“. . . Jesus Christ . . . the firstborn from the dead . . .” (Rev. 1:5).
Technically, Jesus wasn’t the first. There was the son of the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17. The Shunammite woman’s son from 2 Kings 4 was also part of this club. A man in 2 Kings 13 should be numbered among them, too. Even Jesus Himself was responsible for the son of the widow of Nain in Luke 7, Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8, and Lazarus in John 11. There were, then, at least six people who were raised from the dead before Jesus.
In what sense, then, is Christ the firstborn from the dead or, as Paul put is, the first fruits? (See Rev. 1:5 and 1 Cor. 15:20, 23.) Consider these points.
- Jesus never died again. Even though all the others mentioned above came back from the dead, they eventually died again. Whether days or decades later, at some point in their lives people grieved their passing a second time. Not so with Jesus. He was the first to experience resurrection and to never die again.
- His resurrection takes priority. Whether the others had been dead for moments, as with the widow of Zarephath’s son, or for days, as with Lazarus, Christ’s resurrection stands supreme. After all, He is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25).
- His resurrection assures us that there will be others. That is one of the main points of today’s reading. Because Christ has been raised, His followers can be assured of resurrection. At the return of Christ for His followers, the dead in Christ will be raised to life. (See 1 These. 4:13-18.) At the end of the tribulation, followers of Christ who lost their lives during the tribulation will experience resurrection. (See Rev. 20:4-6.)
Upon celebrating the birth of a child, it would be disrespectful and illogical to think ahead to his death. But because the very birth of Jesus finds some of its value in His death and resurrection, it is only appropriate for us to think of Him not only as a babe born in Bethelehem but also as the firstborn from the dead. And because He experienced resurrection, His followers will too.