“Regarding the resurrection”…those are Jesus’ words from Matthew 22 verse 31. He taught about resurrection. He taught clearly and succinctly about the pivotal importance of the resurrection of the dead to the faith of those who would be his disciples. Let’s use today’s readings to remind ourselves of this critical teaching which has its roots in the very essence of the Old Testament.
I actually began considering this topic when I was reading our chapter in Jeremiah 11 today. God speaks “the words of this covenant” to His people. v.1 He reminds them of the oath sworn to their forefathers about giving them a “land flowing with milk and honey.” v.5 The chapter goes on to describe how Israel was failing (as was their habit) to keep their side of the bargain. Where God was always faithful, they (nearly) always worshipped other gods. It is the story of human nature.
So, this chapter was jostling about in my head as I pondered Jesus’ words about resurrection. The message is so consistent and complete in the Bible! It never ceases to amaze! Jesus was reminding the unfaithful of his own day about that covenant. Like Jeremiah’s Israel, the religion of Jesus’ day had strayed far from truth. So much so, that some of them didn’t even believe in a resurrection of the dead! God’s promises to the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still stand, he is saying. In order to keep those promises of His covenant, these faithful founders of the nation must, of necessity, be resurrected. They will live in a land flowing with milk and honey as eternal landowners. Just as God said they would. Cp. Genesis 17:1-8
Jesus is telling them that faithful people will be awakened from the sleep of death and given the blessings of God’s covenant. The covenant is totally, 100% dependent on the resurrection from the dead. Jesus knew the part he would play in this. This is how he could call himself: “The Resurrection and the Life.”
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies.”
He knew that the Abrahamic covenant would be truly ratified by his sacrifice and resurrection. Through God’s foreknowledge and design, Jesus became the “firstborn from the dead,” “the first fruits of those who are asleep.” Col. 1:18, 1 Cor. 15:20
When will this resurrection occur – at the moment of death when we have a disembodied spirit that receives blessing? No! Definitely not! Did Jesus receive blessing as a disembodied spirit? No! Definitely not! He received blessing when his body & spirit (breath) were brought to life again on Resurrection morn, with angels declaring the wondrous news. THIS was the most important day of all history! He was the firstborn from the dead. And, the truly wonderful thing is that WE (imperfect as we are) are invited to become partakers of this covenant and a similar future resurrection. The God of the universe invites you and me to experience the covenant blessings through His provision of His son, and through His son’s perfect obedience.
Jesus does clearly tell us WHEN life after death will occur for the faithful. Over and over he repeats himself. Listen to these passages from John 6:
- 39 “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
- 40 “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day.”
- 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
- 54 “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
The time of blessing is ON THE LAST DAY – i.e. when Jesus returns. (cp. John 11:24) 1 Corinthians 15 also gives more detail about The Resurrection and being clothed with immortality. Read the whole chapter to catch the passion and enthusiasm of the reality of resurrection.
Concentrating on this covenant-resurrection connection, however, let’s listen to the way Hebrews 11 describes it:
- 9 By faith he (Abraham) lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;
- 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
- 19 He (Abraham) considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him (his son, Isaac) back as a type.
- 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
- 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
- 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
Friends, THIS is the Christian hope – namely, to be a resurrected person that is invited by Jesus into God’s Kingdom on earth, which He covenanted with the forefathers. We, with Abraham and his family, will be “made perfect” through faith on the great Day of Resurrection! It is not as hard to understand, as many would make it. Sadly, like in Jesus’ day, religious authorities of our own time often “are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures or the power of God.” Mt. 22:29
Perhaps you, too, are “astonished at his teaching” (v.33) when you consider Jesus’ words and the radical message they contain. That’s okay as long as you ACT upon them now. Your religious convictions and outcomes are in your own hands. Search out the Scriptures yourself and see if these things are so. Be like the people God was urging through Jeremiah (in spite of their misconceptions of Him) to:
Hear (Hebrew: understand, listen, obey, heed, consent) the words of this covenant and do (Hebrew: act with effect, produce, accomplish, perform) them! Jeremiah 11:6
Hear and Do! And why should we do this? Because God is good. His ways bless our ways. He longs for us to come to Him and receive the abundant life that can only come from being in His presence both now, and in the future:
…so that you shall be My people and I will be your God.
May we regard the resurrection as of supreme importance. May we find the peace and comfort this hope represents to our lives now! May we rejoice on that unbelievable Last Day when Jesus begins His reign on the earth.
Here is a beautiful meditative song by The Sons of Korah that I found on Youtube. It uses Psalm 67 -which is a musical picture of the resurrection and the blessed world afterward. Note how verse 6 states “the earth has yielded its produce” – an apt description of the dead being raised from the dust! Enjoy as you contemplate the resurrection and what it means to you!