Bible study: what difference does the resurrection of Jesus make?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here’s an article from Bible.org, written by famous New Testament manuscript expert Dan Wallace. (H/T Eric Chabot, Ratio Christi OSU)

There is a lot in this article, but I’ll just snip out one that I think is interesting.

First, what does the Old Testament say about the doctrine of the resurrection in Judaism?

The resurrection of the dead was not plainly revealed in the OT until very late in salvation history. It was not until the Jews were taken in captivity, in the sixth century BC, that this was clearly articulated. Daniel 12:1-2 is the principal text: it speaks of the resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous:

At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (RSV)

Why was it not clearly revealed till then? It was not revealed until there was a felt need for it. When the Jews had no present (because of the captivity) they had to look to the future. The revelation of the resurrection came at precisely the time when the people of God needed hope for the future.

What is significant about this is how masterful are God’s insights into human nature. In the NT era, one religious group in Palestine did not embrace the resurrection as a true doctrine: the Sadducees (cf. Mark 12:18)–that is why they were “sad, you see!” The Sadducees were in charge of the temple. They derived their income from the sacrifices. In a sense, they were the precursors to modern TV evangelists. They had it good! They were the rich aristocracy that ran the place.

Those who have it good in this life don’t often long for the next. The Sadducees illustrate this. The resurrection is a truth especially precious to those who are poor and those who are hopeless. It is precious to those who long for heaven enough that earth holds no sway over them.

This means something to me. I didn’t grow up with parents who had any plan for me. I had to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with my life on my own, because they were both too busy doing their own things. This is true even to this day. After I became a Christian, there were many things that I wanted to achieve in this life. But for a variety of reasons, those most of those things never happened. I wanted to do great things for God, like getting married, having a family, getting a PhD and teaching computer science in a secular university. But things that I had intended to do for God just didn’t happen the way I had hoped.

I often find myself thinking of Heaven, and having that eternal perspective on this life. One of the things that is the hardest to accept is that being a Christian makes many things I’d like to do a lot harder. It certainly didn’t open any doors at school, or now, at work. I’m glad my salvation doesn’t depend on achieving anything in particular. And I’m especially glad that my salvation doesn’t depend on what anyone thinks of me. I find it almost impossible in this culture to get any respect by doing the things that I think are really important.

I think if a person were really successful at what they tried to do, then it would be really hard for them to give up living and go to be with Jesus. That’s not a problem for me, though. If fact, if the resurrection were not true, then I wouldn’t be able to say that my life was a very good life, measuring success the way people do.

The resurrection teaches correct apologetics methodology

Did you know that Jesus provided the resurrection as evidence for those who were skeptical of his claims to be God stepping into history?

Here’s an article from Got Questions? on the “Sign of Jonah”, which appears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

It says:

The phrase “sign of Jonah” was used by Jesus as a typological metaphor for His future crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Jesus answered with this expression when asked by the Pharisees for miraculous proof the He was indeed the Messiah. The Pharisees remained unconvinced of Jesus’ claims about Himself, despite His having just cured a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. Shortly after the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Satan, they said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:38–41).

To fully appreciate the answer that Jesus gave, we must go to the Old Testament book of Jonah. In its first chapter, we read that God commanded the prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its people that He was going to destroy it for its wickedness. Jonah disobediently ran from the Lord and headed for the city of Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish where he remained for “three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:15–17). After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).

It is this three days that Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the sign of Jonah.

I often bring up the Sign of Jonah when I am dealing with Christians who don’t want to learn how to explain their faith to non-Christians persuasively. I’m glad that story is in there!

The resurrection is a very important part of the life of the Christian. I argued in this post that it makes a difference to your feelings about your own life, and it makes a difference to your case-making with non-Christians.

3 thoughts on “Bible study: what difference does the resurrection of Jesus make?”

  1. 1 Corinthians 15:14
    You gave a good logical back putting a claim of paul made in the Bible. The resurrection of Jesus is central to Christianity

  2. Jonah is such a great story (especially when you add in context) regarding evangelism, apologetics, and missions. There’s also another tie in with Jesus (“it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish”).
    So Assyria is the enemy of Israel. They’ve done some Nasty Things ™ to Israel. And God tells Jonah, go to their capital city (Nineveh), preach to them, tell them to repent. And if they don’t, I’ll wipe them out. God seemingly has some degree of mercy for the enemy of His people.
    That would be the equivalent of God coming to one of us, saying, “Go to the main city of ISIS/ISIL and preach to them to repent, otherwise…”
    The text tells us that Jonah went to Joppa, and was taking a ship going to Tarshish. Do those details matter?
    Well, if you look at a Bible atlas, those details make sense: http://doctrine.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Jonah-Runs-with-Distances1.jpg
    (Well, Tarshish is approximately around the Strait of Gibraltar)
    Jonah was supposed to go northeast to Nineveh. Instead he goes south and eventually west — as west as he could possibly go in the Mediterranean. He’s probably thinking, “Great! Better than one man suffer i.e., himself, rather than all of Israel. I get to wipe out my enemy if they don’t repent, and better yet if I don’t give them a chance (if I disobey God)!”
    Well, Jonah was swallowed by the great fish, and eventually Jonah was returned to dry land and went to Nineveh and preached there, Nineveh did repent, and judgment was averted — for a time (until judgment arose in the form of the Babylonian Empire).
    So we could boil down some interesting points:
    1. God is merciful, even to His enemies: sinners.
    2. God sends people to incarnate His message, to encourage others to turn to His ways. ** There is a cognitive content to faith.
    3. It is better than one man should die for the people — and in the New Testament: that His righteousness would be credited to all who believe.
    4. Judgment is coming. It may not be now, even short term, but there is a Final bringer of Judgment. ** There is a cognitive content to faith.

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