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Resurrection & its Christian Shape – Part 4

Introduction:

  • There are three things we need to keep in mind as we begin to explore 1 Cor. 15.
  • These will help us from straying off into areas not relevant to Paul’s text.

 

(1) 1 Corinthians 15 is “a pointed and deliberate argument” – Wright.

  • The argument Paul is making is to counter those in the Corinthian church who were “paganizing” resurrection.
  • Generally, there were two ways this “paganizing” of resurrection occurred.
  • 1) Deny it was even possible – dead people don’t rise.
    • Or the “Christian” version – accept Jesus’ resurrection, but deny any future resurrection.
  • 2) Spiritualize it – resurrection is eternity free from the physical and its baggage.
    • This second one, BTW, is what the Gnostics did.
    • This is the resurrection of the Gnostic Gospels of Thomas, Peter, etc.

 

We have evidence that Paul dealt with both.

  • 2 Timothy 2:17–18 (ESV) — 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.
    • In other words, resurrection is not about our future physical resurrection, but about spiritual transformation that has already happened.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:12 (ESV) — 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
    • Maybe Christ was the exception, so at issue, then, is not Christ’s resurrection but believers’ resurrection.

 

(2) Genesis 1-3 is “a frequent point of allusion” for Paul – Wright.

  • The importance of this is that, “there can be no doubt that Paul intends this entire chapter to be an exposition of the renewal of creation, and the renewal of humankind as its focal point” – Wright.
  • We must remember that Paul is Jewish; his argument is bodily resurrection and physical creation, not (pagan) spirituality!
  • “Within this framework of thought, death is an intruder, a violator of the creator’s good world” – Wright.
  • “The argument is, in fact, an exposition of the future resurrection of all those who belong to the Messiah, set out as an argument about new creation.” – N.T. Wright.

 

(3) Death must be defeated at every level.

  • And defeat of death does not come from retreat to a spiritual “victory”, but only by resurrection of those that have died and a restoration of a creation marred by death.
  • This is why resurrection cannot, “refer to some part or aspect of the human being not dying but instead going on into a continuing life in a new mode [heaven]” – Wright.
  • It must refer “to something that does die and is then given a new life” – Wright.
  • And this is why heaven is, and must be, only an intermediate stage.

 

Paul frames his argument and engages the above ideas in roughly five sections (N.T. Wright).

  • A) Verses 1-11 – “The gospel is anchored in the resurrection of Jesus” – Wright.
  • B) Verses 12-19 & Verses 29-34 – No Resurrection Equals No Gospel.
    • “The gospel, with all its benefits, is null and void” – Wright.
    • The victory found in a future resurrection putting all things right thereby enabling Paul to endure suffering and persecution is gone.
    • There would be no reason to proclaim the Gospel, for it would not exist.
  • C) Verses 20-28 – The Now and Not Yet of Resurrection.
    • “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of ‘the resurrection of the dead’, the final eschatological event, which has now split into two; the risen Jesus is the ‘first-fruits’, both the initial, prototypical example, and also the means of the subsequent resurrection of his people, because it is through his status and office as the truly human being, the Messiah, that death and all other enemies of the creator’s project are to be defeated” – Wright.
  • D) Verses 35-49 – The Nuts and Bolts of a Resurrection Body
    • “…the risen Jesus is the model for what resurrected humanity will consist of, and also, through the Spirit, the agent of its accomplishment” – Wright.
  • E) Verses 50-58 – The Victory of Resurrection
    • “He concludes triumphantly with a description of the future moment of resurrection, emphasizing the incorruptibility of the new body, and hence the character of the event as victory over death. He closes with both praise (verse 57) and exhortation (verse 58)” – Wright.

 

We will only have time to contend with sections “B” and “C”.

 

 

1) SECTION B – NO RESURRECTION = NO GOSPEL

 

1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (ESV) — 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

 

1 Corinthians 15:29–34 (ESV) — 29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

 

Verse 12:

  • Corinthian Christians accepted that Christ was bodily resurrected.
    • He was God after all.
  • But what they were denying, and this is likely where their pagan background seeping through, is that believers will be bodily raised.
  • “What is in mind here, clearly, is the future resurrection of God’s people, not the past resurrection of Jesus” – Wright.

