It is the week before Easter. Nearly Resurrection Day. I have some thoughts about Resurrection, a valuable perspective which may be new to you. I think its important for people to have this on their radar, however. So I’d like to attempt to flesh it out. It’s taken me a long time and a lot of sweat equity to understand this and I still have a ways to go. I’ll begin slowly.
The physical Resuscitation part of Jesus’ Resurrection is neither hard to understand, nor is it difficult for billions of people to believe and confess. However, the fuller picture of Jesus’ true Resurrection, and especially the nature of the Resurrection of believers, is one of the most misunderstood concepts ever. The general Resurrection of believers is hard to grasp both by saints IN the Scriptures, and by people today. People in Scripture who were taught personally by Jesus and Paul continued to have difficulty understanding it. They had long-lingering questions about what and when this Resurrection would be for them. But one thing they were sure of, and correctly reassured of by inspired teachers; it would happen TO THEM IN THEIR LIFETIME.
Have you ever noticed that, of the 42 times believers’ Resurrection is mentioned in the New Testament, it is never said to be a Resurrection of one’s physcial “body” or of one’s “flesh”? It is a Resurrection out from the dead, or out from the dead ones, or unto life. We’ll talk about why this is later. It’s just important to first establish what it is NOT described as in Scripture. The idea of Resurrection as being a resuscitation or recreation of a long-dead, decayed and disappeared physical corpse only exists in the creeds and in people’s presuppositions.
Have you ever noticed that Paul had to write letters to churches, per Second Thessalonians, to reassure them that they had not missed the coming presence of Jesus or their Resurrection? How could they think they had missed a mass physical resuscitation of corpses from all the graveyards? Many lived near family tombs. If this is what Paul had taught them Resurrection would be, wouldn’t Paul have just told them to look out the window and see that it had not passed? But, curiously, he didn’t say anything like that. In fact, if Paul taught them that the Resurrection was to be something visibly obvious and material, entire churches would not have had to ask Paul if it had passed.
And have you ever wondered why people like Hymenaeus and Philetus were having such great success teaching people that the Resurrection had already happened, per 2 Tim 2:17-18? Notice that in neither situation does Paul correct anyone in their understanding of a non-physcial, invisible, easily imperceptible Resurrection. He does NOT say, “Look at the graves, bodies are still in them, so obviously the Resurrection has not occurred!” Not in the least. He only corrects their understanding of the TIMING of the Resurrection. It is as if Paul actually affirms that the Resurrection would be something spiritual. Very much real, even their hope, but invisible. Paul was writing in the 50’s and 60’s AD and its true that the Resurrection had not occurred yet. It was not yet the end of the Old Covenant age, it was not yet 70AD.
Paul encouraged believers to wait just a little bit longer. Whatever the nature of it would be, Paul assured THEM that THEY would live to experience the TIMING of it. Did God inspire Paul to give the Thessalonians and Corinthians false hope? Is that the best God could do, to choose to speak through someone who would seriously mess up the nature and timing of the general Resurrection? Or did God speak correctly and authoritatively through Paul about a soon-to-happen-to-them spiritual and covenantal event, worthy of the “climax of the ages” that they were in?
After teaching them for a year and a half (per Acts) the Corinthians still had to write and ask Paul what the heck their Resurrection would be, “How are the dead raised and with what body do they come?? You Fools!! …it is raised a SPIRITUAL BODY”(1 Cor 15:35, 44). Here Paul compares the dying of a shell (Old Covenant Israel) out of which a germinated seed (New Covenant Israel, church) would rise. The “natural, corruptible, weak” corporate body of Old Covenant Adam, the system they had been born into, would give way. The “spiritual, incorruptible, powerful” corporate body of Jesus, in the everlasting New Covenant, would Resurrect anew. And, after 70AD, that’s exactly what it did! Just look at history.
We ought not overlook these examples of thoroughly discipled saints thinking that Resurrection was something they could miss seeing. There’s PLENTY of other evidence like this that I’ll get into later. We should slow down and regard it as a valuable key witness in our Scriptures. Let it tell us one thing that the Resurrection of believers was NOT. Resurrection was NOT taught or expected to be a physical resuscitation of physical-visible-material recreated decayed corpses at the end of world history. Regardless of the numerous songs, sermons, creeds or paintings that suggest this, its most important to look at how Resurrection was taught in the Bible.
I know, I know, “But Scripture says we’ll have a Resurrection like Christ’s”. Indeed. But what does that mean? We’ll be taking another look at Jesus’ corpse resuscitation, and why he took back his body (hint: as evidence for us. who would have believed Jesus resurrected out of Hades without him appearing to witnesses? Also note that God ONLY promised that Jesus’ body would not see decay…). We’ll also look at how Jesus’ resuscitation differs from his true Resurrection out from Hades to the presence of God to make atonement.
“But resurrection of the body is what the Creeds say”. True. And this is a series about why I think those creeds are wrong on this point. They need some updating regarding a difficult thing to understand. It’s ok to be wrong. It’s not ok for the ‘keepers of the creeds’ to refuse to learn something new to them, which is so Scripturally viable.
So this is a preview of some of the reasons it is worth one’s while to consider that the biblical teaching of corporate Resurrection is something other than what creeds and much of traditional theology says it is. More to come.