I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection for Christians?

Apart from the physical resurrection of Jesus, Christians would be the most pathetic lot of folks, whose lives would be no more significant than if Jesus never came (1 Cor 15:18—19). This question has a three-fold positive answer: (1) eschatological considerations, (2) missional impetus, and (3) soteriological consequence.

Eschatologically, and for the people of God collectively, Jesus’ resurrection is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic promises (Acts 13:32—33). His resurrection was, in part, the terminus of hope for salvation history past, as anticipated in “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Lk 24:44; cf. vv 25—27; i.e., the traditional tripartite division of the entire OT). Jesus’ resurrection is the dawning of the long yearned-for new age (or “age to come,” not to be confused with the eastern mystical aspirations, much less those of the western New Age Movements). The new creation (e.g., Rev 21 – 22) was inaugurated in Jesus’ resurrection, thus making him the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45). It is the veritable proof that the Day is coming when God will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). Jesus’ resurrection also has cosmic implications, pointing to the “regeneration” of all things (Matt 19:28), something the whole cosmos eagerly awaits—the time when the curse is no more (Rom 8:18—25; cf. Rev 22:3), and when God is finally “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). Therefore, all redemptive history past looked forward to Jesus’ resurrection for the confirmation of all the OT promises; and all redemptive history future flows from the resurrection of the Son of God.

Missionally, Jesus’ resurrection was the central feature of the apostolic preaching as recorded by Dr. Luke in the book of Acts (see 1:22; 2:24, 31, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:2, 10, 33; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 34, 37; 17:18, 32, Rom 1:3, etc.). This should stand as an indictment for the modern church. Proportionate to the record of Acts, the resurrection of Jesus is all but vanished from our preaching and evangelism today, yet it is the center of the redemption we are proclaiming.

Soteriologically, in his resurrection, Jesus was the “firstfruits,” the anticipation of a full harvest of believers at the end of the age (1 Cor 15:40). And because of his resurrection, by faith we become and participate in the new creation (Rom 6:4—5; 2 Cor 4:6; 5:17). Jesus’ resurrection resulted in the outpouring of Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8 – 2), who, dwelling in our hearts, is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Our rebirth is bound-up in his resurrection (1 Pet 1:3), and it is the grounds for our justification, our being put to rights before God’s holiness (Rom 4:25).

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