Resurrection and the Logic of New Creation
Students of Scripture have long noticed a parallel made in the Bible between God’s work of creation and His work of redemption. The first reference that comes to mind to show this parallel are the words of Paul in 2 Cor. 4:6. Here Paul says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Just as God, when He created the universe said, “Let there by light” (Gen. 1:3), in the same way He shines the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (a mouthful to be sure) into our darkened, sinful hearts, transforming us into creatures of worship.
Now, what I’d like to draw your attention to is that the resurrection of Christ inaugurates the new creation spoken of in the Bible. In two passages, Paul ties in the work of Jesus to the God’s renewing the universe. In 2 Cor. 5:17, Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” And again in Gal. 6:15 he states, ” For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” Now what’s really exciting (for me at least) was the realization that the very ordering of events in the death of Christ points to this redemption/new creation dynamic.
When God created the world, He did so in 6 days (don’t ask me how long those days were!), and on the 7th day he rested from His work of bringing creation into existence. When we turn to the final redemption accomplished by Christ we find the same pattern going on. Christ was judged on the 5th day of the week (Thursday), and crucified on the 6th day (what we call Good Friday). With His atoning death on the cross, one that brought His entire obedient life to its climax, Christ perfectly accomplishes His divine rescue mission. His final words were “It is finished!” Jesus completed His redemptive work in 6 days, and on the 7th (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath) He rested.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that having made purifications for sins Jesus sat down at the right hand of God (the actual wording is that he “sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high,” which is a typical Jewish way for speaking of God without actually saying “God”). This sitting down represents completion, perfection, finality. At the end of the creation week, God did not rest in the sense that He wiped His Divine brow, and dozed off. No, God “rested” in the sense that His work was complete, and like a King enthroned, sat down to enjoy His creation. This is exactly what Jesus did on the day in which His body lay in that cold, damp tomb, the same day that He earlier told the thief on the cross that He would be with Him in “paradise.”
So, if this observation is correction, what does that say of the day of Christ’s resurrection? O. Palmer Robertson puts it well:
By His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ consummated God’s redemptive purposes. His coming forth into new life must be understood as an event as significant as the creation of the world. By His resurrection, a new creation occurred. –O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants
With Christ’s resurrection on Sunday, the first day of the week, Christ restructures history around Himself. When Jesus stepped out of His tomb, it ushered in the new-era of God’s work in the world. His resurrection from the dead signifies not only the Father’s approval of His perfect sacrifice, but also His inauguration of the age to come. You see Jews in the first century looked forward to that great “age to come”, a time in which all evil would be done away with and justice would be brought to bear on the world. We can even see this Jewish influence in much of the New Testament and in the epistles of Paul (they often contrast “this present evil age” with the” age to come”). With His redemptive work, Christ indeed defeated the evil powers in the high places and brought in the overlapping of these two ages. Now this present evil age and the age to come coexist, and we as the church of the living God work for the spread of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. You see, the Jews knew that when the resurrection occurred that this would be the sign of the coming of the kingdom of God. But, they expected one general resurrection, and only at the end of time. No one seemingly had categories for what happened to God’s Holy One. But, after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit lead the Apostles to see what God had been doing. Christ, through His resurrection in the middle of history, brought the age to come (the “Olam Haba” in Hebrew) into the middle of history as well.
This is why, through Christ’s resurrection, we can be assured of our own future bodily resurrection. Christ has in effect, through His atoning work, wrapped up history in Himself, and this is why there is no wrath for those accepted by the Father on behalf of Jesus (Rom. 8:1). The final judgment is now declared on behalf of those who trust in God’s King. While Paul speaks about the fact that we will be justified in the future, he likewise speaks of us already being justified and having peace with God (Rom. 5:1). The implications of Christ’s resurrection are nearly limitless and we ought truly and from the heart to thank God for all that He is ever will be for us in Jesus, our Lord King, friend and elder brother.
For more on the theme of resurrection and the Christian hope, see: