Death and Resurrection
The Hope of the Resurrection
by: Dean & Susan Wheelock
Hebrew Roots Press
In the preceding chapter we explored the Scriptures pertaining to three common theories concerning death: The Cessation of Life, The Immortality of the Soul and Reincarnation. In that article, we learned that at death the body is consigned to a place called sheol, which is synonymous to the grave, and that the 'soul' is not immortal, but is merely the physical life force which is contained within the living blood. We concluded that death is the cessation of life, and that it takes the individual into a state of unconscious darkness similar to dreamless sleep.
However, it also became apparent that a third element, the spirit in man, is what imparts personality, emotion and intellect to an individual, and that it is man's spirit, given by God, that returns to Him for safe keeping once the body and soul cease to live.
In this chapter we will explore what happens when a dead body is resurrected; how the body is reconstituted, and how the 'spirit,' which was returned to God for safe keeping, is rejoined to the resurrected body causing the once dead individual to live again with all of their memories and faculties. We will also focus on the two resurrections and the two deaths, as well as the judgment which must fall upon all men.
~ What Is Resurrection? ~
The Scriptural method for obtaining the afterlife is through resurrection. This means that the body is reconstituted and given life, either in physical or spiritual form, along with the thoughts, emotions, intellect, and personality of the formerly dead individual. Some teach that only the righteous will receive a resurrected body, while others teach that all men will be resurrected, some to a life of bliss in heaven, others to a life of cruelty in hell.
Two differing beliefs of resurrection are commonly held:
- One belief popular among both Christians and Jews, is that the 'immortal soul' is reunited with the resurrected body and given eternal life.
- A second belief is that the entire person is resurrected; body, soul and spirit. As we will see, this is the view that is most in line with the teachings of the Scriptures.
Resurrection is the reconstitution of the body, where the reactivating of the soul (to bring the body back to life), and the return of the spirit causes the resurrected individual to become similar to his pre-death existence. When the new body is reconstituted as a spirit body, with a spirit soul or life force, then the individual is apparently also capable of manifesting him/herself in a physical manner. This phenomena was shown to us by Y'shua when he appeared to His disciples after His resurrection:
"But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, 'Have you any food here?'
"So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence." (Luke 24:41-43)
~ The Hope of the Resurrection ~
The New Testament is brimming over with scriptures that teach about the resurrection of Y'shua HaMashiach and of the coming resurrection of the dead.
"Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (I Cor. 15:12)
If the Corinthians believed in eternal life, but did not believe in the resurrection, then they may well have held to the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul. This seems to be a logical conclusion, since the Corinthian gentiles were steeped in pagan practices and Greek philosophy. Paul counteracts this doctrine by saying that if there is no resurrection from death, then all those who died have permanently perished and are without hope:
"But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up -- if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." (I Cor. 15:13-19)
Because our hope is in the resurrection, it is our firm belief that those who have "fallen asleep in Christ" (those who have died in Messiah) have not perished forever, rather we believe that their spirit is currently held in the custody of our Father in heaven until that day when He sends His Son to raise the righteous dead and fetch His Bride for a heavenly wedding:
"But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. ...
"But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming." (I Cor. 15:20, 23)
"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. "Therefore comfort one another with these words." (I Thess. 4:13-18)
In the Hebrew Scriptures (especially the Torah), the emphasis is more toward receiving rewards for obedience in this life, rather than in the world to come. However, there are a handful of Scriptures in other portions of the Tanakh (Tah-nahk = Old Testament) which also clearly state that a resurrection of the dead is to take place at some time in the future. For example:
"And He will destroy on this mountain The surface of the covering cast over all people, And the veil that is spread over all nations. "He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken." (Isa. 25:7-8)
This passage is somewhat elusive, but it seems to indicate a universal resurrection to life.
The next passage is a very personal one. Here the prophet Isaiah looks forward to the day of his own resurrection. This verse seems to point to the first resurrection (more on that later), which will be more limited in scope than the second:
"Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead." (Isa. 26:19)
The prophet Daniel is much more explicit about the coming resurrection of the dead:
"'At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.'" (Dan. 12:1-3)
It seems that Job also foresaw an eventual resurrection, although the translators do not agree on exactly what he said. The New King James Version translates as follows:
"For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God." (Job 19:25-26)
Dr. David Stern, in his new translation, The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB), renders this passage differently:
"... so that after my skin has been thus destroyed, then even without my flesh, I will see God." (Job 19:26)
The Jewish Publication Society's (JPS) Tanakh has this rendering:
"But I know that my Vindicator lives; In the end He will testify on earth -- This, after my skin will have been peeled off. But I would behold God while still in my flesh, I myself, not another, would behold Him; Would see with my own eyes: My heart pines within me." (Job 19:25-27)
In the JPS translation it seems as though Job is referring to seeing his 'Vindicator' during his then current physical life, while the NKJV clearly indicates a death and resurrection back to physical life. One thing sure, Job knew he was going to see God at some time in the future, although he (and the translators) may not have understood exactly when or how.
~ First Century Understanding ~
By Y'shua's day it was well established, among the sect of the Pharisees, that the resurrection was an actual coming event. However, the Sadducees only accepted the Torah (first five books of the Bible) as authentic Scripture, so they did not believe in a resurrection, since the Torah nowhere speaks of one. Whether or not they believed in the Immortality of the Soul is not clear, but it is a possibility that some of them may have held that belief, since some of the Sadducees were involved in the Hellenistic practices of the day, and that concept may have worked its way into their belief system. If this were the case, then Paul's hearing before the Sanhedrin takes on additional meaning:
"But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, 'Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!' "And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection -- and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both." (Acts 23:6-8)
Y'shua also addressed this controversy, concerning the resurrection, as recorded in the following passage:
"The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: "'Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.' "Jesus answered and said to them, 'You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.' "And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching." (Matt. 22:23-33)
Once again it looks like a case for the Immortality of the Soul. However, if we believe that the Scriptures do not contradict themselves, then we must take into account that King David (a man after God's own heart and of a status similar to that of the Patriarchs) is both dead and buried:
"Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. ..."'For David did not ascend into the heavens ...'" (Acts 2:29, 34a)
~ Two Deaths ~
The explanation of these seemingly contradicting passages lies in the fact that the Scriptures speak of both two resurrections and two deaths. Currently, the spirits of those who have died are with the Father in heaven, and are in a condition where resurrection is assured, for they have only experienced the first death. In that respect all those who have died could be considered to be 'alive,' in the sense that they have not yet experienced the permanent or second death, even though they are in a state of unconsciousness, i.e., when a person is asleep he is unconscious but is still alive).
However, once a person experiences the second death, resurrection is no longer available to them. God has apparently set a limit, and the first death does not pass that limit, but the second death does. Thus, we see that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, having not experienced the second death, are still eligible for resurrection to eternal life. This would also explain what Y'shua meant when He said:
"'Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.'" (John 8:51)
Y'shua clarifies this verse with another, where He indicates that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are currently residing in sheol awaiting their resurrection:
"'Now even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.'" (Luke 20:37-38)
In other words, to God all those who ever lived are still as though they were alive, because He has the power to resurrect them according to His timing and will.
"That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun." (Eccl. 1:9)
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