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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 & its Christian Shape – Part 3

Over the last two weeks we have seen how Jesus Himself, and those who proclaimed Him, began to modify their Jewish two-stage view of death.

  • Jesus radically taught that He was the hinge on which resurrection turned in the history of Israel.
  • Jesus radically taught that the Gentiles would play as predominant a role as the Jews in the judgment that would follow resurrection.
  • Peter and Paul demonstrated by their proclamation of resurrection as the Gospel that resurrection moved from the periphery of Jewish theology to the very center of Christian theology.
    • In Acts, where they proclaimed the Gospel, they proclaimed resurrection
  • That this “centering” was going on was also evidenced by the fact that specific examples of their persecution were attributed to resurrection.
  • We saw this clearly when we discussed the “Direct Opposition” resurrection evoked from unbelievers.

 

Today, we continue to explore the impact Easter Sunday had on the Jewish view of resurrection.

  • As we said last week, this is where we get into the “Dramatic Modifications” Christian resurrection made to its Jewish counterpart.
  • And this involves both facets of the Jewish two-stage view of death.
  • I want to briefly look at Paul’s view of the first stage, the intermediate stage – heaven.
  • And then, over the next couple of weeks, we will look at his profound teaching on the second-stage – resurrection.

 

Before we begin, I want to raise a point now, then again at the end.

  • It is my belief that our brand of evangelical Christianity overemphasizes heaven at the expense of resurrection.
  • This has conditioned us to escape the world instead of transform it.
  • And in this respect, we have more in common with pagan thought than Jewish/Christian thought.
  • We speak of our disembodied existence as if it is superior to our coming resurrected bodily existence.
  • Read on to see why.

 

1) HEAVEN VS. SHEOL – THE FIRST STAGE

 

OT Review:

The first-stage view of death for the Jew was characterized as follows:

  • It was physical death which was described as being asleep in the dust or in Sheol.
  • We saw that some views elaborated on this first-stage.
    • They ranged from being at rest all the way to some type of conscious existence.

 

For example, we saw:

  • Either it was as simple as the fact that “the dead are ‘asleep with the ancestors’” – Wright.
  • And “martyrs go, immediately upon death, into the blissful immortality already enjoyed by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” – Wright.
  • Or, “the dead may be ‘received’ by YHWH into some continuing life” – Wright.
  • And as we saw then, this continuing life was not nearly as developed as the pagans.

 

We looked at a variety of texts that suggested that some activity is going on.

  • “They might be momentarily aroused from their comatose state by an especially distinguished newcomer, as in Isaiah 14…” – Wright.
    • “All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’” – Isaiah 14:10.
  • This means, of course, that the dead were “not completely non-existent…” – Wright.
  • “But their normal condition was to be asleep” – Wright.

 

Christian Redefinition Intro:

Sheol, Judaism’s first-stage, is what the NT refers to as heaven, Christianity’s first-stage.

  • There are some obvious and significant differences between these “first-stages”.
  • But, surprisingly, there was one similarity we will talk about.

 

We will hang out mainly with Paul as we sort this stuff out.

  • He provides us with at least two explicit texts on the Christian view of the first-stage of death – heaven.

 

Obvious and Significant Differences – Heaven – A Better Place:

(1) Philippians 1:18–24 (ESV) — 18b Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

 

Paul is discussing the pros and cons of continuing to endure physical hardship for the sake of the Gospel.

  • In verse 12 he concedes that, though he is imprisoned, “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel”.
  • In verse 16 he concedes that he is has been tasked with, “the defense of the gospel”.
  • But he is clearly weary of his suffering – “my desire is to depart”.
  • And it is in this context that he articulates a truth about the first stage of death far more specific than Pharisaic views.
  • He tells us that if he were to die, he would “be with Christ”.
    • The Messiah – Israel’s King and Deliverer
    • Not what the Jew had in mind at all

 

And knowing that Christ ascended into heaven and was exalted to the right hand of the Father…

  • Mark 16:19 (ESV) — 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
  • Paul is telling us the location of “life after death” – heaven.
  • He even tells us that this life is “far better”.

 

We must remember that the circumstances Paul is describing – a vindicated, exalted Messiah in heaven – were precipitated by the resurrection of the Messiah.

  • No resurrection – no vindication.
  • No resurrection – no exaltation to heaven.

 

The second text comes after some very strange sounding teaching, which we will come back to momentarily.

