It is regrettably commonplace for expositors, even conservative ones, to state that the doctrine of the resurrection was not plainly taught in the Old Testament. But the event of Christ’s resurrection came in the middle of human history, and Paul calls this event the “hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20; cf. Acts 25:19). The resurrection of Christ from the dead caught everyone by surprise . . . but it should not have.
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:20–21).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Just as the death of Adam (Gen. 5:5) signaled the future death of us all, so also the resurrection of Christ is the first fruits of our general resurrection. Our foundational citizenship is in Heaven, and we look for the Lord Jesus Christ to come to us from there (v. 20). When He comes, on that day He will transform our vile bodies—some still alive, and others in the grave—and these bodies will be conformed to the pattern of His glorious body (v. 21). This will be done in accordance with the power that enables Christ to bring absolutely everything into subjection to Himself. This is the blessed hope, and this is what we look forward to—the telos of all human history.
NO NEW-FANGLED DOCTRINE
I began by lamenting the fact that so many dismiss the resurrection faith of the saints in the Old Testament. When the Lord Jesus shut down the Sadducees on this question, He did it with a rebuke that backhanded their ignorance of the (Old Testament) Scriptures. They did not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Matt. 22:29). Martha, a devout Jewish woman of the first century, knew that her brother Lazarus would rise in the resurrection on the last day (John 11:24). How could she know this? It would have to be from the Old Testament.
And consider this great confession of Job:
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God: “Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25–27, NKJV).
The doctrine is not an obscure one.
“After two days will he revive us: In the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” (Hosea 6:2).
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes” (Hosea 13:14, NKJV).
Isaiah says the same, and in a passage that Paul quotes in his defense of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:54-57):
“He will swallow up death in victory; And the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; And the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: For the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 25:8).
This is something that the people of God have known from the book of Genesis on (John 8:56; Mark 12:26). This has been our hope, from ancient times until now.
RESURRECTION POWER NOW
The transformation of our vile bodies will be complete when the Lord Jesus comes down from Heaven, but that is not when the transformation process starts. The transformation begins with regeneration. Our experience of Christ in our lives now is an experience of resurrection power in the here and now.
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him . . . Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:5–8, 11).
The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is dealing with you in your day-to-day striving against sin.
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).
THE OLD WORLD IS PREGNANT WITH A NEW WORLD
When Christ came out of the grave, He walked into an old world that had at that moment been made new in principle. When He went to the cross, He transformed death. When He was laid in the grave, He sanctified all of our future graves. And then when He rose from the dead, He entered into a world made new.
“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful” (Revelation 21:5).
But it was not His sovereign good will to transform everything by throwing a breaker. Something like that will have to wait until the Second Coming. The Second Coming is when the world, now pregnant with life, will give birth to that life. Until that time, until the due date, the world will grow continually heavier with this life, carrying in the womb of the world the glory of the coming world.
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22).
And all of this is a manifestation of resurrection power. We see it in history, we see it in our own testimonies, we see it in the growth of the church throughout the world, and we see it by faith in the glorious day that is coming. Contrary to the grievous errors of the full preterists, the world is not going to be pregnant forever.