New Year, New Creation Pt. 3: Resurrection

February 14, 2020.

Welcome back to the New Year, New Creation series. Although this is not the final post I have planned, I do think this one is the most important in terms of theology as it is about the central tenet of the Christian faith. So, if you don’t read any other posts in this series, I encourage you to read this one. That being said, if you missed part 1 or part 2 and would like to read them, they will provide an overview and background for the series. Here we will explore the concept of resurrection as it relates to the narrative of scripture, Jesus and the Christian hope. I think the topic of resurrection is often misunderstood in discussions of salvation and the afterlife. As we will see, resurrection has definite implications about the future hope, and it paints a very different picture than the (modern) traditional view of heaven. However, as we have seen previously, it ties together the whole storyline of the Bible.

1. You are not a soul. You are body+soul.

There is a quote that is often inaccurately attributed to C.S. Lewis that says, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”[1] Wherever this quote actually originated, it did not come from the Bible. In fact, the concept that our bodies are just a temporary dwelling for our soul which will be released (or ‘freed’) at death runs against the entire notion of personhood in ancient Jewish thought. The Jewish idea of what constituted being human was not fundamentally an inner ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’, but rather the joint of spirit and body.[2] Mankind was always intended to have a bodily life; this is why we see Adam and Eve in the garden as fully embodied beings. Remember, this is before sin and before the curse. This was the intended mode of being, instituted by God. Man ‘became a living being’ when God combined the body and the spirit of life together (Gen. 2:7).

The Hebrew word that is translated ‘soul’ in English is the word ‘Nephesh’.[3] ‘Soul’ is somewhat of an unfortunate translation, as our modern definition of ‘soul’ does not truly convey the meaning of ‘Nephesh’. ‘Nephesh’ does not refer to an inner, non-material part of you that lives on after death of the physical body, but it has a closer meaning to your essence, or your whole physical being. It is often translated as ‘life’, ‘heart’, ‘person’, ‘body’, ‘heart’ or even ‘me’ (for a much better explanation of ‘Nephesh’, see footnote 3). In fact, ‘nephesh’ is not limited to humans in scripture, but is also used to describe animals. We see this even in the opening verses of scripture:

“And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living [nephesh] creatures , and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.’ So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature [nephesh] that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
(Genesis 1:20-21)

This is also illustrated in the book of Proverbs:

“Whoever is righteous has regard for the life [nephesh] of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
(Proverbs 12:10)

Often in the Old Testament, the word ‘Nephesh’ is used in the phrase, “they seek my life [nephesh]”, in the context of someone trying to kill the speaker. Obviously, if the ‘soul’ is the inner, immortal part of you, no one can kill it in this sense. When Ruben stops his brothers from killing Joseph, he says, “Don’t strike his [nephesh]”. In the New Testament, the corresponding word for ‘soul’ is the Greek word ‘psuche’. Here too we can see that this word does not refer to what we would think of as a ‘soul’; take, for instance, the words of Jesus:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life [psuche], what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life [psuche] more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
(Matthew 6:25)

The word translated ‘life’ in this passage is the same word that is often translated ‘soul’ in the passages that might be very familiar to us. Yet here we see that the word clearly has to do with the physical, eating and drinking, even as Jesus is saying that there is more (but not less) to it than just that. Similarly, another familiar passage that might surprise us as having the word for ‘soul’ in it is in Matthew 10, where Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life [psuche] will lose it, and whoever loses his life [psuche] for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39) We see here that the translators are making a choice based on the modern definition of the word ‘soul’, and translating it as ‘life’ here instead. This makes sense, as Jesus telling his disciples that they must lose their soul, in the modern definition, doesn’t make any sense. However, most translations choose ‘soul’ instead of ‘life’ in the verses that come just before this verse:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [psuche]. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul [psuche] and body in hell.”
(Matthew 10:28)

I think you can see why they would choose ‘soul’ here instead of ‘life’. But the point remains, it is the same word in Greek. This is because the modern definition of ‘soul’ simply doesn’t fit the concepts of ‘nephesh’ and ‘psuche’. Notice Jesus’ emphasis here. He does not say, “fear the one who can destroy the soul in hell,” as we might expect as modern readers. Instead, He tells His disciples to fear the one who has the power to destroy “both soul and body”. Our essence isn’t just our spirit. We are meant for embodied life, and we are not complete without a physical existence. In fact, in one of the only images we get of God’s people in heaven, they are not happy/satisfied, but longing for the day of the Lord to come to avenge them: “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10)

