The fact that Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, reminds God’s people again and again that he controls all things, including life and death, is full of significance. Jesus’ resurrection is no blip on the biblical radar; rather, it provides a resounding climax to all salvation history, which impresses upon God’s people repeatedly that life is his gift, and that he alone can defeat death. Hence, he is our only hope (Rev 1:18).
For Christians, the biblical teaching that God holds power over death is a basic one. The resurrection of the Son of God–after suffering a sacrificial death on our behalf–is among the cornerstone teachings of the Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus validates that he is who he claimed to be: the Son of God and Israel’s promised Messiah. It serves as an anchor for every hope that God’s people enjoy. Because we are in Christ, his fate is our fate. When Jesus died, we died with him. And because Jesus was raised to life, we too will be raised (Rom 6:7-8).
The coronavirus has, among other things, brought the prospects of death into the forefront of many people’s minds, the high chances of survival notwithstanding. In the face of this pandemic, so many of us are unnerved, if not scared. We find ourselves in this state, even as we move closer to Easter Sunday, when the resurrection of Jesus is the focus of the Church’s attention. Why is this? On one level, it’s unnerving because death is an unnatural intrusion into God’s creation, which was made entirely good in the beginning (Gen 1). We are not created to die, so reminders of human frailty do not come easily to most of us. On another level, people fear the separation that death brings. We are unnerved not only by the prospects of our own death, and leaving behind those we care for, but also the death of our loved ones, whose companionship we greatly treasure and upon which we lean.
There may be another, less obvious, contributor to our angst. We may be suffering from an understanding of God’s resurrection power that fails to consider the whole counsel of Scripture. Jesus’ resurrection—and that of his disciples—is not an idea that sprung out of thin air and leaped onto the pages of the New Testament. Rather, the New Testament’s resurrection hope is deeply planted in the soil of the Old Testament; it draws upon a theological stream in the Hebrew Scriptures, asserting that God controls everything, including life and death.