All around the world today, believers are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why? Because His victory over death is the beginning of something spectacular for anyone who dies — in other words, all of us. His resurrection was an announcement of victory over the grave, as well as any power or authority that sets itself up against Love and Life.
The place of death, called Hades in scripture, is locked up tight from the perspective of the living. Retrieving a loved one who has passed away (and I’m not referring to one who has just temporarily flatlined) is scientifically impossible. All the money or power or medicine in the world can’t open the “door” of death.
This door has a set of keys. These are symbolic keys, of course, representing the power or ability to cause someone who has passed away (to death) to pass back again (to life).
If any fallible human being were to gain that power, there’s no telling how he or she would use it. They say power corrupts. Can you imagine the level of corruption we might witness were that kind of power to fall into the hands of anyone other than a perfect, sinless person? But, I digress…
When Jesus rose again, when he went through that mysterious door and returned holding the keys to death and Hades, this is what happened:
Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
— The Apostle Paul, to the believers in Corinth
Let’s break it down:
- Death no longer has victory.
- Sin is no longer the venom of death. (Romans 5:12), and the law no longer gives sin power. (Romans 7:8)
- Believers’ labor (i.e. the work of the Lord) is not in vain.
What are the practical implications for the world?
- We die, but we won’t stay dead.
- It’s no longer about law and sin (i.e. bad people should be good); it’s about death and life (i.e. dead people should be alive).
- God’s work produces the intended result.
Either Paul had an overactive imagination, or he believed something larger and more hopeful than many believers today. According to many official statements of faith and orthodox doctrines, today is the day believers celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because His victory over death is the beginning of something spectacular for them.
They have victory over the grave. Never mind their families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances. They have victory over power or authority that sets itself up against Love and Life, but their families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances will remain enslaved to the powers of darkness, tormented forever and ever.
If you are counted among those who agree with or defend the doctrines of annihilation or eternal torment, I hope you stop and think long and hard about numbers 2 and 3 above.
You say you are free, but in the same breath, you condemn yourself and others because of this or that sin. Don’t you realize that the resurrection of Christ does away with that entire way of thinking? You don’t live for Christ because you choose to live for Christ; He chose you to live for Him, to begin passing from death to life on this side of the grave. If you sin, do you think you have somehow undone what Christ did for you? No? Then stop worrying about whether people think you are “Christ-like.”
Christ-like character is a result of Love and Life at work in you, because you know that when Jesus strutted out of that grave with those keys in His fist, everything changed. You have the strongest sense of blessed relief. The salvation of others does not depend on you. If you fail, God will not abandon you. If you fail, God will not abandon those He placed in your circle of influence.
It’s not about whether you are good enough to participate in the work of the Lord. Are you alive? Then you qualify.
If you still don’t feel qualified to partner with God in His redemptive work, then refer to number 3. It is not YOUR responsibility to make sure God’s work accomplishes its purpose. Your work is God’s work, and God makes sure His work gets done. Completely.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
— The Apostle Paul, to the believers in Rome
Do you know what this means? Do you realize the incredible implications?
If not, then this Easter will be just like every other Easter, that is, a day to be happy about you and your Christ-like friends who have it all figured out.
If so, then you see that this resurrection celebration continues until the whole world is swallowed up in victory, even if you stumble, even if you fall, even if you fail miserably in your attempts to be Christ-like.
God isn’t asking you to hold the keys, to be the one responsible for making sure the people you know pass from death to life. God’s just asking you to share the good news that Jesus, Whose mission is to seek and save the lost, Who said He would draw all people to Himself, holds those keys.
Doesn’t that kind of all-consuming love compel you to live for Him? And in living for Him, one day you realize you are becoming like Him, without really even trying.