Resurrection From What Death?
This article is about the Bible doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The idea that there will some day be a resurrection of physically dead human corpses is so ingrained in the modern religious psyche that to question it is considered taboo by most. Yet I will do just that. It is my contention that the Biblical concept of the resurrection involves a spiritual raising of man out of sin-death, (i.e. separation from God caused by sin); a restoration of man to the presence of God.
In Genesis 2:15-17 God told man concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil "in the day you eat thereof you will surely die." Man and woman ate of the fruit. Did they die that day? Amazingly, most people will say "No!" because Adam and Eve did not die physically after they ate the forbidden fruit. But this is not the whole story.
Death means separation, not annihilation. And Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden the day they ate the fruit. Thus, Adam and Eve died spiritually because they were cast out of the presence of God. If Adam and Eve did not die the day they ate then Satan told the truth and God lied! God said you will die in the day you eat, Satan said you will not surely die, Genesis 3:1ff. Who told the truth to Adam and Eve? Unless one can find Adam and Eve physically dead in Genesis 2-3, then the death they died was spiritual and not physical.
If we regain in Christ, in resurrection, what was lost in Adam, 1 Cor. 15:22, and if spiritual life, not physical, is what was lost, then physical resurrection is not what the Bible means by resurrection from the dead. Instead, the focus of Bible teaching about resurrection is the spiritual restoration of man from sin-death.
The New Testament writers likened life under the Old Covenant to death, because all those under the Law were under the curse, Gal. 3:10f. Paul called the Old Testament the "ministration of death" because all it did was condemn; it could not justify, Romans 8:1-3. He spoke of his struggles under the Old Covenant; he spoke of his past death under it, and lamented "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Romans 7:9-24.
Jesus’ death and resurrection was the power for the final removal of that law that brought death, Eph. 2. But that Old Law could not fully pass until it was all fulfilled, Matthew 5:17-18; and until the New Covenant law of life in Christ was completely established, Gal. 3:21-29. This meant that there was a time of transition between the Old Law and the New; a time when those coming out from that Old Law were coming into life. They were being raised into resurrection life as firstfruits of the coming perfection in Christ.
When that Old Covenant of Death was completely taken away, this is called the resurrection. This is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:54-56. The resurrection would be when the Old Testament was fulfilled, vs. 54; it would be when "the law," which was "the strength of sin," was removed, vs. 56. More on all this later.
The modern concept of a physical resurrection of human bodies is not consistent with scripture. It makes physical death the focus of God’s threat in Eden, yet scripture denies this. The modern view denies the relationship of the Old Covenant to death and life — spiritual life. It fails to take into consideration that man stands before God in relationship to Covenant. To live under a Ministration of Death was to be a body of death, Rom. 7:24; 8:8-10. To be delivered from that ministration of death was to be resurrected. This is the Biblical concept of resurrection.
The New Testament believers were dying to the Old Law as they were baptized into Christ, Romans 6-7. The Law itself was not dead — they were dying to the Law; "You have become dead to the law by the body of Christ" Rom. 7:4; "Christ is the end of the law to those who believe," Rom. 10:4. But the Law would pass when fulfilled and the Hebrew writer says it was at that time growing old and was ready to vanish away, Hebrews 8:13.
Resurrection is deliverance from sin; sin-death; read Ephesians 2:1. This happens by faith in response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ has "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" 2 Tim. 1:10. Those who would know the life that will never end, John 8:51, must enter the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to enjoy the salvation/resurrection purchased by Him. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. To have this life one must be in Christ through baptism for this is where one is joined to Christ’s death and resurrection.
While this study will examine several different verses, I will concentrate on John 5:24-29, a pivotal text in the resurrection discussion.
"Most assuredly, I say to you , he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death unto life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of god; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will he His voice and come forth — those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (NKJV)
This discourse forms the foundation for the "two resurrection" idea. Most commentators insist that in verses 24-25 Jesus spoke of a spiritual resurrection available to the believer today and then in verses 28-29 he spoke of a yet future physical resurrection.
My purpose is to examine the specific context of John 5 and examine Jesus’ prediction of the coming consummative hour in the light of 1 John 2 and Revelation. We will study the Hope of Israel and the relationship of the fulfillment and passing of the Old Testament to resurrection and will note the Old Testament foundation for Jesus’ prediction in John 5. The constituent elements of resurrection will be noted in light of New Testament teaching that the resurrection had already begun but was not consummated. Several passages that tell when the resurrection would occur will be studied. Finally, we will explore some of the contradictions in the traditional views of John 5, and take note of some objections to the views that we will set forth.
I have purposely kept the number of footnotes and references to a minimum. While such notes could be copiously provided I have decided to observe the "k-i-s-s" principle as much as possible. For those wishing such references please see Max R. King’s massive volume "The Cross and the Parousia."
It is standard fare to read in the commentaries that John 5:24-29 speaks of two resurrections. R. H. Charles says of vss. 24-25 "we are not here concerned with the bestowal of physical life." When he approaches verses 28-29 however, he simply asserts without evidence "physical death is presupposed." Hoskyns says "In the perspective of Christian thought the passage from death to life is the passing from sin to righteousness and the remission of sins, and from unbelief to faith (Eph. 2:1; Rom 6:13; 11:15; Col. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:3f, etc)." After these excellent comments he then says that just because this is true and that Jesus posits a then present possibility of resurrection this does not exclude a still future physical resurrection.
Just where in the context of John 5 is there a delineation between two resurrections? Jesus does not say there are two resurrections; he does not mention spiritual versus physical; he does not delineate between the "d
ead" in verses 24-25 and those "in the graves" in verses 28-29. And what is the difference between hearing the "voice of the Son of God," vs. 25, and hearing the voice of Jesus in vs. 28? What is the difference between the "life" — "everlasting life" of 24-25 and the "life" in verse 29? Any distinctions are brought to the text by the interpreter! In fact, the reason commentators draw a distinction between verses 24-25 and 28-29 is because in vss 24-25 Jesus said "the hour is coming and now is," but in vs 28-29 he said "the hour is coming." But was Jesus distinguishing between two kinds of deaths, graves, resurrections, and life, disparate in nature and separated by millennia, or was Jesus speaking of one resurrection, the initiation of which was present and the consummation of which was still future, but imminent, from his perspective? To help us with the answer consider four passages.
In Romans 6:1-11 the apostle demonstrates how in baptism the Romans had died with Christ, vs. 3, and had been raised with him, vs. 4. This patently cannot refer to a physical death and resurrection. But notice verse 5: "If we have been planted with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." Is the likeness of his death a physical likeness? If so, they had died physically. But if it be admitted that this refers to a spiritual likeness how does this impact verse 5? Are we to see that in baptism there is a spiritual likeness to the death of Jesus but in resurrection there will be a physical imitation of his resurrection? Who changed the hermeneutic here? Modern interpreters, not Paul, change the nature of the discussion.
How is it possible to so radically change Paul’s discussion from a spiritual death to a physical life? For Paul, the futuristic element was of the same nature in "likeness." In verse 8 the apostle says "if we died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with him." The coming life was of the same nature as the death; but the death was not physical, therefore the coming life was not physical.
In Romans 6 there is an "already" element of resurrection, and a "not yet" element. There are not two different and distinct resurrections of two different kinds of bodies. There is one resurrection which had been initiated and was soon to be consummated.
If there were two resurrections in scripture, one spiritual, one physical, separated by millennia, why do the scriptures never mention resurrections plural?
Stafford North, writing against the millennial concept of three different resurrections and two different judgments separated by the millennium, poses a pertinent question: "If the resurrection of the just and unjust were separated by over a thousand years, surely Paul would speak of `resurrections’ in the plural." But if that question is valid when arguing against millennialism why is it not valid in regard to John 5:24-29? Per North, Jesus was speaking of two different resurrections. If there are plural resurrections in John 5:24-29 then North’s argument against millennialism falls. If his argument is valid, and it is, then there is but one resurrection in John 5:24-29 and Romans 6.
This passage very plainly reveals that, for Paul, the resurrection was a then present, yet not yet perfected, reality.
It must be kept in mind that Paul is defending not only himself but his Christian brethren from the attacks and claims of those who insisted that they were the true inheritors of the promises of God. The question was "Who is the true Israel?" Thus, Paul asserts in no uncertain terms that the true Israel is not fleshly but spiritual. The true Jew is not the one who prides himself on his physical circumcision but that of the heart, cf. Col. 2:11ff. Israel’s hope therefore did not lie in her nationalistic heritage but in the spiritual realities of Jesus.
This cannot be over-emphasized. Paul did not preach anything but the hope of Israel, as we shall see below, yet for Paul Israel’s hope did not lie in fleshly things but in worshipping God "in the Spirit" vs. 3. Israel was persecuting Paul, yet Paul was preaching the hope of Israel! Why then was Israel persecuting Paul? Because in preaching the "Hope of Israel" Paul was not preaching a nationalistic, and physical hope! In counting his fleshly circumcision, national heritage, and personal achievements under the Law as "loss" Paul is asserting the spiritual nature of the Hope of Israel!
In verses 1-6 Paul recounts his achievements under the Old Law. If anyone had a reason to boast of his accomplishments before God, Paul did. Yet all of these personal credits were worthless before Christ. Paul had learned that he could not earn righteousness and all of his efforts under the Law were but an attempt to do so. Therefore they were not gain to him but actually loss.
The apostle then says that in counting his achievements under the Law as loss he had but one goal in mind; to be found in Christ "if by any means I might attain to the resurrection from the dead" vs. 11.
This is surely a strange thing to say if the raising of a physical body from the earth is to be an inescapable universal event. Paul’s purpose in counting his personal successes under the Law as loss was to attain the resurrection.
Examine Paul’s reference to dying. In verse 10 he says he was at that time "being made conformable unto his (Jesus’, DKP) death." This is in the present tense. In what way was Paul being made conformable to the death of Jesus? It surely cannot be physically since it was something he was already experiencing. But just as in Romans 6 where he said the Romans had died with Christ and were anticipating rising with him, so here Paul speaks of his dying in the image of Jesus’ death and desire for participating in his resurrection. Since the dying is not physical in either text then the resurrection is not physical either.
Now notice verse 12; after saying it was his desire to attain to the resurrection he says "not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Now if Paul has physical death and physical resurrection in mind does not his statement "not as though I had already attained" seem just a little bit facetious? Of course he had not attained the resurrection; he had not died yet! That is, if he has physical life and death in view; but we have just seen that the death he is speaking of cannot be physical!
Paul’s "dying" is to be equated with his "forgetting"; his "forgetting and reaching forth stand in apposition to dying and rising with Christ, and the subject of this change was the two covenant aeons." (ages, DKP) Since his "dying" and his "forgetting" equate to the same thing and his "forgetting" is the laying aside of the Old Covenant World of Israel then his "attaining to the resurrection" must be seen in relationship to the full transition from the Old World of Israel to the New Covenant "law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus" Romans 8:1-3. What Paul was dying to was the Old World of Israel with its dependence on justification by Law — the things he once counted as gain; what he was rising to was true righteousness by faith in Christ, Phil. 3:9.
Paul said that the resurrection of Christ was his goal; he said he had not already attained it. But he also said "Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule" vs. 16. Paul has not changed subjects; he is still focused on his singular desire "the resurrection from, literally "out from the dead." Yet he is saying he had attained to a certain degree. Here is the "alr
eady-but-not-yet" of resurrection stated in the clearest terms possible.
Can Paul be speaking of physical life and death? If so, then he was saying he had "died a little bit" physically. Of course he did say he had died with Christ, Gal. 2:20, but once again this was not referent to physical death. Was Paul saying he had to a "degree" already attained to resurrection from physical death? To ask the question is to answer it.
Do not forget that Paul is discussing the hope of Israel — that is, Israel’s true hope as revealed in Christ. This never leaves his mind. And we shall see below that Israel’s singular hope was resurrection. In Philippians 3 therefore Paul is saying that Israel’s resurrection hope was finding its present fulfillment in Christ. Yet it was not yet perfected because the Old System still stood in place.
As Jesus does in John 5:24-29, Paul moves from a present "already" resurrection to a consideration of the future "not-yet." But these are not two different kinds of resurrections. It is simply a movement from the initiation to the consummation of the same resurrection. And what did Paul teach about when that future aspect would be realized?
