An Easter Meditation
by Bob Burridge ©2011
There are good reasons to celebrate at this time of the year. Easter is a day we all enjoy, but it isn’t a holiday set up in the Bible. It’s a blending of the resurrection of Jesus with holidays and traditions from different cultures, cults, and religions in various times and places.
Even the ancient pagan religions saw the beauty of Spring, and set a time to celebrate it. It’s a sad fact though that those still tragically lost in spiritual blindness miss appreciating God’s glory in it all. They see the amazing way things seem to come back to life after a long winter, but they miss what it’s telling us about the one who made it all and keeps it all working. So the ancients made up god’s and spirit beings they honored at that time of year. As the message of Christianity spread into the different parts of the world the Spring holidays were adjusted and brought together on what we call Easter.
In the time of Moses, the Passover feast was established around this time of the year on their calendar. It celebrated how God delivered Israel from hopeless captivity in Egypt.
God planned that feast to teach about the Savior who would come to die in their place. Just as a lamb died in place of the first born sons back in Egypt, Jesus, the Lamb of God, came to die in place of his people on the cross at Calvary. Then he rose again from the dead to prove that he accomplished what he came to do.
All the beauties of spring and the wonders of the promises of God come together this time of year. We love to hunt for baskets of candy, get together for a good dinner, come to worship, and most usually get a day off from school or work. However, Easter is more than a time for budding trees, warming temperatures, and new spring outfits.
Those who don’t have hope in Christ are left with just the celebration of Spring. There’s a lot to celebrate when we think of the resurrection of our Savior. The date doesn’t fit well into our calendar because it’s based on the date of Passover. The day after Jesus and his followers celebrated that biblical feast, our Savior was crucified. On the third day after that, on Sunday, the first day of the week on the Roman calendar, Jesus rose from the dead.
The victory of Resurrection is often missed
because people don’t understand why it happened.
It’s not just a promise of life after death. It’s proof that the cause of death was overcome.
In 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul explained the details of what Christ’s resurrection was about. In verses 3-4 he wrote, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
The first issue he mentions here is the most primary truth of all. Christ died for our sins. This is the focus of the entire Bible. He didn’t just die as a martyr to inspire us, or to stir us up against evil. He died to deal with the problem of sin.
It was God’s first promise after Adam and Eve sinned. While they were still in Eden God said that One would be born of a woman who would strike at the head of the serpent.
God explained it more as history unfolded. Today we know that Jesus was that Christ, the promised one; and he fulfilled the promise. He died in place of his sinful people to fully pay for their sins. Death was the penalty, and he paid it in full for all those he represented there on the cross.
Isaiah 53 is one of the places that told about his work hundreds of years before Christ’s birth. In verses 4-6 the Prophet wrote, “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Then 1 Corinthians 15 says that he was buried to show that he was really dead. They laid his dead body in a tomb, sealed the door, and posted Roman guards. His body truly died. His human soul was separated from it while he remained in the grave.
Then, as the final and complete evidence that death was conquered He rose again from the dead on the third day. Everything came about just the way God said it would in his word. When sin was overcome by the Messiah, death was conquered too, because death is the penalty for sin. That’s what the Scriptures said.
For example, there’s the promise in Isaiah 26:19, “Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead.”
This was one of the promises God gave in his Covenant with his people. All that happened surrounding the death of Jesus took place according to the Scriptures. Not only in the Gospel books of the New Testament that recorded the events and their meaning, but also the Books of the Old Testament that foretold what God would do.
Later in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul went on to make sure we understand what God accomplished.
Every true believer in Christ’s work will experience resurrection.
Verses 51-54 of that chapter say, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
There will be an unexpected moment, while we’re going about our regular routines, when God will announce the end of this long period of history on earth. Those who have already died will be raised up in restored bodies, and those alive will be changed. This promise of dramatic change applies to all of us who are redeemed by God’s grace.
What we will be like then is beyond anything we are now or can even imagine. Believers will all be transformed into something far greater at the resurrection. Their bodies will be reconstituted and joined again with their souls. Their new form will be specially suited for their life in heavenly glory with the Lord forever. All that ages, and breaks and wears out with time, will be upgraded into an eternal form. Death and aging will be gone forever and a whole new era will begin.
