The resurrection of Christ is an essential Christian doctrine. As the Apostle Paul said “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Co 15:13–14). If, as the Apostle Paul says, Christ did not raise bodily from the grave then we as Christians are the most foolish people on the face of the planet. Not only that but we are liars speaking in the name of God about something that did not happen and were not commissioned to proclaim.
But Christ was indeed raised bodily from the grave. Thus securing that our bodies will be raised in glory or transformed imperishable. No more fear of death, corruption, decay, or sin because Christ triumphantly conquered all at the cross and in His resurrection. The resurrection is indeed essential to the Gospel message. G.K. Beale put is this way:
We should think of Christ’s life, trials, and especially his death and resurrection as the central events that launched the latter days. These pivotal events of Christ’s life, trials, death, and resurrection are eschatological in particular because they launched the beginning of the new creation and kingdom…Jesus’s life, trials, death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit have launched the fulfillment of the eschatological already-not yet new-creational reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this new-creational reign and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving, unto the triune God’s glory.*
However, many today have hijacked the resurrection. They accuse us of having a “defeatist”, “dualistic vision of heaven”, “reductionist” type of attitude about the age to come. While they promote “kingdom living”, “inner transformational living” or “resurrection living.” It is my opinion that they have done a hatchet job on the resurrection. They have hijacked it and divorced it from the cross of Christ. They have an over realized view of the age that is to come.
I do agree that they have properly diagnosed a problem with much of today’s Christianity. That is- a failure to understand that heaven is only an intermediate state. The hope of God’s people has always been the salvation of sinners in reconciliation to God in a new heavens and new earth in “which righteousness dwells” (Is. 65:17, Rev. 21:1-9, 2 Pe. 3:1-10). This all made only possible by the saving work of Christ Jesus in His life, cross and resurrection.
So they have rightly pointed out a problem but have answered with an even greater error. I should point out that I am not speaking in regards to our postmillennial- reconstructionist brethren. I’m primarily referring to the liberalism of what claims to be Christianity. The Emergent, “Seeker Sensitive” movements and the likes of them. In pointing out the problem they have sought to emphasize the resurrection as “transformational living” while ignoring and even rejecting the the saving work of the cross of Christ. While some of them pay lip service to saying they believe in it, for all their talk of “resurrection living” they neglect to mention of the cross of Christ in terms of deliverance of the wrath of God and reconciliation to Him, when they proclaim the “good news” ( a phrase they prefer over the Gospel).
A large emphasis is placed on human works wrapped in Emergent contemplative mysticism promoted by Dallas Willard and the Emergent crowd. Phrases like “transformational living”, “kingdom living”, “resurrection life” e.t.c. (as used by them) are nothing more than a cloak for works righteousness (salvation by our works) wrapped in fine sounding jargon and that all from a hatchet job on the resurrection of Christ.
My suspicion is that they use flowery language like that to avoid mentioning things the natural man detests ( that is when they are not attempting to redefine them). Sin, sinfulness, sinners, wrath, judgment, righteousness, holiness, godliness. Tis easier to gain a wider audience by saying “Jesus came to give resurrection life” than speak in Biblical terms like “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10). Why is that? Because to tell unbelievers they are lost will require that you explain what it means to be lost (enemies of God under His wrath) and what happens in the end to the lost ( being consumed by the justice of God for all eternity in the lake of fire). Furthermore, why not speak in terms of biblical concepts when speaking of sanctification (that is what they are really trying to emphasize)? Holiness, godliness and righteousness are biblical words lacking in their flowery jargon. Why? Because the opposites are, again, not things people want to hear- sin, sinfulness, worldliness, unrighteousness,.
Is it possible to speak of “resurrection life” and still maintain biblical Christianity? Of course. G.K. Beale does a fine job of explaining it. Perhaps this will help to answer some of the false allegations from those that charge us with some “dualistic ethereal view of heaven.” Beale writes:
We call can call this new living “ongoing Christian living” or “new-creational life” or “sanctification” ( as systematic theology has traditionally termed it). I use”sanctification” to refer to ongoing Christian life that is set apart from the old creation and set apart to the new eschatological new creation. Thus, inherent to the continuation of Christian living is resurrection life that has not transported a person from the old, fallen world into new creation. And when people begin to become part of the new creation, eschatological righteousness sets into their lives, a righteousness that was promised to be part and parcel of the new heaven and new earth. When this happens, they become a living part of the redemptive historical storyline, in which they are not only part of the new creation but also involved in the expansion of it in their own lives… The thesis of this segment is that only people who are part of the new creation and kingdom have the ability to obey the commands (emphasis mine).*
It is the last sentence that is of importance here. For the Emergent folks they have no distinction between justification and sanctification. In fact they seem to teach that sanctification is justification. Beale here makes it clear that the commands to participate in “resurrection life” are for Christians and not unbelievers. Where as the Emergents portray the concept of “resurrection life” to the unbeliever as just a simple matter of “follow Jesus’ example” and partake of “transformational living.” One teaches that the living is a result of the saving grace of God through repentance and faith in Christ while the other “transformational living” is itself faith in Christ. One teaches justifiation by faith alone in Christ alone while the other teaches a form of salvation by works. One says you participate because you believe, the other says your participation is your believing.
They have attempted to hijack the resurrection of Christ but we must never forget “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Ro 4:20–25 emphasis mine).
Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
*G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), pp. 19,23
* G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 835-836