EASTER TO PENTECOST: Have we lost site of the Season

El_Greco_006With the Ascension—which is all too often overlook—many people (depending on the denomination, many see Easter as ending with, well, Easter; skipping the Ascension altogether, and with relatively few acknowledging the Day of Pentecost), consider Eastertide as having ended. Yet, the season of Easter begins on Easter and ends on the Day of Pentecost. Our Daily Office continues in the Easter season. Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost work together to point—in many ways to put us in touch with—not simply the Savior and the Spirit, but with God’s newly inaugurated New Heaven and New Earth—here now in part, but with the promise of a future completion.

Easter, while teaching about the resurrection of the Lord also shows Messiah as the New King, the eternal King, the King of Heaven and earth—this is the story the gospels tell and Romans 1:4 affirms the message—points us to our own resurrection. St. Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Like the Christ we too can be raised, and Easter points us to that raising. Baptism, while being salvific, puts us “in” Christ: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). At baptism, we are baptized into Christ and clothed in Christ; we are buried with him at baptism with the promise of resurrection just as He was resurrected! We will be resurrected in a physical body just as the Christ was bodily resurrected.

Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia, “I have been Crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who Lives but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Likewise, John gave us the words of the Lord, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). At salvation we are grafted into the vine and we become a part of the Vine and the Vine, which is the Messiah in us. Here the Ascension comes into full view, and a full view which sadly is all too often over looked by the western Church. Luke wrote, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their site” (Acts 1:9). As the Christ was raised into Heaven he was seated at the right hand of God. Yet, at the Ascension, those of us who are “in Christ” also ascended in some way also. As Christ was raised bodily on Easter, at the Ascension he ascended bodily. As we were buried with him into death we to will be raised bodily and we to will bodily inhabit the New Earth. An earth that, just as we will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye, will be transformed in the same twinkling of an eye. As Jesus ascended bodily, we will inhabit bodily. At the ascension, a bit of earth made its way to Heaven. But, Eastertide continues to Pentecost.

“And when the day of Pentecost arrived …” (Acts 2).  With Pentecost our Easter season comes to an end. But our story does not stop there. For just as Easter and the Ascension point to the future, Pentecost also in a powerful way does the exact same thing. Too often we want to capitalize on the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit when we think of Pentecost—and that I fine as they are a part of it. But, Pentecost points to a larger picture that gives us more promises. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended and filled the people. And the promise was given that we too will be filled with the Holy Spirit: Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). With the coming of the Holy Spirit, Heaven and earth intersect. Just as at the Ascension a bit of earth went to Heaven, on the day of Pentecost Heaven came to Earth. While this is a present reality for all believers—the filling with the Holy Spirit—it points to a future reality. John wrote, “Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1).  As Heaven invaded earth on the day of Pentecost, at the end Heaven again will intersect earth. At this intersection, those who have been clothed in Christ—those who remain in Him and He in them—will be raised bodily and become inhabitants of the New Earth unto which the New Heaven will come down—Heaven will invade earth one last time and the earth will be put t rights for eternity; Those who were buried with Christ will be raised bodily as the inhabitants of the new earth!

At the resurrection, we to are raised; a bit of us ascends into Heaven, and Heaven invades us on the day of Pentecost. The Easter season fits together as does pieces of a puzzle. To leave out one piece is to finish a puzzle without its being a complete picture. All too often we stop Easter on Resurrection Sunday. When we lose sight of Easter we do not grasp humankind  being bodily resurrected; when we lose site of the Ascension we do not grasp humankind being received into Heaven; and when we lose sight of Pentecost we do not grasp humankind being animated by God’s Holy Spirit. All of these are pointing to the time When God renews all things.

Easter continues through the day of Pentecost and includes the Ascension of our Lord.

 

Collect for Easter Season: Almighty God, who on this day didst open the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of the Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Until next time may the good Lord bless and keep you!

 

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THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD

AscensionAs the church year rolls along, this week—May 25—we celebrated the Ascension of our Lord, the Messiah. Among the passages for the Ascension are Acts 1:1-11, the Psalms that speak of the Lord being King (Psalm 47 and 93), and the Gospel of Luke 24:44-53 and which says, “While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven” (v. 51). We have to look at this close—He was carried up into Heaven.

