(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Evangelical views of the resurrection

As an addendum to the previous post contrasting two accounts of resurrection here’s a set of diagrams illustrating three ways of thinking about the relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and subsequent resurrections. The first is the conventional modern evangelical view that can’t see beyond the salvation or damnation of the lost. The second is a revised evangelical view that has assimilated something of the Jewish-narrative shape of biblical thought. Then, thirdly, there’s what I see as a more consistent reconstruction of the Jewish-apocalyptic narrative of the New Testament.

The standard modern-individualistic evangelical view

1. Jesus died for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead.

2. The redeemed go to heaven when they die to worship God eternally. In a worst case scenario the lost die and go to hell.

3. It’s not clear what a final resurrection and judgment has to do with it.

A revised, semi-Jewish evangelical view

1. Judaism expected a final resurrection of the dead but did not expect anyone to be raised in advance of this final resurrection.

2. Jesus was raised unexpectedly in the course of history, inaugurating the kingdom of God.

3. Between Jesus’ resurrection and the final resurrection and renewal of creation we have the infamous now-and-not-yet of the kingdom of God.

A more complicated but consistent Jewish-apocalyptic evangelical view

1. Judaism expected a resurrection of Jews in connection with a decisive restoration of Israel and establishment of YHWH’s rule over the nations. In the New Testament this is a resurrection (both literal and metaphorical) and vindication of the suffering churches at the parousia, which is the moment of Christ’s victory over blasphemous, satanically inspired Rome.

2. Jesus’ resurrection anticipates the “resurrection” of the martyr churches, the restoration of the people of God, and the rule of YHWH over the nations.

3. Between the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the martyrs was the now-and-not-yet of the kingdom of God. Sadly, there’s no space for it in the diagram. Note the emphasis on “was”.

4. Because YHWH is not only King in the course of history but also Creator of the cosmos, there will be a final resurrection of all the dead, a final judgment, the final defeat of death and all evil, and a remaking of heaven and earth, by which the Creator will have the last word. In this secondary sense Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of a new creation.

5. In Romans 8:19-22 Paul imagines creation looking forward excitedly to the vindication of the martyrs as a token of its own eventual liberation from the bondage to corruption.

Finally, just to get things in perspective, this diagram makes the point that it is the “resurrection” of the persecuted churches at the parousia that dominates the New Testament vision. The final events are important—indeed, much bigger—but they are barely visible beyond the horizon of the immediate clash with Rome.


The last diagram is my favorite. It really does a great job of presenting how those topics are or aren’t emphasized in the NT without eliminating them altogether.