Elementary Principles, Part 7.
Resurrection of the Dead
As we have examined the elementary principles listed in Hebrews 6:1-2, we have been investigating what Scripture has to say about each of these themes, and additionally we have compared these principles to those found in the Didache, a catechism from the early believing community. The previous four principles which we covered are about various areas of importance in our lives. The first two seem to be vital actions we must have in our spiritual walk, namely repentance and faith. After that, the next two principles had to do with ceremonial acts and what they represented, namely instruction about washings and the laying on of hands. As we proceed into the final two principles, we find that they are focused on the end or the goal of our lives and our faith: resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
Hope for the resurrection is arguably at the very center of the New Testament’s message. If we do not believe that the dead can and will be resurrected, then our faith is meaningless: “For if the dead are not raised, not even Messiah has been raised; and if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). If Messiah had died but had not risen, then He would be just like many other religious figures throughout the ages. He would have been remembered as a great man and a good teacher, but could not have been considered as the very Son of God who died to atone for our sins and was raised to life in victory over death.
The resurrection of Yeshua acts as evidence that we have indeed been purified of our sins and that we too will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:20). Yeshua is the first-fruits of the resurrection, signifying that the rest of humanity will likewise be lifted from the grave at the end of the age by His power. This end-times vision is different from other religions in that many who believe in some form of afterlife imagine only the immortal soul as surviving beyond the grave. Obviously the body immediately begins to decay after death, returning to the dust from which it came. This is the miracle of the resurrection, that our soul will once again be united with our resurrected, imperishable bodies.
If the resurrection is so important to our faith, then surely we ought to know a lot about it, or at least understand enough about the resurrection that it becomes foundational to how we conduct ourselves in this life. What we believe about the afterlife will have an enormous impact on how we behave before we die. For those who believe that there is no soul and that consciousness ends at death, existence has no purpose of itself. For those who believe that the entire physical order is inferior and will be destroyed as such, leaving room only for the spiritual, matter itself becomes a prison and a hindrance to the flight of the undefiled soul. Opposing all other views, we who look forward to a resurrection acknowledge that though our bodies are fading, a new creation will appear and has already begun to take hold of our hearts.
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews understood how essential it was for new believers to recognize for what purpose they were conducting themselves with righteousness and their reason for believing in Messiah. He considered the doctrine of the resurrection to be an elementary principle, and indeed as we shall see it is too important to gloss over quickly.
Sometimes it seems as if we try to figure out the message of the New Testament apart from its context in Judaism. This is particularly of interest concerning Yeshua’s words about the afterlife. We see words and phrases such as “Sheol,” “Kingdom of Heaven,” and “resurrection,” and we try to understand what they mean. It becomes difficult to correctly understand some of the parables of Yeshua if we don’t approach them the way His audience would have.
Some have debated whether the themes contained in Scripture are timeless or whether they require an understanding of cultural context. What seems to be the natural stance is that everything necessary for salvation is plainly evident from Scripture, but the words contained in Scripture were not written in a vacuum. It is true that the Holy Spirit aided the authors in conveying a message that could be received by all nations in every generation, but it cannot be denied that there are phrases and concepts of which the background must be explained before the lessons can be fully understood.
Such is the case in speaking of the resurrection. There was already a significant debate over the doctrine of resurrection and the Kingdom of God in the days of Yeshua. These two themes, resurrection and the Kingdom, are both connected to each other very closely. Messiah’s words, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” were spoken without introduction as to what this Kingdom was, and indeed it needed no introduction. His audience knew what the Kingdom was, and they were expecting it.
Before we begin to examine the New Testament teachings about the resurrection, we are going to begin by examining what beliefs already existed about the resurrection during that time. Because of this doctrine’s close relationship with the Kingdom of God, we will also briefly examine some of the beliefs about the Kingdom as it relates to the resurrection.
The Resurrection in Judaism
The central place of the resurrection of the dead was not a new innovation by Yeshua, but His coming solidified its reality and His words shed new light on this doctrine. There are many more explicit references to the resurrection in the New Testament than there appear to be in the Hebrew Scriptures, but nevertheless Judaism had already been hotly debating this facet of faith prior to His arrival. Because of the relative silence of the Old Testament on this topic, many different ideas developed leading up to the time of Yeshua’s birth about what the truth was regarding the resurrection.
