We’re taking a critical look at the general Resurrection of believers as taught in Scripture. We’re testing the idea of a corporate body of believers Resurrecting spiritually in 70AD against Scripture. We’re also weighing in on the creeds and why they need to change.
Let’s start at the Beginning. Part of the confusion about the nature of Resurrection is a misunderstanding about the nature of “the death” of Adam. And this is key because it is this which establishes the MAIN problem in the Beginning.
I would like to flesh out, as clearly as possible, a view that I believe is worth considering. It is called the corporate-body view of resurrection. It is the belief that Scripture is in no way talking about believers attaining a supposed physical-body resurrection at the end of world history. This resuscitation view completely misses the scope of what kind of everlasting ‘life’ biblical Resurrection entails. Instead, Scripture teaches its original audience that THEY would attain to life in the Resurrected body of Christ, as Paul teaches to the Corinthians, “WE shall not all sleep, but WE shall be changed…”. And that this Resurrection of believers was a Resurrection out of the dust of Adam’s death, which was the solution to the original problem in the Beginning.
After Adam sinned, people were born into the corporate body of the first Adam’s sin. This body was trapped in corruption, law, flesh, blood sacrifice, and citizenship in Hades. And this would all change at the Resurrection of the corporate body of Christ, of which Christ was the First Fruits. Jesus was the Firstborn from ‘the dead’ or the death of Adam. But what was the death of Adam? Was it physical or spiritual death? It was spiritual death. There is nothing in the text of Scripture which suggests that Adam was ‘immortal’ as so many people believe. This is a presupposition that people bring to the text in order to solve the apparent ‘problem’ of physical death, which actually isn’t a problem that Scripture deals with as a problem at all. There is nothing in the text itself that suggests that Adam was immortal or that he wouldn’t have died a natural, physical death. Death is a natural part of the cycle of life, and it always has been. It is God’s designed way of creating new life.
So think about it again. What is the death that Adam died that set up the ‘problem’ that the rest of Scripture is moving towards solving?
Take a look. There is a time statement that gives us the key to understanding the nature of the key event at hand. As is so often the case with time statements, this one provides a valuable textual clue to the nature of ‘the death’ which will set the stage for the rest of the story.
In the Garden, to Adam and Eve, God says, Ge 2:17 “…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for IN THE DAY that you eatof it you shall surely die.”
Notice also, Ge 3:4, “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die…”
So did Adam and Eve die that day, yes or no? So who do we agree with, the Serpent, or God? Does the story say that Adam died physically or changed in any way physically in that day? No. Then what kind of death did Adam die in the day that he ate of the tree? He died a spiritual death. Adam lost a relational connection with his creator. He lost his unhindered access to the presence of God. He relegated himself and his progeny to Hades, the holding place of the dead, after physical death, to await their resurrection by the Messiah from the place of the dead, to the presence of God. This spiritual death is the only kind of death that seems to really matter in Scripture. It is a break in relationship with God.
There is no room here for a both-and with physical death. This just breeds confusion of categories later on when we hear from Jesus and Paul. Physical death does not seem to be in any way a problem – or a punishment for sin – at any point in the Bible. We have been taught to see it that way because of the misunderstanding beginning here in Genesis. It is not inherently there in the text. “The Death” is separation from God. Thus, “The Life” is everlasting connection to the presence of God. Keep these categories in mind. Yes, we’ll look at those texts that sound like they are about physical death. And you’ll see how these categories make more sense and smooth out the wrinkles.
Be careful when adding a physical death element or “problem” to this text. Remember that it was the Serpent who told Adam and Eve they would NOT die in the day they ate of the tree. And it was God who said they WOULD die. So, was the Serpent right and God lying? Was God not telling the whole truth? It seems that if one does not acknowledge that Adam fully spiritually died in THE DAY he ate the fruit, one is agreeing with the Serpent over God. God said they would die the only death that really mattered. He didn’t say they would partially die, or begin to decay physically. This is a presupposition that man-made doctrine has added to the text to solve a problem in our minds, not in Scripture. Saying that Adam’s physical death hundreds of years later (at a very significantly symbolic 930 years old – we’ll get to that later), was somehow connected to the Garden-sin narrative, is adding to the text something that is not there. It is almost as if the story goes to great lengths to DISCONNECT Adam’s spiritual death IN THE DAY that he ate, from his physical death almost a millenium later.
Since we’re nearby, it is also worth looking at the beautiful picture of what ‘life’ is pictured as in this story.
Ge 2:7, “…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
This picture of bringing Adam from the dust into life and relationship with God is likened to God breathing on him. These images are key reference points in understanding how resurrection life is talked about later in Scripture.
More to come…