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Friday, April 02, 2010

Jesus and the Resurrection of Life ( the assurance of glory )

Having written previously on this subject, and made my apology, in other words, before; one might think that I've already stated my position, so why take it up again?

'Well', I reply; 'that's a deep subject!'

If you have read any of my articles, you may have noticed that I am wont to turn to Jesus' words to Martha, in John 11:25, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live'. It should be clear that Jesus ( God ) is the resurrection, not some necrotic physical body coming back to life, although, as I've mentioned before, this had happened before as a picture, a preview, if you will, for those 'under' the Old Covenant. There is no doubt that Jesus did bring Lazarus, after he had been in the grave four days, back to physical life; but I don't believe that's what Jesus was telling Martha, for in the very next verse, He said 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'. Obviously; Jesus was speaking of the Life-giving Spirit  ( I Corinthians 15:45 ) that He, together with His Father, was! Using physical language that Martha could understand; Jesus revealed a spiritual truth to her, not that her brother would physically rise from the grave a 'the last day', but that those who believed ( trusted ) in Christ were resurrected, brought to True Life, and would never suffer the pain of separation from God.

Matthew 4:17 records that Jesus, upon His baptism, and trial by 'fire' in the wilderness, began immediately to follow John's prior example, telling them 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'. This, in fact, was arguably the main focus of Jesus earthly ministry, and the subject of numerous parables ( Matthew 13 alone records 9 parables concerning the kingdom of heaven! ).

In Mark's Gospel; we read the parallel passage to that above, but Mark recorded Jesus as saying 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'. What time was Jesus speaking of here, but the same 'time' that He spoke of to John, at His baptism, when He said 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness' ( Matthew 3:15 )? I believe that Jesus was revealing, to those with 'ears to hear', as it is this day, that He Himself was the kingdom, and that the time had been fulfilled, and the kingdom had come ( Matthew 6:10 ) to fruition. In Luke 10:9; Jesus told His disciples to tell the people of Israel, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you', and in the very next chapter told the Pharisees, who had questioned His power and authority, 'if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you', Later; Jesus told His disciples, in answer to their question 'Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?', 'So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near' ( Luke 21:7 & 31 ).

One may wonder at this point where I'm going with this: although it's fairly clear throughout the New Testament ( Greek ) Scriptures that Jesus and the gospel writers, not only looked for the kingdom of God/Heaven to be revealed in their day, that, generation' ( age ), but that they taught  that the kingdom, in the 'form' of the Christ, had indeed come to them, was ( very physically ) near them! When Jesus comforted Martha with 'I am the resurrection and the life'; He, in other words, was telling her that He was the fulfillment of all those promises, made under the Old Covenant ( Genesis 21:12c ( Galatians 3:16 ), Jeremiah 31:31 ( Isaiah 42:6 ( Luke 22:20 ), II Samuel 7:10-16 ( Hosea 3:5 ( Luke 1:32 ), to Israel!


What does 'in the resurrection' mean?

When Jesus told the Sadducees, in Luke 20:34-36, in answer to their question about the resurrection ( which they didn't even believe in ); 'The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection'. When one remembers Jesus' words to Martha, after the death of her brother, and just prior to his physical reanimation, when He told her 'I am the resurrection and the life'; it should be clear that Jesus was telling them much the same thing, for in the next breath, He also told her 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'. Jesus told the Sadducees above 'nor can they die anymore' because they were 'sons of the resurrection'. The same holds true today. Paul wrote, in II Corinthians 5:17, 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new'. When he wrote these words to the Corinthian believers ( church ) in the first century, they probably understood his words in the context of the sayings of Jesus to this effect, or possibly even the writings of the Old Testament prophets, like Isaiah ( 65:17-25 ), Jeremiah ( 31:31-37 ), and Ezekiel ( 36:25-27 ). Although these words of Paul's do not have quite the same meaning for us as they did for those first-century believers; I believe that we can be assured with those same words, that we have been made new, in Christ, just as they were then, and thus enabled to make the right choice, to be 'in' Christ, and loving as we have been loved, by Love itself ( thanks Arthur )!

What does 'in Christ' mean?


We are prone to 'bandy' words about, and these are some of those words that we like to use, but what do we really mean when we quote Paul as saying 'in Christ'? I'm not sure if any of us can fully, or sufficiently explain what that phrase means: as an infinite God; can any of us truly know, in our finiteness, what it really means to be 'in Christ'?

