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.
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.
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,
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,
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.
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.
He also says,
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.