Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On the Resurrection, PART IV

The terminology of resurrection is taken from the words that just mean to "rise up." The terms were often used of one rising up in the morning after sleeping. This imagery then lends itself to the body that dies and is referred to as sleeping. Whatever sleeps rises up in the morning. It is the body, not the person as a soul/spirit, therefore, that sleeps and it is the body, not the person as a soul/spirit, therefore, that rises up.

There are a plethora of passages that indicate that resurrection is of the same body that went into the tomb. For instance, in John 5:25-29, Jesus expresses His concept of the resurrection.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." (v. 25)

Now, from this, we can see how one could interpret resurrection as merely a spiritual reality. Indeed, the fact that Jesus says that the time is now likely refers to a present spiritual reality. Hence, the "already" aspect of resurrection reality is likely present in the text.The question, however, is whether the resurrection only consists of the "already" spiritual aspect or if this is a present reality that looks forward to a future one. That question is answered in the verses that follow.

"For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is [the] Son of Man. "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good [deeds] to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil [deeds] to a resurrection of judgment." (vv. 26-29)

Here, Jesus expresses the idea that the reason why resurrection is a present reality is because the Son has authority to give life. Hence, this life is given in the present, but it has an effect that continues to give life to its recipient, all the way to resurrection of the body.

Hence, in v. 28, the ones hearing His voice are those in the tombs. They will come forth, contextually, out of the tombs and go into judgment.

There are a few observations to be made here. The "already-not yet" is displayed here by what Jesus says each time. In v. 25, He states, ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν ὅτε "an hour is coming and now is when . . ." But in v. 28, ἔρχεται ὥρα ἐν "an hour is coming when . . ." Notice, the καὶ νῦν ἐστιν is dropped when referring to the future fulfillment of the present reality. Hence, the "already-not yet" is displayed nicely in the passage.

It is also displayed in the fact that those who hear in v. 25 are given life. There is nothing about a physical resurrection, but in vv. 28-29, the physical resurrection is in view, as those who hear His voice are coming out of the tombs.

What is in the μνημείοις "memorials/tombs" is not the spirit. It is the body that was buried. This is displayed well in the following eschatological resurrection in Chapter 6 and the resurrection of Lazarus in Chapter 11, where it is the body of Lazarus that was buried that is raised as a type of the eschatological resurrection. It is not some other body, but the body with which these who hear His voice to come forth went into the tomb.

This likely does not refer to the OT saints who are raised when Christ is crucified, as these are also a type of what is to come, but cannot be described as made up of the wicked who will also be raised, according to v. 29, to be judged for their evil deeds. Instead, the reference is clearly to the general resurrection of all people that Second Temple Judaism believed was to be held at the end of this world. Notice that those who are raised are raised bodily out of the tomb and are referred to as ἁγίων "holy ones/saints" who had κεκοιμημένων "fallen asleep."

καὶ τὰ μνημεῖα ἀνεῴχθησαν καὶ πολλὰ σώματα τῶν κεκοιμημένων ἁγίων ἠγέρθησαν (καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκ τῶν μνημείων μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ εἰσῆλθον εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν καὶ ἐνεφανίσθησαν πολλοῖς).

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection and went into the holy city, and appeared to many. 

Here, again, we see that falling asleep refers to the physical body that has died, buried in the tomb, and is in need to be raised again to life. 

It is not likely, then, that Jesus is referencing this event in 5:28-29. It is also unlikely due to the fact that Jesus says that "all who are in the tombs." But we are told that only some of the OT saints come out of the tombs, and there is no mention of the wicked, nor does it seem obvious why the wicked would rise up because of Christ's resurrection.

This brings me to another point about this passage. If resurrection is only a spiritual baptism into Christ, what does that have to do with the wicked? We are told here that the wicked are also raised and go into judgment. Are the wicked united to Christ as well? Of course not. But they are raised to judgment so that they might answer to the One who destroys both body and soul in γεέννη (Matt 10:28). Hence, we see that making the "already" aspect of resurrection for the saints to be all-encompassing so as to exclude the "not yet" aspect of the general resurrection makes no sense in light of the fact that the wicked are also raised, and as we see here, also in the light of passages like Matt 10:28, this is a resurrection of the same body that went into the tomb.

This is also displayed in every instance of the dead being brought back to life. They are brought back in the same body. I've already mentioned Lazarus and the OT saints who rise after Christ's resurrection, but there are numerous examples in both the OT and NT.
Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath's son from the dead, bodily (1 Kings 17:17-24). Elisha raised the son of the Shunamite woman from the dead, bodily (2 Kings 4:20-37). The man who was tossed on Elisha's bones was raised, bodily (2 Kings 13:21). Jairus's daughter was raised from the dead, bodily (Mark 5:35-43). The widow of Nain's son was raised from the dead, bodily (Luke 7:11-15). Peter raises Dorcas from the dead, bodily (Acts 9:36-41). Paul may have been raised from the dead, and of course, it would have been bodily (Acts 14:19). Paul also raises Eutychus from the dead, bodily (Acts 20:7-12). As the author of Hebrews states, "women received back their dead through resurrection" (Hebrews 11:35). This is likely a reference to the Elijah/Elisha narratives, where the women were not haunted by a spirit that was raised, but were given back their family members in the same bodies in which they died.

This is also displayed in the task of the Messiah spelled out throughout the Book of Isaiah. When John doubts in the Synoptics, Jesus tells his messengers:

"Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor." (Luke 7:22 // Matt 11:5).

