Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Resurrection and the Life

In our quest to understand the nature of God, let us now consider the resurrection. At death, the spirit leaves the body because the body is no longer a conducive place for the spirit to reside as it was at birth. The resurrection is the uniting of the spirit and the body, once again, but this time to a perfect condition, never again to become separated or subject to sickness or infirmities.

Because of Adam’s transgression, a physical, or temporal, death was imposed upon all of mankind. This universal imposition is not the fault of all men, but only the fault of Adam. Therefore, there needed to be a universal physical redemption for all mankind—for all of those who had this temporal death imposed upon them. Our physical redemption is by way of grace and is known as the resurrection. In Acts we read, “... have hope toward God ... that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust,” (Acts 24:15) and the Apostle Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Pet. 11:3.)

Resurrection of Jesus Christ
In the Book of John we read where Jesus proclaimed that He had power over death. In that book He said, “... I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18.) He stated that as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, so He would be in the earth for three days. (Matt. 12:40.) Jesus also said that He could destroy the temple of God, meaning His physical body, and build it again. (Matt. 26:61, 27:40.) In John we read it quite clearly. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.... But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:19, 21.) All Christendom should know that Jesus was resurrected and raised from the dead after being in the tomb for three nights and three days.

Early morning of the first day of the week, as Mary Magdalene wept by the tomb, she saw Jesus standing there. He looked so normal that she, apparently, mistook Him to be the gardener. We know that after appearing to Mary, and comforting her, He appeared to two men as they traveled to Emmaus, and He even took time to eat with them and teach prophecy. When Jesus appeared to His disciples in a closed room, they first thought that they were seeing a spirit, but He assured them that they were not seeing a spirit but a resurrected physical body: “And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.” They felt the nail prints and wounds in His hands and body; and they even gave Him broiled fish and honey-comb which He ate. In so doing, Jesus was demonstrating that He, indeed, had a physical body once again. (See Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21.)

From this narrative we know that Jesus was resurrected with a renewed physical body and that it was not just His spirit that was raised. To prove this, He had them handle Him by thrusting their hands into the nail prints in His hands, feet and side. Further, to show that He was once again physical, He asked for food which He ate just as He did with the two men who were on their way to Emmaus.

After ministering to His disciples for a while, Jesus the Christ finally ascended and was taken up. What did the two angels that stood by say at that time? “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (See Acts 1:9-11.) The disciples were assured by the angels that when Jesus comes again, He will still be the same—with a physical body.

All of this is no deception, no lie, no trickery. Some Christians believe that Jesus appeared to His disciples with a body, but also believe it was only so the disciples would be able to recognize Him and that they would have something familiar with which to identify; and that, after He went back to Heaven, He didn’t have a body anymore. That doctrine is not true. There is not one shred of scriptural evidence in support of that false idea.

If Jesus is one in spirit form with the Father, without body, parts or passions, as many churches believe, then what is the meaning of the resurrection which is commemorated each Easter within the Christian community? What did Jesus do with his body after he showed it to his apostles, and why did He ascend into heaven as a resurrected being if He was not to remain a resurrected being?

Jesus was resurrected and took up His body, a body that would have no more corruption and never die again. He had it when He was resurrected, when He visited and ate, when He ascended into heaven, and He still has that resurrected body there. He will have it when He returns to earth in His glory to finish the work of the Father during the end times. Any doctrine to the contrary is not biblically based, but founded upon the false tradition of man.

Resurrection of All Mankind
Some of the most profound words Jesus uttered were to His loving female disciple, Martha: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:” (John 11:25.) These words not only have important meaning for His disciples, but to all of mankind as well. Christ was resurrected and has a body in Heaven today, but He has promised all people this same blessing—even those who do wickedly.

It was to the condemning Jews He said, “... for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:29.) And it was Job of the Old Testament who declared, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins [insides] be consumed within me.” (Job 19:26.) Job was saying that he knew that his Messiah would live and come again, and that he, Job, would stand in his own flesh again and see his Redeemer.

