"God...raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God."
1 Peter 1:21
You may have noticed that the song that we just sang a moment ago (The Day of Resurrection) was written over 1300 years ago. It was written by a man whose name was John of Damascus. It is said that John of Damascus started his hymn-writing career with a funeral hymn for a fellow monk. The monk wasn’t dead yet, but everyone thought his death was imminent. So John prepared his song and was singing it loudly in his room in order to test it out. Suddenly the monk for whom it was written burst into the room and scolded John for raising such a racket.
Tradition has it that John was expelled from the monastery for a brief period for causing the disturbance. But the abbot realized that John would do great things with music, and, as a result, welcomed him back.
What is interesting is that this hymn embodies that very story in which it was written. The song reminds us that there will come a day when there will be loud peals bellowing forth from heaven. And those who are on their death beds (and all those who’ve already made their beds in the graves of death) will come rushing forth. There will be a day of resurrection!
When you read the Bible, you cannot help but notice that this truth is hammered home again and again. It is said that there are over 350 verses in the New Testament alone that deal with the theme of resurrection. Most of these deal particularly with the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Each of the gospels records for us an account of his resurrection. That he came up again from the grave is the main theme of every sermon that is recorded in the book of Acts. Then, through each of the epistles, you hear clear intonations of this truth. Our passage this morning is just one such example.
That this one episode receives such attention reminds us that the resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in all of history. At the very least it tells us that it is perhaps the most significant event for our faith. And because it is so central, it is always good to remind ourselves how great an event it is.
Certainly that is what the passage before is designed to do. Even though this verse is a subset of another sentence it teaches us some great things about the resurrection of Christ. The verse begins by saying that “God raised him from the dead.” This, I might say, may be just a reminder that the resurrection of Christ was a supernatural event.
I. It’s a supernatural event
This should come as no surprise to you. A resurrection by its very nature is miraculous. It is something that can occur only by the direct intervention of God. And while that may be obvious to you, I think we should take a moment and consider it.
We live in a time where the supernatural world is denied at every turn. As Christians we are looked down upon because, as some would say, we believe in “fanciful” ideas like the resurrection.
To the modern man this sounds like one of the most preposterous things in the world. That’s because most people today have embraced a godless or atheistic worldview. The most common worldview today is what you might call a materialistic worldview. The only things that exist, in their eyes, are material things or things of nature. That is to say, they only believe in things you can see, taste, smell and touch. In their eyes there isn’t room for things that are immaterial (like angels, a soul, or God). So it is no wonder that they deny the possibility of a resurrection. They say it can’t happen because they say that there is no spiritual realm.
This is something that came about much because of the Enlightenment—or, as you have heard me say before, the “En-darken-ment.” During the latter half of the 17th century and into the 18th century people began to think differently about the world and about life. Up until this time, most people embraced the Christian world-view. That meant that they took the Bible seriously and believed all that it said. So they believed that there is a spiritual dimension to life. During the enlightenment though, there was a shift. Instead of relying upon revelation as their ultimate authority in life, they began to appeal their own reason.
With this humanistic (or man centered) view of things there came to be no room for the spiritual world. That’s why I call it the Endarkenment because, in leaving the Bible, their hearts were darkened and they were blinded to much that exists in life. But what happened is that people began to throw doubt on the possibility of the resurrection. And this was happening even in the church!
Karl Barth was a fellow who is an excellent example of this. He was once to speak at a conference and a reporter from Christianity Today went to interview him. As they talked the reporter began to catch a vibe that Barth didn’t really believe that really and physically Christ rose from the dead. So he asked him outright. He said, “If someone were there on the first Easter morning with a camera, could he have caught a picture of Christ?” Barth responded by saying, “I’m sorry. Did you say you were from Christianity Yesterday?” That was his way of saying, “Come on, man! Get with the times! We’ve moved beyond that! Science has proven that men don’t rise from the dead.”
Other people are not as blatant as Barth. While there are those, like Barth, who dismiss the resurrection altogether, others like to romanticize it or redefine it. G.I.Williamson once said that he saw a minister being interviewed on television and he was asked whether or not he believed in the resurrection. He said, “Yes, I absolutely do.” The reported knew enough to ask, “Do you believe in the resurrection of Karl Marx?” The guy who was being interviewed recognized that he had been backed into a corner. Fortunately he answered honestly and said, “Yes.” He said he believed in the resurrection of Jesus. But what he meant was something completely different than what you and I believe. He did not believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead. Rather he believed that Jesus was resurrected simply by living on in the hearts and minds of his followers.
Both of these were examples of men who had rejected what the Bible said. Having rejected Scripture, they had rejected God and all things spiritual. So the possibility of the resurrection is completely absurd to them.
This is not true for us though. We believe that it is a completely logical thing because we understand that there is more to life than what you can see and touch. We believe that there is an all powerful Being who controls the events of history—and we believe that He is able to tweak the laws of nature by his supernatural power. As a result, we believe that the resurrection is most definitely a possibility. It would be an easy thing for God to do.
So we have to remember that this is something that is going to be unique to us. We will be looked on as queer because we believe in God and his power to bring the dead back to life.
But as we think about the resurrection, we must remember that it was not just a supernatural event, it was also a monumental event.
II. It’s a monumental event
The resurrection of Christ is the most profound event in history. It was an event was of epic proportions for two reasons. It accomplishes our redemption and advances our nature.