 

How do we know this?

“There is plenty of reason to suppose that it would be quite natural for recently converted ex-pagans to doubt, and even to deny, a future bodily resurrection. Their entire culture was used to denying such a possibility; the multiple varieties of pagan worldview and theology offered nothing that would generate such a belief; common-sense observation of what happened to dead bodies, such as we find in the anti-Christian writings of subsequent centuries as well as in the modern period, militates against holding such a hope” – Wright.

 

We also need to notice that Paul, by his very question, begins to join inseparably together Jesus’ resurrection with our own.

 

Verse 13-19:

Immediately after hinting at the profound connection between Jesus’ resurrection and our own in his question, Paul makes a startling statement about this connection.

  • If there is no future resurrection of the dead, i.e. if you aren’t going to bodily rise in the future, then Jesus did not rise.
  • He says this three times – in verse 13, 15 and 16.
  • (1) “no resurrection” = “not even Christ has been raised” (vs. 13)
  • (2) “if it is true that the dead are not raised” = “he did not raise” Christ (vs. 15)
  • (3) “if dead are not raised” = “not even Christ has been raised” (vs. 16)

 

In doing this, Paul is equating the surety of our future resurrection stored up in heaven with the already resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • The past is dependent on the future and vice versa.
  • The connection between Jesus’ resurrection and ours is so profound and thorough that for one to be true they both have to be true.
  • (Use Dumbbell Illustration)

 

After Paul establishes the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our future resurrection, he then tells us at least nine things at stake if there is no future resurrection.

  • (1) “preaching is in vain” (vs. 14)
  • (2) “faith is in vain” (vs. 14)
  • (3) “misrepresenting God” (vs. 15)
  • (4) “your faith is futile” (vs. 17)
  • (5) “you are still in your sins” (vs. 17)
  • (6) Those who have “fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (vs. 18)
  • (7) If our only bodily hope is this present body then we are “most to be pitied” (vs. 19)
  • (8) Meaningless to be “baptized on behalf of the dead” (vs. 29)
  • (9) Suffering on account of the Gospel is meaningless – “what do I gain?” (vs. 30-32)
    • We might as well, “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (vs. 32)

 

And yet, in verses 33 and 34, he reminds us to get a grip.

  • As he made clear in verses 1-11, bodily resurrection is legit.
  • So, “wake up from your drunken stupor” and stop sinning (vs. 34).
  • If you reject the future resurrection, you don’t know God and you should be ashamed.

 

BTW – I think this admonition still carries with it a warning for modern evangelicals and their overemphasis of heaven over resurrection.

  • Why?

For Paul, “What matters is once more the continuity [the connection] which Paul sees between the present life and the resurrection life, and the fact that the future [resurrection] life thus gives meaning to what would otherwise be meaningless” – Wright.

  • It is not heaven that gives this life meaning, but our future bodily resurrection.

 

Paul’s list of things at stake if there is no future resurrection seems straight forward enough.

  • But (6) and (7) seem rather surprising; they seem very “OT one-stage”.
  • And (5) seems to downplay the cross.
  • And (8) seems just plain weird.

 

What about (8) – “baptized on behalf of the dead”?

  • This behavior is not mentioned anywhere else, so its meaning is unclear.
  • However, the traditional meaning is, “that some people who had come to Christian faith in Corinth had died before being baptized, and that other Christians had undergone baptism on their behalf, completing vicariously in their own persons the unfinished sacramental initiation of the dead” – N.T. Wright.
  • So Paul isn’t commenting on this practice directly.
  • He is merely saying that because baptism is a symbolic participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, then this practice is meaningless if there is no future resurrection.

 

What about (6) and (7) “fallen asleep have perished” and if this bodily life is the only bodily life then we are the “most to be pitied”?

  • We saw last week that Paul considered death to be gain.
  • He said that it was “far better” to be at home with Christ (in heaven).

