By Michael Bahjeian
“Jesus Christ is risen!” “Amen, He is risen indeed!” That’s how believers greet one another at Easter in the Eastern Church.
I don’t know much more about the Orthodox Church tradition, except the fact the Easter is definitely a very important event that is celebrated with grandiose ceremonies for a certain number of days, up to a week I think, and that many churches are called Church of the Resurrection. I remember a story from one of R. Wurmbrand books, where Christians in a prisoner camp would take incredible risks to be able to gather together in order to celebrate Easter, rejoice and pray and sometimes share some improvised food that looked very yummy although it was not exactly the real good food as we know it.
It is obvious for Easter Christians that Easter is more important that Christmas. Baby Jesus was the promise but Jesus risen from the dead was the accomplishment, the achievement of his mission on earth. Who could discern from a group of children at kindy those who will become a blessing for society and those who will become a burden? At the end of a life, there should be more to say than at the beginning. Although it is not always true for everyone, there would have been a lot to say when Jesus died, all the things he had said and done but everyone was in shock and silent, under the oppression of the prince of darkness who believed for an instant that he had finally won the battle against hope. But Jesus Christ raised from the dead and little by little, the meaning of his resurrection started to give life and hope to the new born church. And today, especially thanks to Paul’s revelations that are unveiled in his letters, we understand that Jesus Christ raised from the dead has indeed or should have a lot of meaning for our lives on earth and for the life to come.
Jesus death came as a surprise for his followers. Although Jesus has prophesied his death and as Paul said to Agrippa in his defence in Acts 26, the prophets prophesised that “Jesus would suffer, then once the first raised from the dead, He would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles", it hadn’t really sank in people’s mind because it was not that obvious, even in the scriptures.
Indeed, although it was prophesied by the prophets and Moses- as Paul says- not many people had understood or believed it. Indeed, there were hints here and there and it was not that easy to join the dots together. In 1Pet1:11, you read that the prophets were trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He (the spirit of Christ) predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. You had to understand that the resurrection was part of these glories that were announced. The disciples themselves were not expecting it. So were the religious leaders of his time who were expecting a victorious leader who would deliver them from the domination of the Romans. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, few were the Jews who believed and Thomas wouldn’t even believe his fellow disciples without touching his side with his own hands. Eventually he believed without touching. However, he needed to see and was rebuked for that by Jesus.
Today, we face a new challenge. Do we believe in our own resurrection and what do we know about our own resurrection? The same way, Jesus’resurrection came as a surprise, our own resurrection might astonish us. You could tell me, “What’s the point? My salvation is not involved in the process of knowing about my resurrected body.” Maybe but as the quality of our resurrection will depend on our lives here – whether we’ve built with gold or chaff- our Christian lives here will be deeply related to the depth of our hope. And our resurrection should definitely be an important part of our hope.
Jesus was the first born from the dead the same way the first fruit are a little sample of an abundant crop. I Cor 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. He was raised from the dead as a confirmation that one day, death it-self will be swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory. 1 Cor 15:54 b Amplified Version.
This has not happened yet, but the mark that it has happened will be our own resurrection. And this resurrection that will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like Jesus’ glorious body will happen by the power that enables Jesus to bring everything under his control. Phil 3:21. Everything means everything, on earth and in heaven, the physical and the spiritual; everything will be transformed to come under Jesus’ power. Amen!
And there is something else that will happen when we resurrect. It is written in Rom 8:19-21 that creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
This creation involves the entire created world on earth and in the whole cosmos. This earth will be transformed and everything that is perishable will become imperishable.
Jesus’ body did not stay into the tomb. His resurrected body was issued from his perishable body. It was transformed. The same will happen to us: 1Cor 15:51b-52 says that we will be all changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Although we know that this whole earth will be destroyed by fire as it is said in 2 Peter3:10-12, we also know that in verse 12, there is the promise of a a new earth and a new heaven and both of them might derive from the old creation. The same way Jesus’ body disappeared from the tomb where he might have resurrected with a flash of light, this old earth and heaven might be transformed in the blinking of the eye, in a kind of an explosion into a new creation, the new creation of heaven and earth.
Our resurrection is our last expectation, our last destiny. We might go to heaven, and whatever beautiful and nice it might be, I think that it is only a temporary place for those who are saved, the same way hell is a temporary place for those who are lost. Being without a body is only for a time. But imagine, being in an incorruptible body, such a Jesus’one, in an incorruptible world were death will be no more and where 25The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,"
says the LORD. Isaia 65:25
To me this hope gives a better appreciation of what our future will be.
May God bless you.