By Dan Calabrese
Every Easter Sunday you see a lot of “He Is Risen!” all across the Internet, and you’d almost think people have the idea that it happens once a year – like the groundhog seeing his shadow (or not, I guess).
I could be inferring a meaning people don’t intend, and I’m sure almost no one intends it seriously, but one of the most crucial things to understand about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that it only happened once because it only needed to happen once, as distinct from the sin offerings God demanded of the Israelite priests prior to the coming of Christ.
If you get why this matters, you get most of what you need to know about the resurrection.
In Old Testament times, God demanded animal sacrifices as sin offerings, and these were offered up by Israelite priests on a recurring basis. There were reasons the priests had to keep repeating these offerings. One, obviously, is that people kept sinning. But also, the sacrifices were only so good in terms of acceptability before God. The Lord expected the priests to offer the very best of their herds and flocks, just as He commands the our first fruits in giving. Remember, Cain’s problem with God stemmed from the fact that – unlike Abel – the sacrifice he offered was not the best he had.
Yet even when the Israelites did offer the best they had, it still wasn’t perfect and unblemished. As such, God could not accept it as sufficient to cover the sins of the Israelites for all time. An imperfect sin offering could go only so far. Another year, more sin, another round of sacrifices, rinse, repeat.
Yet God knew throughout this time that He would ultimately bring the cycle to an end – and to complete fulfillment – when the time came for Him to offer His own sacrifice, the one perfect and unblemished sin offering, His son, Jesus Christ.
It was men who killed Jesus, but it was God who offered Jesus up to be killed. And because Jesus never sinned and never rebelled against God in any way, those men were able to kill his flesh but they were not able to subject Him to eternal death. While Jesus walked on the Earth, he won a victory over sin by rejecting the temptation of the devil. When Jesus rose from the grave and walked out of the tomb, He won a victory over death, because the complete absence of any sin-inflicted stain on Him meant death had no authority over Him.
Indeed, by winning these victories, it was Jesus who gained authority over sin and death.
And that is the authority by which He can pardon each of us for our sins, intervening on our behalf with the Father, and seeing to it that our names are written in the Book of Life.
You cannot earn eternal life by being good enough. But what you can do is repent of sin, receive His grace and submit yourself to His authority. His grace is so powerful and all-encompassing, that regardless of what you’ve done or failed to do, the same righteousness with which He lived will be credited to you – because you are under His authority. And because He has authority over sin and death, He has the power to deliver you from both. Your fleshly body will die, just as His did, but you will rise to eternal life, just as He did, because He has the authority to impute His righteousness to you.
Why would He do this when he lived a sinless life and you didn’t? Because He is that good! And He loves us that much!
Now this does raise a good question: Why is all of this necessary? Why require sin offerings? Why require sacrifices? Why not just pronounce everyone forgiven and dispense with all the rest of it? Simplify things. Save time.
Here’s why: 1 Corinthians 13:10 says that when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. So what is the perfect? Go to Revelation 21:1-5, which says:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth.” For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no more sea. 2 I, John, saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven, saying, “Look! The tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them. They shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death.’ Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making all things new.” Then He said to me, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
A new Heaven and a new Earth. All things made new. No more death. No more sorrow. No more pain. The former things have passed away.
Anyone interested in signing up for that? Yeah. Me too.
So what’s the distinction between the new Heaven and Earth, and the old Heaven and Earth? One thing. The complete absence of sin from the new. The former things – those things stained with sin – will have passed away. They will be thrown in the fire. Destroyed. No more.
Remember, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden because their sin made it impossible for them to abide in the presence of God. But God put in place a sequence of events to restore His people to Him, so that the world could finally and forever be as He intended it in the beginning, with Him dwelling with us and being our God.
How do you get rid of sin? By a cleansing and refining that can only come by fire. But before the fire, Jesus Christ offers us grace such that we can have our sin taken away, and can stand in the presence of God and live, eternally, not needing to be thrown into the fire because our sin has already been removed by His grace, made possible by His sacrifice.
When He walked out of that tomb, He became the firstborn from among the dead. Death could not hold Him because His sinlessness did not permit death to have authority over Him. Quite the contrary, He had now gained authority over both sin and death, and all who willingly come under His authority will likewise not be subject to sin or death, but will have eternal life.
That’s why it matters – to you, to me and to everyone – that He is risen, one time, for all time. Glory be to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!