 

And yet we see here that he qualifies that statement.

  • If there is no future resurrection, then even the nature of heaven is jeopardized.
  • And even worse, believers who have died have no future.
  • If no future resurrection, we are back at the one-stage view of death of early Judaism.
  • We are asleep in the dust.
  • “Christians who have already died have ‘perished’; in other words, they will not have a future life in any form worth the name” – Wright.

 

And what about (5) – if no future resurrection, then Christ was not raised and we are “still in our sins”?

  • We often will say that our sin problem was dealt with on the cross.
  • But Paul wants us to realize that, as with the rest of Christian faith, Christ’s work on the cross cannot be disconnected from resurrection.
  • Just as it is problematic to stop at heaven when speaking of our future hope and not go all the way to our future bodily resurrection.
  • It is problematic to stop at the cross when speaking of the forgiveness of our sins and not go all the way to Easter Sunday.

 

In this comment of Paul’s, he is beginning his allusions and references to Genesis 1-3.

  • God created everything, and created it good.
  • God created Adam in His own image to inhabit creation and fellowship with Him in it.
  • Is Adam still fellowshipping with God in creation as God intended?
  • Is Charles Spurgeon? Is John Calvin? Is Paul?
  • Why not?

 

And what was the cause of this death?

  • The answer, of course, is sin.
  • Death is not natural – it is the fruit of sin.
  • So because death is still present in creation, we know that sin still reigns.

 

So, how is it that we will know that sin no longer reins?

  • The answer is, of course, that death will be defeated.
  • And how is death defeated?
  • The answer, of course, is resurrection.

 

Therefore if there is no future resurrection you are still in your sins.

  • This is because if there is no future resurrection then Christ wasn’t raised, and this means that the death knell for death was not sounded.

 

This is why Paul says further on in 1 Corinthians:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:54–55 (ESV) — 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

 

It is because of all these reasons that N.T. Wright says this:

“Paul simply does not rate a prospect of future disembodied bliss anywhere on the scale of worthwhile goals; he would not classify non-bodily survival of death as ‘salvation’, presumably since it would mean that one was not rescued, ‘saved’, from death itself, the irreversible corruption and destruction of the good, god-given human body. To remain dead, even ‘asleep in the Messiah’, without the prospect of resurrection, would therefore mean that one had ‘perished’. For there to be no resurrection would mean that Christian faith and life, including suffering, would be ‘for this life only’” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

2) SECTION C – THE NOW AND NOT YET OF RESURRECTION

 

1 Corinthians 15:20–28 (ESV) — 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” [Psalm 8:6] it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

 

In the OT, we saw how the burgeoning idea of resurrection had its expression in the “but God” texts.

  • Paul echoes these texts with the same language but with Christ at the center.
  • But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (vs. 20).

 

And because Christ has risen (and we will rise) certain things are true.

  • By implication, of course, the nine things at stake, if there is no resurrection, are no longer in jeopardy.
  • They are sound.
  • We can have complete assurance in them.

 

But Paul goes on to identify certain “now and not yet” profound truths that result from Christ’s resurrection which will be fulfilled at our future resurrection.

  • (1) Christ is the “firstfruits” and “then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (vs. 20 & 23).
  • (2) The “kingdom of God” inaugurated by Christ’s resurrection will be fully “delivered” at ours (vs. 24-28).
  • (3) Death is – “the last enemy to be destroyed” (vs. 26)
    • Christ defeated death at His resurrection, but we currently still die.

 

Very important to remember this – the dead in Christ might be in heaven now, but death is still having its way.

  • After all, how are you going to end up in heaven? – You will Die.
  • We and creation still groan.
  • Heaven does not remedy this situation.
  • Heaven does not put right this situation.
  • But what is “stored up” in heaven does.
  • Our future resurrection will fully and finally defeat death (vs. 26).
  • This is why for Paul, the “imperishable” wreath (1 Cor. 9:25) and “the prize” he is seeking to obtain (Phil. 3:10-14) is resurrection and not heaven.

