There are three major implications to a denial of the resurrection of Christ.
First, if Christ is not risen, he is no savior. Why is it that Christ's status as savior is so dependent on the reality of his resurrection from the dead?
In the first place, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead it means he was a liar and deceiver. Let's not forget that Jesus predicted his own resurrection (see John 2:18-22). I'm amazed by how often the unbelieving world is prepared to reject Christianity but retain its admiration for Jesus. "He was a great moral leader," they say, "a model for us all; kind, gentle, faithful, and above all, wise."
But how can anyone believe this of Jesus if the basis on which he gathered people around himself, indeed the basis on which he built his fame and appeal, was one that he knowingly and willingly fabricated? Either bow in belief of the resurrection or face up to the sad but undeniable fact that Jesus was a religious and moral wretch, deserving little more than our contempt. But don't try to live in that elusive "religious" middle ground that says he was good and caring but is yet in the grave.
If Jesus is not risen, he is a sadistic deceiver of the worst imaginable sort. On the night of his betrayal, in an attempt to encourage, uplift, and console his disciples, Jesus promised them that he would rise from the dead and go ahead of them into Galilee (see Matthew 26:31-32). Consider their spiritual and psychological state of mind: they were confused, discouraged, and perhaps a bit depressed. Yet, Jesus gives them hope based on a lie. He deliberately deceives them, building their expectations, knowing that nothing will come of it. Is that the mark of a good, moral, kind-hearted example?
The only other option is that he didn't know any better. His words of an impending resurrection were less the malicious deception of a moral reprobate than the deluded fantasies of a certifiable madman. In any case, if Christ is not risen, he is hardly worthy of anyone's praise. Pity, perhaps, but certainly not praise.
If Christ is not risen, he is clearly not divine and therefore hardly qualified to make atonement for those he intends to save. The logic is inescapable. God is absolutely free from sin. Whether by lying or intentional deceit, on the one hand, or self-delusion and lunacy, on the other, if Jesus is not risen he is exposed as merely human, and not even a very good one at that.
I said there were three devastating implications of a dead Christ. The first is that he would be unfit to serve as our savior. Secondly, if Christ did not rise from the dead, there would be no salvation for us to receive. Let me explain this by focusing on the three primary categories of our experience of salvation.
There is, first, our justification. According to Romans 4:24b-25, God "raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." If he was not raised, we are not justified. If he was not raised, the basis of our justification, namely, the sufficiency of Christ's suffering the wrath of God in our stead, is destroyed. As my former mentor, S. Lewis Johnson, once said, "The resurrection was the Father's 'Amen!' to the Son's 'It is finished!'" The resurrection was the exclamation point of the Father's joy and celebration for all that Jesus did for us in his dying. Without the resurrection, the Son's death was in vain.
In 1 Corinthians 15:16-17, Paul declared that "if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." His point is that if Christ was not raised, the Father was not propitiated, and if the Father was not propitiated, we are yet under divine wrath. Being "in your sins," to use Paul's language, is the antithesis of being "in Christ." When we are "in Christ" we get what he can do for us: eternal life. When we are "in sin" we get what it can do for us: eternal death.
There is, second, our sanctification. If Christ is not risen we have no hope of ever experiencing victory over sin in our daily lives. Why? Because if Christ did not rise, the Spirit did not descend. Jesus said, "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7). This can't be simply a matter of Jesus saying that for the Spirit to come he must die. Jesus' point is that if he goes he "will send" us the Spirit. But if he didn't rise from the dead, he can't send anything! No resurrection, no Spirit. No Spirit, no sanctification.
Furthermore, if Christ did not rise we have no High Priest to intercede on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). And if we have no High Priest, we have no one to provide us with help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16), no one to sympathize with us in our sin or to supply strength to resist its temptations (Hebrews 2:18).
Finally, there is our glorification. If Christ is not risen, we have no hope for deliverance from this mortal and corrupt body. Glorification is always predicated on the truth of Christ's return at the end of this age (cf. John 14:1-6; 1 Cor. 15:50-58; Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2). But if he is not risen, he cannot return. And if he does not return, our hope for the eradication of evil and the transformation "of our lowly body to be like his glorious body" (Philippians 3:21) is empty and vain.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is absolutely foundational to Christianity and to the hope of every repentant sinner.
There is yet one final consequence to consider, if Christ be not risen.
To be continued . . .