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The meaning of Easter

Robert Spence, president of Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., since 1974, spoke recently with Ken Horn, managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Evangel: What does Easter commemorate and what is its significance today?

Spence: Easter is the designated calendar point at which we as Christians observe the resurrection of Christ. His resurrection proved His victory over death, hell and the grave. His message and His death could possibly be cited as paralleling those of other leaders’ messages and deaths. But He alone was raised from the dead; His resurrection validated His message.

Evangel: Some readers may ask, "How can I really know this took place?"

Spence: We are removed [from the event] by almost two millennia. No records are available in the way of media recordings. But, the Bible tells us Jesus was seen alive by a representative group on the first day of the week. Later His disciples were together, with the exception of Judas, and He appeared. The Scriptures say about 500 people at various times saw Him during the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension. The record of those people is important evidence, if we are going to accept written evidence from that period of time. The historical record of Scripture provides a response for those people.

Evangel: How does a person get the faith needed to believe in the Resurrection?

Spence: First, accepting Christ and His role as the Son of God. In a person’s search for truth, there must be a starting point. A starting point is what the Scripture says: Jesus came; this is what He did; here is what He said. Then His resurrection validated all that.

The apostle Paul talks about the essential acceptance and belief in the Resurrection. He says, "If in this life only we have hope … we are of all men most miserable" (1 Corinthians 15:19).

The Resurrection is the crown jewel of the entire gospel. The Resurrection affirmed everything that had been promised and everything that had been said.

Evangel: Some people say we shouldn’t celebrate Easter — that some of the traditions have pagan roots.

Spence: All of us have seen the emphasis on Easter being the transition point from winter to spring with new outfits as the focus. And just as I would not allow someone’s commercialism of Christmas to diminish my affirmation of Christ’s coming to this world as a babe, I am not going to allow somebody’s overemphasis on clothing to deter me from affirming what His resurrection means to me.

Evangel: What is an appropriate way for believers to celebrate that day?

Spence: Reviewing the Scriptures can be helpful — Luke’s and Mark’s descriptions. Also, what Paul wrote about our hope for those who have died in the faith and our anticipation of resurrection because Christ was the firstfruits. For my wife and me Easter is a special time. Early in our marriage we had a baby girl who had surgery and did not survive. Later, our oldest son had open-heart surgery before he was 6 and did not survive. Easter for us is a time that reinforces that wonderful truth that, because Christ rose from the dead, we have two children who are already experiencing resurrection life. And because He rose from the dead, we too are going to be with Him — and them.

Evangel: Speak to readers who want to commit or recommit their lives to Christ. How do they apply His resurrection to their lives?

Spence: If Jesus Christ were here on earth today rather than having been here almost 2,000 years ago, He would say to the reader, "Will you believe in Me? You can have eternal life because I rose from the dead — and that starts right now." In other words, understand Jesus’ message in our contemporary setting; don’t bury it in antiquity.

He invites us to confess our sins, put our trust in Him and live right now in His strength — but, more important, to live forever.


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