What with Easter still ringing in our ears, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of resurrection, but from a historical standpoint and why we can trust it as a real, world-changing event. So, what really is the resurrection? How will we be resurrected, and what does it mean for us that Jesus rose again? Let’s explore what this means for us as Christians, and see what the Scriptures say.

Jesus was raised bodily – and historically

Let’s look at the way Jesus was resurrected first, since he is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-23).

The historical, bodily resurrection of Christ is central to our faith. Without it, we may as well pack up and go home, which Paul makes clear to the Corinthian church:

1 Corinthians 15:12-15

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

I saw a survey recently about this very topic, which suggested that a worrying amount of self-identifying Christians in Britain don’t believe that the resurrection of Jesus happened at all!

Fewer than one-in-three Christians in Britain believe “word-for-word” the Biblical story of Jesus rising from the dead … A survey for the BBC carried out to mark Palm Sunday found that 23 per cent of those calling themselves Christians “do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” at all. [Source: telegraph.co.uk]

The resurrection is what makes Christianity unique!

Advertisement

Despite the misinformation that circulates on the internet, Jesus isn’t just a carbon-copy of previous “dying and rising gods” from Egypt and Greece – mainly because none pre-date Christianity!

The consensus among modern scholars — nearly universal — is that there were no dying and rising gods that preceded Christianity. They all post-dated the first century. [Source: y-jesus.com]

It’s this uniqueness and reality which impacts our lives and changes us from within, because the “Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells” in us (Rom 8:11)! Think about that for a moment. The power that raised Christ from the dead – that incredible force of God; the very life giving Spirit of the universe, dwells in US!

Christians might do all those [good works], but that is not the core of their faith. It is the result of their faith. They do those things as the musician plays music or the athlete plays his sport. They do those things because they are talented and it gives them joy. So the Christian does these good things because he has been filled with the Spirit of the risen Jesus Christ and he does those things with joy because he wants to. [Source: patheos.com]

Advertisement

Recently, the Shroud of Turin has been in the news again, as it has been recently authenticated again, which shows that it may not be a medieval forgery or piece of art! If you’ve not heard of this “Shroud of Turin”, it’s an ancient burial cloth which bears the image of a man who has been crucified, obviously meaning to be of Jesus. It attracts attention because of its unique nature and that it appears to be a negative image somehow imprinted on the cloth in an inexplicable way:

Giulio Fanti of Padua University ... In 2012 … concluded that an electrical charge in the form of radiation is what likely caused the man’s image to be imprinted on the Shroud. He has also dated the Shroud to the time of Jesus, debunking the flawed carbon-14 testing conducted in 1988.

You can read more about the recent study and its results here: nationalreview.com.

Now obviously, the truth of the resurrection doesn't rely on the Shroud’s authenticity; but if the Shroud is authentic, then it just adds further weight to what Christianity proclaims.

Advertisement

Imagine the level of power that must have happened to make something like that, and that is the same Spirit which lives in us! Just think about it, the death of Jesus caused an earthquake across all of Jerusalem, how much more power was there in the life of God coming back in resurrection? Maybe a similar process of how “nuclear shadows” were created? It’s speculation, but it’s definitely interesting.

Evidence from Paul

Paul talks a lot about Jesus in a spiritual, post-resurrection way; but he does give us a couple of references to the historic Jesus too. In his letter to the Corinth church there is one such example of what happened after the resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

(v.6) “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.”

Advertisement

After a quick run-down of the Gospel and how Jesus rose again, Paul highlights a little tidbit of info which is him basically saying, “if you don’t believe me, you can go an ask those people!” He’s saying, “don’t just take my word for it”, because there are living witnesses all over the place who can testify to this fact, not just the small group of Apostles.

Aside from this, Paul’s own life and testimony is a pretty solid proof of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul was taught by the best, had a high position, well respected etc. (Acts 22:3 cf. Acts 5:34; Phil 3:4-6; 2 Cor 11:22); basically he was living the life – and then decided to throw all of that away and endure shipwrecks, beatings, lashings, torture, stoning, hunger and homelessness (see 2 Cor 11:23-27 for the full run-down of Paul’s sufferings!), just for something that may or may not have happened, a convincing story or fable?

