A larger version of the graphic above should be available from my Flickr photostream. Use the graphic as a link. The quotation in smaller type is this: "The resurrection isn't just a surprise happy ending for one person, it is instead the turning point for everything else. - N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: HarperCollins, 2008, p. 236.
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the resurrection! Thanks for reading. The resurrection is mentioned in many places in the Bible. Here are some of them. All scripture quoted is from the public domain World English Bible. First, from the Old Testament:
Job 19:26 After my skin is destroyed,
then in my flesh shall I see God,
Psalm 16:10 For you will not leave my soul in Sheol,
neither will you allow your holy one to see corruption.
49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.
71:20 You, who have shown us many and bitter troubles,
you will let me live.
You will bring us up again from the depths of the earth.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Hosea 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of Sheol.
I will redeem them from death!
Death, where are your plagues?
Sheol, where is your destruction?
The stories of Enoch and Elijah don't mention resurrection, but they must have given the Israelites food for thought about an after-life:
Genesis 5:22 Enoch walked with God after he became the father of Methuselah three hundred years, and became the father of sons and daughters. 23 All the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
2 Kings 2:11 It happened, as they still went on, and talked, that behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
The story of Enoch might be interpreted as God allowing Enoch to die at what, in those days, was a short life. But it can be, and probably was, interpreted as Enoch being taken to be with God, whether the Israelis had a concept of heaven or not.
Elisha raised a boy from death in 2 Kings 4. (Links to scripture are to the English Standard Version.)
These eight references seem to be the only ones in the Old Testament that indicate there will be a life after death. It's no wonder that the Sadducees didn't believe in a resurrection. (According to the Wikipedia article on them -- see the link in the previous sentence -- they did believe in Sheol. That wasn't really a resurrection. According to the Wikipedia article on Sheol, the inhabitants were "entities without personality or strength.")
The New Testament has many more references to resurrection. All four of the gospels tell about the resurrection of Christ. There are also stories about people being brought back to life, which isn't exactly the same thing, since these people must have died again, later in life, but is a strong indication that death is not the end of strength and personality. There are many predictions that Christ is going to return, which would make no sense if He had ceased to exist. The Widow of Nain's son was raised to life in Luke 7. The daughter of Jairus was similarly raised in Mark 5. Then, of course, there's the raising of Lazarus, in John 11. As part of that story, Jesus told Martha that He was the resurrection and the life, and asked her about her belief in a resurrection. There are other occasions, in the gospels, where Jesus spoke about a resurrection, or His own resurrection. Matthew 16:21-23 is one such example. An examination of the remainder of the New Testament follows. In some of these books, there are several references to the resurrection. Only one from each book is included. This post probably leaves out important scriptural evidence for the importance of the resurrection. Feel free to comment, mentioning more passages, please.
Acts begins with the experience of the disciples with Jesus after the resurrection. There are further references to Christ's resurrection in the book:
This is part of Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost: 2:29 “Brothers, I may tell you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was his soul left in Hades, nor did his flesh see decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses.
The religious authorities tried to suppress preaching about the resurrection: 4:1 As they spoke to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came to them, 2 being upset because they taught the people and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
But that tactic didn't work: 4:33 With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all.
Paul spoke so much about the resurrection that the philosophers at Mars Hill thought he was proclaiming two gods, one being the resurrection: 17:18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also were conversing with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be advocating foreign deities,” because he preached Jesus and the resurrection.
Paul begins Romans in this way: 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Good News of God, 2 which he promised before through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
1 Corinthians contains Paul's great discussion of the importance of the resurrection, in chapter 15.
2 Corinthians includes this passage, which assumes that there is a life beyond this mortal one, for believers: 5:1 For we know that if the earthly house of our tent is dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. 2 For most certainly in this we groan, longing to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven; 3 if so be that being clothed we will not be found naked. 4 For indeed we who are in this tent do groan, being burdened; not that we desire to be unclothed, but that we desire to be clothed, that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now he who made us for this very thing is God, who also gave to us the down payment of the Spirit.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are courageous, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing to him. 10 For we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
When the Bible speaks of the Final Kingdom, it is also speaking of the resurrection. Christ, and resurrected believers, couldn't have an existence past this life if they were permanently dead. Galatians begins with a statement about the resurrection of Christ, and speaks of an age to come, and of eternity: 1:1 Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead), 2 and all the brothers who are with me, to the assemblies of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father— 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians has this wonderful statement about the power that God used in raising Jesus from the dead: 1:15 . . . I . . . 16 don’t cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might 20 which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come.
In Philippians, Paul speaks of the resurrection indirectly, by pointing out that Christ, who died for us, is, and will be, supreme: 2:5 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul reminds the Colossian church of how Christ's resurrection shows His power: 2:13 You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; 15 having stripped the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
The Thessalonians evidently had some questions about End Times. Here's part of what Paul wrote, in his first letter to that church, explaining some of what the Risen Lord will do: 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
In Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, he firmly states that Christ hadn't returned yet, as some thought, but will come. He isn't dead forever! 2:1 Now, brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him, we ask you 2: not to be quickly shaken in your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by letter as from us, saying that the day of Christ had come.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul summarizes what the Son did: 3:16 Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great:
God was revealed in the flesh,
justified in the spirit,
seen by angels,
preached among the nations,
believed on in the world,
and received up in glory.
Second Timothy includes this reminder: 2:11 This saying is faithful:
“For if we died with him,
we will also live with him.
12a If we endure,
we will also reign with him.
Paul reminds Titus that the Risen Lord is returning: 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; 13 looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ;
There is no mention of the resurrection, direct or implied, in Paul's short letter to Philemon.
Hebrews speaks of Christ as Risen High Priest, and a Priest who is, Himself, the sacrifice: 9:11 But Christ having come as a high priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, 12 nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption.
James speaks of the second coming: 5:7 Be patient therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receives the early and late rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Peter begins his first letter thus: 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen ones who are living as foreigners in the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy became our father again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn’t fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, 5 who by the power of God are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In his second letter, he looks forward to the Second Coming: 3:9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore since all these things will be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be in holy living and godliness, 12 looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, which will cause the burning heavens to be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
John's first letter also looks forward to the Second Coming: 2:28 Now, little children, remain in him, that when he appears, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
John's brief second letter mentions a reward, but does not directly speak of the resurrection. There is no mention of the resurrection in his third letter, which is also quite brief.
Jude refers to the Second Coming: 1:20 But you, beloved, keep building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
This post closes with the next to the last verse in the Bible, from Revelation:
22:20 He who testifies these things says, “Yes, I come quickly.” Amen! Yes, come, Lord Jesus.
As N. T. Wright put it, "Take away the stories of Jesus’ birth, and all you lose is four chapters of the gospels. Take away the
resurrection and you lose the entire New Testament, and most of the second century fathers as well."
Thanks for reading. Celebrate the Resurrection. Minor changes were made to this post on March 30, 2015.