The Promise of Easter: The Meaning of Christian HopeAuthor: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Easter, eschatology, Heaven, Ministry, Mission, Preaching, Romans
In many ways these rather innocent traditions that have grown up around Easter reflect the deeper promise of Easter . . . even when we are unaware of that promise. Those family traditions celebrate a state of joy, blessedness and (perhaps) renewed innocence. Or to put it another way those traditions reflect the embrace of God’s Shalom. The promise of Easter is that God’s is making everything “right” and “renewing” that which is fallen. That is the joy factor in Easter. Things will be, once again, just as God intended them to be.
The apostle Paul asserts that the resurrection of the dead is an essential component of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15). It is important for us to remember one of the cardinal rules of biblical interpretation when reading what Paul says in 1 Corinthians about the resurrection: historical context. Just because the Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection does not mean they did not believe in life after the grave! Most folks in the first century A.D. believed in life after the grave. The Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul. These are not 20th century secular humanists Paul is addressing. What they are denying, and what was common for many in the first century, was the resurrection of the body.
Yet for Paul the physical, material, resurrection of Jesus from the grave was of critical importance . . . not the immortality of the soul, not some disembodied eternal life. Paul argues that Jesus’ resurrection reverses something that was started by Adam. He likewise links our hope to Jesus’ through the image of “firstfruits” (1 Cor 15.20-23). Adam’s sin had a cosmic impact and polluted not just the “spiritual” side of humanity but brought a curse to God’s established Shalom in this world (cf. Roman 5.12ff; 8.20f). The Promise of Easter is that in the resurrection of Jesus God has dealt a mortal blow to the vandalism that invaded not just people but his entire created order.
Picking up on that image of “firstfruits” once again Paul says that the Spirit has been given, as a result of Jesus cross and resurrection, as a sign that God is redeeming our entire person and the entire world.
The Promise of Easter is that God loves and values all of who we are, not just our “souls.” The Promise of Easter is that God loves and values all of his creation and not merely one part of it. Jesus could have got into “immortal” life as a disembodied spirit. The Greeks would have been quite happy with that. But Paul says God raised the BODY of Jesus because is not just about saving the spirit of humanity but the entire creation. The Promise of Easter is that you and I, as God’s creatures matter to him and that God longs for us to live as he fully intended humans to live from the beginning.
“The object of God’s dealing with man, and especially the mission of Christ to earth, was to rescue the world from the rule and dominion of the evil one, from the ruin into which it had fallen through sin, and to rehabilitate it with the dignity and the glory it had when it came from the hand of God” (Salvation from Sin, p. 114).