We know that at His resurrection the Messiah was raised with a physical body; He ate physical food with them (Luke 24:40); They touched His physical body (John 20:17, Matthew 28:9, John 20:27). Yet, though He was physically raised in a real body, He could walk through walls (John 20:19-20). So, He was raised in his physical body—the same physical body that he had at the crucifixion—yet, while He was the same he was somewhat changed. And, at the Ascension this same—yet somewhat different—body ascended into Heaven: flesh and blood “was carried up into Heaven.”

            The belief of 1st Century, Second Temple Judaism was for a physical body resurrection—of course they expected this at the end of days, not in the middle of history as Jesus did. Looking at 2 Baruch 50:2 we see how the Jews expected the dead to rise, “For the earth will surely give back the dead at that time; it receives them now in order to keep them, not changing anything in their form. But as it has received them so it will give them back. And as I have delivered them to it so it will raise them.” Second Maccabees also addresses the resurrection, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life.”  Second Temple Judaism did not look forward to some disembodied afterlife existence, but forward to a raised physical body—a resurrection of their physical body, flesh and blood just as Christ was raised!

Yet, Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot go to the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:50). We are faced with a dilemma: Christ went into Heaven physical bodily and Paul says flesh and blood cannot go into Heaven. The Jews looked toward a physical body resurrection in the Kingdom of Heaven.

            While it looks as a contradiction, if we look at Paul’s words a bit closer we might see it a bit different. Paul’s usage if ‘flesh and blood’ has to be looked at as a figure of speech. Flesh and blood has to be looked at as an un-regenerated person—the unsaved, the person who still lives according to the flesh. At the resurrection the body will be animated by the Holy Spirit. It has to be remembered that it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was resurrected (Romans 1:4). And it will be by the same power that the saved person will be resurrected—resurrected bodily in a flesh and blood body just as was the Christ. The “flesh and blood” then would be, a body not animated by the divine Spirit—an un-regenerated person. Jesus’ ascension was a body animated by the Spirit. 

            Jesus’ ascension was into the realm of God—into God’s space. And. This space of God intersects with our space—Heaven is where God is; and where God is intersects with where we are. And, as N. T. Wright put it, “The Jesus who has gone into [God’s dimension] is the human Jesus.” The “us” that will be resurrected is the human “us.” The ascension teaches us tht while flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (the unsaved person—the person not animated by the Holy Spirit), flesh and blood will inherit the kingdom of Heaven—the saved person, the body animated by the Holy Spirit! As Wright put it, for Jesus to go into the heavenly dimension, is not for him to go up as a spaceman miles up into space somewhere, and not for him to be distant or absent now. It is for him to be present, but in the mode in which heaven is present to us. That is, it’s just through an invisible screen, but present and real.

            Too often we look close at Easter and overlook the Ascension as we move towards Pentecost. Yet, the Ascension shows us who will inherit the kingdom of Heaven as well as in what form the they will be in at the resurrection. We too often see the ascension as Jesus leaving, yet he is always present with us. Are you animated by the Holy Spirit?

Let us not overlook the Ascension!

Collect for the Ascension:

O Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ 
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: 
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his 
promise, he abideth with his Church on earth, even to the 
end of the ages; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who 
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in 
glory everlasting. Amen.

 In June, Theology From the Coast will begin a podcast on YouTube; more details will come soon.

Until Next Time May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You; All Y’all!

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Lectionarily Speaking: John 10:1-10

harryFor the 4th week of Easter we take a look at John 10: 1-10 (The Book of Common Prayer). Jesus launches into a beautiful metaphor for becoming a disciple of Christ. He starts by talking about sheep and shepherd. But, what Jesus is talking about is his followers and himself. Just last week my niece and myself rescued a 2-3 week old kitten—actually the story is my  niece actually rescued another kitten just a few days before but that’s another story all together. She went from having one cat to now being the proud owner of three cats garnering her the title of being a crazy cat lady. My niece spent the night up feeding him with an infant nasal bulb syringe. The next day we took him to the SPCA to see what to do, how to tend to him. One of the workers said she was bottle feeding a small cat at the time and she would take him and bottle feed him and when he was ready we could pick him up.