With just these verses we can start to see that the Hebrew and Greek terms for ‘soul’ does not map on to the English word ‘soul’ very well. So, where did we get our notion of the soul being the inner, disembodied, spirit-like part of us (and perhaps the most important part of us, or our true self)? It comes from Greek philosophy, particularly from Plato.[4] Plato posited that there was a separation between our bodies and our soul, the visible and invisible. This is referred to as Platonic Dualism. This idea heavily influenced the Gnostics in the early church[5], as they argued that the body was bad, even to the point where they denied that Jesus took on human flesh. Though Gnosticism was rejected by the early church, Western culture has been shaped by and is deeply indebted to Greek thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle, and this type of dualism has survived. Today it is arguably the dominant philosophy in modern Christianity, though I think this is changing. However, this dualism is foreign to scripture.

There is much more to say about this, but there is no time to do so here.[6] I highly encourage you to check out the footnotes for more on this topic, as I have relied heavily on them and they explain this in a much better and more thorough manner. This is the point I am making: In biblical theology, creation is good. We were created for physical existence. If the opening quote had stopped after the second sentence, it would accord rather well to scripture: “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. [Period.]” We are not a soul trapped in a body, trying to escape.[7] Death is not our friend. Rather, death is the enemy.

2. Death is the enemy.

“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death”
(I Corinthians 15:24-26)

There are many times that I hear or see people treat death as a welcome friend. I understand this sentiment, as often this life brings much pain and suffering and death can be seen as a release. Paul himself seems to be echoing this idea in Philippians 1:18-26, especially when he says “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” However, we must not miss the big picture when we are looking at just a part of the whole. In I Corinthians 15, which we will be looking at a lot in the rest of this series, Paul clearly paints death as the enemy. When he does this, he is drawing on the firm Jewish/Hebrew worldview which we have been discussing throughout this series. Again, let us emphasize that the opening chapters of Genesis emphatically states that creation is good. What is the warning in the beginning?

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
(Genesis 2:16-17)

Adam was told not to eat the fruit because it’s consequence would be death. As the story unfolds, we see that the humans choose to rebel and eat the fruit, which does lead to their exile and death. Paul picks up this thought in Romans 5, emphasizing that sin brought death into the world. This is obviously seen as a bad thing. In fact, Paul goes on to say that “the wages of sin is death”, linking the two as a logical progression. James echos this in James 1:15, stating that the ultimate consequence of sin is death. So, in a very real sense, one of the reasons that sin is bad is because it brings death. This is not surprising, of course, as this is standard Christian teaching. What is surprising, however, is the sometimes high view of death.

Death is almost always portrayed as bad in the Old Testament. Even though we find very little about an afterlife in the Old Testament, when the topic of the afterlife is brought up, it is often a dismal view at best. This is exemplified in Ecclesiastes:

“So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.

As it is with the good,
  so with the sinful;
as it is with those who take oaths,
  so with those who are afraid to take them.

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

For the living know that they will die,
  but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
  and even their name is forgotten.
Their love, their hate
  and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
  in anything that happens under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 9:1-6)

If that was all we were given in scripture about the afterlife, I doubt many of us would be very excited to die. Earlier in the book, the wise man doesn’t even see a difference between men and animals, for they both die and no one can tell him if the dead human fares any better than the dead animal (Ecc. 3:18-21).

Death is often referred to as ‘Sheol’ in the Old Testament, a term that can mean ‘the grave’, but has more depth to it than just being buried in the ground. Sheol was a vague, shadowy world of existence (if you could call it that). The concept of an afterlife in Jewish thought that we might begin to recognize today was developed during the second temple period when the Jews reflected on their situation, scriptures and future hope. This is why we see a much more nuanced picture of the afterlife in the New Testament. However, even in the New Testament, the picture of the future hope, as we have seen, is not focused on what happens after death, but rather on what happens after the resurrection. The concept of a final resurrection of all people (or at least the people of God) on the day of the Lord was a peculiarly second temple Jewish idea, especially among certain groups such as the Pharisees (see Acts. 23:8).