It will happen instantly! Literally, the text literally says we shall all be changed “in an atom.” That’s the Greek word in the original text. It means, an indivisible piece of time. Instantaneously. When the time comes, it won’t be a drawn out process. God will do it all at once. There won’t be warning signs like there were when God judged Jerusalem in 70 AD. Some day, when things are going along as if nothing beyond the usual is going to happen, Jesus Christ will appear in a way much more spectacular than his first coming. It will be openly visible everywhere, not like his humble birth in that simple room in Bethlehem.
At that moment, both the living and the dead in Christ will be transformed. Bodies that up to that time became diseased, injured, and deteriorated will be corrupted no more. They will be made incorruptible, and immortal — they will never die. When this change takes place at the great resurrection, death will be swallowed up in victory.
Then Paul went on to explain why death isn’t our master anymore.
I Corinthians 15:55-58, ” ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
The word “Hades” is translated as “Grave” in the older 1611 translation. The Greek word hadaes (αδης) had many uses at the time Paul wrote this. It was sometimes used for the grave where the body is buried. Sometimes it was used for for hell where unredeemed souls suffer for their sins. It was also used in a more generally general sense to describe the unseen realm of souls where the dead (righteous and unrighteous) go after this life. Since this passage is about the body being raised up to rejoin the soul at the resurrection, here it probably means the “grave”.
Paul is probably using the language of Hosea 13:14, though not exactly quoting it. There is says, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes.”
What this verse is saying is the point Paul’s making here. Where is the sting, the painful punishment of death? where did it go? Where is the victory that makes people think the grave will overcome them in the end? These threats and sorrows of death and the grave are now gone. They aren’t there any more.
When a debt is paid, it can’t be collected anymore. Jesus Christ paid the debt of sin, so the debt of death can’t be collected anymore. He was raised up to show that death’s grip had been overcome,
This promise is ours now too. The resurrection of God’s children is assured. The pain that terrorizes people about death is taken away. It’s not pain anymore. Its venom is taken away. We will be with the Lord at death, in a life far better than the best of lives lived here.
Verse 58 of 1 Corinthians 15 shows us how we should therefore be living. Considering this great victory, and the certain triumph that’s coming for you, you should be steadfast and immovable, not giving in to the pressures and power of evil. You should be always abounding in the Lord’s work, doing what’s good in the eyes of God.
When you’re doing the Lord’s work, your labor is never in vain. There is in fact great reward.
Nobody wants to work hard for his regular pay check, then not get paid, or find out that he’s getting paid a lot less than he thought his work deserved. That can’t happen in your labor for Christ and his Kingdom. When it comes to our work here on earth this side of the resurrection, all that we do for the God’s glory will abound to blessings now and more after this life is over. The reward has already been earned, not by you, but by your Savior in your place. Our engagement in declaring the glories of the King of Kings, the only Creator and Redeemer, is rewarding to us because we love to serve our Savior and to be what we were made to be.
The resurrection of Jesus was more than a receipt that our debt was taken care of. It was the arrival of the product itself. We have that certain hope in our possession today!
When something breaks down, you know it’s fixed when it starts working again. We know that sin was overcome because life was restored and proven by Christ’s resurrection. Things are working again for God’s redeemed people, and they will live forever in glory.
Lives don’t end at the time of death. They never really end. When our life here is over, those redeemed by grace will immediately enjoy living in the presence of their Savior. When that period of time is over their bodies will be resurrected. Those who sincerely put their trust in the finished work of our Savior will begin an eternity of living in glory, finally perfected and fit for heaven.
That’s how the resurrection of Christ instructs us about living for God’s glory today. It’s evidence of the truth of all that God promises us in his word. It gives us personal hope in facing the reality of death, both our own and that of our loved ones. It balances the value of this present life in relation to our eternal future, and it’s proof of the fulfillment of the promise of victory over the clinging consequences of sin
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 tells about our future and that final resurrection day, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”