What Does 'Resurrection' Really Mean?
- Jessica Udall Contributing Writer
- 2021 21 Jul
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” is a phrase commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Though death is a certainty, we tend to avoid thinking or talking about it in any serious way.
We dance around its reality with many coping mechanisms. Some people consciously avoid things that make them think about death’s inevitability, maintaining the illusion of immortality through fitness, beauty treatments, and positive thinking. Others seek to face death head-on, but slant-wise, making mortality morosely entertaining through ghost stories, murder mysteries, or the true crime genre.
But God has given us a means of facing our mortality head-on that is far more healthy and literally life-giving: trusting that the resurrection of Jesus means that death is not the end for us.
What Does Resurrection Mean in the Bible?
Death and resurrection was a theme of Jesus’ earthly teaching and ministry. In John 6:40, he says: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” In John 14:19, Jesus reassures his disciples: “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” In Luke 7:11-17, Jesus raises a widow’s son from the dead, causing the people to glorify God.
When his dear friend Lazarus died, Jesus said to Lazarus’s sister, Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
It is key to note, however, that though Jesus knew that resurrection was possible and even that He would soon raise Lazarus from the dead, John records that Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” to the point that “Jesus wept” when he came to the tomb and saw Jesus’ other sister, Mary, and the mourners weeping (John 11:33-35).
In doing so, Jesus gives grief the gravity it deserves, while also showing those who trust in Him that there is hope beyond the grave.
3 Things the Resurrection Means for Believers or Christians:
Though the widow’s son and Lazarus were miraculously raised from the dead and given another chance to live their lives on the earth, they still eventually died. In other words, Jesus’ supernatural work in their lives did not prevent natural causes from ending their lives again. Death will come to us all, but the resurrection means that:
1. We Have Hope That Goes beyond This Life
Paul is clear that the resurrection is the very crux of our faith. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity:
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 19).
Oh, but Christ has been raised! He is risen--he is risen, indeed! For the person who has been united with Christ through salvation, death is not the end--there is resurrection life to be had both in this life and even more gloriously in the life to come. This hope of new life is a source of joy and transformation in those “who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory” and “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Though we still mourn over death, the resurrection infuses our grief with hope. “Brothers and sisters,” says Paul, “we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
2. We Have Power to Walk in Newness of Life
Because Jesus was raised from the dead, “death no longer has any hold over him” (Romans 6:9). Paul reminds believers that “the death [Jesus] died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10).
Because of this, Paul can exhort believers to live lives informed and empowered by the resurrection: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) because “we were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).
3. We Have Good News to Share
The hope and power of resurrection life is the heart of the good news that we share with others. Indeed, when talking about “the gospel,” Paul summarizes with the following: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
As “Christ’s ambassadors,” it is “as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20) as we proclaim the beautiful truth that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
How Should We Share the Meaning of the Resurrection?
As we have discussed above, the resurrection has great meaning: it gives “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” to believers. As such, the lives of believers will be characterized with a kind of solid joy that goes deeper than circumstance.
Though we grieve the fallenness of the world--including the reality of physical death--we also hold on to “hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19) because we are trusting in the promises of the God who said “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).
From this stance of hope, we can share joyfully with others that this hope is for the whole world: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Death is a reality that must be faced eventually. But resurrection is a reality too--one that fills our lives with hope and joy. Jesus died and was raised again for our salvation, and through our union with Him we have a secure and firm hope that death is not the end for us--rather, we too will be raised to eternal life! Jesus’ resurrection also has implications for us even now, giving us the power to walk in newness of life.
This is the good news that we share, like the popular hymn "Because He Lives" proclaims:
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow /
Because He lives, all fear is gone /
Because I know He holds the future /
And life is worth the living /
Just because He lives.”
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/thekopmylife
Jessica Udall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible and a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies and writes on the Christian life and intercultural communication at lovingthestrangerblog.com.