This belief had antecedents in the Old Testament (i.e., Exodus 3:6-7, Ez. 37:11-14, Job 19:25-27), which is how the second temple Jews developed the idea, but they are not nearly as clear as the picture that developed during the second temple period. Perhaps the two clearest passages in the Old Testament are found in Isaiah and Daniel (two books that held particular influence on messianic Judaism in the first century):

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.
(Isaiah 26:19)

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”
(Daniel 12:2)

When discussing resurrection in the Old Testament, these two passages are bound to come up, for they are two of the clearest indications of the concept of resurrection in the Old Testament. In the first, only the righteous are indicated as rising in the end to live again in the body. However, in the second we have the most emphatic statement about the resurrection of all people at the last day. It is these two passages that lead the reflection and development of a robust view of the afterlife during the Second Temple period.

But the important question for this section is: Why did the Jews develop this concept of final resurrection when the idea of resurrection was held in very low esteem by everyone around them (see next section)? The answer comes from Jewish theology. If the creation is inherently good, the human person is both soul and body combined and death was a deviation from the original plan of God, then the background is set to see that the ultimate salvation and redemption from God would be to undo death and set us back on track with the original intent. Death is not a friend, but rather a consequence of the fall. Death is not what God wants for His people. Death, in some sense, is brought about through the powers of evil. Death is the enemy. And defeating the enemy cannot be the same thing as affirming it.

Thus when John gives us a picture of the end, we see that death itself dies:

“And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
(Revelation 20: 13-14)

3. ‘Resurrection’ had a definite meaning in the first century, and it was as foreign then as it is now.

Before we move on to the resurrection of Jesus, I want to briefly discuss the concept of resurrection in the wider Greco-Roman culture and its implications/insights.[8] Though the concept of resurrection might seem quite natural to us because of the Christian heritage of the west, this was certainly not always the case. In fact, the wider culture of the first century (and before), the concept of resurrection was laughable. The Greeks and Romans were heavily influenced by major writers and philosophers of the day such as Homer, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc. (or, I guess you could make the argument that these writers and thinkers were just a manifestation of the general cultural thought- the truth is probably somewhere in between). Though they were well aware of and understood the concept of bodily resurrection, they did not believe that it was possible.

Sometimes I think we have a very low view of ancient thought, probably because we’ve bought a little bit into the myth of progress that says that history is ever progressing to better and better ideals and heights, and thus we are at the pinnacle of knowledge and ethics.[9] However, I think we need to give ancient people more credit than we do- they weren’t stupid. They might not have had all the knowledge and technology that we have today, but they knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that when someone dies, they don’t get back up again. This has been true for all humanity, and it is foolish to think that since they were living in a time when ‘superstition’ seemed to be higher than it is today[10] that this would lead them to believe that dead people could live again. History had shown them time and again that this was demonstrably false.

Further, we know for a fact that at least the leading players in shaping Greco-Roman thought denied that resurrection was a reality. Either they believed that it couldn’t happen (cf. Homer) or even if it could, no one in their right mind would want it to since the goal was to escape from this body and this world (cf. Plato). For a full defense of this using primary literature, see footnote eight. Death left no hope of future life, as the soul would go on eternally in a place of shadows, or some other concept of a different realm. Though there was variation in the beliefs about the afterlife, there was a general unanimous consensus from the ancient world (outside of some Jewish thought) that death was final. Everyone (or at least almost everyone) believed in the immortality of the soul. The concept of bodily resurrection had a firm and definite meaning in the first century. It was simply that it was almost universally viewed as a bad thing, if it was even possible.

The fact that most of the world rejected the validity of resurrection actually explains some things that happen in Acts (and in Paul’s letters) that might be hard for us to understand. Take, for instance, when Paul is addressing the (largely Greek) people of Athens in Acts 17. In verse 32 we read,” Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” They were listening to the point where he brought up resurrection. Then some mock (because resurrection was a ridiculous concept to them) whereas others were intrigued (presumably because none of their philosophers had actually advocated resurrection). In Acts 23 when Paul is defending himself to his fellow Jews, the concept of resurrection caused a huge division and clamor between the Sadducees (who had aligned more with Grecco-Roman thought, and thus denied resurrection) and the Pharisees (who, as we have seen, actually believed in a final resurrection of all people). The contention became so heated that violence broke out. And finally, we see that it is this prevailing thought in the Grecco-Roman world (namely, that resurrection does not, or even cannot, happen) that led some of the Corinthians to deny resurrection in I Corinthians 15:

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
(I Corinthians 15:12)

We will discuss Paul’s response to this in point five. For now, suffice it to say that when people in the first century heard the term ‘resurrection’, they understood this term to be real, bodily resurrection (cf. John 20:24-29). And many people thought that this was a completely ridiculous thought.

