Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Resurrection of the Dead

Lord Leighton's painting based on the phrase in the Navy's funeral at sea, "...looking forward to The Resurrection of the body when the sea shall give up her dead," in the Tate Museum in London.

There is ample evidence in Elizabethan literature that the topic of The Resurrection fascinated the 17th Century English playwrights and poets:

From John Donne's sonnets:
"At the round Earth's imagined corners, blow your trumpets, angels,
and Arise, arise from death, you numberless infinities of souls
And to your scattered bodies go..."

From Donne's "The Relic":
"...and think that there a loving couple lies
who thought that this device might be some way
to make their souls on that last busy day
meet at this grave and make a little stay..."

And The Last Busy Day from Shakespeare's Henry V, Act 4, Scene 1, Williams speaks at line 1980:
"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at
such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a
surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind
them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their
children rawly left."

It has been the general understanding of Christians that the resurrection of the dead is the final future happening at the end of all days.  It was in The Apostle's Creed, "I believe in the resurrection of the body," and was in the Didache, also known as "The Teachings of the Apostles", which may have been recorded earlier than the creed.

In recent years, preterists, historists, and contextualists have tried to place the prophecy of the resurrection as an after-the-fact statement about a second century event, denying the possibility of future prophecy.  Here's the problem with that:  the Old Testament is rife with the promise of the resurrection, so if it's all about an A.D. 2nd Century event then the prophecies written before 600 B.C. blow the theory of "no future looking prophecy".

The oldest book of the Bible may be The Book of Job, and in it Job says, (Job 19:25-27) "For I know that my redeemer lives and He shall stand at last on the earth: and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another for me.  How my heart yearns within me!"

The Book of Daniel ends with a promise to Daniel while he was a very old man in Susa (present day Iran), chapter 12: "But you go your way until the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of days."

There is a lot of argument these days between science and Christianity, most of it centering on Creation and whether or not Science can ever be fully reconciled to Christian faith.  But, how can any scientist ever embrace the doctrine of The Resurrection as science?  Even the apostle Paul said, (Romans 8:20 and 8:21) that the creation has been put into bondage to futility and decay.  Aren't those saying, "the tendency to disorder" and the decay that is the cycle of the Laws of Thermodynamics?

The Christian believes in promises.  The first promise is that God Himself will save.  The Resurrection is the inheritance day of that promise, the rendering of The Will, so to speak.

All of the New Testament books and New Testament writers point to The Resurrection of the dead as a key belief and expectation.

As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, it is a central understanding and belief that Christ was raised from the dead.  As Paul wrote in Chapter 15 of his first letter to Corinth, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then our faith is futile and we are false witnesses because all have claimed that He was raised from the dead, and if the dead are not going to rise then He didn't and we won't.

So, we look forward to that last busy day, looking to the resurrection of the body, when the sea shall give up her dead.

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