Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On the Resurrection, PART II

Proto-Gnostic thinking was alive and well in the first century. This is evident by the numerous passages of the NT that seek to refute it. John tells us that the one who denies that Jesus has come in the flesh is antichrist (2 John 1:7), as well as he who denies that Jesus is the Christ, as opposed to being a man adopted by the Christ Spirit (1 John 2:22). The idea that flesh and spirit are equally a part of God's redemptive plan is foreign to Gnostic thought. Yet, this is precisely what the NT teaches in continuity with the OT. God creates and redeems human beings, and human beings are made of body and spirit, not just spirit. The biblical narrative reaches its climax when all that was lost is restored, and all that was lost is both physical and spiritual. Hence, Christ comes in the flesh and is saved. As a result, He saves whatever He acquires. If He is saved as a body and spirit, then what is saved is the body and spirit for all who are in Him. If it is His body He indwelt upon the earth in which He is saved, it is our bodies in which we dwell on earth that are saved. That is the sense of it. What is lost is redeemed. It is not lost, thrown away, and then we get something other than what was lost. That is not redemption. It is loss of one thing and gain of another. That's not the biblical narrative. Hence, it became important to note whether it was Christ's very body that was saved with Him.

In John 2:18-22, Jesus answers the Jews who want to know what sign He will give them. He answers them by saying:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.”
Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days? But Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body. So after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the saying that Jesus had spoken.

We learn a couple things from this text. First, "this temple" is synonymous with "this body." It is "this body" that Jesus will raise up in three days. Hence, it is His same body with which He is raised. Second to this, this is what his disciples identify as resurrection. It is the raising of "this body" that describes resurrection. Hence, after He is raised in His body, they remember that He said this.  

What this means is that when resurrection is referred to throughout the Gospel of John, it basis itself on this reference point. When Jesus says He will raise those the Father has given to Him up on the last day, He is referring to the resurrection of their very bodies. When Lazarus is raised, it is not in a different body, but the very one that went into the tomb. What we get from this is that resurrection is of the same body that goes into the grave.

Hence, the disciples rejoice when they see the Lord, i.e., the Lord resurrected in His actual body.
When we reach the end of the Gospel, John tells us that Jesus visited the disciples, absent of Thomas.

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (20:20)

 John proceeds to tell us that Thomas doubted and would not believe unless he saw Jesus resurrected in His own body for himself. He says, Unless I see the wounds  from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!" (v. 25)

 Jesus appears to him eight days later and says to him: 

“Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend  your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” (v. 27).

Hence, Christ had the same resurrected body as the one in which He was crucified. He does not obtain a different body, but is redeemed in the one that He already had. It has, or will, merely undergo a transformation; but it remains the same body, and is not discarded in order to obtain a different one.

In Luke 24:36-42, the author tells us the following:

While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still could not believe it (because of their joy) and were amazed, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat? So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in front of them.

We gain some information about the resurrection here as well. The most obvious is that Jesus' body is a real body and not one that is a spirit. But He proves this to the disciples by showing them His hands and feet that were pierced by the nails on the cross (as also in the Johannine account). It is, therefore, His very body that is raised, not a different one. 

But the second thing we see here is that Jesus actually identifies Himself with His body in contrast to just being a spirit. Jesus is His body and spirit, not just His spirit. Hence, He states, ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτός "it is I myself." You can touch Him and see that it is He. Why is it He Himself? Because πνεῦμα σάρκα καὶ ὀστέα οὐκ ἔχει καθὼς ἐμὲ θεωρεῖτε ἔχοντα "a spirit does not have flesh and bone as you see that I myself have." 

This is no insignificant point, and we will revisit it later; but Gnostic dualism makes the body a shell for the spirit. It does not identify a human as body and spirit, but merely a spirit with a body. Here, Jesus indicates that He Himself is a body and spirit, not just a spirit. Otherwise, it would not be He Himself. As such, the body is an essential part to who we are as humans, and to get rid of our bodies is to get rid of an essential part of us and replace it with something else that is not us. 

These texts, therefore, indicate that when the disciples thought of Jesus as rising from the dead, they thought of His resurrection as bodily. If Paul, therefore, bases his argument that our resurrection will take place on the resurrection of Christ, then he is talking about the redemption and resurrection of our bodies, not the disposal of this one in order to obtain a completely different one.

The only reason that Preterists grant this point about Christ and then continue to argue that His resurrection is unique is because there is simply too much evidence to suggest that Christ's resurrection is of His own earthly body. Their failure to recognize what this means for any discussion of the resurrection of the saints in the theology of the apostle's and the church that follows can only be due to a need to hold this view in order to keep Preterism alive, along with a complete misunderstanding of how we are saved and what it means to be saved.

In any case, Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and forever. This refers to Jesus as the incarnate Son. He was the same incarnate Son on earth, He is the same incarnate Son in heaven, and He will be the same incarnate Son forever. He had, has, and will have the same body that He has always had because He is the same Jesus. Likewise, Paul will now argue from this that our bodies too will be redeemed. We'll pick that up in Part III.

No comments:

Post a Comment