4. Jesus is the model for the resurrection body.

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
(I Corinthians 15:20-23)

When we think about the afterlife and the hope of salvation, we need to look to the one on whom this hope is built. Paul tells us that “Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This means that he is the first example of a coming resurrection of all people. Remember that most in the ancient world did not believe that resurrection could happen, and the only people (a particular sect of Jews) who seem to have believed in resurrection believed only that it would happen to all people at the coming day of the Lord (cf. Dan. 12:1-4). Jesus’ resurrection does not fit either of those molds. However, Paul does take Jesus’ resurrection as an affirmation of the coming final resurrection, where Jesus is the model of those who will be raised in the end. Thus, it follows that Jesus’ body is the model of what our resurrection bodies will be like.[11] I think this is made explicitly clear in his letter to the Phillippians.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
(Philippians 3:20-21)

Our lowly bodies will be transformed to be like his glorious body.[12] This is probably not a groundbreaking idea, especially since pretty much the whole of Christianity is built on the resurrection of Jesus (see next point). However, what might be paradigm-shifting for those of us who hold the (modern) traditional view of heaven as a far away, disembodied dwelling is the actual nature of Jesus’ resurrected body. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he was not a spirit (see previous point about the definition of ‘resurrection’). In fact, the New Testament authors seem to go out of their way to emphatically state this to be the case. This is perhaps most clearly stated in Luke:

“As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 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.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”
(Luke 24:36-43)

Jesus himself makes the claim that he is not a spirit, but rather he has a real, physical body. And as if to make the point abundantly clear, he asks the disciples for food and ate in their presence. Disembodied spirits do not eat. Why is this important? In early Christianity, it was likely important because there were hints of proto-Gnosticism that were beginning to emerge, making the claim that Jesus wasn’t physical in some way (because in gnostic ideology, the physical is bad- note how this contrasts with the biblical theology that creation is good; cf. I John 1:1-4 and John 20:24-29). But for us, it is important to show us what the resurrection will be like and give us hope for the future.

“But wait!” you might say, “Jesus’ resurrection body isn’t like our body! He can materialize, change his appearance and pass through walls! And doesn’t Paul say we will have a spiritual body and not a natural body? Doesn’t he say that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God?” Great questions, I’m glad you asked!

Yes, Jesus’ body is not like our bodies as they are now. And that’s the point. In the Philippians passage quoted above, we see that Jesus has a ‘glorified’ body. In the accounts of his resurrection, we do in fact see that Jesus can do things that our current bodies cannot do (such as pass through closed doors, John 20:19-23). I am not making the point that the bodies we have now will be the same as our resurrected bodies. If that were the case, how could we be transformed? No, the point I am making is that the bodies that we will have, whatever they might entail, will be physical, just as Jesus’ resurrection body was physical.[13] Jesus’ resurrection is the model for our resurrection.

And yes, Paul does say we will have a ‘spiritual’ body, and that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Again, I am not denying these premises. However, when we as modern readers see the adjective ‘spiritual’, we tend to get the wrong idea. ‘Spiritual’ does not mean ‘immaterial’ here. There are other Greek words that convey the ideas of material versus immaterial. ‘Spiritual’ is not the opposite of ‘physical’. In fact, Paul does not even contrast ‘spiritual’ with ‘physical’. He contrasts ‘spiritual’ with ‘natural’. This is not the first time he has made this contrast even in this letter:

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “
(I Corinthians 2:14-15)

Now, I would hope you wouldn’t interpret this verse to be saying that all spiritual people are disembodied spirits. Rather, something else is going on here. When Paul uses the adjective ‘spiritual’, he is speaking of what animates the body, not the physical substance of the body.[14] The natural man is animated by the natural, or carnal, spirit, the spirit that rejects the spiritual. The spiritual man, by contrast, is animated by the spirit of God, and thus Paul can go on to say ‘we have the mind of Christ’. Similarly, the ‘spiritual’ body is one that is animated by the spirit, presumably the Holy Spirit in the final resurrection (cf. Ez. 11:19-20, 36:26-28, 37:14). I believe Paul himself makes this distinction clear in his second letter to the Corinthians:

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
(II Corinthians 5:1-5)

Paul is speaking of our bodies in their current form, longing to put on the ‘heavenly dwelling’. He is speaking of the glorified body. Notice that he explicitly states that we are not longing to be unclothed (i.e., escape from a body to an immaterial existence as a spirit), but rather to be further clothed. It would seem that our glorified bodies will be even more real, more physical than our bodies are in their current form.[15] I think this draws together the point I’m trying to make, as Jesus’ resurrection body is obviously more than our current bodies (it is immortal, can materialize, etc.) but it is emphatically still physical, as we have seen, corresponding well to Paul’s description of the ‘heavenly dwelling’ in which we are longing to be clothed. Jesus is the model for the resurrection body.

5. The resurrection is the lynchpin of Christianity.

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
(I Corinthians 15:12-19)

Finally, this discussion of resurrection is not complete without emphasizing the importance of the resurrection to Christianity. Without the resurrection, Christianity falls apart.

This is a bold statement, I know. But it is not my statement. Paul tells us this in I Corinthians 15, as quoted above. “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.“ Bold indeed. But why is this important in light of our current discussion? If we do not believe in bodily resurrection, as was apparently the case for some in the Corinthian church, then how can we believe in Jesus’ bodily resurrection? And if Jesus wasn’t raised… well, you heard what Paul said.

Setting aside for a moment the implications for our theology and beliefs in general, I believe that this is very important for Christian apologetics, a point that we lose if we take the position that ‘resurrection’ is simply a metaphor or figurative language for a ‘spiritual’ resurrection.[16] Resurrection, and specifically Jesus’ resurrection (which stands opposed to the Jewish thought of a final resurrection of all people in the future), was a central tenet of the early church, and therefore historians must ask the question: How did the early church get the idea that not only could resurrection happen, but that it had happened once and would happen for all people at the end of time? And perhaps an even more interesting question, how did this view catch on so quickly in the ancient world, even outside of Jerusalem, when the concept of resurrection was ridiculed? How did it remain the linchpin of Christianity without getting watered down or ‘spiritualized’ when the gospel whet to the Gentiles? I think the only satisfying answer to these questions (and others like them) is the resurrection of Jesus.[17]

Paul’s admonition to those who denied resurrection in the Corinthian church is a strong statement, a statement that I don’t think would come from someone who wasn’t absolutely sure that he had seen the risen Lord. We should not miss his point. The resurrection of Jesus is the key to the Christian faith, and without it ‘we are of all men to be pitied.’ But we know that Paul doesn’t stop there. In the very next verse he says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…” Beyond the apologetic value of the resurrection, it is important to think about why the resurrection is actually vital to the Christian faith.

The resurrection ties together everything we have seen so far: creation, redemption, hope and salvation. Some very significant things happened with the resurrection of the Son of God:

1. Jesus was vindicated as the Son and highly exalted (Phil. 2:5-11)
2. Death was dealt the death blow, reversing the curse of death (I Cor. 15)
3. The hope of a future resurrection was established (I Cor. 15:20-23, II Cor. 4:14, Rom. 6:5, 8:11)

These things have been said in various ways over the course of Christian history (and more than just this list), but I think that it is important to for us to dwell on what happened with the resurrection and how it fits into the overall story of God and His people. Through the resurrection, the curse of death that had been brought forth from sin (see Rom. 5:12, cf. James 1:14-15) is reversed, and redemption and restoration of the original vision of God dwelling with man were begun. The resurrection has close ties with the Spirit[18], which again ties into the concept of the New Covenant:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27)

We also know that the New Covenant is linked with the death and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (see Luke 22:20). Thus, the death and resurrection of Jesus ties together many different threads that run through scripture, truly acting as the climactic point of the drama of God and ushering in the new age of the Kingdom of God. The kingdom is ‘already, but not yet.’ It is inaugurated, but not consummated. Thus, we begin to live a ‘resurrected’ life now (see Col. 3:1-4), but we long for the return of Jesus when we will receive our truly resurrected bodies (as does the creation itself, Rom. 8:18-23). The resurrection is the turning point of history. And this certainly has implications for what we believe the future resurrection will entail. For, as Paul says, it is in this hope that we are saved.

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”
(Romans 8:23-24a)

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The love of God, and the God of love, calls out to you.