In chapter 3:20-21 he says they were "eagerly" awaiting Christ’s coming to consummate that wonderful change and bring life to full reality. The words "eagerly await" translate the original word "apekdekomai" which denotes "earnest expectation" This is a word with strong connotations of imminence. Further, in 4:5 Paul states clearly "The Lord is at hand" (engus). As the Expositors Greek Testament says "Quite evidently Paul expects a speedy return of Christ."
For Paul then, whatever one makes of the resurrection, that event was imminent. When one sees however that Paul’s discussion of death and resurrection could not be related to physical death and resurrection then this correlates perfectly with Romans 6 and John 5.
Colossians 3:1ff is of the same discussion. Paul said the Colossians had died with Christ and their lives were hidden. Was that a physical death and physical hidden-ness they had, and were experiencing? Concerning the death and life of Colossians, William Bell said "This life had both a present, or already, and a future, a not yet, in that it was hidden in Christ and would later be revealed. It is not a different life, but the same and only life which they had. Is Christ the life received in baptism? Is not this the life the Colossians received when they died with him? Is not the life they received that which was hidden? Therefore that life, not physical life, is the life that would appear, be revealed, with him in glory."
As in Romans there is therefore an "already but not yet" aspect to the resurrection. This helps us understand John 5 since Paul is plainly dealing with the same issue as Jesus, life and death. As surely as Colossians speaks of only one kind of death and coming life just so it is in John. Paul is simply expounding on what Jesus had taught.
If the resurrection of John 5:24-25, the spiritual resurrection per most commentators, was a fully present reality, then there should not have been a yet future aspect to it. That is if it was to be delineated from the "the hour is coming" resurrection of John 5:28- 29. Since however we have already shown with conclusive evidence that there was both a present and future aspect to the spiritual resurrection in Paul’s day, this is strong evidence indeed that Jesus was speaking of the same resurrection in John 5.
2 Timothy 2:11-12
The fourth text is 2 Timothy 2:11-12. Paul said "For if we be dead (if we died, sunapathanomen, 1 pers. pl. aorist, indicative), with him, we shall also live with him." As in Romans, Colossians and Philippians, Paul addresses a state of death possessed by the church; it was a state of death that would be overcome in the future. But it is incontrovertible that the death they had experienced could not be physical. Therefore the resurrection they were anticipating could not be physical. This is corroborated by the context.
In 2 Timothy 2:18 Paul addressed the problem of Hymenaeus and Philetus; they maintained that the resurrection had already occurred. It should be clear to any thinking person that these two could not maintain with any degree of success — or a straight face — that the modern traditional concept of the resurrection had occurred. If the resurrection is an "end of time" event, then for these men to insist it had already occurred was to invite ridicule beyond measure. Why didn’t Paul just say, "Look around! The graveyards are still full."? But if the resurrection is related to the death Paul addresses in vs. 11, it is understandable how these men could make such a claim and it be believed.
Since it is undeniable that the death of verse 11 could not be physical but must be spiritual, Hymenaeus and Philetus must have reasoned that since spiritual life was "already" then the resurrection must have already fully occurred. Had not Paul told the Ephesians they had been raised from the dead, Eph. 2:1? Remember, Paul was writing Timothy who was in Ephesus. The connection between Hymenaeus’ teaching and what Paul had written to the church of which he was a member is very probable. Had Paul not told the Romans that Christ had delivered them from the "law of sin and death" Romans 8:1f? Had he not written to the Colossians that in baptism they had put off "the body of flesh," Col. 2:11-12? And had not Paul said in this very epistle that Christ had "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" 2 Tim. 1:10? Surely the resurrection was past already. It is in this context that Hymenaeus and Philetus can be properly understood. They were not affirming the past occurrence of the end of the physical cosmos. They were affirming — prematurely — the full revelation of salvation.
In each of these passages we see the "already but not yet" of the resurrection. These texts provide strong evidence that in John 5:24-29 Jesus is positing the initiation and the consummation of one resurrection; not two resurrections.
The singularity of the resurrection in John 5 is established when one honors the text. Jesus simply moves from "he who hears" to "all that are in the graves." The movement is from some to all. Since when does such a movement demand a change in subject matter or the nature of the subject? Further, the movement is from the hour that "now is" to "the hour is coming." The contrast is between time referents. If a farmer says the corn harvest has begun but the hour is coming when the harvest will be consummated, has he changed the subject from the corn harvest to a harvest of apples?
Observe carefully the language of the text. In verses 24-26 Jesus speaks of the positive side of his authority; "as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself," vs. 26. Now watch: "and has given Him authority to execute judgment also," vs. 27. After asserting the authority not only to give life but to render judgment, he immediately says "do not marvel at this for the hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." The emphasis is on Jesus’ authority not only to give life but to render judgment. The word "also" in verse 27 focuses our attention on the wider scope of Jesus’ authority — not on a change in the nature of the resurrection from spiritual to physical.
It is the Last Hour
Undeniably, John 5 anticipated a consummative last hour — the hour of the re
surrection. This coming hour would occur in the "last day" (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 12:48f). Most commentators insist that the hour of 5:28-29 and the "last day" of these passages must be the last day of time. While this is no where stated in scripture it is assumed nonetheless. Amillennial commentators are fond of chiding the millennialist: "There can be no days after the last day. But if there can be no days after the last day then there is no time for a millennium. Therefore the millennial theory falls." But this challenge soon backfires on the amillennialist.
In 1 John 2:15-18 John, the same writer of the gospel of John, said "the world is passing away, …Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, whereby we know that it is the last hour." The writer who in the gospel anticipated the consummative hour to come, writes in his epistle that the last hour was upon them!
If there can be no "hours" after the "last hour" here is a severe problem. John wrote two thousand years ago saying the last hour had come, yet there have been many "hours" since then. It is amazing how exegetes attempt to disassociate the final hour of John 5 from the last hour of 1 John 2.
Stafford North argues that because the words "last hour" in the original do not have the definite article this means that "John is speaking in a qualitative or categorical way and not of any definite last hour." In other words, "John was not saying `This is the last hour of time’ but rather, ‘this is a critical time.’" (ibid) Besides begging the question and assuming an end of time, North’s suggestion proves far too much.
The definite article does not appear with the "hour" in John 5:28 either. Would North suggest that because the definite article is missing there this would indicate that passage is not speaking about the consummative hour? Further, in 1 Peter 4:17 Peter said "The time has come for the judgment (to krina) to begin." Here we have the use of the definite article. North implies that if the article were present in 1 John 2:18 this would indicate the consummation was at hand. Will he now suggest that Peter was saying the judgment was at hand? This problem is compounded by other passages.
In Matthew 10:15 Jesus said it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in "the day of judgment" than for those who rejected him. See also Matthew 11:22, 24. Jesus said it would be more tolerable for Tyre, Sidon and Sodom "in the day of judgment" (KJV) than for Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. North applies these texts to the "end of time," yet the definite article is absent. Per our brother’s logic, therefore, these passages cannot allude to the "final judgment."
In 1 John 2:8 John says "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining." (NKJV). This imagery is directly associated with the coming of the Lord, Romans 13:11, 1 Thes. 5:1-6; and was "a vivid expression of the eschatological consciousness of the church." John’s confident (inspired) statement that the day was already shining is tantamount to saying the coming of the Lord, (i.e. the last hour) was at hand.
Please observe the presence of the miraculous work of the Spirit, vs. 20, 27. We will see below the connection of the miraculous work of the Spirit with the resurrection. In 1 John the apostle writes to the Spirit endowed church reminding them that the Spirit "abides in you"; he encourages them to "abide in Him," vs. 28, until the Parousia, the time of the resurrection, 3:1-3, and tells them "it is the last hour." The reference to the miraculous work of the Spirit in 1 John inextricably links John’s "last hour" with the parousia and resurrection. There is no way to divorce the work of the Spirit from John’s eschatology; therefore John’s declaration that "it is the last hour" is a direct commentary on John 5:28-29.
Finally, John specifically speaks of the then present resurrection. In 3:14 he said: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren." And in 3:1-3 he anticipated the consummation of the resurrection. The resurrection of 3:14 involved becoming Sons of God; that of 3:1f involved the manifestation of Sonship. Not two resurrections, but one.
Just as in John 5:24-29 we find the initiation and anticipation of consummation; in 1 John we also find the "in the process" resurrection and declaration of the imminent consummation.
The Hour of His Judgment is Come
The same author that wrote of the coming hour in the book of John and said in his first epistle that the last hour had come also wrote the book of Revelation. Amillennialists commonly see in this book the message of the fall of Rome. I believe this is incorrect; the book is about the destruction and overthrow of the city "where the Lord was crucified" 11:8. Needless to say, Jesus was not crucified in Rome."Babylon" was also full of all the blood shed on the earth, 18:4, 20-24. Jesus identified the persecutor of prophets and apostles as Jerusalem, Mat. 23:31-39; Luke 13:31-33.
As all agree, the book of Revelation deals with the resurrection. This is the resurrection "hour" of John 5. What few seem to notice is that the resurrection is depicted in direct association with the fall of the city where the Lord was crucified, Rev. 11:8-19.
In Revelation 14 John has the critical "hour" in view. This chapter presents a view of an angel with the everlasting gospel to preach to all the world, vs. 6. The message of the gospel is "Fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come," vs. 7. This judgment is on the city Babylon, the persecutor of God’s saints, 17:6ff . This is the same city as in 11:8. The time of judgment is when the one like the Son of Man would come on the cloud and reap when the harvest of the earth was ripe, 14:14f. There are several things to note about this text.
The preaching of the gospel into all the world is representative of the church’s responsibility to preach the gospel to all the world in Jesus’ generation before the fall of Jerusalem. In Matthew 24:14, in predicting the demise of Old Israel, Jesus said: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to the nations then comes the end." The completion of the world mission was to be a sign of the imminent end of the Old Covenant Age. Jesus positively declared that his coming would be in that generation, Matthew 24:29-34.
For an entire generation the early church proclaimed, amidst persecution, that impending judgment. The Cilician apostle said "the day is at hand" Romans 13:11, and God would crush Satan under their feet shortly, 16:20. He said this after saying the gospel had been preached in all the world, 10:18f. In harmony with Jesus’ promise of Mark 13:9f, Paul said the early Christians would possess the miraculous gifts until the coming of the Lord, 1 Cor. 1:4-8. He said they were living in the end of the age, 1 Cor. 10:11. In Titus 2:11-13 the same apostle said the gospel had been preached to all men and consequently they were expecting the appearing of Jesus.
In Revelation 14 the angel with the everlasting gospel and its message of impending judgment corresponds to the mission of the early church with its message of the coming of Christ in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. And in Revelation 14 that coming judgment is called "the hour of his judgment"; it is the critical hour so central to John’s other writings. It should be noted that John calls it literally "the hour of the judgment." The definite article appears with both "hour" and "judgment." Compare this with the comments on Stafford North above.
The urgency of t
he message of that judgment must also be emphasized. The message was that the judgment had come. In fact, John is told in the most emphatic expressions that his vision was to be fulfilled "shortly," "the time is at hand," Jesus was to come "quickly," Rev. 1:1-3; 22:6, 10, 12, 20. The consistency of John’s writings and his constant focus on the consummative hour coupled with the imminence of Revelation demands a first century fulfillment of that critical hour.
John, in 5:24-25 speaks of the beginning of the harvest — the firstfruits, if you will — "the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." He then speaks of the rest of the harvest in verse 28-29 — "Marvel not at this for the hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall hear." The movement is from some who hear unto life, to all those who hear and some to condemnation.
Revelation 14 contains the identical motif. In verses 1-5 we find the 144,000 who are the firstfruits unto God. These are the redeemed. They follow the Lamb. They hear his voice. In verses 14-20 the focus is on the remainder of the harvest and on condemnation just as in John 5:28-29.
The parallels between John 5 and Revelation 14 are too obvious to be ignored. The "coming hour" of John 5 is "the hour of his judgment" in Revelation 14. And since Revelation 14 is so emphatic as to the imminence of that impending judgment we must see that the critical "coming hour" of John 5:28- 29 was not an event millennia removed from Jesus’ day but was to occur in his generation.
