Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 3:16, that all scripture is good for doctrine or teaching, revealing fault, correcting errors, and training in godliness. Of course he was speaking of the Old Testament where, as we mentioned about the Proverbs, there is clear, concise sections of scripture where we can glean good information to live by. The New Testament, which is actually a commentary of the Old, takes a little more work to find doctrine. Packed within a few verses of John 5, Jesus reminds the Jewish leadership of several facts of the gospel that they seemed to miss, even though they were experts in the scriptures. In just 30 verses, Jesus teaches the doctrines of the trinity, limited atonement, Sabbath practices, final judgement, and today’s topic, the resurrection of the body at his second coming.
I have mentioned before the T.V. show “The Walking Dead.” This show has become a national phenomena. I have only seen part of one episode but I understand that it portrays a form of resurrection of the dead. However, I doubt that many viewers actually believe this could happen. They enjoy the entertainment of the plot, but do they ever consider the day that dead will actually rise? Neither did some of Christ’s audience.
Among the crowd would have been Sadducees, a sect of Jews who did not believe in resurrection. These men were higher critics of scripture. They did not believe in anything spiritual and considered much of scripture to be fairy tales for the uneducated. Also there were Pharisees, religious leaders who majored in the minors. They were so concerned with Christ’s Sabbath practices that they missed the point of his miracle. Christ struck a nerve with both groups, but used it as a teaching moment. Speaking about all he had just done and said, Christ warns them saying, “Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in which all who are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth. Those who have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28,29)
We have the same types of characters in the visible church today. We have those who preach a new gospel that suggests a more modern people need a more enlightened and inclusive interpretation. Also there are those who teach a legalistic works righteousness who pick particular do’s and don’ts as there banner flag. Neither of which spend much time focusing on the mysterious doctrines like the resurrection.
Living in a time of technological and scientific advancement poses some challenges for the Church. Hypotheses like cryogenics, where the dead persons body is frozen until some future time when the cause of death can be cured, suggests man can manipulate a resurrection. The “scientifically proven” concept that a body, being reduced to its most elementally atomic form, cannot be regenerated and then reunited with a soul is taught to our children in basic science classes. God is so aware of man’s problem with these mysteries that he reiterates in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, “With men it is impossible, but not with God.” The absolute certainty and necessity of a bodily resurrection makes this doctrine a common element of the gospel.
Part of the delusion that men have been infected with because of sin is a need to have proof of scripture. God points out how much truth there is in the gospel being easier for the simple mind than the educated mind to accept. Not that education is within itself evil, but it produces a barrier for the unregenerate to accept the “foolishness” of scripture and for the regenerate to recover from. Creation is another stumbling block for the educated. During his speech on Mar’s Hill, Paul uses creation to prove God. This was an advanced audience for the time. Today even the common man has problems with the concept of “God’s making all things from nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.”(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 9)
Compared to God’s infinite knowledge we are mere brutes. An inferior nature has a very imperfect conception of the power of a superior nature. Consider the native American when the Europeans displayed to them the power of gun powder. They would have been amazed by how with a flash and a bang, man could kill. However, they had no problem with the concept of bodily resurrection. Though they never saw it happen, they believed it could happen. The natives were not stupid, but rather they were simple, and not infected by technology.
The nature of this universal resurrection has many elements that we only can imagine. Scripture does give some absolutes. All shall be raised who were previously dead. Those who are found alive at the second coming of Christ shall not die, but will receive bodily likeness to those who are raised. This will occur for the saved and the unsaved, but with different qualities. These qualities will be distinctly human. I find that often we believe the notion that the dead become angels or demons. Both angels and demons are created beings that are accounted for in scripture, but are not human in nature. When we tell our children that grandma is flying around in heaven with wings and a halo, this picture stays with them for life. They begin life with a distorted view of heaven. The new body of a believer will be powerful and glorious, but not angelic. The lost will receive a body that is the antithesis of the saved. The state of nature in which one dies predetermines the condition of the resurrected body. Grace will beget grace and corruption will beget corruption. Beyond these principles we must wait for that day.
The doctrine of the resurrection serves two practical purposes to benefit man. For the comfort of the people of God, Paul tells the church in Thessalonica, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.”(1 Thess. 4:13) Greek culture had no belief in resurrection. Paul advised the church not to act like those around them, who, when a loved one died, became emotionally overcome with a sense of loss. If we believe God we must use his word to console ourselves. The spiritual relationship between believers creates a union that even death cannot sever. The hope of the resurrection promises a future reunion in bodily form.
This doctrine also serves as a terror for the lost. God is actually being merciful if he allows the unbeliever to believe in a resurrection. The delusion that death is a release from pain, want or unhappiness to a state of nonexistence is worse for a man than to believe that when he dies he will go to hell. The realization of future torment could be the result of their awakening and their knowledge of their sinful state.
Next, we approach another phase of the Eternal State, final judgement. As with resurrection, the believer will benefit from the comfort of knowing the judge personally and the lost must wade into the dark unknown. Boston will touch on what is known about another mysterious event.