 

(2) 2 Corinthians 5:6–10 (ESV) — 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 

Paul speaks of a preference for being in the presence of God instead of in the present body.

  • He says, “we would rather be” (vs. 8) with reference to being at home with the Lord.
  • And we of course know that the Lord’s home is currently heaven.

 

And interestingly, he teaches that the expectation of being “at home with the Lord” should impact our Christian living now – “make it our aim to please him” and to aware of “what he has done in the body”.

  • Paul expresses this same sentiment elsewhere, for example…
  • Ephesians 2:6 (ESV) — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
    • The believer is currently, in a sense, “raised” and “seated” with Jesus in heaven.
    • We should therefore walk accordingly.

 

Summary of “A Better Place”:

So in these texts we see a first-stage, “life after death”, that is…

  • A place better than our current fleshly home
  • A place in the presence of Jesus Christ – the risen Lord, King, Savior and Messiah.
  • A place that carries with it a motivation for Christian living because we are…
  • Metaphorically “raised” to and “seated” in it while still alive here.
  • All of these differ from the typical Jewish first-stage.

 

Obvious and Significant Differences – Heaven – Future Purposes Stored Up:

There exists within the NT a characterization of heaven as the place where the future purposes of the age to come are “stored up”.

  • In other words, heaven contains the future that will break into our present – eschatology.
  • One of these future purposes, the one that pertains to us, is resurrection (the promise, the power, etc. – not the actual physical body).
  • Paul captures the idea of this future purpose in Romans 8.
  • We will start there and then relate it to our point by looking at other texts.
  • In all the following texts, pay attention to the emphasis on the future breaking in to the present!

 

Romans 8:11 (ESV) — 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8:16–17 (ESV) — 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

  • Here Paul explains the work of the Spirit both now and in the future.
  • By the Spirit we are right NOW
    • Children of God
    • Heirs of God
    • Heirs with Christ
    • Suffering with Him

 

And because of the NOW we are assured to participate in the glory of Christ in the FUTURE.

  • Here is where it gets exciting.
  • The glory that Paul is speaking of here is the incorruptible resurrection body.
  • It is the resurrection that he speaks of in verse 11.

 

How do we know this?

  • Paul goes on in Romans 8 to speak of creation being set free of corruption.
  • He says creation is groaning now, but will obtain freedom – when it is recreated and put right in the age to come.
  • Paul also says we are groaning.
  • But the groaning will end with the “redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23).
    • Again, the thing that will happen in the future age to come.
    • The “redemption of our bodies” is resurrection.

 

This is spelled out in detail in Paul’s awesome resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:53–55 (ESV) — 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 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?”

 

Our future resurrection will be our actual participation in the glory of Jesus’ resurrection.

  • It will be when the groaning of God’s good, but fallen creation is put right.
  • It will be when death for us is finally defeated once and for all.

 

So what does this have to do with heaven?

  • Because these future events have to originate from somewhere.
  • And Paul (and others) teaches us that this somewhere is heaven.

Heaven is the place where our future resurrection is “stored up” – N.T. Wright.

 

This is the second significant difference with Judaism’s first-stage of death.

  • The Christian first-stage is where an awesome eschatological future is “stored up” – resurrection.
    • Judgment is also “stored up” in heaven – Revelation 19:11-16.
    • As are many other things.

 

Examples of the Stored Up Future Hope of Resurrection in the NT:

(1) 1 Peter 1:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

(2) Philippians 3:20–21 (ESV) — 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

 

(3) 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17 (ESV) — 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord [from heaven], will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

 

(4) 2 Corinthians 5:1–5 (ESV) — 1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

  • This strange sounding text relates entirely to, “the future promise of the resurrection body” – N.T. Wright.

“Here he says that we who are in the present body are longing to ‘put on over the top’ the new body, the new ‘dwelling’ (5.2, 4). In the analogy in 1 Corinthians 15.37, he spoke of the seed as being ‘naked’ when planted, but given a new body by God; so here (5.3) he speaks of the longing of present human beings not to be found ‘naked’, but to be more fully clothed” – N.T. Wright.

  • Fully clothed in the resurrection body.

 

Summary of Future Purposes Stored Up:

  • Heaven contains our future it
  • Heaven is not the end for us.
  • It is from heaven that all things will be put right.
  • It is from heaven that the promises of God will break into the present.
  • And this future is resurrection – the second-stage of life after death, or, “life after ‘life after death’”.

