What is Resurrection?

What is resurrection? It seems like a simple enough question, but it’s worth asking. I was struck again this past weekend by the almost singular meaning resurrection has for most people—the empty tomb. Of course I believe in the actual, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, but resurrection is so much more.

We should hear the word resurrection, not as a singular trumpet blast, but as a full-scale Wagner opera. There is just so much going on here.

I’m thinking of verses like Acts 13:33, 1 Peter 1:3, or 1 Corinthians 15:45. These verses present the intrinsic, inner-workings of resurrection in God’s eternal purpose.

  • “…You are My Son; this day have I begotten You.”
  • “….who according to His great mercy has regenerated us unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
  • “…the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.”

The action in these three verses (begotten, regenerated, became) is dynamic and amounts to a fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose.

These verses show that without resurrection, not only would we still be in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17), but there would be no Head of the Body of Christ, no members of the Body of Christ, and no essence of the Body of Christ. Resurrection produces the Body of Christ, in total.

I’m always a little shocked how much people love John 15:15, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…” As great as it is to be a friend of Jesus, through His resurrection we have become His brothers! John 20:17 says, “Go to My brothers and say to them, I ascend to My Father and your Father.” This is the first time Jesus ever calls His disciples brothers, and it is because of what happened in His resurrection—the divine life was imparted into them.

Clearly, something more than an empty tomb is going on here.

As a guy, it’s pretty easy for me to be content with doctrinal rigor, clear-cut facts, and logical arguments. “Let’s see. Rolled away stone, folded handkerchief, missing body of Jesus… yes indeed He is risen.” Mary, however, was seeking, not resurrection as an event, but as a Person. When Peter and John ran off, she lingered. She got Mr. Resurrection Himself and the monumental revelation of what had happened. Jesus appears in the freshness of His resurrection to His lovers. It’s the same today.

The incident in John 20 caused me to ask whether I care for the facts of an empty tomb or for securing a personal touch with the resurrected Lord Himself.

Yes the tomb is empty, but this is hardly the gamut of revelation presented in the New Testament. Actually, in the entire Bible there is movement toward resurrection, from Genesis 1:9 to Revelation 21:17. It is one of the dominant themes that ties the entire Bible together.

You can easily remember the basics of resurrection by remembering these 6 ‘p’ words.

Resurrection is:

A past event

“For I delivered to you, first of all, that which also I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” –1 Cor. 15:3-4

A promise for the future

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming in which all in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth: those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have practiced evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” –John 5:28-29

A present process

“Always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who are alive are always being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death operates in us, but life in you… knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will make us stand before Him with you… Therefore we do not lose heart; but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” –2 Cor. 4:10-12, 14, 16

A principle

“But the spiritual is not first but the soulish, then the spiritual.” –1 Cor. 15:46

“Indeed we ourselves had the response of death in ourselves, that we should not base our confidence on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” –2 Cor. 1:9

A power

“To know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” –Phil. 3:10

A Person

“Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes into Me, even if he should die, shall live.” –John 11:25

6 thoughts on “What is Resurrection?

  1. Hi there

    Here are my thoughts on your question:


    Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life (John 11:25).

    John Chapter 11 reveals how the Lord Jesus gave life to one already dead – in other words, how He raised the dead. He was able to raise the dead and He caused a dead man to be resurrected, but instead of saying “I raise the dead” He said “I am the resurrection.” Shortly after He said this, he did indeed raise the dead. Both Martha and Mary were present on that day. According to their sentiment, it seemed to them far more appropriate for the Lord Jesus to say, “Do not worry about your brother’s death, for I can raise him up.” We like to hear such words. What we admire and anticipate is that God will do more for us. Frequently our prayers and expectations before God are for the promise that the Lord will do this and this for us. Yet the Lord especially wishes us to see that it is not what He can do but what He Himself is. For His doing is based on His being.

    Consider Martha. She believed in the Lord’s power. She said to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Did Mary believe? But both failed to perceive that the Lord himself is the resurrection and the life. May we notice that all which God can do is included in what He is? People do not receive the power of God because they do not know who He is.

    “He that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that seek after Him” (Heb.11:6).

    What the Lord Jesus wishes to tell us here is not that He is able to preserve one’s life but that He Himself is life; not that He can raise the dead, but that He Himself is resurrection. Let us ask God to open our eyes to see who the Lord is. We must see that, before God, Christ is everything to us. With such understanding we will make real progress in spiritual matters. It is imperative for us to realize that with God there is nothing but Christ! Our real progress in spiritual matters depends on our grasping this spiritual reality. Do we know God Himself or know only the things which God has done?

    The theme of John Chapter 11 is not on how the Lord Jesus raised Lazarus but rather on how He Himself was resurrection to Lazarus. Can you see the distinction here? The Lord is the resurrection. Because He was resurrection to Lazarus, Lazarus was resurrected. He had not given something called resurrection to Lazarus; He was Himself resurrection to Lazarus. In other words, what the Lord did was only the external, but what He was Himself was the substance. I do not suggest that the Lord Jesus had not raised up Lazarus; I simply maintain He was resurrection to him, and that therefore Lazarus was raised from the dead.

    What we need to understand that all God’s workings in Christ are embodied in this principle. Because the Lord is that thing in us, therefore we have such a thing, first the being, then the having. Many Christians tend to talk about the Giver and His gifts separately. But one day we will find out that the Giver Himself is His gift. For God does not bring out many various items to give to us in fragments; what He gives is Christ. It is well if one day our eyes are opened to recognize this that all things are in Christ.

    Here the Lord declares who He is. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Since He is the resurrection, it presents no problem whatever for Lazarus to be raised up. I believe the Lord did raise Lazarus from the dead, but the emphasis was on having the Lord Himself. The resurrection of Lazarus is really not a tremendous phenomenon; but knowing the Lord Jesus as resurrection is a matter of great significance. Lots of people can believe the Lord Jesus as the life – giver, He is the life He gives as well as the giver of life. He is both the Lord of the resurrection itself. As soon as we touch this, we instantly comprehend that whatever is in Christ is living. What God gives to man is Christ. We hope we may have at least a ray of light flash in upon us, causing us to realize that the Lord is all. “I am the resurrection and the life,” declares the Lord. Resurrection and life include the whole Bible; knowing resurrection and life is therefore a big matter.



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