In our last study of Acts we looked at the first 21 verses of chapter 24, which dealt with Paul's trial before Felix. In Paul's defense he makes this statement:
"But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. (Acts 24:14-15 NASB)
Notice how Young's Literal Translation translates this:
having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous; (Acts 24:15 YLT)
The words "shall certainly" in the NASB are the Greek word mello. Whenever mello in the present active indicative is combined with an infinitive, it is consistently translated "about to." Paul told his first century audience, "there is about to be a resurrection."
If we are going to understand what Paul is saying about the resurrection, we must understand "audience relevance." Paul is not talking to us; he is talking to Felix, Ananias, Tertullus, and the elders. Paul told them that there was about to be a resurrection. So if the timing of the resurrection was "soon," what does this tell us about the nature of the resurrection? It must be spiritual! Time defines nature.
What we want to seek to understand is exactly what Paul meant by "the resurrection." The traditional view that is held by most of the Church is this: When a believer dies, their body goes into the grave and their spirit goes to heaven to be with the Lord. They are in a disembodied state awaiting the resurrection at the end of time. Then at the end of time the Lord returns, resurrects all the decayed bodies of the dead saints, puts them back together, then changes the physically resurrected bodies into spiritual immortal bodies like Christ's. Does that sound like what you have been taught? That is basically what the Church teaches abut the resurrection, but is it what the Bible teaches? One very important thing that we need to understand is that Paul clearly taught that the resurrection was the hope of Israel.
We looked last time at the fact that resurrection is resurrection from the dead. And we saw that death was spiritual. When Adam sinned, he died spiritually, not physically. Man's problem is spiritual death; separation from God.
Because of Adam's sin, we are all born dead, separated from God. But through Jesus Christ came the resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ came to restore what Adam had lost, fellowship with God. Jesus Christ came to redeem man from death, to resurrect man back into the presence of God. The Bible is God's Book, about His plan to restore the spiritual union of His creation. Resurrection is not about bringing physical bodies out of the graves, it is about restoring man into the presence of God.
Prior to Jesus' messianic work, no one went to Heaven:
"No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. (John 3:13 NASB)
If prior to Jesus' messianic work no one went to Heaven, where did people go when they died? They went to a holding place of the dead and waited for the atoning work of Christ and the resurrection from the dead.
In the First Testament the Hebrew word for where they were prior to the resurrection is Sheol. In the New Testament the Greek word is Hades. What this place amounted to was a waiting area for disembodied spirits.
The first Testament uses the word "Sheol" to refer to a place in the depths of the earth. The expressions, "go down" or "brought down" are used twenty times in connection with Sheol. The "depths of Sheol" are mentioned six times (Deut. 32:22; Ps. 86:13; Prov. 9:18; 15:24; Isa. 7:11; 14:15). Four times Sheol is described as the farthest point from heaven (Job 11:8; Ps. 139:8; Isa. 7:11; Amos 9:2). Often Sheol is parallel with the "pit" (Job 17:13-14; 33:18; Ps. 30:3; 88:3-4; Prov. 1:12; Isa. 14:15; 38:18; Ezek. 31:14-17). Nine times it is parallel with death (2 Sam. 22:6; Ps. 18:4-5; 49:14; 89:48; 116:3; Prov. 5:5; Isa. 28:15,18; Hos. 13:14; Hab. 2:5). Sheol is described in terms of overwhelming floods, water, or waves (Jonah 2:2-6). Sometimes, Sheol is pictured as a hunter setting snares for its victim, binding them with cords, snatching them from the land of the living (2 Sam 22:6; Job 24:19; Ps. 116:3). Sheol is a prison with bars, a place of no return (Job 7:9; 10:21; 16:22; 21:13; Ps. 49:14; Isa. 38:10). People could go to Sheol alive (Num. 16:30,33; Ps. 55:15; Prov. 1:12).
In Jewish tradition it was also known as "Abraham's bosom" since at death, the faithful Israelite was said to be "gathered unto his fathers." Whatever it was called, it was not Heaven:
"Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. (Acts 2:29 NASB)
"For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, (Acts 2:34 NASB)
David was dead, but he did not go to Heaven. But he had a promise that he someday would. God had promised to redeem His people from the grave:
Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight. (Hosea 13:14 NASB)
But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah. (Psalms 49:15 NASB)
This verse expresses hope that God will provide salvation beyond the grave, one of the few First Testament references to life after death. This verse anticipates the clear New Testament teaching of life after death, eternal life, and salvation by God.
