We celebrate Easter because our Savior, Jesus Christ arose from the dead. In fact, if you study 1 Cor. 15:20, you will read “…that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” There is no doubt about it, as the Apostle Paul proclaims it. Jesus has “indeed” been raised. Not only has He been raised, but he is the “first-fruits” of those who have “fallen asleep,” or passed away. What does that mean to us?
There is no doubt to the author of this book that Jesus’ resurrection was real. The resurrected Christ was seen and interacted with hundreds after his empty tomb was found. Not only was Jesus resurrected but He also lives forever at the right hand of His Heavenly Father.
When the passage describes Jesus as the “first fruits” it is a term that seems foreign to us but would have been very familiar with a first century Jew. The feast of the Passover had more than one significance. Not only did it commemorate the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt, but it was also a great harvest festival. It fell when the barley harvest was due to be ingathered (Leviticus 23:10-11).
Some sheaves of barley had to be reaped from the field and brought to the temple. It was threshed with soft canes so as not to bruise it. It was then parched over the fire in a perforated pan so that every grain was touched by the fire. Then it was exposed to the wind so that the chaff was blown away. After that it was ground and the flour was offered to God. These were the first fruits (Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians).
Jesus is the “first fruits” in that He is the first that will be resurrected. The Scripture tells us that every believer who has passed away before the Second Coming of Christ will also experience a resurrection. That means that when a person accepts Christ as their Savior and Lord, they have the promise of a resurrected body. The wonderful thing about this resurrection is that, like Jesus’ it will be for eternity. There will be no more death. Death will be defeated! But, to experience that, one must accept Christ.
How does one accept Christ? The Bible paints a picture of humanity as sinners in need of a savior. Anyone who has lived on this earth for very long has seen firsthand that we are sinners. In fact, one way to put it is that we are sinners by nature and choice. No one has to train us to sin. God is holy and just, and cannot look upon sin. But, He provided a way for forgiveness. He sent Jesus Christ, His Son, to be born, live on this earth, die for our sins on the cross, and then brought Him back to life on the third day. Through this, Jesus paid the price for our sins. What we must do is believe in Jesus Christ, and accept the fact that He did this for us. Not only must we believe, but we must also make Jesus Christ Lord and Master of our lives. He paid a price that we couldn’t pay. No amount of money can buy the forgiveness that He gives us. The only way we can be forgiven for our sins is through His sacrifice.
When we accept who Jesus is in our lives, then not only can we live a life of abundance here on this earth (John 10:10) but, we will live eternally with the Lord in Heaven.
But, there will come a time when our earthly bodies wear out. My wife, Marybeth and I have experienced the death of our fathers. My father passed away in September of 2011 and Marybeth’s dad passed away in November of 2012. What has been sad is to watch what death brings to families. While both men were godly men who had lived long, productive lives (both were well in their 80’s when they fell asleep in Jesus), it has still been hard to lose them.
My mother-in-law is grieving over the loss of her husband and best friend of 65 years. Death is horrible because it separates loved ones. But, death is conquered through Jesus Christ. When we die, we will join our Lord in Heaven and when He returns our earthly bodies with be rejoined with our spiritual bodies in the air. Just imagine that! Every believer who has been lost at sea will rise from the depths. Every believer whose body was burned to ash will be whole again. Every grave of every believer will open.
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. … For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 16.
Thus, every day is Easter. Every day we live in the hope of the resurrection. Death will be defeated.
Without Christ, there is no hope. With Christ there is life.
I want to invite you to Jasper’s First Baptist Church this Sunday evening at 6 p.m. as we observe the Lord’s Supper and witness the reenactment of The Last Supper. Childcare will be provided.
Dr. Dennis R. Culbreth is the Senior Pastor of Jasper’s First Baptist Church www.jaspersfbc.org