Getting to Know God Meditations: 42. God of Resurrection (2)
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
Rev 20:4,5 They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
Jn 11:25,26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Resurrection? Resurrection, I suspect, is something that again rarely crosses the mind of the average person and maybe for that reason they might struggle with the very idea. In the previous study we merely noted that there were instances, prophetic and poetic of the belief that God can raise us up when we are dead, that there is more after visible physical death. Yet it is fairly obvious that the very idea of Jesus’ death and resurrection were alien to the disciples. Again and again Jesus told them these two things would happen – see Mt 16:21, 17:22,23, 20:17-19 – and yet when the events rolled out and he was crucified, they simply could not believe that he was alive again – see Mk 16:11, Lk 24:11,12,37,38, Jn 20:2,9,25. I find these very human responses very reassuring when it comes to the veracity of the Bible – who would have recorded this unbelief unless it was true?
Past Examples: The strange thing about this unbelief is that, not only had the disciples heard Jesus a number of times prophesying that this would happen, but they had seen his power at work raising the dead. He had raised a woman’s dead son (Lk 7:11-17), he raised Jairus’s daughter (Lk 8:49-56) and of course, the big one, he raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11). The son would have been dead many hours, Jairus’s daughter was clearly dead and “her spirit returned” (v.55) and Lazarus had been dead several days. When Martha, Lazarus’s sister, challenged Jesus when he eventually turned up, he responded, “Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (v.23,24)
She is a good Jew and well taught and so knows this teaching. It is then that he responds with one of our starter verses, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (Jn 11:26,27) There are three significant parts to those verses. First, Jesus’ declaration, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” Death may come he says, but life will follow! Wow! What a reversal. Second, he says, “and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” This goes a step further by emphasizing that it is belief in Jesus that brings us life, and so having received that new life from him, when physical death does eventually come, as it will, that does not mean that the believer is lost; it just means that ‘that life’ received from Christ, was the precursor or first stage of the eternal life they will experience when they pass through death. The third thing is Martha’s response of belief: “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” Now the Messiah was to be the deliverer who came from heaven and by making this declaration she is saying, “Of course I believe you because I know who you really are.”
The Concept Applied: The apostle Paul wrote along these lines to the Romans: “if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:10,11) The paraphrase Message version puts this interestingly, “It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” The emphasis of that version directs us to see that Christ’s life is what is conveyed to us when we come to him, so we come alive to God. It can’t help but also accept that that life will impact us physically as well, which implies something about the body going on after death.
In the classic passage on resurrection that Paul writes in 1 Cor 15, after having laid out the evidence for Christ having being raised, Paul goes on to lay out some theological thoughts (v.12-34) but then goes on to consider the nature of the resurrection body (v.35 on) and concludes, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (v.42-44) i.e. our physical body dies but in eternity we will receive a new ‘spiritual’ body. The word ‘spiritual’ is open to question but note it is a body, a means of life being carried, identifiable and able to interact with other such bodies. Sometimes commentators point to Jesus’ raised body that appeared to move about more speedily than before and even appeared to be able to pass through locked doors, though the writers make the point that this is not a ghost but a body who could be touched, spoken to and listened to.
Uncertainty: However, a variety of words are used to describe what may yet happen to us in the future. For example when Peter was preaching shortly after Pentecost he declared, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19) The timing of those words may suggest that refreshing or new life is what always follows repentance. Jesus, speaking had said, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne…” (Mt 19:28) which could mean after his ascension or after his second coming, which may be more likely in the light of Peter’s preaching again, “Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” (Acts 3:21)
A Specific Resurrection: So far we have observed Jesus’ resurrection and the apostle Paul making some comment about us having the same power, in us now, that raised Jesus from the dead, and then the different ways of describing what will yet happen. Now let’s consider some of the more specific things that are said about the End. For example, Jesus himself, speaking of the end times presumably, said, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (Jn 5:28,29) The picture is of a resurrection at some future date. The apostle Paul, presumably referring to the same event, declared, “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thess 4:16,17) The message seems quite clear – there will come a time of resurrection.
The apostle Paul, before Governor Felix declared, “I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” (Acts 24:15) Note a resurrection of both the good and the bad. In Revelation 20, John shows the division between the two, the first being the believers at what was referred to as ‘the first resurrection’ (Rev 20:4,5) who were raised and brought to life to reign of a set period, before all the rest (unbelievers) who are raised in what must be implied as the ‘second resurrection’ (although those words never appear) when all have to stand before God and be accountable (Rev 20:12-15) in what is referred to as the Final Judgment.
The Difficulty: I have said previously, do not think in material-time terms. Whether these things take place in a split second or in eternity where time does not exist, we will not know until it happens. The nature of the prophecy of Revelation means that many of us try to be too specific, I suggest, and it will only be when we are in it, part of it, that we will fully comprehend how it all works out. The ‘activities’ may be clear, but maybe the ‘timing’ is not so.
The Clarity: What does seem to be clear is that following physical death (some time?) there will be an experience of another ongoing life. For the believer it will be to reign with Christ and then spend eternity with God. For the unbeliever, it will be a time of being presented before God to account for their past life experience and confirm that justice would be right in condemning them to ultimate death where there will be no further chance of any future. Both of those experiences are what is being referred to when we speak of ‘the resurrection of the dead’. One is to confirm eternal life, the other to confirm NO future whatsoever. Before we approach the end of this series, we will do well therefore to seek to clarify what I will refer to a God’s ‘End Game’ and that will be the purpose of the next study.