This debate about the resurrection is one critical part of answering the larger question, what happens when we die? This most natural of questions does not seem to be met with a very conclusive answer in a surface reading of the Hebrew Scriptures. We may be able to make some general statements about the grave or resurrection, but Scripture does not offer many clear statements in describing these things. Because of the lack of clarity, Judaism has taken a fairly lenient stance on doctrine regarding the afterlife and the resurrection, allowing for many different opinions to be considered.
Many in modern Judaism who consider themselves to hold orthodox beliefs (although not necessarily belonging to the Orthodox denomination) have accepted thirteen fundamental principles which they agree form the basis of their faith. These principles were compiled from out of the Torah by Moses Maimonides in the 12th century. The thirteenth belief in this list is that the dead will be resurrected. It should be noted that Reform Judaism, the most liberal and largest denomination in North America, rejects the doctrine of a physical resurrection.
Before we can talk about resurrection, we must first talk about death. If one does not die, then they can not be resurrected. When studying death in the Old Testament, we continually encounter references to Sheol. Scholars have had difficulty determining the origin of the word and thus what its exact definition ought to be. From context it is easily determined that Sheol is the place where the dead go. Many verses describe Sheol as a pit or a deep place inside or under the earth (Numbers 16:33, Isaiah 38:18). Here, ethereal bodies of the deceased live in the form of “shades,” sometimes translated as “spirits,” mere shadows of life (Proverbs 21:16, Isaiah 14:9). The translators of the Septuagint chose the Greek word Hades as a suitable translation for Sheol, and this is likewise the case in the New Testament (Matthew 11:23, Revelation 1:18). Unlike the Hades in Greek mythology, this place is not governed by a spiritual entity separate from God, but rather this place itself is under His control (1 Samuel 2:6, Psalm 139:8).
Because of its association with the depths of the earth, Sheol is poetically contrasted against the heavens (Job 11:8, Psalm 139:8, Amos 9:2). Despite the similarities, this does not necessarily equal the heaven/hell distinction we are familiar with today in Christianity. Heavens was another term for the skies, which was symbolic of the dwelling place of God, but rarely do we find that a person is assumed directly into heaven (2 Kings 2:11, Hebrews 11:5). Some references seem to indicate that all people who die go to Sheol (Genesis 42:38, 1 Kings 2:6, Ecclesiastes 9:10). Some translators have chosen to translate Sheol as if it were a poetic title for death or the grave, thus they say these verses do not tell us anything about the afterlife. In other places it seems that Sheol is reserved only for the wicked (Psalm 16:10, 49:14-15).
The non-canonical Book of Enoch had a significant impact on the Jewish and early Christian understanding of the afterlife. Written in the 2nd century BC, it claims to contain the writings of Enoch himself as he experienced various visions and prophecies. In one such vision, Enoch is given a glimpse of Sheol. He sees four very deep, dark, hollow compartments carved into a mountain. The angel with him says,
These hollow places have been created for this very purpose, that the spirits of the souls of the dead should be gathered here, that all the souls of the children of men should [be] brought together here. And these places have been made to receive them until the day of their judgment and until the period appointed, until the great judgment comes on them. (1 Enoch 22:3)
When asked about why there are four compartments of Sheol separated one from another, the angel replies that two contain the souls of the righteous, and in that place they are comforted by “the bright spring of water” (cf. Luke 16:24). The other compartments are reserved for storing the wicked.
With all of this evidence in mind, it seems that Sheol can be understood as a place where the souls of the deceased live. Some Scriptures indicate that some activity goes on in this place, but it is creatively limited. Isaiah 14 describes the newly deceased souls being greeted by those who have preceded them into the grave. The Book of Enoch records the soul of Abel making intercession before God from Sheol, pleading that justice would be accomplished on the earth (cf. Revelation 6:9-11).
