it is a somewhat common but incorrect assumption that the
doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is strictly from the New Testament. As
we shall see here in Daniel 12, this is incorrect. We will examine the resurrection
of the dead from both the Old Testament and the New Testament in this lesson.
that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There
will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of
nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found
written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the
earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting
contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and
those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But
you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the
end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge." Then I, Daniel,
looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and
one on the opposite bank. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was
above the waters of the river, "How long will it be before these
astonishing things are fulfilled?" The man clothed in linen, who was above
the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven,
and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, "It will be for a
time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally
broken, all these things will be completed." I heard, but I did not
understand. So I asked, "My lord, what will the outcome of all this
be?" He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed
up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless
and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will
understand, but those who are wise will understand. "From the time that
the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is
set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches
the end of the 1,335 days. "As for you, go your way till the end. You will
rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted
(Daniel 12:1-13 NIV)
As seen here, the Old Testament specifically proclaims the
physical resurrection of the dead. We know something about this from the
following biblical passages:
First, this resurrection
is not one to a ghostly body, nor is this a symbol for resurrection meaning
that my grandchildren or descendents will see this. It is a resurrection in the
flesh. (Job 19:25 – 27)
As we see in
Ezekiel chapter 37, this resurrection is performed by the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel
is specifically told to "prophesy to the breath." The breath is the
same word used for spirit — as in the Holy Spirit — in the New Testament. This
makes sense, for it is parallel to the way in which creation itself was
performed. You will recall the "spirit brooding upon the waters."
resurrection death itself ceases to exist. We die no more, as proclaimed in
Of course, what we learned in the Old Testament is hardly
sufficient for our curiosity. The New Testament does add some details:
We are told that
those who are included in this resurrection shall be "like the
Angels." (Matthew 22:23-32)
We are also told
that this will happen at the return of Christ (see Matthew 24:30-31.)
One thing which
is not clear in the Old Testament, but is made very clear in the New Testament,
is that there is more than one resurrection of the dead. As Luke 14:13-14 tells
us, the righteous will rise with Christ, which implies the unrighteous will
not. Various schemes have been proposed for this; the current record holder is
Hal Lindsey who says there will be six resurrections, including that of Christ.
is associated with the Judgment (Revelation 20:4-6.) So
The Emerging Church
It is not surprising that the emerging church does not see
the resurrection of the dead as being a literal or physical event. One would
think with so many references in the Old Testament and the New Testament that
this would be very difficult to maintain. It is not. This is explained by
"trampoline theology." The explanation is relatively simple; all
these references are considered to be mythological passages in the Bible. Their
use is to serve as a trampoline, for us to spring upwards to new theological
insights. As one writer put it, "we need to free Jesus from
brick-ianity." The theory is that our traditional interpretations of the
Bible are holding us down and bricking us in. We need to interpret these things
spiritually, not literally.
Just exactly what that means varies by preacher. In our own
church, our pastor delivered his sermon on the subject of heaven. One would
think it would be difficult to do without mentioning the resurrection of the
dead, but he did. In his view, good people go to heaven after they die — and
that's the end of the story.
To see why this gives us great problems, we must first
examine the central fact of Christianity: the resurrection of Christ.
The Resurrection of Christ
Paul refers to the resurrection of Christ as being of first
importance. Let's see why.
Received and Passed on
it's important to understand what Paul is saying; it's that
he did not invent the resurrection of Christ, nor did any of the other
apostles. It is something that he got from those who were eyewitnesses and as
well from the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The specific points of his
The death, burial
and resurrection of Jesus Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament. Those of
you who have an annotated Bible will see that there are many, many verses
associated with this topic.
appeared to over 500 people, including the apostles on more than one occasion.
This has provoked our modern thinkers to proclaim that it must be a mass
hallucination; however, these facts don't accord very well with hallucination
at all. This was a popular theory in the 19th century when people did not
understand hallucinations. With all those witnesses, it's tough to conclude
that they're all lying — especially when they can get crucified themselves for
The first importance
of the resurrection you can also be seen by simply looking at the preaching of
the New Testament church. The central fact of New Testament preaching is the
resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no sense whatever of "trampoline
theology" in the New Testament.