 

Today she went to get the first cat who is around 6 weeks old his first shots. And while there we were told that the little kitten was ready to go home as he was eating wet food. So the ride home was quite the adventure with two kittens—one 6 weeks and one between 4 and 5 weeks. As we returned to the house and had supper she fed the little tyke; after he had eaten she called him and he turned and walk to her. He remembered who it was that saved him. He walked not to my mama; he didn’t walk to me; he walked to the one that saved him. He walked to the first one with whom he had human contact. Though I found him I couldn’t reach him, but she could.

 

He remembered his master. He knew the one he was to follow and go to. And that is what Jesus is stressing in this week’s passage. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out (John 10:3b). Her older cat will run to her also when she calls his name, but if I call him—or even get close to him he will flee! Jesus continues, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of stranger (John 10:5). True followers of the Messiah will follow him. When they hear the voice of another one trying to get them to follow they will flee. They know his voice and they will flee from the voice of a stranger!

Jesus is the door through which the sheep, his followers—Christians, are to enter. He reminds us that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. But the Christ came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10: 10). Just like the little kitten knew where he was granted life, and now he will have it abundantly, the sheep of the Messiah are to know that it is Jesus where we have life and have it abundantly. They know the voice of Christ, their shepherd; they will flee from a stranger; the thief comes to steal and destroy while the Christ came to give life. It is said that the sheep know the voice of their master. He can call them out of a group of sheep where not all of them are his but only his will come. They know where they are fed; they know where they are protected from the strangers and thieves. A kitten of only 4 weeks old knows the voice of the one who saved him. Why do we struggle so much knowing the one that saves us? When the thief comes, the one that destroys—the temptations of life, do we flee?

When we celebrate the Eucharist we come into contact with that good Shepherd whose voice has called us. He calls us from the bread which is body broken for us; he calls from the wine, which is the New Covenant in his blood. We come into the presence of the living, resurrected savior, the good Shepherd, who calls us, protects us from the strangers who come to destroy. If a sheep and a 4 week old kitten can do it why do we struggle?

The Psalm this week is Psalm 23. The Lord is our Shepherd. We are to hear his voice and follow. And when the thief comes—the one that destroys—he will prepare us a table in the midst of our enemies. When we come into the presence of the risen Lord and partake of his body and blood, we hear his voice and follow; allow him to keep you safe from the thief that you might have life in abundance

 

Until next time may the good Lord bless and keep you; all y’all!

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When In Rome (part1): Euangelion

ColosseumNight2More has been written about the book of Romans than possibly any book of the Bible—with the possible exception of Revelation. From Augustine to Luther the book has been credited with the turning around of lives.  And early one St. Paul makes known one of the main themes of the epistle: the gospel. The Greek word he uses is euangelion, which simply translates as good news. Paul makes it known that he was set apart for the Gospel, the Good news, the euangelion, of God. Over the years the gospel –especially in the modern western church, the euangelion, has been watered down to simply believe in Jesus and go to be with God when you die, a sort of fire insurance. And while that might be a part of its message, is that the good news, the euangelion, that Paul was proclaiming to the church in Rome?

            In 1st century usage, the euangelion meant something different than its modern usage. The good news was a proclamation. It was a proclamation that something had happened, and because that something had happened something else would happen. It could be the accession or birthday of a ruler or emperor.[1] When Nero ascended there would have been a proclamation of this good news—this euangelion. And the good news, the euangelion, that St. Paul is proclaiming to the church in Rome is that we have a new King—his name is Jesus. N. T. Wright asserts, “Jesus saw himself as a prophet announcing and inaugurating the kingdom of YHWH; he believed himself to be Israel’s true Messiah; he believed that the kingdom would be brought about by means of his own death at the hands of the pagans. He believed, that is, that the message of the Isaianic herald was coming true at last: Israel’s god was becoming king, ‘Babylon’ was being defeated, and the exile was over at last.”[2] While Israel was back from physical exile, they were still under the Roman rule. Now, the true King had returned and Israel was at last returned from exile. Jesus the Christ was King of Heaven and earth.

