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The Resurrection November 13, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 28:1-10.

Summary: In this passage, a group of women – including Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James the Less – come to Jesus’ tomb at dawn on Sunday to anoint His corpse.

At that point, an angel hits the ground, causing an earthquake. The angel then rolls back the stone from Jesus’ tomb and sits on it. The Roman guards are knocked unconscious out of terror, and the women are afraid.

Yet the angel asserts that the women do not need to be afraid, since the whole Trinity has been involved in Jesus’ resurrection. He then tells them to:

  • go into Jesus’ tomb
  • convey the news of Jesus’ resurrection to His disciples.

They then run towards Jerusalem, fearful – yet joyful. Along the way, they meet Jesus – who gives them the ordinary salutation of the marketplace. They fall at His feet and worship Him, and He repeats the angel’s instructions to them.

Thoughts: The resurrection of Jesus is (arguably) the most important event in human history, and many questions have been raised concerning it. My queries regarding this passage include:

  • did the guards actually see Jesus depart from His tomb, and if so, how did they respond?
  • did anyone besides the guards and the group of women sense the angel-induced earthquake?
  • what were the thoughts and feelings of the women when Jesus greeted them?
  • what were Jesus’ thoughts and feelings as He greeted the women?
  • what happened to the angel after he spoke to the women?
  • when did the guards regain consciousness?
  • if the guards did not see Jesus depart from His tomb, did they search for His body after they regained consciousness?

Marriage at the Resurrection August 18, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 22:23-33.

Summary: In this passage, the Sadducees – who do not believe in a resurrection – confront Jesus. After noting that Moses had established the levirate law, they present the following scenario to Him:

  • there is a group of seven brothers
  • the eldest marries, and then dies
  • the second eldest marries his widow, and then dies
  • the process repeats until the youngest dies.

They then pose the following question: at the resurrection, who will be the husband of this woman?

He responds by asserting that they have wandered from the truth. In particular, they fail to grasp the following points:

  • marriage will not exist at the resurrection, as resurrected people will be spiritual beings
  • Exodus 3:6 proves the veracity of the resurrection, since God uses the present tense in describing His relationship with the Jewish patriarchs.

Thoughts: Here, Jesus asserts that marriage will not occur at the resurrection. Ryle offers some insights on this point:

We know little of the life to come in heaven. Perhaps our clearest ideas of it are drawn from considering what it will not be, rather than what it will be. It is a state in which we will no longer be hungry or thirsty; sickness, pain and disease will not be known; wasting old age and death will have no place…we shall always be in God’s presence…we shall give all glory to the Lamb.

I continue to struggle with the concept of the complete absence of pain and suffering. My sense is that this life conditions me to accept the duality of joy and pain; for example, joyfulness is sharpened by painful memories, and vice versa. If so, then I wonder how I can be permanently joyful. I sense that this is a concept that I will not fully comprehend in this life; thus, I must continue to ask God to help me draw closer to His understanding of that concept as time passes.

We also see that many are “astonished” by Jesus’ assertion that Exodus 3:6 proves the veracity of the resurrection. As modern-day believers, we often fall into the trap of viewing His contemporaries with an air of superiority, as we do not engage in debates over the veracity of the resurrection. Yet we should note that He put forth a novel explanation of Exodus 3:6; this was a paradigm shift. Indeed, we also struggle with paradigm shifts, especially if we have an emotional connection with our mistaken beliefs (on a related note, I am curious about the interplay between neuroplasticity and paradigm shifts). Thus, instead of belittling His contemporaries, we should approach this passage with humility, thanking Him for His grace in giving us the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all wisdom.

Jesus Again Predicts His Death July 15, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 20:17-19.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus begins His long ascent from Jericho to Jerusalem. He tells His disciples that He will:

  • be betrayed to the Jewish hereditary aristocracy and the scribes
  • be condemned to death
  • be placed in the hands of the Romans to be humiliated, scourged and crucified
  • conquer death after three days.

Thoughts: Here, Jesus repeats – and elaborates – His prediction of His death. I anticipate meeting His disciples in the next life and learning about their reactions to His statements in this passage. Did they comprehend any facet of His prediction? Was their judgment clouded by their vision of Him as their political Messiah? Did they attempt to refute His prediction, asserting that no tragedy would befall him? How did Judas Iscariot react when Jesus referenced betrayal in this passage? Did the other disciples believe that they could betray their Master? Did they recall any of His previous miracles when He referenced His resurrection?

Pressing on Toward the Goal August 28, 2012

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Here are my thoughts on Philippians 3:12-4:1.

Summary: Paul begins by stressing to the Philippians that he was not raised from the dead at his conversion, and he is still imperfect. He draws their attention and notes that while others view themselves as perfect, he does not view himself in that way. Instead, he strives to attain that heavenly state to which God has called him – as a Christian.

