(The Resurrection vs. Humanistic Arrogance)
Texts: Luke 24; I Corinthians 15; Acts 2; 17; 24: 21; 26:8
"When faced with the issue of life after death, we are confronted with the greatest riddle human existence can offer. If we fail to solve this riddle, it promises to destroy us." (John Snyder, Reincarnation vs. Resurrection)
In the world of this longing—the Christian Gospel affirmed the actual, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified. The belief in a crucified/ risen savior has been growing less acceptable to western man ever since the first scientific revolution which was generated by the advancements of Galileo and Newton. By the eighteenth century, it was widely maintained that a scientific perspective on the world precluded man's rational acceptance of the possibility of miracle, i.e. that a dead man could come to life again. Yet, in the twentieth century western man has widely extended the belief, independent of Christian resurrection witness, that life after death is not only feasible, but a legitimate belief claim. Two chief sources of this dubious assertion is the Death and . Dying Movement, which finds its anchorage in Hinduism, i.e. Eastern Cosmic Humanism and widely perpetrated doctrine of Reincarnationism.
Some 'ecumenically oriented Christians' affirm that it is narrow to insist upon Resurrection only. They insist that many contemporary theologians have broadened their ideas and have accepted both Resurrection and Reincarnation. The great British journalist, G. K. Chesterton long ago exploded the notion that ideas can be "narrow" or "broad"; they can be right or wrong, defended or refuted, soundly based or ill-conceived, but they can never be narrow or broad. (Orthodoxy, pb. 1959) In spite of this incisive analysis, some people who consider themselves Christians still manage to incorporate the theory of reincarnation into their belief system. But they have done so not by "broadening" their perspective, but by changing their world-view. They have not become more narrow or broad—they have been converted to two mutually exclusive responses to the issue of Life After Death. To call this a "broadening of perspective" is rather like saying that Henry VIII broadened his perspective on the wedding vows to include more than one wife, or to lie to the IRS represents equally acceptable but different ways of looking at our tax responsibilities.
Some people who claim to have survived "clinical death" seem to offer a consoling answer to a question that has "tormented mankind from the beginning." They recall a sensation of weightless floating and of being warmed by a very bright, white light. Others speak of moving through a long, dark tunnel and then of being reunited with deceased relatives and friends. A very influential Post-Vatican II theologian, Hans Kung, asserts that the work of scientists and philosophers have often made more important statements than theologians have about eternal life. (Eternal Life, ET, 1984) But what can we really know about life "on the other side"? The Christian Gospel affirms that the most reliable evidence for solution is found in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christian Gospel of The Resurrection of our Lord stands in marked tension with six strongly held concepts:
1. Immortality of The Soul (Plato's Phaedo) affirms the inherent indestructibility of the essence of the human being, the soul. This view is in radical contrast to the Christian doctrine of resurrection (immortality) which holds that God alone is eternal and sustains existence.
2. Materialism holds that ultimate reality is reducible to the laws of physics and structure of matter, energy, light, which leaves no room for Life after Death in any existentially relevant form, as life itself is reducible to physics and chemistry.
3. Metempsychosis is an ancient Greek word meaning functionally the same as reincarnation.
4. Parapsychology is a scientific study of phenomena not fully explainable by conventional methods of psychology and science in general.
5. Pre-existence of Souls is the belief that every soul possesses a life and experience before incarnation. Biblically, only God Incarnate, i.e. Jesus Christ has pre-existence. Existence is a space/time/historical category.)
6. Transmigration of Souls is the movement of the soul after death from one bodily form to another.
Our Lord's resurrection claims at least three things essential to man's salvation from sin and victory over death.
I. The Resurrection and Creation (and Redemption)
Christ's Resurrection guarantees the Christian believers final future victory over death. Death is important but not fatal. Our entire life is threatened by the supposed fatality of death.