 

N.T. Wright sums up these (3) points as follows:

“This is the point above all where Paul is trying to teach the Corinthians to think eschatologically…the future has already burst into the present, so that the present time is characterized by a mixture of fulfilment and expectation, of ‘now’ and ‘not yet’, pointing towards a future in which what happened at the first Easter will be implemented fully and the true God will be ‘all in all” – N.T. Wright.

 

The “age to come” (eternal life) that Jews longed for is at hand.

  • And it will be fully inaugurated at our future resurrection.
    • A resurrection, as we saw last week, that is “stored up” in heaven.
    • This is why it is “now and not yet”.

 

What is (1) – the “firstfruits”?

  • To begin with, it is yet another way he links resurrection with Genesis 1-3.
  • But, more than that, this link is the vehicle that provides the context for both Jesus’ resurrection and ours.
    • The context being creation, the fall, sin, death and how it is all put right.

 

Death came through Adam.

  • So because we are all “in Adam” we are all in death (vs. 22).
  • But God sent Jesus, the second Adam, to remedy the death that comes with being “in Adam”.
  • Christ died without sin to bear the sin of those “in Adam”.
  • And this work of Christ on the cross was realized when Jesus rose from the dead.
  • Therefore, those who are “in Christ shall be made alive” because he was “made alive” (vs. 22).
  • He rose first – the “firstfruits” – and, “then at his coming those who belong to Christ” will rise (vs. 23).

 

What is (2) – this future delivery of the kingdom of God business?

  • As we previously said, this is when the “not yet” is fully consummated.
  • Jesus returns, we are raised, death is finally defeated and all things are “in subjection under him” – God (vs. 28).

 

And this kingdom language is yet another connection Paul makes between OT Jewish expectations and resurrection.

  • Daniel 2:44 (ESV) — 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
  • Daniel 7:14 (ESV) — 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
  • Psalm 8:6 (ESV) — 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

 

Paul is saying Jesus is the king of this coming Kingdom, and “thy kingdom come”, the kingdom spoken of by Daniel, will be complete when He returns and we are raised.

  • And it is in this kingdom that (3) – the defeat of death – will be fully realized.
  • This is the emphasis of the “all things” that are put under subjection.
  • Sin and Satan’s last word, death, will speak no more!

 

Resurrection Connections:

It should be apparent that Paul is continuing to expand the connections resurrection makes.

  • Our future resurrection is inseparably connected to Christ’s resurrection.
  • If we don’t rise, then Christ didn’t rise.
  • If Christ didn’t rise, then we won’t rise.

 

And now Paul connects resurrection to the very beginning of it all and the Kingdom of God.

  • If no resurrection then the intention of God for creation as expressed in Gen 1-3 is thwarted.
  • We all will forever remain “in Adam” and God’s creation will not be put right.
  • And the Kingdom of God spoken of so long ago will never be without resurrection.

 

If you haven’t seen yet why resurrection is central to the Christian faith, I hope you are beginning to see now.

 

Resurrection and the History of Jewish Hope – Part 3

We have seen how the Jewish view of the afterlife and specifically, bodily life after ‘life after death’, had a trajectory that was historically destined to be completed on Easter Sunday.

  • We saw how a hope for the people and the land was expanded with exile to include a hope for return and restoration.
  • We saw how resurrection became a metaphor for this return and restoration.
  • And ultimately, the hope for return and restoration came to itself contain the idea of a literal resurrection.

 

We saw that resurrection in the O.T. is most vividly seen in Daniel 12:2-3.

  • Daniel 12:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
  • Now we need to see how the idea of resurrection exploded during the 2nd Temple period which includes 1st century Palestine.

We will see that, “The evidence suggests that by the time of Jesus…most Jews either believed in some form of resurrection or at least knew that it was standard teaching” – N.T. Wright.

 

Our survey of this period will give us the info we need to explore what Martha was talking about when she talked to Jesus about “the resurrection of the last day” (John 11).