Now Paul notes that all Christians who are truly “grown men” should have this mind; then, if they are at fault on any point, God will reveal their error to them. They should strive to attain that heavenly state to which God has also called them.

Paul then exhorts the Philippians to vie with each other in imitating him. He has previously warned them about the Antinomian reactionists; now he warns them with much grief, as the Antinomians refuse to conform to the cross. The Antinomians will be condemned, and their liberty will degrade them. In contrast, the Philippians are citizens of a heavenly commonwealth. Moreover, Jesus Christ will transform their earthly bodies that are exposed to earthly passions, sufferings and indignities.

Paul concludes by exhorting the Philippians, who:

  • he has longed for
  • are the basis of his wearing a crown of victory at the return of Christ

to stand firm as Christians – given their heavenly citizenship and their anticipation of their bodily transformation at the return of Christ.

Thoughts: In this passage, Paul warns the Philippians against the Antinomians and their negative influences. Lightfoot offers some insights in his commentary on verses 13 and 18:

He is in fact protesting against the false security, the Antinomian recklessness, which others deduced from the doctrine of faith…The Antinomians, who refuse to conform to the cross (3:10; 2 Corinthians 1:5-6) and live a life of self-indulgence; compare 1 Corinthians 1:17.

I am definitely curious as to whether Antinomianism had begun to infiltrate the Philippian church at the time of the writing of this letter, or if Paul was warning the Philippians of future peril in that regard. Did the Antinomians themselves have the opportunity to read this letter from Paul? If so, how did they respond to his condemnation of their abuse of their liberty in Christ? I hope to meet at least some of the Antinomians in heaven and see how they avoided condemnation.

In verse 1, we see that Paul regards the Philippians as his victory wreath at the return of Christ. Lightfoot offers some insights on this point in his commentary:

The idea conveyed by stephanos is not dominion, but either (1) victory, or (2) festivity, as the wreath was worn both by the conqueror and by the holiday-maker. Without excluding the latter notion, the former seems to be prominent in this and in the parallel passage; for there, as here, the apostle refers in the context to the Lord’s coming. His converts will then be his wreath of victory, for it will appear that he “did not run or labor for nothing” (2:16), and he will receive the successful athlete’s reward; compare 1 Corinthians 9:25.

This verse reminds me of the 2004 Summer Olympics where olive wreaths were placed on the heads of the medalists. As believers, we should be mindful of the reasons for God placing a “wreath of victory” on our heads at the return of Christ. We must strive to speak and act in ways that will have an eternal impact. We must focus on eternal goals such as bringing glory to God and advancing His kingdom – instead of focusing on temporal matters. Though this is a rather lofty bar for us to clear, we must direct our lives to the time when we will finally clear it – with God’s help.

The Resurrection Body October 19, 2011

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.

Summary: Paul begins by addressing a potential objection to the truth of the resurrection of the dead – given the preceding discussion – namely:

  • how could a decaying human body be raised to life?
  • if the first point is admitted, how could that resurrected body not resemble its original human form?

Now he views this as a senseless objection, and he addresses it by appealing to nature – a seed must die in order to live. In particular, when a seed is planted, it does not resemble the plant that will be formed from it. In fact, God originally determined the form of the plant that would arise from a given seed. Paul also supports his argument by noting that a variety of forms can be found in the animal kingdom. He further supports his argument by noting that the sun, moon and stars exhibit forms that differ from those that can be found in the animal and plant kingdoms. In fact, even the sun, moon and stars exhibit different forms.

Paul then drives home his point: the resurrected body will not resemble its original human form; dead bodies must decay, while resurrected bodies cannot decay. Now he draws the following contrasts between the dead body and the resurrected body:

  • the dead body is unpleasant in our sight, yet we will admire the resurrected body
  • the dead body is powerless, yet the resurrected body will have powers beyond our comprehension
  • the dead body was adapted to an earthly existence, yet the resurrected body will be adapted to a heavenly existence

and he infers that if we accept the concept of a body that is adapted to an earthly existence, we must also accept the concept of a body that is adapted to a heavenly existence. Indeed, the Old Testament notes that Adam became animated by physical life – while Christ has inherent life and can give it to others. Also, the physically animated body prepares the way for the resurrected body. While Adam’s body was formed from the earth, Christ was clothed with a body that was adapted to a heavenly existence. In this regard, all mankind is identical to Adam – while all believers are identical to Christ. Believers possess bodies that are like that of Adam, yet they will possess bodies that are like that of Christ.

