Centrality of the Resurrection (11/2015 for New Testament Theology)

In approaching a topic of such magnitude as the resurrection of Christ, many areas must be addressed. It is obvious that without a death there can be no resurrection. It is also equally pertinent to explore the time in history the resurrection places mankind. An exploration of such topic would be incomplete without also looking forward, to that which the resurrection points mankind. It is of the author’s opinion that the resurrection should be more central to our gospel message than the cross. The cross brings images of a beaten, bruised, and forsaken Savior; a Savior that is more a slaughtered Lamb than the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The resurrection is more central to our hope, salvation, and empowered service as Christians while the cross is more central to a past event leading to the present power. History cannot be overlooked, or shuffled aside. It must be examined to understand the role crucifixion played in bringing the church to the current point in time. The role of the cross is important, but the resurrection is often overlooked. A theology involving the resurrection as a centerpiece is a theology of hope, empowerment, and victory. It is also a theology with many implications, including the separate entities of body and spirit, eschatology, pneumatology, and Christology. The Trinity cannot be ignored, nor can the implications beyond a resurrection of Christ, which points to the eschaton. Also, to avoid making room for presuppositions in terminology, resurrection, ascension, rapture, and second coming of Christ will be clearly defined as used here.

As a starting point, consideration will be given to 1 Peter 1:3-5. This scripture points to all areas previously mentioned, and serves well the purpose of a full exploration of the resurrection. Presuppositions must be addressed first, and then a chronological order will follow the path to the cross, the death of Christ, the time between the cross and the resurrection, the resurrection itself, and finally the eschaton. Throughout the role of the Holy Spirit will be addressed. Scripture will be from the NRSV, unless otherwise stated.

Central Text

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:3-5

An immediate reading of the text reveals the thought of Peter concerning the importance of the resurrection. While mention is made of the death of Christ, it is the resurrection that brings us the hope of salvation, and a hope for future residence with Christ. This is the look to history that sets an “unfading” future. Also expressly stated is the benefit of the resurrection by the mercies of God, and our faith in that salvation. Missing is a plain statement concerning the Holy Spirit, but when concerning God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son space must also be given to the work and power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, Peter ends this statement with look to the last times in history of man.

Presuppositions

  1. The Bible is the infallible, inspired Word of God. It is the final authority.
  2. There will be a pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture of the church
  3. The terminology “second coming” refers to a physical return of Christ to reign on earth for a literal 1,000-year period. This is a distinct second event from the rapture.
  4. Resurrection is the raising of Christ’s physical body from the grave, while ascension is the final ascension to heaven witnessed in Acts 1:9-11
  5. The world, meaning all of creation both on earth and in the heavens, is a temporary creation that will be replaced at the end of times. Creation as we know it has a definite beginning seen in Genesis and a definite end seen in Revelation.
  6. God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all distinct persons and personalities yet all one. They are separate yet inseparable.
  7. All 3 persons of the Triune God-head are infinite. They were, are, and always will be.

This is the framework to begin exploration of the centrality of the resurrection to our point in time, the necessity to understanding we have moved from life, to death, to life. The resurrection is central to a fulfillment of God’s word that He has a desire to see all people saved and enjoy life eternal.[1] This move from life, to death, to life can also be seen in the expression from Christ that we must be born again.

The Cross

The cross is a universal symbol of Christianity. It is the symbol we use in salvation, the symbol that says to the world “I am a Christian”, and the symbol we strongly defend. Perhaps the reason lies with the fact we cannot display an empty tomb? The image of the cross is displayed as a violent death, a form of suffering death reserved for the worst of society such as slaves and criminals.[2] This was the death given to Christ, and it was a death He faced in the power of the Holy Spirit, just as He had faced temptation in that same power. [3]The death of a criminal, and often the very instrument of His death becomes our power to endure suffering of our own. Christ stated in John 15:20 that we would be persecuted. This is proven true throughout history, and indeed is true today.[4] The common association with the cross is one of suffering and persecution. This was the path that Christ took the final week of His life on earth. While there were examples of persecution before the so-called Passion Week, it was this week that seen a violent culmination on the cross. The path that led Christ to the cross was one of righteousness rejected by the religious leaders of the day. It was the High Priest that leveraged his influence in both religious and political circles to reach the desired outcome.[5]

The crucifixion was the sacrifice of our Passover lamb, as prophesied by Isaiah 53:7, with types that can be seen in the blood marks on the door posts of the lambs slaughtered in Egypt many years before. Perhaps this is where the imagery of crucifixion skews our view of Christ. We still view Him as beaten, bruised, battered, pierced, and worn down.[6] David also foretold this image. Psalm 22 is a vivid foretelling of the crucifixion, down to Christ’s garments being parted, His hands and feet being pierced, and his legs remaining unbroken.[7] The crucifixion was a necessity to fulfill prophecy, to make a way for our atonement, and to set in motion a new age pointing to the eschaton in which a final fulfillment of all prophecy will come.

