In biblical thought, human bodies matter and are not merely “disposable prisons for the soul”, as many religions and philosophies contend. When the ancient Israelites wrestled with the goodness and justice of YHWH, the Creator God, they ultimately came to insist that YHWH must raise the dead a suggestion firmly resisted by classical pagan thought. We see this, for example, in Is 26 19 and especially in Dn 12 23. This idea of resurrection didn’t really come along until the second century BCE. In fact, the hundreds of years leading up to that time contain no references to resurrection – neither in the Bible nor in the extrabiblical literature. It was only from Is and Dn on that we started to get ideas about resurrection and immortality. Another example of progressive revelation.
Additionally, the longed for return from Exile was also spoken of in terms of YHWH raising dry bones to new life as we know from Ek 37 114. These ideas were developed in the secondTemple period, particularly during times of martyrdom as we see in such books as 2 Maccabees 7.
Further, resurrection was not just ‘life after death’. Instead, resurrection was a newly embodied life after ‘life after death’ in which those at present dead were either ‘asleep’, or seen as ‘souls’, ‘angels’ or ‘spirits’, awaiting new embodiment. That’s how the scriptures and the extrabiblical literature talked about the dead. In other words, in death, souls (spirits) that had departed the now dead body would first experience being in an intermediate state (with Jesus) that we call heaven. Later, at Christ’s second coming, the soul would be then fully embodied – with its resurrected and renewed body – in the new Creation, that is, in the world to come as the Creed puts it.
Next, the resurrection of Jesus was not anything that had been anticipated in Judaism. By the time of Jesus much of Judaism believed that there would be a resurrection of the dead in the future but it was the dead – plural. It was a corporate resurrection – a resurrection of ALL – that was looked for, not a singular resurrection. Therefore, when the resurrection of Jesus occurred, it was something totally unprecedented in terms of expectations.
This should not come as any surprise to us because we see a two stage character in most other themes of the Old and New Testaments. For instance, we are reminded here of the two stage kingdom of God that Jesus brought with his Incarnation: the inaugurated stage of the kingdom at his first coming and the consummated stage at his second. Always be mindful that virtually everything happening in Scripture is a process in progress, … and the resurrection is no different. Jesus came as the first fruits of the resurrection (1 Cor 15 20, 23) and everyone (all) will be raised in the general resurrection to come.
Next, for Jesus to talk about resurrection in relationship to himself during his earthly ministry was for him to say far more than people were prepared to comprehend. They would just not have “gotten it.” And, comprehend, they did not … until his resurrection – and afterwards during his remaining time with them before his ascension. By then it would have been hitting them in spades. It had to be a time filled with major goose bumps among the faithful!
Importantly, the early Christian belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead was not only that he had gone to heaven, or that he had been ‘exalted’, or was ‘divine’. Of course, they believed all those things as well, but each of those things could have been expressed about Jesus without mention of resurrection. As such, only the bodily resurrection of Jesus explains the rise of the early church, particularly its belief in Jesus’ messiahship. Of course, at first with his crucifixion, any thought of his Messiahship was initially decimated – or, at the very least, it would have called into question. But three days later everything that had happened would have been turned on its head.
The early Christians – except for the Corinthians as we see in 1 Cor 15 (the main “resurrection” chapter of the NT) – believed that they themselves would be raised to a new, transformed bodily life at the time of the Lord’s return or parousia as we see in various texts such as in Pp 3 20 ff.
The Resurrection of “All” the Dead
Scripture is quite clear. At Christ’s second coming “all” the dead will be raised. While Scripture doesn’t address this as often as it does some other kingdom of God themes, it speaks of it often enough for us to know that there will come the day when all the dead will be raised.
Resurrection itself in the OT is addressed at various places such as at Is 25 6-12; 26 11-19 and again in Dn 12 1-2, 12 13. In fact, as a part of God’s progressive revelation within Scripture, “resurrection talk” doesn’t even show up chronologically until centuries into the Israelites having been called to be the people of God. For instance, the prophet known as first Isaiah – who we read about in Is 25-26 above – conducts his ministry in the several decades before the Exile, and Dn itself doesn’t show up until around 500 years later in the second temple period which is variously understood to have been during the time span of either 537 BC to 516 through the time when the temple was again destroyed in 70 AD. [While the book of Dn appears in our OT in the section called the major prophets (Is, Jm, La, Ek and Dn), the book of Dn was the last book written in the OT. Dn itself is a collection of 6 stories and 4 apocalyptic visions which were gathered and edited somewhere in the 2nd century BCE.]
So we have this central text on the resurrection from Dn 12 which reads 2 and many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awaken, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting judgment (contempt, disgrace). In all of Dn 12 we see this wonderful core promise of the resurrection of the dead but v 2 is especially pointed. Notice that it says “many;” it does not say all. many used in this context is a Hebraism meaning all since it is used here in the Semitic sense. Another place where we see this same usage is the suffering servant passage Is 52 13 – 53 12 or, for short, Is 53 – the passage we read each Good Friday.
Here in v 2 we see clearly another aspect of the promise, the promise of the resurrection of all the dead, the twofold resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, which will occur at the time of the fulfillment of all of YHWH’s promises, that is, at Christ’s second coming. Cf Is 26 19; Jn 5 24-29.
So we only have a few places in Scripture which talk about the resurrection of the wicked because the Bible puts much more stress on and gives much more detail about the resurrection of the righteous, the believers of God. As such, that is to be our focus.
A key part to this prophecy and promise of the resurrection of the dead, as we clearly see in Dn 12 2, is the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Both those faithful to God and who follow the Lord – as well as those who turn from God. All will be raised, the righteous will be raised to life and the wicked will be raised to judgment, disgrace and everlasting shame (This is what scholars call the double judgment). Folks, for those who know about Jesus, it’s an “either / or” situation. There will be no middle ground to be found when Christ returns. So the really holy people and the really wicked people are going to be raised up to receive their appropriate recompense for their earthly deeds. The biblical idea here is that since one’s sin occurred “in the body”, so then one must also be raised to life in order that they may be finally judged / sentenced “in the body”. We saw this also in 2 Cor 5 10, the same text we studied last November.
from Catechism class:
In his catechisms Luther began by telling us what Scripture does teach about the resurrection of the body. In his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed Luther tells us that on the last day Christ will raise me and all the dead. Scripture goes on to tell us that our bodies, the very same bodies that have died, will be made alive.
1 Th 4 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Jn 5 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come outthose who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
2 Cor 5 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
Scripture tells us that unbelievers – those not found in the faith – will be raised and judged to eternal death, to everlasting shame, contempt and torment in hell.
Lk 16 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he [the rich man] was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ [See also full text vv 19-31.] Re 1 7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
And here in Ac Paul is on trial and is making his case before King Felix. Ac 24 15 having my (a) hope in our God, which also these accusers of mine standing next to me welcome and receive and accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
from the Lutheran Confessions:
Article XVII. Christ’s Return to Judgment
“Our opponents accept Article XVII without exception. There we confess that at the consummation of the world Christ will appear and raise all the dead, granting eternal life and eternal joys to the godly but condemning the ungodly to endless torment with the devil.” Ap. XVII.