The Resurrection is a Meta-Fact, Not Just a Historical Fact

The resurrection is a meta-fact, not just a historical fact. What do I mean?

The fact of the resurrection goes beyond just the historical,[1] but is foundational for how we view ourselves and the world. It is the glue that binds reality and reveals our destiny.

The resurrection is a meta-fact in at least three ways:

I: It’s Foundational to our Identity

II: It’s Foundational to our Ethic

III: It’s Foundational to our Future

I: It’s Foundational to our Identity

The resurrection of Jesus is integral to our identity as Christians. This is because the resurrection is the firstfruits of the new creation. As 1 Corinthians 15:20 says: ‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’.

He is the prototype of what is is to come.[2] But because the resurrected Christ is the start of the new creation,[3] anybody who is in Christ has already become a new creation. As Paul says, ‘if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come the old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

That’s because in Christ we’re given a new heart by the power of the Spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-29). We’re born again (John 3:3-15). We’re made alive with Christ and raised with him (Ephesians 2:4-6). Our identity is a resurrection-empowered and resurrection-fuelled identity.

Because of the risen Christ, our identity in Christ is bound to the new creation, not the old creation that is decaying and passing away. We’re no longer in Adam under the curse of sin and death, we’re in Christ with the blessings of life and peace (Romans 5).

Our identity is fundamentally bound up with the resurrection – so much so that without the resurrection our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17). We are who we are because of the resurrected Jesus.

As Justin Bass says, ‘To improve on Descartes: Jesus died and rose again; therefore, I am’.[4] 

So, do we see ourselves as part of the old creation or the new? Because in Christ, because of the resurrection, we have experienced a massive identity shift. A meta-shift – from old to new. We are new creations!

II: It’s Foundational to our Ethic

As new creations in Christ our ethics are no longer tied to our old self. We are raised with the resurrected and ascended Christ. And as those who are raised with Christ, we should be seeking to set our hearts on things above (Colossians 3:1). We should be seeking to know Christ and the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10) in our lives.  

The resurrection brings about a new moral order.[5] In Christ, as new creations, our ethic has begun a meta-shift from earthly desires to heaven-fuelled desires. From fleshly actions to Spirit-fuelled actions. We don’t revel in the realities of the old creation but in the realities of the new creation. Resurrection reality changes us.

The old self that is marked by sin should be put off, and the new self, marked by the righteousness and holiness of Christ, should be put on (Ephesians 4:22-24). After all, the new self is being renewed in the image of our Creator (Colossians 3:10). We should be living the new life, marked by the resurrected Christ who gives us his life-giving Spirit.

The fruit of this new life is the fruit of the Spirit. As new creations, we should keep in step with the Spirit, and be led by the Spirit in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This is what it means to live out our new creation identity with our new creation ethic.

III: It’s Foundational to our Future

The third reason for why the resurrection is a meta-fact is that it reveals our destiny. Where we are going is bound up in the reality of the resurrection. For as we saw earlier, the resurrected Christ is the firstfruits of what is to come (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Richard Gaffin, writing about this verse, states, ‘on the basis of this verse it can be said that Paul views the two resurrections not so much as two events but as two episodes of the same event’.[6]

Christ’s resurrection guarantees a final resurrection. It is our destiny to be raised physically and know Christ in the New Heavens and New Earth. This is our resurrection hope!

Peter says, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade’ (1 Peter 1:3-4).

The resurrection signals a meta-shift in future realities. When Christ returns, heaven and earth will combine and everything will be made new and there’ll be no more death, pain or tears (Revelation 21:4).

Without the resurrection, we have no future. With it, we have no fear. Without it, there is only death. With it, there is no death. For the resurrection brings endless hope and is our future hope!

Let the resurrection be a meta-fact of life. At the risk of sounding trite, it is your meta-fact because it is our mega-fact. It is the greatest fact of all.

As Dunn states,

‘Belief in the resurrection of Jesus determines how one perceives the significance of Jesus and the function of life and death. In short, the resurrection of Jesus is not so much a historical fact as a foundational fact or meta-fact, the interpretative insight into reality which enables discernment of the relative importance and unimportance of all other facts’.[7]

It is that important.

[1] Of course the historical is vital – read this link to see helpful articles and videos. If you want to read a good level entry book on the facts of the resurrection see Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.

[2] Mike Bird, A Bird’s Eye View of Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message, p. 166.

[3] You could argue this actually started in the incarnation but the resurrection is crucial to the new creation. The fact that the resurrection is the start of the new creation is the main thesis of Tim Keller’s book, Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. But this idea is certainly not new, as he explains in the book. For a more detailed look at this theme see Greg Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New.

[4] Justin Bass, The Bedrock of Christianity: The Unalterable Facts of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, p. 197.

[5] For more on this see Oliver O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics.

[6] Richard B. Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology, p. 35.

[7] James D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making Vol 1, p. 878.

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