Today is “April Fool’s Day” which I think might be just an American sort of thing. I don’t know. It’s not even actually a holiday here, but is an unofficial day for playing pranks on one another. Some Christians have connected “April Fool’s Day” with atheism, a reflection of Psalm 14:1; and 53:1 that says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” It is interesting that April Fool’s Day comes a day before Good Friday, the day which Christ was crucified. For millions of Christians, the crucifixion and empty tomb are reminders of our great hope beyond this life and this world But what about the atheist and the one who does not believe in Jesus Christ? Where is the world supposed to find hope?
A little over a month before he died, the famous atheist Jean-Paul Sartre declared that he so strongly resisted feelings of despair that he would say to himself, “I know I shall die in hope.” Then in profound sadness, he would add, “But hope needs a foundation.”
Where do you find your hope? The Apostle Paul has written to the church where some have lost hope because they had been wrongly taught that there is no resurrection; that a person dies and is no more. Some people believe that today.
Look with me to 1 Corinthians 15:19. It says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19, ESV)
As followers and disciples of Jesus Christ, we believe that Jesus Christ is our great resurrection hope. If Jesus has not risen from the dead, we might as well all just wait to die. There is nothing left but despair and our feeble attempts to make our time left on this earth as pleasant as possible.
But Christ has risen. There is more to hope for than all this world can offer! On this Maundy Thursday leading to Resurrection Sunday, I’d like to share Four Assurances that Jesus’ Resurrection Gives Those Who are Followers of Jesus Christ. Here is the first one:
Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection (v. 20)
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”(1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV)
The evidence is overwhelming which shows that Christ rose from the dead (1 Cor 15:3-8). In these verses we read that Jesus was seen by over 500 eyewitnesses, and some of them were still alive when the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian Church, about 20 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.
Along with this, Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies and Jesus himself told his disciples several times that he would rise from the dead after his death upon a cross.
And in verse 20, Paul is telling the church that Christ has not only risen from the dead, but that he is the first-fruits of those who have “fallen asleep,” a euphemism for Christian’s who have died already.
What is a “first-fruit” and why does this guarantee the Christian hope?
In the Old Testament laws, the Jewish people were commanded by God that at the end of their farming seasons, as they were getting ready to reap their harvests, the people of God were commanded to bring an offering to God called the “first-fruit.”
This offering was from every type of blessing they had received, and it included grain, produce, oil, wine, bread and dough, even the first born of animals. Now, what I want you to understand is that these “first-fruit” offerings were just that—they were the first of the fruit of the land, given as an offering of thanksgiving to the One who had given them everything. It was also an offering given in faith that he would bring in the rest of the harvest that had not been completely ripened or been brought into the harvest. This offering was the way in which the Lord told his people that they were promised that there was more of the same to come.
The Apostle Paul used this imagery to describe Jesus’ resurrection as the first-fruit, the promise that there is more to come! Jesus, the Son of Man, died and rose again, the first of many who will one day rise again just as he did.
In Romans 11:16 Paul used this idea of first-fruits as well. He wrote, “If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16, ESV)
Paul is saying that when a Jewish person offered up a lump of dough, the larger batch that it was taken from was made holy because of the connection between the two. Think about that for a second!
What Paul is saying in 1Corinthians 15:20 is that our status as Christians is changed by what happens to the first-fruit of Christ’s resurrection. Whatever he undergoes, we will also undergo.
As one commentary says, “…in the specific case of the resurrection their resurrection is not merely parallel or similar to Christ’s but is preauthorized, promised, guaranteed, and initiated by it.”
I once was at a bridal shower, and it reminded me of the engagement ring that our friend gave to his fiancé. I don’t know how much that young man spent on the ring, but it represents a promise of good things to come.
The engagement ring is a promise not only that the groom will come for his bride, but that as he has spent much in providing the ring, he has much more to give. The ring represents love, and promise, and that more is to follow. It is not all, it is only a foretaste.
The first-fruits are like that. But it is a promise from God, who never breaks his promises, ever.
Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection! We aren’t just hoping against hope. Christ’s resurrection is the first stage of a resurrection that will include the raising up and glorifying of all of Christ’s followers!
 Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 762.
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