The following e-mail arrived from Wade:
Hi Team. God bless you and continue to use this site as an anchor in these turbulent times. Let God be true and every man a liar. I love the work you guys do. Just a question: While in history class, my professor was covering the faith of the Jewish people and said that the Jews never had a concept of a resurrection of the dead, and it wasn’t until Christianity that this concept came about. Also what God promised the Jews was that if they obeyed they would be kept in the land of milk and honey—that their reward was only for this life. I recall Enoch and Elijah being raptured but this came to mind after talking to a brother in Christ. If you can address this question, I would gladly appreciate it, even if this generalization is correct or incorrect. Thank you. —Wade
Thank you, Wade, for your fine e-mail.
The resurrection is absolutely central to the faith, beginning with the death-conquering resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb, to the paradise-restoring resurrection of the blood-bought. This resurrection and advent of eternal life is known to the saints of God as the blessed hope. Surely it is central. Some would have you to believe that this concept was unknown to the Old Testament believers and that it is a construct of Christianity, but the Sola Scriptura student of the scriptures knows that’s not so.
It must be noted that it is true that the resurrection is not heavily focused upon in the Old Testament, but that does not mean it is absent. The ministry and focus of the Old Testament righteous Jew was to demonstrate righteousness to the world, and ultimately to usher in the Messiah of mankind, Jesus Christ the Savior. This was their ministry and dispensation of time. Ephesians 1:9-10:
9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
After the Jewish leadership rejected their Messiah, the ministry of the New Testament, which is demonstrating righteousness to the world and bringing salvation to the lost through Christ’s saving blood, was shifted to the believing Gentiles. These are the years of grace through blood redemption, a dispensation of time. The focus of the ministry now is redemption unto the resurrection and eternal life.
Etymology, which is the study of language and words, has a foundational principle known as the law or rule of first occurrence. The premise is that the definition of a word is established in its first use. Man’s first knowledge of death is found in God’s admonition to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:16-17:
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Our great-grandparents disobeyed and ate and died. They were created to be immortal. God was concerned that fallen man, now mortal, might gain access to the tree of life which he once had free access to, eat of it and regain immortality in his evil condition. Genesis 3:22-24:
22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
The resurrection of the redeemed is God’s plan to restore immortality and paradise (See “Cherubims Block The Way”) and once again access living water and the tree of life.
But was the principle unknown to the Old Testament Jew? Death was not the end to the Jew. Yes, it was the end of this mortal motivation, but not the end of their existence. Hebrews 11:5 speaks of Enoch being translated (to change form) so that he would not see death, and it appears likewise for Elijah. Elijah appeared again with Moses and Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.
The New Testament teaches the principle known as Abraham’s Bosom, a place where the righteous awaited the coming of the Messiah (Luke 16:22-31, Ephesians 4:8-13, I Peter 3:18-20.). There surely was such a place. I Samuel 28:8-16:
8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee.
9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.
11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.
12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.
13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.
14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.
15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
King David understood this principle. II Samuel 12:18-23:
18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?
19 But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.
20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.
21 Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.
22 And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?
23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
13 Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:
14 From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.
15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
This truth is again proclaimed in I John 3:2:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Proverbs 4:18 speaks of the perfect day when we will perfectly reflect the light of Christ. It reads,
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.
Did Jesus Christ construct the concept of the resurrection in the New Testament? Was it unknown to the Jews in His day? There was a major division between the Pharisees and the Saducees who ruled the Jews in the time of Christ. The Pharisees believed in spirits, angels, and the resurrection of the dead. The Saducees said no to both. The resurrection of the dead was a common teaching long before Christ came, as we already noted. Listen to Jesus answering the doubters of the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-34:
23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
27 And last of all the woman died also.
28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.
34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.
8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.
12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:
13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.
14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
The great taking up of the church, commonly known as the rapture, is reported by God through the Old Testament prophet Malachi (3:16-18 and 4:1-3):
3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
3:18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
The resurrection, a New Testament construct? Not to the students of sola scriptura (scriptures alone).
Authorized King James Version