The New Life To Come

“For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have”

Jesus, Luke 24:39

Jesus-ResurrectionEveryone holds a belief about what happens at death, from a “you are dead and that is it” belief of the atheist to a “you inhabit your own planet” type belief of the LDS church. There is a fascination with the after death, and afterlife, happenings of the body and soul. At a death most people try offering comforting words to the bereaved, but in most cases these words, while they may comfort, offer little of a biblical understanding of the afterlife, and most especially the resurrection.

Even in Christian circles among scholars the view varies by as many different people who are putting forth the views. Views have been put forth everywhere from a “Life in the Air” existence to a “full bodily resurrection here on earth.” Yet, all use the same Bible. As with many things Christian many times finding agreement elusive.

A key to understanding and interpreting resurrection pericope, as well as any biblical subject for that matter, lies in the worldview of the biblical author and the message he was trying to impart to his original audience. While it is understood that the Bible is a book inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is also understood that the writers wrote to particular communities and the information was shaped around the particular community’s needs. This accounts for the differences in tone of Paul’s letter to the Galatians as compared with Romans or Timothy. Thus the differences in the Gospels can be seen showing a truer picture of Christ when examined together as all communities are seen together.

Understanding, then, the worldview of the author and original audience is essential in understanding the concepts that writings put forth. As Duvall and Scott put it, 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.”[1] While most commentators have capitalized on one verse, 1 Corinthians 15:50, and from that one phrase, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,”[2] the Second Temple period had a distinct understanding of what the resurrection would be.

Stendahl, Sanders, and others have spoken to the importance of the Second Temple worldview when interpreting 1st century Jewish documents. Yet, many times this worldview is not factored in as it would challenge preconceived notions held by the commentator. The best interpretation will be the one that takes into account both the biblical record as well as the biblical worldview. And as will be shown the Second Temple worldview was of a full bodily resurrection. It was with this worldview that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 50. It is with this world view that scripture needs to be interpreted.

The Intertestamental period writings shed light on the worldview of both Jesus and Paul. It was in this world, with this worldview, they lived. It will be in this period that the worldview pertaining to resurrection will be brought out. This worldview will be long beside Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth. Modern views will not be filtered in but will be filtered out, as N.T Wright has asserted, “Resurrection belongs within the revolutionary worldview of Second-Temple Judaism.”[3] For purposes of this paper that is where it shall stay.

With the biblical evidence at hand, filtering in the Second Temple Worldview, this paper will argue in total agreement that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom,” while asserting that flesh and blood will inherit the kingdom. It will be the position that in 1 Corinthians 50 “flesh and blood” is used as a euphemism for the unredeemed, the lost, those who have never had a relationship with Christ, or those who have had a relationship and from it they have walked away.  The Bible teaches a full bodily resurrection—flesh and blood—as the renewed form of mankind at the end of time.

 

The Need for a Proper Worldview

In 1963, Krister Stendahl put forth the proposition that 1st Century, Second Temple documents should not be viewed through a modern Western lens, through the lens of a modern Western worldview[4]. Interpreters have the need to take care in not reading a 1st century Jewish document with a modern worldview.  Unlike Luther, who seemed to read his own personal disgust with a corrupt church, 1st century documents have to be examined with as near as possible a 1st century, Second temple world view.

After Stendahl, E. P. Sanders came in 1977 making the same claim.[5] Sanders set theologians on end with has come to be known as the New Perspective on Paul. Since Stendahl and Sanders others have picked up the mantle and followed with the assertion that we need to interpret 1st Century, Second Temple documents as close as possible within a Second Temple Judaism context. While, as it will be shown later in this essay, those who push for this New Perspective do not always agree—Dunn and Sanders will argue for an “in the air” experience while Wright contends for a physical body resurrection—it will be with this New Perspective—which is not new at all, but the Bible’s original perspective—in mind, looking more towards original documents to gain an understanding of resurrection from a Second Temple perspective, which is in fact the perspective of Jesus, Paul, and all the New Testament, as well as intertestamental period, writers.

 

Second Temple Resurrection

While the Bible teaches resurrection, it has to be admitted that there is not a ton of information given as to the particulars of the event. Most people would immediately turn to the Resurrection passage of 1 Corinthians 15. And while this paper will go there, to lay the ground work for that passage, it is best to start in the Old Testament and Intertestamental periods.

