The Resurrection of the Dead
Preparatory Reading; 1 Corinthians 15.
When we come together to consider the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, we show his death in breaking bread and drinking wine “until he come”. At this time therefore, we also consider the coming of Messiah, and the things that will pertain to that epoch of human history. We memorialize not only the death of our Redeemer, but his resurrection also, as it is written in Rom. 4:25 “[he] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” And again in Rom. 5:10 “if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to Yahweh by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life”.
1 Corinthians chapter 15 is a chapter devoted to things concerning resurrection, and it again speaks of the importance of the Messiah being lifted up in glory, look at 1 Cor. 15:17-18 “If the Messiah be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in the Messiah are perished. If in this life only we have hope in the Messiah, we are of all men most miserable”.
The resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ, then, is fundamental, and part of the foundation of our faith. Our Master has gone before as a forerunner to prepare the way, and we shall surely follow, and partake of the victory against Sin that he has accomplished. As we read again in 1 Corinthians chapter 15: 22-23 “For as in Adam all die, even so in the Messiah shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: The Messiah the first-fruits; afterwards they that are The Messiah’s at his coming”.
When we consider the resurrection of our Master therefore, we consider the very basis of our own salvation – a resurrection at the time of his coming. This was the hope of the Apostle Paul as he explained in Phil. 3:10-11, where he tells us that through faith he desired that he (Paul) “may know him (The Lord Jesus Christ), and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead”. The context of this chapter of Philippians is most instructive.
Here, the Apostle demonstrates how that after the flesh, he could enjoy the praise and glory of men. Yet he forsook all for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, so that he might “attain unto the resurrection of the dead”. He counted the things enumerated in that chapter “as dung, that I may win the Messiah” (Phil. 3:8). Even so, we must “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and … run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Those things that can hinder our journey towards the coming kingdom must be jettisoned, as being mere dung – even if they appear respectable and desirous by fellow man.
LET US LOOK TO A BETTER RESURRECTION
Hebrews chapter 11 catalogues men and women of vision, look in Heb.11:33-35: where, after listing many of the faithful and their activities he says that there were many more “who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection; …”
Here was the guiding vision that enabled those faithful to endure and overcome such afflictions: “that they might obtain a better resurrection”. But what is a “better” resurrection? Our Master taught in Jno. 5:28-29 that there are two resurrections, characterized by what the end result will be: “… 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 condemnation”.
Of the two, the “resurrection of life” is clearly “better”. Whatever happens, for those deemed ‘responsible’ to judgment, a resurrection is an absolute guarantee. No matter how much a nominal brother falls away, being enticed by the cares of this life; it is still a certainty that he will be raised. What is questionable however, is to which resurrection he shall attain: a resurrection to life, or a resurrection to condemnation. And that, Brethren and Sisters, is dependent upon faith.
The hope of a true believer is a resurrection of life. That was the hope of Martha, expressed at the time of the first death of her brother Lazarus: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (Jno. 11:24), to which our Lord replied in vv25: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall not die in the Aion (as the Diaglot renders this phrase). Believest thou this?” (Jno. 11:26).
WILL WE BE EQUAL TO THE ANGELS?
By contrast to the firm conviction of Martha, in the ecclesia at Corinth there were those who taught, “there is no resurrection of the dead”. This was the position of the Sadducees who approached the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew chapter 22. Here, they approached Messiah claiming “that there is no resurrection”, and they then posed a scenario to the Master to try and show their point. A childless brother died, and his wife subsequently married his seven brothers, in succession, and they all predeceased her. The question the Sadducees posed was this: “Therefore in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be of these seven? For they all had her” (Mat. 22:24-28). Our Lord’s response was masterly, deftly turning things back at them: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of the Elohim. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the Angels of Yahweh in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by Elohim, saying, I am the Elohim of Abraham, and the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob? Elohim is not the Elohim of the dead, but of the living” (Mat. 22:29-32).
This gives us an interesting insight into the resurrection of life: those so raised will be as the Angels of Yahweh. Luke provides more information in Luke 20:35-36 “They that shall be counted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection of the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of Elohim, being the children of the resurrection”.
Being raised from the dead then, is like a new birth with those who experience it being “the children of the resurrection.” But what is of particular interest is the statement that these children shall be “equal unto the angels”. Being currently made “a little lower than the angels” (Psa. 8:5), they shall be elevated in status and nature, to become equal to them.
The Old Testament equivalent to this expression is contained in Zechariah chapter 3:7 “Thus saith Yahweh Tzavaoth; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by”, “these that stand by” are the Angels, and so to be given to walk among them implies an equality to them. Truly, the Sadducees did not understand their Bibles, nor the power of Yahweh.
GLORY OF THE RESURRECTION
Another Old Testament passage which specifically teaches the resurrection is Daniel chapter 12. Again, it describes a twofold rising: “Many of them that dwell in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
But the passage continues to describe the glory of those who are granted everlasting life: “and they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:2-3).
