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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary


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The doctrine, event, and act of persons being brought from death to unending life at the close of the age.

Old Testament The preexilic portions of the Old Testament contain no statements which point certainly to a hope of resurrection from the dead even though some of Israel's neighbors had such a belief. Death is the end of human existence, the destruction of life (Genesis 3:19; Job 30:23 ). In isolated instances revivification occurs (being brought back to life from death but only as a temporary escape from final death; 1 Kings 17:17-22; 2 Kings 4:18-37; 2 Kings 13:21 ). In addition, God took from the earth two Old Testament figures before their deaths: Enoch (Genesis 5:24 ) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-11 ). The scarcity of these statements and the lack of reflection on their meanings, however, point to the absence of any consistent doctrinal conception of resurrection from the dead.

Similarly, the Psalms are bereft of clear thought on resurrection. Many of the songs, however, express a hope that communion with God, begun on earth, will have no end (as in Psalm 16:11; Psalm 49:15; Psalm 73:24 ). The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1 ) and the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1 ) assert that Yahweh kills and makes alive. These expressions of hope in God may not suggest a doctrine of resurrection from the dead. They at least confess a conviction that the living God is able to intervene in life's darkest hours. They grope for a firm hope in justice and help beyond the grave. They may reflect the beginnings of a doctrine of resurrection.

The prophets proclaimed hope for the future in terms of national renewal (see Hosea 6:1-3; Ezekiel 37:1 ). So pointed is the prophetic expression of national hope that the New Testament writers sometimes used the language of the prophets to expound the doctrine of resurrection (compare Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55 ). The prophetic statements, however, do not necessarily attest to the hope of individual resurrection from the dead but profess the sovereignty of God over all His subjects, even death.

On the other hand, Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2 decidedly teach a belief in resurrection. The Old Testament emphasis on the sovereignty of God in all matters easily led to the prophetic statements.

The Old Testament statements about resurrection are scant and do not reveal clear theological reflection. The emphasis upon Yahweh as the God of present life tended to make Judaism a this-worldly religion. The future was generally interpreted as a national future under the sovereign rule of Yahweh. In New Testament times the Saduccees still did not believe in resurrection. The belief, however, in God as sovereign Lord over all, even death, eventually flowered in the brief but salient assertions of the Books of Isaiah and Daniel and possibly in the Psalms. See Eschatology; Future Hope; Sheol .

New Testament Jesus' preaching presupposed a doctrine of resurrection. Opposition by the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, gave Jesus the opportunity to assert His own thought on the matter (Mark 12:18-27; Matthew 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-38; compare Deuteronomy 25:5-10 ).

John's Gospel presents Jesus as the mediator of resurrection who gives to believers the life given Him by His Father (John 6:53-58 ). Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:24-26 ). Jesus pointed to a resurrection of the righteous to eternal life and of the wicked to eternal punishment (Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 25:31-34 ,Matthew 25:31-34,25:41-46; John 5:28-29 ). In His postresurrection appearances Jesus had a body that was both spiritual (John 20:19 ,John 20:19,20:26 ) and physical (John 20:20 ,John 20:20,20:27; John 21:13 ,John 21:13,21:15 ) in nature.

The greatest biblical exponent of resurrection was Paul. For him, resurrection was the final event which would usher Christians out of the bodily struggle of the present age into the bodily glory which will accompany Jesus' second coming (Philippians 3:20-21 ). In resurrection, God's new creation will reach completion (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ). The bedrock of hope for Christian resurrection is the resurrection of Christ, the foundation of gospel preaching (1 Corinthians 15:12-20 ). Those who follow Christ are organically related to Christ in His resurrection from the dead; Christ is the first fruits of an upcoming harvest (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ). Destruction awaits those who do not follow Christ (Philippians 3:19 ).

Paul's discourses on the nature of the resurrected body broadens the Old Testament idea of a restored Israel to include the redemption of persons complete with bodies. Paul viewed the human person as a psychosomatic unity. He recognizes no truth in the Greek idea of a separation of body and soul. See 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 ). Those united to Christ in faith become not only one with Him in spirit but also one with Him in body (1 Corinthians 6:15 ). The resurrected body will be a spiritual body, different from the present physical body (1 Corinthians 15:35-50 ); but it will have continuity with the present body because Christ redeems the whole person (Romans 8:23 ).

The New Testament unquestionably affirms a doctrine of resurrection of all persons from the dead. Humanity has a corporate destiny to encounter just and divine response to faithfulness and unfaithfulness (Acts 24:15 ). A resurrection body and life in the consummated kingdom of God will characterize the resurrection of those who follow Christ.

William L. Hendricks

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Resurrection'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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