            For the Gentiles—the church in Rome was made of both Jews and Gentiles, they can now be grafted into the covenant with the Jews (Romans 11). As well it allows the Gentiles to return from exile: their exile from God due to sin. But, now the good news, the euangelion, that Paul proclaims to the church in Rome is that there is a new King, an eternal King, of Heaven and earth. And because there is a new King has returned Heaven and earth have come together. Both Jew and Gentile are welcomed into the covenant. The Jew has returned from exile as the King has returned for the Gentile their exile from sin is possible. The age to come has been inaugurated. Our exile is over. When we celebrate the Eucharist we taste the new world and of which we are a part.

            Paul was not ashamed, or as Krister Stendahl writes afraid[3], to proclaim the new King to the people who shouted we have no king but Caesar and to those in the town where the Caesar resided. Why then do we hesitate so often to so do?

 

Until next time may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You: All Y’all!

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[1] N. T. Wright, Romans (Nashville: Abingdon Press: 2002), 415. 

[2] N. T Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God V2: Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), Kindle Location 12380-12394.

 

[3] Krister Stendahl, Final Account: Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) Kindle Location 309.

The Final Frontier: Life After Life After Death

 

crossThe biggest mystery of life is death. It is often joked about by saying it is one of the only two certainties of life; the other being taxes. When one dies the questions abound: “What happens when we die?” “Where do we go when we die?” “Will our departed love one return?” And while the questions can be many, there are likewise multiple answers: “God needed him more than we do.” “He’s gone to live with Jesus in Heaven.” “She’s an angel in Heaven now.” The answers all too often offer comfort, albeit hollow comfort, to the questions. As well, the bereaved, again, all too often, settle for the hollow comfort and in so doing the biblical concept of death and the life after is often never explored and more often simply lost.  The list of both questions and answers could go on, but this is enough to show that the questions as well as the answers are varied.

            A walk through any cemetery can also show the same variedness of ideas whereas death and the afterlife are concerned: “A star on earth a star in Heaven.” “An angel on earth an angel in Heaven.” “Death is only a shadow on the pathway to Heaven.”  Though quoted by Christians, the comforting quotes offer little that can be backed up by the biblical record.

Death, the dark mystery of life, often seems to be explained as many different ways as the number of people by whom it is being explained. And, with most explanations, Heaven seems to be the end goal and citizenship in it is obtained at death. While Heaven is great, it has to be remembered that from a biblical stand point of what happens at death, it is not the end of the story.

All too often when discussing death and the afterlife, the historical and cultural worldview of the original author and audience are not taken into account. For a right understanding of the biblical concept of what exactly life after death is the historical and cultural context of the writing has to be examined.[1] This includes the cultural understanding at the time of the writing and the meaning the author was trying to convey to the original audience. “Since God spoke his message in specific, historical situations (i.e., to people living in particular places, speaking particular languages, adopting a particular way of life), we should take the ancient historical-cultural situation seriously.”[2]

The explanations of what happens after death vary from religion to religion and at times even vary between people in the same religious party, though the same Holy Scriptures are used by each group. The Bible, while not speaking volumes on the after death situation, is a repository of information on the after death experience from Genesis to Revelation. The biblical record is replete with those who have died, those who have left life on earth without ever having tasted death (Genesis 5:24), those who have died and yet been raised to life again (2 Kings 4:18-37; John 11). And, the Bible gives a record of what will happen to man at the end of his earthly life.

Biblically, at death man’s journey is not over. Death and the afterlife that begins at that time is not the final realm.  Man’s final after life experience is resurrection. Full bodily resurrection is the final part of a two-part afterlife experience: At death, after a period of rest and being in Paradise (Luke 23:39-43)—Heaven or Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:19-31)—the physical body will be fully resurrected, not to a disembodied life floating around miles in outer space in some place called Heaven.