The hope of a physical body resurrection is apparent in the writings of the Maccabees. Second Maccabees states, “Better to be killed by men and cherish God’s promise to raise us again” (2 Maccabees 7:14, New English Bible with Apocrypha, 1970). It could be argued that “raise us again” does not have to be raised to a physical existence. And while Dunn, is a proponent of the New Perspective, it is Dunn’s contention that this “raise us again” will be an “in the air experience. Dunn asserts, “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).[6] Sanders concurs with the otherworldly existence and an “in the air” type of existence.[7]  It is Dunn’s belief that the transformation of which Paul speaks (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) is a transformation from physical to spiritual existence. This would then be somewhat in line with Teichman who held the opinion that Paul believed at the end time everything would be annihilated except for the spirit.[8]  Yet, a closer look at the Second Temple understanding of resurrection will paint a quite different picture.

Two Baruch poses a question to God, “In which shape will the living live in Your day? Or, how will remain their splendor after that” (2 Baruch 49:2)? The answer, which sheds a bit of life on the Second Temple view is, “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” (2 Baruch 50:2, emphasis added). For the writer of 2 Baruch a bodily resurrection was in store at the end times. Though a Jewish pseudepigraphical text, it gives insight into the Jewish worldview of the late 1st and or early 2nd century.[9] From the time of the Maccabees until the time of 2 Baruch little had changed in the thought process of the afterlife. While Dunn looks for an “in the air” experience, and Sanders sees a shift from before the cross—bodily resurrection—to after the cross—a spiritual, “in the air” resurrection—the written record does not bear this out.

Leaving apocryphal works and turning to the Bible works accepted as canonical, Daniel 12:2 asserts, “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.” While apparently borrowed from Isaiah 26:19,[10] the verse points to a bodily rising up from the dust. As Senior asserts, “resurrection expectation in connection with the coming of the messianic age was a strong current in intertestamental Judaism. A biblical text which seemed to have particular influence in this regard is the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37.”[11]

 

The New Testament

Having seen that the Second Temple period—this is the era in which Christ lived and Paul wrote—as well as later writings after Messiah held to a belief in physical bodily resurrection. It is time to turn to the New Testament writings. In Particular the writings of Paul will be looked at.

Before turning to Jesus resurrection, however, there was a resurrection in conjunction with that of Messiah. In Matthew 25:51-53, it is recorded that “the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (emphasis added). As Senior writes, “It is the death of Jesus which triggers the resurrection of the saints.”[12] This resurrection, material particular to Matthew, is of a bodily resurrection—people, saints, rising from the tomb. This not a floating down from an “in the air” experience; this is a coming out of the tombs resurrection: physical body resurrection.

Turning to the resurrected Christ, it has to be asked if His resurrection is a paradigm for the resurrection of the saints at some future time? While Senior believes it is, then the words of Jesus have to be remembered, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). By His own testimony the Christ was resurrected physically. Here we are faced with a dilemma. Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, yet the Messiah—who ascended into Heaven—was raised, resurrected, with a physical body of flesh and blood. The two ideas have to harmonize.

Johnson might have the answer writing, “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.”[13] What will that continuity Be? The continuity will be the physical body. The discontinuity will be what animates the body. N. T. Wright suggests that the body will be animated by the Holy Spirit, “The present unity of the church is important not least because it will thereby anticipate the perfect harmony of the resurrection world, when members of the soma Christou, the Messiah’s body, who have each exercised their pneumatika, spiritual gifts, are finally raised to life, to be given the soma pneumatikon (15:44–6), the entire body energized and animated by the divine Spirit.”[14] While Sanders, Dunn—among many others—see an existence of a spiritual body, Wright, on the other hand sees a body animated by the God’s own Spirit. Wright explains, “Here is a sub-puzzle within Paul’s language; strictly, the Greek forms ending in –nos refer to the material of which something is composed, while the forms ending in –kos are either ethical or functional, and refer to the sphere within which it belongs or the power which animates it.”[15]

The body, with all of its flesh and blood—just as had the risen body of Christ—will be raised and animated by the Spirit of God. Christ’s resurrection is a paradigm for all believers’ resurrection.  Paul wrote, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Christ as the fristfruits serves as type of the resurrection of the faithful that will come on the last day.