That Revelation, and specifically chapter 14, deals with the A.D. 70 judgment against the Old Covenant World of Israel is illustrated in several ways. In verse 20 it says the "winepress was trodden without the city" — this term "without the city" is almost a technical term to identify Jerusalem, see Hebrews 13:12-13. Further, the writer says the blood from the judgment flowed for 1600 furlongs — almost 200 miles. As many commentators have noted, this is the measurement for the land of Israel. This is then a coded expression to signify not only the horrible nature of the impending suffering but to express its focus as well. Are we to believe that the writer expressed the judgment in terms that would bring Israel to mind when he actually had Rome in view?
In Revelation 14 we find, as in 1 John and the book of John, the impending critical hour. In both 1 John and Revelation we find emphatic time indicators saying the consummative hour was imminent.
The Hope of Israel
In his prediction of the resurrection, Jesus was not predicting something new — he was speaking of the hope of Israel. It must be kept in mind that Jesus was a Jew, "made of a woman, made of the Law" Gal. 4:4. In his ministry Jesus did not minister to the Gentiles but to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" Mat. 15:24. Until Israel’s promises were fulfilled salvation could not come to the world because "salvation is of the Jews" John 4:22. Jesus did not come to destroy the Old Covenant but to fulfill, Mat. 5:17-18 and he was a "minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers" Romans 15:8.
This is extremely important but often overlooked in the modern religious world. Amillennialists say all OT promises to Israel were fulfilled and God’s relationship with them was terminated at the Cross. The premillennialist on the other hand sees that Israel played a pivotal role in God’s eschatological scheme; but the millennial concept is literalistic and totally misses the spiritual nature of God’s redemptive and eschatological scheme. To illustrate the point let us turn our attention to Paul as he is on trial for preaching the hope of Israel.
In Acts 21 the Jews mistakenly believed that Paul had taken a Gentile into the Temple and attacked him with murderous intent, Acts 21:26f. Taken before the Sanhedrin the next day Paul told them "of the hope of the resurrection I am called into question" Acts 23:6. This instantly divided the court since "the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection" vs. 8. Ostensibly, Paul had aligned himself with the Pharisees in their hope of a physical resurrection because they instantly say "we find no evil in this man" vs. 9. But, as they say, "a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum."
Seven days, at least, passed between Paul’s appearance before the Sanhedrin and his appearance before Felix, Acts 23:11, 31-32, 24:1. When Paul gives his defense before the governor he says: "I have hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" Acts 24:15. (NASV) What happened to the Pharisees who just a few days earlier had been saying they could find no fault with Paul?
Clearly it is not the Sadducees Paul is referring to when he says his accusers "cherish" the hope of the resurrection — the Sadducees have dropped out of the proceedings. So what happened to the Pharisees? Why have they changed their tune from "We find nothing wrong with this man!" to "We find this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world" Acts 24:5? Could it be that they found out what Paul was really saying about the resurrection? Let us go back to the ministry of Jesus for some help.
Without doubt the Jews were eagerly anticipating the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom, cf. Luke 3:15; John 1:19ff, etc. Jesus came preaching the imminent establishment of the kingdom, Mk. 1:15. Now the Jews wanted the kingdom and Jesus promised the kingdom. Initially the Jews were exuberant about Jesus’ promise; but something changed and the Jews killed Jesus. Why? Because Jesus did not offer them the kind of kingdom they expected and wanted! They wanted the kingdom to come with pomp, circumstance and grandeur — not to mention wiping out the Romans. Jesus said his kingdom was not that kind of kingdom; he forbad his servants to fight, cf John 18:36f. The Jews killed him for offering a spiritual kingdom when they wanted a national restoration.
Jesus came to be king, John 18:33-37; and on at least one occasion the Jews, impressed with his ability to feed thousands with just a few loaves and fishes — and probably misconstruing the military type arrangement of the crowd as ordered by Jesus, Luke 9:12ff — were about to come and make Jesus their king, John 6:15. But Jesus refused their efforts. As a result Israel rejected Jesus. Now the Jews wanted a king and Jesus came to be king. Why then did they kill him? Because he refused to be the kind of king they wanted. If Jesus had offered to restore national Israel through military conquest, they would have gladly coronated him. But, because he desired to be spiritual king, they turned on him and killed him. Now back to Paul.
Paul was teaching about the same kingdom and offering the same king as Jesus, Acts 17:6-7. Paul taught the resurrection. The Pharisees wanted the resurrection, Acts 24:15. But the Pharisees, at first friendly, have now turned on Paul and want him killed. Why? Paul said it was because of the resurrection. But if Paul taught the resurrection and the Pharisees believed in the resurrection why do they want to kill him? Could it be that they wanted to kill Paul for the same reason they killed Jesus; because he did not offer the kind of resurrection they desired?
It can hardly be objected that the Pharisees objected to Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection simply because he was offering it through Jesus. The Jews had been more than willing to accept Jesus as king on their terms. It was the nature of what was being offered, not the person it was being offered through that caused the violent reaction. The person was rejected because of what the pers
on taught about what was being offered. This is, I believe, the only way to understand why the Pharisees did such an about face in the case of Paul.
Had Paul been offering the very thing the Pharisees desired, a physical resurrection, they would have warmly embraced him as offering the fulfillment of their hopes. They initially believed he was an ally. But they quickly learned differently and put him on trial for preaching the resurrection, the very thing they were supposed to believe in. Why seek to kill a man for espousing the same things as you? Paul could not have preaching what they wanted — a physical resurrection. Just like Jesus, he was preaching spiritual, not physical realities. This is confirmed by looking a little closer at the kingdom.
The Kingdom Does Not Come With Observation
As we have seen, the Jews desired a kingdom that was nationalistic and political — an outwardly observable kingdom. In Luke the Pharisees came to Jesus asking "when the kingdom of God would come" Luke 17:20. Would the Pharisees who wanted a nationalistic kingdom not also expect a literalistic resurrection? Jesus responded "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will one say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you," Luke 17:20-21.
Please observe that Jesus said the kingdom would not come with observation. Here is a critical point: the coming of the kingdom and the resurrection are concurrent events.
In 2 Timothy 4:1 the apostle said "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom." (See also Mat. 16:27-28; Mat. 25:31). Now if the nature of the coming kingdom was "without observation" why are we supposed to think that the attendant resurrection, which would give entrance into that New World order, Luke 20:27-38, would be of a different nature than the kingdom itself? Here then is help in understanding the vehement antagonism against Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection.
The Pharisees had already rejected Jesus even though he offered them the kingdom. They rejected him because, while he offered what they ostensibly wanted, what he was truly offering was of a different nature than what they envisioned. It was no different with Paul. While he was offering them what they supposedly desired they discovered it was of a different nature than what they wanted. Thus their original defense of Paul, Acts 23, quickly turned into their damnation of Paul.
All of this manifestly demands that we understand the resurrection as a spiritual event and not physical. It comports perfectly with what we have seen about the "already-but-not-yet" aspect of the resurrection and it also agrees with the framework of deliverance from sin. Let us now return to the hope of Israel, the resurrection, in light of the "already-but-not-yet" and its spiritual nature.
To Paul, Israel’s prophetic salvation hopes were summarized in one word — resurrection. In Romans 11:7 the apostle spoke of Israel’s hope "Israel has not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." Israel’s hope was the resurrection, but Paul said while Israel, the majority, had not obtained that hope, "the election hath obtained it." Follow us here.
The hope of Israel was the resurrection, Acts 26:6f. The elect, i.e. the remnant of Israel, had obtained the hope of Israel, Rom. 11:7. Therefore the elect, the remnant of Israel, had obtained the resurrection. (This is why they are called the firstfruits!) This agrees perfectly with our investigation of Philippians 3 above where Paul declared that he had already attained "to a degree" in the resurrection.
Is it not abundantly evident that the resurrection could not be a raising of dead physical bodies out of the ground? Paul was not saying that the remnant of Israel had been physically resurrected from the dead — was he?
Lest it be argued that Paul is not thinking of the resurrection note vs. 15 where the apostle discusses the fate of Israel: "If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" Now if the acceptance of those cast off was "life from the dead" what was it that the "election" had received? Was it something different? No. The elect had received life from the dead! And when would Israel receive their "life from the dead"?
In Romans 11:25-27 Paul said Israel’s salvation would be when "the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." This fullness of the Gentiles is not a mathematic number but a reference to the bringing of the Gentiles into full equality in Christ. Compare verses 11-12 to see that Paul’s reference to fullness is speaking of a state of blessedness not numbers to be counted.
Israel’s salvation would also be concurrent with the coming of the Lord, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" vs. 27.
The scope of this piece forbids a full discussion of the coming of the Lord for the salvation of Israel, but I note one significant fact: Israel’s salvation would come when Israel passed through the fire of God’s judgment. Notice a brief examination of only three Old Testament predictions. Isaiah 2-4; Isaiah 65- 66; Zech. 12-14
1.) Isaiah 2-4
In 4:3-4 Jehovah spoke of when he would cleanse Israel of her bloodguilt and wash away her filth. He would establish His tabernacle among them for a shelter. This would be "in that day" when the Branch of the Lord was glorified. Undeniably the "Branch" of the Lord is Christ.
When would "in that day" be? Following the antecedent references into chapter 3 and 2 several things become apparent. First, it would be a time of warfare, 3:25; when God would arise to judge Israel, 3:13- 14. This would come because Jerusalem had provoked the Lord, 3:8f. It would be called the Day of the Lord, 2:12, when the wicked would flee to the mountains "to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the crags of the rugged rocks, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily" 2:10, 19, 20-21. Finally, these events would be "in the last days" when the kingdom of God would be established, 2:2ff.
This "Day of the Lord" cannot be speaking of an end of time scenario if men have time to flee to the mountains. It does comport well with Jesus’ prediction of the time of Jerusalem’s judgment in Matthew 24:15f, where he tells his own disciples to flee to the mountains for safety. But we are not left to doubt the application of Isaiah’s prophecy.
In Luke 23:28-31 Jesus directly alludes to Isaiah’s prophecy in a prediction of the coming judgment on Jerusalem in his generation. Now go back to Isaiah 4.
Isaiah, predicted the establishment of God’s kingdom, the cleansing of her sin, and the establishment of God’s tabernacle among men; this is all good news to be sure. How would it be accomplished? In the Day of the Lord and "by the spirit of judgment and by fire" 4:4. All this says is that Israel’s salvation would come when Israel was judged! See Joel 2-3.
Note the correlation of Isaiah to the book of Revelation. In the Apocalypse we find the salvation of Israel, 7:4ff; 14:1-5. The kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of God and His saints, 11:15. The Tabernacle of God is established among men, 21:3f. Those written in the book are saved, cf. Isaiah 4:2-4; Rev. 20; and all this happens when the city "where the Lord was crucified," 11:8, is destroyed. Now to our next passage.
2.) Isaiah 65-66
Both chapters speak of the blessedness of the coming "new heavens and earth" 65:17-19; 66:22. This is the "good news" of the fulfillment of Israel’s salvation hopes.
But there was also the "bad news" side.
Israel would fill the measure of her sin, 65:6-7; as a result "you shall leave your name as a curse to my chosen; for the Lord God shall slay you and call His servants by another name" 65:15. While this was true the remnant would be saved, 65:8-9. In 66:15f this judgment would be at the coming of the Lord "with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire, for by fire and by His sword the Lord will judge all flesh." Since there would be evangelistic efforts after this coming of the Lord, 66:19f, this hardly suggests an end of time judgment.
Jesus said Israel would fill the measure of her sin and be destroyed in his generation, Mat. 23:29-31; and he described that event as his coming on the clouds with power and great glory, 24:29- 31. Thus, in Isaiah 65-66 we find the concept of Israel’s salvation occurring at the coming of the Lord to consummate her salvation hopes through judgment.
The Old Israel of the Flesh would have served her purpose of bringing in the Messiah, Gal. 3:23ff; prefiguring and foreshadowing his work, Heb. 10:1f; of accentuating the futility of salvation by works and the despair of sin, Rom. 5:20-21. God would sweep away the external and carnal and fully establish the spiritual.
