Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake;
some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Despite the disdain for messianic Jews, especially among Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, we have something more in common with them, than with the rest of the Jewish community combined: namely, a firm belief in the resurrection of the dead. In fact, Rambam (Maimonides) regarded belief in the resurrection of the dead as one of thirteen doctrines necessary in order to be considered religiously Jewish.
It is why we messianic Jews can earnestly pray, along with them, the second of the seven Amidah prayers:
אַתָּה גִבּוֹר לְעוֹלָם יְהֹוָה!
מְחַיֶּה מֵתִים! אַתָּה רַב לְהוֹשִׁיעַ!
You are mighty forever, O Lord! You bring to life the dead!
Yeshua – HaBikkurim Shel T’chiyat HaMeitim
(Yeshua – the FirstFruits of the Resurrection)
1 Corinthians 15:16-23 and 50-55
1 Corinthians 15:16-23
If the dead are not raised, then Messiah has not been raised either.
Rabbi Paul addresses the sad news that some in the congregation at Corinth were denying there would be a resurrection. You’re in a bad place when you distrust a promise God made long ago, and repeated; including through Isaiah (26:19) and Daniel (12:2). Paul cares deeply for the Corinthian believers, and wants them to understand the logical outcome of their denial, and how pathetic it would be. If the dead aren’t raised, then Messiah hasn’t been raised. He is still in the ground.
And if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
“So what?” the skeptic might ask. “What difference does it make if the Messiah didn’t rise from the dead?” It would mean that there is no atonement for our sin; our belief in Yeshua, however noble, and despite the brotherhood in Him that we enjoy, is useless as far as eternity is concerned. If Messiah is still in the ground, then we are still in our sin, and sin forever separates us from the eternal, holy God.
And what about our friends and loved ones who have died? What hope for them? Paul continues to lay out the disastrous consequences, if those who disbelieved in the resurrection were right. He wrote:
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Messiah are lost.
Meaning, we would never see our friends or loved ones again, except, perhaps, in the flames of perdition. If Messiah didn’t rise, then God didn’t accept His death as sufficient payment for sin; and all who trusted in Him are in eternal darkness. That is why he goes on to write:
If only for this life we have hope in Messiah, we are of all people most to be pitied.
So let’s recap. IF there is no resurrection from the dead:
- Yeshua didn’t rise
- The Good News isn’t good – it’s empty
- We’re wasting our time (no final judgment/reward)
- We are, unwittingly, liars, for having declared Yeshua alive again
- Our spiritual situation is hopeless – our sin remains unatoned
- Our believing loved ones who passed away have perished
- We are pathetic, for hoping in what doesn’t exist
If there is no resurrection from the dead – why bother trying to please Adonai? So we can feel better about ourselves, then die, and be no better off than child abusers, drug dealers, and mass murderers? So people can say sweet things about us at our funerals, which we won’t hear anyway? If this life is it, then why shouldn’t we pack it up, go home and grab all the power and wealth we can, while we can. That would be logical, at any rate.
On the other hand… what if it is true?
If the resurrection is real, and Yeshua did rise from the dead, and there is an approaching day of judgment, what about the person who denies it – disdains it? It means wrath. It means judgment and eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire, which is the second death. You see, that’s the pesky thing about truth (which is a synonym for fact). Denying it won’t make it go away. So let’s go on.
But Messiah has indeed been raised from the dead, the First-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in turn: Messiah, the First-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.
Messiah’s resurrection is the foundation for our confidence and joy – even amid this world’s troubles. Confidence, because it carries us through our emotional swings and doubts. All my doubts cannot erase historical facts. Joy, because His resurrection is also the guarantee that those who are joined by faith to Him will likewise be resurrected to everlasting joy and shalom in the presence of God.
We are all descended from Adam, so we all inherited his sin, resulting in death. Those who, by faith, are in Messiah, the Second Adam, inherit His righteousness, resulting in life. But first things first: Messiah the FirstFruits. Yesterday, by the way, being the 16th of Nisan, was Bikkurim, the day He rose.
And, Yeshua’s resurrection is really good news for us! When God the Father raised Yeshua the Son from the dead, it represented His seal of approval. God accepted the death of the Righteous Messiah as payment in full for the collective weight of the sins of mankind.
Yeshua’s post-resurrection appearances, to individuals, to groups, and on at least one occasion to a crowd of 500 people is one line of evidence. Another line of evidence is the otherwise inexplicable empty tomb. Theories such as those that say He didn’t really die, but only swooned, or that the disciples stole His body fall apart immediately under even cursory cross-examination in the light of physical, historical and medical evidence. A third line of evidence is the astonishingly rapid spread of the Christian faith, and the willingness of those who were eyewitnesses go to their deaths rather than deny it. These three evidences make an irrefutable case for the historical fact of Messiah’s resurrection.
I want to conclude my d’rasha with a wondrous promise found later in this same chapter. Let me read, not dissect, just read verses 50-55 for us:
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
If the Coronavirus situation has you down, let me encourage you to look up. Messiah is risen!
Death has been defeated!
Death has lost its sting.
Messiah Yeshua has done it! He has won the victory. If we will humbly surrender ourselves to Him, we will share in that victory! Could there possibly be any better news?