This post is adapted from The Bedrock of Christianity: The Unalterable Facts of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection by Justin W. Bass.
The earliest followers of Jesus did not just claim that Jesus rose from the dead but that his resurrection was the inauguration of God’s new creation right in the middle of history: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come!” (2 Cor 5:17).
The resurrection of Jesus has proven that God has not abandoned his good creation but has already redeemed part of it in Jesus of Nazareth. This is indeed proof that he will redeem the whole cosmos one day (see Rom 8:18–25). As Dale Allison writes:
Yet another reason that I should like to believe in the non-metaphorical resurrection of Jesus is that this makes a compelling statement for the goodness of creation.… To transfigure a crucified corpse is another way of saying, with Gen 1, that the material world, despite all the evil we see in it, is nonetheless good. God does not abandon matter but redeems it.… [The resurrection] says that, despite the ills and sins flesh is heir to, despite the burden our arthritic bones become as we progress into old age, Gen 1 has it right, so much so that the creator of matter must be the redeemer of matter.
What so many in our world long for and dream of, perfect justice, the end of all sin, war, and death, the redemption of the entire cosmos, will come true if Jesus rose from the dead.
In addition, it speaks to our individual, bodily resurrection still to come. This was in fact Paul’s primary argument in quoting in the creedal tradition in 1 Corinthians 15. Because Jesus has been raised, so shall all his followers when he returns (1 Cor 15:20–23). As he wrote elsewhere, in Romans: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11). Or again in Philippians: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil 3:20–21).
The hope of resurrection, or at least some kind of continued existence after death, seems to be a universal longing of human beings today and throughout history. We can still see how the imagination and hearts of so many are inspired by Jesus’ death and resurrection in literature and film, such as Shakespeare’s Hermione from The Winter’s Tale, Tolkien’s Gandalf, Lewis’s Aslan, the Wachowskis’ Neo, Bryan Singer’s Superman, and even J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
Whether we are looking at the worship of the gods and mythological heroes in the ancient world or the quasi-worship of superheroes in films and stories in our present day, there seems to have always been this universal longing for a Savior. Someone who would rescue us from our ultimate enemy: death. Gilgamesh went on an epic quest to conquer death and achieve immortality in humanity’s most ancient story in literature. He discovered, as Shakespeare says through Hamlet, that death is “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”
If in the case of Jesus, we do have a “traveler” who has returned, and not just returned but conquered death for us all, then all the hopes and dreams of humanity, beginning with Gilgamesh, would be fulfilled in Christ.
This is how you fit in to the story of Jesus. Do you want this to be true?
Philosopher and atheist Luc Ferry wrote an excellent book, A Brief History of Thought, surveying the history of ideas. He broke it into three stages: Greek philosophy, Christianity, and the more modern secular humanism. Even though Ferry aligns with an atheistic secular humanism, he admits in his discussion of Christianity that its promises are unsurpassed in the history of thought.
He wishes it were true.
He concludes his discussion of Christianity by saying:
If the promises made to me by Christ are genuine; and if divine providence takes me in hand as an individual, however humble, then my immortality will also, in turn, be personal. In which case, death itself is finally overcome, and not merely the fears it arouses in me.… I find the Christian proposition infinitely more tempting—except for the fact that I do not believe in it. But were it to be true I would certainly be a taker.
If it were true, I would certainly be a taker. . . .
It is true! “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Give the risen Jesus welcome.1
The title of this post is the addition of the editor. The author’s views do not necessarily represent those of Faithlife.
- Bass, Justin W. The Bedrock of Christianity: The Unalterable Facts of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, Epilogue. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press), 2020.