Perhaps one of the most questioned times surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is the time that lay between the two events. 1 Peter 3:19 details that Christ preached to the “spirits in prison” during this time. It is also Peter that is quoted in Acts 2:25-31 that references Psalm 16 in defense of this idea. The idea that prison is Hades, or hell, is presented with this text in conjunction with the text from 1 Peter 3:19.[8] It is sufficient to note that scripture states Christ preached in some area within the earth during this time, however the debate of whether this was to all people of times past in hell, or simply the Old Testament saints to be found in Abraham’s Bosom is unimportant at this juncture.

The Resurrection

The suffering of the cross, while necessary, points to things ahead. In this instance it is an immediate pointing to a resurrection, a resurrection which Peter calls a “new birth into a living hope” in our key text. The two are intrinsically linked. Suffering is the process; hope is what pulls us forward to our eternal reward. Without the resurrection this would not be possible.  The resurrection would not be possible without the work of the Holy Spirit.[9] This resurrection of Christ is a scene we can well rely on to understand our own resurrection.

While certainly Christ’s body was laid in the tomb as a physical body this is not the body the apostles and others seen during the 40 or so days Christ walked the earth before His final ascension. The body lain in the tomb was from His earthly mother, but the body that was resurrected was glorified for His heavenly existence.[10] We are no longer left with an image of a lamb led to the slaughter, but a glorified, resurrected, living Christ. We can now begin to see hope instead of only suffering. We can now begin to see the reward for the persecution faced day to day. It is an image that shows a Jesus that has defeated death, and placed the roadmap

before us to lead to victory. Taken in context of the key text, this hope leads directly to the inheritance in verse 4 and salvation in verse 5.[11]

In addition to the hope brought about by the resurrection, there is a clear picture towards the eschaton (to be more fully discussed in the following section) shown in the ascension detailed in Acts 1:9-11. This return referenced here is foretold by Christ in His own words in Matthew 24:30. Throughout the New Testament, and particularly the popular passage of John 14, points to a theme of a returning Christ. It only serves to reason that to return He must first go away, or ascend to Heaven. This is the hope referred to by Peter in verse 4 speaking of an inheritance, for one day we will reside with a resurrected, ascended Christ.

Perhaps the most vital part of the resurrection is not within the resurrection itself, but within the promise of the Holy Spirit. Christ stated plainly in John 16:7 that He must ascend before the Comforter, or the Holy Spirit, could come. In context, this fits with the overall theme of 1 Peter. The Holy Spirit is a necessity to daily life now just the same as in 1 Peter to live holy lives under duress and persecution. This promise offered in John 16:7 was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. This outpouring would have never happened without the resurrection. Without the resurrection we would still be waiting for an empowerment to work. Without the resurrection we would be serving not the Living God, but a dead god.

Eschaton

In speaking of the eschaton it must be realized that it is the end of times, times which cannot be reached without the cross, without the resurrection, and without the Holy Spirit. It is a time that will stretch at least 1,007 years.[12] It is a pointing to this time that is most likely spoken of when Peter speaks of an incorruptible inheritance in 1 Peter 1:4. This is pointed to both in the following verse (verse 5), as well as commentaries.[13] It is clear that the resurrection, while significant for many reasons, clearly point to the eschaton.

The beginning of the end times start with the rapture. While there is much debate on this topic, it will not be debated here as the presupposition is a pre-tribulation rapture, first of those dead, then of those which remain as expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54[14] and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.[15] With a hope of salvation, not only of our souls, but also of our bodies “to be revealed in the last time.”[16] The resurrection of Christ showed a greater resurrection to come at the rapture. Indeed, a picture of this is seen within the closing of Matthew’s Gospel. Tucked neatly away in Matthew 27:52-53 we see that a resurrection has already occurred. The Old Testament saints rose from the grave and went into the city. This is an emptying of Abraham’s Bosom, no more a holding place, but an indicator of being forever with the Lord in Heaven just as the thief on the cross was promised.

