We have lived through a difficult and stressful year. We had an ongoing pandemic resulting in thousands of deaths, hospitalizations, and social restrictions. There were protests about racial injustice in the U.S. and Canada in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. A divisive U.S. election culminated with an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Christians, including those in the Christian Reformed Church, have been caught up in the tension and disputes arising from all of these events. From debates over masks and worship gatherings to Black Lives Matter to President Donald Trump and Christian nationalism, Christians find themselves arguing with each other. In the CRC we are also arguing about same-sex marriage and denominational restructuring, among other things.
It seems as if everyone’s stress is heightened. We have become overly sensitive; our fuses are much shorter. For many, the lack of in-person social connections due to pandemic restrictions has only made these qualities worse.
When we look at the world today with all its problems, from wars and racism to abortion and climate change, we are tempted to despair. Every step forward seems to be met with several steps back.
But, thank God, we have Easter. Christ’s resurrection gives me hope. I strongly believe that Jesus was truly resurrected from the grave (see my article, “Was the Resurrection of Jesus a Myth?” p. 40). And because it’s true, I have steadfast hope not only for an eternal life for me and my loved ones, but also for the renewal of the world.
The apostle Paul wrote that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. … For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20, 22). This resurrection also means that when Christ comes again at the end of human time, he will overcome all barriers to God’s kingdom, including systemic barriers. Paul continues, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:24-25).
According to renowned biblical scholar Kenneth Bailey, the original Greek words translated in the New International Version as “dominion, authority and power” are not rare words, but “standard words used for governments and earthly rulers” (Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, p. 445). These were the same words Paul used to speak of the governing authorities in Romans 13. “The apostle,” Bailey concludes, “as much as announces that one of the goals of the resurrected Christ was the setting aside of eternal Rome (the empire)” (p. 445).
Christ’s resurrection is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). It is also the firstfruits of the renewal of the world, the ushering in of God’s kingdom, and the defeat of all that wages war against God. Animosity will be defeated. Lies will be defeated. Racism will be defeated. Viruses, illnesses, and suffering will be defeated. Even death, the last enemy, will be defeated (1 Cor. 15:26).
At times it might not look as if God will triumph, but looks can be deceiving. Easter reminds us that God has triumphed and will triumph again. Glory to God!