Notice, the task of the Messiah is to restore the body, the whole person. He heals the body. That is His role. He heals spiritually, but what is spiritual also hails what is ultimately holistic, physical and spiritual together. Hence, He restores the eyes of the blind, He restores the ears of the deaf, He restores the legs of the lame, and the skin of the diseased. He restores the whole body, even raising it from death to life. This good news, that life will be restored to their bodies, is proclaimed to the poor who have only the hope of dying in an impoverished context. But they now have hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who restores the body.

There are so many passages that evidence a bodily resurrection, it would be exhausting to go through all of them. Therefore, I'm only going to mention a few others and be done with this installment.

In 1 Thes 4:13-17, Paul states:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

We are met here, again, with the imagery of sleep. Notice that Paul has no concept of soul sleep, as he longs to be present with the Lord when he departs. Instead, sleep, as he has used it before in 1 Cor 15, refers to the dead body of believers.

Hence, those who are still alive when Christ comes will not precede those who are dead in Christ in terms of being resurrected. They will be resurrected first (v. 16) when Christ descends from heaven, then those who are still alive will join them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (v. 17).

Those who have fallen asleep, i.e., in their bodies, will be brought by Christ at His coming. Paul further explains this by the fact that Christ will raise them from the dead = raise their bodies from the graves, if we keep in line with the sleep metaphor.

The contrast here between the dead in Christ rising first and those who remain alive receiving some sort of resurrection second. But, as we know from Paul's theology, this second resurrection is an immediate transformation of the body where no death is experienced. But the idea here is that those who remain and those who have fallen asleep will receive a resurrected body when Christ returns. We'll pursue this point in the next segment.

But something I want to note before I end this segment is that when the words for "resurrection" are used in a Second Temple eschatological context, they don't mean something else. Second Temple Judaism believed that resurrection was of the body. Hence, the Sadduccees did not believe in the resurrection because they did not believe that the body would be raised (see their argument concerning which husband a woman who married seven brothers would have if the body is raised and the two would once again become one flesh, Matt 22:23-28 // Mark 12:18-23 // Luke 20:27-33).
Hence, when these words are used in these contexts, with these same referents contained in other Second Temple contexts, it is a linguistic fallacy to conclude that they might mean something else. The context would have to change contextual referents and mold the words through clearly expressed polemical language. Instead, what we find is that the words are used in the understanding that the audience would know exactly what was being said. For instance, when Paul addresses the Pharisees, he states that he believes as they do concerning the resurrection:  "that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" (Acts 24:15). There is no indication that he means anything other than they do when they talk about the resurrection.

This is an important point because resurrection of the body is all over popular Jewish literature (the Enochic traditions that form of a basis for Jewish apocalyptic found in the Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls). The NT is very much at home when it speaks of the resurrection, and it is not a resurrection of spirits or different bodies, but of the very body presently owned by those who are promised resurrection if they follow God and His Messiah. The burden of proof, therefore, is on those who would say that the NT does not have a concept that the body of every believer will be raised, using words differently than its religious environment uses them. Certainly, resurrection realities are given new life in the biblical "already-not yet" framework, where future promises have present realities; but this is an added element brought on by this framework, not a denial of the fundamental meaning of the words that are used in their Second Temple environment.

Of course, the most well known passage is found in the Apocalypse of John. Apocalyptic literature often contains elements of God's Kingdom destroying and replacing other kingdoms, God coming in judgment of the nations, a messianic figure of some sort, and the resurrection of the saints. In this regard, John's work is stock apocalypticism. It also fills out the picture alluded to in the rest of the NT.

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I [saw] the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. (Rev 20:4-6)

 Notice here that there are souls alive and  well in heaven with God already. Hence, their "coming to life" ἔζησαν has to do with the resurrection of their bodies. Hence, this is referred to as ἡ ἀνάστασις ἡ πρώτη "the first resurrection," which makes reference to the belief that there will be two resurrections, one of the righteous and one of the wicked. John splits them here, even though they are joined together elsewhere, perhaps, to denote the "already-not yet" nature of the believer's resurrection versus the "not yet" nature of the unbelievers. In any case, resurrection cannot refer to spirit here, since John already sees the souls. These souls are not in bodies in heaven, and they only come alive when they participate in what is called the first resurrection, i.e., the first raising up. It is important, again, to note here that the imagery of raising up is from the imagery of sleeping, which throughout the NT has referred to the actual body of the believer that has died.

The second resurrection, even though it is only implied to be such by John's statement of the first, is likewise of the body.

 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one [of them] according to their deeds. (20:11-13)

Here we have what John seems to indicate is the resurrection of the wicked. They are raised, as Jesus said back in John 5, in order to be judged for their deeds. Notice that they are given up from death, the sea, and the grave, obscured by our translation of  ᾅδης as a place name (although a possible reference to the netherworld, its coupling with the sea and death make it unlikely to refer to anything else but the grave).

In order to understand the term "death," we need to look at the concept here that the dead are being given up by the sea and the grave. Are souls in the sea? Do they live there now? The word for seas here is not that for the abyss, which might be synonymous for hell. Instead, it is merely the word that denotes bodies of water. Hence, this refers to those who have been lost at sea. Likewise, therefore, since John is talking about where bodies are buried, ᾅδης simply means "grave." Hence, "death" here refers to the bodies being dead. Death gives up the dead bodies. They do not believe that the spirits stayed in the grave, or they lived in the water if they died there. They, again, believed that spirits went to the netherworld, either to a heavenly or hellish place; but the only thing left in the grave was the body. Hence, the second resurrection, the resurrection of the wicked, is one where their bodies are being raised up from the grave/sea/death itself.

All of these indicate that the bodies that are buried are the same bodies that are risen. The resurrection, therefore, is of the body. He who is raised is raised a whole person, the whole person he was when he died. To life or to death, the person who goes there goes there completely.

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