 

Surprising Similarity – Heaven and Sheol:

The surprising similarity can be articulated as follows…

  • The Jew’s main hope and focus was people, nation and land, and later, the resurrection of the body as well.
  • Their main hope was not “life after death”.

 

Paul’s main hope was the future resurrection (“life after ‘life after death’”) of the body when all would be put right – including creation.

  • His main hope was not “life after death” – heaven.

 

How do we know this?

  • Both his Gospel proclamations from last week and his letters are saturated with resurrection.
  • He speaks of resurrection at least 63 times – probably more (often uses metaphorical language that is hard to search for).
    • Raised (egeiro), Appeared (horao), Resurrection (anastasis)
  • And he explicitly speaks of our future in heaven less than 5 or so (that I could find).
  • He does speak of heaven some 33 times or so, but most have to do with Jesus’ location, descending from heaven, and various things coming from heaven or “stored up” in heaven.

 

Additionally, his very life was transformed by witnessing the raised Jesus Christ.

  • And, importantly, as we saw last week in Acts with our “Direct Opposition” material, much of his suffering and persecution was due to resurrection.

 

And he wasn’t the only one.

  • His description of Gospel as resurrection to Timothy…
    • 2 Timothy 2:8–9 (NRSV) — 8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9 for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.
    • And to the church at Corinth…
      • 1 Corinthians 15:1 (ESV) — 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
      • At which time Paul goes on to talk of resurrection for 58 verses.
      • Was not lost on the early church.

“We should not forget that when Irenaeus became bishop of Lyons he was replacing the bishop who had died in a fierce persecution; and that one of the themes of that persecution was the Christians’ tenacious hold on the belief in bodily resurrection. Details of the martyrdom are found in the letter from the churches of Vienne and Lyons to those of Asia and Phrygia. The letter describes how in some cases the torturers burnt the bodies and scattered the ashes into the Rhone, so that no relic of the martyrs might still be seen on earth. This they did, says the writer, ‘as though they were capable of conquering god, and taking away their rebirth’. He quotes the torturers as saying…that the aim is to prevent the Christians from having any hope of resurrection: ‘because through trusting in this, they have introduced strange and new worship, and have despised terrors, going to death readily and joyfully. Now let us see if they will rise again, and if their god is powerful enough to help them, and to snatch them out of our hands.’” – N.T. Wright

Why would pagans persecute Christians over resurrection?

  • (1) The Idea of bodily resurrection itself. They felt the body was to be shed. The physical world was to be escaped. But Christians taught that because God created the physical and the flesh, he valued it and would redeem it all.
  • (2) Jesus was raised from the dead, and vindicated as King in the kingdom of God – just as Christians will be raised and vindicated. And with this resurrection will be the judgment of the unrighteous – those that persecute Christians. They will be judged and condemned and their kingdom overthrown. And Christians will be reigning with Christ forever in His actual, physical Kingdom on the new earth.
  • (3) And because of their certainty of this outcome, as found in Christ’s resurrection as the firstfruits of resurrection, they were willing to die.

 

Has western Christianity mistakenly overemphasized heaven over resurrection?

  • Are we more impotent as a result?
  • The early church believed so strongly that things would be put right in the age to come through their resurrection that they boldly proclaimed the gospel and died for it.
  • Their persecutors both in Acts and in the letter above said as much.
  • Paul and his heirs died over resurrection, not over heaven.

 

Perhaps overemphasizing heaven at the expense of resurrection has conditioned us to escape the world instead of transform it.

 

Resurrection & its Christian Shape – Part 1

Over the past few weeks we have explored Jewish views of both “life after death” and “life after ‘life after death’” – a.k.a. resurrection.

  • We saw how exile influenced the development of resurrection, both as simply a metaphor for return and restoration and as a literal bodily resurrection.
  • We then saw how in the 2nd Temple Period, resurrection moved into the front of Jewish thought.
  • And as views of resurrection developed and took hold in Jewish thought, history was moving ever closer to Easter Sunday – not a coincidence.
  • So all the views of resurrection were in place, to both accommodate what happened to Jesus, or to be redefined and turned on their head by what happened to Jesus.

 

 

1) JEWISH RESURRECTION RECAP

 

We saw that 2nd Temple views of resurrection contained at least 10 things.