No, Paul met the real, risen Christ, and it threw his old life out of the window!

The mystery of the resurrection

We get a small glimpse into the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection from Peter and Paul in their letters where Peter explains that Jesus “went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:18-19) – “prison” being the place of the dead for those people from times of old who had died. Paul also, in his letter to the Ephesians, follows up on this same event when he says that Jesus, “who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things” and that in doing so “he made captivity itself a captive” (Eph 4: 8-10).

Advertisement

Death itself is captive to Jesus because he holds the keys to Death and Hades (Rev 1:18), and dare I say, this moment when the Light of the World went down into the shadowy darkness of Sheol, it was possibly the first and last time there was ever any light in that gloomy place!

Ignatius gives us an early insight into the understanding of this descending and rising out of that “prison” Hades (or Sheol in Hebrew), by linking it to the event in Mat 27:52 –

“For Says the Scripture, ‘Many bodies of the saints that slept arose,’ their graves being opened.  He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a multitude” – Ignatius to the Trallians, ch. IX

The nature of the resurrection

Firstly, the resurrection is spiritual.

Advertisement

Though spiritual isn’t the only type of resurrection taught in the New Testament, many people think that’s it’s purely a physical act only.

Many times in Scripture when speaking of baptism, it is used and described as a symbolic act of dying and being raised with Christ into a new creation, despite keeping our “old” bodies in the meantime (see Col 2:12; Col 3:1; Eph 2:5-6; Rom 6:4). This, I believe, is why there was such an emphasis on the importance of baptism in the early Church, and why it’s something sacred we should also highly esteem and not take lightly.

While these verses (and many others) make it clear that through baptism we die to our old selves and are raised anew in Christ, we must also understand that this prefigures our future resurrection when we finally “put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:53-54). Though we will eventually die physically in the body, we won't die at all because death is defeated and it has no sting nor power over us!

In ancient times (and probably still today) accepting the resurrection of Jesus, and our future selves, was a major sticking point for new converts, or those interested in the faith. Even the Jewish leaders couldn’t agree in on this let alone Gentiles! Resurrection was a totally new concept to expect to receive personally, or to happen at all; even the Jewish sect of the Sadducees didn’t believe it – just see Acts 23:8 for that.

Advertisement

Paul spends quite some time on the resurrection and explaining what it means and how it will be, though it is a topic that will always be limited by our human understanding. This is why the nature of the resurrection is always contrasted with the putting on of new clothes or in building a new tent, or the sowing of seeds. Even if you don’t have a farming background, it’s still easy to understand the concept of what is being said here in terms of our physical, mortal body being removed like an outer garment, and being replaced with something better (1 Cor 15:44; 2 Cor 5:1-2).

It is quite rightly a mystery, as Paul says!

Justin Martyr gives a good analogy in his great work, First Apology, when trying to explain this concept of the resurrection to a Roman emperor, and contrasts it with “human seed” (ie. sperm);

[If I] were to show you human seed and a picture of a man, and were to say with confidence that from such a substance such a being could be produced, would you believe before you saw the actual production?

– St. Justin Martyr: First Apology

Basically, if you’d never known human growth, and someone showed you a drop of fluid and a photo of an adult and said one produced the other, would you believe it if you hadn’t already witnessed it to be true? In the same way then, the resurrection happens, and it can only be accepted by those who are willing to believe something which seems impossible, but will “in God's appointed time, rise again and put on incorruption”.

The resurrection is more than physical

I prefer to use the word “glorified” with regards to our resurrection because saying “physical” just isn't adequate enough to describe the mystery of what our bodies become.

Our new bodies will be similar to our current physical bodies, but not the same – not limited like our earthly bodies are; in the same way Jesus was changed, we too shall also be transformed “into the likeness of His glorious body” (Phil 3:21)!

Advertisement

In the same way that spiritual beings such as angels can become “physical” in appearance, they aren't the same as we are now. Much like when Jesus ascended to the Father and later appeared to his disciples, he was no longer the same human Jesus they once knew (2 Cor 5:16).

Despite eating and drinking (Luke 24:39-43) and seeming the same as before, he now appeared in their midst behind locked doors (John 20:19); travelled with people in an unrecognisable form – or could control other’s perceptions of him until required (Luke 24:15-16), and the could also disappear in the blink of an eye (Luke 24:31)!