Paul himself makes a number of arguments in first Corinthians
chapter 15. We may review three of them:
Christ is a human
being; he is man. If Christ did not rise, then no one can rise; it is
Christianity as a religion belonging only to this world. If you do, you will
see that its elements of self-sacrifice, the risk of persecution and the lack
of fear towards death all combine to make Christianity a religion which clearly
is not in accord with the idea that the only stuff that exists is in this
world. Why you be so stupid as to believe something like that, when you can eat
drink and be merry?
Also, if the
apostles didn't see this, but chose instead to be faithful to this idea of the
resurrection despite the persecution they faced, then these men must of been
seriously mentally disturbed. Further, these men lived in the Roman Empire. The
Romans were quite capable of extracting the truth via torture; yet none of
those who proclaim their faith in Christ ever said it was a hoax. Many renounce
their faith under torture; no one broke the conspiracy.
The Effect of Christ on the Christian
One may also see the validity of the resurrection by its
effect on the life of the Christian.
factor is the change between sin dominating the human being and the hold of sin
being eliminated. No longer are we helpless before sin; we aren't entirely rid
of it, but now Christ is our master. If you think this has no effect, I suggest
you look into Celebrate Recovery. It's a 12 step group — and you know how well
they work. For Christians, the reason for that is that sin no longer has the
death grip it had.
forgiven; therefore they forgive — it's a package deal.
Most of all,
consider the attitude Christians have towards death. Or at least the one they
should have. The death of the Christian often prompts a joyous remembrance
known as a funeral. For we hold the to be absent from the body is to be present
with the Lord. Fear of death does not belong to the Christian, though fear of
We may summarize it this way: because Christ rose, we have
proof of the resurrection of the dead. God has promised that resurrection to
us, and therefore our lives are completely different. To be a Christian and not
believe in the resurrection of the dead seems to me to be the strangest
distortion of Christianity.
Nature of the Resurrected Body
So of course we want to know: just what does this resurrected
body look like? How does it perform? Am I going to like it? Here is what we
Let's start with the physical characteristics of the body in
We are told that
this body is imperishable. That is to say, it does not decay or grow defects —
rather it starts out perfect and stays that way.
It is a
"glorious" body. One writer held that if such a body were to walk
into the room right now, you and I would be strongly tempted to fall down at
its feet and worship. It is a body which shares the glory of God.
It is powerful.
We see this in some of the bodily manifestations of Jesus Christ; walking on
water, walking through locked doors, refusing to be recognized until you want
Most important of
all, it is tangible. Thomas was told to stick his hands in the nail prints and
his hand into the side which a spear had carved out a hollow space in the ribs.
This is a body you can touch and feel.
"In the Twinkling of an Eye"
This has some interesting implications: we are told that art
bodily transformation will happen in the twinkling of an eye — virtually instantaneously.
At the very
least, we should be ready for it. There will be no time for negotiation when
this transformation occurs. That's why Christ tells us to be ready.
This also implies
a great change in physical and spiritual reality. This is not a slow
metamorphosis but rather an instantaneous change. It is therefore not a natural
process, but the divine one.
What Should We Do
One thing which we haven't mentioned so far is this: there
is nothing you can do about it. This change to the new body is going to happen,
if not to you at least to other Christians. In the last verse of First
Corinthians 15, Paul gives us these instructions:
Stand firm. Don't let anything move you. This of course implies
that something will try to move you. Over the course of Christian history the
doctrine of the resurrection of the dead has been under continuous attack. The
major attack is upon the resurrection of Christ, the opponents of Christianity
know that the resurrection of the dead is perfectly plausible if Christ is risen
from the dead. It is only recently that the resurrection of the dead aside from
the resurrection of Christ has been attacked. This comes from postmodernism,
which proclaims that there is no such thing as absolute truth.
Give yourself fully to the work. If this great and glorious new
body is to be yours, how can you possibly justify being lukewarm and apathetic
to the work of Christ? Great days are coming, and you will want the rewards
that are coming with them.
Remember this: your labors in the Lord are not in vain,
because the Lord rewards those who work for him; indeed when he speaks of it,
he says that the reward will be well out of proportion to the labor in
question. There is a hell to shun, a heaven to gain — and beyond that a new heaven
and new earth. Included in that is a new body for you. Be ready.