If we’re in Christ, we know that one day, God will bring us to a renewed, eternal physical kingdom where we’ll experience a glorified and perfected version of every beautiful thing we love about the world down here. I’ve experienced an earthly Hawaii, an earthly ribeye, and an earthly Nicolas Cage, and I can’t wait for the heavenly ones. But what difference does the resurrection make for us right now?
Paul shows us four ways in 1 Corinthians 15:
1. Because of the resurrection, death has no more sting.
Death—whether our own or of a loved one—is life’s hardest experience because it feels so permanent. But if the resurrection is true, it’s not permanent. It’s temporary because Jesus took the sting out of death, its permanence. This is why if our loved ones were in Christ, we don’t say things like, “I’ll never hold my baby again” or “I’ll never see my wife again” or “I’ll never hug my grandmother again.” Because in the new world, we will certainly hold, see, and hug them again, with our physical arms.
But what about our loved ones who weren’t saved? That’s a hard reality, and a question I don’t exactly know how to answer. What I do know is that in heaven, our capacity for love will increase. I also know that Scripture says God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and make every sad thing come untrue. With these in mind, I assume that somehow this means we’ll be at peace with the decisions that people made for themselves. I don’t know how all that is going to work, but I’ve learned to trust Jesus in it. In the meantime, I plead with everyone I know and love to come to Jesus.
2. Because of the resurrection, our worst pain is only light and momentary.
God promises that your pain actually becomes part of the beautiful thing he’s making you. Paul writes that death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54). When you swallow something, you digest it, and it becomes a factor in making you, well, you. That’s what God’s going to do with our pain. It’s not just that we had pain on earth, and now we’re at the theme park of heaven and forget all about it. No, in heaven, we’ll see how the pain we went through produced in us the incredible beauty and weight of glory we become.
Your situation may feel permanent, but it’s not. Whatever situation you’re in—chronic pain, chronic illness, disappointed dreams, a bad marriage, being alone—it’s all temporary. Paul calls it light and momentary.
That doesn’t mean we make light of our pain or live charmed lives free from pain. Paul experienced some of the worst pain possible for us to experience—betrayal, abandonment, torture, loneliness, chronic illness. “But,” he said, “even the worst of the worst is all light and momentary, compared to the weight of glory that’s coming to me in the resurrection.” In the meantime, we live with abundant hope and persistent prayer that God can and will heal us from all of our pain, now or in the future.
3. Because of the resurrection, we can press forward with risk-taking, trial-enduring, death-defying obedience to Jesus.
For every missionary who has walked away from family and fortune and friends to carry the gospel to unreached places, the resurrection says, “It’s going to be worth it. Your sacrifice was only temporary. Jesus is going to repay you one-hundred-fold in the kingdom to come.”
Though it’s costly now, you’ll soon be home in eternity forever with Jesus and the ones you love. And you’ll be glad you gave your life so that other families could be there, too. Imagine what it will be like when you’ve been there for 10,000 years, knowing those who came to Christ because of your sacrifice. You don’t know who they are now, but you will then. So be bold, and death-defying in your obedience. As C.T. Studd said, “Only one life to live ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
4. Because of the resurrection, living for Jesus is the only thing that makes sense.
Every one of us has a soul and a body. For those of you who die united to Christ, your souls will immediately enter the presence and joy of God as you await the glorious resurrection of your bodies. For those of you who die apart from Christ, your souls will immediately enter the judgment of God as you await the resurrection of your body. But make no mistake, this resurrection isn’t unto eternal happiness, but eternal judgment and misery. Jesus said in John 5, “The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (vv. 28–29).
Friend, I cannot emphasize to you enough the importance of what you do with Jesus. He offers his resurrection to you, if you repent of your sin and submit to him as Lord and Savior. For those of you in Christ, this world is as close to hell as you will ever come. For those of you outside of Christ, this world is as close to heaven as you’ll ever get. Which resurrection do you want to be included in? The resurrection to judgment or the resurrection to life?