Grave Opened


A brief discussion concerning what the Bible says about resurrection.

Some time ago, our paster asked me to give a 10-minute talk on Resurrection. I knew I'd have a problem keeping my remarks to 10 minutes, but I said I'd give it a try. However, I told the audience that I hoped they left with as many questions as they had answers.

Part of the reason for that is that the Bible doesn't tell us much about resurrection. Maybe that is because we don't really need to understand it, we just need to believe in it as a promised future reality. In John 11:25-26 (NASB) 25  Jesus said to her[Martha], "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.

However, trusting in that promise doesn't keep us from wanting to know more about it, so let's look briefly at a few things that Scripture has to say about resurrection.

First, the word resurrection is not in the OT – it is a New Testament term, and there is it is used just over 40 times. Resurrection refers to a dead body being raised from the grave, becoming alive again. However, careful reading of the OT shows that some ancient Hebrews believed in life after death, but this was generally thought of as a spiritual existence. That is, they believed that at death, our spirit leaves our body. The spirit of a good person goes to a place called heaven; the spirit of an evil person goes to what is called the Pit, or Sheol. That is where the body goes to undergo decay. We note, however, that at least one prophetic passage indicates the possibility of resurrection: Psalm 16:10 (NASB) For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

Now the ancients must have known, from things like volcanic activity, that the core of the earth is molten, so they assumed that God would eventually send evildoers to this place of fire. However, some Hebrews believed that God would eventually reunite a good person's spirit with their body. For example, Job said Job 19:25-26 (NASB) 25 "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26  "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God;

The OT speaks of a person as a soul. This term is not always clearly explained, but usually it is strongly connected with the body. For example, Gen. 2:7 says that God formed man from the dust of the earth, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. The KJV uses the word soul there, but newer translations use human being, not soul. In the OT the Hebrew uses the word nephesh.

The other term we must define is heaven. The Bible uses this term about 640 times in various ways. Genesis says that God created the heavens and the earth. The Bible speaks of at least three heavens – the lower atmosphere where humans live, the upper atmosphere, where the sun moon and stars are, and a third heaven, which Paul refers to as Paradise. Jesus told the believing thief on the cross that he would be with Jesus that day in Paradise. So this third heaven in where God resides. The word Paradise is the word used for a Babylonian palatial garden, so this might suggest that the third heaven may be somewhat physical. Thus, unless qualified somehow, heaven is the place where God resides. Often it is referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Hebrews also believed that God was able to reside in their midst, in places set aside for that Presence. God Himself could not be seen, but they believed that God was present in the place they called the Holy of Holies. in a tabernacle or a temple. Only a human who had been properly prepared could enter such a place.

Jesus spoke of heaven a few time during His ministry. Matthew 22 gives a good example: Matthew 22:23 (NASB)  On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him. They wanted to know who would be the husband in heaven of a woman who had several husbands. Matthew 22:29-32 (NASB) 29 But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 "But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

So Jesus affirmed the reality of the resurrection of humans, but also said that our future

physical existence would be similar yet quite different from the present. In His appearances after His resurrection, some of His followers had difficulty recognizing Him, yet Jesus asked them to touch Him, to see his scars, and to give him a piece of fish to eat. The Apostle Paul also taught the same thing. Romans 6:5 (CSB) 5 For if we have been united with him in the

likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. So our resurrected bodies will be like that of Jesus.

In 1 Cor. 15 Paul has something to say about resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (NASB)

42  So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

Although saints are living today in heaven, what kind of body do they have? We tend to regard it as a spiritual existence. That makes some sense, else why would it be necessary for our bodies to be resurrected in order to be complete? It sounds like the dust of our bodies being united with our spirit so that we once again become human beings, or souls. Rest assured, the God who created the cosmos out of nothing and knows every hair of our head can remake our bodies into what they should be, So our resurrection bodies will be like His – physical, yet immortal.

Paul also said this: Philippians 3:20-21 (NASB) 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Paul says our citizenship IS in heaven, implying that to a degree we are already there!

Other verses that indicate the same things are Ephesians 2:19 (NASB) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,. . . . and Colossians 3:10 (NASB) and [you] have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—

The OT prophets taught that although Israel was constantly at war with its enemies, often in

exile in a foreign land. God would eventually send them a Deliverer who would subdue their enemies and rule over them into eternity. They always viewed this as an earthly kingdom with a temple where God would reside. Thus they viewed this kingdom as eternal, but people would continue to be born and die physically. The OT prophet Isaiah, however, ended his book with these verses: Isaiah 65:17-18 (NASB) 17  "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. 18 "But be lad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her

people for gladness. Isaiah 65:21 (NASB) "They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

But the creation of the new heavens and earth will involve judgment: Isaiah 66:15-16 (NASB)

15  For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. 16  For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many.

Isaiah 66:22 (NASB) "For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me," declares the LORD, "So your offspring and your name will endure.

The Apocalypse of John took up the teachings of the prophets and concluded by giving a vivid symbolic description of the final judgment and the new heavens and new earth. He described heaven as coming down to earth, so the two would be one. God's people would live there in renewed, rather physical, bodies that would not procreate and would never die. There would not be a physical temple, for God would exist everywhere among His people.

Now some theologians today are suggesting that we need to reject the popular view of going to heaven when we die as the sole purpose of salvation, and replace it with the more biblical view of the new heavens and new earth at the end of the age. God is not rescuing people so they can escape the world; God is rescuing people so they can escape death and cooperate with God in the work of redeeming the world. (Vreeland and Wright*)

Consider the idea that heaven may actually be present in another dimension that is all around us. After His resurrection, Jesus could move freely between these two dimensions,

and today, the Holy Spirit does that for us. Paul said 2 Cori. 5:17 (NASB) “..if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. “ So what we should be doing is preparing ourselves to live in that new world now, to reach the unsaved, showing them by our example how they should be living their lives today. Jesus taught that His true followers were those who cared for those in need.

In closing I would ask this – Are we as Christians living that new life life today, here

on the earth?

*Vreeland, Derek. N.T. Wright and the Revolutionary Cross: A Reader's Guide to The Day the

Revolution Began (pp. 17, 42). Kindle Edition.

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