What Resurrection Means

“But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB.  Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.” (Luke 20:37-38 NASB)

I thought I knew, think I know, but now I’m not so sure.  This is one of those passages where I’m sort of left wondering what it really meant.  Jesus is questioned about the final resurrection of the dead, right?  Yet I see in His answer more something of “life after death” than a living body again.  In other words, I was looking for something that would indicate that people would have and relate to each other through some sort of body.  That’s not really what Jesus describes.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are who Moses ties to God, He is their God.  I think what Moses assumed was that this God was the one who they worshiped…in the past, back when they lived.  This is the same God who they had related to and received promises from.  But what Jesus is pointing out is that any sort of statement like this also implies an existing relationship.  In Hebrew of Exodus 3:6, the verb is left out, so it’s not “past” or completed action necessarily.  And in the Septuagint, the verb is present active, meaning it’s a current state of affairs.  God is the God of these three.

So what am I getting at?  That Jesus’ statement about life-after-death to the Sadducees is that there is a relationship with God after one’s relationships here are cut off or lost.  Death here does not mean death to God.  That’s kind of huge if you let it be.  We sort of assume it (unless you hold to a “soul-sleep” theological view).  But Jesus points out that it simply is the state of affairs once we die.  Luke adds to Matthew’s and Mark’s account the statement that all live to Him.  Even so, what does this have to do with “the resurrection”?

Jesus states that the answer to the question, “are the dead raised” is this statement from Exodus 3:6 where God identifies Himself as the God of these Patriarchs.  God being the God of the living not the dead does not seem to me to be an obvious proof of a final resurrection.  Instead what Jesus has done is effectively countered the view that the closest anyone comes to life after death is Levirate Marriage.  But having countered that view, He also implies that the relationships lost here because someone dies will be regained again in heaven (or existence after this life) assuming both are worthy of resurrection.

So now the question is whether resurrection is what Jesus says happens after death when the relationship with God continues?  Is this what happens when an earthly relationship is regained after both die?  Or is this description of resurrection merely describing a precursor of the final resurrection to come by stating the waiting condition between death and that final event?  If you have an answer to that one, you have to share it, because I have no idea.  Honestly, this baffles me.  All I can solidly deduce from this passage is that Jesus claims there is life after death.  How life after death is proof of a resurrection is something I’m not solid on.  But I’m sure there are plenty of opinions out there.

By the way, life with God after death is only for the worthy?  And that existence (see verses 34 through 36) seems to be what Jesus is referring to as a state of “resurrection”.  In other words, life after death is resurrection.  Some final event doesn’t seem to be in Jesus’ view here.  Which is odd because I was assuming that some final event was what the Sadducees were arguing against.  I thought the Pharisees argued for some final event.  But it could be that they were actually arguing for some sort of cognitive existence after death, and calling that resurrection.  We all confused together yet?

Any who, the point for me is that my relationship with God isn’t endangered by anything people can do to me.  I have nothing to fear because what is truly important, my relationship with my Master, is not in any sort of danger what so ever.  I’m truly saved in the most visceral and important sense of that word.  I can’t be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).  This is true as long as I am worthy of the resurrection from the dead.  Fortunately Jesus defines my worth based on His relationship with the Father, not mine.  What a relief.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?


Some Rich Guy…And Lazarus

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.  And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.”  (Luke 16:19-21 NASB)

This parable isn’t one of the more difficult to understand, it’s just one of the more disturbing that Jesus tells.  It’s possible there are some literary genius elements in it, like that Lazarus is the only named character between the two, but never speaks.  But other points, primarily the details of the setting after death are particularly troubling.

For instance, does it bother anyone else that heaven and hell are within sight, and close enough to discern actual people?  Does it bother anyone that in heaven it’s possible to see tormented people in hell?  I think, if you’re like me, you sort of figured that they would be “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” for eternity.  I just never thought about it actually.  You, know, except for now.

Does it bother anyone that Abraham and the unnamed rich-guy can talk across the gulf that no one can travel across?  There’s no bridge, but they can shout at each other.  Isn’t that a bit too close for “comfort”?  How is the blessed existence of heaven possible when you can witness the torment of those who refused the kingdom of God?  That sounds a bit morbid or at least sadistic in nature.

So now the real question: If all that is accurate about the parable, did Jesus intend for it to be an accurate depiction of heaven, what John saw from Patmos?  I have heard it various ways: heaven & hell prior to the cross, heaven & hell prior to the final “new heaven/new earth” (during the “church-age” – nonsense), and so on.  Jesus simply leaves that question unanswered.

John’s vision on Patmos was different in a lot of ways, but some details he simply didn’t mention.  For instance, John mentions the “lake of fire” but doesn’t say whether it was visible from the “New Jerusalem”.  He has an abyss, but again it sounds like a lockable hole, temporary place for the Devil prior to the final battle.  Still no mention as to the “layout” and whether there was this “chasm fixed” that no one can cross.  So, it’s possible that John’s vision and this parable describe very similar settings.  How’s that for uncomfortable?

One of the real problems here is how this depiction seems to cast God in a unloving light, at least by our definitions of love.  Even if people in rebellious ignorance chose to go there, why leave both places within sight of each other for eternity?  Can you imagine an eternity of worship before the Throne of God with tormented souls as “backup”?  You can see them and hear them while worshiping with an unnumbered throng before the throne.  Seems some how discordant.

So what do we do with this depiction?  My favorite choice is to go with the main point, and trust God for the setting.  The main point is that the wealthy need to reach out to the poor in recognition of the Sovereignty of God; viewing themselves as equal with the poor.  It’s a matter of responsibility with the resources God has provided us, rich, comfortable, getting by, barely making it, stretching, or homeless.

If I focus on the obvious point, and let God worry about the “setting” after this life, then I’m not distracted sitting as judge over the Maker of the entire universe.  See the problem?  When we call God’s character into question, we do so at a very core level.  It erodes our faith just to do so.  If we believe that Scripture is inspired, that Jesus actually said these things, then draw the conclusion from those beliefs that Jesus reveals God as a very unloving harsh God; we reject other passages that say otherwise.

Part of the problem we face on this side of the “afterlife” is that we have little idea what we will be like on that side.  It could be that “the glory to be revealed” so far surpasses our ability to comprehend now that any vision of the torment of others actually becomes incorporated into the glory of God and His character.  To say that’s not possible from this side is fine, but impossible to actually know.  So the challenge is to learn the obvious lesson, and also hang on to what we already know about God.

That’s my view through this knothole…you?  What do you see?