“Jesus Christ, who is... the firstborn from the dead” (Revelation 1:5).
When Jesus rose from the dead, he was the “firstborn from the dead.” What exactly does that mean? It means he is the first person who ever rose from the dead never to die again. During his ministry Jesus raised several people from the dead, including Lazarus who had been dead four days (John 11). Each occasion was a remarkable miracle, but they had this in common. All of the people Jesus raised would eventually die again.
But not Jesus himself.
When he came forth from the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, he rose once and for all. When he left the grave, he left for good. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead in the sense that he is the first in a long line of people who will be raised from the dead never to die again.
I find great comfort in this. Over the years I have presided at many funerals. I know what it’s like to stand at the graveside and try to say something hopeful in the calloused face of death. It’s not easy to pray when someone you love has been taken from you. No wonder the Bible calls death “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
In those moments I find strength in one thing and one thing only. Jesus has conquered the grave and done what no mortal man has ever done. He has come back from the dead never to die again. What happens to those who believe in him? Thank God, we are not left to wonder or to speculate. God himself has spoken on that subject. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NASB) says, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
“If we believe.” It is as simple and as difficult as that. You will never convince yourself of the resurrection by camping out in a cemetery. If you go to a cemetery and wait for a resurrection, you’ll have to wait a long time. After all, the last one happened over 2,000 years ago. But we have the word of God that overrides anything we can see with our eyes. Our faith in the resurrection of the dead does not rest in what our eyes can see. Our faith rests in that act of God whereby he raised Jesus from the dead. If God can do that, he can do anything.
My Lord, when I am tempted to doubt your promises, remind me that you rose from the dead just as you said. Thank you that my future is secure because you are the first but not the last to rise from the dead. Amen.