There are many reasons for hope in the midst of a tragic world, but none greater than Christ’s resurrection. It is the one historical event that supersedes all the other historical evidence against hope, for it announces that Christ’s victory over death changed the world forever. And eventually that will be revealed once and for all.
Some people believe that the world’s disarray of injustice, violence, poverty, natural disaster is the natural by-product of a universe of blind, physical forces — nothing but pitiless indifference. But the Bible looks at the same world and offers a different assessment: God will restore our broken world.
When we think about the resurrection, some of us want to demonstrate that it is a compelling historical event. Others want to show that the resurrection helps demonstrate that Christianity gives the best “big picture” of reality: one which makes sense of science, history, culture and personal experience. But in the end, the greatest gift of the resurrection is the hope and life it imparts.
All the world’s miseries can be captured in one word: death. They are all forms of death, and as we well know, they all lead to death — to our death and the death of the world. No wonder it is hard to have hope without Christ. The world very much looks like it is heading in one direction and one direction only.
But the resurrection reveals that death is not the last word, not our death nor the death of the world. A new power has entered history, and this power will not be defeated by any other power, not even death. As Peter says, God “has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
We don’t experience the fullness of Christ’s resurrection life here and now. Paul says that “we wait eagerly for . . . the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Even as we wait for that day, Christ’s resurrection transforms our lives now, giving us new hope in the midst of suffering and loss.
Perhaps more than any other place, this hope is instilled in us as we worship. Worship on earth is a foretaste of worship of heaven. In his 1888 work The Atmosphere the French astronomer Camille Flammarion (1842 – 1925) reproduced an illustration he declared to be a medieval woodcut, which is now thought to be Flammarion’s own invention. It shows a man on the threshold of the everyday world, peering beyond it into a deeper and more complex reality. This is what worship does for believers.
By God‘s grace, all those things we enjoy and love now become signs and pledges of something greater to come. Jonathan Edwards put this well in his great sermon of September 1733, “The Christian Pilgrim”:
To go to heaven fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows. But the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are drops, but God is the ocean.
Our hope for the new creation is a hope grounded in something that happened in the midst of a broken world. The resurrection reveals that death is not the last word, not our death nor the death of the world. A new power has entered history, and this power will not be defeated by any other power, not even death. As Peter says, God “has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
The resurrected Christ is the guarantor that these realities are secured. No wonder the New Testament exults in the resurrection hope!
Article drawn from study features in the NIV Understand the Faith Study Bible.