Getting to Know God Meditations: 41. God of Resurrection (1)
1 Cor 15:3-5 Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures …. he was buried ….he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
1 Cor 15:13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
Resurrection? Resurrection simply means being raised to life when dead. The order is always life – death – resurrection, an order seen a number of times in the Bible, and most especially in the New Testament. Is it important? Well yes, because the defining act in respect of Christ is his resurrection but, as the apostle Paul said, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.”
Even more, the idea of resurrection is arguably the most powerful argument for the power of God in respect of human beings. We cannot bring ourselves back when we have fully died, but God can. When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection,” (Jn 11:25) he was declaring that he was both the life source that could enable resurrection to take place and the cause or reason that it can take place.
Resurrection Explicit in the Old Testament? Jesus challenged the unbelieving religious authorities before him, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. . . . As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God?” (Mt 22:29,31). He was clearly implying that the Old Testament taught resurrection.
Daniel was told, “at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan 12:1,2) An apparently end-time picture that features resurrection.
Isaiah prophesied, “But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” (Isa 26:19) Whether he meant that literally, physically or allegorically is unclear, but the picture of resurrection is clearly there.
The Psalmists also contributed to the concept. In Psa 49 the psalmist declares that all will die, good and bad alike but adds, “But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.” (Psa 49:15) Resurrection there is linked with life after death, but nevertheless, still resurrection. In Psa 16 we find, “my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay,” (Psa 16:9,10) verses that find an echo in the New Testament, applied to Jesus (Act 2:24-29). In Psa 71 we find, “you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” (Psa 71:20) Again whether allegorical or literal is unclear but a resurrection reference, nevertheless.
Ezekiel, in his valley of dry bones vision (Ezek 37), is presented with an extreme possibility that involves resurrection, a valley of dry bones, the final remnants of dead people, and is challenged whether God can make them live, i.e. can they be resurrected? But then God spells it out: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land.” (Ezek 37:12-14) Israel as a nation were as good as dead and as far as the world was concerned, they were lined up to die in graves there in Babylon – yet the work of God redeeming them and restoring them to their land would be without any doubt, an act of resurrection.
Resurrection Implicit in the Old Testament? Although in some of the above cases resurrection may be allegorical, symbolic of what would happen in life, nevertheless resurrection is quite explicit. However there are also a number of instances where resurrection – the bringing of life where only death exists – is implied or can be seen in what takes place. This is the study of ‘types’, seeing pictures (historical incidents) in the Old Testament as illustrating or foreshadowing things in the New Testament. For our purposes here, those ‘types’ or pictures are all in respect of resurrection.
Noah’s ark (Gen 6-8) is one such historical event, the nature of which speaks of a bigger reality. The world (Middle East or all of world) was doomed to destruction – death, end of mankind – but Noah and his family were carried through the flood, survived and continued what became the Hebrew family. In 1 Pet 3 the apostle Peter referring to the Ark says, “In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you ….It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 3:20,21) The sense is that ‘in Christ’, even as Christ was raised from the dead, so are we and even as the Ark carried Noah safely through the judgment, so ‘in Christ’ we are saved from the Final Judgment, dead but now raised to eternal life.
Abraham (Gen 11:29,30) the childless nomad, married to a barren woman, is promised a son by God even though his wife’s body is beyond the capability of bearing a child. As far as child-bearing is concerned, she is dead, but God enabled her to conceive. Life flows in her body afresh – resurrection. Later Abraham is asked by God (Gen 22) to sacrifice the miracle son, Isaac, and as he goes to do it, God stops him and provides a substitute, a ram stuck in a nearby thicket. The writer to the Hebrew comments on this, “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Heb 11:19) A picture of resurrection.
Joseph surely has to be a similar picture. God has prophesied, in dreams Joseph received, that he would be ruler and savior of the family. Instead he is sold as a slave and imprisoned. He is as good as dead. There is no future – but then through more dreams God has him released from prison and made the second most powerful man in the region; the prophetic dreams fulfilled. He is raised from the dead, figuratively at least.
Moses, the Prince of Egypt who gets it wrong and has to flee Egypt and live as a shepherd in the desert of Sinai. He is as good as dead; he has no future and so the years just keep passing – forty of them – until God comes to him and takes him and uses him as the greatest shepherd of history (next to Jesus!). He is resurrected, figuratively at least. Then there is Israel, the people, slaves in Egypt, as good as dead with no hope of liberation, doomed for eternity – and then God comes and delivers them. The Exodus has to be one of the great examples of resurrection, and it is finalized by the Passover where a nation’s inhabitants are all under the shadow of the angel of judgment who will destroy every first born son – in every family – except in the homes of those who will kill a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts so the destroying angel will see it and ‘pass over’ and leave them untouched. Death and resurrection because of a lamb of God. (Now see Jn 1:29,36 & Rev 5:6)
Barren Wives: The Old Testament almost seems littered with such women – Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, all barren, all with apparently ‘dead’ wombs, who were then enabled to conceive – resurrection.
The Exile: We have already seen reference to this with Ezekiel but when Nebuchadnezzar utterly destroyed Jerusalem and took all the inhabitants into exile in Babylon, Israel were as good as dead, literally. It was the end of their time in the Promised Land, it was the end of them as a people – or so it seemed. God had destroyed them; they were dead. And then some forty years on, God stirs their current pagan overlord-king, Cyrus, who sends them back and they and Jerusalem are restored. Resurrection!
And So? Well we have the New Testament to look at yet, but here we have both explicit words and implicit pictures again and again in the Old Testament, that testify to this amazing concept – of the God who takes ‘dead’ people and ‘dead’ situations and raises up new life. The end of it is that He offers to take our ‘dead’ lives and raise them to new life, but for that we’ll have to wait until the next study that takes us into the New Testament.