Even in the face of Sheol, there is hope for a resurrection. As seen in the passage from the Book of Enoch above, the souls are stored in Sheol in preparation for the day of judgment, when they will be resurrected. Likewise there are a few Scriptures that seem to hint at the fact that even if the souls of the dead are reserved in Sheol, they will not stay there forever, they will somehow be restored again. Job cries out as he struggles with the finality of death, perhaps showing an early hint of this hope for resurrection:
Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, that You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, that You would set a limit for me and remember me! If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes. (Job 14:13-14).
We have already looked at a couple of examples in the Psalms where a hope is held either for total avoidance of Sheol or an eventual redemption and escape from such a state/place (Psalm 16:10-11, 49:14-15). Other Scriptures which are often pointed to as evidence of a future resurrection are Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:1-2. The passage in Daniel is by far the most explicit, but the resurrection is only mentioned in passing and few details are given. A contemporary position on this verse in the JPS Jewish Study Bible says the following:
“Many… will awake,” i.e., not all; presumably some who deserve eternal life, others who deserve everlasting abhorrence… Whether bodily resurrection or some form of spiritual resurrection is intended is not stated… This is the only certain biblical reference to this doctrine.
Despite this modern scholarly perspective, rabbinic Judaism firmly holds to a belief in a physical resurrection. As mentioned before, because of the lack of details in the Scriptural text there have historically been many different views about what this resurrection is like. Is it a universal resurrection of all the nations, or is it only for Israel? If the latter, is it for all Israel, or only a certain subset? Some rabbis even claimed that only those who died in the land of Israel would be resurrected.
The apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees, written around 124 BC, makes it clear that the hope of resurrection was present among the common people at that time. Through the great turmoil and persecution of the Jewish people at the hand of the Syrian empire, brave and devout men, women, and children were tortured and killed for their faith, holding fast because they were confident that they would share in the resurrection. One particular case is recorded where a family of brothers all refuse to eat pork, and are subsequently tortured and killed. A couple of interesting phrases are spoken to the foreign king which give us some insight into the attitude current among the people at that time concerning resurrection:
You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws… One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life! (2 Maccabees 7:9, 14 NRSV).
Among these martyrs it seems that the resurrection was not so much a possibility as it was a determined fact. Their confidence that they will partake of this resurrection seems to be based on the fact that they are willing to be martyred rather than disobey God (Psalm 116:15). The martyrs are confident that the foreign king will not partake in the “resurrection to life.” From this statement alone it cannot be determined whether they thought that he would be raised in a resurrection to eternal death or whether he would simply not be resurrected at all. Both beliefs have historically been accepted.
This confidence that there will be a resurrection is likewise revealed in the fact that literature containing the words of rabbis from the first century refers to those who don’t believe in the resurrection as “heretics.”
Heretics [those who rejected the doctrine of the resurrection] asked Rabban Gamliel [a rabbi from the first century AD]: From where is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, revives the dead? Rabban Gamliel said to them that this matter can be proven from the Torah, from the Prophets, and from Writings [i.e., all three parts of the Hebrew Scriptures], but they did not accept the proofs from him. (b. Sanhedrin 90b)
Those who supported the belief in the resurrection of the dead were compelled to provide proof that their convictions were correct from the Torah. We have looked at some proofs from the Writings (Psalms, Job) and from the Prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel), but we have not yet looked at any from the Torah (the five books of Moses).
Some of the verses offered as proof rest on promises made to individuals which were not fulfilled for them personally within their lifetime, which the rabbis say must take place after the resurrection (Exodus 6:3-4, Deuteronomy 11:21). Another explanation relies on an alternative division of the Hebrew text in Deuteronomy 31:16. Instead of reading it as, “You shall lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land,” it is possible in the Hebrew that instead it could read, “You shall lie down with your fathers and arise; and this people will play the harlot, etc.”
A similar method of interpretation is used by Yeshua to justify a belief in the resurrection when he confronts certain members of the Sadducees (Mark 12:26-27). Reading the gospels and Acts, we see some mention in passing of this Jewish sect known as the Sadducees, and how they did not believe in the resurrection (Matthew 22:23, Acts 23:8). From our explanations above, we can perhaps understand part of the reason why the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. They held to an extremely literal interpretation of Scripture, and this led them to rationalize many of the verses brought up in favor of resurrection.
