Resurrection Means Hope

“The Hope and Resurrection of the Dead” (Acts 23:6)mayjune2015final

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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born [begotten] again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). (All scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible.)

Ryan Hangs

Along with the faithful followers of old, who relied on God’s word as the basis for their hopes (Acts 26:6-8), we are likewise exhorted to depend on God’s precious promises for bolstering our hopes (Romans 15:4, 1 Peter 3:15),  thereby decreasing  our anxiety and stress daily. Such fervent hope provides us with strength and encouragement to endure difficult experiences, contrasting present unsettling circumstances with an ultimate “big picture”  outlook of God’s benevolent plan for us and all mankind (Romans 8:28, 1 Timothy 2:3,4). As a result, our hope in God’s precious promises is a potent coping mechanism against despair and an invaluable tool in the Christian “toolbox” for mitigating the vicissitudes of life.

We have a “God of hope” (Romans  15:13), so it is no surprise that the word “hope” occurs often throughout  the Bible, almost 150 times (KJV). By definition, hope indicates a sense of joyful and confident anticipation of something favorable to come, on a personal or even global level. Psychologists recognize the power of hope to influence the human mind and, by extension, the health of the human body.

For  instance, medicinal drug researchers routinely incorporate a control group (receiving an inert placebo) into their clinical trials, to elucidate the efficacy of the tested drug, because hope alone can effect a positive change in health, independent of  any supplemental medicine.

 The Significance of a Resurrection

God required a mechanism to provide all mankind  with life after death, in order to ful- fill His many precious promises to them. This mechanism is resurrection.

The doctrine of the resurrection distinguishes Christianity from practically all other religions. Resurrection is incompatible with immortality of the soul. Inherent to the immortal soul doctrine is a subtle sense of pride (i.e., self-sufficient salvation).  So it is no surprise that our Adversary, the father of pride and lies, initiated this false belief: “thou shall surely not die” (Genesis 3:4). If the soul were immortal, why would Christ have had to die? The hope of man lies not in denying the reality of death, but in the promised resurrection of the dead.

Jesus’ Death Provided the Means of Resurrection for All

As descendants of fallen Adam, we are born in sin and shapened in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). Thus, according to God’s perfect justice, the fair recompense for our sinful nature is death (Genesis 2:17, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23). Furthermore, because death consists of a condition of non-existence in the grave (Psalm 146:4, Ecclesiastes 9:10), the only hope we have for salvation and deliverance from the power of sin and death is through our redemption and resurrection (Acts 4:12). We rejoice daily knowing that God designed a flawless plan to redeem father Adam (and thus all of  his posterity) through Jesus. That plan satisfies God’s perfect justice and it allows a resurrection of all mankind. It provides them the opportunity for reconciliation to God and gaining everlasting life (Hosea 13:14, Romans 5:18-19).

 

Although “resurrection”  is strictly  a New Testament word, the concept was a common belief in Old Testament times, as evidenced by those prior to Jesus who believed in a future resurrection. These included Samuel (1 Samuel  2:6),  Job  (19:25-26), David (Psalm 30:3), Isaiah (26:19), Ezekiel (16:55), Daniel (12:2), the Pharisees (Acts 23:8),  and Abraham (Hebrews 11:19). Death is frequently spoken of metaphorically in the Bible as “sleep,” indicating  plainly that death is a state of unconsciousness,  and explicitly implying a subsequent awakening from death (e.g., 1 Kings 2:10, Daniel 12:2, John 11:11, 14, Acts 7:60, 24:15).

 

Jesus’ Resurrection Vital to the Restoration of Mankind

The resurrection is mankind’s one and only hope of life after death. It plays a critical role in God’s plan of salvation to restore mankind by ending the reign of sin and death on Earth. As our article title implies, resurrection means hope for all who have died, and our Lord Jesus was no exception. Paying the ransom for father Adam did not secure a future existence for Jesus. Instead, it extinguished  his life  as he yielded his life for “the life of the world” (John 6:51, 11:25, 14:6). Jesus became a corresponding price to redeem father Adam, satisfying God’s justice (a perfect man for perfect man). Thus for parts of three days Jesus shared in Adam’s state of non-existence in death.

Jesus’ resurrection validates three important principles: (1) God’s acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifices during his 3½ year ministry, culminating in the ransom sacrifice for Adam on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:21-22), (2) God’s power to resurrect a dead human to a higher order of existence, even to the Divine nature in the spirit realm (Philippians 2:8-10), and (3)  God’s guarantee to release all mankind from the prison house of death (Isaiah 61:1, Acts 17:31).

Resurrection Hopes Are Not Equal

Although the resurrection  hope is assured for all mankind, resurrections experienced among them will differ,  as our Lord tells us: “Those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection  of judgment [for life]” (John 5:28-29). As discussed in subsequent articles in this issue, the different  classes of individu- als who will experience  a resurrection  to life include Jesus, the Faithful Church, the Great Company, and the Ancient Worthies.

The remaining  world of mankind  will be raised from the dead and given an opportunity to gain everlasting  life on Earth as they then learn obedience. In its fullest sense, the resurrection work will be completed when Earth’s billions  reach a state of  mental, moral, and physical  perfection,  thus overcoming  Satan’s reign of sin and death (along with its deleterious effects) and becoming accounted worthy to be called sons of God (Luke 20:35-36, 1 Corinthians 15:26).

It is not possible to effect a positive change in redeemed  mankind’s fallen condition without the resurrection. The ransom is the means (i.e., capital), but the resurrection is the mechanism, facilitating the blessing of all the families of the Earth. Paul considers the resurrection a fundamental  Christian doctrine (Hebrews 6:1-2). Its utility for fulfilling all of the hopes associated with God’s plan can be illustrated by analogy with a wheel (see front cover). The resurrection (the tired rim) provides the operational support required to functionally  move God’s plan forward, by providing the moment of inertia towards realizing all the hopes based on God’s precious promises (the spokes) for different  classes of  individuals.   Our  Lord’s ransom sacrifice (the hub) is central to God’s plan; however, without the tired rim, the hub and spokes would be inoperable. So without the resurrection the propitiation  of God’s justice by Jesus’ sacrifice would have no effect, resulting in unfulfillment of all man’s hopes.

Sharing the Resurrection Hope

In contrast to the godless, whose hopes will perish (Job 8:13, Proverbs 11:7, Ephesians 2:12), our hopes are fixed on God and His sure Word (Romans 15:4, 1 Timothy 6:17). These provide comfort and encouragement,  leading to relatively less stress in our lives compared  to much of the world around us. Hope’s buffering influence is most apparent when coping with the death of loved ones, particularly those who did not share our faith in the Redeemer. What a blessed comfort we have knowing our heavenly Father’s plan to resurrect all mankind in due time and eventually eradicate death (1Corinthians 15:26, 1 Thessalonians 4:13). One of our greatest Christian  privileges is the ability to provide the bereaved with the God-honoring truth that they will be reunited with their loved ones in the Kingdom. Sharing the real Gospel of hope (the “good news of great joy which will be for all people,” Luke 2:10) with the grieving will not only provide them with much needed comfort and relief but also embolden our efforts to be faithful to the Lord unto death (Proverbs 11:25, 1 Corinthians 9:16, 1 Peter 3:15). Let us continue to be living epistles by displaying our confident  expectation  of God’s promised resurrection for all.

 

Categories: 2015 Issues, 2015-May/June

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