3.) Zechariah 12-14 — The prophet foretold the time when "they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" 12:10. But "in that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" 13:1. This would be when God would "cause the prophet and unclean spirit to depart from the land," 13:2; and when the remnant of Israel would be saved by passing through judgment, 13:8-9. More specifically, it would be when the Lord would come with His saints and "gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem," 14:1-5.
Zechariah predicted the coming of the Lord against Jerusalem yet predicted that at that time a fountain for her salvation would be provided. The concept of salvation through judgment is inextricably interwoven into Israel’s Messianic salvation hopes.
In Matthew 24:30 Jesus quoted from Zechariah 12:10-12 and applied it to his coming against Jerusalem in A.D. 70. We thus find the exact motif here as in Isaiah, the salvation of Israel accomplished when Israel was judged at the coming of the Lord. We have Jesus’ application of Isaiah 2-4 to his coming in the fall of Jerusalem; we have Jesus saying that Israel would fill the measure of her sin, as predicted in Isaiah 65-66, and be destroyed at his coming against her in the fall of Jerusalem; and Zechariah says Israel would be saved when the Lord came against Jerusalem. Jesus applies Zechariah to the events of A.D. 70. With these three predictions before us we return to Romans 11.
The apostle predicted the salvation of Israel when the Lord would come. Is this a different coming than in the texts cited above? If so then the salvation is different. Yet Paul in Romans 11 is discussing Israel receiving "life from the dead" and in Acts 24-26 the same apostle said resurrection life was the hope of Israel. Since Paul said the remnant was receiving at that time the hope of Israel this is "prima facia" evidence of the "already-but-not-yet" aspect of the resurrection and irrefutable proof of the spiritual nature of the resurrection hope of Israel.
Resurrection and the Law
Our study of Paul on trial not only attests to the spiritual nature of the resurrection but it reveals serious problems with the amillennial view of eschatology and its relationship to the Old Law.
I am a fourth generation member of the churches of Christ and well versed in those traditional views of the Law and eschatology. That view says Jesus cast off Israel at the Cross having fulfilled all OT promises to her by that time; beginning at Pentecost a new set of promises and prophecies was given. But this is not what Paul believed and taught!
When standing before Felix, Paul said in the most emphatic terms that his gospel of the resurrection was nothing more or less than what Moses and the Prophets predicted, Acts 24:14f. When the Jews said "This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law and this place" Acts 21:28; Paul responded: "Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me" 24:13; and, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all" 25:8. Paul said he did not teach against the Old Law; yet the modern interpretation of Ephesians 2, Colossians 2, and Romans 7 has Paul saying the Old Law was completely taken away at the Cross. Any view that pits Paul against Paul is wrong, and Paul said he did not teach against the Law.
When studied carefully each of the texts just cited actually teach that those who were coming into Christ by baptism were dying to the law; the law itself was not dead. There is a vast difference between the Law dying and believers dying to the Law.
If the Old Covenant fully passed away at the Cross, how could Paul be preaching the yet future to him fulfillment of that Old Covenant? If the eschatological hope of Christians is/was not supposed to be tied to the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises made to Israel why was Paul’s eschatological hope grounded so firmly in the "law and prophets"? If Israel was cut off at the Cross why was Paul, some 20 years after the Cross still preaching the hope of Israel?
It is evident from our study of Romans 11 above that Paul did not see Israel abandoned at the Cross. In fact, for Paul, Israel’s promises were inextricably linked to the Cross and the Cross was the power by which God would fulfill His promises to them. And, all those promises were not fulfilled at the Cross.
Jesus said the Old Law would not pass until it was all fulfilled, Mat. 5:17-18. But Paul taught that the resurrection was a constituent element of that Old Law; therefore the Law could not pass until the resurrection occurred.
Few would doubt that the resurrection is the time of redemption. Ephesians 1:13-14 says the miraculous gifts of the Spirit had been given "until the redemption of the purchased possession." In Luke 21:22-32, Jesus spoke of his coming in the fall of Jerusalem as the time of redemption, vs. 28. We would note three things in regard to this text and our discussion of resurrection and redemption.
1.) Jesus said that in Jerusalem’s fall "all things that are written must be fulfilled" vs. 22. Thus, Jesus identifies the time when his requirement for the passing of the Law — complete fulfillment — would be.
2.) Jesus told the disciples that when they saw the events surrounding Jerusalem’s demise "look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" vs. 28. Thus, the time of the day of redemption — the time of the resurrection — is identified.
Some say this redemption speaks simply of the saving of their physical lives from any further persecution. But if this were true, and if it be argued that the fall of Jerusalem was a strictly local event, of what value would these words be to those outside of Judea?
Many commentators acknowledge that Romans 13:11-13 speaks of the fall of Jerusalem. Yet it is termed "the day" and Paul says "now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed." If redemption/salvation is from physical persecution only, and if the judgment on Jerusalem was a strictly localized event, in what way would the salvation of the Romans be at hand? Per the "localized judgment" concept there should have been nothing for the Romans to be "saved from!"
The same is true in 1 Peter 4:7, 17. Peter was speaking t
o brethren in Asia, Pontus, Galatia, etc, 1 Pet. 1:1. Yet he said "the end of all things is at hand" 4:7; and, "the time has come for the judgment to begin at the house of God" 4:17. Coffman says these verses refer to the fall of Jerusalem and that it was "the greatest single event of a thousand years, and religiously significant beyond anything else that ever occurred in human history." But if this be so it can hardly be called a "localized event!" For if the fall of Jerusalem was strictly localized, of what significance would it have been to the brethren in Asia, Cappadocia, Pontus, etc.? The fact is, it was not a localized event in significance any more than the crucifixion or resurrection were "localized" in significance!
Furthermore, as we have seen in Isaiah 2-4; 65-66; and Zechariah 12- 14 God promised salvation for Israel at the time of her judgment in A.D. 70. Without dispute Israel was not saved physically at that time!
Our point is that when Jesus said that in the fall of Jerusalem redemption was at hand he was not speaking simply of deliverance from persecution. While that definitely was included for his disciples, the fall of Jerusalem signified the consummation of spiritual redemption. What Jesus had initiated by his passion he would consummate by his Parousia, Heb. 9:24-28.
3.) In Luke 21:32 the Lord specifically said all these events would occur in his generation.
There is perfect harmony therefore between Jesus and Paul in regard to fulfillment and passing of the Law, redemption and resurrection. The Old Law had to be fulfilled before it could pass. Jesus said the passing of the Old System would bring redemption; redemption equaled resurrection.
Paul taught that the passing of the Old Law would be the time of the resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 the apostle said that the predictions of the resurrection, found in Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 would be fulfilled when the sting of death and strength of sin was destroyed. Specifically, he said "the strength of sin is the law" vs. 56. Reader, what law gave sin its strength?
Does the Gospel give sin its strength? It must if the resurrection does not occur until the end of the Christian Age for it is the Gospel that is currently God’s only law. Thus, since resurrection equals liberty from the strength of sin, i.e. "the Law", if the resurrection comes at the end of the Christian Age then resurrection must be liberty from the Gospel. Who can believe such a thing?
The Gospel is God’s power to save, Rom. 1:16. The problem is "the law of sin and death" Rom. 8:1-3. The Old Law could never deliver man from that Law. But the Gospel does! It is not the resurrection that delivers one from the Gospel; but the Gospel that delivers from the Law of Sin and Death. Since then the Gospel cannot be the strength of sin, what law was?
Paul uses the term "the law" 117 times in his writings; 110 times that term refers to the Old Covenant. In the seven times that it does not refer to that Old Law the context very clearly identifies what law is under consideration. It is evident therefore that when Paul uses the term "the law" in 1 Corinthians 15 that his consistent use of the term should guide our understanding. Is it possible to define the Old Covenant as the strength of sin? Indeed.
In Romans 5:20 Paul said the law was added "that sin might abound." This does not mean that God gave the Old Law to make men sin more — man had no problem doing that. But God gave the Old Law to make sin appear exceedingly sinful, to make man acutely aware of his sinfulness.
In chapter 7 of the same book Paul said:
"I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" vs. 9-11.
What death is Paul describing here? Is it biological death of his physical body? Patently not. Yet he said he had died. What law was Paul describing so graphically in terms of sin and death? What law gave sin such a hold on Paul? It was the law that said "thou shalt not covet" vs. 7 — the Old Covenant of Israel.
This is the law that Paul labored under and that created the "body of this death" Rom. 7:24 and from which Paul longed for full deliverance, cf. Phil. 3:1-15.
In direct contrast to the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ," the Old Law could not deliver from the "law of sin and death," Rom. 8:1-3. As just seen in chapters 5-7 of Romans the Law actually exacerbated the cognizance of the "law of sin and death." As Paul expressed in Galatians 3:10 "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them." Thus, the Old Law is seen to be the strength of sin.
In his second letter to the Corinthians this apostle further dealt with that Old Law. While the law "written and engraven in stones" was glorious in design and purpose, it nonetheless was a "ministration of death" 3:7. The apostle spoke of his then present hope for the full passing of that Ministration of Death, 3:12. Now if the Old Law had fully passed at the Cross how could Paul still be hoping for its passing over 20 years later as he penned this epistle? My point is that Paul calls that Old Law the Ministration of Death because it could not deliver from sin.
As he expressed in Galatians "If there had been a law given that could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the Law," Gal. 3:10. Paul uses "life" and "righteousness" interchangeably. As we have seen earlier, the Biblical definition of life and death, in the context of Jesus’ redemptive work, is not redemption from biological death but redemption from death caused by sin, i.e. separation from God. And from this the Old Law could not deliver. Instead it exacerbated the problem of sin — it was the strength of sin.
Now if the Old Law was a ministration of death what would deliverance from that death be? Would it be life from the dead? Would it be resurrection? And if the Old Law was concerned with "carnal ordinances" Heb. 9:10, and "things made with hands" but was to give way to the incorruptible Word of the Gospel, 1 Pet. 1:23, would that not be a change from corruptibility to incorruptibility, 1 Cor. 15:53?
In all of these passages it is evident that the strength of sin was the Old Covenant. Please follow me here:
- Jesus said that all of the Law had to be fulfilled before it could pass. Paul said the resurrection would be when the Old Testament predictions, Isaiah 25; Hos. 13 were fulfilled. Thus, the Old Law could not pass until the resurrection occurred. If the resurrection has not occurred then the Old Law still stands.
- Paul said the resurrection would be deliverance from the strength of sin. The Old Law was the strength of sin. Therefore resurrection would be full deliverance from the Old Law.
- Deliverance from the Old Law, the Ministration of Death, would come therefore when it was fulfilled by full deliverance to the New Covenant Law of Life in Christ Jesus. If the New Covenant of Christ has been fully delivered and the Old Law has been fully taken away, then the strength of sin has been destroyed and resurrection life is a reality in Christ. To put it another way, since the Old Law was the Ministration of Death and the New Law of Christ is the Law of Life, resurrection became a reality with the full establishment of Christ’s New Covenant.
While the Old Law does not exist today, sin does. And sin still separates just as it did for Jews under the Ministration of Death or Gentiles "who have not the Law" Romans 2:14, but w
ho were dead in sin nonetheless. It is resurrection life from sin that has become a reality in Christ. Those who come into Christ today are set free from sin, Ephesians 2:1, and raised to walk in newness of life, Romans 6:1- 4.
If the Old Covenant has not been fulfilled then the Old Covenant still stands. But if the Old Covenant still stands there is no current deliverance from the law of sin and death. What good therefore has Christ done? What then is "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ" Rom. 8:3, and from what does it deliver?
In John 5:24-29 Jesus makes it clear that it is hearing his voice that gives life from death. "Hearing" his voice is a euphemism for obeying his word, thus obedience to Christ’s word gives life from the dead. This is what the Old Testament scriptures predicted, John 5:39ff, and what has become reality through the Gospel. It is not the Old Covenant that saves but Jesus.
This brief study of the law and resurrection has demonstrated that the modern view that the Law passed at the Cross is erroneous since Jesus said all of the law had to be fulfilled before it could pass and one of the constituent elements of the law was the resurrection. If the resurrection has not occurred then the Old Law still stands. Further, we have shown that Paul describes resurrection as deliverance from the Old Law that gave sin its strength; and deliverance to the Gospel of Christ which gives life.