A. It accomplishes our redemption
Most likely you already know that it accomplishes our redemption. 1 Corinthians tells us that if Christ were not raised from the dead, we would still be in our sins. To put it another way, to believe in a savior that did not rise from the dead, it would be worse than believing in no savior at all! The resurrection of Christ is what guarantees our place in heaven. It guarantees the redemption of our bodies because it is what confirms the notion that sin and death have been dealt the final and definitive blow.
As I said though, you are most likely all too familiar with this notion that the resurrection of Jesus accomplishes our redemption. What you might not have known is that Christ’s resurrection advances our nature.
B. It advances our nature
What do I mean by that? If you look at this passage you will notice that it says that God “raised him from the dead and gave him glory.”
Those last three words are the ones I want you to focus on. These words tell us that, when Christ rose from the grave, there was something qualitatively different about him. His body was not the same as it was a few days before. Yes, it was the same body that went into the tomb, but it was radically different from it was a few days before. It now had glory—a glory that it did not have before.
Now make sure you understand this. The substance was the same (that is to say, it was the same body and it was made out of the same stuff), but its status had changed. It had advanced into a new state because God had glorified it.
What I’m trying to say is that Jesus did not return to a normal mode of living. And the salvation that he brings is not just a restoration of our current human nature. It is an improvement of it.
What we are talking about here is the doctrine of glorification. That is to say our bodies are made immortal, incorruptible, and endowed with new power and spiritual nature. We typically think about being made free from sin and returned to a state of wholeness (i.e. we have a new vigor and don’t have the aches and pains associated with age). But the Bible makes it clear that there is something more that happens. Our earth-i-ness is done away with and we become fit for the presence of God in the New Heavens and New Earth with glorified bodies.
The best way I can illustrate this is like this: Suppose you have an old Model T. Its condition is more than a little dilapidated. It is rusted out. It is beaten up. And if it happens to run (which it usually doesn’t), it doesn’t run right. Now you take that old, junky Model T to a foundry and say that you would like to have it melted down and then re-fabricated. So the company takes the thing, melts it down. Then, with the same metal, they fashion a supercharged Mustang GT fitted out with all the perks.
It is made of all the same stuff, but it has been radically improved. Now it has a power and beauty and grandeur that it did not have before.
This is what happens in the resurrection. The apostle Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:42-45, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
Paul is saying there that you become a supercharged Mustang GT! This is why I say that the resurrection of Christ is monumental. In his resurrection Christ progresses the work of creation. Adam was the handiwork of God. But Adam was earthy in his orientation because he was made out of the earth. Moreover he was corruptible because he was able to die. And Jesus came in the likeness of Adam and in the likeness of sinful man. But when he rose from the dead, all of that changed. He rose with a glorified body.
And one day, our bodies will be glorified too because of it!
Now that we’ve seen that something of how the resurrection of Christ is a supernatural and monumental event, let’s think about how it is an effectual event.
III. It’s a effectual event
The passage ends by reminding us that Christ’s resurrection does something for us. As a result of this supernatural, monumental event it says, “your faith and hope are in God.” In other words, because of Christ’s resurrection, we know that there is more to life. Sin and death will not have the final say. We know that there is more to come.
That is the essence of hope!
There are two kinds of hope. There is the kind of hope that a kid has on Christmas morning. It is a wishful thinking hope. It is a cross your fingers kind of hope. Leading up to Christmas a child can give all sorts of hints about what he wants to find under the Christmas tree. He can say, “Boy, this bike of mine is getting a little old.” He can leave the catalog open on the kitchen table on the page that has all the bikes on it. And he can circle the one he wants with a big fat Sharpie marker so it is sure to be seen. He can draw all sorts of pictures of the kind of bike that he wants. Then, on the night before Christmas, he can hope that he will find a new bike when he wakes up.
But that is not real hope. That is not Biblical hope. That is wishful thinking. That is nothing more than a strong desire.
Biblical hope is not like that. Biblical hope has to do with assurance. It is a confident expectation. It is the kind of hope that knows for certain that what is hoped for will come to be realized in a matter of time. That is the kind of hope that the Christian possesses as a result of the resurrection of Christ. Because Christ rose from the dead we know that there is more to life than what we now experience. We expect that a day will come when Christ will return. We know that, since Christ rose again, we too will rise in triumph to live forever. Our ultimate hope is the assurance we have that one day the whole world will be transformed.
It is a lot like having a foundation laid for a house. If you walk by a plot of land that has been dug out, has had block laid, and there are all sorts of construction materials and machinery sitting around, you recognize that a building is being constructed there. You know that if you come back past this plot of land in a few months, you will find the final product. You expect to see that some sort of structure will have been raised there.
That is what this passage is telling us. The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope in God. Because Christ initiated the work of salvation, we have the hope that he will bring it to completion. It is a guarantee that God will do away with sin and death completely. It is our guarantee that Christ will not only glorify his people, but he will glorify himself in the consummation of his redemptive work.
Really, the event that occurred on that first Easter morning is something that just whets our appetite. It is like an appetizer that you might find at a fancy restaurant. You take a bit of it and you are enthralled. It is so good. But if that is what the appetizer is like, just think what the main course will be like! The resurrection of Christ is great. Through it we come to have the resurrection of our own souls. But it points us to something greater. It points us to the fact that there is a main course still yet to come.
When that time comes, we shall have the full serving. Sin will be no more, and we shall be glorified. We will enter into the eternal kingdom and find ourselves radically renewed.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.