How often have we heard preachers proclaim the message of the gospel by stating to their audience that they “need to get saved to go to heaven“. I have heard many messages with this catch phrase and people literally telling me after their conversion that they were “going to heaven”. I think we have also all heard the gospel messages preached throughout the years with some preachers being very Christ-centered and others being unfortunately very man-centered. There are preachers who begin with God while others seem to spend their time focused upon man. God loves you and sent His Son into the world to die for you or Just come to Him as you are have resonated from pulpits on many occasions. Obviously different people have different ideas of preaching the gospel and what content to include.
Now, before I continue, I want to emphasize that there is nothing necessarily “untrue” about some of these phrase. I think it is perfectly legitimate to say that if a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ that they are saved and they are going to heaven. Christ is central to the gospel and there are many things we can say about Christ, His work and the need of sinful men during a gospel presentation. We could also mention such things as God’s Holiness, the fall, man’s deadness in sin, repentance, faith, grace, the new birth and especially the death of the Lord Jesus. The death of the Lord Jesus is absolutely central to the whole Christian message and is so interrelated in His person that the two cannot ever be separated. To speak of the gospel without speaking of Christ and His death is not to be speaking of the gospel at all. The proclamation of the gospel is expressed only through Jesus Christ alone.
One element that the bible is saturated with and that is often neglected during the proclamation of the gospel is the resurrection. You will hear it mentioned once a year during the “Easter” season when people flock to church on that particular Sunday but during the rest of the year many churches are left without any mention of it. There are two main dynamics to the “resurrection” that are generally ignored; the first is to withhold speaking about the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the other is not speaking about the resurrection of the saints at the end of the age. Both these elements are so significant that I am often left wondering why they are so infrequent during ministry and the gospel message. Let’ take a look at both of these.
The centrality of the resurrection is unquestionable. If Christ didn’t raise from the dead then our faith is utterly in vain and we may as well abandon Christianity in total. Paul could say that if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:12-13; 17-19) The gospel as proclaimed by Paul didn’t ignore the resurrection. We read of his presentation in 1 Corinthians 15 as Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3,4,12) We must remember that Paul stated that this was of “first importance” (v.3) and the gospel that their salvation hinged. The significance of the resurrection is that it is the foundation of our new birth and hence our inheritance as sons of God (1 Peter 1:3). It is the basis of a life that is renewed in Christ’s resurrection (Eph. 2:5-6) and this is brought about through the power that comes from the resurrection (Eph. 1:19-20). This is the outpouring of the new birth! Another point of importance of proclaiming the resurrection in the gospel is as simple as the fact that through Christ’s resurrection we receive justification. Paul writes that He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:25) There is no resurrection for us (and hence justification) unless Christ was raised first. It is absolutely fundamental to our salvation! The foundation of the future resurrection is based upon Christ’s resurrection. we have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (Philippians 3:11) Could we find a more foundational doctrine that this? Should the resurrection of the Lord Jesus be proclaimed just as often as His death?
The Believer’s Hope: The Resurrection
Again, we return to our statement that says “if you believe on the Lord Jesus you will be saved and you are going to heaven”. As I have already mentioned, there is nothing wrong with this statement. It is true that when an individual believes on the Lord Jesus Christ then he is saved and he is going to heaven. The problem is the last statement. The bus doesn’t stop there! A believer that is saved when they pass on from this world in death will go to be with the Lord Jesus (Eccl. 12:7; Luke 23:40-43; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-24) but that is not the end of the road per say. What I mean by this is that our final hope is not being in heaven but the hope that believers look forward to is the resurrection of the dead. The truth of this matter is found very clearly in Paul’s epistles where he writes the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Cor. 15:52), it is the final state of victory that God provided for us through, what we call “glorification” (Romans 8:30). To encourage believers in Thessalonica, Paul wrote to them of the resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13-17) not of the intermediate state. Those who are drawn by the Father and given to Christ can rest on the reality that God gives them eternal life, but how? By granting them access into heaven? No, in that He will raise him up at the last day (John 6:39-40) While that resurrection will be a time of judgment for the unbeliever, it will be a time of hope for the believer (John 5:28-29) It is the time when we will be free from corruption and finally be like Christ is.
While I’m not implying that every message of the gospel needs to mention the resurrection in great detail, I’m oftentimes left wondering how little it is mentioned if at all. The resurrection is a critical part of the faith and we should be sure to proclaim it just as loud and with as much enthusiasm as the death of Christ. We should also remember that while the heavenly realm will be more glorious than anything we’ve experience on this earth, we still have an even further hope of the resurrection of our bodies, from corruptible to incorruptible. It will be a time that we will finally become what was from the beginning when God walked with man but in an even more glorious state!