Question 50: What does Christ's resurrection mean for us?
Answer: Christ triumphed over sin and death by being physically resurrected, so that all who trust in him are raised to new life in this world and to everlasting life in the world to come. Just as we will one day be resurrected, so this world will one day be restored. But those who do not trust in Christ will be raised to everlasting death.
The future resurrection of believers unto a glorious, everlasting life of the age to come is a central point of doctrine in both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul had to address the fact that some members of the church at Corinth denied that there would be any future resurrection. Possibly under the influence of Greek philosophy that denigrated the value of physical reality (including the body), some Corinthian believers couldn't make sense of the notion that our bodies would one day be raised from the dead, and thus denied any future resurrection. Paul's response to this false teaching constitutes all of 1 Corinthians, chapter 15.
Verses 12-19 of this chapter are particularly instructive:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Paul makes several arguments here about how terrible the consequences would be if it were indeed true that there is no future resurrection of the dead, and all of them depend on the connection between Christ's resurrection and the future resurrection. If we deny any future resurrection, we are implicitly denying Christ's resurrection from the past. If we hold in contempt the idea that physical bodies will return to life someday, then we must necessarily hold in contempt the idea that Christ's physical body came to life one day 2,000 years ago. And if we deny that, the whole fabric of our faith unravels.
By linking together Christ's past resurrection with the future resurrection of believers, Paul shows us that Jesus Christ represents the destiny of redeemed humanity. Raised from the dead and glorified at God's right hand, Jesus Christ represents the culmination of God's purpose for human beings. Therefore, the goal of our salvation is complete conformity to Christ: in his holiness, life, and glory. His resurrection is the paradigm for our own resurrection to come.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: 1 Corinthians 15. What is the gospel, according to Paul? How does the doctrine of the future resurrection fit into the gospel? What are the consequences of denying it?