When you read the New Testament, when you hear the apostles’ sermons and read the apostles’ writings, the cornerstone of what they wrote and taught was not our own resurrections, but the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What’s in the Bible about resurrection certainly includes the hope of heaven, but it doesn’t start there. The center of gravity in the New Testament is in the actual event of the resurrection of Christ as the dawning of a new age. It’s not a conclusion. It’s not “Jesus is alive so he really is the Son of God, so we win, end of story.” It’s a new beginning. It’s not a pretty bow tied on to the end of a story back then; the empty tomb is a doorway into a brand new adventure right now today.
When the first Christians proclaimed the Good News of Christ’s resurrection, it wasn’t, “Hey, guess what happened last Sunday! Our good friend Jesus of Nazareth who got a raw deal at his trial came back to life after his horrible crucifixion. He’s alive! Isn’t God nice?”
No! The resurrection means a new age has begun. And we participate in it right now. There’s no waiting!
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” ~Ephesians 2:4-6
We are already raised right now today! We are already new creation right now today! The resurrection of Jesus means everything for our future with God beyond the grave. But it doesn’t mean any less for our present with God right now today.
For starters, the resurrection initiates our transformation. Our Lord’s resurrection and our participation in that resurrection with him changes us. We’re changed right now today by the resurrection.
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live… but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead.” ~Ephesians 2:1-5
We are made alive in the resurrection of Jesus. We are no longer slaves to sin. You don’t have to sin anymore! The resurrection fuels your transformation. The resurrection starts your becoming like Christ.
Think about Jesus’ disciples. The resurrection empowered them, it changed them from frightened, scared, confused, selfish, power-grabbers into bold, courageous, imposing, sacrificial, servant-minded, self-denying witnesses who turned the whole world upside down! To be raised with Christ today is to be changed into the image of Christ today. It’s to live in the name and manner of Jesus for his salvation purposes.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things… Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry… You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self… As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” ~Colossians 3:1-14
The resurrection compels us toward thinking and acting and speaking and looking more and more like Jesus, less and less like the world. Becoming like Christ, living the resurrected life in Christ, is right now today.