This is not to say that traditions are ( necessarily ) a bad thing, although the over-commercialization ( as bad as Christmas ) and Easter Egg Hunts and such are not, I'm sure what the apostles envisioned! The Easter Egg Hunt, though, when you think about it, is actually kind of a decent picture of a metaphorical search for Resurrection! The egg is a picture of birth ( although we tend to eat most of them ), and when they are hidden for the children to search for and find, it could almost be viewed as their search for the True Life of the World! The Easter Bunny, on the other hand, is merely a picture of natural life, chosen because of the prolificity of rabbits. However you choose to look at it though, theses are all symbols, pointing to something more or less great!
Life is a good thing; as long as life endures, there is hope for a better tomorrow! Lately, I have been involved in discussions about whether we, as believers holding to a fulfilled eschatology are taking away the Christians hope for the 'after-life'. My response, of course, was that this is the 'after-life'; we are in the Presence of our Heavenly Father, and according to Jesus ( John 14:23 ) we will never die! 'Is there life after ( physical ) death?' Of course; after our biological body ceases to function, we will continue on in the Presence of our Heavenly Father! Our Eternal Life, however, does not begin at the death of our biology, when our spirit departs from this physical body; it is a Present Reality!
Scripture tells us that Jesus rose on the first day of the week ( Matthew 28:1-7 ), and so, ever after, Christians have celebrated on this Day, mostly in the hope of our, or more correctly 'their' future resurrection! Many celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus in a more general way, as a memorial, a Celebration of Life, but still with the underlying notion that because Jesus' physical Body was raised from the physically dead, so too will ours!
Whether or not one chooses to cling to this biblically disjointed hope or not, it is clear that He is alive forever more, and thus, so are we! The Resurrection of the Christ proved to a watching world that Death had, in effect, been defeated. To merely rise from the dead and ascend ( in the Spirit ) to His former Glory at the Right Hand of the Father would have proven nothing concrete to those who scoffed! As the case may be, the Truth of the Resurrect was hidden from the eyes of the majority, and many perished because of their disbelief!
That Blessed Hope!
For most Christians, the thought of 'Heaven when you die' means a blessed & eternal existence after we are free of the cumbersome & sin-laden when this physical body is no longer a concern; this is based, maybe, and however loosely, on the apostle Paul's words to the Church at Rome, 'O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?' ( Romans 7:24 ) Other statements of Paul's, such as 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God', seem almost to lend credence to the Gnostic notion that the apostle was looking forward to the demise of his physicality so he could 'depart and be with Christ' ( Philippians 1:23 ), for, as he said elsewhere, 'while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord' ( II Corinthians 5:6 ). We have seen though, in the historical and covenantal context in which Paul wrote, it was not individual biological bodies that he had in mind, but rather that Old Covenant 'Body of Death'!
As the Blessed Hope of the Christian is fulfilled in the Body of Christ, although most Christians, for whatever reason, feel the need to cling desperately to some sort of hope, we can have confidence in the fact that since we are 'raised with Christ' ( Colossians 3:1 ), we can now 'walk in newness of life' ( Romans 6:4 )! The only hope for tomorrow is that we will better do this!
Living in the Resurrection!
Jesus said ( Luke 20:34-36 ), concerning The Resurrection of the Body, 'The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.' It would seem that this would support the notion of such an 'after-life' as many like to speculate about, because if there will be no 'marrying and giving in marriage' ( Matthew 24:38 ) in the Resurrection ( thus, in 'Heaven'? ), then it would only make sense that He was not speaking of this physical existence!
However, as we have seen previously, it is abundantly clear that Jesus was referring to this physical existence, since, as the apostle Paul further stated in the continuing Ministry of the Gospel, 'Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.' ( Colossians 3:5 ) Because of the Fact of the Resurrection, Paul instructed them to forsake their earthly natural passions, and so walk in 'newness of life'. He did not encourage them to forsake this earth and seek some 'after-life' in 'Heaven'!
It is not by departing this life that we live in the Resurrection; it is by living that we live in the Resurrection!
In conclusion then, how should we now live? We should not live in the hope for a better life after this biology has been depleted; that's just jumping in with those who claim that 'the body is a prison-house for the soul'! To live Resurrection Life is to live in the knowledge and abundance of Christ, it is to live in the 'liberty by which Christ has made us free' ( Galatians 5:1 ).
If we live in the hope for a better life in 'Heaven', not seeking to better our lives, and the lives of those around us, then we have 'counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing' ( Hebrews 10:29 ), for it was for this that Jesus died, not that we would someday have a better life in some ethereal ( or is that 'surreal' ? ) 'Heaven', but as He Himself said, 'I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly' ( John 10:10 )
It is in this Life ( John 11:25 ) that we must live if we are to have this Abundant Life!
If we have this Life, nothing else is necessary; if we do not have this Life now, nothing else will suffice, not even the death of our biological body!
Back to tradition; it is good to be reminded that the Christ defeated death, even if we only gather once a year in special remembrance of this Blessed Event! It is a far better thing, though, to live Resurrection Life, basking in the Glow of His Presence, which was made possible by that Resurrection!
Let us live the Life we have been blessed with, and not seek to depart it to 'always be with the Lord'!
Glorying in the Presence,
Charles Haddon Shank