Did Christ really rise from the dead? Was it prophetic of the Messiah? Is it important? Why did He have to rise? What did the resurrection accomplish?
The first thing to note is that He most assuredly did rise. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul said that the resurrection is foundational to and inseparable from true Christianity. He goes so far as to say that if Christ did not rise that “your faith is in vain, you are still in your sins.” Without the resurrection Christianity is no longer Christianity.
Secondly, the resurrection is seen as a literal event. The liberal wing of Christianity has reduced the resurrection to a non-supernatural, non-miraculous, symbolic, spiritual “true myth” with no historic precedence. Karl Barth said Christ rose but “a camera would not have recorded it.” Jesus said “touch me.” “Eat with me.” The twelve saw Him rise into the air. He rose physically and over 500 saw Him. (1 Cor. 15:6) God made us a physical body, the fall cursed us physically. Christ came, died, and rose physically as God will raise all men physically for heaven or hell. The physical body is a divinely given and good thing as God saves the whole man.
Thirdly, He rose as “first fruits” of those who will rise. (1 Cor. 15:23) The first fruits of Israel was an honoring of God with the first of the harvest and thus assuring that all of the harvest would be gathered in. In the same way Christ’s resurrection is a security that all who are in Christ will be raised. Thus does Paul say that Christ was “raised because of our justification.” (Rom. 4:25)
A fourth purpose is that the resurrection is the vindication of His own perfect life. (Rom. 1:4) Christ was “declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.” Peter said He rose because “it was impossible for death to hold Him in its power.” (Acts 2:24) Christ had to rise.
Fifthly, He arose to fulfill prophecy. Both Paul and Peter quoted Psalm 16:10 in their sermons. (Acts 2:27-31 and Acts 13:35-37) God would “not allow His Holy One to undergo decay” and that fact was David’s assurance of salvation. If God would raise Christ, God would raise the one who trusts in him.
Sixthly, the resurrection provides for our rebirth. Because as Christ victored over the penalty of sin, He also victored over the power of sin because He arose “never to die again. Death no longer is master over Him…. The life He lives He lives to God.” (Rom. 6:1-14) So do we who share His life. His resurrected life is ours.
Man was lost in a garden through Adam’s sin. Christ rose in a garden a short distance from Calvary. That tomb was the initial conquest of death and from that tomb life would spring forth to the ends of the earth. And it all began when life conquered death through our incomparable Christ.