Fourteen years have passed since a teenager in a Suburban sent me and my Sonoma crashing into a field on the side of the road. It was a legitimate “near-death experience.” I remember nothing of the accident, but based on what those at the scene told me, it was only by the grace of God that I survived.
After being airlifted to a local hospital, reconstructive surgery, five months in a wheelchair and several months of physical therapy, I discovered a number of “new normals” in my life. A limp resulting from the fact that one of my legs is now about an inch shorter than the other. An artificial hip and knee that make it a chore at times to walk or even put on a pair of socks.
Everyone has difficult conditions to deal with that leave something in life to be desired. For those occasions when we are tempted to lose heart, there is another condition God would have capture his people’s attention. It’s a condition where, even “though outwardly we are wasting away . . . inwardly we can be renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
The condition I’m referring to and one that is to serve as a new normal for the follower of Christ, is the new life God creates when someone obeys the gospel. When a person who has been dead in their transgression and sins is made alive by God, they become a new creation. As a new creation, the Christian has all the power and resources needed to overcome or endure any challenge in life.
The new life God generates in conversion is referred to in Revelation 20:6 as “the first resurrection.” In that verse the Lord reveals that those who take part in the first resurrection need never fear being condemned by God. The “second death” has no power over them.
I believe it is best, and most accurate biblically, to understand the first resurrection as a reference to the act of regeneration that takes place in Christian baptism. In Romans 6 the apostle Paul explains the work God does when a person by faith is immersed into Jesus Christ. “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6: 3, 4).
With the new life received in the first resurrection comes the power to put sin to death in our body so that it does not reign. The first resurrection gives God’s people the power to offer every part of their body to him as instruments of righteousness (see Romans 6:11-14). It’s the power of the resurrection that gives the believer the strength to work out their salvation and stand firm to the end.
Reigning with Christ
With the new life received in the first resurrection also comes the promise to reign with the Lord forever. “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11, 12).
With the promise of reigning with the Lord comes the anticipation of one day seeing Jesus and being made like him. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20, 21).
It is this anticipation the apostle Peter identifies as a living hope. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3, 4).
The Christian’s hope isn’t based on something false or vain. It’s a living hope because what it longs for will come to a complete, final, and glorious fulfillment. Warren Wiersbe observed, “It is a living hope because it is grounded on the living Word of God and was made possible by the living Son of God, who rose from the dead. A living hope is one that has life in it and therefore can give life to us. Because it has life, it grows and becomes greater and beautiful as time goes on. Time destroys most hopes; they fade and then die. But the passing of time only makes a Christian’s hope that much more glorious.”
The thought of being raised from the dead as Jesus was is an inspiration to us day by day. Yes, I’m outwardly wasting away, but the thought that one day “what is sown perishable, will be raised imperishable; what is sown in dishonor, will be raised in glory; what is sown in weakness, will be raised in power; what is sown a natural body, will be raised a spiritual body” (see 1 Corinthians 15:42-44), renews me inwardly day by day so that I do not lose heart.
In a recent Easter Sunday message, I used several props I depend on most days: a cane, a heel lift I use in my shoe to help level my legs, and a tool that helps me put on my socks. I said that the day is coming when I will no longer need these devices and I threw them at the foot of the cross in our worship center. Because of the resurrection, those things and so many others like them will no longer be necessary; they are part of the old order of things.
What gives the widow courage as she stands beside her husband’s grave? What is the ultimate hope of the disabled, the abused, the injured? What is the final answer to pain, mourning, senility, insanity, terminal disease, sudden calamity, and fatal accidents? The answer is the resurrection. The resurrection promises that every condition will be corrected and amended by the author and giver of life.
Have you taken part in the first resurrection? Do you understand what it means to know that the second death has no power over you? How do you feel knowing that an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade is being kept for you in Heaven?
As we think about what it means to have been raised with Christ, we can and should find our faith being renewed day by day. No matter how we may sense ourselves wasting away, no matter what burden we may be bearing, we know a better day is on the way. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Mark O. Snavely has held ministries in Lexington, Kentucky and Findlay, Ohio and currently serves Coastal Community Christian Church in Richmond Hill, Georgia where he has been the preaching minister for 22 years.