In biblical times, resurrection of the dead was expected to happen when God brought in a new creation where God’s will would be fully done on earth as it is in heaven. The early Christians saw the resurrection of Jesus as a sign that this kingdom of God, which Jesus had spoken so much about, was already here His resurrection was the first fruits of the great resurrection harvest. The Church’s message then was to get on board, be part of the new creation even while the old form of existence still continued. Assisted by the Holy Spirit, we are called to live by faith in God as present in Jesus Christ. However, the idea of resurrection was a debateable topic even in Jesus’ day. Sadducees said no, there was to be no resurrection; Pharisees said yes, there will be. In Luke 20, we find some Sadducees quoting an ancient legal provision in an attempt to make the idea of resurrection look silly. This was the rule that if a man should die without an heir to carry on his name his brother should have a son by his widow on his behalf. Jesus said that resurrection life is different from life as we know it now. Resurrection life is eternal. If there is no death, no one has to worry about leaving an inheritance or keeping one’s family name alive. He then goes on to use a rabbinic kind of argument when pointing out that, in Exodus 3:6, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – in the present tense. He argues that these long-dead ancestors are still alive to God. After all, if God is the heart and soul of creation then life only exists while there is a relationship with God and where there is a relationship with God there is life with or without physical existence. The Bible says surprisingly little about life after physical death. Its message has more to do with life in its relationship with God. This is what is meant by eternal life, and it may commence in this life or beyond it.
- Which is a better basis for believing in life after death: our experience of living within the love of God now or theories that try to explain what happens after we die?
- What do you think it means to say that God is the heart and soul of creation?
- There are two beliefs about what happens when we die: (1) the immortal soul lives on, (2) God raises the person to a new form of existence. Which do you believe, and which is more truly biblical?
- What is the difference between saying that the dead become angels and that they are like angels (Luke 20:36)?