All of this fully agrees with what we have seen in regard to John 5:24-29 and its movement from the beginning of the harvest/resurrection to the full resurrection. There was a transitional period of time when the Old Covenant was growing old, Heb. 8:13 and thus "ready to pass away" and the time of complete revelation and confirmation of the Gospel. Those coming out from under the Law into Christ were experiencing life from the dead. This also included Gentiles who, while not under the Law, nonetheless were dead in sin, Ephesians 2:1f, but who were made alive by "being raised together with him by faith in the operation of God" Col. 2:12, in baptism.
When one today realizes the absolute necessity for the fulfillment of the Old Law and Paul’s discussion of the relationship of the passing of the Law to the resurrection it demands that we see the resurrection as full deliverance from sin, a spiritual resurrection. It also demands a fresh view of God’s relationship with Israel beyond the Cross.
God could not reject Israel until He had fulfilled all His promises to them "for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" Rom. 11:29. If therefore God has not kept his promise of resurrection — the Hope of Israel — then God must still have a distinctive relationship with them. Yet the fall of Jerusalem demonstrates beyond doubt that God’s relationship with Israel is terminated, see Daniel 9:24-27; therefore God’s promises to Israel stand fulfilled and the Hope of Israel has become a reality!
The Prophetic Background of John 5
With few exceptions, commentators agree that Daniel 12 and Ezekiel 37 form the prophetic background for Jesus’ prediction of the resurrection in John 5:28-29. And this can hardly be disputed. Interestingly, a few commentators, aware of the constraints of Daniel 12, deny any connection with John 5:28-29. Jim McGuiggan and Dub McClish, ministers in the church of Christ, see very clearly that Daniel 12 predicted events associated with the end of Israel’s world in A.D. 70 — not the end of time. That this is true can hardly be denied. But the association of the resurrection in Daniel 12 and the fall of Jerusalem does not disprove the connection of Daniel 12 to John 5. Only presumptive theological necessitates a dichotomy between these passages.
The parallels between Daniel 12 and Matthew 24 fully establishes that Jesus believed Daniel’s prediction was to be fulfilled in his generation. Daniel predicted the time of the Great Tribulation, 12:1; Jesus that would be in his generation, 24:21. Daniel predicted the salvation of the elect and the resurrection, 12:1-2; Jesus said the elect would be gathered at his coming in his generation, 24:30-34. Daniel said his predictions involved the time of the end, vs. 4, 9; Jesus said the end of the age, 24:3, would come when the gospel had been preached into all the world, 24:14 — in his generation, 24:34. Daniel predicted the Abomination of Desolation, 12:11; Jesus said his generation would see that evil and directly referred to Daniel, 24:15. Daniel heard one angel inquire of the other when all these things would be fulfilled and the response was "when the power of the Holy People has been completely shattered all these things shall be finished." 12:7. Jesus said, in predicting the fall of Jerusalem that all the things predicted by Daniel would be fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in his generation.
With these incontrovertible parallels before us, when it is admitted that Daniel 12 lies at the foundation of John 5:28f then Daniel’s statement that the resurrection would occur at the time of the demise of Israel is inspiration’s definitive answer. The consummative "coming hour" of John 5 was to be when Israel was destroyed in A.D. 70.
Ezekiel 37:12-14 is equally definitive; notice that the resurrection would be accomplished when Jehovah sent the Spirit upon Israel, 37:14. This positively identifies the time frame for the resurrection as the last days of Israel, per Joel 2:28f, since it was to be in Israel’s last days that the Spirit was to be poured out. This outpouring of the Spirit was to be miraculous. Since the resurrection was to be accomplished by the work of the Spirit when He was poured out on Israel, the resurrection therefore is to be limited to the framework of the last days miraculous working of the Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit’s miraculous work has been finished then the resurrection has occurred! If the resurrection has not occurred the miraculous work of the Spirit should still be evident! This is clear because it was the miraculous work of the Spirit that would "lift up your mortal bodies" Rom. 8:11. (This is the same "body" that in vs. 9-10 Paul said was already dead; was Paul writing to dead people?!) It was the miraculous work of the Spirit that was the "earnest of the inheritance" Eph. 1:13-14, "until the redemption of the purchased possession." Luke said the day of redemption would occur with the coming of Jesus in the fall of Jerusalem, Luke 21:28. Now if we no longer have the miraculous Spirit but the resurrection has not occurred then God took away His guarantee! Who ever heard of attempting to purchase a house, giving an earnest payment, and then taking the earnest payment back before taking possession of the house — but expect to obtain the house anyway? That earnest is the guarantee of the consummation of the deal! God gave the miraculous Spirit as an earnest of the resurrection, 2 Cor. 5:5; if that resurrection has not occurred but God has taken back the earnest, what guarantee do we have?
In reality, the fact that there are no miracles today stands as proof positive that the resurrection has occurred, salvation is real, and God kept his Word!
When it is realized that the resurrection was to occur in "the last days," of Israel, not time, per Ezekiel 37 and Joel 2; when it is realized that the resurrection was to occur when the power of the holy people was completely destroyed, Dan. 12:2; when it is realized that Jesus appeared in the last days, Heb. 9:26, and foretold the complete destruction of the power of the holy people in his generation, Mat. 24, it is abundantly clear that when Jesus in John 5 spoke of the resurrection and said "the hour is coming" he was not speaking of some distant time but was truly speaking of his generation. Jesus was acutely aware of his mission to "confirm the promises made to the fathers" Rom. 15:8. His appearance was not to say the promises would be delayed addi
tional millennia but to announce their imminent fulfillment.
John 5:28-29 therefore, when seen from its prophetic background, had to occur within clearly defined chronological parameters. It matters not what a person’s concept of the resurrection might be; the Biblically defined chronological parameters for the resurrection cannot be ignored or rationalized.
What Is Resurrection?
A final question: just what constitutes Biblical resurrection? There are several constituent elements. When we examine each of these elements in light of the New Testament evidence it is abundantly evident that there definitely was an "already-but-not- yet" aspect to the resurrection. It also becomes apparent that there is but one resurrection that is the focus of Biblical eschatology. And this correlates perfectly with our posit concerning John 5:24-29.
To help us in this investigation I will list the element of resurrection and then compare 1 Corinthians 15 with Colossians 2-3, with attention to other passages as well, to demonstrate not only the spiritual nature of the resurrection but the already-but-not-yet-aspect as well.
1.) Putting off one body; taking another. 1 Cor. 15:35-44; cf. Col. 2:11-12; 3:5-10. In Corinthians the apostle says "you do not sow the body that shall be" vs. 37; in Colossians he says they had "put off the body of the flesh" 2:11; 3:9, and were putting on the new man. Are these different "bodies"?
2.) The change from corruptibility to incorruptibility, 1 Cor. 15:42, 54-56; Col. 3:5; Eph. 4:22-25. In Corinthians Paul says resurrection is the passage from corruptibility to incorruptibility. In Ephesians and Colossians he speaks of their way of life without Christ as the life that was "corrupt according to deceitful lusts" ; their new life in Christ was "a new man" 3:10.
This concept is also found in 1 Peter 1. The writer reminded his readers that they had not been redeemed by "corruptible things"; things typical of the Old Covenant cultus of Israel. They had been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. In addition, he reminded them that in contrast to those corruptible things they had been "born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever" vs. 18-23. What is the nature of that which is born of incorruptible seed? In Peter therefore we find the idea of the passage from the corruptible to the incorruptible to describe the passage from life in sin to the New Covenant World of Jesus.
3.) Raising from death to life, 1 Cor. 15:42f; Col. 2:13; 3:1f; also Ephesian 2:1f. It is very obvious from Colossians that the raising from death to life involved the forgiveness of sin. Many fail to see that in Corinthians Paul is dealing with the same issue when he challenges those who were denying that "the dead ones" would be resurrected. (Those who had fallen asleep before Christ, therefore Old Testament saints, vs. 20). He challenged them with implications of their doctrine that they did not accept; one of which was that if the dead ones do not raise "you are still in your sins" vs. 17. Now how would the physical raising of dead bodies, or the failure to raise, have any bearing on whether the Corinthians had been forgiven? Further, the apostle says if the dead ones did not raise "those who "have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" vs. 18. What does he mean by perish? They have already died physically! By perish he means they were lost spiritually! Thus, forgiveness of sin is very much the issue in resurrection.
This is corroborated in Hebrews 9:15 where we are told that the eternal inheritance which the Old Testament worthies did not and could not receive under that Covenant was the remission of sin. Yet in chapter 11 we are told that what they desired was spiritual, vs. 13-16 and was "a better resurrection" vs. 36. Thus, even for those who lived before Jesus forgiveness of sin was inextricably linked with and identified with resurrection life. And it was the second coming of Jesus that was to bring to full realization that life that could not be obtained under the first covenant, Heb. 9:15-28. The Hebrew writer is also emphatic in saying that "in a very little while he who is coming will come and will not tarry" 10:37.
4.) Resurrection is removing the Image of Adam and taking the Image of Christ, 1 Cor. 15:48-49; Col. 3:10. We cannot fully develop the issue of the "image of Adam" and the "image of Christ." Suffice it to say that the image of God is what was lost in the Garden and what Jesus came to restore, 1 Cor. 15:21. The "image of Adam" is man in sin, depending on self, separated from God. It manifestly cannot be physical death since Paul in Corinthians says they had already borne that image — remember the death Paul said he had experienced under the Old Law? Once again we are back in the Garden defining the death that Adam died and that is separation from God because of sin — sin-death.
In Colossians Paul is discussing the same contrast in "Man"; the Old Man and the New Man. In Corinthians he says the "first man," that was to be put off, was "of the earth" vs. 47; in Colossians he tells them to put away the works of the earth "your earthly members," vs. 5 (McCord, NIV, etc). These things constituted "the old man." Thus, in both Corinthians and Colossians there is the change from the "earthly" to the "heavenly."
In Corinthians Paul says "as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image, (greek, eikona), of the heavenly Man" vs. 49. In Colossians the same apostle says they had borne the image of the Old Man — the man of sin — but were to "put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image (greek eikona) of Him who created Him." For Paul, the "image" of the Old Man was the life of sin; the "image" of the New Man, the one created in Christ’s image, was a life of submission to Christ, see Romans 8:29.
We would take special note at this juncture of the "already-but- not-yet" of resurrection life in Colossians 3. In vss. 1, 3 they died and were raised; yet their life was hidden and would be revealed at the parousia of Jesus. The writer then tells them to put to death "the earthly members," the Old Man, because they have put on the New Man. The "already-but-not-yet" permeates the text. There is no contrast between the nature of the present and future; it is simply initiation and anticipation of consummation.
As we have already seen earlier, Paul strongly believed that the transformation from life under the Old Covenant to life in Christ was a change from life to death. But it was also a transformation into the image of Christ! In 2 Corinthians 3:5-18 he discusses in- depth the then present passing of the Old Covenant System. It was not an accomplished fact because he calls it his "hope," vs. 12, a hope that he placed in the present tense! He did not say the Law had passed at the Cross; he said "when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away."
The Old Covenant had glory, vs. 9-10; but its glory faded in comparison with the glory of Jesus’ New Covenant. In spite of this surpassing glory those who read the Old Covenant were remaining blind to the New Covenant glory, stubbornly refusing to change.
Yet the apostle says those who were turning to Christ from that Old Covenant were in fact "being transformed (present tense) into the same image (greek eikona) from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" vs. 18. What image were they being transformed into? It was the glory of the Lord! The transition from the Old Covenant to the New was a transformation into the image of Christ — precisely how Paul defined the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:49!
The "already-but-not-yet" is therefore fully established: in 2 Corinthians they were being transformed, present tense, from one image of glory to another; in Colossians they were putting on, present tense, the new man that was the image of Christ, 3:10; in Corinthians they were anticipating, the "not-yet," putting on the "image of Christ."
