Happy Easter! Today, we’re gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is the most important event in human history. It was the first and only time that someone was raised from the dead never to die again.
To get started with today’s message called “Death Defeated,” let’s watch a short video about Jesus’ death and resurrection called A Tangible Passion. Why is the resurrection so important for this world and everyone living on it? We’ve already said that the resurrection is a one-of-a-kind event in world history. Let’s look at some other reasons why the resurrection is important to each one of us. Jesus Himself prophesied many times that he would rise from the dead.
Matthew 17:22b-23a (ESV) … Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
If Jesus had stayed dead, he would have been a false prophet. It would have called all of his other teachings into question. The resurrection is important because a person must believe in the resurrection in order to be saved.
Romans 10:9 (ESV) if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
That verse is pretty clear about the resurrection. In fact to say that Jesus is Lord means that He’s alive today, which could only happen through the resurrection. Without the resurrection, there could be no forgiveness of sin and no hope of eternal life. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then He himself would not have eternal life. We would have no hope of an eternal life with God after death.
1 Corinthians 15:14 (ESV) And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Without the resurrection, faith would have no object and Christianity would never have begun. But the good news is that Jesus was raised from the dead. Nothing else fits the eyewitness accounts in the Gospels about the resurrection. Nothing else explains the explosive growth of Christianity on the death of its leader, unless He was still alive.
The resurrection impacts not only our salvation, but our daily lives with the Lord. Because Jesus is alive, He continues to pour out of His Spirit on us. So, today, we’re going to see how Easter 2000 years ago can impact our lives today and into eternity. Let’s see how the resurrection is relevant for you and me today in the year 2021.
1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV) But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15 is a detailed discussion of the implications of the resurrection. I’d encourage you to read the whole chapter on your own this week. Paul emphatically states that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Paul knows because Jesus physically appeared to him on the road to Damascus.
But the hope that we can have because of Easter is given in the second phrase. Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep or died. The firstfruits were offered in worship at the Passover celebration. They signified that there was the greater harvest to follow. So, even though Christ was the first to rise from the dead into eternal life, many more would follow. Let’s now look at how the resurrection of Christ speaks to believers.
1 Corinthians 15:22-23 (ESV) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Because of Adam’s sin, all people sinned and so died spiritually. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, all people have the possibility of being made alive or resurrected.
When will the resurrection of those who belong to Christ occur? Believers will be resurrected from the dead at the return of Jesus to earth. Christ is the firstfruits of those raised from the dead and the rest of believers who have died are the great harvest at Christ’s return.
1 Corinthians 15:25-26 (ESV) For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
The final events of history will involve Jesus destroying all his enemies, both human and supernatural. Destroying his enemies involves sending them to eternal torment in hell, as the book of Revelation describes. The final enemy to be destroyed is death. When death is destroyed, no believer will ever die again. All will be alive eternally with Jesus.
So, Easter provides hope. Hope is the confident assurance that as believers, we will also be resurrected and spend eternity with Jesus and other believers. No matter how difficult things may get for us in this world, we have the hope that we’re headed for a better world in which all death and pain has been eliminated.
To be hopeless is to have nothing to look forward to in the future. For many people today, the future looks dark and hopeless. Yet, for the believer, God gives us hope in this life to fulfill His purpose.
And He gives us a living hope that eternal life with God will be better than we could possibly imagine. In a world that seems to have lost hope in so many ways, the hope of the resurrection is something that we should shout from the rooftops. Easter provides hope.
1 Corinthians 15:45 (ESV) Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
Adam was created from the dust of the earth to live on earth. Yet, through sin, death came to Adam and all other human beings. Jesus is the last Adam, and He became a life-giving spirit. This speaks of Jesus’ resurrected or glorified body.
While Jesus’ resurrected or spiritual body could still do the things we do as human beings, it could do so much more. We really don’t know what all the capabilities of a resurrected spiritual body are.