It is interesting as well to note the consequences of this split on whether there would be a resurrection or not. The common people were to a greater degree influenced by the Pharisees, who did believe there would be a resurrection. Since belief in God and the deeds that resulted would be rewarded in a future age, death was met with boldness rather than despair. As we witnessed in our passage from 2 Maccabees, many who were nationally or religiously zealous gladly went to their deaths rather than compromise in this life. On the other hand, the Sadducees, in rejecting a hope for resurrection or a future judgment, were more eager to pursue a comfortable life that was as long as possible. Rather than understanding the Torah as having moral scope in the life of the individual, they mainly understood it as the basis of a national, civil system.
If a resurrection from the dead is established as doctrinal, then a natural question to ask is, when will this resurrection take place? And what type of place will those who are resurrected be ushered into? In answering these questions, the sages of Israel connected the prophecies of a worldwide kingdom of God with the doctrine of a resurrection. Thus it is essential for us to briefly introduce some of the basic facts about what this kingdom was believed to be like.
During the time of the prophets, the nation of Israel was a monarchy. God had made a promise to David that the kingly line would continue through his lineage. Although the people disobeyed God and His prophets brought messages of destruction, they also spoke words of comfort and hope, that one day God would intervene in human history and change His people so that they would never again be punished or sent away into exile. There would be a time of peace and prosperity under a special ruler, a messiah or anointed one. God’s people would never again be expelled from the land, but would dwell there forever, and the whole earth would be filled with peace and the knowledge of God.
A couple of names became attached to this ideal: the Messianic Age/Era (named due to the expectation of a kingly Messiah figure, Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 33:14-16) or the Kingdom of God (Exodus 15:18, Micah 4:7, Zechariah 14:9). Often the term Kingdom of Heaven is preferred to the latter, as the word “heaven” was often used to avoid speaking the name of God. The Jewish Encyclopedia says the following on this matter:
In rabbinical terminology, especially, “shamayim,” [i.e., heaven] without the article, became the regular expression for the name of God, which was, from motives of reverence, avoided as far as possible; hence the words [used most often in rabbinical literature which demonstrate this practice are] “mora” or “yir’at shamayim” = “fear of heaven”; “shem shamayim” = “the name of heaven”; and “malkut shamayim” = “kingdom of heaven.”.. With reference to the Messianic age, it applies to the time when God will be the sole King on earth, in opposition to the kings of worldly powers; whence Matthew’s “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 3:2, and elsewhere), where the other gospels have “kingdom of God.”
One opinion during the first century was that the resurrection would take place after the Kingdom of Heaven. The non-canonical Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, written in the late first century AD, describes a period of tribulation followed by the great prosperity of the Kingdom under the rule of the Messiah. After this time, the souls of both the righteous and wicked will be restored and led to their eternal destinies. This order is likewise held in the apocryphal book of 2 Esdras:
For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. After those years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath. Then the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings, so that no one shall be left. After seven days the world that is not yet awake shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. The earth shall give up those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who rest there in silence; and the chambers shall give up the souls that have been committed to them. (2 Esdras 7:28-32, NRSV)
In traditional Judaism, the belief is that forty years after the arrival of the Messiah, the dead will be resurrected. The Kingdom of Heaven, while similar to the conception of an afterlife, is often described as a separate period of time with some differences. For example we read:
Rav Hisda raises a contradiction. It is written: “Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts will reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His elders shall be His glory” (Isaiah 24:23), indicating that the sun and the moon will no longer shine at the end of days. And it is written: “And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days” (Isaiah 30:26), indicating that the sun and the moon will exist then and they will shine more brightly. The Gemara [a rabbinic commentary] answers that this is not difficult. The verse here, in Isaiah chapter 30, is written with regard to the days of the Messiah [the Kingdom], when the sun and moon will shine more brightly; the verse there, in Isaiah chapter 24, is written with regard to the World-to-Come [the eternal afterlife], when the only light will be the light of God. (b. Sanhedrin 91b)
Thus the Messianic Age or Kingdom of Heaven is expected to last for a specific period of time, which will then be followed by the World to Come, which is the name for the afterlife in Judaism.
