Let’s look at an overview of the significance of the resurrection—in other words, what is the impact of this event? History can point to the resurrection as the best explanation of the facts, but it can’t tell us fully what they meant. By looking at the Scripture, we gain valuable wisdom into what it really means.
Jesus’ Identity Verified
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding His Son, who as to His earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. — Romans 1:1-4
The resurrection verified that Jesus indeed was the Son of God. With so many making claims about speaking for God or even being the Messiah, we vitally need our certainty of Christ’s identity to be attested to by God.
This fact reminds me of the importance of identity verification. Who we are must be established beyond our own testimony.
We do not show up at the airport and expect to be allowed into a secure area without confirmation of who we are. The resurrection verified who He is. In a world of identity theft and deception, we can have confidence in placing our trust in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we can trust that His words were true and trustworthy — the very Word of God.
Proof of Life After Death
As I pass through the checkout line at the grocery, I’m amused at the headlines with sensational titles like “New Proof of Life After Death.” Near death experiences are a fascinating field of study and have yielded testimony that cannot be dismissed as mere hallucination or a product of an altered mental state. Yet the resurrection of Jesus is unlike any of these claims. After being scourged and tortured, Christ was crucified and buried. After three days, He came back to life as He foretold.
This event gives overwhelming evidence that there is life after death. As Jesus said to His disciples,
I go to prepare a place for you. — John 14:2 NKJV
The fact that Heaven exists is based on the testimony of the Son of God. We can have genuine hope and comfort in the fact that our existence does not end with physical death. As the apostle Paul wrote:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” — 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
We Are Raised Up Spiritually — Given New Birth
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. —Ephesians 2:4–6
Jesus told a religious leader named Nicodemus that he must be born again (John 3:3). Paul promised that if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This statement means that we are transformed from within. The resurrection provides the power to raise us up into this new life. We are no longer bound to the dictates of fleshly desires or proclivities.
Because the power of the resurrection is available to us, we can live a life that honors and pleases God.
Resurrection Proves the Judgment to Come
Having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness… having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. — Acts 17:30–31 NASB
The resurrection of Jesus is the proof that He is the Son of God and the ultimate Judge, whom we will face at the end of the world. To many, the concept of judgment is too frightening to consider, but ignoring this topic does not dismiss it or make it disappear.
God promised to judge the world through Christ. The fact that there is a day coming when we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our life bolsters our spiritual immune system to resist evil and choose righteousness.
As we look at the New Testament, this message of the coming judgment was an integral part of the presentation of the early church. While we are called to be merciful and not judgmental of others, we are nevertheless headed for the day of standing before the Lord in eternity. This anticipation should inspire us to give our all to the service of Christ and the work of advancing the gospel.
Resurrection Was the Central Message of the Early Church
The resurrection was the core of the message that birthed the church in the midst of a hostile culture. There are at least ten significant incidents that incited speeches centering on the resurrection in the book of Acts. These messages were presented in different countries, often to prominent leaders — both religious and secular. Here is an overview:
1. At the Day of Pentecost, Fifty Days After Christ’s Crucifixion
Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a Man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This Man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. — Acts 2:22-24
2. To the Crowds of People Astonished at the Healing of a Lame Man
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus. You handed Him over to be killed, and you disowned Jim before Pilate, though he had decided to let Him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. — Acts 3:13-15
3. When Speaking to the Authorities After the Same Healing
Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. — Acts 4:10
4. After They Were Threatened by Religious Leaders for Continuing to Speak About Jesus
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead — whom you killed by hanging Him on a cross. God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. — Acts 5:30-33
5. When the Gospel Came to the Gentiles
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and… He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him. We are witnesses of everything He did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed Him by hanging Him on a cross, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen — by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. — Acts 10:38-43
6. In a Jewish Synagogue
The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning Him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have Him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days He was seen by those who had traveled with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now His witnesses to our people. We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
‘You are my son;
today I have become your Father.’
God raised Him from the dead so that He will never be subject to decay. As God has said, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
So it is also stated elsewhere:
‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’
Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the One whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. — Acts 13:27-37
7. Introducing the Gospel in the City of Thessalonica
As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. — Acts 17:2-4
8. In Athens Among the Intellectual Elite
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” — Acts 17:30-32
9. Before a Governor
When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. — Acts 25:17-19
10. Before a King
But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen — that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to His own people and to the Gentiles. — Acts 26:22-23
As the book of Acts ends, Paul is in Rome, waiting to stand before Caesar. Looking at the clear pattern of what he said to those he spoke to, there is little doubt that he would have told him that Christ had been raised from the dead, making Him the supreme authority in the earth.
In the West, the predominant message is God’s grace and love. It was certainly God’s love that motivated His sending Jesus to rescue humanity. However, it was His death and resurrection that accomplished this mission. The resurrection, therefore, was the overwhelming theme in the preaching of the apostles, not the love of God. In no way am I trying to marginalize this great love or grace — I’m just trying to show what message caused the church to emerge against all odds in the midst of a hostile Roman empire and a resistant religious system. If we want the results the early church had, we must preach the message they preached.
Excerpted with permission from Man, Myth, Messiah: Answering History’s Greatest Question by Rice Broocks, copyright Rice Broocks.
* * *
This is powerful! What an awesome way to think of the resurrection! What does the resurrection mean to you? Join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you as we celebrate this weekend the empty tomb and our risen King! ~ Devotionals Daily