Easter and the Significance of Christ's Resurrection
Each spring, millions of people around the world acknowledge, in some fashion or another, that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead some twenty centuries ago. Modern society calls it "Easter."
The origin of this term is uncertain, though it is commonly thought to derive from Eastre, the name of a Teutonic spring goddess. The term "Easter," in the King James Version of the Bible (Acts 12:4), is a mistranslation. The Greek word is pascha, correctly rendered "Passover" in later translations. In fact, though pascha is found twenty-nine times in the Greek New Testament, it is only rendered "Easter" once, even in the KJV.
Christians are not authorized to celebrate Easter as a special annual event acknowledging the resurrection of Christ. Faithful children of God reflect upon the Savior's resurrection every Sunday (the resurrection day — cf. John 20:1ff) as they gather to worship God in the regular assembly of the church (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
We ought to be glad, however, that multitudes—usually caught up in pursuits wholly materialistic—will take at least some time for reflection upon the event of the Savior's resurrection. It is entirely appropriate that Christians take advantage of this circumstance; we should be both willing and able to explain to our friends—at least those who have some reverence for Christianity—the significance of the Lord's resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of the Christian system (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14ff). If there was no resurrection, Christianity is a hoax, and we are wasting our time. But the truth is that the event of Jesus' resurrection is incontrovertible. Professor Thomas Arnold of Rugby, a world-renowned historian, once said that Christ's resurrection from the dead is the "bestattested fact in human history" (1939, 2569). This being the case, just what is the significance of Jesus' resurrection? Think about these matters.
First, the resurrection is one of the major evidences that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Paul affirmed that Christ is "declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4).
Second, Jesus' resurrection represents an assurance that we can have forgiveness from our sins. Paul contended: "[I]f Christ hath not been raised, our faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17). The reverse of the apostle's affirmation would be this: if Jesus was raised, sins will be forgiven when we obey the gospel (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
Third, the resurrection tells the world that the kingdom of God is ruled by a living sovereign. The founder of Islam is dead and his bones lie dormant in the earth. But the founder of Christianity—sixty years after his death—appeared to John on the island of Patmos and said: "I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore" (Revelation 1:17-18).
Fourth, Jesus' resurrection proves that physical death is not the termination of human existence. God, who is the giver of life (1 Timothy 6:13), has the power to reanimate the human body. Christ's triumph over the grave is Heaven's pledge to us that we too shall be raised. This is why Jesus is referred to as the "first fruits of them that are asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20,23).
Fifth, the Lord's resurrection previewed the ultimate victory of Christianity over all its enemies. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is depicted as a lamb that had been slain, but was standing again (5:6). This same Lord was "the lion of the tribe of Judah" that had overcome his foes (5:5). Christians too will overcome as a result of the Lamb's sacrifice and victory over death (cf. Revelation 12:11).
The resurrection of the Son of God should be a constant reminder to us of these wonderful biblical truths. We honor our Master's victory over death—not once a year, but every week!