>Continuing with the theme of eschatology in the New Testament, this post will highlight the bodily resurrection, in eschatology. If you missed the “The Day of the Lord” theme from the previous post, make sure you read that first. It includes a brief definition of eschatology.
So, let’s get right to the point. The New Testament is absolutely rife with talk about the bodily resurrection, both, of Jesus, and all humanity. One is a historical fact and a matter of faith. The other is an eschatological (future) event. I will focus particularly on the theme of the bodily resurrection of humanity found in the New Testament as the emphasis of this post.
During Jesus’ ministry a debate raged between the Jewish spiritual leaders of His day. One group, the Pharisees, believed in a bodily resurrection, and the other group, the Sadducees, did not. (cf. Acts chp. 4 & 23) Jesus clearly affirmed the reality of the future resurrection, and not only that, demonstrated it, in His own resurrection –a ‘firstfruits’ of the end-time resurrection. (cf. I Cor 15)
(Side note: Incidentally, one of the debates that exists today is, whether or not the resurrection of Jesus was the inauguration of the age to come. I’m still hashing that one out.)
What isn’t up for debate is the frequency and force with which the early church writers and preachers emphasized, not only on the resurrection of Jesus, but also the bodily resurrection of all humanity. I will primarily discuss scripture, but you can research yourself how the early church fathers were bold and pointed on this truth. Here is the tip of the iceberg…
The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.
Now let’s take a look at a sampling of New Testament passages that emphasize the bodily resurrection of humanity, beginning in Acts.
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
Or as the New Living Translation phrases it… “Peter and John were claiming, on the authority of Jesus, that there is a resurrection of the dead.”
Paul waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy, just prior to his famous sermon at the Areopagus, on Mars Hill…
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
Notice how Luke (author of Acts) sums up Paul’s preaching here… “he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.”
In this next passage Paul uses the divisive issue of the bodily resurrection to stir up a fight and then break camp. Smart guy. :)
Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, 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.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
Other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: “It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.”
Paul was on trial for preaching “the resurrection of the dead”. “The hope” and “the resurrection” are almost synonymous terms in the New Testament.
“having a hope in God… …that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”
Oh man! Read this next one!…
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
For if we have been united with him (Christ) in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Paul labors the point to the Corinthian church…
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
I Corinthians 15:12
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
I Corinthians 15:20-23
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
I Corinthians 15:51-53
And finally, some of the most awesome words from the Apostle Paul… (notice what he ends his thought on)
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, -that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
I am endeavoring to show the strong emphasis on eschatology in the teaching of the New Testament. Typically, when I ask Christians, “What is the gospel?” I get, “Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins, so that we can be forgiven and go to heaven when we die”. Notice that the only eschatological piece in that quote is “go to heaven” but this is a far cry from the eschatological content and emphasis of the gospel, in the scriptures.
The gospel is the answer for the fundamental issues that we face. For example, we all suffer from a common problem: We are all going to get old and die.
But there is good news (gospel)…
…the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 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.” “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
I Corinthians 15:52b-57
Stay tuned for “Eschatology on the minds of the New Testament writers: Heaven”
Earth is going to be heavenly and heaven is more earthly than may have thought.