1 Corinthians 15:19-20 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
The fact that Christ is the first one to rise from the grave is a fact that raises our hopes. This life we know now doesn’t amount to much of our total existence. A century or so is just a drop in the bucket compared to the eternity that follows. C.S. Lewis, comparing our lives to the story in a book at the end of The Chronicles of Narnia, said that all our life in this world is just the cover and the title page of the really Great Story to follow in heaven.
Does that sound like the place to invest too much of ourselves: something so short as this tiny fraction of eternity we know in this present life? It’s a little like investing in a car. The moment you drive it off the lot it loses thousands of dollars in value. Every year you own it, it will be worth less and cost more to keep running. Finally, it is just worn out junk. It isn’t worth putting back together again.
Your home may be a better place to put your money. Homes appreciate in value. They last a long time. But the day will eventually come when our earthly homes aren’t worth putting back together again, either. The heavenly home in which Jesus will someday wake us forever is always a sound investment.
We aren’t so inclined to trust the long term investment, though. We like to have the shiny, super-charged, super-fast, sports car-model life; or the smooth, elegant, leather-trimmed, luxury model life right now. I’m not talking about just materialism and greed. We may so invest ourselves in creating the perfect family environment, or promoting every social or political cause to make the world a better place, that we have completely rested our hearts in this world and neglected the one to come. When that happens, this sad place becomes the only heaven such people will ever know.
Wouldn’t it be tragic if that were reality: if, as Paul says, only for this life we have hope in Christ? Against that fear, Jesus’ resurrection raises our hopes. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” When he rose, Jesus’ lifeless body woke up to a new day and a new life. The same body that had been bruised, lashed, pierced, and hung on a cross to die, was now transformed, glorified, and very much alive. Christ was the first to rise to the never ending day of eternal life.
Just the first. Paul says Christ is “the firstfruits.” That means more to follow. That raises our hopes, because someday our bodies, heavy with the sleep of death, will wake up to the same never ending day as well.
When is it that sleep becomes such a precious commodity to us? When I was a child, I used to resist going to bed every way I knew how. I was convinced that there must be a whole world of excitement I was missing after I went to sleep. Now I look forward to the end of the day. My body resists waking up to face the world I seem to get all too much of. But do you find, like I do, that when you have something you really look forward to the next day– some exciting project or trip or outing– that it isn’t so hard to wake up, shake out the cobwebs and get going in the morning? You don’t even need to set an alarm?
The new day of eternal life to which Jesus will awaken us is just such a day of excitement. It is that whole world of excitement I imagined I was missing out on as a child at bed time, only infinitely more. There are no bad days in the new day to which Jesus will wake us from death. You see these bumper stickers that say, “The worst day fishing is better than the best day at work”? The worst day in heaven (if you could call it that) is better than the best day on earth, period.
Christ may be the first to rise to enjoy that day, but he is going to be getting each one of us up from the grave as well, and that raises our hopes.