All people were believed to go to Sheol when they die:
What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah. (Psalms 89:48 NASB)
To be taken out of Sheol and brought into the presence of the Lord is what the Bible calls resurrection. Resurrection has nothing to do with physical bodies coming out of graves. Daniel spoke of this in:
"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2 NASB)
According to the Bible, when was the resurrection to take place? The Scriptures testify that the time of the resurrection was to be at the end of the Old Covenant age:
"But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." (Daniel 12:13 NASB)
We know this to have happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The disciples knew that the fall of the temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant age and the inauguration of a New Age.
Since we know that the resurrection is past, we know that it was spiritual and not physical. The resurrection of the dead that took place at the end of the Old Covenant in A.D. 70 and was not a biological resurrection of dead decayed bodies, was a release from Sheol of all who had been waiting through the centuries to be reunited with God in the heavenly kingdom.
We can see from the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus several things about the resurrection beliefs of the early Christians:
and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:17-18 NASB)
The early Christians must have believed that the resurrection would be spiritual in nature, and, therefore, not subject to confirmation by any physical evidence. If the early Christians had believed that the resurrection would involve the physical bodies coming out of the graves, as is taught today, Hymenaius and Philitus could never have convinced anyone that the resurrection had already happened.
They also must have believed that life on earth would go on with no material change after the resurrection. They didn't believe that they would be on a renovated planet earth as a consequence of the resurrection. Otherwise, the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus would have been impossible. No one would have paid any attention to them.
The reason that their teaching that the resurrection had already happened was overthrowing the faith of some was that it postulated a consummation of the spiritual kingdom, while the earthly temple in Jerusalem still stood. This was a mixture of Law and grace. This destroyed the faith of some by making the works of the Law a part of the New Covenant.
WHAT ABOUT CHRIST--WASN'T HE PHYSICALLY RESURRECTED?
YES! Absolutely, without a doubt. Since Christ's resurrection was physical, won't ours be? NO! Christ's physical resurrection was a SIGN to the apostles that he had done what He had promised. The resurrection of Jesus' body verified for His disciples, the resurrection of His soul. David had prophesied:
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. (Psalms 16:10 NASB)
Peter preached that David looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of Christ:
he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. (Acts 2:31 NASB)
These verses speak of both spiritual death (the soul in hades) and physical death (decay of the flesh). Jesus was resurrected from both. Unless Jesus' body had been resurrected, His disciples would have had no assurance that His soul had been to Hades and had been resurrected. The physical resurrection of Christ was essential to verify the spiritual to which it was tied. While the physical resurrection of our bodies would have no point since we will not continue living on this planet, breathing earth's oxygen and eating earth's food, after we die physically.
When Jesus was resurrected was his body different, was it a glorified body? Many say that it was. But I propose that the body of Jesus that came out of the tomb was the same body that went into the tomb. Now someone who knows their Bible may say, "Well Mark says that Jesus' body was different after the resurrection:
When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it. After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. (Mark 16:11-12 NASB)
Because of verses like this many have assumed that Jesus' resurrection body was different. But notice what Mark writes in:
Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; (Mark 9:2 NASB)
That word "transfigured" comes from a Greek word from which we get our English word "metamorphosis"--to be changed into something else. The Greek word is a compound word from "morphe" meaning: "form" and "meta," which implies: "change". Very simply, therefore, the underlying meaning of the word has to be "to change form." Remember this is before the resurrection.
Now you might also be thinking, "Well, Jesus walked through walls after His resurrection."
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." (John 20:19 NASB)
Notice that the text does not say he "walked through walls." It simply says he appeared in their midst. Well, doesn't that imply a different body? No, look at:
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way. (Luke 4:28-30 NASB)
The crowd has Jesus cornered on a cliff! And He "passes through their midst." How did He do that? And He did things like this before He was raised from the dead.
Notice what Luke writes of Jesus after His resurrection:
And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." (Luke 24:38-39 NASB)
Obviously, the scars from the Cross were visible, and Jesus said He was flesh and bone, not a Spirit:
And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. (Luke 24:40-43 NASB)
Here we see Jesus eating. Will glorified bodies be hungry, have a digestive process? It sounds to me like a regular human body:
Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:27-28 NASB)
Here again we see that Jesus had the same nail holes in His hands and feet and the same spear hole in His side, just like He did before His resurrection. Haven't we all heard that our glorified bodies will be perfect? Jesus' wasn't, because it wasn't a glorified body; it was His SAME body. We could say that Jesus' physical resurrection looked nothing different from Lazarus' physical resurrection.
When the Bible says that Jesus was the firstborn from the dead, it is talking about spiritual life, not physical life:
and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- (Revelation 1:5 NASB)
There were many physical resurrections before Christ, but no spiritual resurrections before Christ.
