This book doesn’t have the awesome power of Jesus and the Victory of God, but neither is it as controversial among confessional evangelicals, so it probably has that going for it.
The early Christians took the Old Testament/Jewish idea of Resurrection, and modified it in seven different ways.
- Early Christianity didn’t have a wide variety of opinions on “life after death.” It wasn’t like liberal Christianity today. The New Testament mentions a few muddled people who thought the Resurrection already happened, but they didn’t last long.
- For the first century Jews, Resurrection is important but it’s not that important. But in early Christianity, you can’t imagine Paul or John without Resurrection. It moved from perimeter to the center.
- The early Christians are very precise in what Resurrection means. The new “body” will be a transformed body. Particularly, it will be incorruptible.
- Resurrection as an event has split in two. First century Jews expected the Resurrection to happen at the end of the world. The early Christians agreed that would happen, but they also said it happened in advance in Jesus (1 Corinthians 15 = “firstfruits”). It happened to one person in the middle of time.
- The early Christians believed that if Resurrection had begun with Jesus, and would be completed with us on the last day, they believed that God had called them to work with him in the power of the Spirit in the present. Missions and holiness. Something that has already started to happen.
- We don’t see a “metaphorical” use of Resurrection like we saw in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 37).
- Resurrection is now associated with Messiahship. First century Jews didn’t expect the Messiah to die (they saw Messiah as a warrior-king), so likewise, they didn’t expect him to rise from the dead. The Christians on the other hand said Jesus is the Messiah precisely because of his Resurrection (Romans 1:3-4).
- The Jews believed that one day God would defeat the ancient enemy, renew the covenant, cleanse or rebuild the temple together with a resurrection.
- Early Christianity said this is exactly what happened in Jesus. Jesus defeated the ancient enemy (where O Death is your sting). Jesus renewed the covenant (“the cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood). Jesus is the New Temple (many of his healing actions are actions that could only be done in the Temple). And then there is Resurrection but here is the main difference between Christianity and Judaism on this point: Christianity split the Resurrection in two. First there’s Jesus’ resurrection, and then at his coming there’s everybody else.