Here is a homely horticultural analogy: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15.20). “Them that slept” are “they that are Christ’s” (v.23); and, by the end of the world, there will be a great ingathering of all this fruit of Christ’s resurrection—the harvest of all these saved souls (John 3.3-5,16; 1 Peter 1.3; Revelation 7.9; 19.6-8; Ephesians 2.1,5-6).
Those who are born again1 will be raised to life again; their resurrected bodies being reunited with their spirits on the last day of this world (1 Corinthians 15.51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18).
Christ is also pictured as our “forerunner” who has already carried our hope, the anchor of our soul, into heaven for us (Hebrews 6.19-20). The Christian’s hope is not as the hope of this world: a hope for something that may or may not happen. Our hope is an expectation founded upon God’s promises, which we have in God’s Scriptures—and solely because of our Saviour Jesus Christ, not any works of righteousness that we have done (2 Peter 1.4; Titus 3.3-7).
So, we can be sure that our Saviour, who has gone ahead of us into heaven and prepared a place for us there, will return for us to take us to be with himself there (John 14.1-3). “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power” (1 Corinthians 6.14; see also 2 Corinthians 4.14). Truly, the Resurrection and the Life himself, who, in rising from the dead, prolongs his own days (Isaiah 53.10; see also John 10.17-18) “shall see his seed”—all his saved multitude—his seed that is “the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isaiah 53.10-11).
Our Lord has said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11.25-26). He or she who truly believes this is a Christian.
Notice how in the first chapter of his epistle, Peter begins by blessing God for sending our Saviour and for raising him from the dead, and for giving us the “lively hope” that we have because of what Christ’s rising from the dead means for us. Then he shows how this anchor holds through all the “trial of our faith,” because we are “kept by the power of God (1 Peter 1.3-8).
Therefore, our hope of salvation (in other words, our faith) is God-sustained all though our life—even “though it be tried with fire”—so that it “might be [meaning: will be] found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (vv.7-9).
You can’t have real joy unless you have a cause for it, and you understand this cause and its consequences.
Christian, the cause of our joy of salvation is, firstly and ultimately, the salvation that your Saviour has accomplished for you (joy of experienced relief), and secondly, your increasing understanding of who he is and what he has done for you (joy of comprehension). This joy, we know, is itself an evidence of our salvation, an integral part of the “fruit of the Spirit,” which he is cultivating in us. It is a mark of saving grace.
This joy carries us through the whole of our Christian life, and it remains with us no matter what happens. With this joy (and thankfulness, love, faith, and hope) we bless God—no matter what happens.
Furthermore, we are to “count it all joy” when we face temptations and trials of our faith, because these inevitably strengthen us in our patient waiting for God (James 1.2-4).
If we suffer any kind of persecution for Jesus’ sake, we must learn to evaluate any such afflictions as “light” when compared with what Christ’s resurrection means for us. As the apostle Paul, in his trials and afflictions as a minister for Jesus and the gospel, comforted and encouraged the Corinthian church in her trials and afflictions for being Christians: “We are troubled on every side…persecuted…Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you…For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4.1-18).
This regeneration is also known as spiritual resurrection by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 6.4-5; Galatians 2.20). ↩︎