Light for the Last Days

The Resurrection and Judeo-Christian Tradition

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This morning, I was speaking about the Gospel from the resurrection, from John’s point of view and one of the things we saw is that Jesus rose from the dead and that He was seen first of all by the women who were much more faithful and zealous to seek the Lord at this time, in the morning.

And I suggested that the men, the disciples, had actually fled, most likely to Bethany, when Jesus was arrested, though Peter and John had gone into Jerusalem. And, during the day, Mary Magdalene and the women had gone to assemble the disciples and to bring them together in Jerusalem where they met with the risen Lord.

We’re going to read about the meeting with the Lord in Luke 24.33 and then I’m going to speak on the theme of the resurrection in Judaism and in Christianity remembering of course that Jesus and the disciples were all Jewish.

Let’s just have a word of prayer as we come to the Lord.

Lord, we thank you for your Word. We pray that you bless the reading and the speaking of your Word and help us to understand this subject. We pray in the name of Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah.

Let’s start at verse 33. This is actually the people on the Emmaus road as they go back to Jerusalem.

33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. 36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marvelled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.

Luke 24.33-49

44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

Luke 24.44

45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

Luke 24.45-49

Of course, Judaism does not believe this or, Orthodox and Reform Judaism don’t believe this and there are issues which are raised within Judaism related to ‘life after death’, resurrection and also whether the Messiah Himself brings the resurrection from the dead.

We’re going to look today mainly at the subject of:

Does Judaism and the Old Testament teach that there will be a resurrection from the dead?

Is the resurrection in the Old Testament, in the Prophets, in the Tanakh?

Now, most scriptures which we would use to preach about the resurrection are to be found in the New Testament, in the words of Jesus.

Jesus has the definitive word on this subject. The reason why He does have the definitive word on this is because Jesus has come from heaven to tell us about it. He has come from the other side if you like, to tell us what we don’t know and what we can’t work out by our own understanding.

So, whenever Jesus speaks about this subject, He has got authority because He has come down from heaven to tell us all about it.

In John chapter 3, when He’s talking to a very religious Jewish man, a leader of the Jews called Nicodemus, He says to him in verse 12 (John 3),

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 

John 3.12-13

Jesus is a unique person who has come down from heaven to tell us about this subject and we have a lot of words, in the Gospel of John particularly, where He says in chapter 5 verse 24 (John 5.24),

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

John 5.24-30

Either you believe that or you don’t believe it. You can’t really argue what it means. Jesus is very clear about what He means. He says that there is going to be a resurrection. Everyone who is in the grave is going to rise from the grave or, even if they’re not in the grave, if they’ve been cremated, they’re going to rise in the last days and there’s going to be a ‘resurrection to life’ – ‘life’ which means ‘eternal life in Him’ and a ‘resurrection to damnation’ which means ‘eternal separation from God’.

Jesus has the authority and the power to do this. The only way is He can have the power and authority to do this if He is the Son of God, if he’s equal with the Father.

He’s not just a prophet, He’s not just a good man, He is God made flesh, who has the power and the authority to exercise judgment.

In John chapter 11, Jesus says to Martha,

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11.25-26

Do you believe this? If you do, then, you have life. If you don’t, you don’t have life. It’s very simple. You don’t need to be a PhD holder or even go to Bible college to work it out.

Jesus says very clearly: ‘either you believe and you have life or you don’t believe and you don’t have life‘.

And Martha said,

“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

John 11.27

Now, if you’re a believer, then, you do, but if you are following any form of Judaism around here, whether it’s Orthodox, Hasidic or Reformed Judaism, you’ll be told not to believe this.

That is one of the big ‘No-Nos’ in Judaism, to believe that Jesus is the one who gave you life and that Jesus has come to tell us about the resurrection of the dead.

What does the Judaism and what does the Old Testament, the Tanakh, teach us about the subject of resurrection?

We have to acknowledge there is not as much about this topic there as there is in the New Testament. In fact, in the Torah, the five books of Moses, which are the basis on which, particularly Orthodox Judaism, is founded, there is no direct reference to life after death.

There is one oblique reference which I’ll give you in a moment, which Jesus uses, and there are passages in the prophets we can look at.

13 Principles of Jewish Faith – Essentials (chabad.org)

As a result of this, Judaism itself is much less clear on this subject than biblical Christianity. There are 13 articles of faith in Judaism and the 13th article is:

‘I believe in the resurrection of the dead.’