Christ was raised physically, initially, but then his body was different. Glorified, not human.

Origen captures this concept well in his book Contra Celsus;

“After his resurrection, Christ existed in an intermediate state, as it were. For it was somewhere between the physicalness of the body He had before his sufferings and the appearance of a soul uncovered by such a body. It was for this reason that … Jesus came and stood in [the disciples] midst, even though the doors were shut.”

– Origen, Contra Celsus, Book II, ch.62

 

So what is the resurrection? It is a mystery of something which is deeply spiritual, yet also joined in the flesh of renewed bodies. It is hope for our future and peace over death, and encouragement for those who have had people they love die (1 Thess 4:13-14).

Advertisement

It is something we can rejoice in now through our baptism and new spiritual life in Christ by his Spirit within us, which makes us a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).

It is strange co-joining of this world and the heavenly realms where, despite still being in our tarnished flesh, we are also seated with Christ up high (Eph 2:6), waiting until the day in which we finally put on immortality and join our Lord in a restored creation.

Amen!

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 356 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

40 Days with the Fathers: Companion Texts OUT NOW!

| 08th May 2019 | Early Church

40 Days with the Fathers: Companion Texts is now available to buy as Paperback or Kindle! I am happy to say that the new book is now available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon! Other eBook formats will be available soon as it rolls out. This book is the companion to my other book (40 Days with the Fathers: A Daily Reading Plan), and includes twenty-three Early Church texts in full—including all additional footnotes from the original editors and translators so that you can get as close as possible to reading these ancient texts without needing to know ancient Greek or Latin. It's structured in such a way to read a chapter a day over a 40 day period which will help digest these long texts, and also serve as an easy introduction to what is often the more scholarly/academic side of things. Order your copy today to get the Paperback at the special low price of £19.99 (RRP: £21.99)! In the UK? Go to Amazon.co.uk In America or worldwide? Go to Amazon.com Thank you for your interest and support of my work! Luke J. Wilson...

40 Days with the Fathers: Source Texts Companion Book

| 02nd March 2019 | My Books

Available soon will be a companion book that will include all of the source texts in full, which I had hoped to get out in time for Lent, but it’s unlikely to be ready in time this year. So if you have my book and would like to read along each day with the Church Fathers as well, I’ve compiled a list of online sources where you can read the original texts. If you don’t have the book and would like it, you can order it now from Amazon and still get it in time for Lent by clicking the following link: Amazon.com; or if you would like to pledge some support towards my book writing in return for some nice perks, you can do so on my Patreon page: https://patreon.com/LukeJWilson. If you would like to be notified of the release of the new Companion Book, you can sign up to the mailing list at the top of the homepage at https://fortydays.co.uk.  Day One: The Didache http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm Day Two & Three: Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0101.htm Day Four: Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0136.htm Day Five: Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0104.htm Day Six: Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0105.htm Day Seven: Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0106.htm Day Eight: Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0107.htm Day Nine: Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0108.htm Day Ten: Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrnæans http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm Day Eleven: Epistle to Polycarp http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0110.htm Day Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen: Justin Martyr, First Apology http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm Day Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty: Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050701.htm Day Twenty-one to Twenty-nine: Athanasius, Life of Anthony http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2811.htm Day Thirty: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XIX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310119.htm Day Thirty-one: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310120.htm Day Thirty-two: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXI http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310121.htm Day Thirty-three: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310122.htm Day Thirty-four: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXIII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310123.htm Day Thirty-five, Thirty-six: Ambrose of Milan, Concerning the Mysteries http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3405.htm Day Thirty-seven: Leo the Great, Letter XXVIII (the Tome) http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3604028.htm Day Thirty-eight: Leo the Great, Sermon XXI http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360321.htm Day Thirty-nine: Leo the Great, Sermon XLIX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360349.htm Day Forty: Leo the Great, Sermon LXXII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360372.htm ...