Now Paul asserts that the human body cannot dwell in the future kingdom of Christ, just as decay and permanency are incompatible. He then calls the Corinthians’ attention to the following divine revelation: not all believers will die, but all believers will receive bodies that are adapted to a heavenly existence. This change will occur instantaneously on the last day; the archangel’s voice will resound and all dead believers will be raised with glorious bodies, and then all living believers will receive new bodies. This stems from the fact that decay and death are incompatible with permanency and eternal life. After this awesome event, death will have been completely conquered, and the grave will have been completely overcome. It should be noted that death draws its power from sin, and sin draws its power from God’s moral law. Yet believers should be thankful that God has allowed them to triumph over death and the grave through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul concludes by exhorting the Corinthians to hold fast to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and strive to honor God in whatever works He has assigned them – as this doctrine promises them a glorious, eternal reward.

Thoughts: Verses 39-41 highlight the diversity of God’s creation as evidenced by the distinct forms of animals, plants, and heavenly bodies. Indeed, the handiwork of God can be seen in tiny organisms such as amoeba and massive flora such as giant sequoias. The handiwork of God can also be seen in active volcanic bodies such as Io and breathtaking interstellar clouds such as the Horsehead Nebula. It is simply mind-boggling as to how our Creator designed such a broad range of forms, especially when one considers that about 99 percent of all extant species are now extinct.

In verse 45, we see that Adam was endowed with physical life at his creation. Hodge offers some intriguing thoughts on this point:

However, from what he says here about the contrast between Adam and Christ, and about the earthly and perishable nature of the first as opposed to the immortal, spiritual nature of the second, it is clear that Adam as originally created was not, as to his body, in that state that would fit him for his immortal existence. We may infer that after his period of probation was passed, a change would have taken place in him analogous to that which is to take place in those believers who will be alive when Christ comes…The tree of life was probably the sacrament of this change in the constitution of his body, for when he sinned, he was excluded from the garden of Eden, lest he “reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22). Some change, therefore, was to take place in his body to adapt it to live forever.

Hodge’s note raises some interesting questions. First, why did God create Adam in an “intermediate” state instead of giving him full immortality to begin with? He could have initially given him full immortality and then taken it away after he had sinned. Second, what did it mean for Adam to be in a “period of probation,” and how long would this “period” have lasted? If Adam and Eve had not sinned in Genesis 3, would they have passed God’s “test,” allowing them to immediately eat from the tree of life?

Verse 58 shows that given the certainty of our future resurrection, we should be spurred to serve the Lord faithfully. Hodge offers some thoughts on this point:

This was more than faith for Paul; it was knowledge. He knew that labor in the work of the Lord would not be in vain. The reward secured for it by the grace of God and the merit of Christ is a share in the glories of a blessed resurrection.

This is an important truth that believers should return to regularly. Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught up in the struggles of our daily lives; if we are not careful, we can become despondent on a regular basis. Even though our future resurrection seems to be a distant and uncertain event, we must be reminded that it is a certain event and that our future state will be more glorious and awesome than our current station in life.

The Resurrection of the Dead October 17, 2011

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:12-34.

Summary: Paul begins by appealing to the preceding passage: if it is accepted that Christ rose from the dead, then it cannot be denied that the dead can also be raised. Now if Christ did not rise from the dead, the following would be true:

  • the apostles’ preaching is empty and the Corinthians are trusting in a lie
  • the apostles are lying about His resurrection, as they have asserted that God raised Him from the dead (an impossible act if the dead cannot be raised)
  • the Corinthians’ faith is fruitless, as they are still condemned for their sins
  • believers who have died will suffer God’s eternal penalty for their sins
  • the Corinthians have based their present and future happiness on a resurrected Christ – making them more miserable than unbelievers in this life.

Yet Christ did rise from the dead, and His resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all believers. This stems from the fact that Adam’s sin guarantees physical death for all of his descendants. All men share Adam’s life – thus, all men are condemned for his sin; on the other hand, all believers share the life of Christ – thus, all believers will live on account of His righteousness. Now Christ is the first to be resurrected – securing the future resurrection of His people at His second coming. When the end of the world occurs, Christ will have subdued all hostile powers, enabling Him to surrender His authority over heaven and earth to God the Father. This act of surrender stems from the following facts:

  • Christ reigns over the universe until He has completed His great work of redemption
  • at Christ’s second coming, even death will be subdued
  • when God declares that Christ reigns over all things, all things – except God Himself – are then subject to Christ
  • at that time the Son of God incarnate will be subject to God, and God will reign supreme.

Now if the dead cannot be raised:

  • how will those who are baptized in their place explain their actions?
  • as for Paul, why does he expose himself to danger on a constant basis?

Indeed, Paul constantly exposes himself to mortal danger – yet he constantly rejoices over the fact that as a minister of Christ, he can count the Corinthians’ salvation as one of his successes. If Paul did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, he would not have fought angry men in Ephesus; instead, he would have embraced hedonism. Now the Corinthians should guard against embracing hedonism, as they can be led astray by it. Paul concludes by exhorting the Corinthians to be vigilant and avoid falling into sin, as some of them actually denied the truth of the resurrection of the dead – which should put the entire Corinthian church to shame.

