God's End Game - Part 30
Series: God's End Game
July 14, 2019
In our series, God’s End Game, we’ve followed the arc of God’s plan in setting the world to rights all the way from the time it went bad (in Genesis) to the time God revealed the mayor play in his strategy which was the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.
Of those three events in Jesus’ life, we are zeroing in on the resurrection, not because the other two are less important, but because the resurrection is what everything else in God’s End Game plan flows out of.
To help us unpack what the resurrection means, we’ve employed the help of a theology book:
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is that central moment in human history that serves as the foundational doctrine of Christianity. After having truly assumed human nature and submitted to an agonizing and shameful public death, the eternal Son of God was truly raised from the dead in his glorified physical body, no longer subject to decay and death. His resurrection validates his identity as the divine Son of God, demonstrates his irrevocable victory over death and the grave, and secures both the present salvation and future physical resurrection of believers.
Last week we covered the last phrase of the second statement.
After having truly assumed human nature and submitted to an agonizing and shameful public death, the eternal Son of God was truly raised from the dead in his glorified physical body, no longer subject to decay and death.
We saw how Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t unique in one sense (there are quite a few instances of people coming back from the dead in Scripture) and yet was in another: Jesus came back from the dead never to die again. This had been prophesied by King David a thousand years before Jesus came on the scene.
Now let’s see what we can mine from what comes before the last phrase of the second statement…
…the eternal Son of God was truly raised from the dead in his glorified physical body…
We believe Jesus came back. The evidence all points to the fact that the first disciples saw Jesus alive after he died on the cross. But in what way did he return? Was the risen Jesus here in a physical body or a spiritual body?
Our theological statement addresses this — it was and is a physical body — and I’m going to show you how we know that later on. When he came back was it the same body or a different one? I’m going to cover that too, later on.
But for today, to set the stage for all coming later on, I want to show you why Jesus’ resurrection is so important to us right now.
Knowing the price of a dozen eggs in China is nice and all but what does it have to do with me, right? The price of eggs in China, not much, but Jesus’ resurrection, a lot — everything really.
Look with me at a text I’ve referred to already many times. It’s the words of Paul written to the Christians at Corinth. What he says to them about the resurrection of Jesus is critical to understanding the resurrection’s meaning, especially as it relates to us.
In the first part of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul proclaims the validity and credibility of the resurrection, calling on people by name who saw him alive and could give testimony that he really came back from the dead.
Then in verse 12 he addresses one of many issues the Christians at Corinth were dealing with…
1 Corinthians 15:12–28 (ESV) — 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
The first part of our theological statement, if you recall, is about how foundational the resurrection of Jesus is to our faith. Everything swings on it. That’s not an exaggeration. If you do away with it, you do away with everything else.
So it’s no wonder the resurrection is questioned and attacked from every corner. The atheist attacks it and says it never happened because there is no God. The scientist attacks it and says it couldn’t have happened because there are no such things as miracles.
The Jews of Jesus’ day (and today) attacked it because, even though they believed in the resurrection of the dead on the last day, they didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah, the Holy One of God foretold in the OT. Besides the resurrection on the last day was for all God’s people at the same time. What’s up with just Jesus coming back?
The Gentiles in Paul’s day attacked it because according to the Greek way of thinking the goal of life was to be separated from the physical and live in the spiritual. No one wants to come back and find themselves living in a material world (shout out to Madonna there) again. This idea, this worldview - which is still around today - came from a guy named Plato.
Plato was a Greek philosopher who existed around 300 years before Christ. He was the student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. His teachings had a profound influence on civilization that continues to the present. I’ll go into that more, later on.
But for now know that the Romans ruled the civilized world at the time of Jesus, and they built their culture, their religion, and their philosophy on the Greeks. So you can imagine they were big on Plato.
Plato taught that the physical realm was bad and the spiritual was good. He “believed that material things, including the human body and the earth, are evil, while immaterial things such as the soul and Heaven are good.” He saw the body as a tomb for the soul, something you sought to break free from.
In his philosophy, life’s goal was to deny the physical with all its pleasures and pursue the spiritual.
Early Christians were big on him too because much of what he taught fit well into the framework of Christianity. Which is why even some within the Christian camp of Paul’s day denied the bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus.
The point is to break free form the body, not come back from the dead to it. The Greek gods exist in the spiritual realm and certainly the Son of the one true God does too.