When Paul wrote ( at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of course ) these famous words, probably one of the most-used phrases in his letters; he employed the Greek ἐν ( en ), which is properly translated 'in', because it is 'a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively), i.e. a relation of rest', according to the website Blue Letter Bible, using the Strong's ( on-line ) Concordance. To be 'in' Christ, then, means that we have a 'fixed' position 'in' Christ, because of what He has done; as Paul told the Roman believers, in Romans 8:38 & 39, 'For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord'. Paul , nor Jesus, promised that 'sons of the resurrection' would experience life as 'a rose garden' ( or 'a bowl of cherries', 'box of chocolates', 'peaches and cream', etc, but God did promise that we would always have 'the love of God in Christ Jesus'! ( there's that word again )


How are we 'in' Christ?

Anyone familiar with my writings should know that I like to emphasize the fact that we are the 'Body of Christ' ( I Corinthians 12:27, ; Ephesians 4:12, Colossians 1:24 ). Paul previously had told the Corinthian church that 'as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ' ( 12:12 ); so how are we members of His Body? As a child ( oh, the naivety! ); I used to imagine myself, as Paul talks about in the next several verse, the 'foot', 'hand', 'eye', or some other physical body part, but as I matured, I began to understand that Paul was using this physical picture as an example of how we ( spiritually )are menbers of Christ's Body, in other words, 'in' Christ. As the Body of Christ  on earth ) then; we are members of His Body in a very physical sense when we are joined with His Church. ( I'm not speaking here, of what is traditionally called the visible church ( institutional ), but of the body of ( true ) believers, who, though they may not be affiliated with the afore-mentioned, belong to Christ's Body, traditionally known as the invisible Church. )

What does it mean to us that we are 'in the resurrection'/'in Christ'?

I believe Scripture makes it clear that we are 'members individually' of the Body ( I'm not condemning membership in the institutional or local church! ), and thus, in that sense, are literally, in a very physical ( yet still spiritual ) sense, members of His Body. I mentioned, in the very first part of this article the answer that Jesus' gave to the Sadducees ( tricksy ) hypothetical question, but one part of His answer that I didn't comment on was 'those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage' ( although I have, I believe, made a few comments on it, in a previous article ). When Jesus said they ( 'sons of the resurrection' ) 'neither marry nor are given in marriage'; I don't believe that He was speaking of the physical act of marriage, although, in the historical and covenant context, they would have understood it that way, but was referring to the coming end of that 'age' ( Old Covenant ), of which that was one of the signs of God's physical blessing ( Isaiah 62:5 ( Psalm 127:5 ). Jesus was revealing the fact I believe, that in the 'New', eternal 'age' ( 'in the resurrection' ) there would be no concern, spiritually speaking, with 'marrying and giving in marriage' ( Matthew 24:38 ), because in the New Covenant; we have been married to our Head, to Christ, and secondly, because, as Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, 'there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus' ( Galatians 3:28 ). I wrote, in a previous article, 'Jesus told them ( Sadducees ) and reminds us, in language reminiscent of Matthew 24: 37 & 38; that the sons of the age in which He lived in the flesh ( the Old Covenant age ) were focused on the physical aspects of life, marrying and giving in marriage; while those who were counted worthy ( notice; He didn't say 'those who are found worthy' ) to attain that age ( the everlasting age in which we as Christians live, ie., His kingdom ) would be focused, not on the physical aspects of life, but on the spiritual aspects of true life, in and for Him': no more are we to be, or need we to be concerned with the above, for now that we are the Bride of Christ, and married to Him in the New Covenant, we have, as Paul told the Ephesian church 'every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ' ( Ephesians 1:3b ). The physical blessings, as I've described above ( and there are countless others ) of marriage under the Old Covenant, and even today, pointed to, and still point to the spiritual blessings which we enjoy as the Bride of Christ, the 'wife' ( Romans 7:4 ( Malachi 2:15 )  of God!

What now?

'And he showed me a pure[a] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him'.

Again; Paul wrote to the church at Rome ( Romans 12:1 ), 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service' : like I said before, this may be 'old hat, 'old ground' that we're covering here, but it stands repeating, I believe. We are those 'leaves' that John mentioned above! Physically speaking, of course, we are not leaves,  nor are we physically to heal the nations ( although, sometimes, this does happen as an extra benefit ), but spiritually, we are 'leaves of the tree' ( that Tree being Christ/God ) and 'branches' of the True Vine!

Jesus said, in John 14:12, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father'. If we believe in Him, that He is who He says He is, and and able to do what He says He will and did, then we must believe that we are who He says we are, and are able to do what He said we can and will!


May God continue to bless us all, as we continue and even begin ( in some cases ) to realize that we are who we are, and that we have what we need, to do what we have been given to do, even in this physical existence, because He is our life, and we are 'in the resurrection'!

Alive in Christ,
and serving His Body.
Charles Shank

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