Historical and Cultural Context

  1. Clement Stone said, “Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you.”[3] Before turning to the biblical literature dealing with death and the hereafter, or any subject for that matter, it needs to be set in its proper context. As near as possible, biblical literature should be read through the lens of its original author with respect to the message he was trying to convey to the original audience. A common fallacy is to interpret the Bible through the post Reformation lens of Luther. Sadly, Luther interpreted the Bible through a lens of his personal disgust with a corrupt Catholic Church. Stendahl, who has asserted that 1st century, Second Temple Jewish documents should not be interpreted through a modern western lens, writes, “Both the historian and the theologian, both the psychologist and the average reader of the Bible, are well advised to assess how this hypothesis of contemporaneity affects their thinking, and their interpretation of ancient writings.”[4] Artinian notes, and rightly so, “As Luther agonized under the crushing weight of a tormented conscience and desperately sought

an answer to the medieval question, ‘How can I find a gracious God?’ he naturally, perhaps unconsciously, but nonetheless wrongly, read his own tormented conscience into Paul. As a consequence, he mistakenly took Paul’s repeated declaration, ‘not by the works of the Law, but by faith,’ as an answer to the medieval question of the tormented conscience and of the way to a gracious God.”[5]

Luther read his own circumstance, his own worldview, into Paul’s writings. Thus, the gates have been wide open since the Reformation to read Paul, as well as all 1st century Second Temple Jewish writings through a modern lens.

For his part, Sanders took Stendahl’s hypothesis and basically asserted that the gist of Paul’s writings had in fact been misinterpreted. The Jews, according to Sanders,[6] were not the works salvation people of which they had long been believed. For Sanders, the Jews were saved by being God’s chosen people; they did the Law to remain in that saved relationship. The law was never for entrance into the covenant; it kept them under the covenant. All this is simply to point out that Luther missed it in his interpretation of Paul by reading through his (Luther’s) own sitz im leben.

Keener suggests that God did not say, “Because I am God I will speak directly to everybody in all times and cultures.”[7]  Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard rightly assert that scripture was “God’s Word to other people before it became God’s Word to us.”[8]  Duvall and Hays sum it up nicely writing, “Since God spoke his message in specific, historical situations (i.e., to people living in particular places, speaking particular languages, adopting a particular way of life), we should take the ancient historical situation seriously.”[9] The point of all this is to not suggest, but to strongly assert that passages regarding the afterlife have to be interpreted through a 1st century, Second Temple Judaism lens. Modern ideas such as those by LaHaye and others have to be put aside to allow the original intent of the author to ring true. The shapings of modern western thought have to be set aside and allow the Second Temple Judaism worldview to take over in the interpretation of New Testament literature.

What is Life After Death?

From the first inauguration into Christianity, it becomes a given that there will be life after death. Yet, just what that life after death is can at times be something of mystery. Scripture asserts that “He has also set eternity in [man’s] heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NASB[10]). But it begs the question of what is this eternity and what form will it take? The answers to these questions are best seen by looking first at examples in the New Testament which address the afterlife.

One of the first examples of the afterlife, and one that so many fall back on as a reference, is the story of the Thief on the Cross found in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 23, verses 32-43. In essence, and for brevity’s sake, the story is simply that Messiah was hung on the cross between two thieves. While on thief hurled insults at the Savior, the other saw the Christ for He was and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Here is seen a first glimpse into an afterlife. The afterlife was something known to all as the repentant thief was asking for favor at that time. Yet, and this will be looked at more in depth in the next section, when this afterlife existence would start is not quite clear from the thief’s statement.

From the thief’s statement though, Jesus is prompted to reply, and his reply does shed light the when the afterlife will take place and where it will be spent: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43). It appears then from the passage that the afterlife will begin at death and will be spent in some place called Paradise. Yet, while the term paradise is used in the New Testament to refer to the future dwelling place of God’s people (see 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7), Black points out that, “The reader should not become so concerned with the question of the intermediate state that the point is missed. Luke is reminding his readers of that which he has told them often. God forgives penitent sinners, while the impenitent (the rulers, the soldiers, and the other criminal) are excluded from the blessing”[11] Here, however, it has to be examined on count of its immediate sate.

Putting the discussion of the thief on hold, on hold at the word paradise, another story of life after death has to be laid beside it. The story—some might suggest parable, but in either case the same teaching should emerge—of the Rich Man and Lazarus has to be examined in the same way as was the thief on the cross. In chapter 16, Luke gives a story of a rich man who had no compassion for the poor man, Lazarus. Both men die. The rich man goes to Hades, while Lazarus was carried by angels to Abraham’s Side (Luke 16:22). The thing most apparent in this story is that in both places the men have a consciousness of what is going on, not only where they are but other places as well. The question then is, what and where is Abraham’s Side?

