IN WHAT WAY IS JESUS THE RESURRECTION?
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Lord Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection.”
Our true life begins with the resurrection. All else is preparatory.
The resurrection is the change from the animal, adamic, soulish, human being to the human being who is a life-giving spirit.
If Jesus said, “I will resurrect you,” we could understand that. If He said, “I will raise you from the dead,” we could understand that.
How can He Himself be the Resurrection?
What do you think of when you picture being resurrected? Probably most of us imagine ourselves to be carried up from the earth to Heaven. Is this what you think of when you picture being resurrected?
If we asked someone the way to Cornell Avenue, and he answered, “I am the way,” we would think he was crazy.
If we think of “resurrection” as being carried from the earth to Heaven, we might think of Jesus Himself as being the way to Heaven, in that He has forgiven our sins. I guess this is the prevailing opinion of what Jesus meant by saying, “I am the Resurrection.”
However, the prevailing opinion is not scriptural. Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” So He is not speaking of Heaven but of His own eternal Life.
What is the difference? The difference is, Heaven is a place in the spirit world, whereas life is a state of being. We either are living by physical life, or we are living by Divine Life.
Resurrection has nothing to do with going from one place to another. Rather it refers to our passing from physical life, or physical death, to our living by the Life of God, which is eternal.
The Lord Jesus did not ascend to Heaven until forty days after He was resurrected. Therefore ascension to Heaven and passing from physical death into eternal Divine Life, are two different matters. Would you agree with that?
The unscriptural doctrine of the “rapture” has the believers leaving the earth and going to Heaven. This is not resurrection, it is ascension. It is not possible to ascend to Heaven to be with the Lord Jesus until we have been resurrected. The “rapture” doctrine is completely misleading in that it ignores the resurrection, claiming that untransformed people can fly through the air and enter the spirit Paradise. The inner resurrection which is necessary before there is an outer resurrection of the body is ignored in the traditional “rapture” teaching.
The Apostle Paul had made the goal of his life that of attaining to the resurrection. According to the context of his statement, attaining to the resurrection required that he view the things of this world as garbage, turning away from them that he might press into Christ.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10.11)
Can you imagine the Apostle Paul saying that he had left all things in order that he might attain to the ascension to Heaven? This is foolishness. If such were the case, there would be a small remnant of today’s American Christians who would participate in the “rapture.”
Let us now leave such foolishness. The “rapture” is a Christian myth. Nothing more.
If it is true that we must attain to the resurrection, it doesn’t just “happen” but must be attained to after a lifetime of pressing into Christ, how do we go about doing this? What is the nature of resurrection?
In the passage above, the Apostle Paul presents the heart of attaining to the resurrection. Paul says, “becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Now, exactly how do we become like the Lord Jesus in His death? Every true Christian believer knows the answer to this question. Every day, it appears, the cross we are carrying manifests itself. Either we are being denied that which we so fervently desire; or we are compelled to go on living in a situation we do not find pleasant.
As these various problems and pains persist, we learn to continue serving Christ. We do this by accepting the “sentence of death” passed on us by the Lord.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (II Corinthians 1:8,9)
I am not speaking of a passive acceptance of problems. If we are to live a victorious Christian life we must pray about every pain we encounter. We do not just roll over and play dead. Rather we keep praying that we may gain the wisdom and strength we need in order to continue serving Christ.
In this manner we become like Christ in His death. In this manner we become like Christ in His resurrection.
Please keep in mind that being resurrected has nothing to do with going to Heaven. Rather resurrection is that of passing from physical life, or physical death, and entering the Divine Life of God in our body, soul, and spirit.
Note in the following passage that the dead who return with Christ are raised (resurrected) before they are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (I Thessalonians 4:16,17)
“The dead in Christ will rise first.” This means that before the believers alive on the earth at that time are resurrected, those who came with Christ will receive back their bodies from their place of burial. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead after three days. He did not ascend until forty days later.
But what about those believers who are alive when the Lord returns? The scripture says they will be caught up together with the resurrected believers to meet Jesus in the air.
The fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians tells us about those believers who are alive when Jesus returns.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (I Corinthians 15:51-53)
The dead who return with Christ shall be “raised imperishable.”
Those who are living at the time will be “changed” in a flash. That which is perishable and mortal with be clothed instantly with imperishability and immortality.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)
Notice carefully that the giving of life to our mortal body depends on the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus living in us. Right here is the central concept I wish emphasize in this brief essay.
A human being consists of spirit, soul, and body. All three without Christ are dead, that is, having only human, perishable life. All three must be resurrected if we are to live eternally in the Presence of God and Christ.
According to the Apostle Paul, those of us who are living on the earth carry about a body that is spiritually dead because of the sinful nature that dwells in it.
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
I do not believe “the spirit is alive because of righteousness” is referring to the Holy Spirit. The contrast, rather, is between our physical body and our human spirit, not between our physical body and the Spirit of God.