It is after this point in which the tribulation period documented in Revelation occurs, and is followed by the second coming of Christ to rule and reign on the earth for 1,000 years. Again, without a resurrected body this cannot happen. This is a hope, this is an inheritance, and most importantly this will be the fulfillment of Revelation 20:6. We, the church that is part of that first resurrection, will reign with Christ for a literal 1,000-year period on earth.[17]

The final point in the eschaton is the final fulfillment of all things, a new heaven and new earth as spoke in Revelation 21. The final hope, the final salvation, and the inheritance; all the things spoken by Peter in conjunction with the resurrection of Christ. The finite is no more, and within a new heaven and new earth we have infinite presence. Within the infinite God we find the eternal love, mercy, kindness, and glory of a living, resurrected Savior.

Conclusion

Peter points to the resurrection as a powerful point in the ministry of Christ. Luke points to no less importance. Luke shows the place of resurrection as the place of Christ’s victory and the subsequent empowering of the church.[18] From the cross to the eschaton the central feature is the resurrection. The cross is a symbol of suffering, the eschaton a period of perfection, but it is the resurrection that forever links the two. The resurrection erases the suffering and offers eternal hope. The resurrection should be our hope…and empty tomb, not an empty cross. The cross emptied to fill the tomb, and a filled tomb does not conquer death or offer salvation. Looking to the eschaton with hope of salvation is pointless with a full tomb. It is the empty tomb, the symbol of resurrection, which points to the victory of the cross and the hope of the future.

Our centrality must shift, we must never forget the cross for that is where we find our sacrifice once for all, but we must also keep firmly in our sight that Christ is no more the lamb led to the slaughter. He is, and will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is risen, He is alive, and he no longer hangs on the cross. We must embrace the hope, salvation, and empowered service of the resurrection.

[1] The desire for God to see man worship Him, and display loyalty to Him as Creator and God is seen specifically in 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. This same concern and desire is expressed numerous times throughout both the Old Testament and New Testament.

[2] Ray H. Hughes, The Cross: Love’s Necessity (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2000), p. 13

[3] Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1996), pg. 90

[4] Steven J. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (JPTSup, 1; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), p. 22

[5] The passage of John 18 highlights the interaction of political and religious circles.

[6] Isaiah 53:4-6, Zechariah 12:10

[7] New Testament references to this are found in the crucifixion narratives in the Gospels

[8] French L. Arrington, Christian Doctrine: A Pentecostal Perspective, Volume 2 (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1993), pg. 84-86 – This section contains a more complete discussion on the time between the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, as well as addressing different interpretations

[9] Veli-Matti Karkkainen, Pneumatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), pg. 157

[10] Yung Chul Han, Ed., Transforming Power: Dimensions of the Gospel (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2001), pg. 280

[11] Rebecca Skaggs, The Pentecostal Commentary on 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2004), pg. 18 – Full discussion here on objective vs. subjective use of hope

[12] This is taking into account the period of tribulation (after the rapture, a seven year period) and the literal millennial reign of Christ on earth.

[13] Skaggs, Rebecca, The Pentecostal Commentary on 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2004), pg. 19

Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992), pg. 745

[14] This is the culmination of the victory over death as stated in verse 54.

[15] The combination of these two passages from Paul strengthen the eternal hope to which the resurrection points, and that which Peter speaks of in the key text.

[16] Taken from the MEV

[17] Gause, R. Hollis, Revelation: God’s Stamp of Sovereignty on History (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1998), pgs. 253-254 for a full discussion of distinguishing between resurrections and the millennial reign of Christ

[18] Arrington, French L., The Spirit-Anointed Jesus: A Study of the Gospel of Luke (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2008), pg. 385

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Random Thoughts This Morning

Last night I was blessed to have one of my few true friends in service with us at church. He preached a wonderful message that blessed the congregation on David and waiting for your promises and gifts to come into full maturity. I find it amazing how God works and moves. This is a similar theme that I have been on for some time with my church. i have preached on Joseph and his ordeal before his dream become reality and on Habakkuk’s progression of faith. Now, without coordination on our part, my dear friend comes in and preaches a well-received message that drives home the point I have been trying to make. God is wonderful, and wonderfully timed!

