. Matthew 28:19-20 explains,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV)
This period between the resurrection and the ascension reminds me of the period after my graduation from seminary and then before I was sent out to pastor a church. I had spent four years in seminary, but then before I was sent out I needed one last burst of instruction and testing. Ordination. It was only after I was thoroughly tested in the process of ordination that I was then ready to go and pastor a church. Similarly, before the apostle could go out and lay the foundation for the initial church they needed this time with Jesus that was made possible because of the resurrection. It was only after Jesus left that they were then sent out. Acts 1:10-11 lets us listen in on the end of this period,
“And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:10–11, ESV)
The disciples were commissioned to get the world ready for the time when Jesus would return in the same way that he ascended.
b. It was foundational for the sending of the Spirit
In addition to the sending of the disciples, the resurrection also resulted in the sending of the Holy Spirit. In order for the Spirit to come and empower the church in a new way Jesus first had to be raised and then ascend back into heaven. This is what Jesus was referring to in John 16:7-11,
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7–11, ESV)
If Jesus had not risen from the dead then obviously he couldn’t have “sent” the Spirit and he couldn’t have gone to the Father. As the first chapters of Acts remind us, this work of sending the Spirit was as clear demonstration that Jesus continued to work in and through the church even after his ascension.
c. It’s foundational to the sending of the gifts
Closely related to Jesus sending the Spirit is the fact that Jesus also provided the church with gifts. These gifts are for the purpose of effectiveness in the ministry that the church has been called. These gifts, however, would never have come to the church were it not for the resurrection. For instance, Ephesians 4:7-16 teaches that one of the provisions that Christ has given the church is the provision of gifted men to equip the church:
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:7–16, ESV)
There is much that could be said about this passage, but for our study look at the basis for this provision. Paul makes it a point to remind us that it was because Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended to the Father that he is able to provide for the church in this way.
Another provision that Christ provides for the church is the provision of spiritual gifts within individuals who are a part of the church. 1 Corinthians 12 is probably the most recognized passage on this topic of spiritual gifts. The notable aspect of this chapter is the fact that these gifts are never referred to in isolation. In other words, you never find a believer by himself exercising his gifts for himself. Instead, Paul says that each of these gifted individuals is like a part of a body, specifically the body of Christ. Again, we could go in a lot of direction with this, but for the sake of this topic we will limit ourselves to pointing out that the body of Christ would not be a very good illustration if the body of Christ were still dead!
The resurrection of Christ is foundational for the existence, the life, and the effectiveness of the church. Were it not for the resurrection the church would consist of a bunch of downtrodden fisherman with no Spirit and no gifts.
V. The Resurrection is Guaranteeing
A fifth reasons why the resurrection is important is that the resurrection is guaranteeing. In other words, the resurrection provides for us a future guarantee, or hope, in the promises of God.
a. It guarantees the arrival of the Kingdom
One of the guarantees that the resurrection secures for God’s people is the guarantee of the arrival of the Kingdom. The bible is saturated with references to the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom where God triumphantly rules and His will is done by all. This is a kingdom where injustice and inequity are removed. This Kingdom is the source of vindication both for God and his people. As such, this Kingdom is the great hope of the bible and the people of God. The resurrection guarantees that we will see the full manifestation of this kingdom. Even now we see a glimpse of this kingdom in a spiritual sense. As the gospel goes forth and new spiritual life is imparted the kingdom continues to spread in the hearts of God’s people. But there is a fuller sense in which we await this kingdom. Colossians 1:18-20 gives us a glimpse,
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:18–20, ESV)
Here the benefit of the kingdom as it will be in the New Heavens and the New Earth are what Paul is talking about when he refers to “to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven.” What makes this so significant for the topic of the resurrection is the fact that Paul first mentions that “the firstborn from the dead” is the one who will do this. In other words, it is only the power of the resurrected Lord that can bring about this kingdom. Even the resurrection itself is a taste and a guarantee of what God’s people can expect in the Kingdom.
b. It guarantees our inheritance
Participation in the kingdom is a part of the inheritance for which God’s people look forward. It is an inheritance that is only possible because of the resurrection of Christ. Hebrews 1:4 tells us that “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Hebrews 1:4, ESV) One of the reasons he’s superior to the angels is the fact that he had risen from the dead. This is why he is the one who possess the inheritance, and it is how he can provide us with this inheritance. As Hebrews 9:15 says,
“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15, ESV)
Christ includes us in the eternal inheritance that he has secured through his resurrection.
c. It guarantees our resurrection
Part of the inheritance that has been secured through the resurrection is the glorified bodies that believers will receive. These are bodies that will be retro-fitted for living in the presence of the Triune God. We know that we will receive these bodies because this is the kind of body that Jesus had after his resurrection. Virtually all of 1 Corinthians 15 is about this very topic. For our study verses 20-21 are the most significant:
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–21, ESV)
Here we see that our resurrection and glorified bodies are guaranteed by the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. In fact, Jesus is the “firstfruits” of our resurrection. This of course is a reference to the OT sacrifice of firstfruits. This was when the first crops that were harvested were sacrifice to God as recognition of dependence and thankfulness. These first crops represented all the other crops that were to follow. That the Father raised Jesus from the dead as a “firstfruit” of the resurrection is our assurance that we too will be raised in the final resurrection.
The resurrection is important because it provides with the hope of a guarantee in the future work of God in our live and His kingdom.
I hope that the next time you have the opportunity to share the gospel with someone you remember to include the resurrection. It’s absolutely vital for all the reasons we’ve mentioned here, and certainly we could think of additional reasons. More than anything else, I hope that you are compelled to look to Jesus and his work, including the resurrection, for your salvation and life.