So far, we have taken a look at the foundations which the New Testament beliefs about the resurrection were built upon. As we continue, we will see how the various ideas interact with each other in order to hopefully understand a little bit more about the resurrection.
Resurrection in the New Testament
As we stated in opening this lesson, the resurrection is at the very center of our faith. At times in Christianity, it seems we have focused on what happens to an individual immediately after death while not stressing so much the fact that wherever we go, we will not be staying there, but will stand reunited with our bodies upon some future day. In an attempt to fill the spaces left by the Scriptures, we extrapolate upon a verse here or there in order to try to describe what our eternal home will be like. In so doing, we perhaps do not emphasize enough that the promise of Scripture is of a resurrected humanity living upon a recreated earth (Isaiah 65:17-19, 66:22; 2 Peter 3:11-13, Revelation 21:1-3).
Because of the lack of descriptions in Scripture, we will not dwell on speaking of this place too much here and instead focus on the topic at hand, the resurrection. Did the expectation of what the resurrection was going to be like undergo any dramatic changes in the New Testament? Or was it still for the most part advocating the same doctrine of a physical resurrection associated with the physical Kingdom of Heaven on earth?
One innovation which we find in the New Testament is that it seems to indicate that there will be two resurrections. First, the righteous will be resurrected and enjoy the one-thousand year reign of the Messiah (Revelation 20:4-6). Afterward, all will be resurrected and face the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-13). A similar idea may be present in John 5:28-29. More evidence that the first resurrection will take place just before the Messianic Era is found in 1 Corinthians 15:50-52. Paul explains:
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 will be changed.
He says in another place:
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 Messiah 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. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
These two passages mention only the resurrection of the righteous. Both passages speak of those who are still alive when it is time for the resurrection, telling us that they will be instantaneously transformed into their resurrection bodies.
Each of these passages also mentions a trumpet which directly precedes the resurrection of the righteous. We also see a similar event associated with this trumpet in Yeshua’s discourse on the Mount of Olives:
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matthew 24:30-31)
In some people’s understanding, the gathering of the elect mentioned in Matthew and in 1 Thessalonians indicates that we will be leaving behind the earth for good. If we form our conclusions from these verses without the necessary context, this theory may seem reasonable. We find that this event is prophetically spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, who gives us the rest of the picture regarding the events surrounding the blowing of this great trumpet:
It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:13)
In the context of the book of Isaiah, this verse is speaking of the restoration of Israel after its destruction, which resulted in the people being dispersed into other nations. Those who had been exiled and scattered into the surrounding nations would return to Jerusalem and return to a pure worship of the Lord. One of the greatest hopes related to the promise of the Kingdom of God was this gathering of the exiles into the land of Israel (Isaiah 11:12, 45:13, Ezekiel 37:21-28). Some have speculated that since many passages indicate that God Himself will gather the people, the ingathering of the exiles will be accomplished in an obviously supernatural fashion. The New Testament thus ties this ingathering of the exiles to the resurrection into the Kingdom through this sounding of the great trumpet.
Likewise, the Didache contains evidence that the early believers also held on to a similar expectation. Part of the blessing to be spoken before eating bread is as follows:
Just as this piece of bread was scattered over the mountains and gathered together, so may your assembly be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. For yours is the glory and the power through Yeshua the Messiah forever. (Didache 9.4)
Again we read:
Remember, O Lord, your congregation, to rescue her from all evil and to make her complete in your love. Gather her, the sanctified, from the four winds to your kingdom that you have prepared for her. (Didache 10.5)
Thus in the Didache we see the hope that the righteous exiles, scattered like seeds throughout the earth, would be gathered together into the kingdom along with all of God’s elect.
