By Kevin Folk
“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” And, thus, begins the story of San Manuel Bueno, the martyr, by the Spanish writer, Miguel de Unamuno. The story centers upon a priest, Manuel, who serves the poor and marginalized in an outlying village in Spain. He is renowned for his good deeds and for inspiring faith in the common people. The problem, we later find out, is that he does not believe what he teaches, especially as it relates to the resurrection. He continues for the sake of the people, but doubt eats away at his body and soul until he dies in the middle of the village one day.
We often talk about and sing of the hope of heaven, emphasizing it, as if that is our final destination. However, the hope that truly moves us is the hope of bodily resurrection. The hope that we find only in Christ Jesus – and that, only by faith. Resurrection is still as absurd today as it was to the Greek audience in the world of Paul and the other apostles. Afterlife? Sure. Heaven. Most would agree. But bodily resurrection? That is where your sanity will begin to be questioned in our day, as in any day and age.
Paul himself made quite a big deal out of resurrection in his first letter to the Corinthians. Notice that in the quote above from chapter fifteen he is not referring to non-body soul existence in heaven. But as we see in the context he is talking about the next life, the renewal of all things in heaven and on earth. If there were no bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah, and “the dead are not raised” Paul says that we are completely wasting our time – “let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
Now, listen to his conversation with the Philippian believers, who seemed to be suffering severely for their faith in Christ. Paul’s hope and faith was rooted firmly in Christ and His gospel – so much so that he considered that the choice between living for Christ and dying for Him was a win-win. Why? Because, as he unfolds in chapter three, the goal is to attain the resurrection of the dead which is only in and through Christ. That is the final stage of our glorious salvation in Christ Jesus – the transformation of this body “of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.”
This hope in the resurrection of Christ and the guarantee of our bodily resurrection through Him is the power through the Spirit of Jesus Christ that presses us on in this life. We faithfully serve him in body and soul, through good times and persecution, trusting him to bring all things subject to himself, including the last dreaded enemy of humanity – death. Whether in death or life, we glory in Him. Whether in riches or poverty, we glory in Him and find our strength in Him and His Spirit, hoping to attain the resurrection of the dead, as Paul says.
Today, no matter what you are facing, no matter how many answers you have or lack, how much difficulty you have faced, how much success you may have stumbled upon, put your faith and hope in Christ, his life, death and resurrection! In this world where the powers still reign and wreak havoc, there is nothing that will shame the powers and remind them of their public humiliation by the cross of Christ and His resurrection like our hope in the resurrection from the dead through Christ. Be a true witness, a good martyr, and may your hope in the power of the resurrection keep you “steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord.”
Kevin Folk serves as the Associate Dean of Global University’s Undergraduate School of Bible and Theology and as an Assemblies of God World Missions International Missionary.