  1. The hope of an actual bodily resurrection for the individual.
  2. Judgment of the wicked – the pagan.
  3. Vindication of the righteous – the Jew.
  4. It is grounded in YHWH’s power – the same power that led the Jews out of Egypt; the same power that created the world and everything in it.
  5. It serves as a metaphor for Return and Restoration of the Nation, Land and People of Israel.
  6. It’s corporate in scope – all the righteous Jews and wicked pagan’s we be resurrected at one time for judgment or vindication.
  7. No one thought the Prophets, Moses or David were already raised or would be ahead of anyone else.
  8. Resurrection hope was separate from Messianic hope. “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.
  9. There are two “ages” the “present age” and the “age to come” – resurrection was the dividing line so no resurrection means still the “present age”.
  10. Likewise, with resurrection comes the “age to come” where, importantly, everything would be “put right”.

 

As we said last week, we simply can’t think of resurrection as only referring to a bodily rising.

  • And we will find that the same is true for resurrection after Christ.
  • We cannot make the mistake of thinking only about Jesus coming out of the grave.
  • We will see over the coming weeks that to do so is to misunderstand and misapply the massive implications of what happened on Easter Sunday.

 

 

2) JESUS AND RESURRECTION

 

Jesus’ Bold Claim:

  • Mark 8:31 (ESV) — 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
  • Matthew 17:22–23 (ESV) — 22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
  • Luke 18:31–34 (ESV) — 31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

 

So, Jesus clearly taught that His life would culminate in an unjust death.

  • And then, importantly, that He and thus His Messianic “Kingdom of God Movement” would be vindicated through resurrection – Wright.
  • But, oddly, we see from Luke’s text that the disciples were a little perplexed.
  • What are some reasons the disciples did “not grasp” what Jesus was telling them?
    • Hint – look at the 10 things resurrection was for the 2nd Temple Jew.

 

Jesus’ Bold Move:

Matthew 19:28–30 (ESV) — 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

 

This text does not speak of resurrection directly.

  • And yet, knowing what we know now about the meaning of Jewish resurrection, we can see that Jesus is revealing something about the implications of resurrection.
  • How so?

 

The “…will inherit eternal life” (vs. 29) phrase is our clue.

  • The Greek here is “zoe aionios”.
  • This is mistakenly thought of by us as referring to a life lived forever in heaven.
  • To read it this way is to misunderstand the implications of Jesus’ words.
  • Wright says the literal translation should be “life pertaining to the age” or “life in the age to come”.
  • In other words, it is a life lived forever in an “age” different from the “present age”, but in an “age to come”.
  • The BDAG characterizes this “age” as “in the Reign of God”.
  • The NT and Jesus Himself characterize this “age” as the “Kingdom of God”.

 

So knowing what we do about the 2nd Temple view of “ages” – the context in which Jesus was operating – we can begin to see why this text has resurrection overtones.

  • Any talk of a “new age” means that resurrection is necessarily in play.
  • Resurrection is what occurs to usher in the “new age”.
  • Additionally, the text speaks of the “zoe aionios” as containing judgment – “judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (vs. 28).
  • The talk of judgment also means resurrection is in play.
  • The righteous are vindicated and the wicked are punished at the resurrection.
  • And interestingly, vs. 30 hints that judgment will contain some surprises – “first will be last, and the last first”.

 

But here is what is remarkable about Jesus’ talk of the “age to come” and judgment…

  • He centers both on these words – “for my names sake” (vs. 29).
  • In other words, He claims that judgment and eternal life in the “age to come” center on Him.

“The main thrust of this passage is, in fact, to assure Jesus’ followers of that which was normally assured to ‘all Israel’; this is part of the extraordinary redefinition of Israel around Jesus himself…” – N.T. Wright.

  • This is an absolutely extraordinary thing to do!
  • Jesus is radically claiming that Israel’s relationship to the “age to come” hinges on its relationship to Him.
  • Is it any wonder the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was teaching?
    • Something needed to happen to bring it all together for them.

 

Jesus’ Bold Teaching – Sadducees Get “Served”:

Mark 12:18–27 (ESV) — 18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven [immortal – will not die]. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

 

What just happened?

  • Jesus schooled the Sadducees in both the nature of the resurrection body and the fact of resurrection.

In scholarly speak, “Jesus first rebuts the Sadducees’ conclusion by [1] postulating a discontinuity between the present embodiment and the future one, and, [2] second, quotes a passage of scripture which he takes to imply resurrection” – N.T. Wright.

 

Point 1 – Marriage and Resurrection:

The conservative Sadducees bust out some Torah on this liberal, Pharisaic-like Jesus fellow.