We also learn from Matthew that after the resurrection of Jesus, “... 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 unto many.” (Matt. 27:52-53.) Who knows? Maybe one of them might have been Job. What a sight that must have been, to have many of those known to be dead and buried suddenly appear to others who knew them, or knew of them. This, also, was no trick, device, or contrivance to fool the people into believing in something that wasn’t real. They, too, were resurrected into a permanent state where there would be no more suffering and death.

The entire fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians concerns the physical resurrection. It is apparent that those to whom Paul was writing must have had some problem with the concept of the resurrection due to his statement: “... how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12.) He, therefore, tried to spell it out for them.

Paul starts out bearing witness of Jesus’ resurrection and to whom the resurrected Lord appeared, one of which was Paul himself. He said that if there is no resurrection then Christ is not resurrected, which meant that their preaching was in vain, and if their preaching was in vain, and Christ was not resurrected, they were all still in their sins (vv. 12-19). But Paul assures them that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, “... and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (v. 20.)

The terms, “slept” or “sleep,” when used in scripture, means that it is the body that dies and sleeps in the grave, after the spirit leaves it at death and goes on to meet its Maker, as so many of those who have had near-death experiences can testify. The spirit continues to live, although the body is dead and sleeps in the ground awaiting the resurrection.

This Apostle said that because of Christ all will live again, but he also said, every one in his own order, Jesus first, then the rest (vv. 21-23). In other words, Jesus became the first fruits of the resurrection. He was the first one of all to be raised from the dead. The rest of us will be resurrected in our own time as He wishes, just as some were raised earlier as pointed out in Matthew 27.

This was what Isaiah meant when he wrote, “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces....” (Isa. 25:8.) From Hosea 13:14 we read, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death:...”

The resurrection was what Ezekiel declared when he had his vision of the dry bones coming together: “... O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord, Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live.... Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves,... And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live....” (See Ezekiel 37:1-14.)

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and taught that Jesus Christ “... shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body....” (Phil. 3:21.) We have the words of this great Apostle again in 1 Corinthians 15: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.... Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:53-55.)

Two Resurrections
As we started this chapter we read where there is “...a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15.) In that same chapter of Corinthians we read above, Paul said, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22.) Not some, or only a chosen few, but ALL will rise from the dead, the wicked as well as the righteous. Paul was not talking here of only a spiritual resurrection but a physical raising from the dead. And as we just read in Acts, the resurrection is for both the “just and unjust.”

This physical salvation is not to be confused with the salvation of the entire soul, for only those who are righteous and die in Christ will be saved in their Father’s kingdom to dwell with God in eternity. The wicked, though raised from the dead with resurrected bodies, will not dwell with God, but will be confined to another place. Yes, that means all the Cains, Judases, Jezebels, and the like, will most likely end up in a much lesser state than the righteous who will dwell with the Savior. This is in harmony with what Daniel wrote concerning the latter days when he said, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan. 12:2) This is why there will be two resurrections. A first and a second.

We know there are two resurrections for the scriptures so declare. The first resurrection takes place before and during the thousand year reign of Christ. It began with His resurrection, for there were some who were raised from the graves at that time, as we read in Matt. 27. We also know that the righteous who die in Christ will be raised from the grave, such as Job, and reign with Him a thousand years. John tells us this is called the “first resurrection.” John said, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection:...” In verse five he tells us that, “... the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were ended.” (Rev. 20:4-6.) If there is a first, it is logical that there has to be at least a second. And there is. It is the resurrection after the end of the thousand years that is considered the second resurrection. This second resurrection is reserved for the wicked, after the righteous have first received their glorious resurrection.

There are other aspects of the resurrection that needs to be considered, but those thoughts will be covered in later chapters. So, in concluding this one, let’s ask some very searching questions: If Jesus and our Heavenly Father are the very same God, always existing, always the same and never changing, why does He have a perfected resurrected body now when He did not have it before? Why did Jesus come to this earth and take upon Himself a physical body, die, become resurrected with a physical body, show Himself to His disciples after His death with a physical body, ascend into heaven with that resurrected body, and will return again in like manner if He is only a spirit without form? And why is it that man will be resurrected with a perfected physical body if God does not have one? Perhaps the answers to these questions will be unfolded as we continue through these pages.