Friends in ministry…true friends, not acquaintances, are few. This man is a true friend, and I am blessed to call him friend, fellow minister, and brother.

Changing direction, I am excited personally about the times ahead. I am nearing completion of my undergraduate degree in biblical studies and theology with Lee University. I anticipate graduating May, 2017. I am entering my final two classes on Tuesday. Part of the excitement is that I will have a degree. This is something I have lacked in my years on earth. I was a poor student in my youth. I seen little to no need for education or school. My concerns were far more social and much less focused on anything productive. I dropped out of high school and have lived life the best I knew how. God changed my heart on this, as well as my passions, and now, for the first time I look forward to finishing something. What is funny, ironic, whatever word choice you prefer…I do not see this as an end or accomplishment. I have realized just how much I do not know and the need to continue my education. To that end I am already enrolled at Pentecostal Theological Seminary.

Part of my excitement also lies with (I hope) more time to renew some online efforts in ministry. I have a YouTube channel that has been sorely neglected for far too long (YouTube Channel) and I intend on getting some sermons recorded to post. I am also investing in some inexpensive equipment to start a podcast, which will be on this page and hopefully pulled over to Apple Podcasts.

The way to reach people has changed in method. That is my driving force…people love the immediacy and lack of intimacy in finding something online. My hope is that through YouTube I can simply spread the message of Christ. The Podcast I envision being a little more in depth on studies and theological questions, but we shall see.

I may also start a new YouTube channel to highlight a hobby of mine. I have come to love fountain pens. Here is my favorite (and an early graduation gift to myself):

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This is a Montegrappa Copper Mule, based on their Fortuna line. They are not a “low-end” manufacturer, they produce some very fine Italian writing instruments. (You can pick one up here) I purchased mine in a medium nib and absolutely love it. Writing is a little different; it requires much less effort…except this particular pen, when writing with the cap on the back (or posted) feels like you have a brick in your hand! The pen is solid copper, as is the cap, so it certainly has some weight to it. Other than the weight, which is very nice not posted, the pen is such a dream to write with if you still use pen and paper.

I have been rather rapidly transition back to paper and pen for sermon preparation, school notes, etc. I just find that I retain the information much better if I take time to actually write rather than type. The professor for my one class at PTS this semester even commented that he had seen a study that writing helps with learning much more than typing.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

Reading Recommendations

I must confess, before beginning my educational journey I never ventured outside of my Pentecostal tradition in my reading. My boundaries have been pushed, expanded, ripped away, and rebuild within a safe area of higher learning. Through this journey I have encountered a few new authors and books as well as relied on some tried and true favorites. Here is a list of 10 (#1 is #1, the rest are in no particular order) items in my library I would highly recommend to all, with links provided:

  1. God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology by Elmer A. Martens (Buy It Here)
  2. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit by Clark H. Pinnock (Buy It Here)
  3. The Creative Word: Canon as a Model for Biblical Education by Walter Brueggemann (Buy It Here)
  4. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Buy It Here)
  5. Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective by Veli-Mati Kärkkäinen (Buy It Here)
  6. Conflict & Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians by Ben Witherington III (Buy It Here)
  7. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders (Buy It Here)
  8. Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom by Steven J. Land (Buy It Here)
  9. The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary by Walter Brueggemann (Buy It Here)
  10. Transforming Power: Dimensions of the Gospel by Yung Chul Han, et. al. (Buy It Here)

As a bonus, here are the two Bible’s I consistently use out of my many:

  1. Life in the Spirit Study Bible in King James Version (Buy It Here)
  2. The New Oxford Annotated Bible w/ The Apocrypha, 4th Edition in NRSV (Buy It Here)

In addition to the difficult choice of only 10 books and 2 Bibles, I do have some authors (and a journal) I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone serious about theological or biblical studies. Here are a few:

  1. Walter Brueggemann
  2. French Arrington
  3. Ben Witherington III
  4. John Christopher Thomas
  5. The Journal of Pentecostal Theology (and any of the Supplement Series monographs)

The lists are not all inclusive…I have at least 700 books not to mention journals, printed articles, etc. in my office. This encompasses hundreds of authors across a vast range of denominations, backgrounds, theologies, and the like.

I welcome feedback and suggestions here…please! I always love finding new gems to add to my library.