“(13) The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (14) And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. (15) And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; (16) and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business." (17) His disciples remembered that it was written, "ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME." (18) The Jews then said to Him, "What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?" (19) Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (20) The Jews then said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" (21) But He was speaking of the temple of His body. (22) So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:13-22 NASB)
When Jesus walked this earth as the perfect God-man, fully God and fully man, His purpose was to die for the sins of His people. Yet, that was not all He came to do. First, when the Jews heard Jesus saying that He would “destroy this temple, and in three days” raise it up, they completely misunderstood what He was talking about. He was not talking about Herod’s temple at all—that destruction came in A.D. 70—but was speaking of His own body. He made it clear that He would die and in three days rise from the dead.
We are indeed faced with an empty tomb! This is great news! However, evangelicals have put a lot of emphasis on the penal substitutionary sacrifice that Christ made on behalf of sinners to such an extent, that I sometimes think they have forgotten about the resurrection. Then, once a year at Easter, they are reminded of the resurrection and then all over the world, pastors preach on the resurrection. A week later they are back to normal, with the normal scheduled communion Sundays when they once again commemorate the death of Christ in the Lord’s supper. Once again, the resurrection becomes like a faraway family member that we visit once a year.
In their preaching of the gospel, they preach all the necessities of the gospel; yet, stop short of the complete gospel that Paul so clearly delineated for us in 1 Corinthians 15.
“(1) Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, (2) by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (3) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (5) and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5 NASB)
The resurrection is part of the gospel we preach, because it is the resurrection that makes the gospel the good news!
When we read further in the 1 Corinthians passage, we discover that Paul makes the whole of the Corinthians’ salvation hinge on the fact of the resurrection. It is THAT important!
“(12) Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (13) But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; (14) and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. (15) Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. (16) For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; (17) and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. (18) Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (19) If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 NASB)
Had Christ not been raised from the dead, “we are of all men most to be pitied.” And, why is that? Because, “if Christ has not been raised, [our] faith is worthless; [we] are still in [our] sins.” The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is proof that His death was an effective substitutionary sacrifice for sins. Peter, as directly as Paul, explicitly connects the resurrection of Christ with our new birth:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NASB)
In Rom 4:25 Paul writes that Jesus “was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” The resurrection of Christ was God’s seal of approval over Christ’s work of redemption.
In the preaching of the gospel, with the inclusion of the resurrection of Christ, we are also preaching the resurrection of those who died in Christ, at His coming. This is the good news! Since Christ “was raised from the dead because of our justification,” we also will experience resurrection from the dead.
This is why we need to preach the full gospel, and not just tack the resurrection on at the end by preaching on the resurrection once a year at Easter. The resurrection is the guarantee of the sacrificial work of Christ on behalf of His people.