This weekend I am struck by one passage in the bible I have been reading around the Easter truth of the resurrection of Jesus. It is from 1 Corinthians 15: ‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.’ (v20).
A firstfruit is simply the earliest fruit of the season. It is the promise of the rest of the crop or harvest to follow. We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection as christians not only because of his triumph over sin and death, but because inherent in his resurrection is our promised resurrection too.
There has sadly been a lot of talk about death recently, as we are daily receiving the latest coronavirus mortality figures. As a culture normally cushioned from mass casualties from wars or tragedies, the fragility of life and awareness of our own mortality is suddenly right up in our faces. Christians are not exempt from this virus; there are some lovely stories of people brought through this sickness, and also some sorrow filled ones of those in faith who have died through it.
The Easter hope we have in Jesus, who is risen from the grave, is that his risen glory will one day be ours. More than that, the heavenly inheritance we long for is the other side of death. Death is the necessary pathway Christians must take before they ultimately enter their own resurrection: ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.’ (V22-23).
In this amazing bible passage, Paul goes on to describe death for the Christian like a seed planted in the ground, awaiting the new life that will come from it. He describes our dying as something that is perishable, weak and in dishonour. And that is what we see as a person breathes their last breath. But Paul then contrasts this with our new resurrection body we receive when Jesus returns in glory: a new body that is imperishable, glorious and powerful, just like Jesus’ glorified body. And that is what we struggle to see this side of the curtain.
Like most of us, I don’t like thinking about the issue of death very much, but this current crisis is making us face our mortality afresh. It is hard to hold lightly enough to this life to be able to also reach out for the next. My elderly mother has less inhibitions about facing this. A lady of strong faith and living by herself, she will often tell me on the phone about the new resurrection body she is looking forward to receiving!
If you have put your trust in the Lord, can I encourage you, whenever you are tempted to be anxious about death, firstly to think about Jesus’ risen body, dazzling and fit for heavenly splendour, and then think of what you will one day be like, with a body and a life that ‘reflects the Heavenly Man’ (v49)? And if you have not yet put your trust in Jesus for your eternal salvation please don’t hesitate a moment longer – put your faith in him so you can be sure of your eternal destiny.
As a Christian believer I can’t enter into my heavenly inheritance until I pass through the valley of the shadow of death. I can’t receive my new resurrection body unless my old one is sown like a husk into the ground. Yes we are living fully in this world, but we await a greater, more vibrant and abundant life in eternity.
Christ is alive. Our faith in him is secure, the hope of our resurrection life certain.
Hallelujah for Jesus our firstfruits!
God bless you.