Black comments, “The phrase “Abraham’s side” is nowhere else used, but it is a beautiful way of saying that God’s people will be in the presence of Abraham, the father of the faithful.”[12] Yet, Black does not make a connection between Abraham’s Side and Paradise. Bock on the other hand asserts that “in Judaism, [Paradise] referred to the abode of the righteous dead,”[13] while Arndt equates paradise with Abraham’s Bosom.[14] Bock notes that Abraham’s Bosom is not a synonym for Paradise, but the verse notes that Abraham is there suggesting the place is a place for the righteous.[15]

Black suggests, “The fact that he looked up and saw Abraham does not mean that heaven and hell will be within seeing distance of each other” (emphasis in original).[16] While that might be true—though a better argument would be that Heaven is simply the place where God is as opposed to hell, the place where God is not—for purposes here it is enough to simply show that during this after life experience—which takes place immediately at bodily death— there is a conscious awareness.

While not the immediate scope of this paper, it should be mentioned that while Hades can simply be the grave, in this passage it seems to refer to a place of the unrighteous dead. This would seem to go along with Jewish thought of the time after death preceding the judgment. First Enoch 22:11 backs up this thought, “Here their spirits shall be set apart in this great pain, till the great day of judgment, scourgings [sic], and torments of the accursed forever, so that [there may be] retribution for their spirits.”

For both the righteous dead and the unrighteous dead there is a state of disembodied consciousness after death. But, the question that arises is this the final state of the dead? Is this the eternity that is put in man’s heart? Is resurrection simply dying and going to live in some disembodied state in some far off place called Heaven?

For Dunn the final form of life is preciously this. Dunn write, “the resurrection body will be other, no longer flesh and blood, beyond the reach of corruption and atrophy, and vivified by the life-giving Spirit” (emphasis added).[17] Sanders concurs suggesting that before the crucifixion the thought was of a “renewed world situation” but after it shifted to “in the air.”[18] Wright disagrees with both Sanders and Dunn in their belief that the final state will be a disembodied “in the air” type of existence.[19] For Wright, the resurrected body will not be a body made of spiritual substance but the “entire body energized and animated by the divine Spirit.”[20] While in the cases of the Rich Man and Lazarus and the Thief on the Cross there seems to be an “in the air” element, post resurrection writings seems to not make a case for a shift; the biblical record after the resurrection points to a bodily resurrection. What has been seen up to this point is life after death. The Bible, however, cause for something more. The biblical record is for a life after life after death.

Life After Life After Death—The Resurrection

As was stated earlier, to understand what the Bible teaches every effort should be made to place its record into the worldview of its original audience. While many hold to a view that at death man’s spirit goes off to live some disembodied existence—falling back on Abraham’s Bosom and Paradise as the final home—First Century, Second Temple Judaism did not hold these places as the end, but only the first stop of life after death. They taught and understood life after life after death—resurrection—on a renewed earth.

First Enoch again asserts of Abraham’s Bosom, Paradise, and Hades that “These places, in which they dwell, shall they occupy until the day of judgment, and until their appointed period. Their appointed period will be long, even until the great judgment” (22:4-5). For the writer of 1 Enoch these places were temporary abodes for the dead. The Wisdom of Solomon backs up this thought, “But the souls of the just are in God’s hand, and torment shall not touch them” (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1, New English Bible with Apocrypha 1970). In 1ST Century Jewish thought, and it has to be remembered this was the worldview with which Jesus lived and Paul wrote, at death, there was a temporary place of rest in the protection of God.

The writer of 2 Maccabees picks up the thought, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life’ (2 Maccabees 7:14, NRSV). The Maccabees verse presupposes a resurrection of the physical body—as well it presupposes the judgment. The Wisdom of Solomon also adds to the discussion of Second Temple thought as to resurrection. The writer of WoS writes, “But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality” (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-14).