The Reformation: A Sound-Bite History (Book Review)

| 14th February 2019 | Book Review

This short little book on the Reformation and some of the leading men who helped to kick-start it and continue to fan its flames has been very enjoyable to read. It really is a “sound bite history” as the chapters are short and snappy, and really only cover the absolute basics of each of the Reformers lives. The book has seven chapters, with six of them dedicated to an individual who had a pivotal role in the beginnings of the Reformation: Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, John Huss, John Calvin, Hugh Latimer and George Whitefield. The Reformation:A Sound-bite History I found it to be very educational and easy to read and digest; gleaning just enough information to be easily remembered without it feeling like a heavy and dull historical study. Though, it being written by someone who is a Baptist, if you're well read enough in church history you will likely notice some of the Baptist bias towards certain doctrines that are mentioned as being held by some of the Reformers which grate against typical Baptist views. For example, the frequent implication that anyone who still held to some form of “real presence” in the Eucharist hadn't come to the 'pure Gospel truth' yet (despite this being consistent with historical Christianity prior to the Roman Catholic Church’s specific doctrine of transubstantiation). "Widespread ignorance of church history of one reason why the church often falls into errors which it has fallen into before." But aside from those minor issues, the book did well to not feel like it was pushing a certain viewpoint on you and was just trying to give a decent overview of the historical settings and people involved. Well worth a read, whether you are a Protestant OR a Roman Catholic! I gave this book four stars.  Buy the book here....

Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up (Book Review)

| 30th January 2019 | Book Review

Straight off, this book will challenge you in your thinking and quite possibly in your practice and outworking of life as a Christian—especially if you are from an evangelical/Baptist/non-denominational background. Will the Real HereticsPlease Stand Up The book starts of taking you carefully through some of the practices and beliefs of the early church and those who knew the Apostles personally. It all feels very hopeful and like you're being led onward in a journey towards a certain goal, much of which I'm sure you'll find agreeable in what Bercot points out as discrepancies between early Christianity and today. Then we get to a few points about the Reformation. Some of the critique I think was a little harsh and not necessarily accurate, painting a fairly negative picture of Martin Luther. Some of the points raised were a fair statement against some of the doctrine and theology that came out of the Reformation period (such as Luther being heavily influenced by Augustine's theology more than earlier church fathers). After the high of the first few chapters, these chapters came as a bit of a punch in the gut. I would also recommend looking up all of Bercot's claims as there does sometimes seem like there is a strong bias of opinion coming through certain chapters, which takes away from the feel of the book trying to give an objective look at the topic at hand. But that aside, Bercot leads you back on this journey, aiming to uplift you once again with hope as he takes you towards a positive look at the Anabaptists. I knew before reading the book that Bercot is an Anabaptist himself, so I was wary that this book might just end up being advertisement for that denominational group as the new modern answer for getting back to early Christian practices. Whilst there are positive points made for the early Anabaptist movement being as close as possible to the early second century church, Bercot isn't shy to criticise the group in its modern form as having lost their zeal and passion for the Gospel. After trying to re-inspire you with the hope that it is somewhat possible to restore early Christianity, as the Anabaptists did, before the Church “married itself to the world” as Bercot claims (and I agree with), he finishes off by asking the reader the question of “what now?” and whether we restore the Church to its former glory. Bercot seems to believe so if only the Church would return to simplicity of holiness and pick up its cross and revolutionary banners again “from where the early martyrs left them”. This book is definitely a call to arms in the holiest sense; a call for us all to re-examine ourselves and our churches to see if what were living, believing and practicing is still in line with the New Testament church which the early Christmas bore witness to. Well worth the read for anyone who takes their faith seriously. Buy the book here. Bonus: Francis Chan's "Letters to the Church" Letters to the Church I've also just finished reading this book by Francis Chan before starting Real Heretics. Although it's not dealing with the Early Church aspect of looking at the primitive Church, it still looks at similar questions of how can we get back to a simpler, more pure faith that the Apostles and Jesus began. It's definitely a challenging book and had struck me right where I needed it to. It's helped verbalise some of the questions and issues I've had for the last few years myself any the current form and format of "church". Though Chan is primarily speaking to an American Evangelical audience, much of his points and criticisms still speak well to my British/UK Evangelical experience. If you've felt disgruntled or at odds with how we "do" church in some places, this book may well inspire you to see things differently and to maybe even enact some changes yourself in your local community — even more so if you are a local church leader in some capacity. Well worth the read, and works well to read befo...