17 Apr 2006

The Promise of Easter: The Meaning of Christian Hope

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Easter, eschatology, Heaven, Ministry, Mission, Preaching, Romans
Easter Sunday. Yes, I know that “every” Sunday is Easter Sunday. But Easter is the day we look forward to as disciples of the Christ. It is a tradition with many to make a pilgrimage to the mall to purchase a new outfit in celebration of the day. We have special meals. In my family we have a blast painting “Easter” eggs, hiding them for our annual family Easter egg hunt, and do family devotions about the resurrection of the Son of Man. The things of Easter are meaningful and bring joy to our lives.

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 creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8.18-24a)

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.

In reality Easter points to God’s ultimate goal. The old Stoned-Campbell writer, David Lipscomb captured that goal quite nicely. And though Lipscomb did not use the language “the Promise of Easter” he does point to that reality. He wrote,

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).

The Promise of Easter is that God is restoring shalom to his world. The Promise of Easter is that God is “rehabilitating” creation to the “dignity and the glory” it had when the Lord of Creation brought it into existence.
No wonder we find Easter a time of such joy. Celebrate it. Relish it as the firstfruit of God’s shalom.
Happy Easter,
Bobby V

6 Responses to “The Promise of Easter: The Meaning of Christian Hope”

  1. Steve Puckett Says:

    Good discussion, Bobby. I saw your post on my buddy’s site, Cecil Walker, CWINWC. He and I co-direct a week of Bible camp every year and are definitely kindred spirits.

    Peace.

  2. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Steve, so good of you to come by Stoned-Campbell Disciple. Camp is a great thing. I have been on the board of Wisconsin Christian Youth Camp for several years now and have gone to “Junior Camp” as Head Bible teacher three years in a row. This year I will be missing it however because of conflicting obligations.

    It is good to know “Cecil’s” name. I hope to get to know you guys better in coming days.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  3. Stoogelover Says:

    Bobby: Saw you through Cecil Walker’s blog site. Love your moniker!

    I grew up in north Alabama (as did Steve Puckett a.k.a. “the Puckster”) and would love to know more about where you came from in that area. Me? Florence, Sheffield area. And yes, very conservative / legalistic area. Love the people there … never talk “religion” with any of them any more.

    Good post! I’ll be back often.
    Greg England
    Long Beach, Alabama

  4. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Greg, what a blessing to “meet” you. I too grew up on North Alabama (St.Florian). I graduated from Wilson High School and IBC (Wilson might claim me but IBC probably won’t). I went to college with Keith Davis . . . though I can not say we were great friends at that time. I suppose we traveled in different circles back then. Last I knew he was at Florence Blvd but I was glad to see he was at Creekside. (My beloved brother Bob Hendren used to preach there too).

    There are many beloved folks in that area. Great hearts. Sometimes, sadly, some miss the joy of salvation through a lack luster understanding of grace and the power of the indwelling Spirit.

    Thanks for coming by. I welcome you and your comments. I will be updating my blog several times a week.

    Hope to see you at Pepperdine.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  5. Stoogelover Says:

    How do we do that … meet at Pepperdine? Keith will be there with us and I’d love to meet you. My email is greg.england[at]gmail[dot]com
    Write me there and we’ll figure out a time / place to meet.

    The Keith I know is not the Keith you knew then. He’s grown tremendously and thrown off so much of the legalistic baggage.

    Bob was a freind of mine as well. My mother grew so much under his teaching for many years. He is one of the all time Greek teachers, in my opinion.

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Greg,

    Perhaps the easiest way for you and I to meet would be at one of the three evening presentations that John Mark Hicks and myself are doing. If you look in your Pepperdine lectureship booklet it will tell you the time and the place starting Tuesday nite.

    I will be at the lectures all week long so we can hook up anytime in between. I would love to see Keith again as well.

    There are a number of guys from IBC who have “changed” from when I was there: Sid Dye, Eric Robinson, Keith, Wade Tannehill, and others as well. I ran into Sid at the Tulsa Workshop several weeks ago.

    God is good to us . . . and the Churches of Christ.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine
    Milwuakee, WI
    http://www.sside-church.org

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