Published April 3, 2012

Paul's Epistle...

"But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20).

"Firstfruits." Isn't that an odd term to use to apply to the risen Christ?   Just what does that mean?

To Bible-era ears, the term would not have seemed so strange. Throughout the Old Testament, by Mosaic command, Israelites would bring to the house of the Lord the firstfruits – the best of their harvest – as an offering to God.

But how does that apply to Christ? The Living Bible paraphrase of that verse above makes it clear: "But the fact is that Christ did actually rise from the dead, and has become the first of millions who will come back to life again some day."

In this, as in all things, Christ was the example.

It's fundamental to Christian belief that Christ rose from the dead. That's what makes Christianity...Christianity. We believe in a God Who is so great that He can bring back to life someone who was physically dead. Our God is the only One who can do that. He can bring back individuals who have died to resume this life – as Christ did with Lazarus, for example. But His resurrection power proves that He can and will also bring back to life all who have believed in Him at some time in the future when He returns. "Even so in Christ, all shall be made alive," Paul says (v.22), referring to "those who are Christ's at His coming" (v.23).

What a tremendous assurance this is for the Christian. Because Christ rose from the dead, we shall rise, too! God has not only promised it, but has proven it can be done. "Because I live, you will live also," Christ said (John 14:19).

Colossians 1:18 refers to Christ as "the firstborn from the dead..." John refers to Him with the very same term in Rev. 1:5. "Firstborn," just like "firstfruits," implies that more will follow. Who will follow? Those who accept Christ – all Christians. Paul called Christ "the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29).

What does this mean to us?

Well, John says that when the Lord returns, "we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2). Like Him how? In the resurrection, we will have glorified bodies like the body Christ had when He rose from the grave. He could be touched, He could eat, and yet He could appear and disappear at will and do other things that our physical bodies cannot do. If you don't fully understand this, don't worry – John didn't either: "it has not yet been revealed what we shall be..." (v.2).

Paul assures his fellow Christians that because "we are children of God," we are "heirs and joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16,17). Risen saints will "reign with [Christ] a thousand years" during the millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:6). This is exciting stuff.

But there are here-and-now benefits too great to number, affecting our outlook on life every day we live. If we truly believe in the resurrection, if we truly believe that Christ rose from the dead, if we truly believe that He will one day raise us, too, to life eternal, then we have nothing whatsoever to fear in this life. Although "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12), we must remember that as Christ endured the cross "for the joy that was set before Him..." (Heb. 12:2) we must likewise keep our eyes on the joy that is set before us for the future.

"O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory? ...But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. 15: 55,57-58.)  Excellent advice.

The message of Easter is, above all, a message of Hope. Christ paid the price for that Hope on Calvary. It's the Hope that shone forth brightly three days later from an empty tomb. And that Hope becomes our "blessed hope" as we look for His return. Let that God-given Hope refresh and energize you daily as you live for our risen Savior.

- Paul

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