This biblical text serves as a wonderful testimony of the Apostle Paul. He is testifying that he is not the only one who believes this, but also the entire community of the first Christian church, otherwise he could not have made this statement in plural form.
The impact that these definitive and convincing words had on the church at Thessalonica was so great that those who were uncertain about their departed loved ones gained new hope and began to lift their eyes to the resurrected Lord.
The wonderful Easter message became new once again with its convincing words: “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again…” On this glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus at Easter, Paul – and the other writers of the New Testament – base the resurrection of our bodies, for Christ “would be the first to rise from the dead.”
Paul, as well as the other writers of the New Testament, confirm the anticipation of our own reawakening, based on Christ’s glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday, since He, Jesus, was the first to rise from the dead.
The message contained in our text is one of living hope that surpasses death and the grave. Resurrection – continued life – in and with Christ! Paul confirms this with the words: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Through His resurrection, we also have true life, now and in eternity!
What was and is the effect of this belief in the resurrection of Jesus?
I. For the disciples:
The resurrection defined and completely altered the lives of the disciples. Knowing that Jesus died and rose again filled them with deep internal joy. Their joy was so great that they had to share the news with other people: Jesus lives!
Their belief that the whole world had access to free salvation because of this godly deed became the main element of their message. Consider for example the message that Peter preached on the day of Pentecost: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24).
What was it that gave the disciples and the apostles such a convincing testimony?
The words “Jesus lives” were not only an objective conclusion, but also an irrefutable fact that reinforced and strengthened their faith.
This knowledge had such a great impact in the early church because the believers had personally experienced the power and joy of the resurrection. “And with many other words he (Peter) testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:40-41).
II. For the Apostle Paul:
Why did he believe and preach with such conviction?
The belief in the resurrection of those who “were asleep” was passed on by the faith of the fathers. This doctrine would have been taught by the well-known teacher, Gamaliel, during Paul’s (Saul’s) training as a Pharisee. However, the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ as witnessed by the disciples was heavily disputed (likely even by the Pharisee Saul). He was known at that time to brutally persecute, torment, imprison, and even kill those who believed in it.
This scripture reveals the monumental change that had taken place in Paul. The persecutor had been transformed into a mighty defender of the Resurrection!
He had made a complete change of course in his life. The resurrected Christ indeed personally appeared to him on the road to Damascus. We read: “Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’” (Acts 9:4-6).
Since making the greatest decision of his life, the resurrected Christ lived in his heart, and he lived his life according to the will of God.
Paul passed this certainty on to others – even to us! As an example, we read in his letter to the Galatians: “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
III. In our present time:
There are certain characteristics that make this doctrine believable. We haven’t personally seen these events, as we were not alive at the time. However, we love Him whom we have never seen as though we see Him. We walk intimately with Him, we rely on Him, and we experience the glorious power of His resurrection.
It was necessary for Jesus to die. He died for our sins and all the transgressions of the whole world. Because of this, we can confess our sins and transfer the blame to Him and receive forgiveness for our guilt, all that weighed us down and caused us unhappiness. Through His death, our “Godless” past dies.
Through His resurrection, we are met with new life! Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Yes, we encounter life in Christ, and showers of heavenly blessings overflow in us.
We know that He lives, for He lives in our hearts! Jesus has renewed our life and set our hearts aglow. Hopelessness, guilt, sin, worry, and fear have been buried in His grave. The grave is conquered! Life, immortal, eternal life triumphs in Christ, our risen Savior! “We also believe and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13). It is an astounding, indescribable message that is conveyed to us. The world cannot offer anything in comparison.
Do you believe? Do you live with the risen Savior? Then pass this message of new life on! A dying world must hear it! It is the only way that the dead in sin can be resurrected to new life in Christ!