What is it you are most afraid of? According to an article titled “American’s Top 10 Fears,” more than half of U.S. adults are afraid of—among other things—illness, violence, saving for retirement and government corruption. Without a doubt, the past couple of years have instilled fear in the hearts and minds of people throughout the world.
Jesus recognized fear, identifying it in people and dealing with it directly (Luke 8:50; 12:4; John 14:27). Jesus can empathize with our fear.
But the fact that Jesus rose from the dead can transform our fear to hope. Think about it: If He can conquer death, then He can conquer anything. If He can eliminate the very experience that causes life itself to cease, then hope can flourish no matter what! This is what Peter meant when He said that we have “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). When Peter found out that Jesus was alive again after His gruesome death, everything changed for him. Because Jesus had promised to be resurrected (Matthew 16:21; John 2:19) and then He was, it meant that all the other promises He had made were suddenly valid.
For some, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fairy tale—a Christian myth. But for others, it is a fact of history. It’s either true or false, and if it’s real, it brings real hope.
For the first group, the resurrection sounds ridiculous, because people don’t get back up once they are dead. Common sense and years of evidence reveal that dead people don’t get resuscitated. A little boy at Sunday school heard the teacher explain the resurrection one Easter—that Jesus died, but then after death, He got back up again and still lives today. The boy was a 4-year-old son of an undertaker. He raised his hand and said, “If my daddy would have worked on Him, He never would have gotten up!” That was true for the many cadavers his father serviced, but that’s what makes Jesus’ resurrection so lifechanging—the one event that ends life and brings hopelessness has been overcome! And this truth changes everything.
The entire framework of Christian belief rests upon a physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without it, Christianity crumbles to become just another empty religion. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17, 19: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! … If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
So why is it we believe this idea, this truth that Jesus rose from the dead?
First, scholars agree that the tomb of Jesus Christ was empty shortly after His death. A huge stone had been rolled over the entrance to that tomb. They had set guards to make sure. And all of the theories (swoon theory, stolen body theory, wrong graveyard theory) are unsatisfactory explanations.
Second, the historical records of the life of Christ reveal that He predicted both His death and resurrection years before they occurred.
Third, there were hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Him alive and attested to it. On one occasion, a group of 500 witnessed it (see 1 Corinthians 15:6).
Fourth, many of those eyewitnesses came to believe Jesus was the Messiah and they died for it. Peter turned from a coward who denied that he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:74) to a bold preacher defending Him (Acts 3:11-26). Later, Peter would be crucified upside down, and most of the other apostles died a martyr’s death. Would you be willing to die for a lie? Most sane people would not!
Believing Jesus died and was resurrected is essential in turning our fears into hope. But why does this give me hope? Because the same Bible also promises that if I believe in Christ, I too can live forever in His presence. If Jesus promised that He would be raised (and He was), then the other promise that I too will be resurrected is not just possible but guaranteed (see 1 Corinthians 15:20).
The question is not whether or not you are going to die. We all have a death sentence. The question is, where are you going to exist after you die? You need to think about that.
God is both just and merciful. Man has a soul that lives on after physical death. Where he lives forever is at stake. God is so pure and holy that He cannot be in the presence of sin. Imagine eternal separation from all that describes God: love, mercy, grace, light, goodness, patience, kindness, gentleness. That is spiritual death forever. But His mercy demonstrated at the cross annulled the penalty of spiritual death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We all sin, we all die.
But in taking our death penalty and then rising again, Jesus conquered both His death and ours! No wonder Peter called it a “living hope.” What does that mean for our future? “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
There it is, from the mouth of God Himself. Death is physical reality, and one that none of us can defeat or prevent. But Jesus can and did. He paid the price demanded by the Father and provides the hope of escape from eternal torment (see Matthew 10:28). He offers an exchange of our fear for the hope found in the perfect love of God. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Fear is transformed into hope with one simple decision. Choose Jesus Christ. Choose to follow Him through repentance and faith. With Christ your hope will come alive! ©2022 Skip Heitzig
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Skip Heitzig is founder and senior pastor of Calvary Church in Albuquerque, a Calvary Chapel Fellowship in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Photo: Matt & Tish Photography