Thursday, October 11, 2012

Early Christianity: Resurrection

The OT bears witness to the fact that some in Israel expected a resurrection (Job 14:14; 19:25-27; Psalm 16:10; 49:15; 73:24; Isaiah 25:8; 26:19; Daniel 12:2). As the time for Christ’s arrival drew near, it seems that God’s people became even more focused on the resurrection (Wisdom 2:23-24; 3:1-4; 4 Ezra 7:32-35; 2 Maccabees 7:10-11; 14:46). Yet, even then, the expectation of resurrection was not universally embraced. The Sadducees at least rejected the doctrine entirely (Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:8; 26:8).[1]
            Jesus affirmed that there would indeed be a resurrection of the dead and that he himself would be the agent of resurrection (John 5:25-29, 6:40; cf. Philippians 3:20-21). The reality of a coming resurrection was also a central tenet of apostolic preaching (Acts 4:2; 17:18; 23:6; 24:15; 26:8; 1 Corinthians 15:12; Hebrews 6:1-2). This message brought comfort to the hurting and encouraged repentance in the wayward (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Romans 14:9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
The generation of Christians following Jesus and the apostles continued to preach the resurrection of mankind. Clement of Rome, for instance, says, “there shall be a future resurrection” and goes on to make supporting arguments based on nature (such as the rising and setting of the sun).[2] This promised resurrection served as an inspiration for Christian ethics and bravery in the face of persecution.[3] The resurrection of Jesus assures us that God will certainly raise us from the dead.[4]

[1] Porter, Dictionary of New Testament background : a compendium of contemporary biblical scholarship.
[2] Clement to the Corinthians XXIV-VI, ANF I p. 11-12
[3] “If we please Him in this present world, we will also inherit the future world. For He promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead.” Polycarp to the Philippians V, ANF I p. 34; “I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me worthy this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost” Martyrdom of Polycarp XIV, ANF I p. 42; Didache XVI, ANF VII p. 382
[4] “And He (since it behoved Him to appear in flesh), that He might abolish death, and reveal the resurrection of the dead, endured [what and as He did], in order that he might fulfill the promise made unto the fathers, and by preparing a new people for Himself, might show, while He dwelt on earth, that He, when He has raised mankind, will also judge them. Epistle of Barnabas V, ANF I p. 139