  • The importance of this will become evident when we discuss the significant changes in resurrection that occurred between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

 

 

1)  RESURRECTION IN 2ND TEMPLE JUDAISM

 

We are going to look at just 5 of the many examples N.T. Wright gives of 2nd Temple Judaism’s developing views of resurrection.

  • (1) The Book of 2 Maccabees.
  • (2) The Septuagint
  • (3) The Essenes at Qumran
  • (4) The Sadducees
  • (5) The Pharisees/Rabbis

 

 (1) 2 Maccabees:

This was written during the 2nd century oppression of the Hellenized Syrian, Antiochus Epiphanes.

  • He ruled over Jerusalem for a short time.
  • Apparently, he forged an alliance with Hellenized Jews against those who still centered their lives on temple life and YHWH.
  • As part of his rule he was forcing the traditional Jews to abandon their ways.
  • The books main thrust is the revolt of these traditional Jews under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus.
  • “This book provides far and away the clearest picture of the promise of resurrection anywhere in the period” – N.T. Wright

 

In one particular passage, the story is relayed of seven (7) sons who refused to abandon their ways.

  • They were then tortured and killed with their mother looking on.
  • The words of sons speak plainly of resurrection.
  • 2 Maccabees 7:9 – “You accursed wretch, [said the second brother,] you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws” – N.T. Wright.
  • 2 Maccabees 7:14 – “When he was near death, [the fourth brother] said, ‘One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!’” – N.T. Wright.

 

(2) The Septuagint (LXX):

The Septuagint is the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible.

  • It was written in the 3rd century BC (earliest copies we have date to about 4th century AD).
  • Our Old Testaments, by the way, are based on the Hebrew Masoretic texts (from 7th century AD or so).
    • Side Note – dead sea Scrolls confirmed from 2nd century BC confirmed accuracy of MT.

Wright tells us that “as the Bible was translated into Greek the notion of resurrection became, it seems, much clearer, so that many passages which might have been at most ambiguous became clear, and some which seemed to have nothing to do with resurrection might suddenly give a hint, or more than a hint, in that direction” – N.T. Wright.

 

Some Examples of this:

  • Generally, the ambiguous texts we looked at over the past weeks from Hosea and Isaiah, “all use what became the standard ‘resurrection’ language, namely the Greek verbs anistemi and egeiro and their cognates” – N.T. Wright.
  • Hosea 13:14 provides a specific example.
  • “The Hebrew text asks, ‘Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death?’ and expects the answer ‘No’ [in context]. The LXX, however, has turned this into a positive statement: I shall rescue them from the hand of Hades, and I shall redeem them from Death” – N.T. Wright.

 

(3) Essenes at Qumran:

The Essenes spoke of the dry bones of Ezekiel 37 this way:

“I have seen many in Israel, O Lord, who love your name and walk on the paths of justice. When will these things happen? And how will they be rewarded for their loyalty? And YHWH said to me: I will make the children of Israel see and they will know that I am YHWH. And he said, Son of man, prophesy over the bones, and say, May a bone connect with its bone … [the text continues, following Ezekiel 37] … and they will live, and a large crowd of men will rise and bless YHWH of hosts who caused them to live” – N.T. Wright.

  • The original says – “…I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people” – ESV.
  • “Here there seems to be no question: Ezekiel 37 is being seen, not simply as a metaphor for the return from exile, but as a prophecy of actual resurrection. This is, so far as I know, the earliest post-biblical text to take Ezekiel in this way” – N.T. Wright.

 

(4) The Sadducees:

They were the exception to the “most Jews” that came to believe in resurrection.

  •  “Basically, the Sadducees denied resurrection; it seems more than likely that they followed a quite strict interpretation of the Old Testament, and denied any significant future life at all” – N.T. Wright.
  • They held the 1-stage view of death that we discussed a couple of weeks ago.
  • This meant that they did not believe in “an age to come” as the Pharisees – N.T. Wright.
  • Their hope was in the land and the people, and Return and Restoration.
  • This, by the way, made them the conservatives of their day.

 

Josephus also has some insight for us into the Sadducees.

