J. Richard Middleton
 on March 27, 2018

Why Is the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Important for Christian Faith?

The bodily resurrection of Jesus is a foretaste and promise of God’s commitment to redeem the cosmos.


This post is part of a series entitled “Resurrection: Answering the Skeptics”, which includes a number of scientists and scholars responding to common questions about science, biblical faith, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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).

“Firstfruits” 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.

About the author

J. Richard Middleton

J. Richard Middleton

Richard Middleton (PhD Free University of Amsterdam) is Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary (Rochester, NY) and adjunct professor of Old Testament at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology (Kingston, Jamaica). He is past president of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies (2019–2021) and past president of the Canadian-American Theological Association (2011–2014). He holds a BTh from Jamaica Theological Seminary and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Guelph (Canada). Middleton is the author of Abraham’s Silence: The Binding of Isaac, the Suffering of Job, and How to Talk Back to God (Baker Academic, 2021); A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic, 2014); and The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Brazos, 2005). He coauthored (with Brian Walsh) The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View (IVP, 1984) and Truth is Stranger than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age (IVP, 1995), and has co-edited (with Garnett Roper) A Kairos Moment for Caribbean Theology: Ecumenical Voices in Dialogue (Pickwick, 2013). He has published articles on creation theology in the Old Testament, the problem of suffering, and the dynamics of human and divine power in biblical narratives. His books have been published in Korean, French, Indonesian, Spanish, and Portuguese.