The resurrection of Jesus Christ carries with it many, many wonderful implications. The first is that it vindicates Jesus. In other words, some people thought that if Jesus died on the cross, it could only be because he deserved it. He was declared guilty by a Roman court. And the Old Testament itself insists that anyone who hangs on a tree is under the curse of God. But as it turns out, he did not die as a damned man because of his own sin. Rather, he was bearing the sin of others, and that sacrifice so pleased God that God raised him from the dead. Thus, his resurrection is a form of vindication. It is proof positive that when Jesus said with his dying words, “It is finished,” God agreed. His Father agreed. The work of redemption had been accomplished, and the Father vindicates Jesus through the resurrection.
The resurrection also demonstrates the gospel’s concern for human beings embodied. In other words, some people think of our ultimate state as kind of ethereal spirit beings without any connection with bodies. But part of elementary, fundamental Christian truth is that in the new heaven and the new earth, the ultimate goal, the home of righteousness, there will not be just heavenly existence. It’s earthly existence. It’s a new heaven and a new earth, and we will have resurrection bodies like Christ’s. That’s one of the great arguments of 1 Corinthians 15. Paul argues that if Christ rose from the dead in a resurrection body—which, however strange in some ways and remarkable it was, could be touched and handled, could be spoken to, could be seen, and could actually eat human food—then when we, who are finally resurrected on the last day, come into that final state, we will have resurrection bodies like his resurrection body. That is our destination. So his resurrection is the firstfruit of what is often called a general resurrection at the end of the age. All human beings will be resurrected, whether to life or to condemnation, because we are essentially embodied people.
And with this comes also a vision of life and existence beyond this life. We should not think that Christianity merely sorts out some problems in our lives here. Rather, the ultimate goal is beyond this life. When we get older and more hairs fall out and arthritis kicks in, or we slink away into dementia, suddenly resurrection existence begins to look very good indeed because our hope is not to survive to seventy or eighty or even ninety. Our hope finally is a body like Christ’s resurrection body. And his is the firstfruit; ours has been secured by him, and we are coming along behind him to join him in resurrection existence: full-bodied resurrection existence in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness. That’s why 1 Thessalonians 4, the great resurrection chapter, ends with the words “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”