In 1 Cor 15:14, the apostle Paul says: “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus so important?
The answer lies in a core affirmation of biblical faith. The Resurrection of Jesus is evidence of God’s love for, and intimate involvement with, his creation, which includes the material creation.
The Bible affirms that the entire universe is created by God and is therefore good and important. Far from negating or devaluing the world, the Bible teaches that God loves his creation and providentially sustains the world as a good place to live. The world (both human and non-human) exists to manifest God’s glory, and God rejoices in what he has made.
The importance of this world is supported also by the doctrine of the incarnation, the Christian teaching that God became an embodied human being in Jesus Christ. Jesus was not some spiritual manifestation or temporary avatar, but a real-life, flesh-and-blood person, located in a particular time, place, and culture.
But why the incarnation? Why did God get involved with the world in this way? Because humanity has chosen evil in rebellion against its Creator, and the world is no longer totally good. Corruption has set in, evident both in the individual heart and in the social systems and institutions we have created.
Yet God has not given up on this world. God loves us to the point of becoming a human being—even suffering death on a Roman imperial instrument of torture, to free us from evil, to bring salvation.
Beyond creation and the incarnation, the salvation God offers affirms the importance of this world. This salvation is best described as “new creation,” a renewal of the world that it might attain to the flourishing that God intended.
Jesus proclaimed the coming of God’s kingdom into history to restore the world and enacted this kingdom by healing diseased bodies, casting out demons, challenging the oppressive social order of his time, and offering forgiveness and hope to those in bondage to sin.
And when he died on the cross, the incarnate Lord of heaven and earth absorbed the poison of our sin into himself (how exactly is a mystery called the atonement); and he rose again, conquering death, as the “firstfruits” of the new creation (1 Cor 15:20).
“Firstruits” means that there is a full harvest to come. The Bible describes this harvest in the most concrete terms, promising the resurrection of the body and the renewal of the social order—indeed, the renewal of the entire cosmos, “a new heaven and a new earth” (2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1).
So the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a foretaste and promise of God’s commitment to redeem the cosmos. It is a testimony to God’s desire to redeem this broken world.