  • “The Sadducees, he says, will have nothing to do with ‘the persistence of the soul after death, penalties in the underworld, and rewards’” – N.T. Wright.
  • “More specifically, ‘the Sadducees hold that the soul perishes along with the body’” – N.T. Wright.

 

(5) Pharisees and Rabbis (their “heirs and successors” post 70 AD):

As we consider the beliefs of the Pharisees, we must be aware that it is from this tradition that Paul’s initial views of resurrection were formed.

  • As N.T. Wright puts it, “That is where Paul started” – JETS, 2011.
  • I don’t think it a coincidence that Jesus chose a Pharisee to articulate the radical changes and implications Easter Sunday brought to bear on resurrection.

 

It goes without saying that the Pharisees embraced the idea of resurrection.

  • “The resurrection is assumed to be the ultimate prize, the reward for a life of holiness and Torah-observance” – N.T. Wright.
  • They believed that resurrection would occur “in the age to come” when all things would be put right – people, land, nation, return, restoration and resurrection.
  • Some, it appears, believed the resurrection would occur only in Jerusalem or the Holy Land.
  • All believed that the God of Israel who had the power to create, give Abraham and Sarah a child, and lead Israel out of Egypt also had the power to resurrect.
  • Resurrection, “will be caused by YHWH’s power and spirit” – N.T. Wright.

 

They, like any resurrection believing Jew, had a 2-stage view of death.

  • They believed in an afterlife (the intermediate state before resurrection), but it wasn’t the major concern and lacked detailed development.
  • “The dead were alive in some intermediate state, place or manner”, is about as specific as we can get – N.T. Wright.
  • There are allusions to souls residing in a “temporary Paradise” or, oddly enough, “being stored away in cupboards” – N.T. Wright.

 

In their liturgical prayer books, there are countless references to resurrection.

  • This example is from Amidah’s “the liturgy for the Day of Atonement” and it reads “‘Thou art also faithful to revive the dead. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who revivest the dead’” – N.T. Wright.

 

The Targums also convey some very specific info about their resurrection beliefs.

  • The Targums are “interpretive renderings” of the OT into Aramaic – Bruce Metzger.
  • N.T. Wright highlights an example of resurrection belief found in the rendering of Hosea 6:2.
  • He says, “the Masoretic text has ‘After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his presence’, the Targum has ‘He will revive us for the days of consolation which are to come; on the day of the resurrection of the dead he will raise us and we shall live in his presence’” – N.T. Wright.

 

And another example is found in how the Targum renders Job 14:12, which in the MT seems to rule out resurrection.

  • Job 14:12 (ESV) — 12 so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep.
  • This text “has been altered in the Targum, as in the LXX, so that it only denies the future life of the wicked, leaving the way clear for a resurrection of the righteous” – N.T. Wright.

 

And it was the Pharisees who attempted to answer the questions raised by resurrection (pun intended).

  • There were three main questions addressed in Pharisaic/Rabbi discourse.
  • “How will YHWH accomplish it? What will the body be like (clothed or naked; the same or changed)? and, particularly, which texts in the Bible predict it?” – N.T. Wright.

 

With respect to the 1st question, “…some sort of continuing personal identity, however hard it may be to describe, is necessary if the person being raised at the last day is…to be identical with the person who has died” – N.T. Wright.

  • There are even traditions that say that those who died with deformities will be resurrected with them so that they can be recognized.
    • But then later they will be fully restored.

 

Another question was what of those righteous that died outside of Jerusalem?

  • The apparent theory was that, “the bones of Jews buried outside the Holy Land would roll through underground tunnels in order to arrive there for the resurrection” – N.T. Wright.
  • They even had theories on what happened to the person whose bones had been burned up.
    • The power of God to create bones from clay was often cited.

 

Wright even says that, “there is every reason to suppose that belief in the importance of the bones for future resurrection played a significant part” in changes made to how the guilty were executed.