Some scholars believe they embraced a heresy including the view that Jesus didn’t really appear in the flesh to begin with but only seemed to. It was like a heavenly hologram. So when he was crucified and came back from the dead it wasn’t in the real, physical sense.
Paul proclaims though…
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Once again, this tells us the cross is glorious and all, but without the resurrection we’d still be lost and without hope (which ties into the last part of our theological statement), which we’ll cover later on.
Now look carefully at this next verse…
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Paul says that the resurrected Jesus was the firstfruits of the coming last day Martha talked about in John 11 when everyone who put their trust in God would be raised. Underline that word “firstfruits.” It’s huge!
It refers back to something every Jew would have been familiar with, something found in the Old Testament. One Bible scholar explains…
“Firstfruits is … drawn from Old Testament harvests. A small portion of the anticipated grain harvest was offered up symbolically, dedicating the whole future harvest to God. The “firstfruits” came first and contained in them the whole rest of the grain harvest to come… Similarly, Christ’s resurrection is part and parcel of the future resurrection of all who belong to him at his coming (v. 23): Christ alone now, the rest to follow.”
Good old Charles Spurgeon expounds on the connection of Jesus’ resurrection with the firstfruits…
But what is meant by Christ being “the firstfruits?” you will recollect that there was a feast of the Jews called the feast of firstfruits, when the first sheaf was brought out from the harvest as a token of the whole, and first of all heaved upward as a heave-offering, and then waived to and fro as a waive-offering, being thus dedicated to God, in testimony of the gratitude of the holders of the soil for the harvest which the Lord had given. Now, this happened on the first day of the week. You will remember that the Passover was celebrated first; then came a Sabbath-day; then after that came the feast of firstfruits. So Christ died on the Passover day; he, as the slaughtered Lamb of God, of God’s Passover, died exactly at the Passover season; the next day was the [Sabbath] rest: Christ’s body therefore tarried in the grave; then early in the morning of the first day, ere it was yet light, while yet the sun was rising upon the earth, Christ rose—on the morning of the feast of the firstfruits; and so he is revealed as the blessed wave-sheaf preceding and consecrating the whole harvest.
Here’s the thing about firstfruits. Whatever is true of the firstfruits is true of the coming harvest.
If the firstfruits of the harvest are literal, physical grain, what will the future complete harvest be? literal, physical grain.
If Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, then whatever is true of his resurrection will be true of ours!
Look back at our theological statement…
…the eternal Son of God was truly raised from the dead (if Jesus was raised from the dead, so will those who have already died at his return)
…in his glorified physical body (if he has a glorified physical body so will we),
…no longer subject to decay and death (if his body is no longer subject to decay and death so will ours no longer be).
This is big. This sets us up for what follows.
If whatever is true of Jesus’ resurrection is true of ours, then we need to go back and look at all the events surrounding it. They have to contain hints at what’s going to happen on the last day and what life will be like afterwards. And that’s just exactly what we’ll do, later on starting next Sunday.
We’ll see how Jesus post-resurrection appearances prove he came back in a physical body. But we’ll also see how that body was at the same time different than the body buried in the tomb. All this matters because….
If Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, then whatever is true of his resurrection will be true of ours! The resurrection really is the hinge on which our entire faith and hope swing.
Tim Keller says of 1 Corinthians 15:20…
It says Christ is the firstfruits. Do you see that? Because we live in a safe environment and because we don’t live in an agrarian culture, it’s hard for us to understand the magnitude of this phrase. The firstfruits were very important, because in a typical town back then, all of the town’s hopes and all of the town’s wealth was invested in the harvest. Everybody was a farmer, and all of your wealth basically was plowed literally into the ground. If the harvest didn’t come in, you were dead, or at least financially ruined.
So everybody’s hopes were based on the harvest. The firstfruits would be the first fruit, or the first sheaves, the first blades, the first corn, the first wheat, whatever. When it appeared, do you know what the joy was in the town? It meant the harvest was coming. If that first tomato or that first piece of fruit was great, they had an actual taste of the future. Now, when it tells us Jesus Christ, when he was raised from the dead, is the firstfruits, it’s telling us something no less than this.
If Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, then whatever is true of his resurrection will be true of ours, and if his resurrection was glorious and cosmic and victorious, then so will our coming resurrection be on the last day.
Conclusion: But for today let’s close with the rest of our text.
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
That’s the culmination of God’s End Game plan. That’s where we’re headed and I can’t wait to get there.
But for right now, what have you done with Jesus?
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