5.) Resurrection is the state of "no marriage or giving in marriage," Luke 20:35; cf. 1 Cor. 15:50; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11. The literalistic approach to the Lukan text usually says "Since men still get married today this proves the resurrection has not occurred." But that literalism generally is hastily abandoned when the other texts are brought to bear. But why is the literalism that is applied to Luke 20 not applicable when Paul says that in Christ "there is neither male or female," Gal. 3:28; "neither Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised"? If in Christ there is neither male or female, is there any marrying going on? Why is this "sexless" condition that exists in Christ not the condition wherein there is neither marrying or giving in marriage?
This is a particularly pertinent question in light of Colossians 2-3 where Paul is so plainly discussing life and death; death and resurrection; the Old Man and the New. Since Paul’s context is resurrection life and he describes that life as in Christ where there are no distinctions, how does one divorce this "distinction free" condition from Jesus’ description of resurrection life in Luke 20?
6.) Resurrection produces Sons of God, Luke 20:35; Gal. 3:26-29. In language too clear to misunderstand Jesus said the resurrection would produce Sons of God, Luke 20:36. He also said the "resurrection age," was the age that would follow the age in which the Levirate marriage was practiced, Luke 20:27-34!
Under the Old Law Sons of God were made by physical birth, marriage and giving in marriage; that was how that Old Kingdom was sustained and grew. Jesus told Nicodemus that for him, a man physically born into that Old Kingdom, to enter the kingdom of heaven he would have to be "born again," John 3:1ff. To become a Son of God he would have to be born again!
In contrast to the Old Covenant wherein one was born physically into that kingdom, through the marrying and giving in marriage, Jesus said one would become a child of God by resurrection, Luke 20:35- 35; they would become sons of God, "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" John 1:13. In Galatians 3:26-29 the apostle declared that they had become sons of God by faith in being joined with Christ in baptism — and remember, in baptism a person dies with Christ and is raised with him, Romans 6! Here is death, burial, and resurrection resulting in becoming Sons of God!
7.) Resurrection is the reception of everlasting life, John 5:24, 29; Luke 20:35-36. Here is one of the clearest manifestations of the "already-but-not-yet" in scripture if one is willing to open the eyes to what the Bible says. Jesus said the dead who heard his voice would pass from death to life — everlasting life; and those in the resurrection "cannot die." Thus, resurrection equates to reception of eternal life. As we will see below, herein is revealed one of the inherent problems with the two resurrection interpretation of John 5.
Jesus said "if anyone keeps my Word he shall never see death" John 8:51. This was the "already." The Jews, with the literalistic mindset that still prevails, in discussions of life and death, accused Jesus of being demon possessed for claiming those who believed him would never die, John 8:52ff.
The point is that Jesus said belief in him results in eternal life, cf. also John 20:30-31. John wrote his first epistle telling his brethren "we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren" 1 John 3:14; but the one who refuses to love "abides in death." In comparison he says "everyone who loves is born of God," 4:7. Remember point #6 above: resurrection equals being born as sons of God. Here John says those who love the brethren have passed from death to life and are born of God!
John further says in 1 John 5:1 "whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" and in 5:11- 13:
"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life: he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
Now Jesus said that faith in Him resulted in resurrection as Sons of God; John says those who believe in Christ are born of God and have eternal life; and that they had passed from death to life! This is a powerful example of the "already but not yet" of resurrection.
While John wrote of the then present reality of "from death to life and Sonship," he also anticipated the (imminent) parousia in which that Sonship would be fully revealed, 1 John 3:1-3.
And do not forget that they had received the miraculous work of the Spirit, 1 John 2:20-27, as the Earnest of the revelation of Sonship. They were to "abide" faithful until that coming of the Lord, 2:28; just as the miraculous work of the spirit was abiding in them, 24, to bring the promise — the not yet aspect — of eternal life to perfection, 2:25. The anointing of the Spirit was to "abide" with them as they "abided" until the day "when He appears" 2:28.
The "abiding" of the Spirit and their "abiding in Christ" were concurrent, synchronous, and inextricably related. If the Spirit was not to abide until the "Day" then they were under no obligation to "abide in Christ" until that appearing. The Spirit was the "Guarantor" of that eternal life which they had begun to experience; remove the Spirit before His work was completed and there was, (and thus could not be today!), no eternal life.
Yet the traditional amillennial view of John 5 and 1 John emphatically denies that eternal life is a present possession of the believer today; "It is more accurate to view the present possession of eternal life as prospective." But if this is so this means there is not a present "spiritual resurrection" as demanded per the two resurrection interpretation of John 5:24-29. It means that one does not in reality pass from death to life; only "prospectively." It means that if one does not have life he is not in Christ, 1 John 5:12: "no Son, no Life; no Life, no Son"!
Eternal life was "prospective" from the Old Testament perspective, John 5:39f. If Christ has not fulfilled that Old Covenant hope what has he accomplished? Read carefully Hebrews 9:15 and ponder.
We have thus examined seven constituent elements and results of resurrection. We have demonstrated that the New Testament writers stated in unequivocal terms that those things were already present; not in physical resurrection, Sonship, or body, but in the passage from the Old Covenant World of the Ministration of Death to the New Covenant World of the Spirit of Life in Christ; from the death that is "the wages of sin," Rom. 6:23, to the life that is righteousness in Christ. The "already" of resurrection life is therefore undeniably established.
The "not-yet" aspect of these things would be fully revealed at the coming of Jesus. The writers affirmed this was at hand and involved the passing of "the world", 1 John 2:15; and the "last hour" had arrived, 1 John 2:18.
All of this evidence for an "already-but-not-yet" resurrection; and the manifest spiritual nature of that resurrec
tion strongly indicates that in John 5:24-29 Jesus was giving the foundational teaching upon which the rest of the inspired penman rested their teaching.
I would like to briefly list several, although by no means all, of the time indicators for the resurrection. Our choices are simple but challenging:
A.) If Jesus taught a physical resurrection and that it was to occur in his generation, then he was wrong and Christianity is built on a false foundation.
B.) If Jesus taught a spiritual resurrection and that it was to occur in his generation, then Jesus was right.
C.) If Jesus taught a physical resurrection and that it was not to be in his generation, then the thesis of this work is wrong.
The question is: did the prophets, or Jesus or Jesus’ disciples, give any clear-cut time indicators for when the resurrection would occur? The answer is a resounding "Yes!"
1.) Daniel 12, 1-7, 13
Daniel foresaw the end of the age and the resurrection when his eternal inheritance would be received. He was also told it would occur when the power of the Holy People was completely shattered, vs. 7. This can be no other time than A.D. 70.
2.) Matthew 8:11ff
Jesus spoke of many from the east and west, i.e. the Gentiles, coming and sitting at meal with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom. The imagery is of the Messianic Banquet based upon Isaiah 25:6; Isaiah 65:13ff, etc. This Banquet would occur when God "swallowed up death" Isaiah 25:8; it would also occur when Israel had filled the measure of her sins and was destroyed, 65:6-15.
Jesus said the Banquet would occur when the Sons of the Kingdom, i.e. Old Covenant Israel, was cast out and the Gentiles fully brought in! When were the Jews fully cast out; and would that be before they had filled the measure of sin? See Matthew 21:40-43 — it was at the Lord’s coming in A.D. 70 in the judgment of Israel.
Matthew 8 is an excellent commentary on 1 Corinthians 15. In verse 54 Paul said the resurrection would be the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8. In verses 50 he said "flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." Resurrection equaled entrance into the kingdom, cf. John 3:1-5. Notice the correlation between Matthew and Corinthians.
In Matthew and Corinthians, Isaiah 25:6-8 is the foundational Old Testament prophetic text. In both Matthew and Corinthians entrance into the kingdom is the focus of the fulfillment of the prediction, Mat. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:50. In Matthew the Kingdom Banquet would be enjoyed when the Jews were cast out, i.e. at the end of the Old Covenant Age. In Corinthians the resurrection would occur at the consummation of the Old Covenant promises, i.e. when all of the Old Testament promises had reached final reality. Thus when the Old Covenant would pass, Matthew 5:17-18.
3.) Matthew 13:36-43
The end of the age when the Son of Man would send his angels to gather the elect would be when the "righteous will shine forth." But this is a direct quote from Daniel 12:3! And Daniel’s prediction of the end of the age and resurrection was to consummate in A.D. 70! Thus, by inspiration’s decree the resurrection is placed at the end of the Old World of Israel and not the end of time.
4.) Matthew 16:27-28
In terms too simple and too plain to misunderstand Jesus promised his coming for the purpose of judgment on every man; and it would be during the lifetime of his audience! Later in that same generation he said "Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me"; a direct allusion to his earlier promise! What he had promised to occur within the lifetime of his earlier audience he was now, two thousand years ago, promising to accomplish "soon" "quickly"; it was "at hand"; and "must shortly come to pass" Rev. 1:1-3; 22:6, 10, 12, 20.
5.) Matthew 23:29-39
Would you agree that the resurrection is when all the martyrs of God are vindicated, judged and rewarded? Yes or No? Every Bible student I have asked this question has answered in the affirmative.
But in Matthew 23 Jesus said that "all the righteous blood shed on the earth" all the way back to creation would be judged "Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation" 23:36. Here is my argument:
Major Premise: The resurrection is when all the martyrs of God are judged.
Minor Premise: All the martyrs of God would be judged in Jesus’ generation.
Conclusion: The resurrection would be in Jesus’ generation.
It can scarcely be argued that the fall of Jerusalem was simply a "local judgment of the Jews" based upon what Jesus predicted. He said all of the blood, of all the martyrs, all the way back to Abel, would be judged in his generation. Abel was not a Jew. Thus, Jesus’ prediction entailed not only the living, his generation, but the dead as well. That can hardly be called a local judgment!
The theme of the book of Revelation is the judgment of the city that killed the prophets, and was guilty of the blood of "all who have been slain on the earth" 18:24. This city is none other than where the Lord was crucified, 11:8, and that judgment was "at hand" 1:1-3.
6.) Matthew 24:29-31
In this text Jesus promised his coming in the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem. He said that in that complex of events would occur the sending of his angels to gather the elect — this is the precise same gathering of the elect in Matthew 13 above. Jesus said this would be in his generation, Matthew 24:29-34. How is it possible, as most amillennial exegetes do, to insist that the coming, angels, clouds, trumpet, gathering, etc. of Matthew 24 must be understood of the spiritual realities occurring in the end of Israel’s Age in A.D. 70, but the identical elements must be understood literally of another end of the age in Matthew 13 and 16? What is the magic hermeneutical principle that allows one to so sharply delineate between these "comings" and "gatherings"?
When it is seen that Jesus’ Olivet Discourse is the foundation for Paul’s Thessalonian discourse about the Lord’s coming to gather the saints, 1 Ths. 4:13-18; 2 Ths. 1:7-10; 2 Ths. 2:1, then these resurrection passages must also be seen in the light of the time frame of the Olivet Discourse; the end of Israel’s Old Covenant World.
7.) Luke 20:34
The resurrection would usher in "the age to come". Question: what was "this age" from Jesus’ perspective? Galatians 4:4 tells us Jesus was born under the Law, the Old Covenant Age. Hebrews 9:26 says Jesus appeared in the end of the age; surely this can not be referent to the end of time as all agree. So Jesus appeared in the Old Covenant Age; this was his "this age" in Luke 20:34. And the resurrection was to usher in the "age to come." What age followed Jesus’ "this age"?
The resurrection would inaugurate the Age following the Age of the Levirate Marriage. In what age, which Jesus called "this age," was the Levirate Marriage practiced? See just above and Deuteronomy 25.
9.)1 Cor. 15:52
The resurrection would be when the last trumpet would sound, and Paul told the Corinthian church that not all of them would die until that happened, 1 Cor. 15:51. Compare this text with Matthew 16:27-28.
Further, Paul said they were living in the end of the age, 1 Cor. 10:10-11; they would possess the miraculous gifts of the Spirit until the coming of the Lord, 1 Cor. 1:4- 8; and that the time had been shortened and the world was passing away, 1 Cor. 7:28-31.
It is significant that in Revelation we read of seven Trumpets and that the resurrection, which would be when the prophets and martyrs would be rewarded, 11:18, is directly associated with the fall of the city "where also our Lord was crucified", 11:8.
