Monday, September 19, 2011

The blessed hope

As I remarked in a previous post, in all that’s been written about the Licona controversy, it’s striking how little has been written (in this connection) about the underlying principle. Scripture records several different resurrections:

1. The resurrection of Christ

2. The resurrection of the saints (Mt 27:52-53)

3. The resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11)

4. The resurrection of the just (1 Cor 15; 1 Thes 4)

5. The general resurrection (Dan 12:2; Jn 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Rev 20:13-15)

There are some potential differences:

i) In one respect, the resurrection of the just is a subset of the general resurrection.

Since, however, the resurrection of the just is a reward, whereas the resurrection of the unjust is a punishment, there may be some differences in the quality of the resurrection.

ii) There’s a difference between restoration to mortal life, and glorification–which confers immortality.

The “resurrection” of Lazarus is less than glorification, but more than resuscitation. Since his body already underwent extensive necrosis, it wasn’t like wheeling in the crash cart.

However, despite the differences, they share a common principle: in all instances, the dead are restored to life. And it’s not like defibrillating someone who flat-lined three minutes ago–where there’s no tissue death or brain damage. (We do have some miraculous resuscitations in Scripture.)

Some professing believers find Mt 27:52-53 incredible. But if that’s inherently unbelievable, then what’s left?

I daresay that those who find Mt 27:52-53 incredible are also inclined to disbelieve the intermediate state. Nowadays it’s fashionable to deride the intermediate state as a doctrine based on platonic dualism and the immortality of the soul. The Hebrews, so we’re told, had a more holistic view of biological existence. Indeed, some professing believers are physicalists.

In that case, the only basis for the afterlife is the resurrection of the body. If, however, we’re going to mock Mt 27:52-53 as a zombie apocalypse, then what’s left?

Or, to approach this from another angle, do they still believe in the Parousia? Do they believe in the future return of Christ? Will Christ physically return to earth?

If so, then when Christ returns, what will happen to those who died in Christ? Take a Christian who was buried a day before. Will Christ raise that body from the dead? Will he glorify that body?

In many cases there is no preexisting body to raise. In the nature of the case, you have a continuum, ranging from those who died a few minutes ago to those who’s bodies have turned to dust. Scattered to the four winds.

But what about a Lazarus-like scenario? If you think the resurrection of the saints in Matthew is incredible, do you also think the resurrection of Lazarus is incredible?

What about the resurrection of the just? Is that a mass zombie apocalypse?

You can make fun of this, but death isn’t funny. Death will catch up with you. There’s such a thing a gallows humor, but that presupposes the fear of death. That masks the fear of death.

If Mt 27:52-53 is deemed to be intrinsically implausible, then that implicates the common principle which underlies any resurrection.

I’m not addressing atheists in this post. I’m addressing those who profess to be Christians.


  1. For me, there are differences taught about in Scripture, that is, with regard to: "...the dead are restored to life...". I don't know if this is the place to share them?

    You wrote: "...However, despite the differences, they share a common principle: in all instances, the dead are restored to life."

  2. I had a similar discussion recently regarding the believability of a literal take on Genesis 1. My answer is similar to yours. If there is no good reason to believe otherwise, then why couldn't it be literal? The scientific method requires assumptions that are unverifiable within the framework of the scientific method. Christianity specifically addresses these assumptions and provides presuppositions that are divinely revealed and verified with signs that exceed our understanding. While some passages or expressions are naturally figurative, there is no reason to take passages like Matt 27:52-53 as anything but literal.