When we say that Jesus rose from the dead, what do we mean?
Many explanations have been given, including the idea that Jesus’ resurrection was only spiritual in nature. However, as Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck noted, “everything depends on the physical resurrection of Christ.” Just as the Son of God took on our humanity, lived a fully human life, and died physically, so also his physical resurrection was necessary to overcome the tyranny of sin and death over us.
Given the significance of a physical resurrection, Bavinck lists eight things that are true because of it. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is . . .
1. Proof of Jesus’ messiahship, the coronation of the Servant of the Lord to be Christ and Lord, the Prince of Life and Judge (Acts 2:36; 3:13-15; 5:31; 10:42, etc.)
2. A seal of his eternal divine sonship (Acts 13:33; Rom 1:3)
3. A divine endorsement of his mediatorial work, a declaration of the power and value of his death, the “Amen!” of the Father upon the “It is finished!” of the Son (Acts 2:23-24; 4:11; 5:31; Rom 6:4, 10, etc.)
4. The inauguration of the exaltation he accomplished by his suffering (Luke 24:26; Acts 2:33; Rom 6:4; Phil 2:9; etc.)
5. The guarantee of our forgiveness and justification (Acts 5:31; Rom 4:25)
6. The fountain of numerous spiritual blessings: the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:33), repentance (Acts 5:31), spiritual eternal life (Rom 6:4f), salvation in its totality (Acts 4:12)
7. The principle and pledge of our blessed and glorious resurrection (Acts 4:2; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 6:14; etc.)
8. The foundation of apostolic authority (1 Cor 15:12ff).
— Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4, “Sin and Salvation in Christ,” 442.