[1]Further, it is unfortunate that this is attributed to Lewis, as he almost certainly wouldn’t have agreed with the implied dualism of the statement, as is evident from his actual writings. The worlds which he describes, specifically when alluding to heaven, are very physical in nature, such as in the Great Divorce where the depiction of heaven is somehow even more physical than what we know now (everything is weighted/heavier there for those who are visiting). For an interesting read, see
[2]See the “biblical anthropology” series on Dr. Heiser’s site. The first article can be found at There are 7 articles total, and each subsequent article can be found by replacing the “1” in the URL given to the desired part (e.g., part 2 can be found at
[3]I do not have the space or the expertise to fully do justice to the word ‘Nephesh’ here. For a much deeper understanding of the word and concept, see The Bible Project video “Nephesh” ( and the related podcast that they do on it (four-part series starting with: “You are a soul” found here
[6]For instance, I am not denying that there isn’t a concept of an immaterial part of us that lives on after death, only that this part of us is not talked about often and the “after death” portion of our existence is not the focus of the biblical authors or the Christian hope. There is much more talk and development of the resurrection in the age to come, or as N.T. Wright has cleverly put it, “life after life after death”.
[7] It is interesting to note here that the gospel song “I’ll fly away” is more indebted to Platonic dualism (“like a bird from prison bars has flown” is, consciously or unconsciously, a direct allusion to Plato’s idea that the body is the prison of the soul) than biblical theology. Don’t get me wrong, I love the song. The theology, however, is incorrect.
[8] For a much more robust and comprehensive study of resurrection in the ancient world, see Wright, N. T. (2003). The resurrection of the Son of God (Vol. 3). Fortress Press. In this volume, Wright makes a comprehensive case for the full understanding of bodily resurrection, as well as the complete denial of it for every culture (aside from a peculiar belief of final resurrection by some Jews) in the known world. For a less academic and more concise version, see Wright, N.T. (2008). Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Harper One.
[9]For the record, I think this is demonstrably false. The 20th century alone should shatter any hope of establishing the myth of progress due to the wars that were fought during this time period.
[10]I also think this is not true, at least not to the extent that people make it out to be. Actually, the opposite might be true. As religion is declining in the west, it seems that superstition is actually increasing. See
[11]Note here that ‘all people’ would include those who are not God’s people, as is explicitly stated in Daniel 12. When the New Testament speaks of resurrection, it can do so referring to two somewhat distinct, but related, ideas, namely the resurrection of God’s people (spoken of in positive terms) and the resurrection of all people (which can be more neutral). There are different ideas about what happens to those who are raised who are not part of the kingdom (e.g., eternal conscious punishment, annihilation and purgatory-like schemes). It is not clear that the resurrected bodies of the unrighteous would be in the likeness of Jesus’ glorified body. In fact, it would logically seem not to be the case, as the glorified body is spoken of in positive terms of reward and a gift of God. However, it should be noted that if it is explicit that the unrighteous are raised along with the righteous (whatever the form of their body), this corresponds well with the body+soul idea in point 1, showing that final punishment involves the whole person, not just a disembodied state of a person.
[12]Don’t worry, I plan on addressing the ‘citizenship in heaven’ idea in a future post. But if you just can’t wait for a full answer, note that Paul says ‘from it we await a Savior’, which implies that Jesus is coming from heaven to us, not the other way around.
[13]The fact that the disciples recognized Jesus, however, implies that there is also some kind of continuity with our current bodies. Our future bodies will be different (transformed), yet in some way connected to our current bodies.
[14]For further reference, see Wright, N.T. (2008). Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, chapter 10 and
[15]C.S. Lewis depicts this idea in The Great Divorce.
[16]But really, what would ‘spiritual’ resurrection even mean? If we do not raise bodily, then we exist as disembodied entities, which we were already after we died. So how is resurrection actually different than our state after death? And if it isn’t different, why is there a focus on resurrection in the New Testament, and how does it offer any hope to us? These are questions that need to be answered by anyone who denies physical resurrection, either implicitly or explicitly.
[17]For a detailed look at the apologetic value and historicity of the resurrection, see Also see Strobel, L. (1998). The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan).
[18]For example, Jesus says the Spirit couldn’t come unless He was raised to sit at the right hand of the Father (see John 16, 4-11), which ties into the gift of the Spirit at baptism, our connection to the death and resurrection of Jesus (see Acts 2:38, cf. Rom. 6:1-11).

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