[Note: this is the conclusion of a two-part series begun last month.]
For many, many years, I’ve taught again and again . . . and again (in person and in print) that we are in Jesus. We are permanently fused and connected with Him in his death and burial. Likewise, we became permanently in Him when He was raised from the dead. Yes, our old life passed away when we became one with Jesus in his death and burial; now—Behold!—all things are becoming new because we are also one with Him in his resurrection. Just as certainly as Jesus was raised from his sleep of death by the power of God the Holy Spirit, from the overarching vantage point of eternity we are already “awakened” and risen with Him, children of the resurrection! (Luke 20: 36)
Jesus is the Resurrection!
I hope you understand clearly the resurrection is not merely an awesome event to occur sometime in the future. The great fundamental fact we must comprehend is that the resurrection is above all a Person, and that Person is none other than Jesus who died, who was buried, and who rose again! The day will come for each of us when family and friends will place our bodies in a coffin (or our ashes in an urn) and bury us under the ground or at sea (or burn our bodies publicly like they do in some cultures).
Events such as those are not morbid, distasteful, and horrible to any person who has identified himself or herself with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection. Death is but a brief time of peaceful sleep which the Bible calls being “asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 14) Your resurrection in Jesus is the difference between meaningless, dark, and dreadful death with no hope beyond the grave—and true abundant, incorruptible, and eternal LIFE. He who died and was buried is forevermore alive. He is risen! He is alive! We shall live also!
The Bible teaches much about the Feasts celebrated by the ancient Israelites (and by many Israelites—Jews—today). They are concepts containing many metaphors and symbolic word-pictures about our resurrection.
One Feast is that of “First Fruits.” The ancient Israelites celebrated three major Feasts annually (those same feasts are still celebrated to some degree by certain modern Israelites—and even by some Jesus-believers). The three Feasts are the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Exodus 23 and Leviticus 23) Also celebrated during or “within” those three major Feast-events were seven “minor” celebrations: three during Passover, one during Pentecost, and three during Tabernacles.
Jesus “fulfilled” the first Feast by being the Passover Lamb who was THE sacrifice and whose blood was shed for the sin of ALL humanity. At the conclusion of the first Feast, Passover, the ancient Israelites would take one sheaf of newly ripened grain and wave it before God as the first sign of a ripening harvest to come. With the waving of that first sheaf of grain, the Israelites were reminded of the fact that a great harvest was soon to be gathered in.
1 Corinthians 15: 20 and 23 calls Jesus the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. When resurrected, He was “waved” before God signifying a great harvest to follow. What is the great harvest to follow? We are! Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. If it dies, however, it springs forth into an abundant harvest of grain.” (John 12: 24) But the New Testament teaches we who are “in” Jesus are also a type of firstfruits of the coming harvest (James 1: 18 and Revelation 14: 4). Jesus is the firstfruits, but we are also firstfruits “in” Him.
I’m only touching upon the highlights of the marvelous teachings found in these three major Feasts (including the seven minor events contained within them). We won’t have space to teach anything at all about the second major Feast, Pentecost. Maybe some other time . . . .
Third Major Celebration
The third major Feast, Tabernacles, contained three “minor” celebrations: the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Atonement, and the Feast of Ingathering. The Feast of Trumpets suggests to us that there will come a time when those who are asleep in Jesus will hear a trumpet call resounding so loudly from the portals of eternity that the dead in Jesus cannot help but be awakened from their sleep (1 Corinthians 15: 52). Ancient Israel had two (sometimes three) growing seasons, each one ending in a great harvest. I’ve already mentioned waving the sheaf of grain (Jesus) to signify a great harvest to follow (that’s us) at the end of the first growing season.
The great harvest during the last Feast, the Feast of Ingathering, is when all people who are asleep in death will be “harvested”—in addition to those who have been sleeping in Jesus. (John 5: 27 – 29) It is the great harvest at the end of the ages of time when all persons will be summoned to God’s throne of grace, there to give an account of their relationship (or lack of one) they have had with Jesus. Jesus, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. Then those who are in Him, the following firstfruits. Finally, the remainder of humankind who sleep in death. When all is said and done, it all rests upon one person, Jesus, and upon one event: Jesus’ resurrection. He is the resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in Him, though they are dead, shall live!