Jewish people would say, ‘I believe that there is a better reward in Olam Ha-Ba (in the world to come)’. And there is also an idea of some kind of punishment.

Generally, the idea is that, on the day of judgment, your good deeds will be poured into one side and your bad deeds will be poured into the other side, so you will have ‘the defending angel’ who pours your good deeds onto the right hand side of your scales and ‘the accusing angel’ who will put your bad deeds onto the accusing side of the scales. And, depending on which way they go, if you’ve got more good deeds than bad deeds, you’re okay, but if you’ve got more bad deeds than good deeds, you’re stuck.

That’s pretty much what every religion believes by the way, including much of nominal Christianity. You’ve got to do some good deeds to cancel out your bad deeds.

There’s a rather charming story about a man who dies, appears before God and both his good and bad deeds are weighed out, and the scales come dead level. What happens is that he has to go back to the earth and to suffer a little bit more so that he can get some credit, and have more on the good side to go into the good part of Olam Ha-Ba.

But having said that, the story is not something which is a major study in Judaism. There’s a rabbi called Rabbi Louis Jacobs (I got this off his website) who says basically that ‘resurrection is believed on but it’s not something which we take a huge amount of interest in‘.

And you meet a lot of Jewish people who’ve said to me, ‘You know, you Christians, you’re all concerned about life after death. We’re concerned about living a good life down here’.

We should also be concerned about living a good life down here but we do believe and are concerned about what happens after death. These are some things which Louis Jacobs says.

Resurrection is the doctrine that, in the future age, the dead will rise from their graves and live again. The doctrine appears frequently in Jewish eschatology where it is associated with the doctrine of the Messiah and the immortality of the soul.

Rabbi Louis Jacobs

He also says,

There is no  systematic treatment in rabbinic literature of the doctrine of resurrection any more than there is in any other theological topic. Ancient rabbis were organic rather than systemic thinkers. Nevertheless, the picture which emerges from the numerous thoughts in this literature is of a three-stage series of events. The first of these is the state of the soul in heaven after the death of the body, the second stage is the messianic age here on the earth at the end of days, and the third stage is that of the resurrection of the dead. Unlike the doctrine of immortality of the soul, the belief in the resurrection was nationalistic rather than individualistic. It was the hope of a national revival that came to the fore and embraced the resurrection. After the restoration of the Jewish people to its homeland, in the days of the Messiah, it was believed that the resurrection of the dead would take place.

Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Therefore, there’s an idea of the Messiah coming, restoring the Jews to Israel, and then, of the resurrection of the dead taking place. But he does go on to say that ‘Jewish views on this subject are not totally clear or unified’.

There’s a very famous Jewish teacher called Maimonides who wrote a book called The Guide of the Perplexed which is standard book for understanding Judaism written in the Middle Ages.

Louis Jacobs says that in Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed there is no reference at all to the doctrine of resurrection, that there are one or two stray references to the resurrection in Maimonides’ code but that, on the whole, he seems to identify the rabbinic world to come not with the resurrection but with the immortality of the soul, and the debate about whether the soul will enter a resurrected body or live on in some kind of immortality.

The Talmud, which is a series of explanations of this, discourages speculation on the nature of life after death saying ‘we will consider the matter when they come to life again‘. In other words, ‘don’t bother to think about it now because you can’t work it out‘.

You have a number of different thoughts on this subject. Basically, Orthodox Judaism clearly does believe in the resurrection of the dead because it refers to it in its daily prayers.

The Resurrection Process – Moshiach 101 (chabad.org)

When a Jewish person dies, they have a Kaddish recited by a son at this funeral of the parent and there are explicit references there to the resurrection of the dead. Also, in the memorial prayers recited by the orthodox references to the soul of the departed being at rest beneath the wings of the Shekinah, God’s presence.

Mourner’s Kaddish (chabad.org)

Reform Judaism in the 19th century went the whole way in rejecting the doctrine of the resurrection in favour of that of the immortality of the soul. In the reform prayer books, passages in the traditional prayer book pointing to the resurrection have either been deleted or interpreted as referring to the immortality of the soul.

What is Reform Judaism? | Reform Judaism

All these scriptures are telling you that there will be a resurrection, and they’re implying also that it is a literal resurrection and a bodily resurrection. Therefore, Daniel will be resurrected as Daniel, he will be recognizable as the prophet Daniel, and others from the Old Testament period will be resurrected as well.

Tony Pearce

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