During a recent young adult devotional at the University of Kinshasa, a college student asked the question: “Why do the scriptures teach that Jesus Christ was the first person to resurrect, yet before His resurrection, He had caused the resurrection of Lazarus who was obviously dead? Wasn’t Lazarus the first person to be resurrected?”
This question highlights the most important aspect of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate at Easter. Our hope in living again after we die depends completely upon the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In a miraculous process that we will one day fully understand, Jesus Christ died like every man and woman who lives or has ever lived on the earth and then, like no other man or woman had ever done before, rose again after three days with His body changed so that it will never die again.
The Apostle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 15:19–23: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
“But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
Yes, Lazarus rose again from the dead. But his rising was to mortal life because he died again later. He was brought back from the dead only for a short period of time, and his rising benefited only himself. The means to enable Lazarus to rise from the dead into immortality was to be activated later by Jesus Christ.
The restored gospel teaches that all things are governed by eternal law, which is the Light of Christ, the eternal power of God (see D&C 88:5–13, 34–35).
By that law, and blessed with the power to freely choose between the forbidden fruit and the tree of life, Adam and Eve used their agency to choose the forbidden fruit. This brought the Fall upon them and upon the whole world. They became separated from God, and the physical bodies God had given them became subject to death. For nothing can remain in the presence of God except by obedience to His eternal law. Adam and Eve also learned that their fallen bodies enabled them to have children, but they and their children were subject to physical and spiritual death, which is a state of misery. They would remain in this state forever, in the same way that a person under prison sentence remains in prison until the sentence is lifted when either payment for the offense committed is made, or mercy is extended by someone else.
Before He made bodies for Adam and Eve, God knew what they would do when enticed by the devil. For “truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (see D&C 93:24). He knew the nature of the devil, the nature of Adam and Eve, and the nature of His eternal law. So, He knew that the devil would entice Adam and Eve to transgress and they would choose to fall. Therefore, God made a plan to redeem Adam and Eve from the Fall.
In a revelation given to Moses, He declared: “Behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (see Moses 1:39). The plan of mercy entailed sending a Savior into the world, bearing a body like that of Adam and Eve but conceived through divine influence so He would have power over evil. The shedding of His pure blood, and the suffering of His innocent spirit would be sufficient to compensate for the combined penalty of all transgressions of Adam and Eve and their posterity against the laws of God through all ages of time and existence from the creation, for all who chose to repent.
“Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
“Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved” (see 2 Nephi 2:6–10).
And so, we see that Adam and Eve and all their posterity owe to Jesus Christ all the wonderful experiences of this life, and the hope for an eternal existence free from the afflictions of a fallen world.
Jesus Christ Himself declared: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This promise was fulfilled because of what we remember at Easter.
Easter is the celebration of the abundance of life that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers to all mankind. We commemorate it so all the inhabitants of the earth may know by what means they may once again live in the presence of God.
Because of Easter, you and I have the promise that although in this world we may have pain through physical imperfections, and experience suffering and death of the body, yet the body will be resurrected in its perfect frame (see Alma 11:44).
Because of Easter, as true disciples of Christ we can live this life without fear of those who may choose to unrighteously use physical violence or coercion upon us to achieve their aims (see Matthew 10:28).
Because of Easter, according to our desires, we can receive constant guidance from God through this life and avoid many of the pitfalls of worldliness.
Because of Easter, as we repent fully of small and big transgressions, we can be reunited with our Heavenly Father through the influence of His Spirit and experience the true joy of being in His presence.
Easter helps us to remember and to celebrate our Redeemer, and our Heavenly Father whose mercy made it possible for us to have a Savior, and to look forward to the time when we shall once again live with them in eternal joy.
May we rejoice in the promise of the abundance of life available through Jesus Christ whom this season invites us to remember, by repenting and choosing to always be guided by His gospel.
Joseph W. Sitati was sustained as a General Authority Seventy in April 2009. He is married to Gladys Nangoni; they are the parents of five children.