April 19, 2024

The Hope of the Resurrection

R.C. Sproul
The Hope of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus isn’t some fanciful story—it is the historical reality on which all our hope rests. Today, R.C. Sproul reminds us that since Christ has conquered the grave, even our suffering is not in vain.


If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless and so is your faith. Don’t give me this patronizing stuff about religion being good for the soul. If religion is based upon a false premise, if there’s no corresponding reality to the hope that lies within us, then let’s face it, our preaching’s an exercise in futility, and the faith that we express is useless. It’s useless if Christ isn’t raised. And if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. I know in our culture we’re told that the only meaningful dimension of religion is what happens here and now in this world, and where there’s nothing worse than these pie-in-the-sky people who are always talking about heaven.

If I can’t have my pie in the sky, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to eat here. Because if all we have is a religious experience and a religious hope that is confined and restricted to this world, then we are of all of the people in this world the most to be pitied. Because here we are throwing our lives away to a delusion. As Paul goes on to say, “If Christ does not raise, then let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Let’s be unrestrained hedonists. Don’t laugh at this generation of kids who are doing everything in their power to intoxicate their senses and to find some means of escape from the grim reality of the world we show them every day. That’s not stupid; that’s wisdom. If there is no resurrection, let’s eat, let’s drink, let’s be merry, let’s party until we’re drunk as we can be, until we die. Because tomorrow it’s all over.

One of the greatest arguments for life after death that was ever conceived was conceived by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in an intricate, philosophical form of practical reasoning where Kant, he says, bottom line, that you just simply have to believe in life after death, because if you don’t, there is no ultimate basis for justice. And if there’s no ultimate basis for justice, there’s no ultimate basis for ethics. And if there’s no ultimate basis for ethics, then all of life becomes a preference and society becomes inevitably impossible.

But a sober philosopher will look at that argument and say, “Hey, wait a minute,” as Nietzsche did. That’s the problem. We are convinced that life is meaningless. And we don’t live like Alice in Wonderland where we can just simply project our desires and say that reality is as we would like it to be and we’re going to believe in a resurrection, because without believing in a resurrection life would be intolerable.

Ladies and gentlemen, Paul does show us the grimness to the alternative to the resurrection of Christ here, but he doesn’t rest his case there. He doesn’t say to us, “Believe that Christ rose from the dead, because if you don’t believe it, life is intolerable.” That’s not what he argues. Listen to what he says. He says at the beginning, he says, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you by which you received and which you’ve taken your stand.”

He said, “For what are those things I received, I passed on to you as of primary importance that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures.” Then he moves from the biblical to the empirical realm. And he says, “Then he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve. And after that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of them are still living. I know their names and address. Go check it out. Most of them are still living, though some have fallen asleep. And then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. And last of all, as one born out of due time, he appeared unto me. I’m not writing to you about abstract speculation. I’m talking to you about a resurrection that five hundred people at more than one time witness. And I saw him.”

This is the universal testimony of the New Testament writers. As the other Apostles say, “We declared you not cunningly devised myths and fables, but we declared to you what we have seen with our eyes and what we have heard with our ears.” What every one of the disciples saw, handled, heard, and died for was the victory of one Man over death with the New Testament declares was not an isolated incident, but that this was the down payment for the human race, that this is the firstborn of many brethren, that this represent a cosmic victory over the ultimate enemy of our humanity.

So that the conclusion that the Apostle reaches in the fifteenth chapter is fantastic. He says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for inasmuch as you know that your labor in him is not in vain.” It’s the resurrection of Christ that means that no amount of suffering, no amount of grief, no amount of sorrow, no amount of loneliness, no amount of apparent hopelessness, can ever be ultimate because Christ is risen. So my suffering is not in vain.