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Resistant to the Resurrection?


We come now in our study of The Apostles' Creed to this statement: "On the third day he rose again from the dead." This is one of the most difficult if not impossible parts of the Creed for many people to accept....

The young son of an undertaker was puzzled one Easter morning when he heard about the resurrection. "Do you mean," he asked, "that Jesus really rose up from the dead?"

"Oh yes," his Sunday school teacher replied.

The boy shook his head. "I know my daddy didn't take care of Jesus after he died," the boy responded. "If he had, then Jesus never would have got up again!"

Many people are resistant to the idea of the resurrection. Some of the Corinthians, to whom Paul wrote, apparently doubted it. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2,
Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
Paul gets even more specific in verses 12 and 13....

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.
In ancient Greece there was quite a strong belief in the immortality of the soul. However, the Greeks, following Plato, did not believe in the resurrection of the body. Such an idea was repugnant to them. They wanted to escape from the body. The idea of being trapped in a body for eternity was not a pleasing thought. They viewed the body basically as evil, or a source of evil. Thus, the ultimate good would be to escape from it. And so the Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul.

The Jews, on the other hand, had a different point of view. They thought of the body as created by God and therefore good, though the body is adversely affected by human sin. It is true that early on in the Hebrew Scriptures there is very little if any hope of a positive life after death expressed. The Sadducees of Jesus' time held to this old view. But by the time of Jesus, many Jews had come to believe in and hope for the resurrection of the body. The Pharisees were among those who believed in the resurrection at the end of time. What neither group expected was that one person would be raised bodily to new life in the middle of time. That is why Jesus' resurrection was such a surprise, even among the Jews.

In our own day there are many who are resistant to the idea of the resurrection. Rationalists are resistant because they hold fast to the idea that dead people simply do not rise. Rationalists believe in a closed universe. There is no supernatural realm and therefore no God who can intervene in the course of nature. Rationalists believe that the universe operates according to natural law and that law is never violated.

Another group of people in our day who are resistant to the idea of the resurrection are the reincarnationists. In fact, some reincarnationists try to reinterpret the Bible and say that what the Gospels are really talking about is reincarnation not resurrection. Reincarnation is a popular idea with some New Age thinkers who have adopted the idea from Hinduism. The Hindus believe in the transmigration of the soul. They believe that souls must have bodies to live in and that when one body in which a soul is living dies, then the soul transmigrates to another body. If your karma is good then you get to transmigrate to a better body. If you karma remains good then you get to keep moving up the ladder of transmigration until you reach enlightenment and you are absorbed into the total cosmic oneness. However, if your karma is bad then your soul migrates to a lesser form of life. Your soul might take up residence in an animal's body. That is why Hindus are vegetarians. As Stuart Briscoe says, "No Hindu wants to eat Grandma!"

However, the Bible does not teach reincarnation. Rather, in Hebrews 9:27 we read, "... man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..."

Another group of people who are resistant to the idea of resurrection are the revisionists. They seek to revise or update what the Bible says about resurrection in hopes of making it fit better with the ideas of our rationalist, modern, scientific age. The revisionist is generally uncomfortable with the miracles of the Bible because they seem to go against what science says is possible. The revisionist wants to make the Bible palatable for modern people, so he or she seeks to "de-mythologize" the Bible. Revisionists will say they believe in the resurrection but they mean a spiritual resurrection, not a bodily one. Some of them say that Jesus rose spiritually into the preaching of the Church. Rudolf Bultmann was a twentieth century theologian who popularised this belief. Bluesman wrote, "An historical fact which involves a resurrection from the dead is inconceivable." Bluesman's presuppositions did not allow him to believe in a physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, so he sought to reinterpret the Gospel accounts.

The problem with the revisionist viewpoint is that it simply does not square with the Gospels. For example, in Luke 24:39 we read of Jesus saying to his disciples after his resurrection, "... a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

Tomorrow we will begin to look at the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus....

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