On Resurrection: a Brief Overview

Why is there still death?

Isn’t death contrary to all of God’s designs? He is, after all, life.

Most people would say that God never intended death to come into the world. My response to this is two-fold.

  1. This denies predestination. If God didn’t intend it, then He certainly didn’t foreordain it, and is powerless to stop it. If He is not all-powerful, then by definition He is not worthy to be called God, since God is omnipotent. Therefore, it must be something He intended.
  2. There was a death before the Fall. Before sin entered the world, death had already visited it.

Wait. Death entered before sin?

Remember that when God created Eve, He put Adam into what our translations usually call a “deep sleep.” A more accurate translation is “death-sleep.” It’s a lethargic, paralyzing stupor. Adam was dead, or so far into a coma that he didn’t wake up when God ripped him in half. I’m a pretty deep sleeper, but that would get even my attention.

(Another thing to note is that this “deep sleep” is almost always noted as being an act of God, as opposed to regular slumber.)

So we see that death, or figurative death, was in the world before the Fall. That means that it was at least an intended tool of God. But for what purpose?

Remember how God acts in a five-fold structure (the following list is from Through New Eyes – James B. Jordan):

  1. God speaks
  2. God tears apart and puts together again
  3. God distributes His work
  4. God evaluates His work
  5. God enjoys His work

The second step is the one we are interested in here. God tears something apart and builds something new with it. This is what He did to Adam: He broke him down and created a new (glorified) woman out of it. This is why the woman is called the glory of the man (something that Adam himself understood). She is the new man.

So what does this have to do with resurrection?

Well, consider what happened to Adam. He died, and was raised again to new (more glorious) life. That’s what happens through resurrection. Christ died, and was resurrected to a new, more glorious life.

(And He was by no means the only one to be resurrected; many, many, many others had been brought back from death before this. Not only people that Jesus Himself raised, but other prophets of God. Ezekiel raised an entire army of dry bones; Paul raised the young man who had fallen to his death; the graves opened when Jesus gave His last cry, etc. Jesus was just one of many in a long line of resurrectees.)

None of this is to demean Christ’s Resurrection, however. Since the Fall, death became something to fear. Even before the Fall, it was still an unnatural ripping of Body and Soul. However, with sin complicating the picture, death became the end-all. You did not rise again after you had died (generally speaking, I have mentioned exceptions). You were not worthy to become a New Creation: therefore, after you had been “broken down,” you were not raised to a more glorious life.

This is why Christ’s death is so important (one of the reasons, anyway). He was sinless, and thus the perfect sacrifice for sin. He broke the chains of death and sin. He was raised to a more glorious life. And, by His righteousness imputed to us, we partake in His victory by virtue of our covenantal relationship with Him.

This resurrection motif can be found in many other places in Scripture. A typological hermeneutic teaches us that things like the Resurrection of Jesus are not isolated incidents, but rather pieces in a grander story framework.

The presence of the number three, especially relating to time, is a clue to the resurrection motif. Joseph is released from Potiphar’s prison in the third year. Jonah is delivered after 3 days in the belly of the great fish. Daniel spends 3 days in the lions’ den. And when each of these men is brought out of the “grave,” they are fully equipped to do God’s will and show His glory, and are often lavished with gifts as a result.

Jesus tells us that unless a seed dies, it cannot grow. It must first die, and then miraculously is transformed into something much greater. From this, not only is the resurrection motif evident, it is also clear that this is not just something that we pull out of Scripture: it is a vibrant, very real and present thing that is happening every second.

We are built to see this imagery in creation. All food that we eat must die. No matter what the Japanese say. All food that we receive nourishment from must die before we can get nutrients from it. That’s how creation works. Life out of death.

We are told that hair is glory (this is something very evident to us). What is hair? Dead cells. But yet it is used for glory.

Given all of this imagery, by both special and natural revelation, the Resurrection of Christ should have come as no great surprise. Granted, it was not expected (although the disciples should have known), nor was it something that happens every day. But an early Christian would have said, “Of course Jesus Christ was going to be resurrected from the dead. Don’t you know anything?”

It’s a new creation, a new covenant, call it what you will. But it is consistent with the typology of Scripture. The Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection were not foreign to the Old Covenant. They extended and glorified the old covenants, yes. But they were nothing “new” in the sense of “never been done before.” They were an extension, not a replacement. There is a continuity between the Old and New Testaments that dispensationalism, by its nature, misses entirely.

What does this mean for us today?

  1. We don’t need to fear death. Because Christ has died for us, death is not the end. Death is merely a trial through which we pass to glorified bodies.
  2. When we pass through hard times, trials, and the valley of the shadow of death, we can know that glory waits on the other side. God brings us through trials to make us stronger. He wrestles with us just as He wrestled with Jacob. Jacob grew stronger through that wrestling.

Death is not the end. If we are covered by the blood of Christ, death is nothing. We emerge again, to greater glory.

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