Thoughts: In verse 24, we see that at the end of the world, Christ will hand “over the kingdom to God the Father.” Hodge offers some thoughts on this nebulous statement:

It must be remembered that the Scriptures speak of a threefold kingdom as belonging to Christ:
1. That which necessarily belongs to him as a divine person, extending over all creatures, and of which he can never divest himself.
2. That which belongs to him as the incarnate Son of God, extending over his own people.
3. That dominion to which he was exalted after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to him. This kingdom, which he rules as the God-man and which extends over all principalities and powers, he is to hand over when the work of redemption is accomplished.

I must admit that I still struggle with the notion of Christ being subservient to God the Father, especially after His resurrection – which is clearly the most awesome act in human history. We know from the Scriptures that only God the Father knows the time of Christ’s second coming; in that case, is Christ omniscient? If Christ is subservient to God the Father (in terms of the third kingdom as noted in Hodge’s quote), can He be omnipotent? As believers we are taught that both of these questions are to be answered in the affirmative, yet the accompanying explanations are often unsatisfying.

In verse 29, we see that some of the Corinthians were being baptized in place of dead believers. Hodge offers some insights on this interesting practice:

This supposes that the custom of vicarious baptism, as practiced later by the Marcionites and other groups, had already been introduced into Corinth. Among those heretical sects, if a catechumen died before baptism, someone was baptized in his name in order that he might be enrolled among Christians and receive the benefit of the ordinance.

Through a close reading of the New Testament, one can form a picture of the various heresies – and errors in terms of Christian practice – that plagued the early church. Now I was inspired to learn about the Marcionites; it appears that they practiced “reverse Judaism” in that they completely rejected the Old Testament. Apparently Marcion actually asserted that the God of the Old Testament was the source of all evil. It should be noted that heresies – and errors in terms of Christian practice – continue to beset the modern church, so we must not think of ourselves as being superior to early believers in that regard.

The Resurrection of Christ October 7, 2011

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

Summary: Paul begins by proclaiming the Gospel to the Corinthians; he notes that:

  • he has already preached it to them
  • they have already received it from him
  • they have already professed it.

Now by the Gospel they are not under condemnation – provided that they persevere in their faith and hold to the Gospel itself; otherwise their faith is worthless. They should hold to the Gospel because Christ has already revealed the following facts to Paul concerning it:

  • most importantly, Christ was sacrificed for their sins, as revealed in the Old Testament
  • then, He was buried and rose again on the third day, and the Old Testament predicted these events
  • next, He appeared to Peter, and then to the Eleven and their companions
  • after that, He appeared to more than five hundred believers at once; most of them were still alive at the time of the writing of this letter
  • then, He appeared to James – His brother – and to the Twelve
  • finally, He appeared to Paul, who had a rather low opinion of himself.

Indeed, Paul considers himself to be the most unworthy apostle, and he cannot consider himself worthy to be called an apostle – since he formerly persecuted believers. Yet the Holy Spirit has changed him for the better and has enabled him to work harder than all of the other apostles combined. Paul concludes by returning to his main point, asserting that all of the apostles preach the above-mentioned facts concerning Christ’s death and resurrection – and the Corinthians have already accepted these facts.

Thoughts: In verse 6, Paul asserts that Jesus appeared to more than five hundred believers at once after His resurrection. Hodge offers some insights on this point:

There is no distinct record of this event in the Gospels. It may have taken place on the occasion when Christ met his disciples in Galilee…Others think that this appearance took place at Jerusalem, where in addition to the 120 who constituted the nucleus of the church in the holy city, there were probably many disciples gathered from all parts of Judea for the Passover.

Although the details of this event cannot be found in the Scriptures – as Hodge notes above – the fact that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit when he wrote this passage lends credence to its historicity. Moreover, most secular historians concur that a large number of believers claimed to have seen Jesus after His resurrection – of course, people continue to question the veracity of their stories. Since Paul notes that many of these believers were still alive at the time of the writing of this letter, perhaps the Corinthians could have interviewed them to resolve any doubts that they still entertained regarding the resurrection.

In verse 10, Paul notes that he worked more than all of the other apostles combined. Hodge offers some thoughts on this seemingly outrageous statement:

It serves more to exalt the grace of God, to which Paul attributes everything good; and it is historically true, if the New Testament record is to be our guide.

The second part of Hodge’s quote helped me come to terms with Paul’s assertion. Indeed, Paul is generally regarded as having written thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, including Romans – arguably the high point of the entire Bible. It is amazing how God was able to take Paul’s zeal for persecution and mold it into a fire for spreading the Gospel, enabling him to make an impact in diverse locales including Rome, Thessalonica and Ephesus.