Essential Teachings 4: Resurrection by Steve Weston  

Home     What's on     Articles     Beliefs     About us     How to find us     More  


In previous articles we have seen that the Bible unequivocally informs us that we are all mortal beings, destined to die and revert to being the "dust of the earth". And the reason for the universality of this terminus for life takes us back to a previous article on "human nature" - the nature inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve, which inclines us towards wrongdoing, and leads us inexorably to the grave.  It is a very sad picture, and one captured in a few words written by the Apostle Paul:

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are the most unhappy of all men. (1 Cor 15:19).

But these words have been taken away from their context, and we will discover that such a bleak assessment of the human condition is not at all necessary, thanks to the love of God and the work of Jesus Christ. Let us begin this quest for understanding by looking at an Old Testament character - Abraham. He received some striking promises from God (recorded in Genesis, from ch 12 through to ch 22) among which was one that he should inherit the land where he currently was - the land of Israel. But he died without having inherited anything of that kind - he was even obliged to buy a small piece of land in which to bury his wife Sarah. There are 2 opposing conclusions that we can draw from this situation:

1. That God made promises but did not keep them; or

2. That Abraham must live again to receive his inheritance from God.

 

The Epistle to the Hebrews confirms that Abraham understood that this latter was the reality - he was among those of whom we read that:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar (11:13)

It seems then that Abraham received these promises from God concerning the future, and he believed (in biblical language believe = have faith!) that before he could experience their fulfilment he had to die, but then would be raised from the dead at some point, according to God's plan. We can see this strong conviction coming through vividly in the events concerning Isaac's 'sacrifice'. (Genesis 22). Isaac was the son of Abraham, for whose birth he had waited more than 25 years.  Then, when God asked him to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice, he was ready to do so. Why was he willing to do this? This same 11th chapter of Hebrews gives us the answer:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

(11:17-19)

 

Abraham had a clear understanding, therefore, of the doctrine of resurrection. He understood that God's justice required the death of sinners - that is, all of us. But he also understood that God loved this world of sinners to such an extent that He was ready to give His only begotten Son. This understanding is shown in Abraham's response to his 'only son' Isaac when asked where the lamb for the sacrifice was:

Abraham replied, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering" (Gen 22:8).

And this is not the last time we find Abraham's name in a biblical teaching about the resurrection. On several occasions Jesus was in debate with the religious leaders of the Jews. Matthew reported such a discussion that the Lord had with the Sadducees, which began with this statement:

The same day the Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection, came to Jesus....

They asked him a question that seemed to support their belief on this subject. And Jesus' answer is as follows:

Regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what God has told you: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matt 22:23-32)

And no doubt the Lord emphasized the words “I am the God of Abraham”, rather than 'I was their God while they were alive'. It is as if Jesus, on behalf of his Father, was informing his listeners that the faithful, such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, though dead, are still alive in God's sight because God knows He will raise them up in the future.

It is the Apostle Paul who gives us the clearest teaching on the resurrection of the faithful. The 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, already quoted above, is often referred to as ‘The Great Chapter of the Resurrection’. Here is a proposed analysis of this important chapter:

1-11 The Resurrection of Jesus Christ - an historical fact (confirmed by eyewitnesses);

12-19 The Resurrection of Jesus Christ - the foundation of the Christian Gospel;

20-28 The resurrection of Jesus Christ - guarantee of the future resurrection for those who belong to him;

29-58 Further details concerning the resurrection in the future

It all begins with the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

If Christ has not risen, your faith is in vain, you are still in your sins, and therefore also those who died in Christ are lost. If it is only in this life that we hope in Christ, we are the most unhappy of all people. (v17-19).

But we can have full confidence that Jesus Christ:

existed and lived in the land of Israel at the precise moment history proposed in the biblical account (confirmed by Roman historians);

was put to death - by crucifixion - by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (ditto);

was alive again 3 days later, having been raised from the dead by his Father:

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.  (Acts 2:23-24).

These are some of the words spoken by the Apostle Peter - one of the "eyewitnesses" who had nothing to gain and much to lose by proclaiming a falsehood, especially in the presence of those who were responsible for condemning Jesus to death!

Returning to 1 Corinthians 15, having laid the foundation for Jesus' verifiable resurrection, Paul moves on to draw out the consequences:

But now Christ has risen from the dead; he is the first fruits of those who have died. (v20)

That's the language of harvesttime, isn't it? The first fruits are only the beginning - and at the same time the guarantee - of the great harvest to come. If the natural harvest consisted only of the first fruits, then we would all go very hungry. Paul is reassuring us that Jesus' resurrection was not just for himself, but for others also – which has been the whole purpose of God from the beginning.  See how the Apostle’s explanation in 1 Corinthians 15 continues:

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  (21-23).

Here is a striking comparison between two men:

Adam - the one who brought sin and consequently death into the human condition;

Jesus Christ - the one who overcame sin, and can therefore open up access to eternal life, following the resurrection of the dead.

But let us note 2 details of capital importance:

1. This hope of being resurrected is reserved for “those who belong to Christ”.

2. This event of the resurrection will take place only “at his coming”.

We shall examine these 2 details in subsequent articles, God willing.



A list of archived articles can be found here

<<back

Home                      What's On                 Articles                 Our Beliefs                About Us                 How to Find Us                 More