Easter and the Resurrection: Part 2 of 2
Announcer:The 21st century has ushered in events and issues that cause us to ask, "Where is God in today's world?" In response, Dallas Theological Seminary presents DTS Dialogue - Issues of God in Culture: Easter and the Resurrection. Easter points believers to one of their greatest hopes: resurrection. Thanks for joining us as we unpack the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Part 2.
Mark Yarbrough:We've talked about this one a little bit. I want to go back to a theme, Buist, that you talked about, of "How is resurrection tied to God's overall salvific plan?" There is something redemptive in its concept. How does that even fit into this argument of I Corinthians? It seems to me, in First Corinthians 15, it's not just an issue that they were wrong - and they were - but there's something greater going on here about God's reclaiming creation.
Buist Fanning III:It's in the warp and woof. It's part and parcel of everything all the way back to the Old Testament. I think a really revealing passage on this point is Romans 8, sort of in the middle of the chapter, verses 22 through 23, where Paul talks about the whole creation groaning.
Buist:We suffer and we groan, because we are longing for the redemption that's to come, but he adds to that "the whole creation is groaning" as well, because it's not the way God intended it. The world is fallen. The universe is not the way God created it. Paul says even the creation itself awaits the redemption of the body. It awaits the full redemption of the sons of God, which he expresses as the redemption of the body. Again, expressing the physical, material nature of this.
So Paul has this big picture of God as the Creator, who's not willing to allow His creation to fall into sin and be irreparably lost, but begins to work according to a saving purpose to redeem and to restore and to bring back His creation, and humanity especially, into the design that he had for it. And through Christ He's engaged in that.
Paul says we still look forward to the fulfillment of that. We don't have it yet. We live in hope; we don't live in possession of what we expect to happen. But we look forward to that fulfillment, and it's not just for us as individuals. It's really God's plan for the whole universe. It's God's plan for his people Israel and for his people from all the nations of the world, and for the universe itself, which will be restored to the intent that God had in the original creation.
Tom Constable: And even unbelievers will be resurrected.
Tom:Paul speaks of Jesus as "the first fruits of them that sleep" frequently in his writings. He seems to look at Jesus there as the first one of many who will be resurrected, and the "many" turn out to be everybody, believers and unbelievers alike. So evidently everyone is going to experience reunion of their persons - their immaterial part and their material part - one day. This is part of the restoration process.
Buist:Another interesting dimension about the Resurrection you find in the New Testament is that in some books, the Resurrection is often linked up, or seen as part and parcel with, Christ's ascension and exaltation to God's right hand. It's natural; it's easy to see how those three could be combined. God raised him up. God, after a period of appearances to the disciples on earth, drew him up to heaven. Then God seated him in a place of highest authority.
In books that talk like that - Acts 2, the book of Hebrews in various places, First Peter 3, Revelation talks in those terms - they often connect that with expectation that the next thing that will happen is that he will come in full authority as both the Judge and the Savior. He will come to judge those who don't believe in him, to bring them through to judgment, and to defeat his enemies. And he will also come to bring complete salvation to those who are his.
So he was raised to this new life, and we commune with him now, and so on, but that's not the end of the story. We await the fullness of our salvation as Christians. But the world, conversely - those who haven't accepted Jesus as Savior - unfortunately they await the consummation of judgment that will come as part of God's wrapping up of all things in the end times.
So First Peter at the end of chapter three talks about Jesus at God's right hand. And then in chapters four and five it talks about "when the Good Shepherd appears, the end of all things is at hand." It links those kinds of teachings together. And again, it shows how all of these things are so vitally connected to the Resurrection. The Resurrection is really, I think, the turning point, the kind of pivot point for all of God's saving history.
The Old Testament, and all the various things that God revealed about himself through that, point toward that. And then all the things we hope for about the future are going to be based on that. It's really the beginning and the foundation of God's renewing work that will encompass all creation.
Mark:That kind of ties to another question of this issue of believers today. We're really kind of talking about that, so let's slide on into that question: the benefits that we have of Christ's resurrection now. Here we are in 2006, believers in Jesus Christ, we've put our faith and trust in him: what are the benefits that we have of Christ's resurrection?
Tom:One of the primary ones, I think, is that we have a living Savior, that he is alive today. That he intercedes for us in heaven with the Father, that he is in a position to complete the work of salvation that he has begun in us, and that his life guarantees the completion of that.
Buist:When you think about... If I'm enamored with Shakespeare or something, and I read about him, and I read his work, and I'm really taken with him, it's all kind of looking back. He's left some relics and I can enjoy those, but it's based on memory, based on the things that remain from when he lived on earth. With Jesus it's different, because he's not just a kind of historical memory to cling to. He's alive today! And I can commune with him. I can find transforming strength from him. I can turn to him in times of need. Even though he's not present to physical sight, Christians experience his presence in really convincing ways in their day-to-day life. And that's really the point, I think, of having a resurrected savior, one who is alive, and with whom I'm in vital connection day by day.
