We each have a story that includes a past, present, and a future. The Bible also tells a story; a narrative of historical events full of significance for all of humanity.
As those united to Jesus, we are made participants in God’s story and cast as characters in the drama of redemptive history. The resurrection of Jesus is one of those climactic moments in both Jesus’ life and the Bible’s story of God redeeming a people and restoring His corrupted creation. When we think of Jesus’ resurrection we should consider the past accomplishment, the present effects, and the future realities dawning upon us. As participants of the story through union with Christ, we must see how the resurrection rewrites our past, remakes us in the present, and reshapes our future.
Resurrection’s Past: Jesus exhausts the penalty of sin for us
At the cross, Jesus dies in our place. He takes the condemnation of our sin upon himself. He who knew no sin now becomes well acquainted with it as our sin straps him to the tree (2 Cor. 5:21). With his unspeakably horrific death Jesus makes the full payment for our sin-debt and the resurrection is proof the payment has been accepted and processed.
Jesus was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Jesus’ death shows God’s condemnation was upon His Son as he bore the wages of our sin (Rom. 6:23), but Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates God vindicated Jesus and declared over him the status of righteous. Jesus makes his way out of the grave—and the reign of sin—to show he has fully exhausted the penalty and punishment for our sin.
Jesus was condemned in his death so we might be justified through his resurrection (Rom. 4:25; 5:21). He took everything we deserved at his cross so we might now by grace receive everything he earned at his resurrection. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, sin has been dealt with…fully, completely, and forever. The resurrection proves God’s wrath was completely executed on Christ. If you are in Christ (by grace through faith), God has no wrath left for you. Only grace remains, telling a new story about who we were, are, and will be.
Consider Paul’s logic: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (2 Cor. 15:17). However, if Christ is raised—and he is risen indeed—our faith in him is of great value because we are not in our sins anymore. The verdict pronounced over Jesus at his resurrection is “accepted, righteous, and welcomed.” Through union with Jesus that becomes the verdict and status over us as well. We’re not only forgiven but we’re declared righteous, reconciled back to God, and welcomed with the loving embrace of a Father.
Resurrection’s Present: Jesus eliminates sin’s power over us
Jesus not only exhausts the penalty for our sin but he also eliminates the power of sin. He pays our penalty and buys our freedom. When Jesus steps out of the tomb he opens wide the door into the new creation. To participate in Christ’s resurrection is to participate in the new creation…now. It is Eden restored breaking into the land of exiles.
The fullness of the resurrection will be consummated when Jesus returns, but we already experience it through the Spirit. The Spirit breathes life into our dead hearts (Rom. 8:10-11; Ez. 36-37). The Spirit transfers us from the old creation in Adam to the new creation in Christ (Col. 3:1-11). The newness of life in Christ we experience now through the Spirit is a foretaste of what’s to come. We are already on the exit ramp with sights set on the city ahead.
This theology of new creation through the resurrected Christ is why Paul so strongly encourages Christians to not be dominated by sin. God’s plan for your growth is not you becoming a better you, but you becoming a whole new you. It’s resurrection not rehabilitation.
Those united to Christ and raised to new life were cleansed of the corruption of sin and freed from its enslaving power (Rom. 6:4-14). We struggle with sin but it no longer has power over us. Even as we await the restoration of all things we live in the new creation’s dawning on our lives.
A second way Jesus defuses sin’s power is he undoes death and defeats the Devil, our great enemy. Resurrection is the well-deserved and long-awaited crushing boot to the head of the serpent for the bite to the heel of Eve’s seed (Gen 3:15). The resurrection disarms the powers of Evil because they’ve been stripped of the one thing they could hold over us: sin and its consequence of death (Col. 2:15).
Once Jesus erases our sin and eliminates the penalty of death, we who now live in Christ’s kingdom enjoy his triumph over the kingdom of darkness (Col. 2:11-14). “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin…” (I Cor. 15:55-56). For those in Christ, Satan and death have lost all real power. They are pictured as reeling wasps, powerless without the threat of a stinger. Satan is now all bark and no bite, and while death for the believer is still sorrowful, it is only a temporary interlude before we’re raised to live with Christ forever.
Resurrection’s future: Jesus eradicates all remnants of sin among us
The resurrection of Jesus inaugurated a future consummation where sin’s curse will be completely eradicated. What was lost in creation and corrupted in us by Adam at the fall is regained by Jesus. The great hope of believers isn’t ultimately going to heaven when we die—although that’s a wonderful appetizer—but it’s dwelling with our God on the earth He created for us. Creation groans for it and our hearts long for it (Rom. 8:18-23). We weren’t made for Heaven; we were made for Heaven on Earth.
In the midst of life’s deepest sufferings and hardest trials the resurrection holds out the promise “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).
When our hearts are plunged into pain through the loss of a loved one we can and should grieve, but we do not grieve as those without hope (2 Thess. 4:13). The resurrection reminds us of a coming day when the tears will be wiped away, death will be swallowed up forever, and God will raise all of his redeemed to live together with Jesus forever (Is. 25:6-9). When the brokenness and emptiness of life weighs heavy upon us we cling to Christ’s return to make all things new and refresh us with the everlasting joy of his glorious presence (Rev. 21:22-22:5).
C.S. Lewis beautifully captures this in his words about Aslan (the Christ-figure in Narnia) from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we will have spring again.”
What’s Your Story?
The resurrection changes Jesus’ story, the story of the Bible, and the story of the whole world. Followers of Christ also have their stories rewritten by God. Union with Christ makes us participants in the resurrection of Jesus and this promises that sin’s penalty has been exhausted for us, that sin’s power over us has been eliminated, and one day the effects of sin will be completely eradicated as we live with Jesus forever.