  • Deuteronomy 25:5 (ESV) — 5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.

 

Having learned what we did about the great hope of the Jew – people, nation and land.

  • What is the significance of this passage?
  • In this context, their question seems fair enough.
  • But Jesus points out something about resurrection that makes their point moot.

 

Children, for the Jew, were the way to continue in the hope of people, nation and land.

  • “Live long and have children” was, early on, their greatest hope – not life after death.
  • So, thanks to Moses, even if a husband died before impregnating his wife, no worries.
  • His brother could continue his name by taking her as his own.

 

The Sadducees come up with a comic caricature of this process playing out by killing off one brother after another as each marries the widow.

  • So they want to know when the seven brothers and the one woman are resurrected, to which of the seven brothers will she be married to.

 

Jesus reveals that their question shows they neither know Scripture or the “power of God”.

  • In response to whose wife she will be, Jesus says, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (vs. 25).
  • In other words, something is quite different about the resurrection body.
  • It, like angels, is immortal.
  • It will not, as Paul would later say, see corruption.
  • Therefore, there will be no need for marriage.

 

Why Not?

  • Marriage was the context in which children were born.
  • And, as we discussed already, children were how the people, land and nation were carried forward.
  • But since the resurrection body will not die, this is no longer a concern in the “age to come”.
  • And because of this marriage is unnecessary.

“A key point, often unnoticed, is that the Sadducees’ question is not about the mutual affection and companionship of husband and wife, but about how to fulfill the command to have a child, that is, how in the future life the family line will be kept going” – N.T. Wright.

 

Point 2 – Resurrection Itself:

Jesus then turns His attention from marriage to resurrection itself.

  • He asks the Sadducees if they have “not read in the book of Moses” (vs. 26).
  • He knew they obviously had done so, and that they would have known the text He cited.
  • Exodus 3:6 (ESV) — 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

 

Jesus logically concludes that if God is not the God of the dead, but the living, then the patriarchs are still alive.

  • “But that is not the end of the actual argument.” – N.T. Wright.

“The patriarchs are still alive, and therefore will be raised in the future. Prove the first, and (within the worldview assumed by both parties in the debate, and any listening Pharisees) you have proved the second” – N.T. Wright.

 

Why?

  • Because both the Sadducees view and the Pharisaical resurrection tradition rejected the pagan belief that life after death was the end game.
    • The Sadducees thought death, sleep, was it.
    • The Pharisees believed life after death was merely an intermediate state to be followed by resurrection.
    • So if it is true that the patriarch’s were still “alive”, then it is also true that they will be resurrected to new bodily life.

 

Jesus’ Bold Switcheroo:

Matthew 12:39–42 (ESV) — 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

 

Again, Jesus speaks of his resurrection.

  • And He, like His Pharisee audience, also associates judgment with a bodily resurrection.
  • But then he pulls a switcheroo on them.
  • “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it” (vs. 41)
  • The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it” (vs. 42).
  • Instead of a Jewish vindication and a judgment of the wicked pagans, Jesus radically teaches that the pagan Gentile “men of Nineveh” and “queen of the South” will judge “this generation” of Jews.
  • Neither Matthew nor Luke records the reaction of the Pharisees, but they must have freaked out.

 

Jesus’ Bold “Present-Future”:

John 5:24–29 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

 

Jesus continues to speak of resurrection in terms of vindication and judgment.

  • But in verse 24, He makes a rather peculiar claim.
  • He says that the one who believes has, in some sense, “eternal life” now.
  • He says that those who believe have already, in some sense, “passed from death to life”.
  • N.T. Wright puts it as follows, “the note of present, albeit partial, fulfillment is heard” – N.T. Wright.

 

Summary of Jesus and Resurrection:

Jesus’ view of resurrection, then, was similar in many ways to the typical Pharisaical views of resurrection.

  • Yet it also differed significantly.
  • The typical Jew would have been confused by Jesus’ claim that He would be raised from the dead ahead of everyone else.
  • They would also have been troubled by Jesus’ claim that He will be the hinge on which the “age to come” will turn.
  • Jesus also gave us some insight into the nature of resurrection life when He spoke of no need for marriage.
  • He also introduced the radical idea that Gentiles would sit in judgment of Jews.
  • And finally, Jesus spoke of the “age to come” associated with resurrection as somehow breaking into the present.

 

Next week we will explore how Paul brought all the threads of Jewish resurrection and Jesus’ resurrection together to give the Christian view of resurrection its shape.