Tom: This really distinguishes Christianity from every other faith.
Mark: Doesn't it, though?
Tom:Because every other faith has its founder who is buried, and is in the tomb. His followers make pilgrimages to his grave, but Christ didn't ask us to do that. He asked us to gather around a table, on which were elements that represent his body and his blood, and to do this until he comes again.
Mark: Yes, what a great point.
Tom: What a difference that is.
Mark:It interesting, isn't it, that at times our mind is clearly drawn to the cross, and rightfully so. I want to say that. However, if it stays there, there's a huge problem, because...
Buist: Excellent point.
Mark:The point is that we move from the cross to a risen Lord. And that's what you're saying, that even in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, it is anticipation of the day when we will do that with him. And why? Because he is alive, and we will do it with him in a risen state.
That's a great point. Let's kind of start to wrap this up a little bit. What do folks often miss about this topic? Maybe we've already covered some, but I'm thinking now of a lot of folks who might be listening - Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders, and obviously with Easter coming on us, it's going to be a topic.
As you mentioned, Tom, already, the pews are going to be full, because it draws people out as one of the two big Christian holidays, and people will come. If you were teaching, what are some of the elements that you would address and talk about in a Sunday school format or in a Bible study that you think oftentimes are missed.
It's a great opportunity for people to be able to remind folks of the importance of resurrection and its impact on our lives. What are things that you might have from sort of a pastoral perspective in that regard.
Buist:I think I would just encourage people to try to put themselves in the situation of those early Christians. To experience in as direct a way as possible what it would have been like to witness what you thought at the time was the ultimate defeat of what you'd given your life to.
These people had left everything, especially the 12- the 11. They'd become followers of this person, Jesus. They thought he was the fulfillment of God's salvation, that he was God's Son incarnate. And yet, here he's been taken away, he's been treated so badly, he's been executed and he's been put in a tomb.
Seemed like the worst defeat ever has happened. And then lo and behold, they get these scattered reports about different people who have seen him, about people who have been to the tomb, and it's empty.
Mark: As the old sermon goes, "Sunday's come."
Buist:Sunday's coming, exactly, and here it is all of a sudden. And then, either you experience the sight of the risen Lord and meet him in person, or you hear about that from others whom you trust. And everything is transformed.
It reminds me of the word that Tolkien created. He talked about this word "eucatastrophe", built on the word "catastrophe," the worst having happened, everything being destroyed, but with the prefix "eu" added, which means something good, something that actually has turned out to be the best that could be expected.
And Tolkien uses this to talk about how when you're writing a fantasy story, you should set it up in a way that it seems like the worst is going to happen, and then all of the sudden, it turns out to be the best that could possibly have been dreamed of.
Well, the ultimate eucatastrophe, Tolkien said, is the resurrection of Christ. Because in the face of the worst defeat that could possibly have been imagined, all of the sudden, it's the greatest victory that could be imagined, and everything is different as a result.
And he commissions them in that first generation to go and proclaim this to all the world, and they go out with deep conviction, and a willingness to be martyrs and to sacrifice everything for that. And if we could just recover some of that excitement and some of that commitment, I think it would transform the way we live our lives as Christians in the 21st century.
Tom:I think I too would encourage Christians in particular to focus more on the Resurrection. I think most Christians appreciate the death of Christ, but for many Christians, he's still dead, for all practical purposes.
And, the fact that he is actually alive now should have a profound effect on how we live our lives, not only our relationship with God as we go through the day - we can talk to a savior who is actually really alive, we're not just hoping that's the case, or thinking that's the case...
Buist: Or looking forward long time from now when we'll see him face to face.
Tom:To really somebody who is intimately involved in our lives because he is alive. And that, I think, can bring God much closer to us, if I can put it in those terms, than he would be otherwise.
Mark: Sure, sure. An emphasis of the Resurrection reminds us that we have a relationship with him now.
Mark: Amen. Good discussion, gentlemen. Thank you very much again for your time. Greatly appreciate it. Good to see you, as always.
Buist: Glad to do it.
Tom: Been a pleasure.
Mark:And we sure hope that this information will be able to help others down the road as they're preparing for lessons and sermons and Bible studies and the like, so let's close with a word of prayer. Dr. Fanning, would you lead us.
Buist:Lord Jesus, we thank you that as we've just been reflecting, you are alive, and you're present with us. And we have this life-connection to you that will never come to an end, and because of that, we have a hope that we will be with you forever. We will be raised to a new bodily life, like to your glorious body, and experience fellowship with you, fellowship with your father and with the holy spirit through all of the coming ages.
Thank you for that hope, Lord. I pray that you'll transform us as we think about that, and as we represent this message to a world that desperately needs to hear it. Thank you for your grace and your goodness, and this time to reflect on it together. In Jesus name we pray:
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