By: Brian Chilton | April 10, 2017
Recently, I have experienced firsthand the sorrow of death. I attended the funeral of a young 21-year-old man. Just a few days ago, I took part in my grandmother’s funeral. She was the last grandparent I had. Death is sorrowful. I found myself weeping the past few days. However, I find comfort in the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Because Jesus’s resurrection is a reality, the believer has hope.
We could discuss the evidences of Christ’s resurrection as found in the manuscript evidence, the psychological evidence, and from the evidence of the empty tomb. All those arguments are quite powerful. However, I want to take a moment to reflect on what the reality of Christ’s resurrection means for the afterlife. What does the resurrection show us about what happens to a person when one dies? Jesus’s resurrection provides three applications.
- The reality of Christ’s resurrection promises eternal life. The mission statement of Christ was simple. He noted that “God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus noted that, through him, life would be never-ending. In John 17:1-5, Jesus prays that God’s will would be accomplished so that the Father would be glorified and that people would have eternal life.
- The reality of Christ’s resurrection promises the intermediate state. Some have become confused on this aspect of eternal life. The intermediate state is the period of time between physical death and the resurrection that Christ will one day bring. A future forthcoming article will explain the biblical case for the intermediate state soon. Suffice for now, Jesus tells the sister of Lazarus that “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? The only way this teaching makes sense is if a person survives death and spiritually lives with God until the resurrection occurs. Jesus also promises the criminal on the cross, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Again, this promise makes little sense if there is no intermediate state. In fact, the statement would be erroneous if an intermediate state did not exist.
- The reality of Christ’s resurrection promises the future resurrection. The hope that first-century Pharisaical and Essenic Jews held was that God would resurrect people at the end of time. Many felt that the Messiah would usher in such a time. They were right. However, there would be a span of time between the Messiah’s first and second coming. Jesus’s resurrection proves that a future resurrection is not merely a hopeful idea, but a tangible reality. Jesus promised, saying, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4). The fact that Jesus states his identity with the resurrection (John 11:25) denotes that Jesus would come again to raise the faithful from the dead.
The reality of Christ’s physical resurrection does not make these promises a matter of wishful thinking. Rather, it provides tangible evidence to the intangible promises made by Christ. If God fulfilled such a promise in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, then it is most assured that the intermediate state and the future resurrection are certainties. Easter is more than an annual celebration. It is the hope by which the Christian stands. It is the comfort that helps us cope with the death of our loved ones. It is the portal into which we experience the marvelous eternity prepared for us in Christ.
Be sure to listen to today’s podcast as Brian discusses this issue.
About the Author
Brian Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University, his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University, received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, and hopes to work on doctorate studies soon. Brian is the pastor of Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, North Carolina.
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