The time of the sounding of the seventh (last) trumpet is also when all the things foretold b
y the prophets would be fulfilled, 10:7. And do not forget that Jesus placed the final fulfillment of "all things that are written" in relation to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
10.)2 Timothy 4:1
Paul said Jesus would judge the living and the dead at his appearing and kingdom. In Luke 21:26-31 Jesus told his disciples that in the fall of Jerusalem they would see the coming of their redemption, vs. 28; (the gathering of the elect, Mat. 24:31); the kingdom, vs. 31; and his parousia, vs. 27. Needless to say he also said all this would be in his generation, vs. 32.
11.) 1 Pt. 1:3-13
Peter, writing before A.D. 70 said the time for the reception of the eternal inheritance foretold by the prophets, see #1 above, was "ready to be revealed" at the coming of the Lord. The prophets knew salvation was far off; it was not for their time, vs. 10- 12. But Peter said it was "ready to be revealed." The contrast in time cannot be overemphasized! The reception of the eternal inheritance was now ready to be revealed; it once was not "ready to be revealed" but now was.
This is why Peter said Jesus was "ready to judge the living and the dead" 4:5. The word "ready" is the same word as in chapter 1. The Expositors Greek Testament says the Greek reader would understand it to refer to "the imminent judge." Here then is an unequivocal statement about the first century imminence of the resurrection.
Peter also said "the end of all things is at hand" 4:7. Literally, this reads "has come near," cf. Mat. 3:2, "the kingdom of heaven has come near." In what ever way the kingdom had drawn near in Matthew, the end of all things had drawn near in Peter. The kingdom was truly imminent in Matthew, therefore the end of all things was truly imminent in Peter.
The apostle also said "the time has come for the judgment to begin at the house of God" 4:17. Do not all agree that the resurrection is concurrent with the coming of the Lord, the end of all things and judgment? Certainly. Thus, in Peter we find that the Lord was "ready" to be revealed; "the end of all things" was "at hand"; the time for "the judgment" had come; and Jesus was "ready to judge the living and the dead." How much clearer could inspiration declare the imminence of the resurrection?
Here then are several emphatic chronological indicators, and there are many more, for not only when the resurrection was to occur but the framework for its occurrence — at the end of the Old World of Israel.
It does not matter what one’s concept of the resurrection is: if one is to maintain belief in Biblical inspiration he must acknowledge that the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and his disciples plainly taught that the resurrection was to occur at the end of the Jewish Theocracy in A.D. 70.
The overwhelming sense of eschatological imminence that permeates the New Testament simply cannot be ignored by the honest Bible student. Scholars have struggled with this imminence coupled with their literalistic views of the "last things" and come to the conclusion that Jesus and scripture was not inspired. And it is not a question of whether the imminence was real; the Greek words admit no other meaning and these scholars know it. On the other hand, the language of resurrection very plainly does admit of a spiritual, non-literal meaning. And this is the only solution for the dilemma.
Allowing the Bible to define the resurrection as deliverance from the Old Covenant of Death to the New Covenant of Life, as deliverance from the death brought by sin, separation from God, not physical death, acknowledges the full force of the New Testament language of imminence.
Problems With Tradition
While it is widely maintained that in John 5:24-29 there are two resurrections, one present and one future, one spiritual, one physical, a closer look reveals that this belief is actually denied at the very time it is maintained!
In a study with two elders from the churches of Christ in my area, John 5 became the focus of our discussion. I asked one of the elders if John 5:24-25 is a present reality: he said "Yes." I then asked if this meant we today possess everlasting life as promised in the text; he replied emphatically that we do not! This is representative of the amillennial view. What does this mean? It means there is no spiritual resurrection today at all; the promise of John 5:24-25 is not valid.
The amillennial view, which I once held, actually makes Jesus a giver of false promises. It says even though Jesus said "the hour is coming and now is" for the believer to receive everlasting life, that the reception of that life must wait until the arrival of the other hour, the one Jesus said had not yet arrived.
Remember, the amillennial view does not believe that Jesus’ "now is" hour and the "the hour is coming" hour are the same. They are separated, by two thousand years so far, and involve two different kinds of resurrections; two kinds of life. Nonetheless, when amillennialism says the life of verse 24-25 is in truth the life that is received at the time of the hour of verse 28-29, it logically demands that verse 24-25 was not then present and that the life in 24-25 is the same as the life in 28- 29. Thus, per this view, the hour that "now is" and the "coming hour" are combined and equate to the end of time. Jesus did not actually mean the hour of salvation was present — he just said so. Should we not be cautious to accept a position that so radically rejects Jesus’ words?
If a person does not today receive everlasting life as a result of faith in Christ, what do they receive? Jesus said they are passed from death to life, but the amillennial view says that is not true because this would imply the impossibility of apostasy. (This is a false assumption without merit but lies outside the point of the discussion here.) According to the amillennial view, a person is in spiritual death outside of Christ. But even though they receive Christ in faith they do not receive eternal life in this sphere. This logically demands that there is no such thing as spiritual life for the believer today since they do not truly "pass from death to life" as Jesus promised. Just what kind of life does the believer actually receive in Christ anyway? Temporal life? "Almost eternal" life? Half eternal, half temporal?
Jesus said the believer receives everlasting life; the amillennial view says "No, the believer receives the promise of everlasting life." In effect, this says the believer is not raised from spiritual death because that would mean he has life. He can only have the promise of everlasting life. Are we to understand that Jesus was giving a promise of being raised to a promise? But if the believer does not today receive the passage "from death to life", then Jesus was clearly wrong when he said "the hour is coming and now is." It is one of the embarrassing self-contradictions of the amillennial view that they attempt to say John 5:24-25 is a present day reality for believers and then immediately assert that the believer does not possess what John 5:24-25 promises.
As noted at the beginning of this work, the idea of a physical raising of dead human corpses is so engrained in the modern mind that it is difficult for many to rethink. Changing our way of thinking is difficult and often uncomfortable. Hopefully this book has challenged the reader with enough evidence to initiate that rethinking process. Naturally, there are objections to the views herein elucidated and we wish to deal with two of the more common and significant issues.
Jesus the Firstfruits
It is often argued that since Jesus was raised physically from the dead, and since we must be re
surrected like him, that this proves a physical resurrection. This argument is normally grounded on 1 Corinthians 15:20 which speaks of Christ being "the firstfruits of them that slept." The argument says Jesus was the firstfruits of the resurrection; the harvest must follow the firstfruits "in kind"; Jesus was resurrected physically; therefore the harvest, i.e. the resurrection, must be physical.
The concept of the firstfruits is itself significant. Jesus was the "firstfruits of them that slept" 1 Cor. 15:20. Contrary to the view that there has been so far a two thousand year gap between firstfruits and the harvest, Dunn comments on the significance of the term firstfruits; it
"denotes the beginning of the harvest, more or less the first swing of the sickle. No interval is envisaged between the firstfruits and the rest of the harvest. With the first fruits dedicated the harvest proceeds. The application of this metaphor to the resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit expresses the belief that with these events the eschatological harvest has begun; the resurrection of the dead has started, the end-time Spirit has been poured out."
Anyone familiar with harvest time fully concurs with this. To deny that firstfruits implies the imminent harvest is to deny the significance of the firstfruits. Thus, those who lodge the "firstfruits" argument against the spiritual nature of the resurrection actually turn the argument against themselves for their own argument would demand that the physical resurrection was imminent in the first century. And those who make this argument deny this.
This objection also fails to understand two other critical points. First, Jesus’ physical resurrection was a sign, Matthew 12:39-40; John 21:30-31, and a sign never signifies itself.
For illustration consider Jesus’ miracles. Turning water into wine did not signify a future winemaking event, John 2. When Jesus fed the five thousand and said he is the bread of life this did not signify that he is literal bread. When Jesus walked on the water this did not signify a future time of water walking for all believers.
None of the miracles of Jesus signified a future event similar to the miracle. They signified spiritual realities. See Mark 2:1-10 where Jesus specifically noted that his miracles were a sign of spiritual truths. Why then is it argued that there must be a physical resurrection because Jesus was physically raised from the dead? His resurrection, like the other miracles he performed, signified his deity and spiritual truths.
Second, Romans 6 identifies the kind of death and resurrection experienced by Jesus that is to be emulated by believers. We have already seen the spiritual likeness of being joined with Christ’s death, vs. 3-5. Now notice verse 8-10:
"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all: but the life that He lives He lives unto God."
Please note that Paul speaks of the Christian’s past death in verse 8. What kind of death had they already experienced? It cannot be physical. But there was a future life consistent with the nature of that death. If the past death was spiritual the future life was spiritual! And this future life was to emulate Jesus’ resurrection. But what is the apostle’s focus when he speaks of Jesus’ death and life? Notice carefully: "The death that he died he died to sin once for all; but the life that he lives he lives unto God."
Jesus experienced sin-death on behalf of all men, 1 Peter 2:24; his Father turned his back on him, Mat. 27:46, because "he was made to be sin for us,", 2 Cor. 5:21. When he died physically he went to the Hadean realm, separated from his Father, Acts 2:31. But because he was personally sinless Hades could not hold him, Acts 2:24. He rose physically to manifest his triumph over the Hadean realm of separation from the Father. We would not know of Jesus’ victory over sin-death were it not for that physical resurrection! That resurrection was proof positive of Jesus’ identity and victory, Rom. 1:4f.
When Paul speaks of the believer’s participation in Jesus’ resurrection he concentrates on Jesus’ death to sin and resurrection to life with the Father. This is not physical but spiritual.
Those who make this objection fail to note that not only does Paul say the believer must participate in Jesus’ resurrection, he makes it abundantly clear that the believer participates in the likeness of Jesus’ death.
If physical resurrection is demanded to emulate Jesus’ resurrection, why is not a physical death in the likeness of his physical death not also required? Must the believer be crucified like him; scourged and unjustly condemned? And if the believer does not die in true likeness of that physical death does this mean he will not be raised in likeness of Him?
Paul is emphatic in Romans, Philippians, Colossians and elsewhere that they were participating in the likeness of Christ’s death. In Romans 6 he said they had been "baptized into his death" vs. 3; they had been "united with him in the likeness of his death" vs. 5; they had "died with Christ" vs. 8. But is it not irrefutably true that the "likeness of his death" they had experienced was not physical death?
If Jesus’ physical resurrection demands a physical resurrection, does this not demand that there had to be some more dying on the part of those to whom Paul wrote?
In Romans 6 the apostle says they had already died, vs. 8; in 1 Corinthians 15 they had already borne the image of the man of dust, i.e. death, vs. 49; in Colossians 3 they had already died, vs. 3; in 2 Timothy 2 they had already died, vs. 11. In each of these texts the death had already occurred and the future resurrection was to overcome the present death.
Obviously, physical death is not the death they had experienced. But if the future resurrection was to overcome death did they not have to die some more — and a different kind of death? How many kinds of death did Paul say one had to die to participate in Jesus’ resurrection? If the future resurrection in these passages is of a different nature than the death they had died, why did Paul see such a direct relationship? Why did he not tell them that although they had already died, this was not the death from which the coming resurrection would free them? And if the future resurrection in these passages would not deliver them from the death they had already experienced does this not mean that they would be physically raised but not spiritually? Did Paul say one had to die twice; once spiritually with Christ and then physically like him? Just where does the inspired apostle suggest such a thing texts? The answer is simple; he does not do so. The apostle speaks of one death and one resurrection.
Finally, appeal to a physical resurrection upon the grounds that Jesus was "the firstborn from the dead" actually demands that the physical resurrection had begun.
The New Testament is emphatic in teaching that the first century brethren comprised "the church of the firstborn ones" Heb. 12:23; Christ had begotten them to be "a kind of firstfruits unto him" Js. 1:18; Paul said Jesus was the "firstborn among many brethren" Rom. 8:29. They had joined with Christ in his death and resurrection, Rom. 6. Clearly, therefore their firstborn status did not refer to resurrection from physical death. They had joined with Christ in dying to sin and raising to life with the Father.
But if the "firstfruit from the dead" argument must refer to physical death and resurrection this means that the entire early church had been physically resurrected since they had joined with Christ in his death and resurrection and become firstfruits.
