1 Corinthians 15, the great "resurrection" chapter, challenges us to think big thoughts - big thoughts about God, big thoughts about Jesus Christ, big thoughts about ourselves. The word, "resurrection", is not a word which figures much in the thoughts of many people in our day. There are many people who profess to have faith in God, but their "God" is not the living God. Their "God" is not the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Their "God" is not the God who is able to transform human life by His mighty power. There are plenty of people who feel an attraction for Jesus Christ - the good man, Jesus Christ - the moral teacher, Jesus Christ - the great example, but they know nothing of Christ's saving power. What are we to say to those for whom Jesus is no more than a figure from ancient history? If we take seriously the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we have a glorious message to proclaim, a message of hope, a joyful message, Good News.
- God is not a "God" who keeps His distance. God is the God who comes near to us in Jesus Christ.
- God is not a "God" who keeps His silence. God is the God who speaks to us through Jesus Christ.
Once we have looked in faith to Jesus Christ, we can no longer see God simply as the "God" who is "away up there" in heaven. He is the living God, our God, the God of our salvation. Once we have really looked at Jesus Christ, we can no longer think of Him as merely a dim and dusty figure from the far distant past. Jesus, the risen Lord, is standing among us now. He is working within us. He is changing the way we see ourselves, the way we look at our lives - "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."
Without faith in Jesus Christ, the things of this world loom very large on our horizon. Without Jesus Christ, we have nothing to look forward to: no heavenly glory - only the things which pass away. Such a life is life without hope, and life without hope is misery: "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Corinthians 15:19). A "Christ", who does not give us hope for the world to come, is a "Christ" who makes us miserable. We look for more than such a "Christ" is able to give to us. This, however, is not the Christ of the New Testament. He is the risen Christ, the living Saviour, who gives eternal life to all who put their trust in Him. What is this "eternal life", Christ's gift to the believer?
- First, it is a life which is based on Christ's resurrection.
- Second, it is a life which results in our glorious resurrection.
When the worldly man thinks of Christ's resurrection, he says, "Impossible! Dead men don't come back again!"
When the New Testament speaks of Christ's resurrection, the word, "impossible", is heard again. This time, however, it is a very different "impossibility." No longer are we speaking of the impossibility of Jesus Christ rising from the dead. here, we are speaking of the impossibility of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, remaining dead. This is the impossibility of which the New Testament speaks. It was impossible that Jesus Christ, our Saviour, could have remained in the tomb/ When men of unbelief hold their hands up in horror and say, "Impossible!", we must remember who Jesus Christ is - the Son of God, our Saviour, and we must rejoice in the fact of His resurrection: "God raised Him up ... because it was not possible for Him to be held by it" (Acts 2:24).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for our hope of eternal life. Without Christ's return to life, there is no eternal life for us. With Christ's resurrection, there is hope - the joyful hope of eternal glory.
The glory which Christ brings into our lives is a glory which transforms our lives here and now, a glory which grows in us as we go on with the Lord, and a glory which will be seen in all its fullness at our glorious resurrection.
When the New Testament speaks of heavenly glory, it does not mean to play down the glorious privilege of living for Christ here and now. the Apostle Paul puts it this way: "For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
To die is gain - that will be heavenly glory.
To live is Christ - this is our glorious privilege.
"When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!"
This glory grows as we go on with the Lord. Here is a great description of growing in Christ: "we all ... beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed from one degree of glory to another" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Our ever-deepening experience of the glory of the Lord will reach its fullness in the world to come. We rejoice that Christ lives in us now. Our joy will be deeper and fuller when we are with Him in heavenly glory (Colossians 1:27): "we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God" (Romans 5:2).
This hope will become a glorious reality. Then, we will have fullness of joy.