  • This was because, “The body was important, and its most durable parts, the bones, were to be rescued from destruction” – N.T. Wright.
  • Therefore, for example, “stoning was moderated”; the guilty were sometimes executed by “forcing burning liquid down their throat”; cremation was avoided.

 

And what of the question about which OT texts speak of resurrection.

  • This was “the key question which the Sadducees pressed on the Pharisees (and, it appears, on Jesus)” – N.T. Wright.
  • Specifically, “Can you find resurrection in the Torah itself?” – N.T. Wright.

 

One example of how the Pharisees would answer this question was by citing Deuteronomy 11:9.

  • Deuteronomy 11:9 (ESV) — 9 and that you may live long in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give to them and to their offspring, a land flowing with milk and honey.
  • Their logic was that “YHWH swore to the patriarchs that he would give the land to them, not merely to their descendants, the oath could only be fulfilled by their being raised from the dead” – N.T. Wright.
  • This is similar to Jesus’ response to the Sadducees criticism of resurrection.
    • He is not God of the dead, but of the living” – Matt. 12:27.

 

NT Picture of Pharisee-Sadducee Polemic:

Acts 23:6–9 (ESV) — 6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Br`others, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?”

 

As we have seen, Luke confirms for us that the Sadducees believed in neither:

  • (1) Life after ‘life after death’ (resurrection) – “there is no resurrection” (vs. 8)
  • (2) ‘Life after death’ – “nor angel, nor spirit” (vs. 8)
  • The Sadducees believed in angels or spirits, by the way, but not that dead people were angels and spirits.
  • “They did not deny the existence of angels or spirits, but they denied that the dead were in a state that could be so described” – N.T. Wright.

 

And Luke confirms that:

  • the Pharisees acknowledge them all” (vs. 8)

 

But note what else Luke show us.

  • Even though the Pharisees believed in resurrection, ““They do not suppose for a moment that Paul has actually been a witness of the resurrection itself; that is out of the question as far as they are concerned” – N.T. Wright.
  • This is because, as we have seen, resurrection, “will take place at a future date when all the righteous dead are raised to share God’s new world” – N.T. Wright.
  • This is why they suggest that Jesus presented Himself to Paul during the disembodied intermediate state as “a spirit or an angel” (vs. 9).
  • “He may perhaps have had a visitation from someone who, though not yet bodily raised, is presently in the intermediate state between death and resurrection” – N.T. Wright.
  • For them, had Jesus been bodily resurrected, all the righteous Jews from Israel’s history would have also been resurrected and Israel’s glory would have been restored.

 

 

2) THE STATE OF JEWISH RESURRECTION ON GOOD FRIDAY

 

It will help us now to summarize all that we have discussed thus far.

“From several angles at once we are confronted with overwhelming evidence that the small seed of Daniel 12.2-3, and the other Old Testament passages we looked at earlier, had grown into a large shrub” – N.T. Wright.

 

Summary Thus Far – the “Large Shrub”:

The examples we have surveyed clearly express a belief in resurrection.

  • A resurrection that, “means new bodily life, a life which comes after the ‘life after death’ that dead people currently experience” – N.T. Wright.
  • And this resurrection is also “both the personal hope of the righteous individual and the national hope for faithful Israel” – N.T. Wright.
  • And importantly, our examples place resurrection in “…the context of God’s judgment on the wicked and his vindication of the righteous” – N.T. Wright.

 

“Resurrection was not a strange belief added on to the outside of first-century Judaism…resurrection had been woven into the very fabric of first-century Jewish praying, living, hoping and acting” – N.T. Wright.

“They were telling the story of an actual people and an actual land – and an actual god, YHWH, the creator, whose covenant with Israel was so unbreakable, so powerful, that he would act in a new way to restore what had been lost in the exile, namely land, Temple and national life” – Wright.

 

So resurrection in 2nd temple Judaism consisted of at least 10 things:

  • (1) “Personal hope” of bodily resurrection for the individual.
    • For example, 2 Maccabees even spoke of resurrection as the “re-embodiment [of] hands, tongues, entire bodies” – N.T. Wright.
  • (2) Judgment of the wicked.
  • (3) Vindication of the righteous.
  • (4) A result of the power and spirit of YHWH.

