Easter, Retirees, and the Hope of the Resurrection


We’re now in Holy Week. It’s the season on the church calendar when the profound significance of Easter and what it means to us as Christians are at the forefront of our thinking and are in our hearts: the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus—the forgiveness of sin and triumph of life over death, light over darkness, and hope over despair.

Can it be true?

The truth of the resurrection, as glorious and comforting to us as it is, is sadly viewed as a metaphysical impossibility by the secular world, especially atheists. The arguments against the resurrection are well-known but pretty basic.

For example, in an article on the apologetics blog Capturing Christianity, its founder Cameron Bertuzzi quotes a well-known atheist, Michael Shermer, who is the publisher of Skeptic magazine (great title, right; no subtly there). Shermer wrote this in Scientific American:

”What about religious truths? The proposition that Jesus was crucified may be true by historical validation, inasmuch as a man whom we refer to as Jesus of Nazareth probably existed, the Romans routinely crucified people for even petty crimes, and most biblical scholars—even those who are atheists or agnostics, such as renowned religious studies professor Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—assent to this fact. The proposition that Jesus died for our sins, in contrast, is a faith-based claim with no purchase on valid knowledge. In between these is Jesus’s Resurrection, which is not impossible but would be a miracle if it were true. Is it?”

He goes on to say:

”The principle of proportionality demands extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims. Of the approximately 100 billion people who have lived before us, all have died and none have returned, so the claim that one (or more) of them rose from the dead is about as extraordinary as one will ever find. Is the evidence commensurate with the conviction?. . . The principle of proportionality also means we should prefer the more probable explanation over less probable ones, which these alternatives surely are.”

I was surprised that he suggested that resurrection was not impossible, saying that it would have to be a miracle if true. But he goes on to present his argument of why it’s an extraordinary claim that the evidence to support it isn’t commensurate with the level of conviction of those who believe it’s true.

The author of the blog article, Cameron Bertuzzi, responds by saying,

What this translates to, in the language of probability, is this: “Given that billions of people haven’t risen from the dead, the probability that Jesus rose is extremely low.” Does the consequent follow from the antecedent? Actually, it doesn’t. That is, it doesn’t, unless we assume a frequentist interpretation of probability . . . Here’s a simple version of frequentism:

The probability of an attribute A in a finite reference class B is the relative frequency of actual occurrences of A within B.

You can read the entire article, but here’s a summary of Cameron’s response to Shermer with some of my own thoughts here and there:

Shermer’s argument is simple, logical, and based on probability theory (frequency of occurrences relative to class size). It asserts that since Jesus is a human (and it cannot be proven that He was the “Son of God”), he is part of a huge class called “humans” who have ever lived (approximately 100 billion), and of that class, as far as we know, no one has come back from the dead. It follows that the probability that one of them did or ever will is extremely close to zero (but can be proven as absolutely zero mathematically, which is significant).

It’s an entirely logical argument from a purely secular perspective that doesn’t allow for the supernatural. The problem is that it only works in the context of probability (frequency of occurrence) theory in this one-in-(a very) many context. The argument says that it can’t happen because it never has (as far as we know), and the probability of it happening is near zero.

Even if we concede that no one else in human history has come back from the dead (which is actually not something we can assume without begging the question, especially considering other biblical accounts such as the story of Lazarus in John ch. 11), it doesn’t necessarily follow that the prior probability of Jesus coming back from the dead is low at least if we can put him in class with 100 billion people (and counting).

While it’s true that Jesus was part of a vast class called “humans,” he was also part of a much smaller one. He was part of a class of humans whose birth and death were predicted in religious texts (the Old Testament: Isa. 7:14. Mic. 5:2, Ps. 22:16-18, Is. 53:5, 9, 7) and documented by historians and in the New Testament.

He was also, as far as we know, the only Jewish carpenter named Jesus killed by crucifixion by the Romans under the reign of Pontus Pilate (Mk. 6:3). He was the only one who was mockingly given the title “King of the Jews” and also crucified by the Romans (Matt. 27:37). He was the only person ever crucified by the Romans whose family and friends claimed had risen from the dead and described their interactions with him in detail at great danger to their own lives (Luke 24:36-49).

Lastly, he’s the only crucified person known to have become the founder of the largest religion in the world (Acts 2). (Plus, his words are recorded in red in the Bible .🙂)

So, in that class, the probability that he died and stayed dead is either 0 or 100 percent; either he was crucified and stayed dead, or he was crucified and rose from the dead. There’s no 50 percent here.

We can add that to what we know about how Jesus’s resurrection involved God’s will. Christians believe that God, freely and consistent with his sovereign purposes of redemption, raised Jesus from the dead. The idea that the one true living God would raise his only begotten Son from the dead after He had made His sacrifice for sin isn’t at all illogical or improbable.

If God exists (and no one has ever proven that He doesn’t), wouldn’t any reasonable God who’s also a Father do that, especially if His Son’s resurrection was required to complete His work of salvation, which was the whole purpose of the cross in the first place (Eph. 1:19-23, Rom. 6:4).

Christians believe that God is a rational, all-knowing, and all-powerful being with intellect (beliefs and knowledge), emotions (love and hate), and a will (the ability to form and carry out goals and intentions). We also believe that humans are created in God’s image and have these attributes to varying degrees. Unfortunately, we’ve fallen into sin and rebellion, which has separated us from God and subjected us to His wrath (Rom. 1:18-24).

