This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “King & Country: The Story That Changes Everything,” coming in summer 2017.
The weekend assignment that Pilate gave the guards had to be the most futile mission in history. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you can” (Matthew 27:65). Ha! Good luck with that one. Nevertheless, the soldiers dutifully carried out orders, unaware of the impossibility of their task. The squad of Roman legionaries sealed the corpse of the King inside a borrowed grave, rolled a massive stone in front of it, and then stood watch outside. They were there to prevent anyone from getting in. But there was one eventuality they weren’t prepared for: someone getting out.
The authority and strength of Rome—and behind that pagan power, the full might of hell—held the tomb closed and trapped his body in. But hell had been struck a death blow the day before, and Satan’s crumbling kingdom was reeling in full-blown retreat. Hell’s client state of Rome didn’t know it yet, but when it had executed Jesus, it had driven the nail through the head of its serpentine puppet master. No squadron of soldiers, not even Satan himself, could hold back the cosmic revolution that was about to come marching out of that tomb.
The new creation heralded by Isaiah and the prophets—the future day of sin and death rolling back, all things becoming new, and humanity regaining its lost dominion—began in the predawn hours outside of Jerusalem with a rumbling earthquake and screaming soldiers. More than just new life was awakening in the tomb. The first heartbeat inside the grave split all of history in two: the old creation, and the dawning new creation. All of the prophetic hopes of a remade universe were being born there, as God’s future reality broke in once and for all to our upside-down world. The “liberation from bondage to decay” that Romans 8 promises began the moment that breath filled the King’s lungs. The great reversal, glimpsed in Jesus’ miracles, began in earnest as death itself began working backwards, compelled by a stronger hand than Satan. And flowing out of this one overturned death, restoration would begin spreading, slowly overtaking hell’s shattered kingdom with life until the entire universe was made new.
Jesus’ Easter morning march out of the graveyard was the spark that ignited the re-creation of the whole cosmos. Russell Moore writes, “Jesus is the pioneer of the new creation, with a resurrected body to which he plans to conform the rest of the redeemed universe.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 says that “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The “firstfruits” were the very first crop that ripened, the proof that the rest of the harvest was on its way. In calling Jesus the “firstfruits,” Paul is saying that his resurrection is not a one-off miraculous event, but rather the first domino in a cascade that will result in an entirely remade world. Philippians 3:20-21 gives us this promise as a glorious hope to hold to. “We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.” On Easter, it wasn’t just Jesus coming out of the tomb. The astounding promise is that his resurrection is going to pull the entire broken, groaning creation out of the grave with him. And if you’re in Christ, he’s going to pull you out of the grave too.