and finding better answers in a fulfilled covenantal view

Rethinking the Resurrection (part 4): Why did Jesus have to die?

We’ve been talking about the meaning of Resurrection, both what Jesus’ was and what ours is. We’re taking another look at Resurrection in light of the eschatology of Jesus as a historical first century Jewish Apocalyptic.  Namely, not as someone who taught that the end of history or the space-time world was upon them, but as someone who believed and taught that the end of the AGE – the Old Covenant age -  and the beginning of the New – was imminently upon them.

The end of the world is never mentioned in the Bible, but the  end of the AGE – as signified by the destruction of the Temple in 70AD – is everywhere taught. Jesus’ end-of-the-age eschatology was intrinsically tied to the long-standing Jewish hope for the end of their Exile and the gathering of all twelve tribes, or “all Israel.” Both Israel’s restoration and Israel’s the end-of-the-Old Covenant-age general Resurrection are called the ‘hope of Israel’ because they were both describing the same realities of Resurrection; a transformation of people, becoming alive to God, clothed in the New Covenant gifts of grace, love and freedom from the law. Hence, Jesus says, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life,” all who enter into Him enter into the ‘Age-Life’ (often mistranslated ‘eternal life’) or the ‘Life of the Age-to-Come’ which is the New Covenant age now.

Maybe you’re asking, “How does this work? I thought the Bible taught that the Resurrection is when people will come out of graves”. No, tradition teaches this as a future event, but Scripture does not. Scripture teaches that there are only two ages; the Old age which was destined to end, and the New age which would have no end. The Resurrection was Israel’s hope and it was to be at the END of the Jewish (or Old Covenant) age – not at the end of some parenthetical church age. The sign of the ‘beginning of the end’ of that Old age was Jesus’ Resurrection. That is why all the New Testament writers said that THEY were suddenly in the Last Days and why Paul said God’s people were “about to be” Resurrected.  Those were the Last Days of the Old Covenant age, and then the Resurrection occurred on the Last Day of that age, after the Temple was destroyed, which Jesus taught would be the sign of the ‘end of the age.’ That was the time of his coming or presence which would make all that was old and obsolete become fully changed, like and old garment (Hebrews) and fully new. In a moment, all was changed, and a new reality was made, likened to a wedding, a mystery that happens in a moment, when the separate lives of old are joined in one made new.

Resurrection is deliverance from ‘the death’ of Adam, which is separation from God. It is deliverance from obligation to keep the old Levitical law as part of the body of Adam, and it is being reborn into a new kind of freedom and friendship with God as part of this new reality called ‘the body of Christ’. Hence, why Jesus said the Old Covenant saints had to be “born again” into this new body. It was a metaphor for friendship with God where Jesus’ is the mediator and deliverer from the ineffectual ‘mediator’ or burden of the law. Being part of this new reality is being part of the life and spirit of Christ, hence why Jesus corrects Mary and says, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” when she sees only physical deliverance in Lazarus’ resuscitation and thinks it is Resurrection. No, it is not the fullness of Resurrection, it is merely a sign. Just like Jesus called his own physical Resurrection a “sign” – the sign of Jonah. He was getting at this new reality that would change Israel and transform the world. The story of Jonah was a beautiful picture of the Resurrection of the new Israel of God, deliverance from the depths of Hadean death or separation from God (notice Jonah asked to be delivered from Hades while in the fish) into new life in The Land (or the Kingdom of God), from which time they were to go forth carrying the message of the blessings of God to the world (Nineveh and beyond).

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? So You Could Change Your Clothes!

In light of this, let’s back up and ask, why did Jesus have to die? Jesus had to die, and die under the Old Covenant, because the power of the ‘old covenant clothes’ – the law- had to die and be buried with him. Putting on Resurrection life is often likened to putting on ‘new clothes’. This is why Jesus had to put on the Old Clothes first, and be born under the Old Covenant, fulfill it and die under it. So the Old could die with him. He left his Old Covenant Clothes – the law – in the grave along with his burial ‘garments of death’. He shed these natural mortal clothes of Adam, and put on spiritual immortal clothes of new life. The same clothes we put on when we are reborn into His new life.

In this sense, Jesus was the “first fruits” of ‘the Resurrection’ because he was the first to Resurrect clothed in righteousness; dressed in the New Covenant clothes, in the Wedding Clothes of the Lamb. He was the first fruits of a harvest that would come in at the end of the age, or within that same ‘season’ or generation, just as He promised and Paul also taught when he said the Temple was a sign of his age that had to be taken out of the way. The harvest of the Israel of God would be at the end of the age, the Old Covenant Age. This is the main aspect of Jesus’ Resurrection and what it was a sign of – of His and our coming into friendship with God under the New Covenant.

Resurrection is talked about as putting on the righteousness of Christ, clothing ourselves in Him, washing our robe in his blood to enter His Kingdom, being covered by Him and not being found “naked” in God’s sight, having the right wedding clothes so that we can participate in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. All beautiful metaphors for the reality of this Resurrection life, the hope of the ages that occurred at what Paul called the “final end of the ages”. The end of all ends, and the death of all death happened in the death and Resurrection of Christ.

When we put His ‘clothes’ on, put his ‘banner’ over us, write His ‘law of love’ on our hearts, eat of His ‘food’ and live in His ‘body’, we are participating in His Resurrection and making it ours. He was the First Fruits of this New Life. He was not the first person to resuscitate physical life, Scripture records numerous other merely physical resurrections before Him. Jesus was the first to be “born” of  the New Life, as the New Man,under the New Covenant.
A sign points to something. This is why Jesus repeatedly calls His Resurrection a “sign”. A sign of what? A sign that then was the time for His people to also be born again into New Life in God through faith. He was ultimately calling people to “follow me” – to  follow Him out of the body of Adam – under the law- and into the body of Christ – born anew – into grace, love and peace with God. Indeed, then – and now – is the time for true Life to begin, clothed the in the Resurrection life of God!

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3 Responses to Rethinking the Resurrection (part 4): Why did Jesus have to die?

  1. Jerel says:

    Great post Riley. Very simply put and easy to understand. :)

  2. Rich says:

    I agree with Jerel. Very well done.

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