The final chapter of the Didache includes a short end-times teaching, a part of which is as follows:
And then the signs of the truth will appear: the first sign, an expansion in the heavens; next, the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third sign, the resurrection of the dead. However, not the resurrection of everyone but rather as it is said: “The Lord will come, and all the righteous along with him.” Then the world will behold the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven. (Didache 16.6-8)
Several of the earlier points we touched on are present here in these couple of verses. On the other hand, the first sign at first may appear cryptic and unfamiliar: “an expansion in the heavens.” What this phrase means exactly is difficult to determine. The Apostolic Constitutions in its version of this teaching instead uses the phrase, “the sign of the Son of Man in heaven,” as we saw earlier in Matthew 24 (cf. Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:14). Some see this sign as a possible reference to such prophesies as Isaiah 11:10-12, where a banner is lifted up to signal the ingathering of the exiles, as we saw also with the trumpet. Again we see the blowing of the trumpet, followed by the resurrection only of the righteous, but not of the wicked. It seems as if the resurrected are gathered to Him and then immediately return to the earth, accompanying the Lord as He comes to establish His Kingdom.
The concept of a physical Kingdom of Heaven may seem backwards to some. Didn’t Yeshua Himself indicate that the Kingdom was not physical? He says, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).
These words of Yeshua indicate that the Kingdom of God has some spiritual qualities which can be accessed in the present age. But upon further investigation, it does not appear that this statement in Luke means to end the expectation of an earthly Kingdom. We read in Acts that before Yeshua ascends, His disciples question Him whether it is at this time that He will initiate the Messianic Age (Acts 1:6). They still fully expected Him to exercise His authority as the Son of David and begin a physical reign over Israel now that He had died and been resurrected. We might expect Him at this point to rebuke His disciples and condemn their hardness of heart for still expecting a physical kingdom.
These expectations are not met, however, but instead He replies, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). Instead of telling them not to expect a Kingdom, He redirects their focus onto what they need to accomplish in spreading His words to all the nations without worrying about times and dates.
We have taken a brief glance at some of the details about the future resurrection, but our faith that there will be a resurrection does not stand on its own. We believe that we will partake of this resurrection because we have faith that Yeshua Himself has been resurrected and that He will bring us to life as well. Any hope for resurrection apart from Yeshua is in vain.
Yeshua said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. (John 11:25-26)
After Yeshua rose from the grave, it was impossible that anything could remain unaffected. Throughout the book of Acts, we see the apostles preaching that Yeshua has been resurrected and that through faith in Him we also can attain to the resurrection (Acts 2:30-33, 4:33, 26:22-23). Not only is there hope for a physical resurrection of the body, but here and now we can begin to walk in newness of life. When we put our faith in Him, it is as if our old being has died along with Him, and likewise on account of His resurrection it is possible for us to obey Him in a manner which was not possible before. We are not yet completely restored, and therefore we still have a choice, either to obey our old sinful nature or our renewed spiritual nature. Let us follow the exhortation of Scripture and begin to lay hold of the resurrection which lives within us even now as we alongside all of creation await our final restoration (Romans 6:3-11, Philippians 3:8-11).
The goal of this lesson was to present the context which the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection was grounded in. Although it is undeniable that an afterlife is essential to our faith, all too often we misunderstand exactly what it is we are waiting for. In our search, we began with the teachings of the Old Testament on the resurrection. In the eyes of some, there are no such teachings, but to those who understand both “the Scriptures and the power of God”, it is undeniably clear. We proceeded in our teachings from death to life again and in the process hopefully we arrived at a greater understanding of this elementary teaching.
In the context of a catechism, the message of the resurrection would take a foundational role in the faith and practice of the individual. In order to properly understand his faith, he would need to be able to understand, at least on a basic level, what he hoped to gain by devoting his life to Messiah. Without a hope for resurrection, we will be off balance, either placing too much emphasis on the spiritual or too much emphasis on the physical.
While some description is found in Scripture regarding the order or arrangement in time of the resurrection and the Kingdom, our attention ought to be on what we are doing today to prepare for the resurrection and the Kingdom. Yeshua Himself gives us life through His Spirit which dwells in us. Let us lay aside every distraction and let go of every unclean thing as we walk in the life He has given us.