The historical resurrection of Jesus is extended for the benefit of all men
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of the Extension of the Resurrection
Christians celebrate Easter as the culmination of the Christian year. Why is the remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ the climactic highlight of Christian celebration? Why is the remembrance of Jesus' crucifixion not the ultimate high-point? Why is the subsequent remembrance of the events of Pentecost not regarded as the culmination of Christian remembrance and worship?
The celebration of Christ's resurrection at Easter by the Christian community focuses Christian worship on the fact that God's ultimate objective for mankind has been achieved in Jesus Christ. What is God's ultimate objective for mankind? Since we were "created for His glory" (Isa. 43:7), and the only way that God can be glorified is when His all-glorious character is manifested within His creation unto His own glory, then the ultimate objective of God for mankind is that His life might be present and operative in mankind, unto His own glory. God's ultimate objective for man is not that man should experience a metaphysical deliverance and be rerouted to a future residence by "going to heaven" someday. Rather, God's objective is that His life might dwell within man and be manifest through the behavior of mankind, making men fit for earth on the way to heaven.
How, then, is God's ultimate objective for mankind achieved and accomplished in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? The death consequences of man's sin were dealt with in the crucifixion when Jesus vicariously and substitutionally took mankind's sin upon Himself on our behalf. In the redemptive act of His death Jesus accomplished the remedial work necessary to remedy the consequences of man's sin before God. In that it was "impossible for Him to be held in death's power" (Acts 2:24) for He was personally "without sin" (Heb. 4:15), He was raised from the dead in resurrection. In the resurrection expression of life out of death Jesus accomplished the restorative work of God, allowing the life of God to be restored to man. He took our death in crucifixion that we might have His life by resurrection.
Paul explained in the prologue of his letter to the Romans that God's Son "was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,..." (Rom. 1:4). Jesus was the eternal Son of God and had displayed the power of God throughout His ministry, but "by the resurrection from the dead" He was declared to have the power to effect the presence and function of God's life in man in order to accomplish God's objective for mankind.
How does the risen Lord Jesus effect this reinvestiture of God's life in man? How is the objective historical resurrection of Jesus Christ made subjectively efficacious in individuals in every century?
Jesus repetitively promised His disciples in the upper room that He would send "another Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would be in them" (cf. Jn. 14:16,17,26,28; 15:26; 16:7,13-17). The word He used for "another" was not heteros, meaning "another of a different kind", but He used the word allos, meaning "another of the same kind", because He was promising a Helper who would be just like Him since the Helper would be Him in Spirit-form. Crucified, buried and raised from the dead, Jesus then ascended to the Father (Acts 1:8-11) saying, "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;..." Soon thereafter, on Pentecost (Acts 2:14), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon mankind allowing the Spirit of Christ to invest mankind with His life (cf. Acts 2:31-33). "The last Adam (Jesus Christ) became a life-giving Spirit" (I Cor. 15:45). "The Lord (Jesus) who is the Spirit" (II Cor. 3:17) "gives life" (II Cor. 3:6) by His own presence as life in man. God's life, spiritual life, eternal life is in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus told Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life" (Jn. 11:25) and told His disciples, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Jn. 14:6). The divine life of God is available to man in Jesus Christ. "He that has the Son has life; he that does not have the Son of God does not have life" (I Jn. 5:11,12). When an individual receives the Spirit of Christ into his or her spirit, and "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Rom. 8:9), then that person receives Christ as their life (cf. Col. 3:4) and "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). The receptivity of His activity of life within us is called "faith." "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12,13).
The reinvestiture of God's life in man is accomplished by regeneration. The prerequisite of regeneration is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter explained that we are "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (I Peter 1:3). In like manner as Jesus experienced life out of death in resurrection, and such rising from the dead was referred to as a "begetting" (Acts 13:33) whereby Jesus was the "first-born from the dead" (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5) "among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29), so Christians receive spiritual life out of spiritual death by the receipt of Christ's life in new birth (cf. John 3:1-8). Passing "out of death into life" (John 5:24; I John 3:14), Christians participate in the extension of Christ's resurrection. This is what Paul means by our being "raised up with Him" (Eph. 2:5) and "being made alive together with Christ" (Eph. 2:4). Christians "have been united with Christ in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom. 6:5) so as to participate in "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4) as a "new creature" (II Cor. 5:17) and a "new man" (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) in Christ Jesus.
If then, as Christians, we "have been raised up with Christ, we are to keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1). But not only is He transcendently "seated at the right hand of God," He is also at the same time immanently present within the spirit of the Christian, "Christ in you the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). The resurrection-life of Jesus Christ within the spirit of the Christian becomes the empowering of the Christian life. Having promised that "we should receive power when the Holy Spirit had come" (Acts 1:8), Jesus Christ in Spirit-form became that Power of God (I Cor. 1:24) in every Christian. We can "know...the surpassing greatness of His power toward us...which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead" (Eph. 1:18-20). In accord with Paul's desire, we can "know the power of His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10) as that "power works within us...exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think" (Eph. 3:20).
We must see beyond the historicity of the empty tomb on that first Easter day, and understand the extension of the resurrection-life and resurrection-power of Jesus Christ in every Christian. Christianity is not just the remembrance of an historical resurrection, but is comprised of the vital dynamic of the risen Lord Jesus functioning in the activity of the Holy Spirit of God by enlivening Christians with the "saving life of Christ" (Rom. 5:10). Christianity is Christ the resurrected Lord Jesus living out His life in Christians every day, to the glory of God.