Hopelessness and the Denial of the Resurrection

hopelessnessThis fallen world sometimes falls on us. It can be easy to be overwhelmed with all that’s wrong in our world. Watch the news and you’ll be hit with one horror story after another, one heart-wrench tale after another. War, violence, oppression, terrorism, child endangerment, and death swirl around us. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our own emotional, psychological, and relation pain runs even deeper. It can be tempting to surrender to despair some days. But to give in to hopelessness is to deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for it His resurrection is the foundation of true and everlasting hope.

Peter makes the connection between the resurrection of Jesus and hope. He writes:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3)

Peter parallels a “living” hope with a living savior. Our hope is alive because our God is a live. Our hope is “living” because it comes “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” In other words, the resurrection changes everything.

In the resurrection we see a number of significant hope-giving events happening. First, Jesus overcomes our enemies. Death could not keep him in its grip (Acts 2:24). He conquered that enemy (1 Cor. 15:54-57; Rom. 6:9). In fact Revelation tells us He owns death now, the enemy has been made a servant of the King (Rev. 1:18). Grief and loss can be overwhelming emotions. To lose someone we love is easily one of the hardest experiences of our fallen world that we encounter, and yet we can find hope even in this: knowing that God rules over even death. The dead are not gone, not simply exterminated from existence; no, rather they are in the very presence of God himself.

He defeated the power of sin too. The resurrection tells us that sin “no longer has dominion” over us (Rom. 6:14). In Romans 6 Paul draws the parallels between Christ death and our death to sin, and Christ’s resurrection and our “newness of life.” We read:

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:6-11)

Because Christ lives we can be freed from the power of sin. There is a great temptation to give into a spiritual despair that says, “I will never break free from this sin.” We all have enslaving sins, life-dominating struggles. Maybe yours is alcoholism or pornography, or maybe it’s something more socially acceptable like gossip or gluttony. We may fight to get clean, sober-up, break the bad habit, stop the sin. We may repent, and yet often we find ourselves right back in the same cycle. It is tempting to think that it is futile to fight, that we will never change, that we will never be free. But there is hope: Christ is raised from the dead and the death He died to sin was once and for all! So we are united with Christ that we too may be dead to sin. One day sin will be no more!

Secondly, because Christ has been raised there is a bright future. Despair and hopelessness see no future. The end is nigh in their tiny worlds. Pain is meaningless and valueless. But because Christ has been raised we know that there is a real future to be anticipated and longed for. Christ has conquered death so that we too should live eternally. Paul writes to the Corinthians saying that they can trust that their loved ones will rise again precisely because Christ has risen. Their resurrection is connected to His. Jesus is the resurrection. He doesn’t just rise from the dead, He is the power of resurrection. Everyone “who believes in [Jesus] will live even if he dies” (John 11:25-26). There is a bright future for the believer.

Jesus’ resurrection changes everything. His supernatural life had demonstrated that the new world will not be like the old one. There will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more heartache, no more loss (Rev. 21:4). The new life we live will be marked by joy in the very presence of the Lord. We will experience a complete transformation of our bodies and our souls. We will be truly new creations in Christ. There is great hope. So much great hope that Paul says the “sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing to the weight of glory that is to be revealed” (Rom. 8:18). That’s not meant to diminish the real hurt we do experience in this life, but rather to put it in perspective. As Peter says:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)

The resurrection of Christ promises a great future, in spite of the sufferings we now experience.

Hopelessness and despair deny all of this. They do not contend with the truths and promises of God. Hopelessness and despair shrink our world to see only our troubles, only our sorrows, only our griefs. These are real and powerful, and they are hard to wrestle with, yet there is hope. The resurrection of Christ is full of hope. It is the declaration that God’s Kingdom has broken into the world and He is slowly making all things new. Cling to the empty tomb, friends, and find that there is much in which to hope.

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