Think about this: Jesus was spiritually raised while still in His physical body and the Bible says the same thing of believers:
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, (Romans 6:4-5 NASB)
This can't be talking about biological death or resurrection. We were united in His death spiritually, and the resurrection is also spiritual. And we were spiritually resurrected while still in our physical bodies. Jesus' resurrection demonstrated that we do not need to shed our physical body in order to be raised from the dead. The nature of resurrection life was that a person did not need to physically die to obtain eternal life, resurrection life.
"And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. "Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? (Acts 26:6-8 NASB)
Paul preached the resurrection as the hope of Israel. The promise of the resurrection was made to Old Covenant Israel. So the promise of resurrection was an Old Covenant promise, it was not something newly given in the New Testament. It wasn't a new promise given to the Church.
Resurrection was to take place at the end of the age, and since the promise was made to Israel, it was to happen at the end of Israel's age, A.D. 70. Eschatology is Israel's eschatology! If the promises to Israel have been fulfilled, then resurrection has occurred.
Paul preached only what Moses and the prophets taught:
"So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; (Acts 26:22 NASB)
Notice carefully what Paul says here. He says that he is teaching "nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said." So if Paul was teaching a physical resurrection, then we should be able to find physical resurrection in the First Testament. And if we can't, then Paul must not be teaching a physical resurrection.
In Isaiah 24 God predicted the destruction of heaven and earth, we know this is physical Israel. Then He says in chapter 25:
He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8 NASB)
God was going to destroy death. What is death? Is it physical or spiritual? Well in chapter 24 He said that death came because they broke the covenant:
The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. (Isaiah 24:5 NASB)
The death that was to be swallowed up was spiritual death. What is interesting about this is that Paul's source of "Resurrection" in 1 Corinthians 15 is Isaiah 24-25. The resurrection Paul talks about is spiritual, not physical.
Turn with me to another First Testament text that talks about resurrection, Ezekiel 37. The historical context of this text is that the children of Israel have been carried off into Babylonian captivity, and the Babylonian captivity has assimilated into it the Assyrian captivity. Because the Babylonians destroyed the Assyrians, now all those that were in Assyrian captivity are now in Babylonian captivity:
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." Again He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.' "Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. 'I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.'" So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life."'" So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:1-10 NASB)
The dead bones are a picture of death--they are made to stand up. Then they come to life, this is resurrection.
Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.' "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. (Ezekiel 37:10-12 NASB)
God is talking to physical Israel; they say their bones are dried up and their hope is gone. They weren't saying they were physically dead, they were separated from God, out of the land. According to the rabbinic writings, any time Israel was out of the land they were dead. Life is in the land where God dwells.
God said He was going to open their graves, these weren't physical graves, because they weren't physically dead:
"Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. "I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it," declares the LORD.'" (Ezekiel 37:13-14 NASB)
When did God put His spirit within Israel and bring them to life? Pentecost!:
"They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 37:23 NASB)
God is going to cleanse them and make them His people. This sounds like the New Covenant. This is spiritual life:
"I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. "My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. (Ezekiel 37:26-27 NASB)
Notice Revelation 21:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, (Revelation 21:3 NASB)
God is promising Israel resurrection life, spiritual life in His presence in the New Covenant.
So the resurrection that Paul said was "about to happen" in Acts 24:15 was a spiritual re-gathering of God's covenant people. The resurrection of the dead that took place at the end of the Old Covenant in A.D. 70 was not a biological resurrection of dead decayed bodies, but a release from Sheol of all who had been waiting through the centuries to be reunited with God in the heavenly kingdom. They were no longer separated from God (dead), they were now in His presence (alive).
For believers who have lived since A.D. 70, we are resurrected when we trust in Christ. Jesus gives us spiritual life, which is a resurrection from our state of spiritual death. We have eternal life and can never die spiritually. Therefore, we don't need a resurrection. At death our bodies go to dust, and we go immediately to heaven.
Jesus 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. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NASB)
Jesus is saying, "He who believes in me shall live (spiritually), even if he dies (physically), and everyone who lives (physically), and believes in Me, shall never die (spiritually)."
Two categories of believers are discussed: those who would die before the resurrection, and those who would not. For those who died under the Old Covenant, He was the Resurrection, but for those who lived into the days of the New Covenant, He is the Life.
Under the New Covenant, there is no death, spiritually speaking:
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NASB)
Where there is no death, there is no need of a resurrection. We have eternal life and can never die spiritually. Therefore, we don't need a resurrection. At death, we go immediately to heaven.
The resurrection was a one time event in which the Old Testament saints were brought out of Hades and finally overcame death to be with the Lord. We have put on immortality. As believers, we live in the presence of God, and in physical death, we simply drop the flesh and dwell only in the spiritual realm.
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