 

But Wait, There Is More:

(5) Resurrection and the Age to Come

  • The literal resurrection carried with it the idea, “…as the great event that YHWH would accomplish at the very end of ‘the present age’, the event which would constitute the ‘age to come’” – N.T. Wright.
  • We will see next week that this link between resurrection and the “age to come” was very important to Paul.
    • It is what he referred to when speaking of “eternal life”.

 

(6) Resurrection as Metaphor

  • And yet, along with a literal bodily resurrection, talk of resurrection never lost its meaning as a metaphor for national return and restoration.
  • “The point of the whole story, they would say, was that they would return to their land. If that hadn’t happened, the prophecy remained unfulfilled…” – N.T. Wright.

 

What Resurrection Was Not (or what 2nd Temple Jews didn’t say):

(7) “Nobody imagined that any individuals had already been raised, or would be raised in advance of the great last day” – N.T. Wright.

  • Resurrection was always corporate in scope.

 

(8) “There are no traditions about prophets being raised to new bodily life; the closest we come to that is Elijah, who had gone bodily to heaven and would return to herald the new age” – N.T. Wright.

  • “However important Moses, David, Elijah and the prophets may have been, nobody claimed that they were alive again in the ‘resurrection’ sense. The martyrs were honoured, venerated even; but nobody said they had been raised from the dead” – N.T. Wright.

 

(9) “There are no traditions about a Messiah being raised to life: most Jews of this period hoped for resurrection, many Jews of this period hoped for a Messiah, but nobody put those two hopes together…” – N.T. Wright.

  • Easter Sunday, of course, threw a wrench into this scheme.

 

(10) Because resurrection has not happened, it is not yet the “age to come”.

  • “It is still ‘the present age’” – N.T. Wright.

 

All of these give us the Jewish resurrection background in which Easter Sunday occurred.

  • They give us an idea as to what Martha thought of when she said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24).
  • And they tell us, importantly, what Saul the Pharisee believed about the resurrection up until his Damascus road experience.

 

Rabbit Trail – The Issue of Lazarus:

Was his a resurrection?

  • Armed with this information, we can now answer this question.
  • The best description would be to consider it an “extended healing” or “resuscitation, like Jairus’ daughter” not a resurrection – N.T. Wright.

 

Why?

  • Lazarus’ new life was a “starting off again in exactly the same kind of world as at present” – N.T. Wright.
  • The age to come had not dawned.
  • The other righteous Jews had not resurrected.
  • There was no judgment of pagan enemies and vindication of righteous Jews.
  • He will die again.

 

And interestingly John tells us that Lazarus came out of the grave “bound”.

  • John 11:44 (ESV) — 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
  • Furthermore, Lazarus required assistance to be free of his grave clothes.
    • Unbind him, and let him go.
  • The resurrection body in the “age to come” will not be “bound”.
  • Wright suggests that with this language John wants to differentiate this “extended healing” from Jesus’ resurrection.
  • He says, “John intends the reader to see this incident as a signpost, but only a signpost, of what is to come” – N.T. Wright.
  • It is worth mentioning then, that neither Saul nor Paul would have seen Lazarus’ rising as a resurrection in either the literal Jewish sense or Christian sense.

 

Conclusion:

“The world of Judaism had generated, from its rich scriptural origins, a rich variety of beliefs about what happened, and would happen, to the dead. But it was quite unprepared for the new mutation that sprang up, like a totally unexpected plant, within the already well-stocked garden” – N.T. Wright.

 

And, as we have been hinted at over the last few weeks, all these developing threads of resurrection seemed to be converging at just the right time – the Sunday after Passover week within a context of 2nd Temple Judaism.

  • All the categories of resurrection for Easter Sunday to fill and even explode were in place.
  • We will see next time, from Paul, what exactly this “well-stocked garden” of Jesus’ resurrection contained.
  • And, importantly, why Paul’s view of resurrection contains the most practical implications for the Christian life of almost any other doctrine.