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 576 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates and join over 114 subscribers today!

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

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

Recent Posts

Lent, Lament and Lockdown

| 2 days ago | Coronavirus

Lent is a time of self denial and of giving things up, and also a period of lament in the lead up to Easter where we remember the Passion and death of Christ before we celebrated the glorious resurrection.  Often this is a personal affair on the discipline side of things, even if it's a practice shared within your church community, but this year has been so very different. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the whole world has slowly gone into lockdown country by country, creating a strange sort of global “Lent” where everyone is having to practice self control and self denial. This has been underpinned with a sense of lament at the way things were, the way things should be, and all of the things—and people—we've lost.  I don't think it's coincidental that the most isolating part of this pandemic happened during the Lenten season, causing us all, Christian or otherwise, to stop, step back and reflect on life. While it can feel a little gloomy of late with all the isolation and lack of social and religious meetings, we mustn't think that God has abandoned us—likewise we also shouldn't lose faith.   The Bible isn't a stranger to times of lament and distress, and we see it often in the Psalms. At times like this of limited food and resources and job loss, we can probably relate to David when he wrote things like this: Psalms 86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Psalms 102:1-2 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. And such poetic sadness from the book dedicated to lament; Lamentations 3:16-18 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.”   Hope in the face of darkness As we look forward to the end of this pandemic with hope like a light at the end of a tunnel, in the meantime we just learn to live in the darkness as the Apostles did on those gloomy days between the crucifixion and the resurrection; when their world ended but was then reborn better than ever expected! They only had to wait a couple of days to see their hope realised, whereas we have no idea how long this will last. How long will we go without seeing friends and family, meeting up at restaurants or going to church again? Only time will tell, but in the midst of this, we shouldn't worry but rather cling onto the hope of God as the Psalmist did, as the Apostles did and so many others before us.  And in the words of the author of Lamentations: “...the Lord will not reject forever … for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” (Lamentations 3:31,33).  There is always light at the end of darkness if we put our hope in Christ.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)...

Christians and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

| 20th March 2020 | Coronavirus

We currently live in troubled times lately with a lot of uncertainty around us, both locally and globally. But even now as I write this and think on the topic of the virus, one verse in particular springs to mind: Psalm 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deathI fear no evil;for you are with me;your rod and your staff — they comfort me. It does feel a little bit like we are all walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” at the moment! But as the Psalmist says, “I fear no evil” for God is with us and comforts us. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get sick (or die), but that no matter what is happening around us, internally we should be at peace and have a stilled mind; not one filled with worry and hopelessness. John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Not to mention the mandate to not worry about what we’ll eat or wear etc. (Matthew 6:25–34) especially in this time of panic buying where shops are facing food shortages. We must strive to avoid this type of thinking and behaviour, because not only does it not help anyone (and is incredibly selfish), it just causes more panic. As Christians we should keep in mind what God has spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10), and what Paul wrote to Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power” (2 Timothy 1:7). Christians and Plagues Throughout History Disease, plagues and pandemics are not new things in this world. History is replete with sickness and death, the only difference now is that since around the 20th century, modern medicine and vaccines have improved to such a degree that we are fairly well protected against anything on a pandemic, or even an epidemic, level. Sickness is often relegated to a temporary inconvenience during winter, which we can pop pills for; whereas the more serious sickness and death are hidden away in hospitals and care homes out of sight for the most part. Prior to this time, past generations just had to deal with recurring diseases and plagues killing off the populations fairly regularly. Just take a look at this infographic to see the scale and frequency of them! It dates back all the major pandemics to the second century, of which there are about twenty, so that’s just over one global disease per century. As scary as the current times are, this is nothing new, historically speaking. In these past times of plague and disease, many people would flee their towns and cities if they weren’t obviously sick to try and escape the looming deadly virus — but the Christian communities often had the opposite response: they stayed with the sick and dying! In the year 249 AD, a pandemic swept the Roman Empire known as The Plague of Cyprian, named in commemoration of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, as he was a witness to it. At the height of the outbreak, it was thought that around 5,000 people a day were dying, and it almost toppled the Empire. Cyprian wrote about the plague in his On Mortality, describing its symptoms, which some modern historians think could describe a type of Ebola: This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened… As gruesome as that sounds, Cyprian, a couple of chapters later, writes in praise of those who forsook their own well-bei...

