The Resurrection of Christ According to Orthodox Christian Theology

Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, Redeemer and Only True Savior,


"Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He is raised up Christ, Whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive."



By Father Michael Pomazansky
The Saving Fruits of the Resurrection of Christ

The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the crown of our Orthodox Christian Faith. The Resurrection of Christ is the first, most important, great truth, with the proclamation of which the Apostle began their preaching of the Gospel after the descent of the Holy Spirit. Just as by the death of Christ on the Cross our Redemption was accomplished, so by His Resurrection eternal life was given to us. Therefore, the Resurrection of Christ is the object of the Church's constant triumph, its unceasing rejoicing, which reaches its summit in the Feast of the Holy Christian Pascha--"Today all creation is glad and rejoices, for Christ has risen!" (Canon of Pascha, Canticle 9).

The saving fruits of the Resurrection of Christ are:

(a) the victory over hell and death; (b) the blessedness of the Saints in heaven and the beginning of the existence of the Heavenly Church; (c) the sending down of the Holy Spirit and the creation of the Church of Christ on earth.

A.   The victory over hell and death

Human existence after the loss of Paradise has two forms: (a) the earthly, bodily life; and (b) the life after death.

Earthly life ends with the death of the body. The soul preserves its existence after bodily death also, but its condition after death, according to the word of God and the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church, is diverse. Until the coming to earth of the Son of God, and until His Resurrection from the dead, the souls of the dead were in a condition of rejection, being far away from God, in darkness, in hell, in the underworld (the Hebrew "Sheol," Genesis 37:35), Septuagint). To be in hell was like spiritual death, as is expressed in the words of the Old Testament Psalm, "In hades who will confess Thee?" (Psalm 6:6). In hell there were imprisoned also the souls of the Old Testament righteous ones. These righteous ones lived on earth with faith in the coming Savior, as the Apostle Paul explains in the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, and after death they languished in expectation of their redemption and deliverance. Thus it continued until the Resurrection of Christ, until the coming of the New Testament: "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40). Our deliverance was also their deliverance.

Christ, after His death on the Cross, descended in His soul and in His Divinity into hell, at the same time that His body remained in the grave. He preached salvation to the captives of hell and brought up from there all the Old Testament righteous ones into the bright mansions of the Kingdom of Heaven. Concerning this raising up of the righteous ones from hell, we read in the Epistle of St. Peter: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (I Peter 3:18-19). And in the same place we read further: "For this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (I Peter 4:6). Saint Paul speaks of the same thing: quoting the verse of the Psalm, "When He ascended up on high, He lead captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," the Apostle continues: "Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended firs into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:8-10).

To use the words of Saint John Chrysostom, "Hell was taken captive by the Lord Who descended into it. It was laid waste, it was mocked, it was put to death, it was overthrown, it was bound" (Homily on Pascha).

With the destruction of the bolts of hell, that is, the inescapability of hell, the power of death also was annihilated. First of all, death for righteous men became only a transition from the world below to the world above, to a better life, to life in the light of the Kingdom of God; secondly, bodily death itself became only a temporary phenomenon, for by the Resurrection of Christ the way to the General Resurrection was opened to us.

"Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept" (I Corinthians 15:20). The Resurrection of Christ is the pledge of our resurrection: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive; but every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits: afterward they that are in Christ's at His coming" (I Corinthians 15:22-23). After this, death will be utterly annihilated. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Corinthians 15:26).

The troparion (hymn) of Holy Pascha proclaims to us with special joy the victory over hell and death: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life, "Christ ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:10).

B.   The blessedness of the Saints in Heaven

Before His departure to the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ said to the Apostles: "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (St. John 14:2-3). The Savior prayed to the Father, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with me where I am; that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me" (St. John 17:24). And the Apostles express the desire to depart and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23), knowing that they have "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (II Corinthians 5:1).

A depiction of the life of the Saints in heaven is given in the Apocalypse (Revelation). Saint John the Theologian saw around the Throne of God in the heavens "four and twenty seats" and on them elders clothed in white garments and having crowns of gold on their heads (Apoc. 4:4). He saw under the Heavenly Altar "the souls of them that were slain for the Word (Logos) of God, and for the testimony which they held" (Apoc. 6:9); and yet he saw "a great multitude...of all nations, and kindreds, and people," standing before the Throne and before the Lamb (Christ) and crying out: "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb" (Apoc. 7:9-10).

The bright mansions of the Heavenly Home Sacred Scripture calls "the city of the living God," "Mount Zion," the "Heavenly Jerusalem," "the Church of the first-born written in heaven."

And thus the Great Kingdom of Christ has been opened in heaven. Into it have entered the souls of all the righteous and pious people of the Old Testament, those of whom the Apostle has said, "These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise" (until the coming to earth of the Son of God and the General salvation), "that they without us should not be made perfect," that is, attained the joy and blessedness of the Heavenly Church of Christ (Hebrews 11:39-40). Into this Kingdom in the New Testament there entered the first ones who believed in Christ, the Apostles, first Martyrs, Confessors; and thus until the end of the world the heavenly Home will be filled--the Jerusalem on high, the granary of God--until it shall come to its perfect fullness.

(Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)



With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George