Kistemaker rightly observes that, “The expression [flesh and blood]is a figure of speech for the physical body. It is a Semitic phrase that occurs repeatedly in rabbinic sources to denote the utter frailty and mortality for a human being.”[16] While under its normal operating power the physical body is frail and mortal. And, Kistemaker uses this to make is case for an “in the air” type of resurrection. Yet, where he fails in his analysis is the resurrected physical body will be animated by the Holy Spirit. If Christ’s resurrection is the paradigm for all believers’ resurrection—and Paul says it is—then the animating force will be the same—the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4). Instead then of being animated as a spirit the resurrected body is animated by the Spirit.  Thus, the resurrected Christ is able to say He has flesh and blood as he has been raised imperishable as the body is animated—not just brought to life, but continually filled with life—of the Holy Spirit. It has to be remembered in writing to the Corinthians Paul is not trying to prove that there is a resurrection, as has been shown by the intertestamental works. Paul is showing (1) that Christ’s resurrection is a paradigm for their own future resurrection and (2) that resurrection would be of their physical bodies animated by God’s Divine Spirit. A few passages, canonical and deuterocanonical, serve to show this point.

Sirach 14:18 states, “Like abundant leaves on a spreading tree that sheds some and puts forth others, so are the generations of flesh and blood: one dies and another is born” (NRSV, emphasis added). Flesh and Blood here refers to mortal living man. Jesus says, “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-17, emphasis added). Flesh and blood is used as an idiom for mortal, living, man. The body sown corruptible, will rise incorruptible. While Jeremias is write to contend that the dead will rise in bodies that are incorruptible,[17] he fails in seeing the continuity that is seen in Jesus’s resurrection and in Paul’s analogy of the seed. The physical body rises—the continuity is kept as it is the same body—yet, there is discontinuity in that it was corruptible and now by the animating force—God’s Spirit—it is raised incorruptible.

 

Conclusion

There are almost as many theories about the resurrection as there are commentators interpreting the biblical literature. And, among those who agree on certain of the points, few, if any, agree on every individual point. Many, if not most, people believe the afterlife experience will be and “in the air,” spiritual existence. Yet, the record of Second Temple Judaism paints quite a different picture. Among the various verses, both canonical and apocryphal, all seem to point the belief in a physical body resurrection. This resurrection has continuity with the past life in that it is the same body, but there is discontinuity in the fact that the body is animated in a different way, by God’s Spirit. Paul uses “flesh and blood” as an idiom for mortal man; it is used that way in other scriptures. Yet, mortal man is just that, mortal. At death, the physical body is sown corruptible; at the resurrection it is raised incorruptible by the animation of God’s Holy Spirit.

 

Until Next time, may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

 

sign

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

 

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

 

[3] 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): Paragraph 14. Retrieved from http://ntwrightpage.com.

 

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

 

[5] Cf.  Ed Parrish Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1977.

[6] 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.

 

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

 

                   [8]Ernst Teichmann, The Pauline Notions of Resurrection and Judgment and their Relations with the Jewish Apocalyptic (Freiburg-Leipzig: Mohr, 1896), 46-53.

[9]Frederick Murphy, “2 Baruch and the Romans,” Journal of Biblical Literature 104, no. 4 (1985), 663.

[10] Daniel Bailey, “The intertextual relationship of Daniel 12:2 and Isaiah 26:19: evidence from Qumran and the Greek versions,” Tyndale Bulletin 51, no.2 (2000): 305.

 

[11] Daniel Senior, “Death of Jesus and the Resurrection of the Holy Ones,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38, no. 3 (1976): 320.

 

[12] Senior, 328.

[13] 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.

 

[14] N.T. Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), Kindle location 677-6780.

[15] Wright, ROSG, Kindle Location 6500-6503.

 

[16] Simon J. Kistemaker, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1993), 520.

[17] Joachim Jeremias, “Flesh and Blood Cannot Inherit the Kingdom of God,” New Testament Studies 2 (1956): 152.

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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.