This is drawn upon by the inspired Apostle in 1 Cor. 15:41-42, in describing the degrees of resurrectional glory:
“… there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead …”
Those who are the children of glory then, shall shine with the effulgence of Divine glory; as our Master put it in Mat. 13:43:
“then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father”.
THE CERTAINTY OF OUR HOPE
Their resurrection to life is a certainty for those who abide in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing worse than hearing of brethren and sisters being terrified of dying because they fear that they have not been ‘good enough’, or ‘worthy’ and that they might be cast away at the judgment. The Scriptures state in Rom. 4:16 that: “Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace; to the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all”. Brethren and sisters, can he be classed as our father – do we profess to be of Spiritual Israel?
The fact of Yahweh’s Grace being extended to us through faith is something that is ordained in order for the promise to be “made sure”, that is, not to be uncertain, or doubtful. Some translations render it “guaranteed”.
Occasionally, those of the Churches ridicule us for having an uncertain hope: that is that we do not know whether we will be approved at the judgment seat or not. Indeed, we ourselves can look towards the judgment seat with vexation and uncertainty as to whether or not we will be admitted to the Kingdom. The Bible, on the other hand, speaks of our hope of Grace as being definite and certain: Paul states in Hebrews 6:9-12:
“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For Yahweh is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises”.
Paul goes further a few verses down the chapter, in verses 18-19:
“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for Yahweh to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast …” (Heb. 6:18-19).
If we trust in the Word of Yahweh, and believe that He is able to perform that which he has promised, then we are hoping in a thing that will become a definite reality.
There are conditions as we have just read in verse 12; “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
If we conform to those conditions, our hope of having a place in Yahweh’s kingdom is a “full assurance”, being “sure and steadfast”, not an uncertain possibility that might or might not take place. Of what use is an anchor if it is not sure and steadfast? Even so, our faith should be “an anchor of the soul”.
Our Master, in Mat. 7:13-14, likened a person’s walk in life to traversing down a particular path, either broad or narrow: “enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there by that find it”.
Notice that the destination which is ultimately reached depends solely upon what path is being followed. The narrow path does not lead to more than one place, to both destruction and life, maybe depending upon the exertions of those who walk along it. No Brethren and Sisters, we are assured that the way of life leads only to life, and therefore if we are walking along that Way, arriving at the correct destination is guaranteed!
In the case of Noah, who “prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7), entering into the Ark was his guarantee of salvation. Just so long as he remained in the ark, his salvation from the flood of waters was guaranteed!
The Messiah exhorts us in Luke 12:31-32 to “seek ye the kingdom of Yahweh; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. The fact that the kingdom is being given is something that enables us to “fear not”, and not cower in doubt and uncertainty. It is the Father’s “good pleasure” to give us the kingdom, and so we must trust in faith that it will indeed be given to us. Note, Brethren and Sisters that the Kingdom is always referred to as being ‘given’, never earned. It is only through Yahweh’s wonderful Grace and Mercy that we have this glorious opportunity to be the recipients of the greatest gift that has ever been offered. Who in their right mind would reject such a gift?
The Apostle Paul also speaks of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ as something that is definite and unchanging, look in Rom. 8:35, 38-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of the Messiah? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” … vv 38-39, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, not any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of Yahweh, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
The only thing that can separate us from the love of Yahweh is if we deny Him, and turn back to fulfilling our own lusts and desires. If we choose to leave the narrow way, and walk down the broad way which is more interesting to the flesh. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (Jas. 1:14).
We must be aware that there are many ways by which we can separate ourselves from Him – things like; by following the world as shown through how we present ourselves to it, — that is, do we follow the fashions of the world in dress or personal appearance – things that enhance our individual identity? Do we try and assimilate our lifestyles with the “heroes” of the world whom we worship – sporting identities, entertainment icons and the like, (should we even have such idols?) And Brethren and Sisters there are many, many other ways by which we could be part of the world and not separated from it, as Yahweh desires. Most are becoming, or, sadly, have become, the norm in Ecclesial circles these days, social media has made that very obvious, and one does not have to make any assumptions. If we can see it, we can rest assured that Yahweh and the Elohim are very aware of it as well. Remember the conditions of Hebrews 6:12 “but (be) followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Let it not be said of us what Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:2 – that we believed in vain.
The only thing which can jeopardize our standing before Yahweh is if we choose to be drawn away by our lusts. So long as we stay in the antitypical Ark and remain in the Way of Life, our salvation is absolute, and “guaranteed”. As we already cited from Heb. 6:18-19, truly we have “a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast”.
We come then, each Sunday, to consider the basis of our redemption through our loving Lord Jesus Christ. The promise is given to those who “look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” that he “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body…” as we know from Phil. 3:21. We must therefore lay hold upon the stabilizing Hope set before us, and hold onto it with all diligence, lest we drift away and be lost, for if we do lay hold, our hope is “sure and steadfast’, because we shall be raised by He who is the Resurrection and the Life, to share immortal glory with Him throughout the ages to come. So brethren and sisters, as our brother concludes the chapter, he says; “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of Yahweh, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in Him.”
Surely we must all pray in earnest:
“Even So, Come Lord Jesus”