1 Corinthians 15:48 (ESV) As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.
Again, Paul breaks down the entire human race into two categories. The first are basically sons of Adam, children of the dust of the earth, simply flesh and blood. Jesus is the man of heaven and those who believe in Him are children of heaven. It does not yet appear what we will be, but we know that when Christ returns, something wonderful will happen to our physical bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:49-50 (ESV) Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Our resurrected bodies will be like that of the resurrected Jesus, the man of heaven. Jesus could appear and disappear, ascend into heaven and do other things no human being was capable of. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom and those who are not spiritual cannot enter it. To enter the kingdom of God, you must be a spiritual person who believes in Jesus.
And ultimately, you must not be simply a person of flesh and blood, but a believer who has received an eternal resurrected body. Having such a body will enable us to enter into the presence of God and live. Easter prepares us for heaven.
As wonderful as the created world around us is, there are a lot of things that we wouldn’t want to live with forever. The sin in the world seems to be getting worse, as are the natural disasters of all kinds. The Bible tells us that the entire physical world is under the curse of sin, just as people are.
Easter prepares us for heaven, although heaven is not going to be what many people think. In fact, the Bible speaks of a new heaven and a new earth. You see, earth is not going away, it is going to be renewed. Jesus human body was transformed into a glorified body that had both physical and supernatural characteristics. So, it will be for the new heavens and new earth. Heaven will come down to an earth purified of all sin and death. To live in such a place, we must have these imperishable glorified bodies. Easter prepares us for eternity.
1 Corinthians 15:52 (ESV) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
Now, we get some details about what is going to happen at the return of Christ. First of all, a trumpet will sound, signaling the return of Jesus. Then those believers who have died will be raised up with imperishable or glorified bodies. Then those believers who are still alive when Jesus returns will be changed or transformed. So, those believers who are alive at Christ’s return will never die physically.
1 Corinthians 15:54 (ESV) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Our bodies of flesh and blood are perishable and mortal. But we will be transformed by the power of God, just as Jesus’ dead body was resurrected with that same power. The power of God will swallow up and defeat death. The final victory will involve removing every enemy of God from His kingdom.
1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Even though we do not see the total victory of Jesus today, we look forward to it with great hope. The power of the resurrection is available to us today to give us the victory in our lives. We see in Jesus’ ministry the power of the kingdom breaking into our fallen world. We saw people healed, demons cast out, miracles happening, and people saved.
The same is happening today around the world. I want to be part of the victory in a greater way in 2021 and I hope that you do to.
The Bible teaches in Hebrews 2:15 that the fear of death holds all people in slavery. The good news is that through believing in Jesus, the fear of death is broken. Rather than fearing death, we believe that death is simply a gateway into the presence of God and ultimately to an eternal body that will never die. Satan holds the power of death and by Christ’s defeat of Satan, we need not fear death. When we realize that we need not fear death, then all other fears are erased as well. If our future with Jesus is secure, then there is nothing that we need to worry or be anxious about in this life. God’s got it all under control, as we follow the direction of the risen Lord.
Polycarp was an early church father who is thought to be the last surviving person who had known one of the apostles, in his case John. At 86 years of age, he was arrested and brought before a Roman procounsel. He was instructed to renounce Christ and worship Caesar. Polycarp’s reply was “86 years have I served him, and he never did me wrong. How can I now blaspheme my King that has saved me?” He was threatened to be devoured by wild beasts and then to be burned alive. Polycarp showed no fear, nor anger at his captors, but continued in prayer until he died as a martyr in the fire.
What did Polycarp pray in his final moments? He prayed about the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body without fear. In the same way, whatever worry or fear you may be facing in your life, the reality of the resurrection can erase that fear and fill you with hope. Easter erases fear.
It seems as if our world today is facing a crisis of hopelessness and fear. The answer for this crisis lies in the resurrection of Jesus who defeated death. Let’s apply these truths to our own lives and share them with others. Easter provides hope, both for this life and for eternity. Easter prepares us for heaven, for eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. Finally, Easter erases fear when we truly grasp the significance of the resurrection. Not only was Christ resurrected, but we as believers will be resurrected as well. We look forward to the return of Christ when death will be completely defeated. As we grasp the perfect love of Christ, it drives out all fear from our lives. May the resurrection give each us boldness and courageous to live for Christ every day of our lives.