Tim Keller | April 11, 2004
Historical and sociological scholarship shows the early Christians were remarkably different than their neighbors. Why were the Christians so much more compassionate to the sick? Why were they so much more forgiving to their persecutors? Why were they so much more ethnically inclusive than anyone had ever seen? Were they just ahead of their time? Were they just nicer people? No, it all depended on what they believed their future to be.
You might say, “That sounds very good, but how could anybody be certain about the future?” That was what was different. The answer and, therefore, the key to this whole dynamic of Christian hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When the early Christians looked at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the resurrection 1) gave them certainty of God’s future and 2) described the shape of God’s future.
Our Christian hope, based on what we believe will happen in the future, greatly shapes who we are and how we act now. The first Christians were known for their joy because they were so sure of God’s promises for the future, promises confirmed by Jesus’ resurrection. This event not only gave them hope and assurance, but also inspired them to show love, forgiveness, and acceptance to others—this is the heart of Christian hope.
1. Jesus’ resurrection gave the first Christians confidence in God’s future
The resurrection of Jesus Christ gave the first Christians confidence that God’s promises would come true. This wasn’t because they just liked believing in miracles—it was because there was a sudden, huge change in how thousands of people saw the world. Many people said they had seen Jesus after his resurrection, and they were even willing to die rather than deny what they had seen. Today, we’re asked to let these historical events challenge how we see the world, inviting the Holy Spirit to give us the same confidence and hope, so we can face whatever comes our way.
2. Jesus’ resurrection showed what God’s future will look like
The ideas in 1 Corinthians 15 show us four important things about what God’s future will look like: death will lose its power, suffering will become a way to grow, the world will be made new in a physical way, and we’ll become our true selves. Jesus’ resurrection is like a receipt proving that the cost of all our wrongdoings has been paid, which takes away the fear of death and changes suffering into a way to become better people. This part of the Bible also teaches that after we’re resurrected, we’ll have physical bodies, and it encourages us to take care of the world because it will be physically renewed. In this renewed world, our bodies will show who we truly are.
February Book Offer
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller shows us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the truth about societal ideals and our own hearts — and that there is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings and fulfill our hopes.
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