The following is based upon the Adult Bible Study that I led on Easter Sunday:
The Theological Implications of the Resurrection
If when Jesus said, in John 19:30, “It is Finished” redemption was indeed finished, why then was the resurrection necessary? Have you ever wondered that? Well, one answer is that the resurrection was the visible proof that the work of redemption was finished. The empty tomb showed that the atoning sacrifice of Christ was indeed accepted by God. It is was His seal of acceptance and approval. The resurrection, therefore, is part and parcel with the crucifixion, the other side of the proverbial coin. But there is more to it than that.
We must also understand that the resurrection itself actually does something for us. It plays a vital part in our redemption. There is a subtle in danger lurking in our churches whereby we fail to focus sufficiently on the resurrection itself. Our understanding of depravity naturally leads us to focus greatly on the cross and all that Christ suffered for our sake, but we cannot let a necessary focus on the cross unintentionally cause us to lessen our attention to the resurrection and what God did for us through it.
One way to understand at the dynamic relationship between the cross and the empty tomb is to see that what was finished at the cross was applied at resurrection of Christ. Christ’s righteous life and death accomplished our redemption. Christ’s resurrection, however, is the application of that redemption. Redemption means “to be bought out of bondage and set free.” The purchase was made at the cross, the application was secured at the open tomb.
Hang with me a bit as I try to show that Jesus’ death and resurrection and inseparably linked, and then I will share with you six aspects of our redemption that would not be possible without the resurrection.
Hebrews 2:9 reads, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels (incarnation), namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor (resurrection) because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
From this text and others, there is a sense in which we can say that Christ’s resurrection was His own redemption. As 100% human, His righteous life and death bought Him out of bondage to the curse of death that all mankind was subjected to and freed Him to resurrection and eternal life. The curse of death was the just sentence for sinners, but Christ being without sin was freed from the sentence and thus the grave had no claim on Him and could not hold Him. Jesus’ perfect life and substitutionary death fulfilled God’s law, satisfied God’s justice, and therefore deserved to be rewarded with resurrection to eternal life.
The word “because” in Hebrews 2:9 shows that Jesus’ suffering and death was the ground of His resurrection. Jesus’ righteous life and substitutionary death satisfied the demands of the law. God was therefore legally bound by His own justice to raise Jesus from the dead.
Now look at Hebrews 13:20: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant…” Don’t miss the significance of little words in the Bible, in this case the preposition “by.” God brought Christ back from the dead “by” the blood of the eternal covenant. Christ’s blood was, therefore, instrumental in His resurrection. His blood was the causal means of His resurrection. In other words, the shedding of Christ’s righteous blood made Him legally deserving of, and ensured His own resurrection.
Similarly we see in John 12:24 these words of Jesus: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The death of a seed is the source and cause of its new life. In the same way, our Lord’s righteous death is the source and cause of His own resurrection to eternal life. We see something similar in Phil 2:8-11.
On a theological note, this means that the atonement is definite. It accomplishes something. The resurrection proves that Christ’s blood definitely produces resurrection and life. This means everyone for whom Christ bled and died will definitely be raised to eternal life with Him. None of Christ’s blood fails to accomplish life because it is powerful to redeem. That means that not a drop of Jesus’ blood was spilled uselessly. It saves all whom God intends to save. If any of Jesus’ blood would have fallen to the ground uselessly, then theoretically the resurrection could potentially never have taken place. But the blood was righteous therefore it had to produce vindication which means the grave could not keep Jesus in it’s clutches, it had to release Him because every drop of His blood was righteous.
So what does this mean for us? Well, it means that for us the death and resurrection of Christ simultaneously accomplishes and applies every aspect of our redemption. For, if we are united to Him, then His death is our death, and His resurrection is our resurrection. Romans 6:5: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” So we have to see that our full redemption could not have happened without the resurrection. Here are six ways that the Bible shows us that the resurrection was necessary for our redemption:
1. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have regeneration
Ephesians 2:4-5: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved”
1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
2. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have repentance
Acts 3:26 “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness”
Acts 5:30-31 “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
3. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have justification
Romans 4:24-25: “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
1 Corinthians 15:17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
4. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have sanctification
Romans 6:6-11 “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 7:4 “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”
5. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have perseverance
Ephesians 2:6 “…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
1 Thessalonians 1:10 “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
6. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have glorification
Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Colossians 3:3-4 “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
All the key elements of our redemption are ensured by, not only the cross, but also by the resurrection. Redemption purchased at Calvary, applied at the Garden Tomb.