Is Easter for Adventists?

Some Seventh-day Adventists pointedly ignore Easter because of its ancient roots in paganism. But many others skip this annual opportunity to celebrate Christ’s resurrection for another reason: They simply don’t see it as central to our faith.

While most Adventists around the world believe the reality of Christ’s resurrection, some underestimate its relevance to salvation and Spirit-filled living. By contrast, early Christians staked their lives — in this world and for eternity — on the risen life of Jesus. His resurrection reverberates throughout the New Testament:

  • “He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3);*
  • “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. … But Christ has indeed been raised” (1 Cor. 15:17, 20);
  • “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).

The gospel is simple and powerful. We die at the cross in Christ but arise in His resurrection. This historic accomplishment is the basis of our receiving His Spirit today, just as we receive forgiveness only through His once-for-all-time death on the cross.

Christ’s Resurrection Transformed My Life

The summer of 1971, I led five fellow college students selling literature in West Virginia to plant a church. We rose at 5:30 each morning to pray for the Spirit. But despite our fervent supplications, we did not receive the spiritual fulfillment we sought.

Why? Was God unfaithful to His promise? No. We had misinterpreted John 7:39: “The Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” We thought this meant Jesus wasn’t being sufficiently glorified within our little group for us to qualify for the Spirit’s outpouring. Only decades later did the life-changing realization dawn on me that this verse refers not to our feeble attempts to glorify Jesus but to Christ’s own historic glorification upon His resurrection.

Let’s see this in the Bible. Peter connects the glorified, resurrected Christ with God’s gifting of His Spirit: “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

The glory of the risen Christ provided the Spirit to the disciples — not any supposed spiritual accomplishment of their own. Peter did not say, “We prayed harder and harder and pressed closer and closer together until we finally got hold of the Holy Spirit!” Rather, God glorified the resurrected Christ, and through embracing that historic event together we today are filled with the Holy Spirit.

When Peter and John communicated healing to a lame man, everybody was amazed. But Peter warned, “Don’t look at us as if by our own power or godliness we healed this man. God glorified His Son, whom you killed — but He raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the power through which this man is healed” (Acts 3:12,13, paraphrased). 

When we realize this, we are also released from the crushing weight of trying to qualify ourselves for God’s Spirit through supersonic faith, personal perfection or achieving global church unity. God’s Spirit is ours today not because we have glorified Him enough but because Jesus rose from the dead and was glorified in heaven! When we embrace Christ’s resurrection life, living for Him will never be the same.

Resurrection Life in the Spirit

We would not dare request forgiveness without the historic death of Jesus at Calvary. Even so, we must not fancy the possibility of being filled with God's Spirit outside of the resurrection of Jesus and His celestial glorification. Seventh-day Adventists seem slow to understand this fact of life in Christ.

The story is told about shipwrecked sailors in a lifeboat without drinking water. Dying of thirst, they pray for an outpouring from heaven. No rain comes. Finally, someone dips his hat for a drink from the seawater surrounding them — seemingly a foolish act, since saltwater cannot quench thirst and is harmful if ingested in quantity. But these sailors actually are adjacent to the coast of Brazil. They cannot see the shore yet are within range of the mighty Amazon River, which pours out torrents of fresh water into the South Atlantic.

So this desperate, dying sailor drinks what he thinks is saltwater but actually turns out to be sweet, fresh water. He shrieks with joy in discovering that the outpouring for which they were praying had already surrounded them. Now they just need to experience God’s abundant provision. They all drink the water of life and live to be rescued.

Adventists await Christ’s coming to rescue us from this shipwrecked planet. We desperately pray for the outpouring of God’s Spirit — already ours through the resurrected, glorified Christ! Realizing and relishing this will rejuvenate us with revival and reformation.

So let’s have a blessed and happy Easter, not via pagan rituals of the past, but with joyful acceptance of Christ’s resurrection power in us today!

*Scriptures are from the New International Version.

April 13, 2018 / Perspective
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