To show us that we’re all going to go to Heaven when we die? No, nowhere does the Bible say that.
To demonstrate that Jesus was really God? No, it doesn’t say that either.
To let people know that God was about to resurrect everyone so that the righteous could live on a renewed Earth, while the rest would be sent off to eternal punishment?
Yup, that’s the one. That’s the way Mark, Matthew and Luke tell it and it’s also what Paul believed. He refers to Jesus as the ‘first fruits’, with lots more ‘saints’ being resurrected after him to populate God’s kingdom on Earth:
…in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet (1 Corinthians 15. 20-25).
This is why Matthew has hordes of the dead rising from their tombs (Matthew 27.53) – he sees resurrection as the indisputable proof that the Kingdom has arrived. Matthew is so desperate to show that it’s already started, he has bodies emerging from their graves even before he has Jesus himself come back from the dead.
Of course, all of it’s a fairy story, Matthew’s zombies and Jesus’ resurrection included. As we saw last time, there’s no evidence at all that Jesus rose physically from the grave. Paul’s experience of the resurrected Christ was of a beam of light that appeared in his own head, and from this he concocted his entire theology (Galatians 1.12). When the gospel writers created their resurrection stories much later on, they turned such visions into ‘real’ encounters with a reinvigorated Jesus. They offer stories of his eventual return – after a quick visit to Heaven – as a conquering hero who will kick-start God’s Kingdom on Earth (Matthew 25.31).
So there you are. Jesus’ return from the dead, which didn’t happen anyway, was intended to be the first of many such resurrections, right here on Earth. According to Paul and the later synoptic gospels, it signified that God’s Kingdom was about to be established in this world, not the next. In the first century.
As we know, it all happened just as they said it would.