Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Resurrection and the End of the Age


In the time of Jesus, the Jewish expectation was that the resurrection would be an end time event. For example, when Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus had died, He said to Lazarus’ sister Martha, “You brother will rise again.” Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:23-24).

In eschatological terms (eschatology is the study of “last things,” that is, what happens at the end of the age), the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is an end time event, the beginning of the last days. Paul calls it the firstfruits.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
Firstfruits is the first portion of a harvest. In the Bible, the firstfruits were offered to God. If they were acceptable, they were holy and blessed by God, and they prophesied that the full harvest would also be acceptable, holy and blessed. Paul explains the principle in his letter to the believers at Rome: “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16; although he uses it here in a different context, the principle is the same).

When God raised Jesus the Messiah from the dead, Jesus became the firstfruits of the resurrection. The surprise is that the resurrection that was expected at the end of the age has broken into the middle of history, and it is the guarantee that all who trust in Jesus will also be physically raised from the dead. The firstfruits secures the blessing of the full harvest.

There is also another firstfruits that Paul writes about, and it has the same significance regarding the resurrection and the end of the age.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:18-23)
Fifty days after the resurrection of the Son of God, the Spirit of God came to dwell in the people of God. We celebrate this event seven weeks after Resurrection Sunday, on the day called Pentecost. The Holy Spirit indwelling those who belong to Jesus is another assurance that we will experience the “redemption of our body,” when even our bodies are delivered death unto life. All creation groans together, waiting for this resurrection, that it may be itself fully delivered from the bondage of corruption.

The end of the age has broken into history and the eternal age of God’s kingdom has entered into the world. This is why John can say, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8). And we are living in the transition, in the light and power of Jesus’ resurrection.