Wright asserts that “it has long been customary among scholars to declare that this book simply teaches the immortality of the soul rather than the resurrection.”[21] Yet, as the WoS passage continues— In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever (3:7-8)—Wright is quick to point out, “These righteous Jews who have been martyred at the hands of the pagans are for the present at peace, safe with God, but the immortality of their souls is only the prelude to their rising again and being set in authority over the kingdoms of the earth, within the one kingdom of God.”[22] The righteous dead are in God’s care, and after a period of rest are resurrected. Daniel 12:2 echoes this thought, “Daniel 12:2— “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The Second Temple understanding of afterlife was understood as a two-part experience: a disembodied period of rest with God—Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom—followed by resurrection of the body.

Two Baruch brings this bodily resurrection out in a much fuller way:

2 Baruch 49:2 “In which shape will the living live in Your day? Or, how will remain their splendor after that?”

How will they live in the period after the resurrection is the question.

2 Baruch 50:2 “For the earth will surely give back the dead at that time; it receives them now in order to keep them, not changing anything in their form. But as it has received them so it will give them back. And as I have delivered them to it so it will raise them.

The resurrection in Second Temple understanding would be a resurrection of the physical body, a body of flesh that as Wright asserts will be animated by spirit, and not just any spirit, the Divine Holy Spirit!

Wright suggests, “[eschatology] refers to the strongly held belief of most first-century Jews, and virtually all early Christians, that history was going somewhere under the guidance of God and that where it was going was toward God’s new world of justice, healing, and hope. The transition from the present world to the new one would be a matter not of the destruction of the present space-time universe but of its radical healing.”[23] Johnson writes, “the dead will be raised with a πνευματικόν body, which for all its discontinuity and newness, will have a definite material continuity with the ψυχικόν body that is buried.”[24] The newness that Johnson writes about is the animating Holy Spirit.

Bodily resurrection at the end of time was concept readily accepted in Second Temple theology, but as Endsjo points out, “it was the resurrection of Jesus, not the general resurrection of the dead, which the Jews considered ‘a controversial matter.’”[25] The resurrection of Jesus was not the general resurrection at the end of time; Jesus’s resurrection came in the middle of history. With the resurrection of Jesus the living model of what Second Temple theology believed had been realized: At death, after a period of rest—in the case of Messiah 3 days—with the Father—Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom—there was a full bodily resurrection—continuity with the past yet animated by the Holy Spirit.

Wright writes, “Kings and emperors, from Alexander to the Julio-Claudians and beyond, were regularly deified, using various legitimating devices, mostly to do with witnessing the departed person’s soul ascending to heaven, perhaps in the form of a comet, as with Julius Caesar,” continuing the thought suggesting, “The Jewish hope burst the bounds of ancient paganism altogether by speaking of resurrection.”[26] A stumbling block to the Jews—a resurrection breaking in the middle of history and not at the end of time—and foolishness to the Gentiles—they did not believe in a bodily resurrection.

Conclusion

Most Christians hold to some belief in the afterlife. Yet, for most the belief is in a disembodied spirit existence in Heaven for eternity. While the biblical record speaks to a time of rest after death in Paradise, or Abraham’s Bosom, the biblical record does not stop at this point. The biblical record, and Second Temple theology held the position of bodily resurrection. After a period of rest with the Father in Paradise the body will be resurrected—at the end of time—with continuity to its past, yet with discontinuity in the that it will be animated by God’s Divine Spirit.

Wright suggests, “When you’re dealing with worldviews, every community and every person must make their choices in the dark, even if there is a persistent rumour of light around the next corner.”[27] The worldview of the author and the original audience should never be filtered out of the interpretation of literature. Nor, should the Jewishness of Jesus, Paul, and other biblical and extra-biblical writers be filtered out.  The Second Temple worldview, the worldview of Paul and Jesus, was one of a two-part afterlife experience. The first stage was disembodied spiritual existence to be followed at the end of time by full bodily resurrection. The final frontier for man is not life after death but life after life after death.

Until Next Time May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You, All Y’all!

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References

Arndt, W. F. The Gospel According to Luke. St. Louis: Concordia, 1956.

