I’ve found something new, but not in a place I would have thought. It was hiding away in the shadows. Once I brushed off the cobwebs and the dirt, it sparkled like something brand new. Only, it wasn’t. It was a piece of ancient treasure, hidden in a place that’s been forgotten. This fresh way of thinking – this new lens through which to see the world – was hiding away in the shadows of our Christian amnesia. What its rediscovery can do is hard to fathom. It can literally breathe new life into our lungs.
As I’m navigating the pain of my grandpa’s death, this treasure has become more precious to me than ever before.
This ancient treasure is nothing less than the blessed hope of Christianity. It’s the promise that Jesus is coming back to this earth to finally fix all that’s wrong here, including death. It’s the absurd claim that our bodies will not stay in the grave forever. We will get up out of the ground, never to go back under again. We will get new life, never to die again. We'll finally share with Jesus in His glorious resurrection.
This hope of resurrection from the dead is what I’m clinging to as I just watched my grandpa’s body break down right in front of me. Sentimental thoughts aren't enough during times like this. I need something more. I need something real. I need a real Savior who can defeat the evil tyrant (i.e. death) coming after us all. I need to know that we will get back up.
It’s crazy that no one had ever told me about this magnificent hope before.
I had always been told that our Christian hope is to escape this broken world and go to a better place. I’d heard for so long that death is okay because we get to go to heaven. Once we enter the doorway of death, we finally arrive home. We finally get released from our broken bodies. We finally get to our destination, and it’s anywhere but here. It’s somewhere far away from this broken town.
I understand our longing to be relieved from suffering. I really do. I hated seeing my grandpa suffering at death's door like he did. I ached deeply for him. As relieved as I am that he's not suffering like that anymore, I'm not celebrating that he died. I hate that he died, and Jesus does too (for more on this, see one of our recent blog posts here). It's not supposed to be this way. This tension is why I appreciate that the Bible so often refers to death as "sleep." I find this image quite helpful because it acknowledges that death is: 1) a kind of rest from our struggle and 2) an intermediate state awaiting the final stage of our journey.
I've never longed more for the day when we get new bodies, ones that will never get sick or tired or old again.
I'm longing for this to finally happen when heaven comes down here to earth (see Revelation 21). What gives me hope during these dark times is that God is going to make this world new. It's that this has been God's plan all along: to come back here to renew all things, including our bodies. This is what I'm clinging to through the tears. Unfortunately, this crucial part of the gospel of Jesus isn't always told.
This belief in physical resurrection when Jesus returns seemed so strange to me at first.
Since I had been taught for so long that a faraway heaven is our hope, resurrection was just so foreign to me. I’ve come to learn that this is because we’re suffering today from a case of Christian amnesia. We’ve forgotten a central element of our Christian heritage. This isn’t true of everyone in the church of course, but too many of us have yet to rediscover the untapped riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There's a chorus of people inviting us to see the riches of its glory.
Jesus’ friends took it for granted that the dead will rise again.
When Lazarus, one of Jesus’ good friends, had been dead for four days, Jesus came to the place where he had been buried. When He was nearby, Lazarus’ sister Martha came to see Him. She pleaded with Him to do something about her brother’s death. She seemed to think that Jesus had that kind of miraculous power. The next part of their conversation is eye-opening:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:23-24)
What’s so telling is the grand assumption that Martha makes. When Jesus tells her, “Your brother will rise again,” this doesn’t shock her one bit. She basically says, “Well yeah, of course. I know that my brother will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus isn’t telling her something new here. He’s consoling her with the Jewish hope that they were already clinging to. He was reinforcing this ancient belief in a future bodily resurrection:
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:2-3)
Jesus not only reinforced this ancient belief that many Jews were already clinging to. He also claimed that He Himself was going to fulfill it.
Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:25, 28-29)
Jesus promised that He will resurrect all people from the grave on the last day, but He was more than just talk. On several occasions, Jesus raised someone from the dead (Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 7:11-17; John 11:38-44). And as earth-shattering as these miracles were, they were just tiny glimpses of what was yet to come. Jesus demonstrated His power over death by getting up out of the grave Himself, never to die again. The world had never seen anything like this before, nor has it since. But it will. Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t just a one-time miracle. It was a signpost that we too will be resurrected (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-26). This is the glorious hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This hope of physical, bodily resurrection is central to the Christian faith. Without it, everything we do is in vain.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
The apostle Paul doesn’t just say that Jesus’ resurrection is the pattern for our future resurrection (you really should read 1 Corinthians 15:20-26). He doesn’t just say that we’ll follow in Jesus’ steps. He also says that if this is not true, then we Christians are of all people most to be pitied. Our belief in Jesus' resurrection is stripped of its meaning. Those who have fallen asleep in Christ (i.e. died) have really and finally perished. We still remain in our sins because the wages of sin (i.e. death, Romans 6:23) has the final word. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then our faith is in vain.
Since our faith informs how we live, this is an extremely practical matter. If resurrection is not true, then everything we do is in vain. It's all inconsequential. If we're just waiting to soar away to another world, then there's no lasting meaning to anything here in this world. So why bother? Everything we do is a complete waste of breath, like vapor that blows away in the wind and disappears.
However, if it is true that we will follow Jesus in His resurrection, then this glorious hope gives deep meaning to what we do in this life.
If Jesus is coming back here to renew all things, then what we do in this life – on this earth – matters. How we raise our kids matters. The quality of work we do at our jobs matters. How we take care of our bodies (whether our own, those of our dying loved ones, or those who need our professional medical help) matters. How we sacrifice to make disciples of Jesus (in all areas of life) matters. It all matters, because God cares about this world. He’s not finished with it yet. What we do here in service to God is not in vain because His kingdom will prevail on this earth. He’s coming back here to renew even our broken bodies. He won’t leave us alone in death. He will get us back up.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
This belief in resurrection is not just a bonus that super smart Christians get on a pop quiz at the end of all time.
It's not an extra add-on to the gospel. It’s a foundational element of Christian belief and practice. In other words, it’s central to how we believe and live as followers of Jesus. We need to rediscover the essentials of the Christian faith. We’d be surprised at the priceless treasures to be found.
This is why we’re offering a seminar-style class called Square One starting on September 11. In this class we'll be diving deep into the foundations of Christianity. We'll explore who we are, what we desperately need, and how this compels us to live. We’ll discuss and ask questions together about what we believe is essential – so foundational that it’s worth building our entire lives on. We’d love for you to join us.
Find out more about our Square One class here.