The objection therefore that the believ
er must be raised as Jesus was is true if we understand that this refers to Jesus’ death to sin and resurrection to life with the Father. But if by this it is meant a physical resurrection this is clearly wrong as Paul shows.
What About The Body?
One of the most common objections to the views presented in this study is that the Bible teaches a "bodily resurrection" and that the concept of a spiritual resurrection denies this. It is often insisted that a spiritual resurrection denies a "bodily" resurrection. But this is truly a misunderstanding of what scripture teaches. I affirm that the Bible definitely teaches a "bodily resurrection"; I just deny that it is the raising of a physical body out of the earth.
Look closer at Romans 6. Notice that Paul says "the old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with" vs. 6. Is there a body here? Surely. Paul says that in baptism one man was put to death and buried; a "body" is definitely involved here! But there is another "body" at work here; the one that is raised. Quite evidently, when Paul says the body of sin was destroyed he is not speaking of the human physical body or else he is saying that a person is baptized to destroy the human physical body!
The identical thought is found in Colossians 2:11:
"In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ."
An examination of the original text reveals that the words "sins of" are not present. Thus the literal reading is "by putting off the body of the flesh." Paul said they had put off their "fleshly body" in baptism! We do not wish to be redundant but is it possible to understand Paul as referring to the physical body? Surely not. Yet it is undeniable that Paul is teaching that they had put off one body in exchange for another. And what is resurrection but the raising out of death to life; the putting off of one body for another? What was the other body?
They had "put on Christ" Gal. 3:27; they had become a new creation, 2 Cor. 5:17; they were creating a "new man," Eph. 4:22-24, even as they "put off the old man which grows corrupt"; in putting off the "body of flesh" they were putting to death "your earthly members," Col. 3:5-10; "the old man with his deeds"; and were putting on "the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created Him."
Here then, Paul is teaching about man’s "body" as it stands before God. Man under sin is a body of death; man under God’s Covenant is a body of life.
Consider the Prodigal Son. The young man rebelled against his Father’s will, wasting his life and fortune in sin. While in that rebellious state his father said he was "dead" Luke 15:24; not physically, but the totality of his existence was alienated from his father. Physical life and death was not the issue; but life and death was.
When he returned, his father said the son was now "alive"; his son had been "resurrected" in the truest sense of the word. His standing before his father had been transformed from death to life. It did not involve his bodily substance, his physical make-up, but it involved his spiritual stance, his standing before his father.
Paul carries this out in Romans 7-8. In chapter 7 the apostle relates his struggles under the Old Covenant; "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." Notice Paul’s reference to life and death. As we have repeatedly stated this cannot be referent to physical life and death. Yet it is very real life and very real death! Just because it is "spiritual" does not mean it is not actual and real!
How did Paul refer to his struggles under the Law? Listen to him: "Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Paul was not desiring a deliverance from his human physical body! But he was speaking of his desire for "bodily" deliverance! He referred to his life — the totality of his stance before God under the Old Law as his "body." And under the Law that was a body of death because as we have seen, the Old Law could not justify; it only condemned. It was a "Ministration of Death."
That Paul does not have deliverance of the physical human body in mind is shown in his response to his lamentable condition under the Law: "I thank God — through Christ Jesus our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." Paul said the answer for his "body" problem was Jesus. And what is the nature of that deliverance?
In Romans 8:1-3 the apostle explains:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh."
For Paul, deliverance from the "body of death" was New Covenant salvation in Christ! It was, as Tim King suggests, a change in "stance" before God not a change in physiological "substance." It was "bodily" salvation to be sure, but not of a human corpse out of "terra firma."
This is further corroborated in Romans 8:6-14. Here the apostle makes comments concerning life and death, body and resurrection, flesh and spirit, that simply cannot be applied to physical life and death, physiological body versus man’s spirit, and raising of human corpses from the earth.
In verse 8 he says "those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Now if by "flesh" he meant the human physical body (soma) then clearly man cannot please God in this life! But as King says "Flesh and spirit for Paul equal determinative modes of existence." This is undeniable, For instance, in Galatians 3:1f Paul wrote to Christians being tempted to return to the Old Law "having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect in the flesh?" "In the Spirit" refers to their New Covenant life in Christ; "in the flesh" refers to a return to the Old Covenant. "Flesh" and "Spirit" are modes of existence; not physical bodies versus disembodied spirit.
On a wider scale, life "in the flesh" included the Gentiles that, while not under the Mosaic Covenant, were guilty of sin and thus "in the flesh," Eph. 2; Col. 2-3. Thus, Paul charged that whether "Jew or Greek all are under sin" Romans 3:9. Life apart from God was life "in the flesh," and constituted "the body of the flesh"; the "body of sin."
On the other hand, to be in the spirit, for Paul, was not to be disembodied from the human body, but to be delivered from one mode of existence under the Old Law to a new mode of existence under the New Covenant Law of Jesus Christ. This is the very thought in Galatians 3-5 as well.
Continuing in Romans 8 we find that Paul said "if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Ponder this: Paul says if Christ dwelt in them, the body was dead. What body? Was it not the body Paul referred to in Romans 7:24 — the one he desired deliverance from? It surely cannot be the physical body or else he is saying that Christ only dwelt in physically dead people.
He then says that if Christ dwelt in them "he who raised up Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." This "mortal body&qu
ot; is not different than the body already in view — the body Paul has been discussing in relationship to the Law, sin and death.
We are back to the "already-but-not-yet" since Paul has declared deliverance from the law of sin and death, Rom. 8:1, and yet is still speaking of life from death. Paul is dealing with the firstfruits since they had received "the firstfruits of the Spirit," 8:23, (see 8:28 also) but were anticipating the full deliverance. He has not changed the focus from spiritual death and life to physical death and life; from a spiritual body to a physical body. Paul is consistent throughout. His entire focus is on deliverance from the law of sin and death; on the death that "passed on all men because all have sinned, Rom. 5:12. This is the death of the Garden; and as we have seen this cannot be physical death.
The inspired writer not only speaks of the coming resurrection but reminds them that God had given them the "firstfruits of the Spirit" as the guarantee of that coming consummation, 2 Cor. 5:5. We have already seen that this is a reference to the presence of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Ezekiel promised that God would place His Spirit in Israel and raise them from the dead, Ezekiel 37:12- 14. This was not to be a nationalistic restoration but a release from sin through the saving work of the Messiah; and it is called coming out of their graves! Our point is that Paul teaches that the miraculous work of the Spirit would be perfected and finished in the resurrection. If there are no miracles today then the resurrection must have occurred or the Spirit failed to complete his mission! If the resurrection has not occurred the miraculous works of the Spirit must be present!
There is no scriptural indication that God would pour out His Spirit (for one generation) to guarantee the resurrection; take the Spirit away for an indeterminate time, and then send Him again for a "final miracle"! One cannot divorce the resurrection work of the Holy Spirit from that first century framework without doing great violence to the text.
What we have seen then is that Paul did teach a "bodily" resurrection. Yet his concept of the "body" is not that of the modern church. Modern man thinks of body substance; Paul thinks of man’s stance before God. Modern man thinks of a body out of the ground; Paul thinks of man delivered from sin. Man thinks physiology; Paul thinks soteriology. The Bible student needs to bring his thoughts into alignment with Paul.
We have examined two main objections to the view that the Bible concept of resurrection is deliverance from sin and reconciliation with God. The objections reject the Biblical definition of death; they fail to acknowledge the "sign" nature of Jesus’ physical resurrection; and they change the definition of Paul’s "body" resurrection.
Summary and Conclusion
We have seen that the death for which resurrection is the cure is Biblically defined as sin-death, separation from God, and not physical death.
We have seen that Jesus’ declaration of the resurrection in John 5 must be seen as moving from initiation to perfection; from the authority to give life to the authority to render judgment; from "some" to "all." John 5 does not contain two different kinds of resurrection; one spiritual and one physical. This is borne out by other NT passages.
It has been shown that the relationship between the passing of the Old Law, the Ministration of Death, and the full confirmation of Jesus’ New Covenant of Life. Resurrection life was brought to a reality by the complete fulfillment of that Old Law, 1 Cor. 15:54-56.
We have studied Paul’s trial before the various authorities and demonstrated that his hope could not have been for a physical resurrection. His resurrection hope was the Hope of Israel. The elect had begun to obtain it; Paul was already participating in it. If God cut off Israel at the Cross then He cut them off before fulfilling His promises to them!
We have examined the OT prophetic foundation for the resurrection and seen that John 5 is grounded firmly on two passages, Daniel 12 and Ezekiel 37, both of which clearly define the time and framework for the resurrection. In addition we have seen from other Old Testament prophecies that Israel’s salvation would come when Israel was judged and each of those texts isolates the time of that judgment — the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
We have noted the traditional view of John 5:24f and found it to be self-contradictory at best. In addition we have seen that John, in his gospel, anticipated the coming of the consummative "hour"; in his first epistle he emphatically declared the hour was upon them; in Revelation 14 we find that the hour of the judgment had come and it was associated with the fall of the city where the Lord was crucified.
In 1 John we find the very motif predicted in Ezekiel 37 — the presence of the Holy Spirit to bring about the resurrection. The miraculous nature of the work of the Spirit and its limitation to the "last days" of Old Israel’s Age places the time of the resurrection in that framework, Joel 2-3.
As suggested above, the coming critical hour was when the spiritual salvation/resurrection initiated by Jesus’ resurrection would be consummated when the Old World of the Ministration of Death, 2 Cor. 3, was swept away in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
We have examined some of the constituent elements of resurrection and demonstrated that in the first century the New Testament writers positively stated the present, but not yet consummated reality of each of these elements. And not one time do the writers associate these elements with physical death and life but with the passage from sin to righteousness in Christ. This shows in the strongest possible way that the resurrection cannot be a passage from physical death.
With several examples but by no means all that could be given, I have demonstrated the Biblical time- frame and framework for the resurrection. The New Testament writers were uncompromising and unequivocal in stating that the resurrection was near at hand and would come at the "end of the age"; at the end of Israel’s Age not the end of time. They were either right or wrong — there is no middle ground.
Finally, we have examined some of the objections against the view herein presented and found them to be at odds with the express statements of scripture.
What this all means is that in Christ today there is to be found true life. God through Christ has conquered sin and death and for those in Christ; "there is therefore now no condemnation" Romans 8:1. The resurrection life brought to a reality by Christ was in one sense a one time for all time event because it involved the final judgment on the Old Covenant World of Israel — and sin. But it is because of that event that Life in Christ has become an eternal reality.
The establishment of the kingdom in the first century was a one time for all time event never to be duplicated; yet the blessings are with us today "world without end" Eph. 3:20-21. The miraculous work of the Spirit was limited "one time for all time" to the last days of Israel never to be duplicated again. Yet we today have the abiding result of that perfected work. Jesus died one time for all time, Rom. 6:8-11; yet we today have the unending blessings resulting from fulfillment of the prophecies of that death.
Just so, Christ’s coming at the end of the age was not to end judgment but to establish unending judgment, Isaiah 9:6-9; it did not mean there would be no judgment after his coming. Contrary to the amillennial view, at his coming Christ would sit on the throne of his glory to judge — not surrender his throne. Christ’s throne, his throne of judgment, is without end, Luke 1:32-35. Christ’s eternal standard of judgment, His Word, not only judged in "the las
t day," but is the unmovable standard of judgment, Heb. 12:28; 13:20.
Death reigned from Adam to Moses, Rom. 5:14f. The Law entered and exacerbated man’s futility making sin "exceedingly sinful" Rom. 7:13, and man aware of his state of death, Rom. 7:24, longing for deliverance. That Old Law could not give life but it promised it when Messiah would come. Jesus truly has "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" 2 Tim.1:9f. Man once separated from God can now, in Christ, be delivered from sin — raised from the deadness of sin. This is true resurrection!
This study, while necessarily involving much material, has therefore examined one of the key passages used to buttress the "two resurrection" concept and found that John 5 must be kept within the timeframe of the first century, and framework of the passing of the Old Covenant.
While this study has, in its polemic aspect, focused on some of the weaknesses of the amillennial view, the implications are just as devastating against the literalistic premillennial paradigm. For if the Hope of Israel was not a physical resurrection, much more was it not a nationalistic restoration.