Easter: The promise of an eternal sunrise

Today is “Good Friday,” the day that Christians across the globe commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus, who as the Son of God, sacrificed Himself on the cross so that we who confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead shall “be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)
(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)

Why would Christians commemorate such a grievous miscarriage of justice as the crucifixion of God’s Perfect Son? The answer, of course, is that the crucifixion, as terrible as it was, was not the end, but to paraphrase Churchill, “the end of the beginning,” culminating in the glorious, universe-altering victory of the Resurrection. Consequently, Christians everywhere celebrate Holy Week, which culminates with Easter Sunday — Resurrection Day!

The two biggest events on the International Christian calendar are Christmas and Easter. For most cultures historically influenced by Christianity, including the U.S., Christmas is the bigger, social, cultural, and economic event.

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For Christians who take their faith seriously, however, Easter is the more momentous event. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the Savior, God Incarnate, the Word made flesh. It must always be remembered, however, that He was born to die as a sacrifice for our sins. The shadow if the cross always casts a shadow over the manger. Jesus came to die a cross kind of death to save a mankind that could not save itself. “For God so love the world, that He gave His one begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting” (John 3:16).

If there had not been an empty tomb and a Resurrection, then we would be as dejected and spiritually confused as the two that Jesus walked with on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday. Crestfallen, they explained, “We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24:21).

Jesus then appeared to the disciples that first Easter evening, in His resurrection body, much to their surprise and fright. After having consumed some broiled fish and a honeycomb to demonstrate that He was not an apparition, He explained:

“These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

As the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians, everything stands or falls on the Resurrection: “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).

But it is “Good” Friday and Resurrection Sunday because He is risen! A great old hymn (1874) by Robert Lowry, which we often sang in the church of my youth, says it very well:

Up from the grave He arose

With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.

He arose a victor from the dark domain,

And He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose, He arose!

Halleluiah, Christ arose.

My favorite hymn, written by Charles Wesley 283 years ago, speaks eloquently to what Resurrection Day culminates:

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood.

Died he for me, who caused his pain, for me who Him to death pursued.

Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God shouldst die for me.

He left His Father’s throne above, so free, so infinite His grace,

Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s hapless race.

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, for oh my God, it found out me.

No condemnation now I dread. Jesus and all in Him is mine.

Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown through Christ my own.

Amazing love, how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me.

That is the message of Easter — a joyous, victorious culmination. Jesus has conquered death for all who believe in Him and trust Him alone for their salvation. As the Apostle Paul affirmed, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

And what a glorious salvation it is. It will ultimately be fulfilled in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

In the Bible’s last book, the Resurrected, Ascended, Glorified Jesus tells the Apostle John that in the New Heaven and the New Earth that is coming, “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Rev. 21:6-7).

The most startling thing about that promise is that it is first person singular. Earlier in the same passage, He speaks of being with “them” and “God himself shall be with them” (Rev. 21:3-4).

But here in verse 7 it is first person singular, just as it is in our individual salvation experience. We must come to accept Jesus as our personal Savior, not just acknowledging Him as the Savior of the world.

In the New Heaven and the New Earth, he that “overcomes” (“Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" [1 John 5:5]) will have a first person, singular personal relationship with the Alpha and the Omega, the Son of God.  You may never have received all the attention you wanted or thought you needed from your parents, or your spouse, or your children, but in the New Heaven and the New Earth, it is going to seem as if you are God’s “one and only” and you will have His undivided attention. Glory to God Almighty!

Happy Easter. He is Risen!

He is Risen indeed.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (magna cum laude), Princeton; D.Phil. Oxford; and Th.M., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) and has served since 2013 as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Land has been teaching, writing, and speaking on moral and ethical issues for the last half century in addition to pastoring several churches. He is the author of The Divided States of America, Imagine! A God Blessed America, Real Homeland Security, For Faith & Family and Send a Message to Mickey.

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