Resurrection in Context

Derek Ouellette —  April 4, 2010

Happy (Belated) Easter Folks! It has been a crazy weekend for me and so, alas, I finally have a moment (and only that) to publish a few thoughts on the theological implications of the Resurrection of Jesus. By-passing apologetics completely for the time being (though that is very important) I want to offer some theological reflections for us to chew on… (for those of you who are interested, the foot notes provide some explanations)

What does Resurrection mean in the Jesus context?

It meant that what the Jews had expected to occur at the end of time[1] Jesus did in the middle of time.[2] There are two resurrections, not one: a Resurrection of Christ [and spiritually those in him] and later a resurrection of the wicked [at which time those spiritually raised with Christ will receive the reality of their new bodies]. I think this is the best way to understand Revelation 20.[3]

It meant that the Kingdom of God had come already.[4] But had not fully been consummated.

It meant that the New Creation had started.[5] But awaits its full realization.

It meant that the future is guaranteed.[6] But not yet seen

It meant that the Devil and his evil forces had been defeated.[7] Yet presently remain the ruler of this world.

It meant that God was righteous and faithful.[8]

There is plenty to unpack here. Happy chewing :)

[1] Jewish theology of the first century had no concept of “end of time” or “timelessness”. These are very Greek worldviews. I use them because Western Christianity is built on the worldviews of Greek philosophy more than Jewish theology. For first century Jews (including Jesus and Paul), the Resurrection and Kingdom of God would happen at the end of the “Present evil Age” and usher in the “Age to Come” (Sadducees excluded).

[2] Oscar Cullmann shows this in his ground breaking work, Christ and Time, Part 1 chapters 2-3 and Part 2 chapter 1.

[3] This is a modified version of Amillennialism.

[4] N.T. Wright observes that Jesus’ main theme in what he said and did was the “Kingdom of God”. After some explanation he concludes: “we are justified in assuming that he saw resurrection, not as an isolated topic, but as part of the coming kingdom.” [Resurrection of the Son of God, p.403]

[5] In an article called “A Resurrection Matters” J.R. Daniel Kirk wrote “The most important thing to say is somewhat shocking at first blush. At his resurrection, Jesus becomes something that he was not before” [ct April, p.37]. This statement is shocking because we have been conditioned (thanks to our Greek philosophical worldviews) to believe that God cannot change – an idea that is foreign to the scriptures. See Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and compare that passage to 2 Corinthians 5:17: Christ is the first fruits of a new creation of which, if we are “in him”, we too have become a new creation by identifying with him in Baptism.

[6] See Romans 8:11. If the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us, we can be assured of our own resurrection. See also 2 Corinthians 1:22, the Spirit has been given to us as a guarantee of “what is to come”. Jesus rose from the dead and the Spirit was given to us a deposit, a guarantee that we too will be raised up.

[7] Jesus declared in Matthew 28 that “all authority had been given to me”. Jesus tells James and John that he will be the ruler when he comes in his Kingdom and in Acts we see very clearly that Jesus is standing at the “right hand” of God. He had received the Keys of Heaven and Earth. Yet simultaneously we know that Satan who WAS the ruler of all authority on Earth [Luke 4:5-8] – Jesus now has that authority [Matthew 28:18-20] – is still in some sense a ruler of this “Present evil Age” [Ephesians 6:12, Galatians 1:4] having now been cast out of Heaven for permanently [Revelation 12:5-9].

[8] Which is really the whole point of Isaiah 40-55. That God would be faithful to his covenant with Abraham by sending a “Representative” to stand in for humanity and thus be the ultimate sacrifice for all who would believe. Oscar Cullmann develops this “representation principle” quite well in his Christ in Time were he writes, “Thus the entire redemptive history unfolds in two movements: the one proceeds from the many to the One; this is the Old Covenant. The other proceeds from the One to the many; this is the New Covenant. At the very mid-point stands the expiatory deed of the death and resurrection of Christ.” P.117

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.