Artinian, Robert G. “Luther after the Stendahl/Sanders revolution: a responsive evaluation of Luther’s view of first-century Judaism in his 1535 commentary on Galatians.”.” Trinity Journal 27, no. 1 (2006): 77-99.

Black, Mark C. Luke. Joplin: College Press, 1998.

Bundy, David. “In Abraham’s bosom: Christianity without the New Testament.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 62, no. 1 (2000): 123-124.

Dunn, James D. G. “How are the dead raised? with what body do they come?: reflections on 1 Corinthians 15.” Southwestern Journal Of Theology 45, no. 1 (September 2002): 4-18.

Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Endsjø, Dag Øistein. “Immortal bodies, before Christ: bodily continuity in ancient Greece and 1 Corinthians.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30, no. 4 (2008): 417-436.

Johnson, Clinton Andrew “Andy” Jr. “On removing a trump card: flesh and blood and the reign of God.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 13, no. 2 (2003): 175-190.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Sanders, E.P. Jesus and Judaism. Philidelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

Shepard, Gelnn. How To Be the Employee Your Company Can’t Live Without: 18 Ways to Become Indespensible. Hoboken: Wiley Publishers, 2006.

Stendahl, Krister. “The apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West.” Harvard Theological Review 56, no. 3 (July 1963): 199-215.

Ware, James P. “Paul’s understanding of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:36-54.” Journal of Biblical Literature 133, no. 4 (2014): 809-835.

William , Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard. Biblical Interpretation. Nasville: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

Wright, N. T. “Christian Origens and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Hostorical Problem.” Sewanne Theological Review 41, no. 2 (1998).

Wright, N. T. “Jesus’ Resurrection and Christian Origins.” Stimulus 16, no. 1 (2008): 41-50.

—. Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: Harper Collins, 2008.

—. The Resurrection of the Son of God. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003.

[1] cf.  Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” Harvard Theological Review 56, no. 3 (July 1963): 199-215.

[2] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 99.

[3] W. Clement Stone quoted in Glenn Shepard, How to Be the Employee Your Company Can’t Live Without : 18 Ways to Become Indispensable (Hoboken: Wiley Publishers, 2006).

[4] Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” Harvard Theological Review 56, no. 3 (July 1963): 199.

[5] Robert G. Artinian, “Luther after the Stendahl/Sanders revolution: a responsive evaluation of

Luther’s view of first century Judaism in his 1535 commentary on Galatians,” Trinity Journal 27, no. 1 (2006): 81.

[6] cf. E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1977).

[7] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1993), 24.

[8] William Klein, Craig Blomberg and Robert Hubbard, Interpreting Biblical Literature (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 172.

[9] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 99.

[10] All verse Holy Bible English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

[11] Mark C. Black, Luke (Joplin: College Press, 1998), 381.

[12] Black, 282.

[13] Darrell C. Bock, Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996), 1857.

[14] W.F. Arndt, The Gospel According to Luke (St. Louis: Concordia, 1956), 471.

[15] Bock, 1368.

[16] Black, 282.

[17] James D. G. Dunn, “How Will The Dead Be Raised? With What Body Do They Come? Reflections on 1 Corinthians 15,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 45, no. 1 (2002): 18.

[18] E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), Kindle location 3439.

[19] Cf. N.T. Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Literature, 2003).

[20] Wright, ROSG, Kindle location 6780.

[21] N.T. Wright, “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem,” Sewanee Theological Review 41, no.2 (1998). Retrieved from http:ntwrightpage.org

[22] N.T. Wright, “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem,” Sewanee Theological Review 41, no.2 (1998). Retrieved from http:ntwrightpage.org

[23] N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope (New York: Harper Collins,2008), 122.

[24] Andrew Johnson Jr., “On removing a trump card: flesh and blood and the reign of God.,” Bulletin For Biblical Research 13, no. 2 (2003 2003): 178.

[25]Dag Øistein Endsjø, “Immortal bodies, before Christ: bodily continuity in ancient Greece and 1 Corinthians,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 30, no. 4 (2008): 432.

[26] N. T. Wright, “Jesus’ Resurrection and Christian Origins,” Stimulus 16, no.1 (2008): 42.

[27] Wright, Stimulus, 49.