Death’s Great Adventure
Last month, I referred to a couple of nearby cemeteries I sometimes visit. I don’t do so in order to be morbid or sad. They’re quiet, serene places at the eastern edge of the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. To the west, the beautiful hills begin their climb to the heights. To the east, the rolling Dakota prairies begin their long march to the Missouri River and beyond. The soft winds whisper through the pines and the prairie grasses. The sun and rains and winter snows gently caress the mown grasses of the cemeteries. They are peaceful places situated on gently sloping hillsides—places full of rich memories and comforting thoughts I have of loved ones who have fallen asleep before me.
My memories are rich and full as I contemplate those who have preceded me in the great mysterious adventure we call death. I know my loved ones have “already” awakened (in a manner of speaking) from their long sleep and are basking in the golden glow of God’s bright splendor in the rich realms of Jesus’ eternal, coming Kingdom. They wait for me to join them there some bright morning.
On the gravestone of one of my ancestors—a great-great-uncle whom I never knew and who died at an early age in the 1800’s—is this faded inscription, almost unreadable now from the ravages of winds and storms and the passing years: “Another link is broken in our family band, but a golden chain is forming in a better land.”
In Jesus, we are one with Him, one with all those who have preceded us in the sleep of death, one with all those who live now, one with all those who will yet live in Jesus. We all march on inexorably through the passing centuries to our final time of sleep. But some bright morning, we shall see the Lord of Harvest face-to-face when He summons us to come forth and awaken from the long, long sleep of death. Yes, because He lives, we can face all our tomorrows and the inevitability of death, knowing it is merely a falling asleep followed by an “instant” awakening.
I have not written these words in an attempt to convince you of the reality of your resurrection. Either you are in Jesus and know you will be resurrected, or you do not know you will be resurrected. Neither have I written in order to reaffirm my own faith in the resurrection; I settled that issue in my own spirit and mind many years ago. My own resurrection is as real to me as living this mortal life is real to me. In some ways my resurrection into an immortal life in RealRealm of Jesus’ Coming Kingdom is even more real than the mortal life I now live in ShadowLand.
No, I have written about Resurrection simply because it is an event that will one day actually happen to everyone reading this teaching—and to every human ever born. It is a matter each of us needs to settle in our own minds and spirits. If you don’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection and in your own, I ask you this: “Why even bother considering yourself a Jesus-believer?”
No resurrection, No Nothing!
If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity; there are merely a lot of nice sayings by a person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived and died and who was buried many centuries ago. If there is no resurrection, Jesus’ body has since turned to fine dust and has been dispersed to the four corners of the earth by the relentless winds of time. No resurrection, no living Lord Jesus. No Christianity. No Church. No reason to pretend. No reason to play at being a Jesus-believer in whom Jesus lives in his “unbodied form” of the Holy Spirit. No Holy Spirit who lives inside us, energizing, empowering, and motivating us to live in Jesus, following and serving Him. If there is no resurrection, none of it makes any sense; it is all nonsense and religious foolishness.
As the Bible puts it, if there is no resurrection, our faith is in vain and we are of all persons most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15: 19) Dear reader, you need to settle this issue in your own spirit and mind. Is Jesus alive today? Is He alive in you? Does He live in other people? Is He the Resurrection and the Life? Is He your resurrection and your Life? This thought came to me recently; I hope you will ponder it long enough to realize its depth of meaning:
Most of us believe we are in the land of the living headed toward the land of the dying. Not true! We are in the land of the dying headed toward the land of the living!
Thinking about the “land of the living” (heaven or Jesus’ coming Kingdom), there is a great book I strongly urge you to obtain and read carefully; I feel it’s one of the best books you’ll ever read about heaven; it’s by the well-known author, Randy Alcorn, and is simply titled Heaven.
“We are all going to be changed; we’ll all hear the loud blast of a trumpet, and in less time than it takes to blink, we’ll be changed! We’ll be up and out of our graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. Yes, in God’s resurrection scheme of things, we will all be changed!” –Paraphrased from1 Corinthians 15
To Think About This Month
“We shall never cease from our mortal journeying, and the end of all our journeying will be to arrive at where we started and know the Place for the first time!”
–adapted from T. S. Eliot
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Revised and Updated December 2020