Our body is dead because of its sinful nature, but our spirit has been given Christ’s Life, because of our receiving the atonement, and now is at the right hand of God in Christ.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)
I believe it is clear that at least a part of our spiritual nature already has been resurrected, in that it is partaking of the Divine Life of Christ. It no longer is merely human.
When we use the term “Heaven” we are referring to Mount Zion, which is one city in the vast spirit world. If we have been saved and now are living in Christ, our spirit is being made perfect in Mount Zion, in Heaven, we might say.
To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)
“The spirits of righteous men made perfect”!
This leaves our soul and our body.
Our soul is that which makes moral judgments. I do not believe angels have souls, but God does, and we are being made in His image.
It is the soul that sins. It is the soul that we are in danger of losing if we put our trust in material things instead of in the Kingdom of God.
I think I am correct in stating that if the soul does not attain to the resurrection, the body will not enter eternal life. Remember, the Resurrection is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul was striving to attain to eternal life. I would think he was not referring to his spirit, for his spirit already was alive and at the right hand of God in Christ. It is the soul that decides to serve or not serve Christ. If the soul decides to serve Christ, then Christ, the Resurrection, grows in the soul, converting it to a life-giving spirit.
Notice the following passage that describes the resurrection of the soul:
So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45—NASB)
Adam was created a living soul. Christ, being raised from the dead by the Spirit of God, became a life-giving Spirit. Witness: “I am the Resurrection and the Life”!
If we are a servant of Christ, our spiritual nature already has been resurrected, in that it is alive in Christ and dwelling in the heavenly Zion. We already have come to Mount Zion, which is “Heaven,” we might say.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (Hebrews 12:22)
Our body will be resurrected when the Lord returns; or, if we have not lived a victorious life, will be resurrected at the final judgment of the dead. In that Day, some will be resurrected to life; others will be resurrected but not by the Life of Christ. They shall be resurrected to condemnation and corruption.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
This leaves our soul. Do you suppose that the Apostle Paul was striving to attain to the resurrection of his soul in order that his body might be resurrected at the coming of the Lord? This probably is the truth.
I think it is reasonable to state that it would not be expected that God would house a carnal soul in an eternal body, and so, by pressing forward in Christ, Paul was seeking a better resurrection. How do your feel about this?
We begin our Christian life with eternal life in our spirit, as I have said previously, but our soul has much to learn about Christ. Paul taught us so clearly that it is the tribulations we encounter that enable us to grow in resurrection life in our soul.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (II Corinthians 4:17)
Our pains and problems are achieving for us that which we desire. The eternal glory is shown, in the next chapter, to be the house from Heaven.
If I am correct, as our soul becomes filled with Christ, a corresponding body is formed in Heaven. So our “eternal glory” is the resurrection of our soul, by being filled with Christ who Himself is the Resurrection and the Life, in preparation for the receiving, in the Day of Christ, a glorious house from Heaven.
In this manner the Lord Jesus Himself is our Resurrection and our Life. First, in the resurrection of our spirit. Then, as we serve Christ faithfully throughout every sort of pressure, the resurrection of our soul and body.
As Christ is formed in us, that is, in our soul, our soul changes from animal life to that of a life-giving spirit. I think we still will have a soul, which is our unique identity and the source of our decisions and judgments, but it no longer will be animal but divinely spiritual.
Every time we refuse to yield to our sinful nature we are fed in the spirit realm with the body and blood of Christ. They are our resurrection. They strengthen us so we can keep on living victoriously. The “hidden manna” is given to the saints who are seeking victory in Jesus.
So, like the Apostle Paul, we are not pursuing residence in Heaven. We are pursuing a change in us from an adamic soul to a life-giving spirit.
Remember, the promises of life and glory are to the victorious believer, as we see in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. They are not given to us because at one point we have “accepted Christ” and then have continued to yield to our sinful nature. Those who thus choose to live in defeat will not receive the inheritance promise to the conquerors.
The Paradise of God is glorious beyond all comprehension in the present hour. At one time it was on the earth but has been removed to Heaven because of our disobedience.
Imagine a world without sin, pain, trouble, or any other aspect of the curse that has been on the earth since the days of Eden. No more parting from loved ones by death. Endless joy and gladness of heart. No more danger as little children play with formerly vicious animals.
Best of all, as was true in Eden, Christ will be present for us to enjoy. Eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who obey Him.
But all of this splendor will avail us nothing until we have been fully resurrected in body soul and spirit.
Paradise is waiting for inhabitants who have passed from death to life in spirit, soul, and body.
If we do not make attaining to the fullness of the knowledge of Christ the highest priority of our life, we have made the greatest error it is possible for a human being to make.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)
That is, attain to the resurrection.
(“In What Way Is Jesus the Resurrection?”, 3170-1)