First-Begotten of the Dead, Firstborn Among Many Brothers
Revelation 1:4-5 (ESV)
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
There are two primary things that separate Jesus Christ from all others who claim to be a savior: the virgin birth and the resurrection from the dead. Without these two essential attributes He would just be another prophet.
This is why we celebrate the two major holy days on the liturgical calendar, Christmas and Easter. It’s not important that Jesus was born, or that He died. It does matter HOW He was born, and that He AROSE from the tomb.
The title of First-Begotten of the Dead, used to describe Jesus when John wrote down the Revelation given to him, comes from the fact that He was the first one to be fully resurrected from the dead. Lazarus came back to life, as did the little girl Jesus spoke to, but they both died again. They were not fully resurrected. Jesus was in essence born again from the dead, showing us what would be available for us through the New Covenant He established with the Father on our behalf.
Now, through faith, we can be identified with Christ through His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating at the right hand of the Father, and in so doing enter into the New Covenant with Christ. We are then re-born spiritually. Though our body will eventually die, our spirit will live on forever with Christ. That is the Good News that Jesus came to bring us.
If you are a Christian you no longer have to fear death because you have already died, spiritually, when you were baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit. This is the new birth. This “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) will never die. We are now “born of the dead” just like Jesus. He was the first; He showed us the way, and provided the means through His own resurrection.
So celebrate Christmas but, in so doing, acknowledge the virgin-birth of our Lord. Celebrate Easter when Christ was born-again so that we can now live!
This new life given to us through the New Covenant comes with is a calling; one calling. It is so simple yet so overlooked by many. Jesus became the First-Begotten from the Dead to show us the way to really live. Paul put it like this.
Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Another Name of God is closely related to First-Begotten from the Dead. It is given in this passage: Firstborn Among Many Brothers. We are born again as children of the Most High God, just like Jesus. We become His brothers (and sisters). It would have been pointless for Jesus to do all that He did just so He could remain the only begotten of God. He did all He did so we, too, could become children of God! Our calling is simple: to be conformed to the image of Christ. Every human born has the same calling. I discuss this in much more detail in my book, The Call to Worship.
Worship is the simple way to describe our relationship with our Father, God.
There is one other related Name of God that I would like to include here. Paul also shared this about Jesus.
Colossians 1:15-17 (ESV)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
We are called to be conformed to the image of Christ because He is the image of God Himself. Jesus is the Firstborn of Every Creature. He was present at creation as The Word of God, and spoke everything into being. As we become conformed to Jesus through our re-birth by the New Covenant, we then begin to re-create our world by speaking God’s words into it. As we are conformed to the image of Christ by renewing our minds to think like the Father and act like Jesus, all through the power of the Holy Spirit that abides in us, we join Jesus as a joint-heir of the Kingdom of Heaven.
We love the King and we abide in His Kingdom; all through the New Covenant provided by the First-Begotten from the Dead, Jesus Christ.