A. I Corinthians 15; 20ff—But now has Christ been raised from the dead, the first fruits of them that are asleep. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
Resurrection and unity (vs. 23 - aparche) expressed as 'firstfruits' (Ex. 23. 19; Lev. 23.10; Numb. 15.20f; 18.8, llf.; Dt. 18.4; 26.2, 10) expresses organic connection (between the two resurrections) and unity, the inseparability of the * initial offering from the whole. Christ's resurrection is the first fruits of the resurrection harvest, i.e., the representative beginning of the resurrection of all Christian believers.
B. Colossians 1.18—And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Christ is the 'first born (prototokos) from the dead' (Neh. 10.36f; Ez. 44.30). In vs. 15 He is 'firstborn of all creation.' The resurrection is analogous to the process of birth. The Lord of creation is Lord over Death. First born (cf. Ex. 4.22; Ps. 88.27) indicates uniqueness, status and dignity marked by exceptional favor and blessing. Christ's uniqueness is present in both
Creation and Redemption.
C. I Corinthians 15. 12-19—Now if Christ is preached that he has been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised: and if Christ has not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised: and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. (vs. 30 First fruits thesis) Affirmation and/or denial—both Christ's and Christian's future resurrection.
D. II Corinthians 4.14—knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you. Resurrection and suffering involved in ministry (I Thess. A.14).
II. The Resurrection and Baptism
A. The believer has already been buried/raised with Christ by immersion into Christ. This is claimed in four magnificent passages, each directed to those who have already accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.
1. Ephesians 2.5ff— even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.
2. Colossians 2. 12ff—having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead through your trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.
3. Romans 6. 3ff—Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that is as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection
1. All non-Christian religions are powerless over sin and death.
2. All humanistic efforts to transform man and society are doomed.
III. The Resurrection and Salvation: Acts 4.12; 13.33; I Cor. 15.45; II Cor. 3.17; Romans 1.3-4
A. Adoption (Romans 1. 3,4 (genomenon—became Son of God; horlsthentos—by adoption). Effectual appointment; transforming character of resurrection; Messianic exaltation and adoption as Second Adam - Luke 22.22; Acts 2.23; 10.42; 11.29; 17.26,31; Heb. 4.7.
B. Justification (I Timothy 3.16; Romans 4.25; I Corinthians 15.17 - vindicated (edikaiothe). Six parallel lines, each beginning with a passive verb, with Christ the implied subject, followed by a single qualification. Christ's resurrection creates the new order/age and is His vindication/ justification. "For our sins," and was raised "for our justification."
C. Sanctification; Rom. 7:14-25; Gal. 5il3-26; Acts 20:32; 26:18; I Cor. 1: 2; 6:11; Eph. 5:25; II Tim. 2:21; I Thess 4:7; II Thess. 2:13.
Definitive sanctification - Romans 6; 1ff (Sin, Baptism and Resurrection); Progressive sanctification (Gal. 5: 19-21; Rom. 8: 7)
D. Glorification; I Cor. 15: 42ff; II Cor. 3: 17f; 4: 4-6
What Christ is by virtue of His resurrection, believers will become at their resurrection.
These are four major categories (four aspects of one act—the Resurrection) with which. Paul explicates the salvation of The Believer and also expounds the meaning of The Resurrection of Jesus.
Conclusion: The Sphinx, which sat outside of the city of Thebes, asked a riddle of everyone who passed by: what creature has two feet, three feet, and four feet, and is weakest when it has the most feet? She destroyed everyone who failed to solve the riddle, until Oedipus finally came up with the right answer: It is man, who crawls on all fours as an infant, then walks upright on two feet, and in old age moves only with the aid of a stick.
The issue of life after death brings us face to face with the riddle that surpasses all others. If we fail to solve it, like the Sphinx, it promises to destroy us. Christ's resurrection alone solves both our death and personal resurrection. Because He lives, we shall live also. The solution of the Greek myth is The Resurrection of Christ. Raised with Christ—The Resurrection Connection!
James D. Strauss
Lincoln Christian Seminary