This is the blessed hope of all Believers down through history. But has part of this resurrection already occurred?
This morning in our Bible class, Greg our Bible teacher brought his lesson on Paradise, with a smattering of resurrection teaching. It was overall a good study. He based his lesson on the movement of paradise from Eden eventually to The Third heaven. These things we have spoken of here before in at least one other post.
Greg stated that he reads a lot, and that is evident in his lessons. From one of his readings he presented the assertion that when Christ led captivity captive from Paradise (Eph. 4), that He would have resurrected Old Testament Saints supposedly according to the historian Josephus, who is stated to have presented fact that these saints resurrected were as many as 40,000 strong. Scripture itself states many. So we need to look at this, first based upon scripture including Paul’s discussion of the resurrection, and then based upon history including Josephus.
1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? (KJV)
Paul is answering a challenge to seemingly a future resurrection, so probably not that of Christ. This challenge is from within the ranks of the Corinthian church. One question that immediately comes to the forefront concerning our subject — is the alleged resurrection of 40,000 Israelites exiting from the tombs surrounding Jerusalem, — If these 40,000 bodies were resurrected with Jesus certainly no one could be questioning the fact of a future resurrection, could they? But they were questioning this resurrection, and so Paul is defending the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. (KJV)
So if there was such a mass resurrection, why did not Paul reference this massive event involving Jews from the tombs in this argument, because it would have already proven his argument. Certainly had it occurred it would have been known by all, and he would have argued it. We know that there was a miracle performed during the time of Jesus Crucifixion and resurrection — listen:
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Matthew 27:50-53 NASB
We would have to think the many spoken of here to be much closer to tens of persons rather than to thousands; otherwise this could not have been overlooked by most of Jerusalem, and there would have certainly been more written about it even by the other writers of scripture, as well as historians.
1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
This verse makes Christ the first fruits of resurrection, not Christ and masses of resurrected Israelites. I believe that it can be effectively argued that those who were in Abraham’s bosom still were not resurrected at the time of Christ’s resurrection. Therefore He preceded them in the resurrection as first fruits. I think that this becomes clear as Paul goes on, and what he has to say will help us to set aside any possibility of there having been 40,000 resurrections at that time.
1 Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Of the “all” in verse 22 it is said that they “shall be” made alive and this was still the case even at the time when Paul was writing this. The “all” is all inclusive of the whole (see Strong’s 3956). In Adam all died spiritually as well as physically. Paul is obviously speaking of the 1st resurrection “all” here. This is the resurrection of which Christ is the first fruits. This passage nowhere says that Christ and 40,000 were given resurrection bodies as first fruits. It doesn’t even say that Christ and 10 more were given resurrection bodies. Instead it says that these who are in Christ shall all be made alive in the coming resurrection. This implies that these who did resurrect died again even as did Lazarus.
1 Corinthians 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (KJV)
This is the scriptural order for first resurrection. Christ, and then the dead.
A group of Jews not believing in resurrection came to trick Jesus with a seven brothers marriage question. Jesus answered them this way:
In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; Luke 20:33-35 NASB
Clearly this age still continues based on that answer, and it therefore is very doubtful that part of the resurrection beyond Christ’s own resurrection has taken place.
Now, to look at this question of the 40,000 based upon historical facts. if you look up Josephus and Jesus in a search or Josephus and resurrection in a search a good deal will come up, but nothing about Jesus and multiple Jewish resurrections at the time of His death. You can actually go to the writings of Josephus from the Internet which I have copied portions of for you at the end of this post. If you do this as I did you can see the mentions of Jesus and of resurrection within those accounts. and you will find only a mention of Jesus resurrection, but nothing about these 40,000 resurrections. Neither are large numbers mentioned in scripture. The following are from Josephus.org and CARM, both of which are Internet sites. The first is an index of parallels by subject of the New Testament with Josephus’ writings.
The second page is the home page directing you to the 1st page.
The third, forth and fifth pages are the only references to Jesus in Josephus’ writings. The fifth page is challenged by scholars, and therefore Josephus is really only credited with two mentions of Jesus.
Are there other historic writings documenting biblical resurrection? Here are the arguments from a Christian apologist giving us the answer.
So yes, there are other historians who wrote about resurrection, but none from the period and time of Christ and the Apostles. This of course would eliminate Josephus as having written anything more than we have seen here.
This post is not intended to disparage our Bible teacher, but to merely point out that men writing books which are about historical facts, but who do not provide those facts cannot be given the respect of those who do. In my book I quote many such deceptive arguments dealing with the Rapture.
And in closing I wish to make an apology to Greg and to our class for misrepresenting a fact concerning the first resurrection in class this morning. I stated that Jesus is the first resurrection when Greg had stated that He is the first fruits of the resurrection. Sorry Greg, you were correct on that point. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, but concerning the first resurrection itself, He is the first fruits of that resurrection.
God bless you as you follow the Holy Spirit in your discovery of truth.