Since we can’t overcome our predicament on our own, we need help—we need salvation. To this end, God sent His Son, Jesus, to be the Redeemer, and the price of redemption was His death on the cross. But the story of salvation doesn’t end there; it includes Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand (Rom. 6:1-23).

God could’ve accomplished His redemptive plans in a million different ways, but according to the gospel, this is how He did it. The New Testament teaches that justification and salvation are based solely on what Christ did for us to fulfill God’s plan—not on our own works, but on the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf (Eph 2:8-9).

Christ secured eternal life for us, and our hope of eternal life is grounded in Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:7). As Herman Bavinck said, Christ’s resurrection is “the guarantee of our forgiveness and justification (Acts 5:31; Rom. 4:25)…and the “the foundation and guarantee of our salvation.” This is the strongest possible pledge and assurance of hope we can imagine! (The Wonderful Works of God, pp. 216).

Our great hope

Retirement can be a fun and exciting time of life. But at some point, we’re all confronted with our mortality. While we may relish the joys of life on this earth, despite all the toil, trouble, and temptation, we also imagine what will come next after we die.

These are the existential questions about life, death, salvation, and eternity. At its core, Easter is a celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, the pivotal event upon which all of the Christian faith turns because it validates Jesus’s claims as the Messiah and Savior of the World (1 Cor. 15:14, 17).

It also signifies the triumph over sin, death, and the grave and promises a bodily resurrection for believers. This promise is significant to those of us who may be experiencing (or will experience) physical weakness and decline as we age. It carries a unique message of anticipation for the promise of our own future bodily resurrection (1 Cor. 15:51).

In fact, our lives, futures, and eternity all depend on the truth of the resurrection. It’s all about Rom. 10:9—confessing with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts that He rose from the dead.

As believers in Christ, the salvation he gives us is so rich and full that it almost defies description. We’ve been acquitted of guilt and are no longer subject to punishment for our sins. We’ve received the righteousness of Christ, which allows us to even exist before God (1 Cor. 1:30). We have the right to eternal life, free from all guilt and punishment. We also have the hope of a future bodily resurrection from the dead.

As theologian Herman Bavinck wrote in The Wonderful Works of God,

“. . . it is self-evident that what matters at the Resurrection of Christ is precisely the physical Resurrection. . . By his physical Resurrection, it was first proved that He, by his obedience to even unto the cross and the grave, had perfectly conquered sin and all its consequences, including death, had, so to speak, thrown it back out of the human world, and had ushered in a new life of incorruptibility. Death may there therefore have come into the world by a man; but the Resurrection from the dead also came by a man (1 For. 15:21). Christ is Himself the Resurrection and the life (John 11:25).”

pp. 349

This hope of eternal salvation experienced in a new body is indescribably glorious and should give us all a profound sense of comfort and assurance. Our earthly bodies will indeed age and eventually die, but will one day be transformed. This is what Paul says about this in 1 Cor. 15:42-44:

“So is it with the Resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

This is the transition from perishable to imperishable, from mortal to immortal—a transition that awaits all who believe. It rests solely and entirely on what Christ has done for us, not on our works but on his according to the will of the Father.

Like many of you, I grapple with physical limitations and ailments from time to time and know others who do, too. For some, they are chronic or even severe.

This is a fact in our fallen, broken, sin-sick world. But the assurance of a resurrected body should give us hope and comfort. Our bodies will one day be restored to full vitality, where the joys of existence are unconfined by time, age, or physical limitations (1 Cor. 15:35-58). We can only imagine what such a new earthly existence will be like.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to take care of our earthly bodies; we must if we want to live a life of service with great purpose and meaning in the years we have left. We can view our remaining years, months, and days not just as an inevitable countdown to the end but as an opportunity to live in light of eternity, a new beginning that will have no end.

Let us, therefore, celebrate Easter not as an annual event, a commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection, but rather, as Bavinck describes it, as:

“. . . a fountain of good for His church and for the whole world. It is the Amen of the Father upon the Finished of the Son. Christ was delivered up for our sins and raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). . . But because He had achieved the perfect reconciliation and forgiveness for all our sins by His passion and death, He arose and had to arise. In the Resurrection He Himself and we with Him were justified. His arising was the public declaration of our acquittal.”

The Wonderful Works of God, pp. 351

Therefore, this Easter season, we can worship and thank God for Jesus, for resurrecting Him from the dead, and for His amazing gift of mercy and forgiveness, releasing us from the power and penalty of our sin. And also for the knowledge that our story doesn’t end in retirement or at death, that we can anticipate our resurrection, continuing our story into eternity, where we’ll experience the fullness of life and joy in God’s presence in our new resurrected bodies.


👋 Hi, I’m Chris Cagle, the founder of Retirement Stewardship, a blog that focuses on the various aspects of retirement from a Christian stewardship perspective (1 Peter 4:10).

I write as a retiree who is dealing with the things I write about. I base most of the articles on my research and experience applying it to my situation and how it might apply to yours.

If you’re new here, check out the site introduction for an overview. You can also learn more about me.


My Books

Redeeming Retirement: A Practical Guide to Catch Up (2021)
The Minister’s Retirement (2020)
Reimagine Retirement: Planning and Living for the Glory of God (2019)