Is fasting an expectation for Christians?

| 29th February 2020 | Fasting

The season of Lent is here once again which of course brings up the topic of fasting, since the tradition of Lent comes from following Jesus’ example of his time in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–2). I wasn’t planning on writing anything specific this year like I have previous in previous years, but I felt inspired today at church from one of Gospel readings: Matthew 9:14–15 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Often times when the topic of fasting, or Lent, comes up, people are quick to defend their inaction towards self-denial by claiming that, “Jesus didn’t command us to fast!”. Let’s take a look at that claim for a moment. There may be no chapter and verse you can point to where Jesus says, “Thou shalt fast” — but it was certainly implied in a couple of places when Jesus spoke on the topic, the verse from Matthew above being one of those times, when he finishes off by saying: “and then they will fast” after the “bridegroom” (ie. Jesus) is taken away (death and ascension into heaven). The other time Jesus talks about fasting is a little earlier on in Matthew’s Gospel, in chapter six: Matthew 6:16–18 And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Here we can see that Jesus clearly speaks with the expectation that his followers will fast and even gives instructions and guidance on how to do so and how to avoid being lumped together with the “hypocrites” (sometimes translated as Pharisees). When Jesus tells us how to fast and when it will be appropriate, he was making sure to raise the bar again as he did with many things he taught on. As the Jewish leaders would fast in an obvious way to make sure that everyone could witness their apparent piety, Jesus was telling his followers to go about the business like normal; to get up, have a wash and not look miserable in their hunger. Reading past the Gospels and into Acts and the Epistles, we begin to see how the Apostles and other early believers took Jesus seriously and did begin to fast once the “bridegroom” has been taken away from them. In Acts, the Church was fasting and praying when making decisions about missionary work and who to send (Acts 13:2–3), before appointing leaders (Acts 14:23) and oftentimes fasting preceded receiving visions from God, which we see in both Old and New Testaments (Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17). Fasting was also used for various other needs people wanted from God, like petitioning for answers in prayer, for protection, forgiveness or simply for humbling yourself (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 1:4; 9:1; Esther 4:3; Psalm 35:13; 69:10; Daniel 9:3; Joel 2:12; Zechariah 8:18–19). As you can see, fasting has a long and active tradition within Judaism, which passed on into Christianity quite naturally. During Second Temple Judaism, biweekly fasts were a common practice amongst Jews (see Luke 18:12 for a brief mention of it), and this is what Jesus would have been targeting in his teaching in Matt. 6. A late first century text from the early church, called The Didache (which was a sort of “church handbook”), expands on this teaching of Jesus and demonstrates to us how the earliest believers understood this and carried on the practice of fasting, taking the familiar model they were used to in Judaism, and reshaping it: But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast...

Losing a Loved One: A Few Ways to Find Solace

| 29th January 2020 | Death

This week I have a guest post by Lucille Rosetti from thebereaved.org looking at the hard topic of death. As Christians we shouldn't fear death, and ought to look on it with a paradoxical hope, since we know that through Christ death has lost its "sting" (1 Cor 15:55-57) and that we look forward to the Resurrection and life to come. But even with that in mind, the physical and earthly loss is still hard and something we need to process and deal with, and the following guest post aims to help with the practical side of loss which still needs to be dealt with. Leave your thoughts in the comments! Losing a loved one is difficult. It always comes as a shock and requires you to set aside some time to properly grieve your loss. In addition to dealing with your emotional responses to the loss, there are many important decisions to make after the fact. The advice below may be a good starting point for those who need to figure out their next steps. Logistical Matters There are important logistical matters to take care of after someone passes away. Finding their important documents such as a Social Security card, will, or military discharge papers takes precedent. These can let you know if there were special instructions, tax obligations, benefits, and if the deceased wanted to be an organ donor. Make sure pets are taken care of, and locate a legal guardian if there are children who survive the deceased. If your loved one made an arrangement with a funeral home in the past, they may be able to assist with legal matters, especially if your loved one died at home; contact a funeral home if nothing has been arranged. Finally, notify credit reporting agencies so they can look out for possible fraud on the Social Security number and credit cards of the deceased. Sorting Through Possessions After a loss, it’s normal to become emotionally attached to items that belonged to the person who passed away. In fact, some people may feel they will lose more memories and parts of the deceased as they sort through items. It’s possible to make healthy decisions about this while still honoring the memory of the person you dearly loved. First, read the will of the deceased, if one exists. If there isn’t one, an estate lawyer and accountant may be able to help you deal with valuable possessions, an estate, and other legal matters.  Professionals, such as experts in bereavement cleanouts can provide support and advice as well. You can also take care of these things yourself. It’s wise to give yourself ample time to sort through things. Create a plan for which rooms you will clean on which days, and sort items based on these four criteria: toss, donate, keep, or sell. Reconsider switching items from a given pile as needed. Put paperwork and documents in a separate pile so you won’t miss any possible instructions or important notices. Clean every spot thoroughly. Over the years, your loved ones may have lost valuable pieces of jewelry that can be split up amongst the family. Selling Your Home According to Cancer.net, experts suggest waiting at least a year to make major life changes, such as changing jobs or moving. Of course, you know your situation best, and there may be specific reasons why you’d like to move sooner. Preparing paperwork is crucial to selling your home with the least amount of stress possible.  Gather documents and organize them in folders so you can easily look through them. Items to include in your folders are tax records and information, maintenance and home repair records, documents on appraisal of your home when you bought it and of appraisals performed afterward, mortgage details, home insurance records, property survey, certificates stating you comply with local zoning regulations or codes, and the sales contract created when you originally bought your house. Don’t forget to submit your original deed, which acts as proof that you own your home. It’s possible to obtain a certified copy for your local re...